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Roger Martin’s Prayer Book?

Melford Hall

Melford Place, once home to the Martin family

Of all Suffolk recusants, Roger Martin of Long Melford (c. 1527-1615) is perhaps the best known. Martin emerged from the historical shadows in 1989 when David Dymond and Clive Paine published an edition of Martin’s remarkable account of the ceremonies and furnishings of Holy Trinity, Long Melford, ‘The state of Melford Church … as I did know it’. It certainly helped the popularity of Dymond and Paine’s volume that Holy Trinity, Long Melford is one of the most architecturally spectacular churches in Suffolk, but it also coincided closely with the publication of Eamon Duffy’s Stripping of the Altars and the subsequent resurgence in the study of the English church on the eve of the Reformation. Martin’s ‘State of Melford Church’ is now recognised as one of the most important and detailed sources on the experience of the pre-Reformation worshipper.

Long Melford Church

Holy Trinity, Long Melford © Long Melford Church

I first encountered Roger Martin when I was studying A Level History – it is a great privilege, therefore, to be in a position to announce to the world that I may have discovered his personal prayer book. My article ‘Early Modern English Catholic Piety in a Fifteenth-Century Book of Hours: Cambridge University Library MS Additional 10079’ appears in the 2015 number of Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society and advances the argument that the manuscript I have dubbed the Rookwood Book of Hours originally belonged to Roger Martin. I spotted the Rookwood Book of Hours for sale at Sotheby’s in November 2014 and persuaded Cambridge University Library to buy it for £13,750 – for which I shall be eternally grateful to the UL. At the time, I argued that the manuscript was important because it was the only manuscript known to survive from the eighteenth-century library of the Rookwood family. The catalogue of this important recusant library forms part of my edition of the Rookwood Family Papers to be published later this year by the Suffolk Records Society.

Rookwood Hours05

The burial service in the Rookwood Book of Hours

It was only when I inspected the Rookwood Book of Hours for the first time, in January 2015, that I began to suspect that the manuscript’s older provenance lay with the Martin family of Long Melford rather than the Rookwoods of Stanningfield. The book of hours undoubtedly belonged to Thomas Rookwood of Stanningfield in 1726, but the name ‘martyn’ appears in fifteenth-century script at the front of the book. This I believe to be the autograph of Roger Martin’s great grandfather Richard Martin, a cloth merchant who probably purchased (or commissioned) the book of hours from the Low Countries in the 1460s. The Rookwoods acquired a good deal of property from the Martin family in the early eighteenth century (Thomas Rookwood married Tamworth Martin) and it is likely that the book of hours came into the Rookwoods’ possession at this point as well. However, the most remarkable feature of the manuscript is not contained in the book of hours itself but takes the form of accessory material in a sixteenth-century italic hand. I was eventually able to identify these prayers as having been copied from a series of preces privatae by Erasmus. I was also able to date the prayers to the period 1553-58 and probably November 1558, as there appears to be a reference to the last illness of Queen Mary I.

In Mary’s reign Roger Martin was the pre-eminent resident of Long Melford, a churchwarden in charge of restoring Holy Trinity to Catholic splendour and a man who had been offered a place in Mary’s Privy Council (which he turned down). The likelihood that the book of hours belonged to the Martin family in the fifteenth century, combined with the appearance of the name ‘Roogers’ elsewhere in the manuscript (which I interpret as ‘Roger’s’) as well as Roger Martin’s known learning (he trained as a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn) and interest in preserving pre-Reformation objects make for a compelling circumstantial case that CUL MS Add. 10079, the ‘Rookwood Book of Hours’, was Roger Martin’s private prayer book. If true, this would make the manuscript the first book known to have belonged to Martin, and an important part of Long Melford’s and Suffolk’s religious history. Fortunately, the prayer book will now be preserved by Cambridge University Library for generations of future scholars to study and reach their own conclusions.

9 comments on “Roger Martin’s Prayer Book?

  1. Keith Slater
    February 19, 2016

    Interesting article but I think you will find that Roger Martin lived at Melford Place and not Melford Hall. The photograph is not of Melford Hall.

    • jacobite
      February 21, 2016

      Oops! I have corrected the error – thanks for pointing it out. I have visited Melford Hall many times so I shouldn’t have slipped up.

  2. Lyn Boothman
    February 25, 2016

    Very interesting about the prayer book, look forward to getting my copy of your Record Society book. I suspect that William Cordell may just have disputed the ‘pre-eminent resident of Long Melford’ title… given that he was actually one of Mary’s Privy Councillors along with having been her Solicitor General and then, by 1557, her Master of the Rolls; and he was Speaker of the Commons by 1557.

    What the people of Melford thought is another matter, Cordell was ‘new come up’ compared to Martyn, and the Clopton of the day, who were ‘gentry of the old sort’, and Martyn appears to have been well liked by many, but Cordell owned most of the property in the parish which gave him influence of a different sort.

    Question, where did you find the illustration of Melford Place?

    Do you know the story about Roger Martyn, during Edward VI’s reign, hiding in hay stacks during the day time and returning home at night…with his neighbours giving him assistance?

    • jacobite
      February 25, 2016

      Many thanks for your comments; the illustration of Melford Place comes from Coppinger’s ‘Manors of Suffolk’.

      Yes, I am aware of the story about Martin hiding in a haystack – it’s in a 19th century history of Long Melford, but I’ve not been able to trace it to anything other than a local tradition.

  3. Lyn Boothman
    June 6, 2016

    Just received my copy of the Rookwood book, congratulations on that. I recall, a trifle vaguely, that I found the haystacks story in a mid 18th century history of Essex, author’s name begins with a P.

  4. Lyn Boothman
    June 6, 2016

    The other (rather more remote) Catholic family connection with Melford was that Melford Hall and much of the parish were owned in the early 17th century by Thomas (later Viscount) Savage, whose wife Elizabeth (later Countess Rivers) was Penelope D’Arcy ‘ sister. This couple were the focus of ‘Savage Fortune’, the SRS book for 2006, and were prominent in Henrietta Maria ‘ s court. I couldn’t find any evidence of Savage Martyn links but they must have existed.

  5. Dr. James Binkley
    December 4, 2017

    In connection with my family history research do you know of any connection between the Martin family, Christian Savage (Rocksavage) and Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire?

    • jacobite
      December 9, 2017

      Thank you for the query. There’s no genealogical connection that I know of, but it is worth noting that a Savage family also lived in Long Melford, at Melford Hall

    • Lyn Boothman
      December 9, 2017

      I don’t know of any link with Great Bedwyn but Savage is not an uncommon surname. There were Savages in the west Midlands who were distant relations of the Cheshire family.

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