(Head) Master of Kings School Rochester 1641-1660
A time of Civil War
A daily journal of the parliamentary armies ‘Journey into Kent’, from 19th August to 3rd September 1642, gives an account of the actions of the parliamentary soldiers in Rochester Cathedral and elsewhere in the county of Kent:
On Wednesday, being Bartholomew Day, before we marched forth, some of our souldiers (remembring their protestation which they tooke) went to the Cathedrall about 9 or 10 of the clock, in the midst of their superstitious worship, with their singing men and boys; they (owing them no reverence) marched up to the place where the altar stood, and staying awhile, thinking they would have eased their worship, and demanded a reason of their posture, but seeing they did not, the souldiers could not forbeare any longer to wait upon their pleasure, but went about the worke they came for.1
Their task consisted of breaking up the altar and altar rails, destroying prayer books and removing any decorative artefact. Canon John Lorkin, who had attempted to reason with the soldiers, survived unscathed when a firearm was discharged in his direction. The soldiers then left for Maidstone promising on their return to dismantle the organ. Taking the threat seriously the Dean ordered its removal and it was taken to a tavern in Greenwich for safe keeping.1 Those familiar with the history of the Cathedral will be aware of tales of desecration and worse. The Rev. Samuel Denne, an authority on the history and antiquities of Rochester, records as follows:
On the testimony of Mr. William Head, senior alderman of the city, a very antient worthy man, who died on the 5th March 1732 - that the church was used as a stable by Fairfax’s troops, who turned their horses’ heads into the stalls in the choir.1
There is an example of looting which has resonance in more contemporary civil disorder:
The name of one despoiler is on record. In the answer by the Dean and Chapter to an enquiry by Bishop Warner, a certain John W. Tyld, a shoemaker of Rochester, is mentioned as having taken down and sold iron and brass work from some of the tombs.1
In the interests of balance, it should be mentioned that other Royalist supporters gave witness that the Cathedral was spared much of the damage to windows, monuments, choir stalls and other parts of the fabric, deemed ‘popish’ decoration, meted out elsewhere; Canterbury Cathedral suffered much worse. Additionally we know from Archbishop Laud’s report to Charles I in 1633 that Rochester Cathedral, its glass, ancient monuments and many of its associated buildings were already in a poor state of repair.2
We do not know if the Rev. Matthias Rutton, Master of the Cathedral Grammar School, the King’s School, and his scholars were present at worship that St. Bartholomew’s day (24th August 1642); maybe it was a holiday, but these acts of desecration perpetrated by the troops under Colonels Sandys and Smeaton would have shocked many in the City. The Cathedral, stripped of its function, was then condemned to nearly twenty years of neglect and misuse. 1 Rutton was a member of an extensive family, originally brewers, translating to London from the Low Countries, probably Holland, first mentioned as aliens living in London about 1572. There are various references to the progenitor of the family in England, his grandfather, named Matthias Rutton, alias Tyce (the family name of his wife Mary) or a Matthias Ruyting ‘brewer by the tower’ and his associate Roger James.3 His eldest son, (our subject’s father) was Isaac Rutton, Gentleman and Alderman of Rochester who was born about 1588 and died 10th November 1625. In times past there was a memorial to him and his wife, also named Mary, in the nave at Rochester Cathedral, now concealed by restoration work.2
Isaac and Mary had six children, the eldest being Matthias, born c.1613. There are no known details of Rutton’s early schooling. Records for University College, Oxford show his matriculation at the age of 18 on 14th October 1631; his award of Bachelor of Arts on 30th October 1632 and Masters’ degree on 9th June 1636.4 He was ordained deacon at Canterbury 7th Oct 1635 and inducted as Vicar of Cobham, Kent by Archbishop Laud of Canterbury on 17th Oct 1637, a living he may have retained until 2nd March 1661, although this has not been confirmed.5 Details of his first marriage are unknown but he had two sons and three daughters. His sons, Mathias and Matthew, were educated at Eton and King’s College Cambridge. The younger, Matthew, was admitted as a scholar to both institutions but died of consumption before graduating.3 In 1641 Rutton was appointed Master of the King’s School following the death of Michael Chapman who had held the post since 1631.5
|The chirch at Cobham, Kent|
Many priests with Royalist leanings or traditionalist views did survive within the church or took secondary posts, such as schoolmasters, or became chaplains to Royalist families.8 It may also have been helpful that members of Rutton’s family were supporters of Parliament. His younger brother Thomas was a lieutenant in a regiment of the parliamentary army commanded by Colonel Sir William Fairfax.3 A cousin, also named Thomas Rutton, (born 11.12.1611), was appointed by Parliament to be Rector of St Mary-le-Bow, London 21st February 1644. He was later ejected from this living, post-reformation in 1662. He may have been a preacher of some note as the text of his sermon on the subject of the ‘judgement to come’, delivered at St. Paul’s Cathedral before Sir Richard Chiverton, Lord Mayor of the City of London, and the Aldermen, on 12th September 1658, was published the same year.9
A year or two after the end of the first civil war in 1646, the general population was demonstrating its discontent with the Puritan regime. Even appearing in public without appropriate clothing ensuring all flesh and hair was covered, particularly for women, could lead to censure. There had been rioting in several major cities over increased taxation to meet the spiralling costs of the army and the suppression of traditional festivities, particularly the feast of Christmas. A meeting of the ‘gentry’ in Rochester drew up a petition to Parliament for the King to be restored and the army disbanded. The Royalist rebellion started on 21st May 1648, when the rebels seized Canterbury, Rochester and three other towns in Kent. They also laid siege to Dover Castle. At Chatham on 27th May, navy officers and crews mutinied in support. Sir Thomas Fairfax was sent with 8,000 men of the New Model Army to suppress the rebellion. There then followed the battle of Maidstone on 1st June where, after several hours of vicious street fighting, the rebel force in the town, numbering about 3,000, was defeated. Fairfax pursued the remaining 4,000 Royalists, under the command of the Earl of Norwich, who had not taken part in the battle and had retreated to Rochester. Norwich, realising his untrained volunteers were no match for the disciplined troops of the New Model Army, straightaway left towards London. Rochester was thus spared a battle. To cover their retreat the Royalists destroyed the wooden drawbridge section of the bridge; most likely causing considerable inconvenience to the citizens. Now isolated, the navy mutineers sailed their ships to Helvoetsluys in the Netherlands rather than surrender to the Parliamentary forces. This last rebellion put down, the King was brought to trial in early 1649 and executed on 30th January.2 & 8
The School and Master survived these seismic events to enjoy a relatively calmer decade. A list of pupils’ entrances to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge from 1650, recorded after 1660 in the archives of the new Dean and Chapter, 7 include Thomas Ayerst, (Gunsley Exhibitioner to University College, Oxford),4 Edward Brown, (Clare College, Cambridge), the brothers James and Robert Dixon, (both to St. John’s Cambridge). 10 These four, and possibly Thomas Deane (also a Gunsley Exhibitioner) 4 and John Lorkin (son of Canon Lorkin, above), (Sidney College, Cambridge and appointed Vicar of Hartlip 21.1.1670), 5 would at some time have been under Rutton’s tutelage. He was succeeded by Thomas Yardley, Minor-canon and Vicar of Halling, Master of the King’s School from 1660-3. 5
Contrary to their fundamentalist image the Puritans and Parliament made new provisions for education on humanist lines. (In addition to his duties as Captain-General and Commander in Chief of the army, in 1651 Oliver Cromwell was elected Chancellor of Oxford University, having previously been given an honorary doctorate in 1649.) In republican England after 1640 – when King and Court had been swept away, the House of Lords abolished as being both useless and dangerous, Bishops banished from the church – Parliament seriously considered plans for education reform based on the lines of Francis Bacon - which heralded the separation of sacred and secular learning….. Puritans did not wither the humanist heritage, even though schools became progressively more godly…. Schoolmasters should grasp the teaching method of understanding of children’s capabilities as well as their learning – that learning is empty unless accompanied by understanding and turned to good use……Confiscated Ecclesiastical endowments were turned to the use of schools and there were innovations at the universities where the colleges, purged of the drones, were sometimes furnished with enthusiast for science. 6
There were schisms within the controlling puritan community which varied from benign conformity to outright bigotry. Beyond the reformed Anglican Church there were numerous sects and non-conformists which had large constituencies. The Baptists and Anabaptists were particularly influential in Kent. Anglican clergymen were often challenged on theological interpretation particularly on the subject of infant baptism, proscribed by such non-conformists. In 1655, ‘occasioned by a disputation betwixt Mr. Matthias Rutton, minister of Boughton Munchalse in Kent’, he became embroiled in a public debate with the Anabaptist preacher, George Hammon, on the subject of the loss of the earthly paradise by original sin.11 Although trifling in comparison with events at the time, this incident is an indication of the tensions existing in daily life when figures of authority, such as Anglican clergy, could be subject of such confrontation.12
|Boughton Monchelsea the Lych-Gate and Church|
Rutton’s departure from the school in 1660 coincided with the Restoration. He resumed his living at Boughton Monchelsea ‘at the petition of his parishioners’. His name is included in the County Hearth Tax records of 1664; the parsonage had four hearths and would have been considered a comfortable residence. (This tax is referred to in Samuel Pepys’ Diary as ‘Chimney Money’, and was levied twice a year at Lady Day and Michaelmas).13 He lived to see all his surviving four children married. It is not known who was or what became of his first wife, but on 31st Oct 1671 at Boughton Monchelsea, he married Mary Turner of Maidstone who had previously been living in the Parish of St. Pauls, Covent Garden, London. She had at least one daughter, Elizabeth, from a previous marriage. On 27th February 1675, Elizabeth Turner married the Rev. John Gostling, aged 24 years, at Wouldham, Kent, the parish of his older brother Isaac, who was Rector from 1667-1682 and a former minor-canon at Rochester Cathedral.5 John Gostling was a former pupil of King’s School Rochester and was taught by of John Edwards, Master from 1663 to 1676. 1O Gostling was later to become a celebrated bass singer at the Chapel Royal and the Private Music, firstly for Charles II, then to James II, who also appointed him a King’s Chaplain and Sub-Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. He was also to become a close friend and colleague of Henry Purcell. 14
The monument to Matthias Rutton in the nave of St. Peter’s Church, Boughton Monchelsea, is now covered by tiles laid during extensive 19th century restoration work. However, an earlier parish record described his memorial as follows:
In the middle aisle a large flat stone has the following inscription ‘Here is interred the body of Mathias Rutton, gentleman, and master of arts, who was vicar of this parish 37 years; he died the 6th day of January, A.D. 1685, in the 74 th year of his age’. Arms, three unicorns heads couped 2 & 1, and counter changed. Crest - 3 unicorn heads with fesse or and azure. The arms appear on his gravestone in Boughton Monchelsea church. It is not known to whom the arms were granted. 15
Christopher Pell 2012
Christopher Pell 2012
1 The Cathedral Church of Rochester a description of its fabric and a brief history of its Episcopal See : G.H. Palmer B.A.
London George Bell and Sons 1897 and ‘Faith and Fabric’ a history of Rochester Cathedral , AD 604 to 1994: Nigel West
and (Canon) Paul A. Welsby.
2. The City and Liberty of Rochester: ‘the priory and cathedral church', The History and Topographical Survey of the County
of Kent: Volume 4 (1798), Edward Hasted.
3. Rutton family of Kent: Richard Williams 2011 & Huguenot Society Vol. 10.2
4. Alumni Oxoniensis 1500-1714: edited Joseph Foster
5. Database of the Clergy of the Church of England.
6 Education and society in Tudor England, Joan Simon 1979: Cambridge University press.
7. The Quarterly volume of education vol. 1O p.257: ‘Education in Kent’ & Ecclesiastical Regular and Capitular Foundations
/ Dean and Chapter of Rochester Cathedral Estate Records & Parliamentary Survey 1649.
8. British Civil Wars, Commonwealth and Protectorate 1638-60 : David Plant, 2001-12
9.The ‘judgement to come’ by Thomas Rutton pastor of M. le Bow, London. Published 1658 by printed by J.H. for J. Rothwell,
at the Fountain in Goldsmiths-row in Cheap-side in London. Tuesday 14. September 1658. Exeter College Library, Oxford
10. Alumni Cantabriensis Venn 1922: Cambridge University Press
11. Hezekiah Holland fl. 1638-1661. London: Printed for George Calvert 1656. Bodleian Library and George Hammon,
A Discovery of the· Latitude of the Lass of the Earthly Paradise, 1655, Anabaptist Quarterly
12. The year 1655 conflicts with the parish record of his ejection from the living at Boughton Monchelsea during the period
of the Commonwealth. As Master of the school he would have mainly been resident in Rochester.
13. Index Library Kent: Hearth tax assessment Lady Day 1664: edited by Duncan Harrington, context and analysis Sarah
14. An account of the life and times of the Rev. John Gostling O.R. by Christopher Pell appeared in the Old Roffensian Magazine published December 2010. Volume 4 Number 9.
15. Ruttons’ nephew, Isaac Rutton (son of Thomas Rutton, Lt. Parliamentary Army) was Lieutenant in command at Sandgate
Castle, and was buried in Hythe Church 14 September 1688; his a memorial had the inscription on a label under the shield,
which shows Per fess or and azure, three unicorns' heads couped and counterchanged two and one. Above the shield
— liberally mantled — on an esquire's helmet is the crest, An unicorn's head couped, per fess or and azure.
The inscription reads: ‘Against this place lyes buried the body of Isacke Rutton gen' livetennant of Sandgate Castle: 1683.’