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Abbey, court and community 1525–1640
Author: J. F. Merritt

Early modern Westminster is familiar as the location of the Royal Court at Whitehall, parliament, the law courts and the emerging West End, yet it has never been studied in its own right. This book reveals the often problematic relations between the diverse groups of people who constituted local society - the Court, the aristocracy, the Abbey, the middling sort and the poor - and the competing visions of Westminster's identity which their presence engendered. There were four parishes in Westminster at the turn of the sixteenth century. The parishes of St Martin's and St Margaret's have been identified as two of only eighteen English parishes for which continuous and detailed parish records survive for the turbulent period 1535-1570. Differences in social organization, administrative structure and corporate life in the two parishes also provide a study in contrasts. These crucial differences partly shaped forms of lay piety in each parish as well as their very different responses to the religious reformations of Henry VIII and his children. The death of Henry VIII heralded important changes in Westminster. Most strikingly, however, this was a period of major religious change, in stark contrast to the piecemeal changes of Henry's reign. The dissolution of Westminster's abbey gave rise to special problems. The book examines individuals who wielded the most influence at the local government; as well as the social identity of these parish elites. Finally, it explores the interaction of religion with the social and political developments observed in the post-Reformation town.

J. F. Merritt

on the development of English Protestantism. This chapter will also explore the interaction of religion with the social and political developments that we have observed in the post-Reformation town. For example, did the increasing gentrification of Westminster have an impact on forms of religious life? Did the church seek to minister to the spiritual needs of the growing numbers of the Westminster poor? And what impact did the Court and Abbey have on religious developments in the town? This chapter will also investigate whether the newly emergent parish oligarchies

in The social world of early modern Westminster
J. F. Merritt

); HMC Hatfield, XV, 189–90). During the early years of Elizabeth, controversy broke out over who held the legal right to this office. 72 Town, cloister and Crown The creation of the office of high steward was a significant innovation in the post-Reformation town. Its real importance lay in the extension of royal authority that the office introduced into this important area surrounding the Court – an area where the abbot had formerly stood as the chief local notable. The first high steward for Westminster seems to have been Sir Anthony Denny, a trusted member of

in The social world of early modern Westminster