East & West Molesey

A Dictionary of Local History

Rowland G. M. Baker, 1972

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These were pamphlets written by the Puritans in 1588-9 against the established church, especially the bishops and their harsh rule. Although many people were involved in their authorship all were signed with the pseudonym "Martin Marprelate". As printing without a licence was illegal they had to be produced surreptitiously and passed from hand to hand. One of the prime movers in the affair and probably the originator of the tracts was a young clergyman named John Udall, who was a minister at Kingston Upon Thames. The secret printing press, which had been used in the production of several pamphlets in London, was in danger of discovery. Udall solicited the help of a Mrs. Crane, a rich widow with Puritan sympathies. Her husband, Anthony Crane, had been Queen Elizabeth's Master of the Household, and had secured a grant of the manor of Molesey Prior in 1571. Mrs. Crane, therefore, lent the manor house to the underground printers. Soon after midsummer 1588 the press and a box of type were brought down from London to East Molesey. In the next few months three tracts were printed here. By October the authorities suspected that the press was operating in this area and sent men down to Kingston to find it. The press was hastily dismantled and removed to the country house of another supporter in Northamptonshire. The press was finally discovered after it had been moved to Manchester, and all the people involved were arrested. Udall, and possibly Mrs. Crane, died in prison, two others were executed, and the tracts were suppressed. They had, however, influence in moulding public opinion and leading eventually to greater freedom of worship.

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