August 2021 Newsletter

Back to Normal?
In July we made some tentative steps back to normality with our AGM and talk up at the Village Hall. As it gets nearer the Autumn, we hope to foster our links with the Primary school once again for the Arthur French memorial prize and then, of course, we will start making our plans for this year’s Lanterns celebrations.
Notable People
There are several significant and interesting people from the local area, but my first choice takes us way back to the Tudor court. When I was researching the survival of the medieval rood screen in Torbryan Church it seemed to that Torbryan was protected by friends in high places in a way that other villages were not. There could not be a friend in any higher place than the Lord of the Manor Sir William Petre.
Born in 1505 or 1506 Sir William was the son of John Petre, a rich tanner from Torbryan. His mother, Alice, hailed from Woodland. The Petre family had been established at Tor Newton from at least the reign of King Richard II (1377-99). He came from a line of franklins or small landowners.
The question is how did a young man from Torbryan arrive at the Tudor Court? Well, he had the advantage of being a very bright young man. At the age of 14 William went up to Exeter College, Oxford to study law and by the age of 18 he was a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. This was a very solid and noteworthy achievement, but the next stage of his advancement was more a matter of luck and being in the right place at the right time. He became a tutor to George Boleyn, brother of Anne, at a time when that family’s star was in the ascendancy. In this role his next main attribute became apparent and that was diligence and hard work combined with fierce ambition.
He secured rapid promotion thereafter winning over Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Cranmer, and Anne Boleyn. He made himself indispensable to the Tudor monarchs through his diplomacy and attention to detail. You may not have heard of him before, but he was Secretary of State to three successive Tudor Monarchs, namely King Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Queen Mary I and at the time of his death in 1572 he was deputising for the Secretary of State to Elizabeth I.
Even if Tudor History is not your thing you will be aware that to have survived so long in the cauldron of Tudor politics was unprecedented. Too much straight talking in Tudor government might lead to imprisonment in the Tower, exile, family disgrace or, indeed, execution. Sir William, though, was said to have been ‘sprung from the willow rather than the oak’. He was known for his smooth talking and an ability to keep his personal views to himself.
As a result of these qualities, he amassed great wealth taking advantage, like many others, of the Dissolution of the Monasteries (Buckfast Abbey) and building himself a mansion at Ingatestone Hall in Essex. And what about that Rood Screen in Torbryan Church? Well, there is considerable evidence to suggest that Sir William was at heart a Catholic, despite contributing to the Reformation, and where he could wield influence, he did.
John Marsh


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