chapter  3
30 Pages

Co-operation and Initiatives: Mildenhall, 1550–1603

At the heart of the relationship between ecclesiastical authority and local communities in the latter half of the sixteenth century, was the problem of cooperation. Neither the Queen nor her bishops, for all their formulations, actually dismantled rood screens or painted scripture texts on chancel walls. This absurdity is an important reminder of the degree to which royal and ecclesiastical policy relied upon the administrative structures of the Church, whose courts and offices were directed by men of widely different qualities and temperament. Indeed, the entire structure rested upon the twin forces of co-operation and coercion, neither of which were beyond abuse. Much has been written about the men who served as bishops, but the most important of the ecclesiastical officers from the standpoint of the parish, and arguably for the entire structure, were the churchwardens.1