Blanche Parry

Abbeydore's link to Archbishop

Intro: The recent heavy rains and the build up of water on some of our country lanes would, it seems, have come as no surprise to one former Archbishop of Canterbury! Our local historian Ruth E. Richardson tells the story of Archbishop William Laud (1573-1645)

William Laud [appropriate surname for a clergyman!] was Bishop of St. David's when he gained first–hand experience of Herefordshire's muddy roads in 1622. A great friend of Viscount Scudamore of Holme Lacy, Laud was going to stay with Scudamore's mother–in–law. He wrote '...I had yesterday weeping weather [it was raining!]... I got well to Gloucester before six, and might have been there sooner but that I had a greater mischance by the way than in all my journey beside. In the dirty bottom between Mr. Bridges his house and Ross, the careless man that led my sumpter [pack horse] went upon the side of a slippery bank, and overthrew my horse into a great slough...' This left Laud scrabbling for his papers '...lest they had drunk such water, but I found them dry...'

William Laud was respected for his learning. In his portrait he seems mild–mannered, though he was inclined to be fussy, but piercing eyes reveal dogmatism and ambition. Born in Reading, son of a wealthy cloth merchant, he was later Bishop of Bath and Wells, then London and, in 1633, Archbishop of Canterbury in King Charles I's reign. Laud's difficulties arose because he wanted to impose discipline and uniformity in worship, liturgy and ceremonial on the Church. Although unpopular, he persisted, punishing, even torturing, opponents. Riots in Edinburgh, following the introduction of his 1637 Prayer Book, started the road to Civil War. Imprisoned by Parliament, he was beheaded in 1645 when 71 years old.

Laud's link with Herefordshire was because Viscount Scudamore wanted a son. John Scudamore, Ambassador to France 1635–1639, also thought Church Services and decoration should reflect dignity in worship. Married to Elizabeth Porter, both inherited property that had belonged to abbeys dissolved by Henry VIII. The young couple had sons, including twins, who all died. Elizabeth, distraught, took the waters in Bath to see if this would help. Scudamore wrote to Laud asking if he thought it God's judgement on them for living off what had been Church property. Laud sympathetically suggested Scudamore follow his conscience. As a result Scudamore repaired three Churches, the bulk of the £50,000 [about £4½ million today] being spent on Dore Abbey.

At Dore, Scudamore converted the chancel into a Laudian Church, replacing the altar, on steps, at the east end. The stained-glass windows, altar rails, pulpit, music table and two benches are still in the Abbey, though the music table has a new top. Of the three chairs for dignatories, one still survives. Other articles are preserved in the V&A. Most remarkably, Dore is the only Laudian Church where traces of paint have been noted – on the screen and also on the music gallery. The screen, surmounted by coats–of–arms of King Charles I, Viscount Scudamore and Archbishop William Laud, greatly interested Archbishop Carey when he visited for Dore's 850th anniversary in 1997.

Dore is well worth a visit...and, yes, it did work. John and Elizabeth did have a son who lived. Actually, they also had a daughter but she didn't count... For more information see: Dore Articles.

©Ruth E. Richardson 2012

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