Welcome to our Festival blog

We are a small congregation who organised a highly successful 'William Byrd Festival' in May 2011 to celebrate the life and work of the village's Elizabethan composer, William Byrd (c.1540 - 1623). In 2012 we played host to the world-famous choir The Cardinall's Musick under their director Andrew Carwood.

This website contains everything you need to know about William Byrd and his links with Stondon Massey. The church is open for services, of course, and on the second Sunday afternoon in the month during the summer.

Monday, 16 August 2010

William Byrd: The Recusant

Britain celebrates some important anniversaries this year: VE Day (1945); the death of Sir Winston Churchill (1965); the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) and, the plot by Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament (1605).

The year 1605 marked a period of continued anti-Catholism in this country, for their doctrine threatened the establishment and the Crown. Queen Elizabeth I’s, stand against the Spanish (Catholic) threat to the Crown (1588 – the “Armada”) demonstrated how wary the English were of “foreigners”. Catholics were rooted out by Churchwardens and fined heavily, for it was illegal to not attend communion in the Church of England.

One such offender was William Byrd, who lived in Stondon Massey until his death in 1623. The village churchwardens were zealous in their pursuit of Byrd through the Ecclesiastical Courts. In 1605, at (Great) Baddow, it is recorded:

“William Bird et Ellen

“For Popish Recusants. He is a gentleman of the Kings Maties Chapel, and as the minister and churchwardens do hear the said Will Bird with the assistance of one Gabriel Colford who is now in Antwerp hath been the Chief and principal seducer of John Wright son and heir of John Wright the Elder. And the said Ellen Bird as it is reported and as her servants hath confessed have appointed business on the Saboth Day for the servants of purpose to keep them from church and also done her best endeavour to seduce Thoda Pigbone her now mayd servant to draw her to popery as the mayd has confessed and believes hath drawn her mayd servant from tyme to tyme those 7 years from coming to church and the said Ellen refuseth conference, and the minister and churchwardens have not as yet spoke with the same Wm Birde because he is from home”.

Andrew Smith
First published in ‘Church Matters’, July 2005

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