Chapter II: Of Cities And Towns In England

As in old time we read that there were eight-and-twenty flamines and archflamines in the south part of this isle, and so many great cities under their jurisdiction, so in these our days there is but one or two fewer, and each of them also under the ecclesiastical regiment of some one bishop or archbishop, who in spiritual cases have the charge and oversight of the same. So many cities therefore are there in England and Wales as there be bishoprics and archbishoprics.For, notwithstanding that Lichfield and Coventry and Bath and Wells do seem to extend the aforesaid number unto nine-and-twenty, yet neither of these couples are to be accounted but as one entire city and see of the bishop, sith one bishopric can have relation but unto one see, and the said see be situate but in one place, after which the bishop doth take his name.. . .

Certes I would gladly set down, with the names and number of the cities, all the towns and villages in England and Wales with their true longitudes and latitudes, but as yet I cannot come by them in such order as I would; howbeit the tale of our cities is soon found by the bishoprics, sith every see hath such prerogative given unto it as to bear the name of a city and to use Regaleius within her own limits. Which privilege also is granted to sundry ancient towns in England, especially northward, where more plenty of them is to be found by a great deal than in the south. The names therefore of our cities are these: London, York, Canterbury, Winchester, Carlisle, Durham, Ely, Norwich, Lincoln, Worcester, Gloucester, Hereford, Salisbury, Exeter, Bath, Lichfield, Bristol, Rochester, Chester, Chichester, Oxford, Peterborough, Llandaff, St. Davids, Bangor, St. Asaph, whose particular plots and models, with their descriptions, shall ensue, if it may be brought to pass that the cutters can make desp tch of them before this history be published.

Of towns and villages likewise thus much will I say, that there were greater store in old time (I mean within three or four hundred years passed) than at this present. And this I note out of divers records, charters, and donations (made in times past unto sundry religious houses, as Glastonbury, Abingdon, Ramsey, Ely, and such like), and whereof in these days I find not so much as the ruins. Leland, in sundry places, complaineth likewise of the decay of parishes in great cities and towns, missing in some six or eight or twelve churches and more, of all which he giveth particular notice. For albeit that the Saxons builded many towns and villages, and the Normans well more at their first coming, yet since the first two hundred years after the latter conquest, they have gone so fast again to decay that the ancient number of them is very much abated. Ranulph, the monk of Chester, telleth of general survey made in the fourth, sixteenth, and nineteenth of the reign of William Conqueror, surnamed the Bastard, wherein it was found that (notwithstanding the Danes had overthrown a great many) there were to the number of 52,000 towns, 45,002 parish churches, and 75,000 knights' fees, whereof the clergy held 28,015. He addeth moreover that there were divers other builded since that time, within the space of a hundred years after the coming of the Bastard, as it were in lieu or recompense of those that William Rufus pulled down for the erection of his New Forest. For by an old book which I have, and some time written as it seemeth by an under-sheriff of Nottingham, I find even in the time of Edward IV. 45,120 parish churches, and but 60,216 knights' fees, whereof the clergy held as before 28,015, or at the least 28,000; for so small is the difference which he doth seem to use. Howbeit, if the assertions of such as write in our time concerning this matter either are or ought to be of any credit in this behalf, you shall not find above 17,000 towns and villages, and 9210 in the whole, which is little more than a fourth part of the aforesaid number, if it be thoroughly scanned.. . .

In time past in Lincoln (as the same goeth) there have been two-and-fifty parish churches, and good record appeareth for eight-and-thirty; but now, if there be four-and twenty, it is all. This inconvenience hath grown altogether to the church by appropriations made unto monasteries and religious houses - a terrible canker and enemy to religion.

But to leave this lamentable discourse of so notable and grievous an inconvenience, growing as I said by encroaching and joining of house to house and laying land to land, whereby the inhabitants of many places of our country are devoured and eaten up, and their houses either altogether pulled down or suffered to decay little by little, although some time a poor man peradventure doth dwell in one of them, who, not being able to repair it, suffereth it to fall down - and thereto thinketh himself very friendly dealt withal, if he may have an acre of ground assigned unto him, wherein to keep a cow, or wherein to set cabbages, radishes, parsnips, carrots, melons, pompons,or such like stuff, by which he and his poor household liveth as by their principal food, sith they can do no better. And as for wheaten bread, they eat it when they can reach unto the price of it, contenting themselves in the meantime with bread made of oats or barley: a poor estate, God wot! Howbeit, what care our great encroachers? But in divers places where rich men dwelled some time in good tenements, there be now no houses at all, but hop-yards, and sheds for poles, or peradventure gardens, as we may see in Castle Hedingham, and divers other places. But to proceed.