Day Conference at North Ockendon, Essex

Report by Eunice Burton

On a blustery March day about 30 members and friends of the Tyndale Society ventured into South Essex to learn more about members of the Poyntz family, whose lives were so closely linked with William Tyndale’s achievements. North Ockendon Church is situated amongst fields, but the apparent tranquility is belied by the hum of traffic on the M25 approaching the Dartford Crossing. The nearby Manor House, owned by the Poyntz family and descendants until 1758, was destroyed in World War II.

After welcoming us, Professor David Daniell set the scene by recounting the major events in the life of William Tyndale, particularly stressing the unique contribution he made to the English language, now known as English Plain Style: his use of simple direct words spoke to minds and hearts with dramatic clarity and brevity. It was while he was staying with Thomas Poyntz in Antwerp, 1534-1535, that some of Tyndale’s major work was produced and printed, e.g. his translations of books of the Old Testament and revision of the New Testament in English (1534). Tyndale excelled at translating the Scriptures from the original Hebrew and Greek, showing that the natural affinity of these languages with English resulted in a more accurate and attractive version than when the translation was from Latin (e.g. Vulgate). The notable Bibles of the 16th and 17th centuries had their origins in Tyndale’s inimitable translations, and Professor Daniell deplored the paucity and crudeness of language in most modern translations. He reiterated ‘No Tyndale, no Shakespeare!’.

Mary Clow then showed slides illustrating sites associated with William Tyndale’s life in the Cotswolds (e.g. Lady Anne Walsh of Little Sodbury Manor, where Tyndale was tutor to her sons, was a member of the Gloucester branch of the Poyntz family) and the economic importance of the wool trade: wool was exported to Europe and returned as bales of cloth (in which copies of Tyndale’s New Testament were hidden). Finally, we saw scenes of Antwerp. Astute readers of the Tyndale Journal will remember that issue No. 24 April 2003 contained on Thomas and Anna Poyntz and the wonderful memorials in the Poyntz Chapel at North Ockendon Church. At the Conference, Brian reminded us how support for William Tyndale in Antwerp and England had been costly for Thomas Poyntz – he suffered 20 years of personal poverty, loss of property, and estrangement from friends, narrowly escaping a martyr’s death for heresy but suffering almost a living martyrdom. When his brother John was Lord of the Manor of North Ockendon, Thomas sent an impassioned letter craving support for Tyndale who was in prison as the result of a Papist plot and in danger of imminent execution, stressing that Tyndale was a loyal subject of King Henry VIII and *‘as high a treasure as anyone living’*. John Poyntz forwarded the letter to Thomas Cromwell for the attention of the King, but the appeal did not save Tyndale (see transcript of letter page 26). We had the privilege of seeing a facsimile of this letter and hearing it read by David Daniell.

Brian Buxton also discussed the influence of the ‘lesser nobility’ on the Monarch, e.g. Thomas’ sister-in-law Anne had previously been the wife of Sir Thomas Cheney, a companion of Henry VIII from his youth, and the letter to Thomas Cromwell was sent during a “Progress” in the West country in 1535, which included visits to the Gloucestershire Poyntz families. Later Anne, now Anne Poyntz, was Lady in Waiting to Mary Tudor and prominent in the Coronation Procession of 1553. John Poyntz died in 1547 and Anne in 1554, when Thomas Poyntz became Lord of the Manor, with improvement of his fortunes. His son, Gabriel, inherited the estates on Thomas’ death in 1562 and was responsible for erecting the family memorials in the Poyntz Chapel and the magnificent alabaster tomb chest for himself and his wife Etheldreda, whose canopy is decorated in the same style as the Globe Theatre (1598). Gabriel died in 1607. There was an opportunity later to examine the Chapel in detail.

The morning session concluded with a reading by David Daniell of a “letter poem” from Sir Thomas Wyatt (the Elder) to John Poyntz at North Ockendon in 1536, full of witty observations and moralistic advice `‘My Mother’s maids, when they did sew and spin, they sang sometime a song of the fieldmouse that would needs go seek her townish sister’s house…’:raw-html:` The fieldmouse meets an untimely demise as she does not know how to escape from the cat as the town mouse does.

‘Alas, my Poyntz, how men do seek the best and find the worst by error as they stray. Thyself content with that is thee assigned and use it well that is to thee allotted. Then seek no more out of thyself to find the thing that thou hast sought so long before, for thou shalt feel it sitting in thy mind’.

After lunch, local historian Ann Hilder showed slides of details of the Poyntz memorials and brasses, and of other features of interest in this historic 12th century church. Then Professor Daniell read excerpts from the recently published Selective Writings of William Tyndale, illustrating his wide-ranging interests, e.g. his theology (his firm belief in the Sovereignty of God and faith in the Promises of God), courage when persecuted, positive views on the ministry of women ( Answer to More ), adultery and fidelity, parental love and comments on Matthew 5 and I Corinthians 13 (love).

The closing prayers and blessing were given by the Reverend Malcolm Millard, Priest-in-Charge, and then a few members went on to South Ockendon Church, with its round tower and Norman doorway, to view the Saltonstall Chapel; this contains a fine Elizabethan monument to Richard Saltonstall, Lord Mayor of London, and Susannah his wife (who was the daughter of Thomas Poyntz) and their sixteen children.

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