Thomas Sawer - My Life (1541-1580)
Christina Bothwell 15th February 2001
Thomas Sawer-My Life (1541-1580)
I was born in 1541 and named Thomas Sawer by my parents. I lived a relatively poor life, attended school and had many friends. At the age of fourteen, I left home and school to become an apprentice to a Cordwainer. In exchange for my work, my master fed and clothed me so throughout this time, I lived a simple life.
Though I did not know about Politics at the time, it was quite easy to understand the situation occurring in Western Europe. Due to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, many Catholics in the Netherlands were turning against the will of the Pope and becoming Protestant. The King of Spain (who had a good stronghold on the Netherlands) and his fellow Catholics were persecuting the Protestants, causing them too flee to England. The majority settled in East Anglia, causing outrage amongst the folk of Norwich. ‘The Strangers’, as we had nicknamed them, were ‘stealing’ business from many local Tradesmen, causing a dramatic fall in sale prices. People who relied on their income to relieve themselves of poverty were now being swamped into the depths of poor life. All that I could do was to watch on by. How could these foreigners call themselves worthy people of our town? They had no right to deprive those who needed their business. I held a deep resent of their good fortune. Why had they inflicted many wounds upon those who could not fight? I admit their crafts were of a far better standard and quality than ours but they had not realised how much suffering they were causing. The arguments went on and on. Days passed, weeks, months until finally we came to an agreement. However, people still retained a deep hatred towards those who caused such pain.
This is a preview of the whole essay
After a few years, toiling hour after hour, making many pairs of shoes, I was finally given permission to take my best work to the . To my delight, I was praised for my never-ceasing work and was given permission to sell shoes for the people of Norwich. I returned to my master, thanked him for his help and continued to my parents house, where I resided for a few weeks.
I soon became the proud owner of a small house and a stall, found in the Market square. I earned a pitiful wage, only selling a few pairs of shoes a week but it was enough to buy food, clothing and pay for the rent. I became used to the skills a Cordwainer needed and the everyday tasks required to sell my work.
My life carried on like this until I met a beautiful lady, Margaret who was soon to become my first wife. She was ten years older than myself and was required to knit. She also earned very little money but we survived, supporting each other through difficult times.
Margaret and I were very happy together and, in the year 1568, we married. This brought us closer and, in the year 1569, our first child Thomas was born. He was a perfect son. However, I knew this time it would be difficult as we were struggling financially already, but I did not regret it.
A space of three years occurred and, to my joy, my wife bore us another son, who we named John. Both boys grew up to understand we were not going to be able to provide all they wanted and, to my utmost horror, we were soon listed in the St Gregory’s Census of the Poor. However, again my wife fell pregnant and gave birth to a girl, who we called Ann.
In the year 1578, we were summoned to the Market Square for an important announcement; the Queen was to visit Norwich. Over the next few weeks, preparations were taking place. The air was purified to relieve it of germs and bacteria, even the street running by St. Johns Maddermarket and St. Giles Gate were widened for her visit. Many decorations were erected, beautiful garlands of brightly coloured flowers, long pieces of material bearing the royal coat of arms and posts covered in twisting ivy.
In amongst all the excitement were The Strangers, rumoured to present Her Majesty with a Pageant. Angered faces were to be seen if anybody bumped into one of them. Personally, I didn’t believe a word of it. I knew what The Strangers were like, always trying to be the center of attention.
The day came. My family and I made our way to the main street, Margaret hand in hand with Thomas and John and I carrying Ann. The crowds were immense. I acknowledged people I knew as I forced my way through the swarming crowds. We soon came to relatively spacious area. The crowds were excitedly chattering, talking about the Queen. Suddenly trumpets sounded and the crowds fell quiet. A large carriage came into sight and a pale face could be seen in the window. She was the prettiest lady I had ever seen; full red lips, gold jewelry, extravagant frills and her blonde hair scraped back into a tight bun. An enthusiastic cheer was heard among the people, encouraging others to do so to. Trailing behind the Queen’s carriage were many weary soldiers, horses and long caravans, probably the soldiers sleeping quarters. We followed the procession to the end of St. Stephens where Her Majesty was serenaded by beautiful music and brilliant dancers, dancing like I had never seen dancing before. When these marvels finished, some people graced the stage. I realised then that the rumors were true, the Strangers were presenting a Pageant for the Queen. The echoing of jeers and hissing swarmed around and I felt my face burn red with anger. As I turned to leave, beckoning Margaret to follow I felt a small, soft hand slip into mine. As I spun around, a grin spread across the face of John and Thomas was pointing at the stage. I was reluctant to spoil their day so, with great difficulty, I continued to join in with the celebrations. The procession carried on until we reached the Market Square. The crowds fell silent and the final Oration was given to the Queen. Then, with the swarming crowds, the Monarch made her way to the Bishops palace where she spent the night and the next day (Sunday) in peace.
I will never forget the next couple of years, something dreadful happened to us all. Loses of relatives and friends, even falling ill yourself could not be avoided. A strange disease had occurred among the people of Norwich, mostly dying within a few days of catching it. Many folk thought it was a punishment from God while others thought it was caused by bad smells. The cause was unknown, and the disease spread very quickly. It carried very bad symptoms: Swellings under the armpits and between the legs, black and blue blotches on the body, vomiting and spitting blood and (in everycase)…Death. People tried to invent absurd remedies: Wash floors, hands, mouths and nostrils with vinegar and rose water, flagellation, no drinking or gambling, avoiding hot spices, leeks, garlic and anything that is likely to raise body temperature and open pores, no hot baths and to take pills made from powdered stag horns and rare spices. Many of my friends fell ill and died, leaving behind families and friends who mourned their deaths greatly. Then, Margaret (my dear wife) fell ill and died on the 26th April 1579. I mourned her death for a long time afterwards. She was the only lady I had loved and she had left me with the responsibility of caring for three children. Then, sadly, my two sons Thomas and John died of this unknown disease. Thomas died on the 11th August 1579 and then John on the 12th August, a day after Thomas. All I had left now was my daughter, Ann. She was to young to understand what had happened to her mother and brothers but if she had not been there, I feel I would have died without catching the disease. Due to having the ‘Plague’ in our dwelling, we were concealed in our house for six weeks, with no contact whatsoever with the outside world. With no sanitation, we were provided with small amounts of food pushed through the flap in the door, just enough to stay alive. When finally the six weeks passed, I knew there was only one sensible thing to do, re marry. I did not wish to as I felt I would be cheating on Margaret but I knew she would understand the circumstances. Having to look after a very young child and continue with a full time job would be very difficult so I married my second wife, Brenda. We were happy together but she would never match Margaret, whom I missed dearly. If only she was there, she would be able to see her daughter grow up to be a beautiful little girl.
However, my second wife fell pregnant, giving Ann a Stepsister. We named our baby Ales and she was born on the 17th July 1580.
I hope, that as my life has been full of sorrow, I will see happiness through both my daughters lives and I hope my life will be prosperous in the future.