|Summary researched and compiled by John Meads|
The influence of the rector within the ‘towne’ was very great and sometimes led to clashes with the other person of influence, the lord of the manor, especially if they were both strong-willed and felt that they had right on their side.
Two such characters were Robert Sybthorpe (rector from 1629 to 1644 and 1660 to 1662) and Thomas Bacon, whose family had become Lords of the Latimer manor a few years prior to the arrival of Robert Sybthorpe. In 1630, the two clashed over the right of the inhabitants of the town to gather furze (gorse) and thorns (hawthorn) from an ancient enclosure known as the Penn Hedge situated on common ground at Burton Wold. In this dispute the rector was supported by his clerk and schoolmaster, Thomas Baxter, whose family had lived here for many years. Following a court case, Thomas Bacon had to back down and the relationship between the two parties and their supporters must have been strained thereafter.
Another clash occurred in 1630 when, Thomas Bacon was one of several ‘gentlemen’ who refused to pay Ship Money, a tax originally levied on coastal counties during wartime for the upkeep of the navy but later extended to inland counties during peacetime, thereby creating much ill feeling from landowners who felt that they should not be expected to pay it. Robert Sybthorpe, being such a fervent supporter of the monarchy naturally sided with the authorities in their action against Bacon, which once again must have had an effect on the life of Bacon’s tenants who relied on him for their livelihood but also were expected to go to church every Sunday and listen to Sybthorpe’s sermons.
In 1639, during the Bishops’ War, there was more ill feeling between Sybthorpe and Bacon when George Plowright, one of the Constables, was pressed to serve in the King’s army in
During the Civil Wars (1642-51), Bacon sided with the Parliamentarians and continued to live at his home, while Sybthorpe was ejected from his rectory in 1644 - it is said - by Parliamentarian troops, and had to flee to