KS3 > The Reformation > Constituencies > Bodmin, Cornwall
In the Tudor period Bodmin was a small market town. Until September 1538 there was a priory (a religious house), and there were often disputes between the leading townspeople and the Prior, who controlled a great deal of land. In 1523 the townsmen complained that the Priory was becoming too involved in elections of MPs. However, many of the MPs were local men of the town in this period.
Trouble brewed in the South West during Edward’s reign. Edward’s 1547 Parliament and his government introduced a number of major reforms to the church, such as the removal of images, services to be held in English, and a new Book of Common Prayer. In June 1549 riots broke out across Bodmin, calling for the return of the old Catholic services. A force from Bodmin marched into Devon, and soon over 7000 men were in arms. They held siege to the town of Exeter.
Memorial to the Prayer Book Uprising, Stampford Courtenay
The rebels wanted the religious changes reversed. They wanted images back in churches, services in Latin, the destruction of the English Bible. Edward VI’s government had underestimated the strength of the rebellion and it took some time for their forces to arrive in the West. They finally did so in August, where the rebels were routed. 4000 died at a battle in Stampford Courtenay, Devon. Six priests were also executed as an example.
In Bodmin, all returned to normal. The religious changes stayed in place until Edward VI’s death, as many of the local gentry had not supported the rising. Perhaps this was because the rebels wanted the lands that had been sold off in the dissolution of the monasteries – returned to the church! Both of Bodmin’s MPs were rewarded for their part in putting down the rising. Historians have debated how far the ‘Prayer Book Rebellion’, as it is nicknamed, demonstrates resistance to Edward’s religious changes. Clearly many were unpopular with ordinary people, but there may have been other reasons that led to this large rebellion.