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The Tollemaches of Helmingham Hall in 1588


with Moira Coleman

at the Old Court, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday, 12th October, 2013.

The threat of invasion by the Spanish and their Armada in 1588 is well documented in contemporary state records, propaganda, and commentaries written centuries later. This study day explores the year and the impact of its events through personal records of the Tollemache family and their Suffolk gentry household at Helmingham Hall.

Provisional Programme
(There may be variations to the programme on the day)
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 Life before the threat: In 1580, young Lionel Tollemache, ‘Esquyer’, married Catherine Cromwell, daughter of Henry, 2nd Lord Cromwell and gt-granddaughter of Thomas Cromwell. We use household and administrative records to see what challenges faced this newly-married couple between 1580 and 1588.  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.45 Preparing for war: Lionel Tollemache was one of the many thousands of men called to stand ready for action at Tilbury Camp in the summer of 1588. With this in mind, we focus on national preparations and compare the expectations of the state with the evidence of one man’s preparations at Helmingham, from his Armoury to his Wardrobe.  
  12.45 Lunch break  
  14:00 On the home front: With both their husbands on active service, the Tollemache women, Catherine and her mother-in-law, Lady Susan Spring, were holding the reins in Suffolk. We look at the motivational contribution of Lady Susan, at the subtle shift in household life at Helmingham Hall, and at Catherine’s library and wider activities.  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 With war behind them: We trace the rise in status of the Tollemache family into the next generation and ask, finally, what impact the events of 1588 had on their changing fortunes.  
  16:20 Close  

About Moira Coleman

Moira Coleman is an Open University honours graduate and author of Fruitful Endeavours: the sixteenth-century household secrets of Catherine Tollemache (2012). Now retired from a long career in adult education with the WEA, she continues her research into the Tollemache Family Archive, sharing the results through study days and presentations to special-interest groups.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Coleman, Moira, Fruitful Endeavours: the 16th-century household secrets of Catherine Tollemache at Helmingham Hall (2012). See also www.fruitfulendeavours.co.uk
MacCulloch, D., Suffolk and the Tudors: politics and religion in an English county 1500-1600 (1986). A scholarly insight into the powerful gentry families of Suffolk.
Sim, Alison, The Tudor Housewife (2005). An introduction to the everyday lives of women in 16th-century society.
Tollemache, Maj.-Gen. E.D.H., The Tollemaches of Helmingham and Ham (1949). Available also as a print-on-demand facsimile version.

The History of the Spanish armada, which had been preparing three years... (1759) - a facsimile ‘print on demand’ edition is offered by the ECCO [18th -Century Collections Online] History and Geography series and provides an accessible summary of the state papers.


Please phone or email to check the availability of places. Study Days are 38 per person, which includes a full day of lectures, access to the NT site, parking, coffee and tea throughout the day, and access to the NT exhibition. Once you have reserved your place please send payment to confirm the booking. For your first booking please complete the application form to ensure that we have recorded your contact details correctly.

Wuffing Education,
4 Hilly Fields,
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4DX
tel : 01394 386498

Email cliff AT wuffingeducation.co.uk
(replace 'AT' by '@' in order to send email - we used 'AT' to avoid spam robots automatically sending us emails)
Website www.wuffingeducation.co.uk

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