Remembering Ralph Lowde
Between the years 1621 and 1639 the rector of Blakeney, a village on the north Norfolk coast, was a youngish yet very learned man named Ralph Lowde. As someone who now lives in the house once occupied by Ralph Lowde, I naturally wished to see what, if anything, four centuries on, I could discover about my predecessor.
The most informative source for the early life of Ralph Lowde is the register of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. According to the register, Ralph was the son of Edmund Lowde, husbandman, of Aighton; he studied at Whalley School under Mr Browne; he matriculated at Emmanuel College in 1606 under Mr Walbanks, but migrated to Caius in October 1608 with William Branthwaite, Master. He took his BA in 1609/10, his MA in 1613, and the prestigious degree of BD in 1622. Finally, he served as a fellow of Caius from 1615 to 1622.
What are we to make of this terse recitation of facts?
Aighton is a hamlet in the parish of Mitton, five miles southwest of Clitheroe in the Ribble Valley. After the mid eighteenth century the area was to become notable as the location of the Jesuit foundation Stonyhurst College, but in the late sixteenth century it cannot have been more than a handful of modest buildings skirting the banks of a fast-flowing river.
To have started at Caius in 1608 at the age of 18, Ralph (sometimes Raphe or Radulphus) Lowde (sometimes Loud, Loude or Lowd) must have been born in about 1590. His father, Edmund, seems to have been a rather ordinary, middling sort of landowner. Dugdale’s Visitation of Lancashire (1664-5) would later record the family as being from Ridding, then Kirkham, and armigerous — the arms were argent, three bugle horns, sable, stringed, or — all of this presumably a play on the word ‘Loud’. But it was only during Ralph’s lifetime that the family entered the ranks of the gentry.
Ralph spent four years studying at nearby Whalley Grammar School, a two-hour walk from his home. Before the reformation, the Cistercians at Whalley Abbey had offered educational opportunities for local boys. Afterwards, as early as the reign of Edward VI, a grammar school was founded — apparently in the upper room of a gatehouse formerly belonging to the abbey — to fill the gap. So when Ralph studied there, the school would have been at once rather old, yet also very obviously much changed over the previous generation or two. I have yet to find anything about ‘Mr Browne’, Loude’s schoolmaster. And if the school fit into the Whalley Abbey’s old gatehouse, it is hard to see how it could have educated more than a dozen or so pupils at any given time. But somehow in 1606, at the age of 16, Ralph was sent south to take up a place at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
The choice of Emmanuel College, at least, probably tells us something about Ralph’s education.Read the rest of this entry »