Nostalgia: Tudors helped to turn Havering into a multilingual borough

Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon - Credit: Archant

Information about the languages spoken in Havering from the 2010 Census was published earlier this year.

A number of languages were used in Tudor Havering, 500 years ago.

The royal house and Pyrgo near Havering-atte-Bower would have been centres for foreign languages when the royal family lived there.

Henry VIII (1491-1547) spoke French and Latin and understood Italian and some Spanish. He granted Havering to his Spanish wife Katherine of Aragon. In 1519, Henry and Katherine are recorded as hunting here with a number of French visitors.

Henry’s children studied languages. Mary (1516-1558) studied Latin; Elizabeth (1533-1603) Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish and French; Edward (1537-1553) Greek, Latin and French, possibly Spanish and Italian. Mary and Elizabeth lived at Pyrgo on a number of occasions.


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As Queen, Elizabeth I made use of the royal house at Havering-atte-Bower, receiving a translation of a religious book from Greek to Latin by Sir Anthony Cooke of nearby Gidea Hall in 1561.

Gidea Hall was a major private centre for the study of foreign languages.

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Sir Anthony Cooke (1505/6-1576) read Latin and Greek and spoke German.

His daughters studied Greek and Latin and possibly Hebrew. Gidea Hall was described as “a small university” and one of Cooke’s daughters “a tiresome blue-stocking”.

Cooke translated religious texts from Latin to English and Greek to Latin, presenting them to Henry VIII and Elizabeth I respectively in 1541 and 1561.

Latin translations and a book discussing the correct pronunciation of Greek were dedicated to him in 1555, 1571 and 1576.

His daughter Anne (ca, 1528-1610) translated Bishop Jewel’s 1562 justification of the Anglican church from Latin to English, later purchased by St Andrew’s Church, Hornchurch, among others. Gidea Hall had Greek, Latin and Hebrew verses on its facade.

Law French (archaic French) and Latin seem to have been used at Havering Manor Court in Romford Market in the late 15th century. Legal education may also have made Bretons (South Hornchurch) and Dagnams (Harold Hill) centres for foreign languages.

Legal practice required knowledge of Latin and Law French. William Ayloffe (d. 1584) at Bretons and Sir William Hussey (d.1495) at Dagnams were among the nation’s senior legal figures. Ayloffe was Justice of the Queen’s Bench 1578-1584 and Hussey was Chief Justice of the King’s Bench 1483-1495.

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