Pilgrimage of Grace (1536-1537) Timeline

Pilgrimage of Grace

This timeline is a chronology of the main events of the protest against religious changes and the closure of the monasteries known as the Pilgrimage of Grace.


1534 (Summer)
The small order of Friars Observant in London was closed and their seven houses acquired by the crown. Father Forrest from the Greenwich Friars Observant was sent to the Tower of London. It was suggested to King Henry VIII  that it might be a good idea to close all the monasteries and divert their wealth to the crown.
1534 (3rd November)
Act of Supremacy
This act declared England as a sovereign state with the King as the head of both the country and the church. The Act gave the monarch the power over all areas that had previously been the province of the clergy and ecclesiastical courts. It also meant that his injunctions would be binding on the clergy and that he had the power to define faith in parliament. All heresy cases would now be prosecuted by special commissions. The King would also now appoint men of his choosing to ecclesiastical posts.
1535 (January)
It was suggested that since England had broken with the Pope and the monasteries owed allegiance to the Pope they should be closed and their wealth taken by the crown. It was decided that monasteries should be visited and found guilty of mismanagement and immoral living in order to give a good reason for their closure.
1535 (21st January)
Thomas Cromwell was made Vicar General Vice Regent in Spirituals. This post gave him the power to visit all monasteries in England.
1535 (July and August)
Royal Commissioners were visiting many religious establishments. Monks were encouraged to leave the monasteries before they were closed.
1536 (8th June)
Act of Suppression
Using information gathered in his surveys, Cromwell persuaded Parliament to pass this act first introduced earlier in the year. All monasteries worth less than £200 per year were to be closed and their properties be placed at the King’s disposal. All displaced abbots and abbesses were to receive a pension and monks and nuns could either take up residence in larger houses or renounce their vows and join the outside world.
1536 (Summer)
The closure of the monasteries and the changes to the religion of England were not well received by the common people. The monasteries had provided food, shelter and a basic education for the people as well as a place for travellers to stay. Many traditional religious festivals were now forbidden and people were angry. In the north of England most people were still Catholics at heart and found the changes hard to deal with.
1536 (28th September)
The King’s commissioners arrived at Hexham to close the Abbey. The monks of Hexham Abbey had barricaded themselves inside and threatened to use guns and cannons to prevent the closure. The commissioners retreated.
1536 (30th September)
Dr John Rayes, one of the King’s commissioners, was speaking to members of the clergy in Bolingbroke about the new regulations. Many were concerned about new requirements for academic standards.
Events of the Rebellion
1536 (1st October)
The people of Louth were concerned by the news that commissioners would be arriving to investigate their church. People began to gather on the streets. Nicholas Melton, a shoemaker, took the keys to the church to keep them from the commissioners.
1536 (2nd October)
People had arrived from Horncastle and East Rasen to join the protest at Louth which now numbered around 30,000. They burned the commissioners’ books then began marching towards Lincoln.
1536 (2nd October)
Lord John Hussey learned of the disturbances at Louth. He appealed to the people to disperse but they refused. He did not join the rebels but he also refused to move against them claiming that his people would not follow him.
1536 (4th October)
Robert Aske, a lawyer who was travelling south, was captured by a group of rebels. Aske agreed to help draft letters to the King explaining their grievances.
1536 (5th October)
The protesters, now numbered about 50,000, camped at Hambleton Hill. However, with the news that armed forces led by Charles Brandon and Thomas Howard were marching to break up the protest, many went home.
1536 (6th October)
Thomas Darcy wrote to King Henry stating that he did not have sufficient forces to stop the rebels. Henry did not believe him, rather the king felt that he was a traitor.
1536 (10th October)
Robert Aske had returned to Yorkshire and he persuaded people to rise against the closure of the monasteries and the changes to religion. A large group of soon gathered at Wighton Hill. Aske called on his people to join ‘our Pilgrimage of Grace’.
1536 (11th October)
Robert Aske and his followers reached Jervaulx Abbey and persuaded the abbot, Adam Sedbar, to join them. Sedbar marched with Aske to Darlington.
1536 (12th October)
A proclamation from the King arrived in Lincolnshire ordering the rebels to disband. Those that had not gone home earlier now did so.
1536 (14th October)
Robert Aske and his followers marched on Hull.
1536 (16th October)
Robert Aske and his followers reached York.
1536 (16th October)
Charles Brandon and Thomas Howard reached Lincoln. Most of the rebels had already disbanded and Brandon and Howard set about investigating what had happened.
1536 (17th October)
A new set of grievances with more emphasis on religious grievances was written by Aske and sent to the King.
1536 (20th October)
Robert Aske and his followers reached Pontefract Castle which was held by Thomas Darcy. Edward Lee, Archbishop of York was also in the castle.
1536 (21st October)
Lord Darcy supported Aske and surrendered Pontefract. Archbishop Lee was allowed to go free.
1536 (22nd October)
Aske tried to persuade Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, to join them but Percy refused. However, Percy did write to King Henry stating that his health was poor and he was unable to lead a force against the rebels.
1536 (24th October)
Robert Aske stood at the head of around 30,000 protesters in Doncaster.
1536 (27th October)
the Duke of Norfolk lacked the resources to to deal with the Aske’s large force. He believed that the best way to achieve a peaceful solution was to meet with Aske for talks on Doncaster Bridge.
1536 (29th October)
the Duke of Norfolk wrote to Henry to explain his reasons for meeting with Aske.
1536 (late October)
Sawley Abbey near Clitheroe had already been closed. The rebels now took back control of the Abbey and the monks returned. When King Henry heard of the action he sent Henry Stanley, Earl of Derby, to retake the abbey and hang the monks. Stanley replied that he did not have a large enough force to carry out the order.
1536 (17th November)
Henry sent an envoy to Yorkshire to invite Aske and 300 ‘pilgrims’ to meet Norfolk at Doncaster for further discussions.
1536 (21st November)
the rebels refused Henry’s offer to meet with Norfolk at Doncaster until a general pardon had been issued.
1536 (6th December)
The rebels were offered, on the King’s behalf a general pardon if they would put down their weapons and disperse. Aske was summoned to court and issued with a safe pass which was valid to 5th January 1537.
1536 (8th December)
Robert Aske persuaded the rebels to disperse saying that they had won and that the King would respond to their demands when he met him at court.
1536 (Christmas)
Robert Aske was present at court and spoke with the King. Henry told him that he would visit Yorkshire in the summer and hold a parliament to pass any legislation necessary to satisfy their demands. However, Henry had other ideas.
1537 (January)
Robert Aske realised that Henry was playing for time and recalled his men believing that there would be further confrontation. Henry told Norfolk “you shall cause such dreadful execution to be done upon a good number of the inhabitants of every town, village, and hamlet that have offended, as they may be a fearful spectacle to all others hereafter that would practice any like matter.”
1537 (15th January)
Francis Bigod accused Aske and Darcy of betraying the Pilgrimage of Grace and began another revolt.
1537 (10th February)
Robert Aske joined forces with the Duke of Norfolk and helped defeat Bigod.
1537 (February)
The Duke of Norfolk raised the King’s banner in Carlisle and declared that area subject to martial law. All loyal subjects were told to wear the King’s uniform of a red cross on a white background.
1537 (March)
Norfolk presided over a Great Assize and sentenced around 50 monks and priors to be executed. Due to the large number of nobles that had taken part in the uprising it was deemed counter productive to execute them all so they were divided into those to be executed and those to be pardoned. Those to be pardoned included Archbishop Lee, Lord Scrope, Lord Latimer and Robert Bowes while around 150 including Lord Darcy, Robert Aske, Robert Constable and Hugh Bigod were sentenced to be executed.
1537 (24th March)
Robert Aske, Thomas D’Arcy and Robert Constable were sent to London to meet with the King. Norfolk told them that the King wanted to thank them for putting down the Bigod rebellion. However, when they reached London they were arrested and sent to the Tower of London.
1537 (11th May)
Robert Aske was questioned by Thomas Cromwell.
1537 (2nd June)
Francis Bigod was hanged at Tyburn.
1537 (30th June)
Thomas D’Arcy was executed by beheading on Tower Hill.
1537 (12th July)
Robert Aske was executed. There is dispute as to his manner of death. Some sources state he was hanged in chains outside Clifford’s Tower in York and left to die, while others say that he suffered the usual traitor’s death of being hung, drawn and quartered.


Published Jan 29, 2020 @ 13:50 pm – Updated – [last-modified]

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2020). Pilgrimage of Grace 1536 – 1537. https://www.thetimelinegeek.com/pilgrimage-of-grace-1536-1537. Last accessed [date]


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