Thomasine Bonaventure 1450-1539

In the year 1463, in the reign of King Edward IV, a London merchant, accompanied by his serving man, was crossing the moors to the south of Wyke St. Mary, and, seeking shelter for the night, met a maiden looking after a few sheep. At the stranger’s request she took him to her father’s humble home, and there the wayfarer stayed that night.

Next morning Richard Bumsby, for such was his name, having been greatly impressed by their daughter’s wit and beauty, asked the parents if he might take her to London to assist his wife. So Thomasine Bonaventure set off, travelling pillion behind her master’s servant, and in a fortnight’s time was riding through the streets of London town, which one day were to ring with the praises of this unknown village maid.

Week St. Mary: Extracted from:   ‘The New British Traveller: Or Modern Panorama of England’ by James Dugdale 1819
Week.] —The parish of Week St. Mary, or St. Mary Week, is in the hundred of Stratton, six miles south from the town of that name. There was formerly a castle in this parish, of which a field adjoining the churchyard, called Castle Hill, exhibiting the traces of extensive buildings, is supposed to have been the site. In ancient records, the church-town is called the borough of Week St. Mary; the occupiers of certain lands are still called burgage holders; and the custom of electing a mayor is still retained, though his office is only nominal and without authority. Here are cattle fairs on the 6th of September and 10th of December. 
Lord de Dunstanville is Lord of the Manor of Swannacot, including that of Week St. Mary, by inheritance from the Hales. The manor of East- Orchard-Marsies is the property of Sir W. P. Call, Bart.
At Goscose, in this parish, formerly stood a chapel dedicated to St. Lawrence.
Dame Thomasine Percival, a native of this parish, founded in the reign of Henry VIII a grammar school and chantry at Week St. Mary — “with fair lodgings for the school-master, schollers, and officers, and, twenty pounds of yeerely revennue for supporting the incident charges.” Thus Carew, who moreover informs us, that he is ignorant of her birth, that that her maiden name was Bonaventer; that “whiles in her girlish age she kept sheep on St. Mary Wike Moore, it chanced, that a London Merchant” — whose name was Thomas Bumsby — “passing by, saw her, heeded her, liked her, begged her of her poor parents, and carried her to his home. In processe of time, her mistres was summoned by death to appeare in the other world; and her good thewes, no lesse than her seemely personage, so much contented her master, that he advanced her from a servant to a wife, and left her a wealthy widow. Her second marriage with one Henry Gall; her third and last, with Sir John Percival, Lord Mayor of London, whom she also overlived. And to shew that vertue as well bare a part in her preferment, she employed the whole residue of her life and last widowhood, to works no lesse bountifull than charitable — namely repayring of highwayes, building of bridges, endowing of maydens, relieving of prisoners, feeding and apparelling the poor.” Some parts of Dame Thomasine's history are in a measure elucidated by her will, which is dated 1512. It proves her family name to have been Bonaventer; for she leaves 20/- to her brother John Bonaventer. John Dinham, who married her sister's daughter, and is called her cousin, is named residuary legatee; the grammar school and chantry founded in her life-time, is committed to his discretion; she leaves a little gilt goblet to the vicar of Liskeard, that he may pray for her soul and twenty marks towards building the tower at St. Stephen's, Launceston.
Several sons of the best families of Devon and Cornwall, had been educated, according to Carew, at this grammar school, where they were “ tortuously framed up in both kinds of divine and humane learning, under one Cholwell, an honest and religious teacher, which caused the neighbours so much the rather and the more to rewe, that a petty smacke onely of popery opened a gap to the oppression of the whole, by the statute made in Edward the 6th reigne, touching the suppression of chaunteries.” Thus would many others of our foundation-schools have been put down, had not well-wishers to them, demonstrated the facility with which the superstitious customs, originally connected with them, might be corrected: those who coveted their revenues would fain have overlooked all this!
Week St. Mary: Extracted from:
‘The Parochial History of Cornwall: Founded on the Manuscript Histories of Mr. Hals and Mr. Tonkin’ with additions and various appendices by Davies Gilbert (sometime President of the Royal Society, F.A.S., F.R.S.E., M.R.I.A., and D.C.L. by Diploma from the University of Oxford).   by Davies Gilbert · 1838 
WEEK ST. MARY 
HALS.
Week St. Mary is situate in the hundred of Stratton, and hath upon the north Marhamchurch, west Jacobstowe, south North Pendyrwyn, east Tamerton.
In the Inquisition of the Bishops of Lincoln and Winchester 1292, Ecclesia de Wi-Wyke, in decanatu de Trigmajorshire, was valued cvis. viiid.
In Wolsey’s Inquisition 1521, by the name of Wike St. Mary, £17. The patronage was formerly in that endowed it, now alternately in Rashleigh and the incumbent and the parish rated to the 4s. per pound Land tax, 1696, for one year, by the name of Wike St. Mary, £170. 11s. 6d. It is called Wike St. Mary (to distinguish it from St. Mary Magdalen’s church at Lanceston), this being dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as its tutelar guardian.
This Wike St. Mary was the birth-place of that famous minion of fortune and example of charitable benevolence Thomasine Bonaventure. Whether so called from her success in worldly affairs, or from her ancestors, is altogether unknown to me; most certain it is she was born of poor parents about the year 1450, tempore Henry VI. but not so poor but that her father had a small flock of sheep that depastured on the wastrell of Wike St. Mary downs or moor, whereof she was the shepherdess, (see Carew, p. 282, Lord Dunstanville’s edition,) who on a certain day in that place doing this office, it happened that there passed by a London mercer or draper that traded in this country, who was going to visit his customers in those parts and gather up such monies as there were due from them to him for such wares as he sold. This gentleman, at first sight, observing the beauty of Thomasine, desired to talk with her, and, after some discourse, found her discreet answers suitable to the beauty of her face, much beyond her rank and degree. Then inquiring into her circumstances, as to her riches, and understanding that she was poor, and she likewise inquiring into his wealth, and where he lived, which was as aforesaid; whereupon he told her, if she would go to London and reside with him as a servant, he doubted not but it would be very conducive to her wealth and preferment.
Thomasine replied, that she was under the guardianship of her father and mother, and that she could not accept his proposal without their consent; but if they were made acquainted therewith, and approved thereof, and he appeared to them to be such a person as he pretended, she knew nothing to the contrary but that she might embrace his offer.
Whereupon this Londoner forthwith applied himself to her parents, and gave verbal assurances, that if they would permit their daughter Thomasine to go to London, and become a servant to him, she should not only have good wages and be well used, but in case he happened to die while she was with him, he would so effectually provide for her that she should not have occasion to try the friendship of any other person afterwards; and to strengthen those his proposals, he produced some of his acquaintance and debtors in those parts, who satisfied her parents as to his reputation and integrity for performance of what he promised.
Upon which report Thomasine’s parents consented to his request, so that soon after she was conveyed or carried up to London, and entered as a servant in this gentleman's house, when she demeaned herself very well, to the good liking of himself and family; when it so happened that in a few years after, this tradesman’s wife sickened of a mortal distemper and died, and some time after Thomasine and her master were solemnly married together as husband and wife, who then, according to his promise, endowed her with a considerable jointure in case of her survivorship; and about two years after, having no issue, he died; and by his last will and testament further made her his sole executrix, leaving her a rich widow whom he took a poor servant.
This dower, together with her youth and beauty, procured her to the cognizance of divers well deserving men, who thereupon made addresses of marriage to her, but none of them obtained her affection but only Henry Gall, an eminent and wealthy Citizen of London, to whom, after he had made another augmentation of jointure in case of her survivorship, she was accordingly married, and lived in great amity and reputation with him as a wife for some years, till in fine this Mr. Gall sickened of a mortal distemper whereof he died, and left Thomasine a richer widow than he found her, aged about thirty years.
After which the fame, virtue, wealth, and beauty of the said Thomasine spread itself over the City of London, so that persons of the greatest magnitude for wealth and dignity there courted her; and amongst the rest it was the fortune of John Percivall, Esq. to prevail with her to become his wife; after which it happened that he was chosen Carver at the table of the feast of Sir John Collet, Knt. Lord Mayor of London, the 2d of Henry VII. anno Dom. 1487, at which time, according to the custom of that City, Sir John drank to him in a silver cup of wine, in order to make him Sheriff thereof for the year ensuing (in conjunction with Hugh Clopton, Esq.); whereupon he covered his bead, and sat down at the table with the Lord Mayor of London, and was accordingly one of the Sheriffs thereof. Afterwards, in 14 Hen. VII. 1499, the said John Percivall, was elected Lord Mayor of London, and knighted by that King, at which time Thomas Bradberry and Stephen Jenings were Sheriffs thereof.
By this gentleman our Thomasine had a third augmentation of jointure and wealth, together with the title of Dame or Lady, which she lived many years to enjoy after the death of Sir John Percivall, Knight. After which, Dame Thomasine, having no child by either of her three husbands, spent the remainder of her days, till about the year 1530, when she died, in works of piety and charity; as repairing highways, building bridges, endowing or providing funds for poor maids, relieving prisoners, feeding and apparelling poor people, with her treasure and riches; and especially in this parish of Wike St. Mary, where she was born, she founded a chantry and free school to pray for her soul, the souls of her father and mother, her husbands and relatives. To this chantry and school she added a small library, with a fair house for lodgings for the schoolmaster, and chanters or singing men, and others, parts of which are yet extant; and endowed the same with £20 lands for ever. In which place, during the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII. many gentlemen's sons, both in Cornwall and Devon, had their education in the liberal arts and sciences, under one Cholwell, a good linguist, as Mr. Carew saith.
But, alas! afterwards, in the Parliament of the fourth of November, first of King Edward VI. 1550, all colleges, free chapels, chantries, fraternities, and guilds, throughout this kingdom, being dissolved and given to that King, this chantry and free school underwent with others the common downfall, and its revenues vested in the Crown, from whence it passed to ----------, now in possession thereof.
There are two fairs kept yearly in this parish on the 8th of September and the 10th of December.
THE EDITOR.
The church is situated on an eminence, and is therefore conspicuous at a considerable distance in all directions; it is large, and built in the usual manner of western churches with three aisles of equal height; but the tower is so lofty as to exceed in height (according to report) any other in the county, even those at Probus and St. Mabyn.
The church town is large; and the inhabitants preserve a shadow of former traditionary importance by electing an annual mayor, who used at least to receive some voluntary obediences from his townspeople in the settling of small differences between them.
The etymology of the prefix Week seems to be less obscure than most other additions to proper names. Week is in Cornish literally, sweet, an epithet frequently applied to female Saints.
An alms, Sir Priset! the drooping pilgrim cries,
For sweet St. Mary and your Order’s sake. 
To St. Agnes. 
Then cast, sweet Saint! a circle round, 
And bless from fools this holy ground. 
These lines are from modem compositions, but made in imitation of others much older.
St. Mary Week is, therefore, sweet or beloved St. Mary; indeed Treweek is known to mean sweet, beloved town or village. The Saxon wick is never, I believe, lengthened into week.
Mr. Lysons says; The church town is in all ancient records called the borough of Week St. Mary, and the occupiers of certain fields are still called burgage holders. 
The ancient manor of Week St. Mary appears to have been merged in that of Swannacot, which belonged to the late Lord Dunstanville by inheritance from his great grandmother, heiress of the Heles.
The manor of East Orchard Mauvais was purchased from Mr. Dennis Rolle by the late Sir John Call.
There is a place near the church town called Castle Hill, believed to be the site of an ancient fortress.
The advowson of the rectory belongs to Sidney-Sussex College in Cambridge, having been given to that Society in exchange for another immediately connected with his residence by Lord Carteret, who inherited the disposal of this preferment from the family of Grenville.
Week St. Mary measures 5,167 statute acres.
Annual value of the Real Property as returned to Parliament in 1815 - £3,012 0s 0d 
Poor Rate in 1831 - £367 11s 0d 
Population, in 1801, 566; in 1811, 612; in 1821, 782; in 1831, 769; giving an increase of 36 per cent. in 30 years.  
Present Rector, the Rev. Walter Gee, presented by Sidney-Sussex college in 1821; net value of the living in 1831, £388.
GEOLOGY, BY DOCTOR BOASE. 
The rocks of this parish are of the same nature as those of Poundstock and Jacobstow.
After Thomasine had spent a few years as a capable and faithful serving maid, her mistress died, and she consented to become the wife of her master. Three years afterwards her husband died of the plague, leaving to his wife - a young and beautiful widow - the whole of his property. In one of her letters she announces her husband’s death and gives the Reeve of Week St. Mary ten marks “to the intent that he shall cause skilful masons to build a bridge at the Ford of Green-a-more, yea, and with stout stonework well laid, and see that they do no harm to that tree which standeth fast by the brook, neither dispoyle they the rushes and plants that grow thereby: for there did I pass many goodly hours when I was a small mayde, and there did I first see the face of a faithful friend.” An old chronicler says: “Her dower, together with her youth and beauty, procured her to the cognizance of divers well-deserving men, who thereupon made addresses of marriage to her, but none of them obtained her affection, but only Henry Gall of St. Lawrence, Milk Street, an eminent and wealthy citizen, and a merchant adventurer.”
Soon after their marriage we find that “twenty acres of woodland copse in the neighbourhood were bought and conveyed by the gracious lady Dame Thomasine Gall to feofees and trustmen, for the perpetual use of the poor of Week St. Mary, for fewel to be hewn in pieces once a year and finally and equally divided, for evermore on the vigil of St. Thomas the Twin.”
After five years Henry Gall died, leaving his wife a great fortune, and it is written, “The fame of the virtue, wealth and beauty of the said Thomasine spread itself over the City of London, so that persons of the greatest magnitude of wealth and dignity there courted her, Among the rest it was the fortune of John Percyval, Esquire, goldsmith and userer (that is to say, banker) to prevail upon her to become his wife.” He was very wealthy and of high repute, alderman of his ward and of noble character. Their wedding, about the year 1480, was made a kind of public festival. As a wedding gift of remembrance to her old home she directed that “a firm and stedfast road should be laid down with stones, at her sole cost, along the midst of Green-a moor, and fit for man and beast to travel on with their lawful occasions from Lanstephadon (Launceston) to the sea.”
At another time she gave forty marks towards the building of a tower for St. Stephen’s Church, above the causeway of Dunheved, and it was her wish “that they should carry their pinnacles so high that they might be seen from Swannacote Cross, by the moor, to the intent that they who do behold it from the Burgage Mound may remember the poor mayde who is now a wedded dame of London Citie.”
In 1486 John Percyval became Sheriff of London, and in 1498 Lord Mayor, and was knighted by the King.
A letter written at this time to her mother reads:
“Sweet mother, thy daughter hath seen the face of the King. We were bydden to a banket at the royal palace, and Sir John and I could not choose but go. There was such a blaze of lords and ladies in silks and samite and jewels of gold, that it was like the citie of New Jerusalem in the Scriptures, and thy maid Thomasine was arrayed so fine that they brought up the saying that I was dressed like an altar. When we were led into the chamber where His Highness stood, the King did kiss me on the cheek as the manner is, and he seemed gentle and kind. But then he did turn to my good lord and husband, and say, with a look stern and stark enow, ‘Ha, Sir John! See to it that thy fair dame be liege and true, for she comes of the burly Cornish stock, and they be ever rebels in blood and bone. Even now they be one and all for that knave Warbeck, who is among them in the West.’ You will guess, dear mother, how my heart did beat. But withall the King did drink to me at the banket and merrily did call ‘Health to our Lady Mayoress Dame Thomasine Percyval, which now feedeth her flock in the Citie of London.’ And thereat they did laugh and fleer and shout, and there was flashing of tankards and jingling of cups all down the Hall.”
After twenty-five years of married life, Sir John died in 1504, and Thomasine, who lived for another thirty-five years, “employed the residue of her life to works no less bountiful than charitable - namely, repairing highways, feeding and apparelling the poor, etc.” In her will, dated 1512, she makes her cousin, John Dinham, residuary legatee and leaves £20 to her brother, John Bonaventer.
She died in 1539 at the age of eighty-nine. Stratton Church accounts show that on the day on which she was to be “remembered” prayer was to be made for the repose of her soul and two shillings and two pence paid to the priests for bread and ale.
Both she and her husband were very loyal to their native places. He, amidst many duties, endowed Macclesfield, near which he was born, with a free grammar school, “because there were few schoolmasters in that country, and the children, for lack of teaching, fell to idleness and consequently live dissolutely all their days.”
At Week St. Mary Dame Percyval founded a chantry and a college, or grammar school, of which there are some picturesque remains, notably a recessed doorway with carved tympanum, a piece of battlemented wall, a well, and the steps leading up to the top of the wall, where the college bell was hung.
It has been thought that the chantry and college were abolished under the Chantry Act of 1545, and that the connection of the school with the Chantry of St. John in the Church gave the pretext for this action. Carew says: “In Thomasine Bonaventer’s grammar school divers of the best gentlemen’s sons of Devon and Cornwall had been virtuously trained up in both kinds of divine and humane learning under one Cholwill, an honest and religious teacher; which caused the neighbours so much the rather and the more to rewe that a petty smacke only of popery opened the gap for the suppression of the whole by the statute made in Edward Vi’s reign touching the suppression of Chanterie.”
The fact however seems to be that when the Commissioners came to Week St. Mary to inspect the chantry, the school was already in decay. This is confirmed by the following extract from the report of the Trustees of the Launceston Charities in 1859: “Among the records at the Record Office, London, are certain Certificates of the Commissioners appointed in the reign of King Henry the Eighth and King Edward 6th to take the surveys of all Chantries, Colleges, and Free Chapels in the County of Cornwall, and that by a Certificate made in or about the 27th year of the reign of King Henry 8th it appears that a Chantry then existed in the parish of Week St. Mary in the County of Cornwall on the foundation of Dame Thomazine Percival, wife of Sir John Percival, Knight, to find a priest for ever not only to pray for her soul within the Parish of Week St. Mary, but also that the said priest should teach children freely in a school founded by the said Dame Percival not far from the said Parish Church, and he to receive for his yearly stipend a salary of £12 and 6 shillings to be levied of the lands given amongst other uses to that intent and purpose: to find a manciple or usher also to instruct and teach children under the said schoolmaster, and he to have for the maintenance of his living yearly 26 shillings and 8 pence. To give to the Laundress to wash the clothes of the Schoolmaster and Principal for her reward yearly 13 shillings and 4 pence and the remainder of the said lands and possessions belonging to the said Chantry the Trustees willed should be expended in the keeping of an obit yearly (18th April, see Tywardreath Obituary) for her within the Parish Church aforesaid.”
"From a similar certificate of certain other Commissioners appointed in the second year of King Edward VI (1548) and by a memorandum thereto, it was noted that the Borough of Launceston was a very meet place to establish a learned man to preach and set forth the word of God to the people and also to teach children in their grammar and other necessary knowledge, and that whereas the said school at Week St. Mary was then in decay, the said Borough of Launceston was a very meet place to have the foundation of the said school removed unto."
“By the ninth and tenth certificates of the said Commissioners issued some time in the reign of King Edward VI, it appears that the said Chantry of Week St. Mary was removed to Launceston, and that the schoolmaster, usher and laundress of the said school of Week St. Mary were to continue their services at their accustomed wages (amounting together to £17 13s 3d) at Launceston.”
It was Horwell Grammar School, as it is now called, in Launceston, that benefited by the action of the Commissioners, so that “Dame Percyval’s” Charity was not misappropriated by the Crown, but passed from her beloved Week St. Mary to Lanstephadon, which she also loved.

Part of this article has been taken from the book "A ROMANCE IN WEEK ST. MARY" by M.V.H. & A.L.S. published by Frederick Warne & Co Ltd 1930
Whilst every effort has been made to trace the copyright holders the publishers have no further information

50º 45'03.84N  4º 30'01.39W      OS: SX 237977      Elevation: 142m

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