Did Thomas Barrie keep his ears?

Two years ago I wrote a post “Thomas Barrie, pillory, death and a ghost” the story of a Donnington almsman who allegedly spread false rumours that King Henry VIII was dead.

Since then I have made enquiries with several other historians including David Ford at Royal Berkshire History who put me onto the Letters and Papers, Henry VIII (see this and this).

So to start with there are several people named. I quote from the letters “Henry VIII: December 1537“:

Thomas Hynd, examined at Newbury, 21 Dec. (signed), Thomas Barne, John Myller of Dynnyngton, John Boxworth and Joan his wife (who is respited without punishment, being then great with child), Edward Whyte, John Vertue, John Grene, John Mylch of Spenamland, smith, and Thomas Brewar.

No crime is recorded but other entries adjacent to this note others examined by Sir Walter Stoner, Sir William Essex and Thomas Vachell for spreading false rumours that the King was dead. So assuming that to be the case can we also assume a transcription or other error and that Thomas Barrie is actually Thomas Barne?

There appears to be some confusion as to the involvement of some, and not sure who was the main ringleader, two men, Boxworthe and Barne, were identified as the most likely. The men were apprehended with Barne and Boxworth held at different locations, most likely Stonor Park and Lambourn Place respectively.

Although “nailing and cutting their ears off” was named and for others that committed the same crime it appeared to take place (see The Royal Abbey of Reading by Ron Baxter), I am not convinced it was carried out in this instance although they were, it would appear, placed in the pillory. I am still researching this so my understanding may yet change.

It does not note who was punished where although we do know the two men, Barne and Boxworth, were held at different places and punishments carried out in different places including Newbury. With Boxworth being held closest to Newbury it would make sense for his punishment to have been at Newbury.


There were multiple people involved and the letters show at the time there was some confusion. Unscrambling the confusing letters and it appears the men were put in the pillory, but which man was punished in Newbury we can only guess at. I am still looking at this and hope something might turn up to help confirm my understanding. So the original story of Thomas Barrie is not only the wrong name, possibly the wrong date and possibly wrong place!