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JOHN FIELD OF EAST ARDSLEY, "THE PROTO-COPERNICAN
By OSGOOD FIELD.
Among the English pioneers of science, whose claims to the remembrance of posterity have been unjustly overlooked, may be cited the man whose name is at the head of this article.
One would naturally suppose that some account would have been handed down to us of one who made known in England, for the first time, those discoveries of Copernicus which overthrew the Ptolemaic system and revolutionized the prevailing ideas of the notions of the heavenly bodies, and yet John Field, or Feld, as the name was spelt in his day, is not even mentioned in any English work on astronomy; or kindred subjects.
He is equally forgotten in his own neighbourhood, and his name does not appear in Lupton's "Wakefield Worthies,” published in our time.
It is in the hope of rescuing his memory from almost, if not complete oblivion, that these lines are written.
The astronomer was the son of Richard Field, who was residing at East Ardsley when he made his will on the 19th of August, 1542, and his death must have occurred shortly after, as it was proved December 9th of same year. The testator appointed his wife Elizabeth and his son John executors. The presumption is that the astronomer was then of age, and from this and surrounding circumstances it may be assumed that he was born between 1510 and 1522. The two Fields doubtless belonged to the family of the same name which had been seated near the neighbouring village of Sowerby at least as early as the beginning of the 14th century.
Wood says that the astronomer was educated at Oxford, and although the evidence brought forward in support of this theory is not conclusive, his mathematical attain
ments and the elegance of his Latin render it not improbable.
There are no means of ascertaining where he passed the 15 years between his father's death and the publication of his Ephemeris, or astronomical tables, in 1557, when he was residing in London ; but there are grounds for supposing that he spent a part of his time abroad, and perhaps acquired in Germany his knowledge of and zeal for the new doctrines which were first adopted there.
It would seem from a letter of the celebrated Dr. Dee, prefixed to the work referred to, that he had urged his friend John Field to undertake it, and as Dee was much on the Continent between 1542 and 1557, the two may have met and become intimate there. The book, which is a small quarto, is dated “Londini, ex Museo nostro,” and was printed by Thomas Marsh.
The celebrated work of Copernicus, “ De Orbium Coelestium Revolutionibus," was published in 1543, just before his death. He had been assisted in his observations by a German philosopher, Rheticus, who shortly after gave the world a volume of Ephemerides in accordance with the recent discoveries, and in 1551 similar tables appeared, the work of his countryman Reinhold. There is every reason to believe that the first English book in which the Copernican theories were noticed was the Ephemeris of John Field, which issued from the press in 1557.
In 1558, he published similar tables for that and the two following years. These were probably not his only works ; but they are all that have been preserved; the British Museum and Bodleian libraries possessing a copy of each book, the only ones known to exist.
Nor was it by his writings only that Field endeavoured to disseminate the new doctrines; for a treatise, in manuscript, on the management of great ordnance, in the Lambeth library, without date, but probably of about this time, contains this remark : “Mr. Felde taught me astronomie after Copernicus, the great astronomer.
That his services in the cause of science were not unnoticed in his time is evident from the fact that on the 4th of September, 1558, William Harvey, Clarencieux King at Arms, confirmed to the former the coat belonging to his
family:-Sable, a chevron between three garbs argent,—and granted him the following crest—a dexter arm habited gules issuing from clouds proper holding an armillary sphere or. This grant was evidently intended to be a recognition of his astronomical acquirements.
It was probably in 1561 or 1562, that John Field married Jane, daughter of John Amyas of Kent,—as the lady is described in the Herald's Visitation of Yorkshire in 1584—5, at which time it is recorded that their eldest son, Richard, was aged 22. It is rather surprising to find the astronomer's father-in-law described as “of Kent," as his family was of Yorkshire, and had been seated for some time before this marriage at Sandal, Horbury, Thornhill, Royston and other places near Ardsley. As early as the 1st of Edward I. (1272), John de Amyas hired the tolls of Wakefield manor for £100 per annum. We may suppose, therefore, that the father of Jane Field removed to Kent from this neighbourhood before her marriage. Apparently John Field passed the remainder of his life at East Ardsley, during which time we meet a few passing references to him. In 1577, he served on the jury for the Wapentakes of Agbrigg and Morley, summoned to find what lands belonged to the Duchy of Lancaster, and by whom held. In the same year he witnessed the will of John Nowell of Middleton.-George Nevile, Gent., of High Popplewell, leaves in his will, dated January 1st, 1577—8, to Thomas Brigg“ a black thine stone for multiplying and dividing," and adds “ also I will that Mr. Field of Ardsley shall have another of these stones for division.'
On January 16, 1579, Laurence Nailor of Westerton, adjoining Ardsley in his will “ humbly desires Robert Greenwood of Westertor and John Fielde of Ardsley, Gentleman, to be the supervisors." In June, 1584, the latter witnessed the will of Darninge, and in August, 1585, that of Bowling, two of his neighbours. In 1584—5 he attended the summons of the heralds on their Yorkshire visitation and recorded the names of his wife, 8 sons and daughter. In his will, dated December 28th, 1586, and proved May 3, 1587, he desired that his body should be “buried within the parish church porch of Ardsley.” In this document, - which shows that he was a man of substance,--he disinherited his eldest son
Richard, for his loose life. Matthew, the second child and heir, resided and died at East Ardsley.
Jane Field was buried August 30th, 1609. In her will made the previous 17th of July, she desired “my body to be buried by my husband John Feild, in Ardsley church porch."
This holy place is named the royal fane
That blissful shore :
Its deadly gloom.
Anglo-Saxon Hymn by CHLICTOVEUS. STANDING at the western foot of the Yorkshire Wolds, sheltered by those “ calm, cold, and grey hills,” is the præNorman town of Pocklingas, now Pocklington, the chief feature of which is its ancient parish church, whose handsome tower forms a landmark for many miles round. When Domesday Book was made (1083—86) it was a royal manor, and under “Terra Regis” we find :
In Poclinton with the three berewicks Haiton, Mileton, Belebi are twenty-five carucates to be taxed, and there may be fifteen ploughs. Morcar held this for one manor. The King has now there thirteen villanes and five bordars having five ploughs, and four farmers (censores) who pay thirty shillings. There is a church and a priest there, and two mills paying five shillings. The whole manor is four miles long and three broad. In King Edward's time it was valued at fifty-six pounds, now eight.
To this manor belongs the soke of these lands :-Bruna (Nunburnholme) one carucate ; Meltebi (Meltonby) eight carucates; Grimtorp (Grimthorp) four carucates; Mileton (Millington) thirteen carucates ; Brunebi (Burnby) a carucate and a half; Aluuarestorp (Allerthorpe) six carucates ; Waplington, two carucates ; Bernibi (Barmby Moor) six oxgangs ; Ghiuedale (Givendale) eight carucates ; and Torp (Thorpe) three carucates.
In the whole thirty-five carucates are to be taxed ; and there may be thirty ploughs. The King has now there fifteen burgesses having seven ploughs, and a mill paying two shillings.
It will be thus seen, by the tremendous reduction in value, how the Conqueror had turned the fertile country into a desert, whilst this Saxon manor would be very thinly populated.