A Chronology of the period covered by the Newman family history
(from c.1400) and a couple of centuries preceding it.

This is an evolving page which I have barely begun.
Links are provided to related sites which I have found in a fairly rapid search of the Internet. I cannot vouch for the quality or accuracy of the information found in them.

Norman Line


Henry I (1100-35) 

Stephen (1135-54)

Empress Matilda (1141) 

 Stephen continued (1141-54)


Plantagenet, Angevin Line
Henry II (1154-89)

Ricahrd I (1189-99)

John (1199-1216) 

King John's loss of his French lands separated England from the continent. Income tax first collected by sheriffs (or shire reeves)

Eastern and western Christian churches split .....

King John signs the Magna Carta at Runnymede. Whilst defining the limits of authority of the king in relation to the barons, it set in writing for the first time the concept of "human rights".

Henry III (1216-72)


Edward I (1272-1307)

The King expels Jews from the realm. Money lending gradually becomes a domestic business, setting the scene for Britain's future role as a financial centre.

"Model Parliament" representing 'commoners' (knights, burgers and citizens) is summoned to advise the King. Generally regarded as the first representative assembly, becoming known as the House of Commons.


Edward II (1307-27)

Edward III (1327-77)

Start of the Hundred Years War (1337 - 1453)

Birth of Geoffrey Chaucer

The Black Death spreads itself across the land killing one third of the population of England (and Europe) in less than five years.

A period of revolutionary changes:
The loss of population from the Black Death results in dramatic changes to society - manpower becomes scarce, causing a dramatic increase in the cost of labour. Feudal lords lose their hold over their serfs who are able to escape to find freedom and high wages elsewhere. The feudal regime of lords and serfs slowly gives way to a new three tier society with the lords at the top, a new middle class of Yeoman farmers who take over lands that are vacated as a result of the plague, and landless labourers at the bottom.

The largest provincial town is Norwich. Towns are no more than large rural communities consist of only a few hundred people who living in houses surrounded by gardens and orchards. The main difference between towns and villages is that towns are surrounded by stone or earth fortifications for protection; they are also centres for industry and commerce.

Family names begin to appear as townsfolk seek to differentiate themselves one from another. (Someone has suggested to me that Edward III created a law around this time commanding that everyone adopted a family name, but I don't know if this is true)

Richard II (1377-99)

State of Labourers passed by Act of Parliament (the Commons as it was then).

The "Peasants Revolt" against the Statute of Labourers - the first act of "unionised" labour.


William of Wykeham founds Winchester College for the education of the secular clergy - the first grammar school, later to become a famous "public" school.  [See separate page relating to secular clergy, Winchester college and Oxford University in the 14th century]

John Wyclif is driven out of Oxford university.

King Richard is deposed and murdered in prison - the first victim of what later became the 'Wars of the Roses'.

 Plantagenet Lancastrians

 Henry IV (1399-1413)

The English language (in the form of many local dialects) is now in common use, displacing French as the language of the nobility. Ahead of France, England begins to develop a sense of its own nationhood. Courtly dress becomes more attuded to fashion, long black cloaks and gowns gradually giving way to coloured hose (stockings), fancy shirts and pointed shoes. The royal court is now firmly established in the palaces at Westminster, a small village two miles outside London's west wall.The City of London (which by then had spread only a few hundred metres outside the 'one-mile square' Roman wall) remains outside the royal domain and retains its independence to control its own affairs.

The Hundred Years War with France continues and brings many changes: cannon is used for the first time in warfare; there is a rise in lawlessness in England because the King's forces are deployed overseas, while his dependency on the lords to provide him with troops diminishes his control over their activities in the countryside.  Notwthstanding, manor houses begin to replace castles in the more peaceful south of the country (but not for another 200 years in the Scottish border area).

England is already a great trading nation, trading mainly wool and small amounts of cloth. In the absense of Jews (expelled in 1290), the King has to borrow funds for his armies from local sources, principally from merchants and from the Staplers (export agents) who monopolised the export trade and who collected tariffs on exported goods. This further weakened the power of the crown in relation to his subjects, establishing a precedent for future sharing of power.

Capitalism as we know it today begins around this period with the "industrialization" (or organization) of wool processing and weaving which is undertaken manually in villages around the country. Capital is needed to organize the work in order to improve and standardize quality, to increase production and to accumulate stocks for domestic and export sales. Wool and weaving become make England a wealthy nation, turning it into the world's largest trading nation. It will remain so until the industrial revolution.

Death of Geoffrey Chaucer

Henry V (1413-22) 

French forces defeated at the Battle of Agincourt.

Birth of William Caxton, inventor of the printing press.

Henry VI
(1422-61, 1470-1) 

Eton College founded by King Henry VI

A period of stagnation:
Very little changes in English society. The revolutionary changes of the 14th Century peter out. In particular the Church remains stagnant and corrupt. Corruption remains endemic and not just in the Church but in the courts too. Disorder reigns; terrorizing and intimidation by lords' retainers is exaccerbated by the return of soldiers from France at the end of the 'Hundred Years War'.

The next 30 years will be dominated by continuing civil disorder resulting from civil war - the 'War of the Roses'. It becomes commonplace for landowners to use legal ploys or force to increase their holdings by taking neighbouring lands. Frequent disputes between lords and between landlords and tennants make this an age of litigation - a squire has to "know the law" if he is to preserve his property!

Marriages within the upper classes are generally "arranged", sometimes at very young ages (as low as 3!). Boys are often sent to boarding school from a very young age (a practice frowned upon in Europe!) At grammar schools they are expected to use Latin as their language of communication because a thorough knowledge of Latin is needed not just for the church, but for law and commerce and diplomacy as well. Beatings are "common currency" in this age, being administered at universities as well as schools to enforce discipline, and by master craftsmen on their apprentices.

The English language is still unformalized and will remain so until Caxton "casts" the language by printing and publishing the first books in English.

Bricks are introduced in buildings for the first time since the Roman era, starting in the Eastern counties where timber and stone are scarce. Chimneys replace open fires in manor houses, with walls decorated with tapestries, there being no framed pictures yet; however walls are sometimes painted.

The end of the Hundred Years War (1337 - 1453) and the start of the War of the Roses.

Gutenberg produces the first printed version of the Latin Bible.

Edward IV
(1461-70, 1471-83) 

Caxton publishes La Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and in so doing brings about the formalization of the English language.

Edward V (1483) 

Richard III (1483-5) 


Death of Caxton

Henry VII (1485-1509)

Christopher Columbus discovers the West Indies.

The Tudors are welcomed for controlling the fighting amongst the barons that has caused so much disorder under previous weaker monarchs. The advent of the Tudors brings enormous change, the greatest being the Reformation of the Church under King Henry VIII.  Some regard the beginning of the Tidor era as marking the end of the Middle Ages, however Trevelyan disputes this assertion (see his commentary on the coming of the Tudors)

Henry VIII (1509-47) 

The begining of the Reformation. King Henry is made Supreme Head of the Church by an Act of Parliament thereby establishing the Church of England.

William Tyndale publishes and distributes the first English edition of the Bible, making its contents known for the first time to literate 'common' people.


Execution (by burning) of William Tyndale (translator and publisher of the first English Bible.)

The dissolution of the monestries in full swing, being completed in 1840.


The King recognizes and distributes Tyndale's English Bible to all English churches.

Edward VI (1547-53)

English Book of Common Prayer first issued


Lady Jane Grey (1553) 

Mary I (1553-58)

Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

Birth of William Shakespeare

The old Queen is near death, and with no heir apparent. William Shakespeare is in his prime.

James I (1603-25)

First edition of the King James Bible

Death of William Shakespeare

The Mayflower sets sail across the Atlantic taking 102 pilgrims to begin a new life, and a new era in world history.

Charles I (1625-49)


Oliver Cromwell (1649-58) 

England has just executed its king and faces a period of uncertainty and change, which not result in the popular restitution of the monarchy, but the English Renaissance bringing with it great advances in scientific knowledge and understanding.

Battle of Worcester 

Richard Cromwell (1658-59) 


Charles II (1660-85)

The Plague kills thousands

The Great Fire destroys the city of London, and ends the Plague

The Dutch Fleet sails up the Medway, challenging England's naval supremicy

James II (1685-89)

Orange and Stuart

William III, Mary II


Stuart (cont)
Anne (1702-14)

George I (1714-27)

Parliament passes the Longitude Act.

George II (1727-60)

John Harrison presents his first sea-going chronometer for evaluation in the determination of positions of longitude at sea.

George III (1760-1820) 

Religious dogma still rule people's lives. But dramatic changes are afoot as the Industrial Revolution gets underway in an England whose landscape starts to change with the gradual enclosure of "common" lands. America is still a colony and Australia remains undiscovered.

Birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

First inland canal built in Britain by Duke of Bridgewater, starting the canal mania that lasted until the railway age

First iron railway line (laid in a coal mine)

James Watt takes out patent for first condensing steam engine

Captain Cook discovers Australia 

36 years late, Harrison receives his reward for solving the "longitude problem".

"United States of America" declares independence from Britain, marking the beginning of the War of Independence.

Defeat of British forces in America - end of War of Independence

First convicts arrive in Australia marking the beginning of settlement there

June 14: Storming of the Bastille in Paris marks beginning of the French Revolution.

Parliament outlaws the burning of women for High or Petty Treason (bill introduced by Sir Benjamin Hammet, MP for Taunton Somerset).

William Smith begins work in Somerset a coal mine which leads to the formalization of the discipline of Geology. Death of Mozart

End of French Revolution; Napoleon Bonaparte comes to power in France


England and France go to war.

Nelson defeats the French navy at the Battle of Trafalgar

Duke of Wellington defeats Napoleon's armies at the Battle of Waterloo

George IV (1820-30) 

Operation of the first commercial steam locomotive on the Stockton and Darlington Railway begins the 'Railway Era' 

William IV (1830-37)  

Rainhill trials won by Stephenson's "Rocket" on Liverpool and Manchester Railway



Crimean War started

Charles Darwin publishes "The Origin of Species"; Isambard Kingdom Brunel dies;

American Civil War begins

American Civil War ends

Brunel's S.S. Great Eastern lays the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean, bringing the "Old" and "New" worlds together in time.

The century begins with the ending of the Boar War and the death of the old Queen. This is followed by an idyllic decade of unusual peace and prosperity during which people believe that civilization has at last advanced to a state where war is a thing of the past, and that the world is heading for a new beginning, an era of peace, knowledge and understanding.  The next 50 years will prove just how terribly misplaced those beliefs were.

Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Edward VII (1901-10)

House of Windsor George V (1910-36) 

Start of First World War

Russian Revolution

11th November "Armistice Day" - End of fighting in First World War

Paris Peace Conference to negotiate the Peace Terms between Allied and Axis powers

Edward VIII (1936)

George VI (1936-52) 

World War 2 commences; Graf Spee sunk at Montevedeo;

Olympic Games held in London

Chinese Communist Party comes to power


Festival of Britain celebrates the dawning of a new era.

Elizabeth II (1952-present)