The Church in London, 1375-1392. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1977.
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The purpose of this volume is to make available sources for the study of the church in London during the last quarter of the fourteenth century. It contains three distinct groups of material. The first consists of six documents (1–395) concerned with the clerical taxes of the years 1379–81 (Public Record Office El79 Clerical subsidies). The second is an assessment of ecclesiastical property in the city of London in 1392 (396–546, Corporation of London Records Office). The third consists of the acta of William Courtenay, bishop of London 1375–81 (547–652), collected from a variety of sources. The aim in gathering these acta has been to try to fill, in part, the gap left by the loss of his register. In furtherance of this aim the registers of contemporary bishops, the cartularies of religious houses in the diocese, and certain classes of Public Records have been examined. Some documents yielded by this investigation are in London repositories but the majority are to be found in local record offices from Durham to Exeter, and from Hereford to Norwich.
Taxation of the clergy, 1379–81
By the beginning of our period taxation of the clergy was long-established. The property of the English church was assessed for taxation purposes by order of pope Nicholas IV in about 1291, (fn. 1) and this assessment was utilized by the crown when it too imposed taxes on the clergy. After 1291 there had been only two grants, and after 1335 none, of clerical taxes to the crown which were not based on the 1291 Taxatio. (fn. 2) Grants made by the clergy of the two provinces in their convocations were collected by means of machinery already well-established before the mid-fourteenth century (fn. 3) and the yield of a tenth from Canterbury province was £16,000. (fn. 4) Since 1291 the authority and value of the assessment had been undermined in a number of ways. From the crown's point of view there were, by the 1370s, three chief drawbacks: the exemptions granted from these taxes; the fact that property given to the church since 1291 was not included; and, above all, the fact that the Taxatio did not cover the many unbeneficed clergy who received their payment not from endowments of property, but from stipends.
The decade 1371 to 1381 was a period of experiment in the taxation of the clergy, as indeed it was also of the laity. As far as the clergy were concerned, the crown was basically attempting to exploit the untapped source of revenue represented by their incomes. That the unbeneficed were not represented in convocation (fn. 5) seems to have been no stumbling block to the authorities. In 1371 convocation, under pressure from parliament, granted to the crown the sum of £50,000 to be collected in a year, a sum far greater than the clergy were accustomed to pay. The tax was a failure; it aroused widespread opposition and its yield was disappointing. The next experiment, in 1377, was a poll tax with two rates of payment: every beneficed person, regular or secular, was to pay 1s 0d, and every other cleric over fourteen years of age and not a mendicant was to pay 4d.
The first of the experimental taxes from which lists of names survive for London diocese was the poll tax of 1379. The first stage in the granting of this tax was a royal writ of 16 March 1379 sent to Simon Sudbury, archbishop of Canterbury, directing him to summon a meeting of convocation. This he did in a mandate dated 21 March; Courtenay directed it to the other bishops on 31 March (606). The meeting, which took place in St Paul's cathedral, began on 9 May, and there was continuous discussion until 23 May when the grant was made. (fn. 6) The tax was of exceptional complexity and sophistication, for there were to be fifteen rates of payment according to rank and income, ranging from the archbishop of Canterbury assessed at 10 marks (£6 13s 4d) to unbeneficed clerks at 4d each. Bishops, including Courtenay, were to pay 6 marks (£4), while chaplains, so numerous in the city of London, were to pay 2s 0d. (fn. 7) Sudbury notified the crown of the grant on 6 June 1379, (fn. 8) and on the same day writs ordering collection were issued. Collectors' names were to be certified to the exchequer by the bishops before 24 June, and the money was to be delivered in two equal portions by 7 July and 8 September. (fn. 9)
Among the duties of the collectors specified in the writs enjoining appointment was that, when accounting at the exchequer, they should certify the names and status of all the clergy who had to contribute to the tax. One such certificate, containing particulars of the account of the collectors within the city and suburbs of London, is the first document in this volume (1–117). The certificate consists of a narrow roll of twelve membranes, setting out the names of the contributing clergy first by religious houses (1–17), and then by parishes grouped in alphabetical order (18–110), and adding some miscellaneous items (111–14). At this point another hand takes over, giving a further twelve names, mostly of celebrants and subclerks in parish churches (115). Finally, in a third hand, comes the assessment of the hospital of St Katherine by the Tower, and the names of further chaplains (116–17). These 'appendices' may be explained in either of two ways. They may represent those who, undiscovered or overlooked at the assessors' first visitation, were yet detected at the second, for there is some evidence, at least among the activities of collectors of lay subsidies, that assessors were wont to make more than one visit. (fn. 10) The other possibility is that the collectors were supplied by their bishop with a list of clergy to be taxed, which they found in the course of their duties to be incomplete. Such was the case in Lincoln diocese in 1381 when the collector in the archdeaconries of Lincoln and Stow discovered twenty-two tax-payers not on the bishop's roll. (fn. 11)
Another tax with experimental features was levied from the clergy of the southern province in 1380. The taxation process was set in motion by a royal request for convocation, dated 2 December 1379, which was answered the following day when Sudbury issued his mandate ordering attendance. This was forwarded by Courtenay to the other bishops on 12 December (619). The meeting, which took place in St Paul's cathedral, began on 4 February 1380 and was still in session on 29 February when the grant was made. This tax was to be paid at the rate of 16d in the mark - that is, a tenth - on all benefices already assessed in 1291, and 16d in the mark on twothirds of the value of benefices not assessed. Unbeneficed priests, advocates, registrars, proctors and notaries were to pay 2s 0d each. Sudbury's notification of the grant was dated 6 March. (fn. 12) On the same day, the crown issued the writ ordering collection of the tax; it was to be levied even from the exempt, the privileged, and the members of royal free chapels. The terms were 3 May and 24 June, when equal portions were to be paid, and the names of collectors were to be certified to the exchequer before 23 April. Courtenay notified the barons of the exchequer on 10 April of his choice of collectors (628).
This tax was a hybrid, combining as it did the 1291 assessment, a new assessment of less well-endowed benefices, and a poll tax on unbeneficed personnel. The three features appear to have been kept separate by the collectors in London diocese when returning their particulars of account to the exchequer; there survives a list, giving the beneficia minuta only, returned by the abbot of Stratford Langthorn and the priors of Dunmow and Royston. (fn. 13) Even more conclusive is the evidence from the city and archdeaconry of London for here the three distinct lists survive: the assessed benefices; the beneficia minuta (fn. 14) on the dorse of the same document; and a list of those paying the poll tax of 2s 0d (118–39). The names of the chaplains and other unbeneficed clergy are contained on a single sheet of parchment, on which the list is arranged in two columns on both face and dorse. It shows that 400 ecclesiastical persons in the archdeaconry paid 2s 0d, and forms a useful complement to the particulars of 1379; it is, however, less precise, because the men are not assigned to parishes, and less detailed, because a higher proportion appear without surnames.
Finally, we come to the documents arising from the notorious poll tax of 1381. A royal writ of 28 September 1380 ordered a meeting of convocation to take place as soon as possible in the church of All Saints, Northampton, and consequently Sudbury issued a mandate on 4 October. Courtenay relayed it to the other bishops on 18 October (637). The meeting began on 1 December, and on 5 December the clergy, protesting that their grant was not to be used as a precedent, conceded a poll tax of 6s 8d a head. From this imposition there were to be no exceptions, even the exempt and the privileged were to pay, since all beneficed clergy, regulars and seculars alike, of whatever rank or sex, had to contribute, but 'in such a way that the better off should support the poorer'. (fn. 15)
More information is contained in a writ of 20 December 1380 which ordered collection. The terms were to be 22 February and 24 June 1381, and the collectors' names were to be certified to the exchequer by 2 February. The writ went on to give each bishop wide powers of discretion over the way in which they collected the tax (640). Two days later, Sudbury, availing himself of the scope allowed him in the royal writ, wrote to advise his bishops on the method of collection. The bishop should send his mandate to each archdeacon or his official, the cathedral church, and any exempt jurisdictions in the diocese, ordering that on a day named they should certify to him the names of all dignitaries, clergy, and monks, of whatever rank, beneficed, unbeneficed, exempt, and privileged. On that day the archdeacons or their officials, and two canons of the cathedral if it were secular (otherwise two sufficient clergy of the diocese) and one rector from each deanery, were to report to the bishop the names of all contributors and the amounts they would pay. It is clear that, in addition, Sudbury envisaged another grade of payment of 3s 4d for the unbeneficed, and for regulars and nuns below the rank of prior, (fn. 16) and, as the London material demonstrates, this grade was utilized. Early in 1381, on 11 January, Courtenay issued one, and possibly all, his commissions to collectors (640).
From the operation of this poll tax four documents remain which throw light on the personnel of the London city and diocesan clergy at this time. First, William Coleyn's particulars of account (140–72) which cover the cathedral clergy, about whom nothing survives for the 1379 or 1380 taxes. Secondly, a fragment of the assessment of the city of London clergy (173– 202) which is similar in scope and arrangement to the 1379 material. The third document (203–16), though covering part of the city of London, does not originate in the diocese, for it concerns those thirteen parishes scattered about the city which formed the deanery of Bow and came within the peculiar jurisdiction of the archbishop of Canterbury. This is the most precise and detailed of all the taxation documents. The fourth document contains the particulars for the archdeaconry of Middlesex (217–395), an area which covered not only the county of Middlesex but also a part of Hertfordshire (the deanery of Braughing) and of Essex (the deaneries of Hedingham, Dunmow, and Harlow).
Despite the order that even the exempt and privileged were to pay this tax, seemingly some exceptions were admitted after all. The minoresses of Aldgate had been given exemption from all clerical taxes by Edward III, and they were excused payment of the 1380 tax, as evidence from Lincoln diocese shows. In 1381 a letter of 1 March addressed to the collectors in the city of London confirmed their exemption. (fn. 17) The clergy of the royal free chapel of St Martin le Grand were also exonerated after a spirited protest by their dean mr Walter Skirlaw. A note at the foot of the writ of exemption records that the grant was made with the assent of mr John Codeford, official of the bishop of London. (fn. 18)
The evidence of the particulars of account (140–395) shows that two of the other injunctions of the writ, that the rich were to help the poorer, and that the bishops should raise the tax in the manner they saw fit, were carried out. Indeed, from this sample it seems that in every collecting area the method of making up the required total was slightly different. William Coleyn, collector in St Paul's and its immediate jurisdiction, first raised 6s 8d from all the beneficed men on his list. From nearly half of the unbeneficed clergy he exacted sums on a sliding scale whose highest rate was 5s 4d (142–3), but from many of the other unbeneficed clergy of St Paul's he levied only 3s 4d (144–5). He then raised supplementary sums not only from the beneficed whose names were included on the first list, but from others whose names had not occurred earlier. Many of these were prebendaries (146–8), minor canons or chantry priests (149–50), whose role as 'supplementaries' only, may well be explained by the fact that many, if not all, were pluralists who paid their main contribution elsewhere, and whose St Paul's income was used to help make up the cathedral's required total sum.
The collectors in London evidently had two rolls, the surviving one showing that 3s 4d was exacted from each person above the rank of clerk. The second roll doubtless showed how the required sum of £210 6s 8d was exacted, so that the grand total (202) actually showed a small surplus. Within the deanery of Bow a clear distinction was observed between perpetual chaplains, namely those with a benefice, and the ordinary chaplains, the clerical casual labouring class. The former paid 6s 8d, the latter 3s 4d, and the deficit was made up by taxing the thirteen rectors at about the rate of three-tenths. (fn. 19) The collectors in Middlesex archdeaconry charged chaplains and celebrants at a standard rate of 3s 4d but usually took larger sums from incumbents whom they taxed at a rate which owed nothing to the 1291 assessment. Even so, the target of 6s 8d each was not reached until the exaction of £14 13s 4d from the abbot of Westminster gave the collectors a slight surplus.
From the evidence of these four documents it may be inferred that the great majority of the unbeneficed paid only 3s 4d each. And it is not unlikely that variations in collecting practice within the small geographical area under review may have led to jealousy and ill-feeling among the clergy of different jurisdictions.
The first question which arises about the value of the assessments concerns their completeness as a series of 'clerical censuses'. Here several comments may be offered. First, since the lists were compiled for taxation purposes the possibility of evasion must be borne in mind. Secondly, the collectors did not include in their particulars, mendicants, who were exempt from taxation, nor hospitallers, who paid with the laity. Thirdly, from any particular list some parishes are absent because they lay in the immediate jurisdiction of an authority other than that of the archdeacon. Fourthly, some small London hospitals are missing, but these are always elusive institutions, and usually poor. Bishops had the right to request that houses (and, indeed, parish benefices) might be exempt from a particular tax because of poverty, and had Courtenay's 'requests for exemption' survived some gaps might be explained. Conversely, pluralism must also be taken into account, though for a period when a very restricted number of Christian names was used and when the spelling of surnames was not standardised, it is difficult to quantify this factor precisely. Thus any conclusions about the number of clergy at a given time in a particular place, especially in London, can be only approximate.
Nevertheless the material is of great interest for the detailed information it provides about an important section of the community. Though comparatively reticent about the names of heads of religious houses (an exception is found in 116 which adds a new name to the V.C.H. list), and parochial incumbents (except 174–92, 203–15), the assessments enable the tenure of office of some dozen prebendaries of St Paul's to be fixed with more precision than hitherto (146–8), and they designate as magistri seven men not listed by Dr Emden. (fn. 20)
Above all, the materials are informative about chaplains, an elusive class, but one whose great numbers constituted a distinctive feature of the late-medieval English church. At once a contrast is evident between the city and other parts of the diocese. Indeed the pattern would appear, from comparisons of London with Lincoln and Canterbury dioceses, to be very similar over much of rural England. The city of London, however, was unique for, while there were concentrations of chaplains in certain provincial towns (seventy-five in Lincoln and fifty-eight in Boston in 1380), (fn. 21) such numbers do not compare with the 497 or so who were in London in 1379.
Within this class several distinctions may be observed. There were parochial chaplains (e.g. 18), fraternity chaplains (e.g. 45), private chaplains (e.g. 32), and most numerous of all, chantry chaplains. Chantry chaplains might be either cantarists or stipendiary mass-priests. Cantarists served perpetual chantries which were formally established with statutes, patrons, and endowments from which the chaplains were paid. (fn. 22) These chaplaincies were ecclesiastical benefices to which presentations were often recorded in episcopal registers. On the other hand, stipendiary mass-priests were hired for short periods. The need for such men arose because many people, when making their wills, directed that masses should be said for their souls after death. Such testators might leave a specific sum of money, name a certain number of masses, or direct that masses were to be said over a given length of time. The founding of a perpetual chantry demanded exceptional re sources, but among those who could not afford, or did not wish, such a luxury were many Londoners whose provision for masses was generous, and thus many mass-priests were needed to fulfil their bequests. Which of the chantry chaplains were cantarists, and which mass-priests cannot, in many cases, be discovered. However, the compilers of 203–15 distinguished between perpetual chaplains paying 6s 8d, of whom there were thirteen, and chaplains paying 3s 4d, of whom there were seventy-six. We should probably envisage a similar ratio elsewhere in the city.
The smaller group, the cantarists, were investigated, for the period of Robert Braybrooke's episcopate (1381–1404) by Professor Rosalind Hill, who pointed out the bad press chantry priests had received from poets and prelates alike. She found no evidence that they flocked to London in such numbers that country parishes were bereft of pastors; and she concluded that, once inducted, they held their positions for some years and were not frequent exchangers; and, moreover, that their benefices were often inadequately endowed. (fn. 23) Inadequate endowment must be the excuse for the wide incidence of pluralism among the cantarists of St Paul's (149–50); many can be shown to have held benefices elsewhere, so giving credence to Chaucer's jibe about priests who neglected parish duties to serve a chantry in the cathedral. (fn. 24)
The cantarists are well-documented compared with the mass-priests, for these clerical casual labourers held no established benefices and consequently their appointments, resignations and conditions of service were not recorded for future reference. Our evidence shows, however, that there was a high degree of mobility among them (compare 40, 66–7, 72–86, 88–9 with 173–92), and that, as might be expected from the nature of their employment, they formed an unstable element in the clerical population. The taxation particulars also suggest, they can do no more, that the clerical population of London was declining very slightly in the period 1379–81, a decline almost certainly due to a shrinkage in the number of stipendiaries. Even so, there were still many mass-priests and this numerous, mobile, and hard-to-discipline group must have been not only a matter of concern to the ecclesiastical authorities but also a prominent feature of London life at the time. It may be suggested that it was these men, rather than the less numerous cantarists, who were the object of attack by clergy and laymen alike.
Ecclesiastical property in the city of London, 1392
The document (396–546) consists of eleven membranes stitched at the head. Though it has no heading one may deduce, from both internal and external evidence, the time and circumstances which produced it. It appears to be a result of Richard II's quarrel with London, and, in particular, of the corporate fine of £100,000 laid on the city in the summer of 1392. Though this fine was pardoned, another of £10,000 was imposed in its stead. The assessment, it is contended, was made by the city authorities when attempting to raise £100,000 (or perhaps £10,000) to placate the crown. (fn. 25) It would seem to have been this attempt which resulted in petitions to the parliament of 1394 from two groups of Londoners: widows and clergy. The clergy's petition describes in some detail a new financial burden placed upon them. They had been accustomed, they said, to pay only those taxes granted by the clergy and commons for the realm's common profit; however, the mayor and aldermen had imposed a new tax on all tenements and rents belonging to benefices and churches in the city and suburbs, at the rate of 40d in the pound. (fn. 26)
This description accords well with the document under discussion: it cannot be reconciled with any known grant made by convocation; its scope and arrangement, above all, its division into wards, point to a civil, rather than an ecclesiastical origin; and beside the assessed sum for every item there is in a right-hand column another figure, one sixth of the first amount, making a rate of 40d in the pound. We may, therefore, assign this roll to some period between the imposition of a large fine upon the city, about mid-summer 1392, and the opening of the parliament at which the petition was presented, in January 1394. Moreover, it may be suggested that the early part of the period, the second half of 1392, is the most likely time for the roll to have been drawn up. The assessment, as was said, is arranged by wards. One ward, Cordwainer, is missing; another, Candlewick Street, appears twice. Differences in arrangement and presentation of information indicate that a different assessor was at work in each ward.
The document has no parallels among the records of ecclesiastical taxation. Not only its form, but the fact that the assessment was organised by secular authority, make it unique. For the historian, the roll has a variety of uses. In the first place, it provides information about the endowments of ecclesiastical institutions of all kinds: parish churches, whose funding is still somewhat obscure, (fn. 27) fraternities, chantries, religious houses and secular colleges. The parish churches are those of London, but the religious houses whose property was listed sometimes lay as far away as Croxton, Woburn, or Chichester. The same is true of collegiate churches: Shottesbrooke, Kingston-on-Thames, and two, if not three, Oxford colleges had property in the city. Investigators of particular establishments will wish to compare the information given here with deeds, rentals and cartularies where these exist. (fn. 28)
In the second place, the assessment provides much information about the owning and holding of property in the city. Here, as tenants or landlords, may be found laymen of every rank (especially leading merchants), women, and clergy of different grades including individual religious. The document raises problems, for it is often ambiguous and the exact interest of institutions and individuals in a particular property is unclear. Nevertheless, the roll provides evidence of a most striking kind about the interconnection between laity and clergy at a financial level, an interconnection which explains the intervention of the city authorities in tithe disputes during the next century. (fn. 29)
In the third place, the assessment offers guidance to the student of the topography of medieval London in a number of ways: by indicating commercial areas, through its references to clusters of shops (e.g., 415–16, 432, 437, 450, 457–8, 460, 522); by its reference to locations, sometimes precisely given (e.g., 411, 436, 445, 459, 506–7); above all, by the way in which property belonging to one establishment is scattered among the entries for one ward or even for a single parish. This suggests that the entries, though apparently arranged haphazardly, were in fact collected, and then set down, on a topographical basis.
Acta of William Courtenay, bishop of London, 1375–81
The collection of Courtenay's acta (547–652) makes no claim to be a reconstruction of his lost register. (fn. 30) The register, if it followed the usual pattern, would have been divided into sections according to types of business; it would have contained letters addressed to the bishop; and other categories of records conspicuously absent from the material gathered here, namely, institutions not involving exchanges, ordinations, and memoranda of all kinds. The registered acta would have been contemporary copies. The majority of the acta printed here are also contemporary copies, but the collection includes also twenty original acta, all but one in the P.R.O., five copies made later in the middle ages, and one eighteenth-century copy. The collected acta are printed in chronological order but many of them fall into well-defined classes: those concerning the exchange of benefices; letters written in the course of contacts between the royal and episcopal administrations; documents arising from provincial business; texts concerning relations with the papacy and acts issued as a consequence of the geographical position of the diocese. Brief comments may be offered on each group in turn.
The largest group of acta arose from the practice, widespread by the end of the fourteenth century, of exchanging benefices. These letters are of two kinds: commissions to other bishops to effect exchanges, and certificates of execution of similar commissions addressed to Courtenay. Such material must have formed a part of the institutions section of the lost register, but how large a proportion must remain conjectural. During Sudbury's tenure of the see, exchanges accounted for over 45 per cent of institutions, the majority, 239 out of 332, being exchanges with benefices outside the dio cese. (fn. 31) Sudbury's manipulation of the exchange system to increase the amount of patronage at his disposal was certainly in contrast to the practice of Braybrooke (fn. 32) and may well have contrasted with that of Courtenay whose later fulmination on this subject is familiar. While such exchanges await a full-scale study (fn. 33) we may note here that the practice greatly increased the contacts between episcopal chanceries, and it may be speculated whether such contacts increased to any great extent the mobility of ecclesiastical administrators.
The letters arising from the interaction between royal and episcopal administration form the second largest group. Co-operation between the two powers is shown, firstly, by the way in which the church performed services for the lay courts (558, 615). Secondly, it appeared in the part played by secular authority in punishing offenders against ecclesiastical law. The process by which the church enlisted the help of the lay arm (fn. 34) was set in motion by a signification of excommunication addressed to the chancery. Fifteen of Courtenay's significations have survived, but this is less than the original number. The Patent Rolls refer to one of his significations not now extant, (fn. 35) and probably others have been lost, for, to take one example, there are no significations of obdurate excommunicates in the archdeaconry of Middlesex. Noteworthy among the significations are two concerning miscreants living, temporarily or permanently, in parishes within the city of London (571, 579); both are careful to state that the parish was 'within our jurisdiction' thus forestalling any allegation that the parish was in the deanery of Bow and so outside Courtenay's diocese.
Almost invariably the crime which caused the sentence was contumacy. In three cases the culprits had failed to appear before the president of the consistory of London (571–3), in one before the bishop's commissary (608), and in another before the bishop himself (613). A comparison with evidence from other dioceses suggests that the thirteen incumbents listed in 652 had originally been proceeded against for non-payment of clerical taxes. The obdurates in the sample of significations included laymen and a laywoman as well as clergy. Among the seventeen clerical culprits the most distinguished was mr Nicholas Chaddesden (555), who seems to have clashed with Courtenay's commissaries in a case which arose from the visitation of St Bartholomew's hospital. (fn. 36) But the most celebrated was the chaplain John Ball (611). An itinerant preacher of great power, he had already been in trouble with several members of the episcopate before Courtenay signified him as excommunicate in 1379. (fn. 37) Ball was later to achieve notoriety in the Peasants' Revolt. (fn. 38) A third example of obduracy calls for comment. The continuing use of the caption as a legal instrument is usually regarded as the best indication of its effectiveness. But more immediately impressive is the evidence provided by the case of Ralph Daventry. A clerk of London diocese, he was twice signified as obdurate by his bishop early in February 1377 (572–3). Within a month he had been arrested, imprisoned at Stafford, had appealed to Rome, and to the court of Canterbury for protection, and had petitioned the crown for his release. This was granted in an order to the sheriff of Stafford on 8 March. (fn. 39)
The third aspect of church-state relations illustrated by these acta is the taxation of the clergy, already discussed above. Taxation was a subject closely linked with provincial business, for it was voted at meetings of the convocations of the two provinces. In the organisation of meetings of the Canterbury convocation the bishop of London, in his role of dean of the province, (fn. 40) played an essential part. He relayed the orders of the archbishop to the other suffragans (553, 568, 582, 606, 619, 637), and his reports on this task were sometimes recorded in extenso in the proceedings of convocation (585, 621, 639). Other archiepiscopal letters transmitted by Courtenay as bishop of London included orders for the saying of prayers for patriotic purposes (566), and the final reissue of the constitution Effrenata aimed at curbing clerical wages (617). (fn. 41) Courtenay performed a like task in connection with papal and curial documents since these were promulgated on a provincial basis. Thus Sudbury and Courtenay were responsible for circularising a papal bull (607) issued in the course of the propaganda war early in the schism, (fn. 42) as well as requests for procurations for papal nuncios (554, 576, 578). (fn. 43)
The bishop of London occupied his special place in provincial administration because of the geographical location of his see. This location also gave him contacts with his fellow-bishops unconnected with archiepiscopal mandates, for English prelates, with the exception of the bishop of Winchester and the archbishop of Canterbury, had London houses in which, on occasion, they wished to conduct episcopal business. To do so they required the permission of the bishop of London, and four of Courtenay's licences to episcopal colleagues have been found (593, 622, 624, 641), survivors of a class which doubtless was once considerable. Thomas Brantingham bishop of Exeter, for example, celebrated orders in the chapel of his London house on at least three occasions before the licence printed here was issued. Each time he did so by Courtenay's permission, as the record in his register was careful to state. (fn. 44) Possibly 593 was registered in full because of the wide powers it conveyed. How wide these powers were may be seen by comparing this licence with 624, issued to the bishop of Hereford. The dif ference between the two licences is probably to be explained not by Brantingham's long-standing friendship with Courtenay (fn. 45) but by the fact that his duties as treasurer kept him in London for considerable periods. He had to conduct much of his diocesan administration, such as the approving or rejecting of elections to the headships of religious houses (622, 641), from his London inn.
While some of the acta already mentioned have political overtones, for example, those connected with taxation, prayers for peace, and with the schism, a small number may be considered as wholly political in content. Two acta, one undated, arose from Courtenay's defence of Wykeham when his colleague of Winchester was in disgrace in 1376–7 (569–70). (fn. 46) A third resulted from a spectacular violation of the sanctuary of Westminster abbey, in which two men were killed; the culprits were excommunicated by Sudbury, and the sentence was notified to the rest of the bench by Courtenay (595) and published by him, terribiliter, at St Paul's. (fn. 47) The last of the political acta was the denunciation, by the prior of Christ Church Canterbury, guardian of the spiritualities of the archbishopric sede vacante, of those who murdered Simon Sudbury during the Peasants' Revolt (650).
Though the acta tell us little about religion in the diocese of London at this time, they do throw light on two aspects of Courtenay's diocesan administration: his movements and his subordinates. By using the dating clauses of the acta and by adding other references to his whereabouts, for example, in the rolls of parliament, and in documents issued by his subordinates while he was outside the diocese, it is possible to make an outline of his itinerary from the day of his profession of obedience as bishop of London, to his appearance in parliament as 'former bishop of London, elect of Canterbury'.
After taking his oath of obedience at the bishop of Winchester's manor of Esher, Surrey, on 1 December 1375, (fn. 48) Courtenay moved towards London for on 5 December he transacted business at Barnes. He appears next on 8 March 1376 at Cowick, Devon, probably on a visit to his family. His absence from London seems to have been protracted for Adam Mottrum acted as vicar-general in spirituals on 10 and 25 February and 19 March. Courtenay was back in London for the opening of parliament on 28 April, and he was there during the early summer (5, 29 May; 8, 21, 25, 26 June; 1, 10 July). On 20 July he transacted business at his manor of Stepney, but in the late autumn he was again in London, mostly at his palace by St Paul's (23, 27 October; 2, 5 November). Christmas, it would seem, he spent at his Essex manor of Wickham; at least we know he was there on 23 December. Courtenay was in London on 20 January 1377, attended both parliament and convocation that winter, and conducted business, mostly in his palace, on 4, 8, 9 and 22 February and 6 March. He was absent from the diocese on 9 May 1377 but intermittently through the summer he is known to have conducted business in London (14, 30 June; 25 July; 7 August). He was in London and Fulham (10 October), at Westminster for parliament (13 October), and, as far as can be ascertained, he remained at London and Fulham to the end of the year (London 3 November; Fulham 9, 11 December; London 16 December).
The following year, 1378, is ill-documented but in the first seven months it is recorded that the bishop was at Fulham on 9 and 31 January; 5 and 18 February; and 2 July, and in London on 28 August and 26 September, and then he went to Gloucester for the October parliament. He had returned to London by 29 November. Christmas was probably spent at Wickham, and from the dates recorded (16 December 1378; 20, 28 January 1379) it appears that he stayed there until the end of January. In March he transacted business at Fulham on several occasions (12,16, 29, 31 March). He attended the parliament which began on 24 April, transacted business at Fulham on 4 May, but was back at St Paul's for convocation on 9 May. He remained in his palace by the cathedral towards the end of the month (20, 23 May), and is found at Fulham in June (16, 22 June). This year, 1379, is the first of his episcopate in which Courtenay can be seen to make a summer stay at one of his country manors, for he left London early in July and apparently spent the rest of the month at Wickham (London 1 July; Wickham 6,10, 27 July). The cause of his leaving London may well have been the plague which broke out again that year. (fn. 49) He was in London in September (4, 13 September), and this was followed by an apparently protracted stay at Wickham (10 November; 12, 23 December).
After Christmas at Wickham, Courtenay was back at Fulham on the last day of 1379, doubtless in preparation for the opening of parliament which he attended on 16 January 1380. He was present also at the opening of convocation on 4 February, but at the remaining sessions he was represented by a proctor. In February, March and April 1380 he was to be found in or near London (Fulham 12 February; London 17 February; Fulham 5 March; London 8, 20 March, 10, 21 April; Westminster palace 28 April). During the next three months nothing is known for certain of his movements, but he was outside the diocese on 11 May when John Codeford, vicar-general, transacted business on his behalf. August and parts of September again found him in or near London (London 4 August; Fulham 10 August; London 6, 30 September), but on 25 September he was away from his diocese. That winter both parliament and convocation met at Northampton, and it is known that Courtenay was there in the interval between the two meetings. This may well have meant that his stay lasted a month, from the opening of parliament (5 November) to the last day of convocation (6 December). By 18 December he was back at Fulham.
The following year, 1381, Courtenay was at 'Langeley', possibly Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, on 11 January. On 10 February he was in London, and on 5 March at Fulham. From then onwards, until his translation, Courtenay's surviving letters are dated from London (6, 12, 21 March; 2 May; 18 August). Letters issued by his vicars-general, John Codeford on 18 May and Adam Mottrum on 7 June, show, however, that he made two excursions outside the diocesan boundaries, and suggest that he was out of the city at the height of the Peasants' Revolt. Translated to Canterbury on 9 September Courtenay nevertheless issued documents as bishop of London on 16 September and 3 October. On 19 October he transacted business in the bishop of Worcester's house outside Temple Bar, which suggests that he may already have relinquished his London houses; on 3 November Courtenay appeared in parliament as 'former bishop of London'.
Some tentative conclusions may be drawn from the itinerary. It is noteworthy that none of the documents here cited was dated from Much Hadham, the Hertfordshire manor house which was the favourite residence of Courtenay's successor. Courtenay's favourite country manor was Wickham where he spent three Christmases and where he imparked 300 acres of land under a royal licence granted on 16 January 1377. (fn. 50) Membership of the council from July 1377 to October 1378 probably confined Courtenay to the neighbourhood of London; (fn. 51) release from this burden meant more time at Wickham. The bishop of London was also well supplied with houses near the capital and he spent much time in his palace next to the cathedral; when going further afield his preference for Fulham rather than Stepney is unmistakeable.
Just as the dating clauses of the acta allow glimpses of Courtenay's movements so some information about his subordinates may be gleaned from other parts of the acta. From them as well as from other sources there can be discovered the names of seven men who were active in Courtenay's administration of the diocese. Thomas Neylonde, a non-graduate, was in Courtenay's employ at this time, but of him nothing is known save that he originated from Norwich diocese (607).
The names of five graduates in Courtenay's employment during his London years are known: Richard Warmyngton, John Codeford, John Lydford, Adam Mottrum, and John Prophet. Richard Warmyngton was one of the few of Sudbury's servants who remained in London diocese when his master moved on to Canterbury. A notary public, he was registrar of the consistory court of London in 1370. (fn. 52) During Courtenay's episcopate he was to be found acting both with and without his bishop in a series of land transactions connected with religious houses (588). (fn. 53) Courtenay's friendship with the lawyer John Codeford went back to their Oxford days. (fn. 54) Codeford had twice been commissioned a vicar-general of Courtenay at Hereford, (fn. 55) and he again acted in that capacity on three occasions in London (630, 635, 647). In addition, he was sometimes deputed as a special commissary, one letter written in that capacity having survived. (fn. 56) Codeford's death in 1381 or 1382 deprived Courtenay of an old friend and colleague whose service would have been valuable in Canterbury administration. Another man whose connection with Courtenay dated from Hereford, if not from Oxford days, was John Lydford, whose memorandum book contains two of Courtenay's London acta (569–70). Lydford spent much of the early 1370s at the papal court in Avignon, and left Courtenay's service in 1377 to become official of the diocese of Winchester. He remained, however, on good terms with Courtenay whom he advised even from his 'retirement' at Exeter. (fn. 57) While Codeford and Lydford had both served Courtenay at Hereford, it is not known when Adam Mottrum joined his service. Mottrum is found acting as vicar-general at the beginning (549–52) as well as at the end (648) of the episcopate. He was Courtenay's London chancellor (fn. 58) and later performed the same service for him at Canterbury. (fn. 59) Finally, possibly the most distinguished of Courtenay's subordinates was John Prophet, a Welshman and notary who attested one of the acta (607), as well as an agreement issued jointly by the bishops of London, Ely, St Davids, Salisbury and Chichester on 1 July 1376. (fn. 60) Like Codeford and Lydford, Prophet had been in Courtenay's service at Hereford (fn. 61) and he continued to serve him at Canterbury for some years before becoming a king's clerk in the later 1380s. (fn. 62)
In addition to these six the identity of one other of Courtenay's clerical subordinates is known, that of a suffragan bishop who performed episcopal acts on his behalf, (fn. 63) but this total of seven can only have been a small proportion of the clerks who assisted the bishop in his diocesan administration. Courtenay's successor, Robert Braybrooke, usually maintained a staff of about twenty-five clerks, fifteen of whom lived in his household, (fn. 64) and this difference between the numbers known for Courtenay's episcopate and those known for Braybrooke's illustrates the difference in documentation between the two periods. Although it has to be admitted that we have evidence for a clearer picture of the diocese of London both before and after Courtenay's episcopate than during his own tenure of the see, the present collection of Courtenay's acta and the taxation lists of 1379–81 assembled in this volume should go some way to redress the balance.
Note on Editorial Method
In the following calendars the use of square brackets indicates editorial additions. Transcripts of words or phrases are contained in round brackets. Unidentified place-names are given in inverted commas. Italics are used to indicate marginalia. In 1–395 and 547–652 the title dominus (domina) used for all ecclesiastical persons above the rank of clerk has been omitted from the calendar. In 1–395 the names in square brackets have been supplied from the V.C.H. (in the case of heads of religious houses), R. Newcourt, Repertorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londinense (1708–10), and G. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londinense (1898).
Thanks are due to: the committee of the Royal Holloway College Association Jubilee Fellowship Research Fund for financial support during the preparation of this volume; Miss P. K. Crimmin and Dr J. P. Croft for advice and encouragement; and Dr L. H. Butler for making available his unpublished doctoral dissertation.