Whittington's College


Victoria County History



William Page (editor)

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'Colleges: Whittington's College', A History of the County of London: Volume 1: London within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark (1909), pp. 578-580. URL: Date accessed: 25 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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The church of St. Michael Paternoster Royal was the parish church of the wealthy Richard Whittington, and therefore had a special claim on him. At the beginning of the fifteenth century it needed enlarging, and was also in a ruinous state, so that he determined to rebuild it entirely, and in 1411 began the work by adding a piece of ground to the site. (fn. 1) His idea was to make the new church collegiate, but before he could complete his project he died early in 1423. His executors, however, with the consent of the king (fn. 2) and the archbishop of Canterbury, erected there in 1424 (fn. 3) in honour of the Holy Ghost and St. Mary a perpetual college of five secular priests, of whom one was to be master, two clerks and four choristers. William Brooke, the rector of St. Michael's, was made master, and it was ordained that henceforth the office of master should be held to include that of rector. (fn. 4) When a vacancy occurred one of their number was to be chosen by the chaplains and presented by the wardens of the Mercers' Company to the prior and chapter of Christchurch, Canterbury, who as patrons of the rectory (fn. 5) were to present him to the bishop for institution; vacancies among the chaplains (fn. 6) were to be filled by the master and senior chaplains; the clerks and choristers were to be appointed and were removable by the master and chaplains, and when past work were to be supported in the Whittington Almshouse; all the members of the college were to live in a house built by Whittington at the east end of the church; the master was to have a salary of 10 marks besides the oblations of the church, each chaplain 11 marks, the first clerk 8 marks, the second 100s., the choristers 5 marks each, and out of this they were to provide their food and clothing, but the cook was paid out of the college funds; the dress of the chaplains was to be of one style and colour; residence was obligatory, no chaplain being permitted to be absent for more than twenty days in the year, and then for good cause; the college was to have a common seal which was to be kept with the charters in the common chest; the goods of the college were not to be alienated by the master and chaplains except for urgent necessity; an inquiry into debts was to be made at the general chapter held annually; the supervision of the college was vested, after the decease of the executors, in the mayor of London and the wardens of the Mercers' Company.

The property of the church then became that of the college, (fn. 7) but more was needed, and the executors in February, 1425, granted to the master and chaplains £63 a year from Whittington's possessions until lands and rents equal in value should be given. (fn. 8) This sum was derived from property in the parishes of St. Michael Paternoster Royal, St. Lawrence Jewry and St. Mary Magdalen Milk Street, and was settled permanently on the college by the will of George Gerveys in 1432. (fn. 9) Land for enlarging the college and for making a new burial ground was also acquired at that time. (fn. 10)

The charter of foundation provided that the chaplains chosen should be versed in letters, (fn. 11) and the observance of this rule is proved by the history of the college. One of the masters, William Ive, played a leading and successful part as the champion of the beneficed clergy in the controversy raised by the mendicant orders in 1465, (fn. 12) and his statement of the case was sent to the pope with that of the bishop of London and the archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 13) He was at that time keeper of the St. Paul's School. (fn. 14) In 1490 the members of the college under the presidency of Edward Underwood, the master, founded the Fraternity of St. Sophia for the reading of a divinity lecture. (fn. 15) The reputation of the college was maintained till the end, for the last master, appointed in 1537, was Richard Smith, the first regius professor of divinity at Oxford. (fn. 16) Opinion was divided in the college on the religious question at this time, but the supporters of the royal policy were in the majority, (fn. 17) and must then have reckoned the master among their number. There was a point, however, beyond which Smith was not prepared to go, and under Edward VI he was deprived of his offices and fled to Louvain. (fn. 18) The college was dissolved in 1547, and pensions were paid to six priests, two 'conducts,' and four choristers. (fn. 19) It was revived under Mary, and Smith again became master, (fn. 20) but on the accession of Elizabeth it was finally dissolved. The annual income was estimated by Dugdale at £20 1s. 8d., (fn. 21) but for Wolsey's procurations in 1524, the rating of which was generally very low, it was reckoned at £36. (fn. 22)

Masters of Whittington's College

William Brooke, appointed 1424 (fn. 23)
John Clench, S.T.P. (fn. 24)
Richard Puringland, appointed 1427 (fn. 25)
John Eyburhall, S.T.P., appointed 1444, (fn. 26) occurs 1457, (fn. 27) resigned 1464 (fn. 28)
William Ive, appointed 1464, (fn. 29) occurs 1465, (fn. 30) resigned 1470 (fn. 31)
John Collys, appointed 1470, (fn. 32) died 1478 (fn. 33)
Nicholas Good, S.T.P., appointed 1478, died 1479 (fn. 34)
Edward Lupton, appointed 1479, died 1482 (fn. 35)
John Green, S.T.B., appointed 1482 (fn. 36)
Robert Smith, resigned 1488 (fn. 37)
Thomas Lynley, S.T.B., appointed 1488 (fn. 38)
Edward Underwood, D.D., occurs 1493, (fn. 39) resigned 1496 (fn. 40)
Stephen Douce, S.T.B., appointed 1496, (fn. 41) occurs 1508, (fn. 42) resigned 1509 (fn. 43)
Humphrey Wistowe, S.T.B., appointed 1509 (fn. 44)
John Walgrave, S.T.B., appointed 1519, resigned 1519 (fn. 45)
Edward Feld, S.T.P., appointed 1519, died 1537 (fn. 46)
Richard Smith, S.T.P., appointed 1537 (fn. 47)


1 Letter Bk. I, fol. 86, quoted by Riley in Mem. of Lond. 578.
2 Cal. of Pat. 1422–9, p. 259.
3 Pat. 10 Hen. VI, pt. 2, m. 7, inspecting and confirming the foundation, is given in Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 739–43.
4 For the arrangement with the priory of Christchurch see Cal. of Pat. 1422–9, p. 274.
5 They were compensated for the loss of the advowson by an annual payment of 13s. 4d. Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, ii, 458.
6 Choice was to be made of men who had not other benefices nor possessions.
7 Presumably this is the endowment which is spoken of as insufficient. Pat. 10 Hen. VI, pt. 2, m. 6, per inspect. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 743.
8 Ibid.
9 Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, ii, 457. The ordinances and endowment of the college were at the request of John Carpenter confirmed in 1432 by the king in Parliament. Parl. R. (Rec. Com.), iv, 392b.
10 Sharpe, op. cit. ii, 457. It is evident that these bequests were not fresh grants, but were all in pursuance of Whittington's intentions, as his executor, John Carpenter, is mentioned in connexion with every one of them. The making of a new churchyard had been part of Whittington's plan in 1411. See Riley, op. cit. 578.
11 Dugdale, op. cit. vi, 739.
12 Collections of a London Citizen (Camd. Soc.), 228.
13 Ibid. 231.
14 Ibid. 230.
15 Newcourt, Repert. Eccl. Lond. i, 492. For the sermons to be preached by the chaplains under the terms of Gilbert Heydok's will by an ordinance of Archbishop Warham in 1509, see ibid.
16 Dict. Nat. Biog. liii, 101.
17 William Gibson, the tutor, had said that the Northern men rose in a good quarrel, but many were so weary of such communications that they were ready to go out of the house. Both Gibson and one of the choristers said that Friar Forest died in a right quarrel. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (2), 1202.
18 Dict. Nat. Biog. liii, 101.
19 Chant. Cert. No. 88, m. 4, dors. In Mary's reign pensions were paid to eleven persons. Add. MS. 8102, fol. 5.
20 Newcourt, op. cit. i, 494.
21 Newcourt, op. cit. 492.
22 L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, 964.
23 Cal. of Pat. 1422–9, p. 274.
24 Newcourt, op. cit. i, 493.
25 Ibid.
26 Ibid.
27 Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, ii, 537.
28 Newcourt, op. cit. i, 493.
29 Ibid.
30 Collections of a London Citizen (Camd. Soc.), 228.
31 Newcourt, op. cit. i, 493.
32 Ibid.
33 Ibid.
34 Ibid.
35 Ibid.
36 Ibid.
37 Ibid.
38 Ibid.
39 Cal. of Inq. p.m. Hen. VII, i, No. 854. He is here called James Underwode.
40 Newcourt, op. cit. i, 493.
41 Ibid.
42 Sharpe, op. cit. ii, 624.
43 Newcourt, op. cit. i, 493.
44 Ibid.
45 Ibid.
46 Ibid.
47 Ibid.