The fourteenth century
Prior Thomas de Watford


Centre for Metropolitan History



E.A. Webb

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'The fourteenth century: Prior Thomas de Watford', The records of St. Bartholomew's priory [and] St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: volume 1 (1921), pp. 168-177. URL: Date accessed: 24 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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The licence to elect granted on May 16th resulted in the election of Thomas de Watford, who, like his two predecessors, was a canon of the house. Signification of the election was sent to the Bishop of London on May 21st, 1361, (fn. 1) and on May 29th mandates were issued to the escheators to deliver the temporalities, the bishop having confirmed the election. (fn. 2)

In spite of the previous decisions the escheators had (as already seen) (fn. 3) again taken possession during voidance, and the new prior was once more put to the trouble and expense of proving to the Court of Exchequer that he was not bound to account to the king for the revenues during the time of a vacancy.

Although this prior held office for twenty-one years, the records are far fewer than for a similar period in the first half of the century. Apart from the grants of Dr. Mirfield (fn. 4) there are records of only one other addition to the possessions of the monastery, and three grants for the founding of chantries. The cause of this falling off was probably due in part to the Black Death scourge, and partly to the lessening of enthusiasm for the endowing of monasteries and for the founding of chantries consequent on the state of spiritual decay of the Church at that time. The endowment of chantries had been so much overdone that, in the year 1362, the prelates, clergy, and Parliament enacted that no chaplain should take more than 5 marks a year for celebrating mass for the good of souls. It would seem, however, that no priest could be found to perform the office for so small a sum; for it is recorded in the Guildhall letter books that when one Adam Fraunceys came to distribute in the same year money for masses for the soul of John de Oxenford, he could not get any chaplain for 5 marks; so, in the presence of the mayor and aldermen, he gave 10 marks to the Prior of St. Bartholomew's on the condition that he should find two canons to celebrate. He distributed the rest of the benefactions in a similar way through St. Mary's Bishopsgate, Holy Trinity Aldgate, and other monasteries. (fn. 5)

Two other records of the endowment of chantries (fn. 6) at this time are those of Henry de Yerdelee, 'fellmongere,' in the year 1368; and of James Andreu, draper, who, after making provision for a perpetual chantry at All Hallows, bequeathed his tenements in the parishes of St. Olave and St. Lawrence in the Old Jewry (subject to a life interest) to the prior and convent to provide two chaplains to celebrate for the souls of his father, mother, and others. (fn. 7)

As regards records of additions to the possessions, in the year 1374, in part satisfaction of the licence to acquire £20 a year of land and rent, licence was granted to John Quyneld and Walter Lepere to give two messuages and 2 acres in 'Eggeswere' and 'Idelstree' (Edgware and Elstree), and to John Chishull, chaplain, William Stoteville, vicar of the church of St. Sepulchre, and to John Harpesfeld, that they might give 1 toft and 127 acres in Acton, worth 32s. a year, (fn. 8) to the priory.

This John Chishull was a great benefactor of the priory, and, as will be seen later, (fn. 9) he bequeathed £10 for two pictures for St. Stephen's chapel on the south side of the quire; he was a friend of John Mirfield, whom he made one of the executors of his will. The will was executed in his 'lodging within the close', showing that he lived within the monastic precincts.

In the year 1377, in part satisfaction of the 'licence to acquire' (granted, it is here stated, at the request of Isabella the queen-mother), licence was granted to the same John Chishull, clerk, and to John Mirfield, to convey to the prior and convent rents of 27s. 5½d., and of one rose in 'Tewyng'; and to the same John Chishull alone to convey 186½ acres and 5d. rent in the same place and in Welwyn, Dacheworth, and Knebworth; and to both of them to convey the reversion of the manor of 'Tewyng' to the prior and convent after the death of Joan, wife of John Spendelove. (fn. 10) (fn. 11)

As the licence to acquire land and rent to the extent of £20 was still operative, it is not quite clear why, in the year 1374, the prior and convent had to obtain pardon from the king at a charge of 40 marks for not obtaining licence in mortmain for holding certain tenements and rents granted to them. (fn. 12) Most of the grants mentioned in this pardon have been already referred to and may be thus briefly enumerated:

Edmund de Grymesby, (fn. 13) clerk, 3 tenements and 2 shops in the city of London; Henry Frere de Iseldon, (fn. 14) a messuage in All Hallows, Bread Street; Thomas Bakon of Venton, Knight, houses in Golden Lane; then a more or less void place;

Roger de Creton, the chaplain, (fn. 15) a messuage in St. Mary de Stanynglane;

William de Erthyngton, (fn. 16) a messuage called his 'rent houses' in St. Martin Outwich;

William Martyn, (fn. 17) a messuage in the parish of St. Michael, Cornhill;

Richard de Ewell, clerk, (fn. 18) two shops;

Peter of Newcastle under Lyne, (fn. 19) 6 shops and rent in the parish of St. Bartholomew (his will speaks of the shops as being in the parish of St. Botolph, Aldersgate);

Thomas de Brauncestre, (fn. 20) citizen, rent in the parish of St. Michael le Quern;

Agnes de Stanes, (fn. 21) widow of above, rent in the parish of St. Mary Magdalen;

Beatrice de Stanes, wife of James de Stanes, rents out of various tenements to provide a canon to celebrate;

Raymund de Bordeaux, citizen and sadler, tenements in the parish of St. Benedict 'de Wodewharf'.

There are two records concerning the presentation to churches belonging to the priory at this time: thus, in the year 1361, the king presented 'Thomas de Frasthorp, parson of the church of St. Mary, Stanynglane', to the church of St. Martin Pomeroy, Ironmonger Lane; (fn. 22) and in 1370 the king nominated John Swyket of Feldallyng, chaplain, to the prior and convent for presentation by them to the vicarage of the church of Little Yarmouth, by reason of the voidance of the bishopric of Norwich. (fn. 23)

In the year 1379 there is a record in the Clerical Subsidy Rolls (fn. 24) of the religious houses that were assessed to the clerical subsidy granted to Richard II. As we said when referring to this in the chapter on the monastery, (fn. 25) it gives some idea of the relative sizes of the religious houses in London at this time. St. Bartholomew's heads the list in the amount of the subsidy paid. It was, with Holy Trinity, Aldgate, assessed at 500 marks, an amount larger than any other monastery, though in numbers, as has been said, it was fourth on the list with 23 members of the convent, against 30 members of the college of St. Martin le Grand. The entry cannot be printed in full, but the following few particulars may be of interest:

£ s. d.
At St. Bartholomew's, assessed at 500 marks, there were the prior, 15 canons, 3 clerks of the priory, 1 clerk of the church, 1 of the refectory, and 2 others, 23 in all, who paid a total of 5 14 4
At Holy Trinity, Aldgate, assessed at 500 marks, there were the prior, 17 canons, and 7 clerks, 25 in all, who paid 5 12 0
At the College of St. Martin's le Grand (assessment illegible) there were the dean, 6 canons called Magister, 6 called Dominus, and 17 others, 30 in all and paid (without the dean, being illegible) 3 16 4
At the Abbey of the Nuns Minoresses, Aldgate, assessed at £100, (fn. 26) there were the Abbess and 26 sisters, 27 in all, who paid 3 13 4
At St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, assessed at £100, there were the prioress, 11 sisters called Domina, 8 chaplains, and 1 other, 21 in all, who paid 3 4 8
At St. Mary's, Bishopgate, assessed at £100, there were the prioress, 11 called Canora, 6 sisters, and 1 other, 19 in all, who paid 2 18 8
At the Clerkenwell Nunnery, assessed at 100 marks, there were the prioress, 15 called Domina, 1 sister, and 5 chaplains, 22 in all, who paid 2 16 8
At the Hospital of St. Thomas of Acon, assessed at 100 marks, there were the master, 6 brothers, 7 chaplains, and 1 clerk, 15 in all, who paid 2 4 4
At the Hospital of St. Bartholomew, assessed at 200 marks, there were the master, 3 brothers, 3 sisters, and 2 Domini, 9 in all, who paid 2 4 0
At the Carthusian Monastery (The Charter House), assessed at 100 marks, there were the prior, 10 Domini and 3 brothers, 14 in all, who paid 2 1 8
At St. Mary Graces (by the Tower), assessed at £100, there were the abbot and 7 monks, 8 in all, who paid 2 1 8
Elsing Spital paid 1 14 8
The College of St. Lawrence Pountney 1 9 8
The Benedictine Nunnery of Haliwell 1 7 4
The Hospital of St. Aicon paid 16 0
St. Mary's Bethlehem (Bedlem) with 4 persons paid only 11 0

In the same Roll are given the names of those in the convent of St. Bartholomew at that time, and the amount at which each was assessed, thus:

The Prior was assessed at £3.

Canons of the Priory.
s. d.
Dom Andrew Halstede @ 30 4
" John Rankdych @ 30 4
" Richard Heyton @ 30 4
" William Gydeney @ 30 4
" John Dunmowe @ 30 4
" John de Watforde @ 30 4
" John Tyllysby @ 30 4
" John Spaldynggs @ 30 4
" John Flete @ 30 4
" Thomas Bury @ 30 4
" Thomas Kyng @ 30 4
" John Bacayle @ 30 4
" William Pyrye @ 30 4
" John Yongge @ 30 4
" Philip Shalden @ 30 4
Clerks of the Priory: (fn. 27)
John Meryfeld @ 4
John Conyngton @ 4
William Burton @ 4
Thomas Clerks of the church (fn. 28) @ 8
Nicholas @ 8
William Clerk of the refectory (fn. 28) @ 4
John Theobald @ 4
Dom John Hyshull @ 2s. 0d.

Of the above, William Gydeney (or Gedeney) became prior in 1382, and John Watford, or another canon of the same name, became prior in 1404. John 'Randisch' occurs in the will of John Chishull, (fn. 29) to whom he owed £10. That debt Chishull bequeathed to the high altar. John Dunmowe was sub-prior in 1382 and John 'Yongge' in 1404.

The election of the successor of Prior Thomas in the year 1382 is set out at length in the Bishop of London's register, (fn. 30) and it is thence that we learn that John de Dunmowe was the sub-prior, that John Watford was apostate and had gone abroad, so that he could not join in the election, and that there were then 21 canons in the convent. Their names are given: twelve are the same as in the above list; Halstede, Flete, and Watford had gone, but there are the following additional names: John Tebbe, Michael London, William Coventry (who became prior in 1414), John Langeley, Stephen Charlewode, John Huet, Thomas Denby, and another John Tebbe (possibly entered twice in error).

The Subsidy Roll (fn. 31) also gives the names of those at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. The master was assessed at 30s.; the brothers Richard de Orewell, William de Wakeryng, and Thomas Lakenham were assessed at 20d. each; the chaplains, Dom John Lyberpole and Thomas Oxale, at 2s. each; and the sisters, Johanna Pertynhale, (fn. 32) Cecelia Albon, and Beatrix Squier, at 20d. each.

The John Meryfeld (or Mirfield) mentioned above among the clerici of the priory was not a clerk in holy orders, but a man of great eminence as a physician and surgeon. The first record of Mirfield in connexion with the priory is in the year 1362, for in the year 1390 an inspeximus and confirmation was granted by King Richard (fn. 33) of an indenture of Prior Thomas de Watford, dated May 9th, 1362, which granted to John de 'Mirfeld' for life a yearly pension of £4 8s., with a chamber and latrine on the south side of the church near the great altar, at the yearly rent of 4s. for the chamber and latrine; and if the prior failed in paying the pension, then John Mirfield (or his attorney) should have sufficient food from the prior and convent to satisfy the amount due; with power, in default, of entry and distress upon the convent's possessions in London.

There is nothing to show that the grant of the pension by the prior in 1362 was made by order of the king by way of corody (though it may have been so, for in the year 1376 the king sent William Purcell, his esquire, to the prior and convent to have for life such maintenance in the house as Maude the wife of Thomas de Colby in her lifetime had at the command of the king). (fn. 34) If the grant was not made by order of the king, then it may have been in anticipation of the grants ultimately to be made to the prior and convent by Mirfield, under his canonical vows, (fn. 35) of rents in Tewin and the manor of Tewin; and in 1392 the manor of Wellhall, and various messuages in the City of London. The description of the position of this chamber 'on the south side of the church, near the great altar', indicates the second bay eastward of Bolton's window; and that this was the position is proved by the discovery in 1912 of the latrine, which still exists in the angle formed by the east wall of the south chapel and the wall of the church.

Sir Norman Moore, in his Fitzpatrick lecture, delivered before the Royal College of Physicians in 1905, (fn. 36) states that Mirfield studied at Oxford, and that the master to whom he so often refers in his writings was a layman, like himself; that he had commenced his medical studies before he entered the monastery; and that there he studied theology as well as medicine. It is also shown from certain passages in his books that he knew something of the patients in the hospital, though we assume that he may not have had the full run of the place owing to the strained relations existing between the priory and hospital at that time (as shown in Bishop Simon of Sudbury's ordinance of 1373).

The following particulars of Mirfield's writings are gleaned from the same source. There are three books or writings of Mirfield's extant at the present time. The first, with the title 'Florarium Bartholomaei' (of which there is a copy among the Royal MSS. in the British Museum), is a theological treatise, with one chapter only on physicians and their medicines. There is internal evidence to show that the book was composed not earlier than 1362 (the year when the grant of the chamber at St. Bartholomew's was made to him), nor later than the year 1369. (fn. 37) The authorship is only revealed by an acrostic of the initial letters of the chapters following Chapter LXII. The initials read as follows: Johanni de Suthwelle per Johannem de Mirfeld: ora pro nobis beate Bartholomee ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Cristi. Amen. Explicit. (fn. 38)

Sir Norman Moore considers the book to be actually in Mirfield's handwriting. The MS. in the Museum once belonged to the Augustinian College of Ashridge, Co. Bucks, to the rector of which Prior Pekesden released the church of Hemel Hempstead in 1323. (fn. 39)

The second book is Mirfield's great medical work, with the title 'Breviarium Bartholomei', written some time before the year 1387 (probably about 1380, says Sir Norman Moore). There are two copies, one in the British Museum, the other at Pembroke College, Oxford. The latter is the finer volume and is in its original binding; it belonged at one time to the Abbey of Abingdon, and after the suppression to Dr. Bartlett, who lived in Bartholomew Close. (fn. 40) The index of the Oxford copy is headed with the words: Incipit tabula libri Johannis Mirfeld quem ipse composuit et Breviarium Bartholomei vocavit; compilavit in monasterio sancti Bartholomei London eundemque divisit in partes quindecim. (fn. 41) Each part is devoted to a different subject, as fevers, different parts of the body, boils, bruises, fractures, medicines, &c.; and it was doubtless written in his chamber in the church. The British Museum copy is not so large as that at Oxford, and slightly varies in the text, but both copies belong to Mirfield's lifetime. By means of an acrostic in this copy the capital letters from folio 21 B make the words ora pro nobis Bartholomee ait Johannes de Mirfeld ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Cristi. (fn. 42)

Dr. Mirfield observes in this book that an injury on the right side of the head is likely to lead to paralysis on the left side of the body, and relates an interesting and amusing case of one of the canons of the priory treated by his master. (fn. 43)

Mirfield seems to make no direct reference in his writings to the Great Plague or to the social troubles of his time. The Black Death of 1348 made labour scarce, and a Statute of Labourers, passed to check the rise of wages in 1349, raised great discontent. The appearance of William Langland's Piers Plowman in 1362, and the preaching of Wycliffe, first a reformer then a protestor, four years later, both contributed to a feeling of unrest among the labouring classes. Finally the imposition of the poll-taxes of 1379 and 1380, for the continuance of the war with France, brought about the great revolt against the manorial system known as the Wat Tylor Riots of 1381. How the rioters were treacherously admitted into the City of London on the 13th June, when a reign of terror ensued; how they brutally murdered, because he was the Chancellor, Archbishop Simon of Sudbury; how, in the same way, because he was the Chief Commissioner for the levy of the hated poll-tax, they murdered Robert Hales, the Prior of St. John's, Clerkenwell, as well as many others, and how the young king fearlessly parleyed with the rebels the next day in Mile End and again on the following day in Smithfield, is told in every History of England, but more precisely by Professor Oman in his History of the Great Revolt of 1381. The meeting between Wat Tyler and the king on Saturday, June 15th, in Smithfield, is where the revolt directly touches the history of St. Bartholomew's. The king's retinue, with the Mayor of London. William Walworth, were drawn up on the east side of Smithfield, immediately in front of the doors of St. Bartholomew's church, whilst Wat Tyler's men were in battle array on the west side. When Tyler, for his insolence in drawing his dagger before the king, had been struck down by Walworth, the accounts differ as to what was done with his body. Henry Knighton, a contemporary compiler, says in his chronicle (fn. 44) that he was 'rudely drawn by his hands and feet into the church of St. Bartholomew which was at hand', but the 'Anominal Chronicle of St. Mary's York', (fn. 45) written probably by an eye-witness, says that Tyler was 'carried by some of the commons to the Hospital for poor folks, by St. Bartholomew's, and was put to bed in the chamber of the master of the hospital', and this is probably correct. Neither the priory nor the hospital buildings were damaged by the rioters, so far as is known. The burning of St. John's, Clerkenwell, was due to hatred of the Prior Hales, and the sacking of the Temple and Temple Church was due to hatred of the lawyers. There was no general attack upon the monasteries.

There are several records concerning the fair during the priorate of Thomas de Watford, especially in the years 1373 and 1377, which are referred to in the chapter on Bartholomew Fair. (fn. 46)

As regards the relations between the priory and the hospital, (fn. 47) at this time there had been discord for a long while between them over the articles of the composition of Bishop Eustace, made in 1224. As they were willing, in the year 1373, to submit themselves to a new ordinance, Simon of Sudbury, Bishop of London (whose tragic end in 1381 has just been referred to), drew up new articles for them. Simon's ordinance, as is shown in the chapter on the Hospital, left many of Eustace's provisions unaltered, but modified or reversed others in favour of the hospital.

The ordinance was dated the 11th April, 1373, and was executed in triplicate—one copy for the priory, one for the hospital, and one for St. Paul's. Two of the copies are now in the library there. The deed is also transcribed into the episcopal registers and into the hospital cartulary. (To the deed at St. Paul's, No. 644, have been added at the end four letters concerning the election of William Wakering as master of the hospital in 1387.)

Stephen de Maydenhythe, the master of the hospital, died in 1373, two months after this ordinance was sealed. Licence to elect his successor, and consent to the election of Richard de Sutton, would have been obtained from Prior Thomas de Watford, as the ordinance made no variation in this respect from that of Bishop Eustace. But whether the prior had to intervene in what subsequently took place does not appear. Richard de Sutton, soon after his election, got into trouble with one of the sisters (Joan Pertenhale) and proceedings were taken against him in 1375 (fn. 48) by a commission consisting of the Dean of St. Paul's, the Chancellor, and another.. Apparently he got the Commissary General of the Court of Canterbury to intervene, and against this the commissioners appealed (fn. 49) to the pope. Richard de Sutton thereupon obtained licence from the king on the 17th January, 1376, to go to Rome to defend himself. (fn. 50)

On the 4th March following, the proctor of the dean appealed to the bishop for Apostolic letters, on behalf of three of the brethren and a sister of the hospital, that the tithes of bread and drink, and the anniversaria might be restored, alleging that Sutton the master and Thomas de Watford, the prior, had withheld the same unjustly for three years by an agreement between them. He stated that neither they nor he had dared to appeal before for fear of imprisonment. Sutton had apparently started for Rome when this appeal was made. It would seem that Sutton was reinstated, for we are told that on the 4th December, 1386, he resigned at St. Martin's le Grand 'in the cloister of the free chapel there'.

Prior Thomas de Watford, when first made prior, served as collector for the diocese of London of the tenth granted to Pope Innocent IV by the clergy of Canterbury, (fn. 51) and in the same year (1362) he was collector of the tenth granted to the king. The latter was in arrears, so the king issued a mandamus (fn. 52) to the Bishop of London to procure from the clergy of the diocese the payment which had not been collected by the Prior of St. Bartholomew's (which perhaps is the reason why he does not occur again in that capacity).

It was during his priorate that the canons' house at Canonbury was rebuilt or added to, for there is a stone on the south side of the house with the date 1362.

Prior Thomas died on the 4th January, 1382, and was buried, we are told, in the church on the 8th of the same month. (fn. 53) In the same year one John de Guldeford willed to be buried at his feet. (fn. 54)

Licence to elect his successor was granted on January 6th of that year. (fn. 55)


1 Pat., 35 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 24, 21 May; and Cal. Pat. 19.
2 Cal. Pat., 35 Edw. III, 29 May.
3 See above, p. 141.
4 See below, p. 173.
5 Riley, Memorials, 310, quoting Guildhall Letter Book G, cviii.
6 Cal. Hust. Wills, ii, 131.
7 Cal. Hust. Wills, ii, 166.
8 Pat., 47 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 5, 12 Jan.
9 Vol. II, chap. vi.
10 Chanc. Inq., a. q. d., File 390, No. 16, and Pat., 51 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 8 or 9, 27 May (1377).
11 For further grants by Mirfield, see p. 182 below.
12 Pat., 48 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 22, 8 Apr. (1374).
13 See above, p. 164.
14 Cal. Hust. Wills, i, 494.
15 See above, p. 160.
16 See above, p. 157.
17 See above, p. 158.
18 See above, p. 146.
19 Cal. Hust. Wills, i, 350.
20 Ib. i, 234.
21 Ib. i, 278.
22 Cal. Pat. 28, 35 Edw. III, 22 May.
23 Ib., 370, 44 Edw. III, 14 Feb. There are also records in 1366 of a recognisance given to the prior and convent by John Whitloc of 'Tytenangre' for £146 6s. to be levied in default of payment of his lands and chattels in Herts. (Cal. Close, 298), and in 1376 concerning a plea pending between the prior and Adam Rous, 'leche' concerning tenements in the parish of St. Mildred Poultry (Cal. Close, 374).
24 Cleric. Sub., 42/4 a.
25 See p. 3.
26 Some are given in pounds, some in marks.
27 Clerici eiusdem prioratus. Dom H. N. Birt informs me that these would be the vowed religious not yet priests.
28 These, Dom Birt says, had nothing to do with orders, but with posts in the house.
29 App. 1, p. 531.
30 Reg. Lond., Braybroke, 264.
31 See also another, Cler. Sub., 42/20.
32 See below, p. 177.
33 Cal. Pat., 13 Rich. II, 4 Apr. (1390), for ½ mark paid into the hanaper.
34 Cal. Close, 50 Edw. III, 16 Nov.
35 See p. 169, above.
36 Abstract in Lancet, Nov. 18, 1905, pp. 1451–4; see also N. Moore, Hist. St. B.'s Hosp. i, 608.
37 Royal MSS. 7 f. xi, f. 136, Mus. Brit.
38 'To John of Southwell by John of Mirfield: Pray for us, blessed Bartholomew, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen. The end.'
39 See p. 155 above.
40 See Vol. II, chap. vx.
41 'Here beginneth the volume of the book of John Mirfield which he himself composed and called St. Bartholomew's Breviary; he compiled it in the monastery of St. Bartholomew, London, and divided the same into fifteen parts.'
42 'Pray for us, Bartholomew, says John de Mirfield, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.'
43 N. Moore, Hist. St. B.'s Hosp. i, 609.
44 Chron. H. Knighton, R. Ser. ii, 138.
45 Oman, Great Revolt, p. 203.
46 See below, p. 302.
47 See chapter on the Hospital, p. 83 above.
48 Reg. London, Braybroke, p. 282.
49 St. Paul's MSS., Box 54, No. 36, 8 Feb. 1375.
50 Pat., 49 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 1.
51 Bodleian Charters and Rolls, Oxford, No. 75.
52 Reg. London, Sudbury, p. 88, 36 Edw. III, 14 June (1362).
53 Ib., Braybroke, p. 264.
54 Cal. Hust. Wills, ii, 234, 10 Aug.
55 Cal. Pat., 5 Rich. II.