The archbishops: Revenues

Pages 547-550

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 12. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1801.

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THE revenues of the archbishopric ought not to be passed by in silence. They were antiently very large, sufficient to maintain the honourable state in which the archbishop always appeared suitable to his high dignity and station in the church; the several manors which formerly belonged to the see, are recorded in Domesday, and are mentioned in the description of the several parishes in which they lay, throughout the course of the history of Kent. (fn. 1) There is an antient taxation of the temporalities and spiritualities of it, in the black book of the archdeacon of Canterbury, in which it appears, the sum total of the taxation of these manors within this county, was 1499l. 15s. 8d. (fn. 2) and in the dioceses of Chichester, Winchester, and in London and Middlesex, 549l. 15s. 11d. of his spirituals 200l. making in all the sum of 2249l. 11s. 8d. (fn. 3) a great income in those days, and increasing in value yearly.—The present taxation of the revenues of the archbishopric is, 2682l. 12s. 2d. according to Ecton, notwithstanding the many possessions taken from it. (fn. 4) —The rich and noble manors, together with many stately castles and palaces appurtenant to them belonging to the archbishopric, which composed the above revenue could not but raise the envy of the hungry courtiers in those reigns of ecclesiastical plunder under Henry VIII. Edward VI. and Elizabeth; when, under the colour of reformation, this archbishopric was stripped of its most valuable possessions, which were seized on, exchanged and alienated as were thought proper, especially such as appeared to continue to the metropolitan that state of power and grandeur, which it was determined he should be deprived of.

These grants and exchanges are mentioned throughout the course of the above History, and therefore need not be repeated here; it is sufficient to say, they were very many and made at different times. In this critical juncture, archbishop Cranmer, in the two former reigns, is said to have done all in his power, and that appears to have been very little indeed, to preserve the revenues of his see, and that he procured the best exchanges and bargains that he could at that time; but whatever efforts he made, they were in vain, all the exchanges were to his disadvantage, as much as if he had given gold and received brass for it in return. Strype, in his life of archbishop Cranmer, has given a full account of these proceedings, and in the Augmentationoffice, the deeds of them are numerous; I shall only observe in general, that those revenues which were settled upon the archbishopric, in lieu of what it was deprived, chiefly consisted of lands or of tithes and appropriations, taken from the late dissolved religious houses, and even these lands when they were suspected to turn out more valuable than was intended, were often taken away again, and others of inferior value were settled in lieu of them, at the king's pleasure; and this arbitrary traffic was continued in the beginning of the reign of queen Elizabeth, whilst archbishop Parker remained in this see, (fn. 5) and had not an act passed on king James's accession to the crown, which disabled the archbishops and bishops of this realm from alienating any of the revenues and possessions of their bishoprics in future, long before this time, in all probability, they would have been stripped of every valuable possession belonging to them; but although the see of Canterbury was by the above-mentioned means, bereaved of almost all its most desirable estates, yet it has now, by the increase in the value of lands, and other things from which the income of it arises, become a large and handsome revenue, being estimated at the yearly value, coibs annis, of 10,000l. besides other ca sual advantages and emoluments arising from the seseveral patent and other offices in the archbishop's gift and nomination.


  • 1. In king Henry II's reign, the archbishop of Canterbury was charged with threescore knights fees, which he owned, and nineteen more which he disowned. Madox's History of the Exchequer, p. 439.
  • 2. These manors were those of Westgate with its members, Westhalimot, Bishopesborn, Dale, Saltwood, Tenham, Aldington, Maidstone, Bexley, Wrotham, Reculver, Wingham, Petham and Waltham, Liming, Bocton, Northfleet, Cherring, Otford and Gillingham.
  • 3. Battely, appendix, No. xia. Thorn, col. 2163, says, the archbishop's temporalities were— in Kent, 1355l. 8s. 1d. —In the diocese of Chichester, 354l. os. 12 ob. — In the diocese of Winchester, 65l —In the diocese of London, and in Middlesex, 130l. 15s. The total of the whole taxation of his spirituals and temporals, 2005l. 4s. 1d. ob. The taxation of the archbishopric to the see of Rome, was 10,000 florins of gold. Harleian MSS. No. 1850.13.
  • 4. Tanner, p. 195, says, the old value of the archbishopric, is said to have been, 3233l. 18s. 8d.
  • 5. Queen Elizabeth, in her 3d year in particular took away many manors and lands from archbishop parker; in recompence for which, she, directing the whole of the exchange at her pleasure, granted to him several rectories, or impropritate parsonages, tithes, tenths, and annual rents of money, most of which had belonged to the late dissolved monasteries, amounting in the whole, to the sum of 1284l. 17s. 1¾d. nor was this the last bad bargain she forced on the archbishop. See several of the exchanges, among Harleian MSS. No. 6839. 62–63. It appears that in archbishop Parker's time, the revenue of this see was, in rents 3128l. fines, &c. 300l. Total, 3420l. yearly income.