Survey of London Monograph 15, St Bride's Church, Fleet Street. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1944.
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GUILD DOCUMENTS (fn. 1a) CERTIFICATE OF THE FRATERNITY OF ST BRIDGET 1388–89
The certificate of John Belehille and John Chamberlaine, Wardens or administrative officers of the Brotherhood of St Brigide in the church of St Brigide in Fletestrete in the suburbs of London by the others nominated, so that none else may be put forward by the Brotherhood. As more fully appears from the underwritten document in the Chancelry of the lord the king, thereto sent, and delivered to the king himself by his council, the first day of February in the 12th year of the same king: by virtue of a writ from the same king, proclaimed in the Tower of London in the year 1375 was founded by a certain person of the parish of St Bridget, in whose honour the church was founded, and dedicated to God, his glorious mother, and all the saints, and for prayer to St Bridget the Virgin aforesaid. It was held proposed and agreed upon among themselves, and ordained for the provision of a certain light in the same church to burn before the statue of the said virgin, St Bridget, for them and other persons, after this manner, to come thither and pay their devotion in the future times at masses, as well as vespers and matins, and high masses upon double feasts, but chiefly on the feasts of the Translation and the Nativity of St Bridget the Virgin, to be thereat kept lighted and burning, and, if it shall please God, to be cared for in perpetuity: and that, in like manner, to keep guarded. All persons after this mode appointed, agreeing and consenting to pay 4d. yearly at the four quarters of the year.
Item. Afterward, divers devout persons, as well of the same parish as of others adjacent, both to guard the same light, and desiring the divine worship to be increased, out of their pure devotion further proposed and came to agreement amongst themselves, for a certain chaplain to be found, to celebrate before the statue and within the said church, and with them then so consenting, and others in future times, out of a payment of 2s. 2d. by each of these persons yearly, thereupon to be paid, as well for the sustentation of the said light and chaplain as for an honourable and devout procession on the aforesaid Translation and Nativity, and to find and sustain two torches of wax about the corpse of each of the dead borne into the church, without seeking further consent, and two candles of wax about that corpse within the church at the time of the masses and dirge there burning, without any expense incurred, or of any further compulsion or obligation to any one for the aforesaid sustentations, as bound to render in service, except so persisting of their own pure and free will. Each of the persons before mentioned may retire from rendering the same payment at their own free will in all these things to be observed. And that therefor the aforesaid payments to be received to sustain the light, the chaplain, and the processions, to be done by certain persons and not by all, it seemed necessary that it be ordained that two or three of the aforesaid consentients to the aforesaid collection and administration, that it altogether be well kept, should be elected or chosen each year, as we John and John the aforesaid administrators, were chosen. And therefor the year elapsed after the aforesaid election made or by hap chosen. And afterwards the aforesaid agreements and consents agreed to by others of the aforesaid consentients hitherto made yearly, were agreed to for this time for three years, at the feast of St Bridget, by holding a suit, not for a malicious confederation, nor for any other ulterior cause, with any design against the law of the king, or kingdom, at their intention done or knowledge, or in any manner planned beforehand or forbidden, but to the praise and honour of divine worship: and is manifestly shown to be carried out at their own costs and not ordained in common or by any six, not out of the rents of lands or tenements in any way had or held in the present time for the sustentation or its pertinents, nor have they disposed ordained or ministered any sums of money, or other goods and chattels, beyond the wax made into torches and candles for the aforesaid work, nor have they had in part from the pertinents aforesaid or agreed upon to be paid for the said waxlights or chaplain but from the aforesaid consentients. Many of these are dead, and divers have left in other ways, and the rest after . . . have refused to pay anything at all to the upkeep of these premises. For which reasons unless your gracious and excellent discretion and indeed your condign help intervenes quickly to give us aid, all the aforesaid things for the divine worship, as aforesaid devised, and enacted by the devotion of the faithful, to be administered for the aforesaid worship and in no other way, must cease.
And further the administrators say and certify that, among the aforesaid consentients and those who paid, there have not been any sacred congregations, conventions, or assemblies, to sustain and maintain the cause or maintain it, except that whichever of them by . . . were deputed by the wardens, chosen once a year, or for two years, came into the said church. No other liberties, privileges, statutes, ordinations, uses or customs have been made use of, nor have any lands or dead tenements, nor any goods or chattels, [except] as in the above is aforesaid and contained to sustain the aforesaid, or are by them properly held or possessed, nor any outside consentient or subscriber nor do they possess any person of them.
CERTIFICATE OF THE FRATERNITY OF ST MARY 1388–89
The certificate made by John Riley and John Walworth, nominated for the others, supervisors, wardens, or deputies of the light of the fraternity of the blessed Mary, in the church of St Brigide in the suburbs of London as more fully appears in the Chancelry of the lord the king, delivered in the presence of the king himself and the king's council, the first day of February in the 12th year of the same king; carried out by virtue of a writ from the same king, first proclaimed in London in conformity with the forms underwritten. That certain parishioners of the abovesaid church, contemplating eternal merit, and wishful, before cursory things, to acquire it in perpetuity in honour of the glorious Virgin and for the use of their brethren, and to sustain a light before the statue of the Virgin in the said church, piously disposed the necessary funds, ordained it from a time to which the memory of man extends not. And afterwards in the honour aforesaid and at the aforesaid time, erected and built a chapel for their common worship, there laudably and honourably made, and provided the stipend for a certain chaplain there at the altar of the Virgin, and within the aforesaid chapel, which is now called the Chapel of St Mary, and is now held to be parcel of the said church, to there remain for ever to serve as well for the devotion of others, as for their own parishioners, whether those of . . . or . . . The chaplain celebrating on a feast day at the morning hour, shall chant de salve regina, or any other antiphon of the Virgin Mary every day with note, as also upon the double feasts except . . . The chaplains after the evening service with the other chaplains and clerks of the church, the beating of the bells preceding, [shall] say a de profundis for the good estate of their rulers while they live, and for their souls when they have passed over from the light of day and for . . . and for their good estate while living and for the souls of those supporting these premises in time to come, and for their own souls and those of their benefactors and of all the faithful departed, ordained by their good intention and intimate devotion.
Of the aforesaid founders, many have died, and others, falling away from the aforesaid devotion and the sustentation of the same certain things enjoined by the founders as well from the aforesaid light and chaplain and the other things prescribed for devotion, and as it was discovered, was as easily able to be set aside as ordained and made to default from the destined sustentations and subventions unless some better plan for its support could be ordained for the sure payment of 2s. 2d. by equal portions to be paid quarterly by each person willing to do so [and] could be established and agreed upon by the society, and this contribution come to be received from the ordainers, and such payments by the same be available so that the receivers of the profits of the same society, whosoever named and appointed for the year, may take them and that the receivers for the relief of the support of the chaplain and light and all the other things, shall immediately dispose of them. And [as] for the receivers of them and the sums by them received and payments by them made assigned to other members of the society, [they] ought every year to be accounted for, and thus having rendered their account, let two other receivers be appointed in their places for the year then next following, and let each one of them without fail on that account be required to place it in the new chest to be delivered to the said new receivers to administer the same entirely. In which society, for the discharges abovesaid, were sometimes 100 sometimes 80, and sometimes more or less, as was related by those that passed away before these times. Which gifts be now for the greater part lacking, since human nature falls away from its inclinations. Then certain of the surviving persons [from the roll] of the annual payments aforesaid promised of their devotion to pay other 2s. 2d. in support of the premises ever being troubled at heart that unless by a substantial . . . support could be provided, from the slackness of the human mind the devotions might chill, and the aforesaid call and devout disposition come down to nothing and that before prepared may in the future be found wanting. For which reason One Ulric, a surgeon, a clerk and parishioner and one of the payees aforesaid, left to the work of the support of a chaplain of God and as an example to the future a certain annual rent of 12s. out of a tenement in the same parish, by his will of a time to which the memory of man extends not. Which same rent has been taken hitherto and disposed of for the aforesaid object. But the great pestilence coming [it] was as it were separated, along with the upkeep of the light and chaplain, and of the other things aforesaid, and the devotion to God as set out by the founders was for the time being suspended. Certain of the payees then surviving, with others, as well of the aforesaid parish as of other parishes sought to bring back again in conformity with the before named devotion by a payment of 4s. 4d. from each person willing so to do and allowing it to be paid in four quarterly payments: and the two receivers [were appointed] under the form specified by the receivers for regaining the same devotion and to sustain the same. A certain John Wy [gan] one of them and a parishioner of the church and a citizen of the aforesaid city, by his testament, devised and left, as appears from the following—I leave the rent of my tenement at the corner of Shoo lane to the keepers of the work of the church of St Brigide, in sustentation of a chaplain celebrating there, taking therefrom by the year eight and a half marks, from the residue of the profits of that tenement, if that there shall be the profit aforesaid of eight and a half marks: and I leave the moiety of that residue to the work of the church aforesaid, and the other moiety in augmentation of the upkeep of the light of the blessed Mary of the same. By virtue of which legacy of the testator, a certain chaplain in the church is continuously celebrating, and the residue of the profits, as well beyond reprisals as of the eight and a half marks paid to the said chaplain, above six and a half marks by the year, is in fact divided, 4s. 4d. belonging to the upkeep of the aforesaid light, which 4s. 4d. is disposed for its upkeep. And in the third year of the reign of the then king Richard, a certain Robert Wytteney and Mary his wife, for a certain sum of money, sold the reversion of their tenement in the parish aforesaid, after their death, to Thomas de Hayton rector of the aforesaid church, Simon atte Nax, Thomas Eyremyn, and William Sauvage, being of the clear annual value of 4 marks beyond reprisals, the payments of tithe to be paid to them and the receivers to pay it to the aforesaid society, but since 19li were discharged in repayment, that then according to the will of the other purchasers, as of other the sellers, if they or the heirs or assigns of them so desire shall be given for the support of the light, the chaplain, and other premises, by licence from the king to this end obtained, and that effectually to be alienated from the said upkeep for ever. And if that cannot conveniently be alienated or in any way maintained for the sustentation of the same, it is ordained for the same tenement, that then the same tenement may be lawfully sold, and the money received by the sale of the same disposed of in masses and other works of piety, accordingly as it shall be ordained by the sellers: for the souls of Robert and Mary, and of those who sell, and all who before and after these times made or wished to make payments [in support of the same] and all the faithful departed. Then the aforesaid Robert, after his wife's death, made a charter of the abovesaid feoffment in fee simple in the Hustings of London, wherein it is enrolled. Which same Robert ended his last day after the feast of All Saints last past. So that the reversion of the aforesaid tenement then accrued to those persons of the aforesaid feoffees then living. From which tenement nothing could be received [until] after the deaths of the aforesaid Robert and Mary nor, as yet, can they take anything except the reversion of the tenement. Item the informers say and certify to the aforesaid. That for the devotion to be fulfilled in all the aforesaid things . . . and unless there are forthcoming eleven more persons to assist with the others, in place of those retiring from and ceasing from the devotion, and there shall be support from the same eleven to make the payments yet unpaid between them by their means agreed upon, and they shall further arrange among themselves for the yearly payment of 8s. from each person of the said eleven, for the upkeep aforesaid to be continued until it may be possible to make better provision. For which annual payment of 8s. and the beforenamed levies, and other things in the matter of charity obtained from the same eleven: they ordained that all the aforesaid tenements be put out and sustained, God granting favour, and for a short time not to be set aside; so that, on account of the decay and the heavy burden of payment, all and every person of the eleven or the greater part of them are in the position to be repaid for their personal devotion, and nearly all will be restored. The receivers or the governors of the same society by the devotion of . . . and in spite of the decay. . . We the aforesaid informers. . . by the abovesaid nomination, and from a limited number of other within our society who may accept these terms, and we, the governors of the premises for the above time, having obtained supporters that it may be by the abovesaid note, supported by the grace of God and in all matters carried out without contention, malice, confederations, riots, oaths, gatherings, and assemblings together rising up amongst us, held or to be held by reason of any unlawful act of any sort against God and the king, or the laws of the kingdom, or in anyway founded by guile, has been used so that the beforenamed devotion founded to the laud and glory and honour of God and the Virgin Mary abovesaid, according to the will and devotion, as well of those gone before as of those now present, may in all things be supported and augmented. With other means, the form and authority establishing constancy, regulation of liberties, privileges, statutes, ordinances, or for the custom of eating in common, or of a livery for the cause aforesaid, or for taking the oath of any person to the abovesaid devotion giving support drawn together (to that end—) other than that which is proposed among the aforesaid eleven, are unexecuted, nor have any sums of money or goods and chattels held in common or otherwise pertaining to the work of the aforesaid fraternity being in the (their power to expend—) or for ornaments for the aforesaid chapel, and altar, such only excepted as are in use for the sustentation of the said light, and for the salary of the aforesaid chaplain, and at the time now past 35 pence. The chaplain of the aforesaid society will be strictly bound in relation to divine service, by the condition of celebrating for the souls of all the aforesaid devout, and observe all the canonical hours in the church, and sing masses by note, unless he have a very sound reason for his absence, and so be excused from the beforenamed devotion. In the divine service of one chaplain it is believed it may be offered up.
INCORPORATION OF THE GUILD OF ST MARY, 1475
The king grants his letters patent to Richard bishop of Salisbury, Walter Devereaux knight, Lord Ferrers, Master Alexander Legh, parson of the parish church of St Bride, Flete Stret, London, William Notyngham, Thomas Tremayll, Thomas Bayen, John Pyrule, chaplain, Thomas Gay, Thomas Robyns, John Cotman, Robert Pigmer, John Martyn, William Hayford, William Trevistan, William Vale, John Olyver, Robert Bradmer, Robert Bowier, John Carter, William Hampton, and Thomas Wiseman to found a fraternity or perpetual gild in the said church of St Bride and to receive any man or woman who may wish to be brethren and sisters of the gild, with any goods and chattels granted to it. The brethren and sisters shall each year elect from among themselves a master and two wardens for the governance of the gild, and the custody of its goods and lands, with power to remove them and appoint others, and they shall form one body by the name of the fraternity or gild of St Mary, in the church of St Bride, and shall have a common seal and perpetual succession and power of acquiring lands, rents, and other possessions, and of impleading and being impleaded. And shall have power to meet together to make ordinances for the fraternity, and to dress themselves in cloth of one suit, and to meet to eat and drink together in a suitable place within the parish, and support one or two chaplains to celebrate divine service at the altar of St Mary in the north part of the said church, and do other works of piety there for the good estate of the king and the said founders and the brethren and sisters of the gild and for their souls after death. Dated 26 May 1475.