History of St Bride's: The advowson

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Survey of London Monograph 15, St Bride's Church, Fleet Street. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1944.

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The parish of st bride fleet street is in the ward of Farringdon Without, and Fleet Street, the ancient western approach to the city by Ludgate, runs through its centre. The Church lies south of Fleet Street, and this part of the parish was at one time bounded by the Precinct of White Friars on the west and that of Bridewell on the east. Bridewell, originally part of the parish and now reincorporated, extended eastwards to the Fleet River, which flowed past the portion of the City Wall rebuilt to enclose the House of Black Friars in 1279. St Bride's parish followed the north boundary of Bridewell and touched the angle of the new wall where it turned east to join the old City Wall just south of Ludgate, and, continuing northwards, included a small area on the east bank, up to and including the Fleet Prison. This boundary adjoined the parish of St Martin Ludgate, and following round the prison wall as far as the Fleet River it turned north in the centre of the stream, being here adjacent to the parish of St Sepulchre. The northern boundary lay against St Andrew Holborn, and towards the north-west an outlying portion of the parish came to within a short distance of Fetter Lane, the boundary returning east and south to march with that of St Dunstan in the West and Whitefriars.

Abbey of Westminster

The dedication of the Church suggests an ancient foundation, but we have no documentary evidence of a Church here before the Conquest. It is possible that the name attached to the well before the Church was built, and that Bridewell was a place-name before the parish was formed. The earliest reference to the parish is to be found in a grant by Henry II to the Templars of two forges, one in 'St Brigide' and the other in St Dunstan (fn. 1), and they acquired and reclaimed from the river additional property which their successors, the Knights of St John, held and on which Henry VIII afterwards built Bridewell Palace. The advowson of the Church belonged to the Abbot and Convent of Westminster who held land in the parish, together with a pension of one mark, the earliest recorded confirmation of this being by Gilbert Foliot, Bishop of London (1163–89). (fn. 2) There are later records of the payment of the pension to the Chamberlain, Precentor and Sacrist of the Abbey. (fn. 3) In 1188 lands 'in the parish in the street of Flete next to the cemetery of St Brigide' were granted by the leprous brethren of St Giles' Hospital, Master Walter, their Warden, and Ralph, son of Adam, to their benefactor Herbert (le Poore), Archdeacon of Canterbury (afterwards Bishop of Salisbury), rendering yearly 15s. 3d. (fn. 4) This grant was supplemented in 1206 by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem who transferred to Herbert, Bishop of Sarum, tenements formerly granted to Richard, Bishop of Winchester. (fn. 5)

See of Salisbury

When Richard le Poore was Bishop of Salisbury (1217–28) he received a grant from William Humez, Abbot of Westminster, 'of all the tenements which Richard (Tocliffe), bishop of Winchester and Herbert (le Poore) bishop of Sarum held of our fee in St Bride's, as well in demesne as in rents, except the advowson of the Church of St Bride which we retain, rendering to us 10s. at Easter and 10s. at Michaelmas'. (fn. 6) A grant in the same terms had been made in 1214 to Herbert (le Poore), Bishop of Sarum, with the added proviso that 'the bishop for the time being of the Chapter of Sarum impart to the Abbey and its officers in their joint business a joint counsel when the opportunity requires'. (fn. 7) This included the Inn of the bishops of Salisbury, later the house of the Earls of Dorset, on the site of Salisbury Square.

Sackville, Earl of Dorset

In the Taxation of Pope Nicholas (1291) the value of the rectory is given as £ 10 and the following had rents from the parish: The Bishop of Salisbury £11. 18s. 0d.; the Abbot of Cirencester £ 3. 7s. 3d.; the Abbot of Westminster £1. 3s. 0d.; the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's 5s. 0d.; and the Prior of St. Bartholomew 3s. 6d. (fn. 8)

In 1293, when Edward I collected a 'tenth' for his expedition to the Holy Land, 10s. was received from St Bride's and 8d. from the monks of Westminster in respect of their pension. (fn. 9) This works out at one-twentieth of the value of the rectory (i.e. £10) and one-twentieth of the pension of one mark.

In 1380 Sir John Knyvet and Eleanor his wife granted a plot of land adjoining the churchyard to Thomas Hayton, rector of St Bride's, on which to build a rectory house for himself and his successors. (fn. 10) It lay south-east of the church and measured 87 feet (N.), 57 feet (S.), 64 feet 8 inches (E.), and 83 feet (W.). The Bishop of Salisbury added a small portion of land to the site in 1385 by which time the rectory house had been completed. (fn. 11)

Knights of St John of Jerusalem

In 1505 the Abbot and Convent of Westminster obtained leave from William Warham, Bishop of London, to appropriate the rectory with all its rights. Letters patent were granted by Henry VII, and the appropriation was confirmed by the Dean of St Paul's (John Colet) and Peter de Ayale, Protonotary Apostolic for the Roman See. The rectorial tithe amounted at this time to £26. 13s. 4d. and the appropriation was granted for the worship of God and Divine Service in the monastery that it might be better observed, hospitality increased and the burdens of the monastery the more easily borne. (fn. 12) A vicarage was instituted with a stipend of £16, and the first vicar to be appointed was Nicholas Miles. He may have been the Dr Miles whose murder is chronicled by Stow and whose assailant was hanged in chains in Finsbury Field. (fn. 13) The Abbey was also to build a vicarage, but this was not done, and the fourteenth-century rectory house was leased in 1507 to Sir Richard Empson, Henry VII's revenue officer, for 99 years at a rent of four marks. (fn. 14) Empson leased in addition from the Knights of St John their 'orchard and twelve gardens' extending southwards to the Thames, and thus added temporarily to the property what became afterwards the site of Bridewell Palace. (fn. 15) Empson sublet St Bride's parsonage, in 1509, to his sonin-law, Thomas Lucy of Charlecot, Warwickshire, but after the former's trial in the same year, Henry VIII granted the remainder of the lease to Wolsey, including the Hospitallers' garden, (fn. 16) possession of which the King resumed in 1515.

At the dissolution of the monasteries the Dean and Chapter of Westminster succeeded the Abbot and Convent as patrons of St Bride's, and in the Valor Ecclesiasticus the vicarage is entered as worth £16. (fn. 17)

The Parsonage House continued to be leased separately from the rectory tithes, and one of the tenants who followed Wolsey was apparently Sir Richard Sackville, since in 1572 Gregory Fiennes, Lord Dacre, paid £8. 13s. 4d. for six and a half years' rent, part of the lease of fourteen years since Sir Richard's death in 1566. (fn. 18) The next tenants were William le Grys (Gryce) and Katherine his wife, who rented it in 1572 at £4 a year. (fn. 19) They were followed by Edward Savage (1597) (fn. 20) and Lionel Wright of Walthamstow, son of Richard Wright, citizen and merchant taylor (1618). (fn. 21) Lionel Wright assigned the lease in 1623 to Sir William Russell, (fn. 22) but acquired a new lease in 1632 for forty years at a rent of £5. (fn. 23) He is called therein Lionel Wright of Harewood, Co. Surrey, and in 1638 the remainder of the same lease was transferred to Baldwin Hamey, (fn. 24) M.D., the younger, who died in 1676 and was buried at Chelsea Old Church. The house was burned in the Great Fire of 1666, and the site seems to have been acquired by the parish which erected a number of small tenements known as Parson's Rents. There were fifteen of these dwellings approached from Bride Lane by two passages leading from a small courtyard. In 1877 their only inhabitant was a bell-hanger named George Banks. On part of the site stands the present vicarage, which was erected in 1885, the ground and building being paid for by funds collected by the vicar the Revd E. C. Hawkins. In 1891 the rest of the site, purchased from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for £11,300, was cleared for building St Bride's Institute, the foundation stone of which was laid in 1893.

The leases of the rectory tithes and other profits, apart from the Parsonage House, begin in 1558 when John Feckenham, the restored Abbot, granted them to Anne, widow of William Pamplion, for a term of twelve years at £40 per annum. (fn. 25) In 1562 the Dean and Chapter leased them to Richard Humbell, salter, and Robert Brickett for seventy years, (fn. 26) and this lease was replaced in 1572 by a new one for the same term to Roland Humbell, salter of Bread Street, and Robert, son of the late Thomas Brickett. (fn. 27) In 1583 the lease was transferred to William Wilkes, merchant taylor of Bread Street, (fn. 28) and the next year to John Stone, haberdasher. (fn. 29) At the beginning of the seventeenth century it appears that the parish itself acquired the lease and held it by trustees, for in 1608 we find four citizens, Thomas Lownes, haberdasher, John Pollard, imbroiderer, Nicholas Stone, haberdasher, and Edward Trussell, clothworker, entering bonds of 100 marks each 'to prevent them from selling the parsonage of St Bridgett unless with a majority of the parishioners consenting thereto at a general vestry of the parish and binding them to pay the tithes and duties as the said parsonage was leased to them for 33 years at a rent of £40'. (fn. 30) In 1645 a new lease was granted to John Allanson, citizen and saddler, and eleven other parishioners for twenty-one years (fn. 31) which expired in the year of the Great Fire, and was held by the vicar, Henry Dove, his churchwardens, John Goodes and Robert Hiscock and others in 1682. (fn. 32) On 28 April 1652, a vestry minute directs that 'Mr Webb the churchwarden doe pay Mr John Squibb the Receiver General such old rent as is due for the Parsonage Lease until 1649, deducting 16li a year that is allowed backe againe towards the Viccar as hath been accustomed'. (fn. 33) Before the end of the seventeenth century the parish allowed the lease of the tithe to lapse, and in 1703 the Dean and Chapter of Westminster granted a lease to Thomas Townley for a fine of £600 and a yearly rent of £113. 6s. 8d. His attempt to collect the tithe at the rate authorised by the Statute of Henry VIII caused a long controversy in the parish which was ended only by an Act of Parliament of 1706. (fn. 34) The last lease granted by the Dean and Chapter was at Christmas 1865 to Captain Richardson. At his death the rectorial tithes were sold by auction (13 August 1869) and realised £2700. (fn. 35)


  • 1. B. M. Cott. MS. Nero VI, fo. 52— part of Reg. St John of Jerusalem (printed B. A. Lees, Records of the Templars in England (Camden Ser. Vol. ix (1935), 167–8)).
  • 2. B. M. Cott. MS. Faustina, A iii, fo. 233d.
  • 3. Westr. Abbey muniments, Lib. Niger, cxli, cxliii (2).
  • 4. Sarum Charters and Documents (R. S., 1891), 45.
  • 5. Ibid. 71–2.
  • 6. B. M. Add. MSS., 15664, fo. 149.
  • 7. Westr. Abbey muniments, Westr. Domesday, fo. 473; cf. the 1206 deed in Sarum Charters, 71–2, op. cit.
  • 8. Taxatio Eccles, P. Nicholai IV (Record Comm. 1802), 19a, 13a, 12b, 10a, 9a, 9b.
  • 9. Westr. Abbey Doc. No. 13597.
  • 10. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1377–81, 487.
  • 11. Westr. Abbey Doc. No. 13597.
  • 12. Ibid. No. 13599.
  • 13. John Stow, A Summarie of Englyshe Chronicles (1565), p. 204.
  • 14. Westr. Abbey Doc. No. 13602.
  • 15. B. M. Cott. MS. Claudius E vi, fo. 50.
  • 16. L. & P. Hy VIII, Vol. 1, pt. 1, No. 218 (13), formerly 555; Rot. Pat. 1 Hy VIII, pt. ii, m. 10 (printed Ryman, Foedera, 269); L. P. Hy VIII, Vol. 1, pt. 1, 357 (43), formerly 837.
  • 17. Valor Ecclesiasticus, Record Comm. I (1810), 419b.
  • 18. Westr. Abbey Doc. No. 39150.
  • 19. Ibid. No. 36809.
  • 20. Ibid. No. 13628.
  • 21. Ibid. No. 13654.
  • 22. Ibid. No. 13655.
  • 23. Ibid. No. 13663.
  • 24. Ibid. No. 13664.
  • 25. Ibid. No. 13604.
  • 26. Ibid. No. 36781.
  • 27. Ibid. No. 13605.
  • 28. Ibid. No. 36555.
  • 29. Ibid. No. 36964.
  • 30. Ibid. Nos. 36386–9.
  • 31. Ibid. No. 13658.
  • 32. Ibid. No. 13670.
  • 33. St Bride's Church, Vestry Minutes.
  • 34. Lambeth Palace MS. 640, fos. 693– 749 cited by T. C. Noble in Memorials of Temple Bar (1870), 87–8.
  • 35. Ibid. p. 88.