A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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44. THE COLLEGE OF PLESHEY (fn. 1)
Richard II granted licence (fn. 2) on 25 January, 1394, for Thomas, duke of Gloucester, to found in the parish church of Pleshey a college of nine chaplains, of whom one was to be master and warden, two clerks and two choristers. On 3 February he granted licence (fn. 3) for the duke and Eleanor his wife to endow them with parcels of six and nine acres of land in Pleshey and the advowson of the church there, and the reversion of the manors of Bockingfold and Whitstable and the advowson of the church of Whitstable in Kent and the manor of Welles in Hertfordshire on the death of Maud, countess of Oxford. The churches were to be appropriated to the college. The duke proposed to build the habitation of the college within the six acres of land, and he had licence accordingly to transfer the church thither and re-dedicate it with a quantity of land round it for a cemetery. Licence was also granted at the same time for the archbishop of York and others to grant the manor of Barnston to the college.
Thomas Albyn, parson of the church, and the parishioners gave their consent (fn. 4) to the removal on 2 February, 1394; and Albyn formally resigned the church on 25 July. The foundation of the college took place within a short time of the royal licence, John Kirketon being appointed as the first master on 8 February. It was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The duke on 6 March granted (fn. 5) to the college a yearly rent from the manor of Hadeston in Norfolk for 60 years or until they should get the three manors granted to them in reversion; and he granted the land and the advowson of the church of Pleshey and the reversion of the manor of Welles to them by fines in Easter term, 1394.
The founder on 20 February, 1395, ordained statutes (fn. 6) of twenty-seven articles, which were confirmed by the bishop and the dean and chapter of St. Paul's on 23 February, and assented to by Paul Kirketon, master and warden, and the college on 22 August. The master was to be presented by the founder and his heirs and to take an oath on admission, and he was to appoint the eight prebendaries. One of these was to be sacrist, and one of the clerks under-sacrist. On the death or resignation of the master the other priests were to write to the patron for licence to elect, and on obtaining this to present to him three persons, of whom he should appoint one as master. The master and each of the priests were to receive 2s. weekly for their commons, each of the clerks 18d. and each of the choristers 8d.; and besides this the master was to have £20 yearly, the sacrist 100s., each of the other priests 60s., under-sacrist 40s., the other clerk 20s. and each chorister 10s. Detailed regulations were given for the religious services, the auditing of the funds of the college and the management of the hall and dormitory. The master was to have the cure of the souls of the parishioners, but neither he nor the other chaplains were to have any benefice, lands or tenements. Leave of absence for forty days in each year was allowed to the master and thirty days to each priest, but with restrictions. A general chapter was to be held on the morrow of the octave of Easter and the morrow of Michaelmas in each year. No corrody was to be granted. The clothing of the college was prescribed. Certain anniversaries were to be kept for the founder and others, and certain festivals specially observed. The bishop was to visit the college, but only once in every three years unless at the special request of the patron.
The duke and duchess had licence from the king on 6 July, 1396, to augment the number of chaplains and make other alterations as they might please; and a request to a similar effect was made to Pope Boniface IX, who, on 24 February, 1396, ordered the abbots at Westminster and Waltham to inquire into the matter. (fn. 7) The duke died before the alterations were completed, and on complaint by the college of the insufficiency of their revenues and the severity of the statutes Pope Martin V on 11 May, 1421, gave power to the bishop to examine into the case and make any necessary corrections. Nothing was done from this; but after another petition Bishop Robert Gilbert by authority from Pope Eugenius IV made an ordinance (fn. 8) on 6 July, 1441. It was found that the duke endowed the college with £104 3s. 4d. yearly and purposed to add 24 marks yearly, which was never done; and the revenues were not sufficient to support a master and eight fellows and were then scarcely sufficient for the support of a master and four fellows with servants and other burdens. The maintenance of these would amount to £100 10s. 9d. yearly; and the bishop declared that the present master was not bound to the first foundation and was to use his discretion as to the manner of celebrating several masses, etc. The bishop concluded by reserving power to himself and his successors to interpret and alter the statutes as often as they should see occasion.
The manor of South Fambridge was granted to the college by the duke and duchess on 27 July, 1396, the royal licence (fn. 9) having been obtained on 6 July. Other persons also contributed to the prosperity of the college; John Batteson was received (fn. 10) as a benefactor into its privileges on 26 June, 1408.
Henry IV issued a mandate (fn. 11) on 20 February, 1400, to the master to receive the head of John, earl of Huntingdon, from anyone whom his wife Elizabeth might appoint, and to bury it with the body.
On the death of the founders the advowson of the college descended to their daughter Anne, and from her to her descendants the Staffords, dukes of Buckingham. Her son Humphrey, duke of Buckingham, who died in 1460, willed that the college should be augmented by three priests and six poor men, its possessions increased with lands to the amount of 100 marks yearly and a chapel built on the north side of the church, in which mass was to be said daily. This does not seem to have taken full effect, but on 25 November, 1467, licence (fn. 12) was granted for his wife Anne, duchess of Buckingham, executrix of his will, and her second husband Walter, Lord Mountjoy, to grant lands to the college to the amount of 40 marks yearly. The church of Whitstable was appropriated (fn. 13) in 1477. Richard III on 30 January, 1485, granted (fn. 14) to the college the reversion of the manor of Stafford Barningham in Norfolk.
On 23 January, 1468, the bishop found it necessary to remind (fn. 15) the master that the statutes forbade the admission of any person holding a benefice as a fellow of the college.
Henry VIII on 25 August, 1527, granted to Christopher Johnson, then master, that the singing boys should not be removed from the college, where divine service was well kept. (fn. 16)
Thomas, archbishop of Canterbury, gave notice (fn. 17) to the college on 12 May, 1534, of intended visitation on 6 July. It is probably more than a coincidence that on this latter date the oath of supremacy was taken (fn. 18) by Thomas Walter, master, James Payne, secondary, Nicholas Daly, John Wyllmy, William Wodereve, Gervase Lynche, Robert Huntley and Henry Rull, chantry priest.
At the time of the Valor the net yearly value of the college was £139 3s. 10d.; from which the master reeceived £25 4s. for his stipend, the secondary £10 4s. and each of the remaining five fellows £8 4s., so that the remaining common income was £62 15s. 10d. In the Chantry Certificates it is described (fn. 19) as 'foundid to find a master and eight priests, two clerks and two queresters for ever by licence of Kyng Richard the Seconde wherof ther is at this daye but a master and five priests, two clerks and two queresters'; and said to be the parish church of the town of Pleshey and worth £146 16s. 3d. yearly, with deductions of £8 for the wages of the curate of Whitstable, £1 4s. 7d. for rents, £13 18s. 0¾d. for the tenth, 2s. 6d. for procural and sinodals, 10s. for a pension to the vicar of Much Waltham, £1 3s. 5d. for certain obits, and £8 for fees, so that the net value was £114 17s. 8¼d. The king on 29 October, 1546, gave authority to Thomas Josselyn and others to receive the surrender of the college; and on 31 December in the same year he granted it to John Gate. (fn. 20)
Masters of Pleshey
John Burton. (fn. 25)
William Stracey, died 1525. (fn. 34)
Thomas Walker, appointed 1533, (fn. 37) the last master.
The seal of the college attached to the acknowledgement of supremacy (fn. 38) is a pointed oval of red wax measuring 25/8 in. by 1½ in. It represents the duke and duchess of Gloucester, the founders, kneeling and holding between them a model of a church in a carved niche with canopy; and in the upper part the Trinity in a small canopied niche between two small side turrets each containing an angel. In the base are two shields of arms, on the left those of the duke, and on the right those of the duchess impaled with the same. Legend:
Another seal attached to the statutes, (fn. 39) measuring nearly three inches across, represents God the Father seated in a niche with triple canopy with hands uplifted in benediction. Above are five saints in niches, and in the base under a depressed arch are a body of secular priests in prayer. The details of the sides consist of carved penthouses containing the emblems of the four evangelists. On one side on a tree is a shield of arms of the duke of Gloucester and in the lower part of the penthouse under a carved roundheaded arch the duke kneeling in prayer, and on the other side the duchess and her arms similarly. Outside on each side on a mount is a swan, the badge of the duke. Legend:—