A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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19. THE COLLEGE OF WESTBURY-ON-TRYM
It has been surmised that a monastery was founded at Westbury-on-Trym about 716. (fn. 1) It was most probably a place of residence for a number of priests who lived their life in common, but were not under monastic vows. In 824 the cathedral church of Worcester obtained possession of the church and lands of Westbury. (fn. 2) Nothing is known of the fate of the minster during the Danish invasions, but it is unlikely that it escaped being plundered and burnt. (fn. 3)
Soon after his consecration Oswald, bishop of Worcester (961-992), determined to introduce the strict observance of the Benedictine rule into his diocese. He sent to Fleury for an English monk named Germanus, and appointed him prior of a new foundation at Westbury, which became the centre of the Benedictine revival in Mercia. (fn. 4) On the death of King Edgar there was a revulsion of feeling in favour of the secular priests who had been ousted during the monastic revival; (fn. 5) the monks were expelled from several of the Mercian monasteries, and there is no evidence that they were afterwards reinstated at Westbury. The minster is not even mentioned in the Domesday Survey.
Some years later when Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester, restored the foundation, he said that Oswald's church had afterwards suffered great damage from pirates, and that it was ruinous through the neglect of its rulers. (fn. 6) There was but a single priest, and he seldom said mass. (fn. 7) Wulfstan recovered the church from William the Conqueror, rebuilt it, and making it dependent on the cathedral monastery of Worcester, he placed monks there under the rule of Colman. (fn. 8) He recovered by law some of the former possessions of Westbury, others by purchase, and on 8 September, 1093, he granted a charter confirming the endowment of 2½ hides and a virgate in Westbury, part of a wood called Aescgraf and 12 acres of meadow, 2½ hides and 28 acres of land in Henbury and in Charlton and Wick, the churches of Henbury and Stoke with all tithes, free from all service to king or bishop; 1½ hides in Berwick, 1 virgate in Hazleton only owing service to the king. His successor, Samson (1096-1112) was a canon of Bayeux, and he took Westbury from the monks. (fn. 9) Bishop Simon (1123-51) restored the church of Westbury with its dependent chapels to the prior and convent of Worcester. (fn. 10) It has usually been assumed that afterwards Westbury was merely a parish church until 1288, when Bishop Giffard founded a college of canons against the will of the prior and convent. (fn. 11) However, Giffard's register proves conclusively that from the earliest years of his episcopate a dean and canons were in possession of Westbury, (fn. 12) and, indeed, that his predecessor, Walter de Cantilupe, collated his clerks to the prebends of Westbury. (fn. 13) Giffard's correspondence with his agent at the papal curia in 1286 revealed his object. (fn. 14) He was anxious to be bishop of Westbury as well as of Worcester, that he might have his episcopal throne in a church of secular canons as well as in a Benedictine monastery. He petitioned Honorius IV that there might be granted to him and his successors for ever a prebend in the church of Westbury of the value of ten marks or pounds, and that he might make all churches of his patronage prebendal to Westbury. (fn. 15) The canons of Westbury were anxious that the bishop should be present in choir and chapter, and therefore possess a prebend in their church. (fn. 16) The reply to his request that he might make the churches of his patronage prebendal to Westbury was apparently favourable, for he collated his clerks to new prebends. (fn. 17) The prior and convent of Worcester complained to Nicholas IV, stating that the bishop had constituted the churches of Kempsey, Bredon, Wychendon, Bishop's Cleeve, and Weston-upon-Avon prebendal to Westbury against their wishes, and assigned them to certain clerks and members of his household whom he instituted as new canons of Westbury. (fn. 18) The prior and convent of Worcester had always possessed the right of instituting rectors to those churches during a vacancy of the see, and the bishop's action deprived them of their privilege. Nicholas IV directed that an inquiry should be made, but the judges whom he appointed were unwilling to act. (fn. 19) Although the prior and convent obtained a hearing of the king they gained nothing, (fn. 20) and in 1297 the Court of Arches decided in the bishop's favour. (fn. 21) Thus the result of Giffard's work was an increase in the number of prebendaries at Westbury, and a corresponding provision for them. (fn. 22) As the bishops collated to the deanery and the prebends their patronage was extended, though papal provisions were frequent. (fn. 23) The collegiate church was subject to the regular visitation of the bishops of Worcester (fn. 24) and of the prior of the cathedral monastery during voidances. (fn. 25)
Bishop Carpenter (1444-76) was regarded as a second founder of the college of Westbury, which he dedicated to the Holy Trinity. (fn. 26) He realized the importance of an episcopal seat near the town of Bristol, as strongly as his predecessor Giffard had done, and alone of all the bishops of the see he is said to have adopted the style of bishop of Worcester and Westbury. (fn. 27) In 1447 he began to rebuild the college on a much larger scale, and revised its statutes and ordinances with the object of increasing its sphere of usefulness. (fn. 28) He founded and endowed a chapel in the church to be served by six priests, (fn. 29) built almshouses for six poor men (fn. 30) and six widows, (fn. 31) vesting the right of nomination in the dean and chapter. In 1463 he appropriated the parish church of Clifton to the college, with the proviso that the dean and chapter should find a master to teach grammar to those ministering in the church and any other persons whomsoever who came to him, without any charge, and should give him a residence in the college. (fn. 32) In 1473 he appropriated the parish church of Kempsey and its dependent chapels to Westbury, on the petition of the dean and chapter, showing that their revenues were insufficient. (fn. 33) Edward IV was a generous benefactor. In 1464 he gave the manor of Elmstree in Tetbury, (fn. 34) and in 1465 he granted the custody of the hospital of St. Lawrence, Bristol, in frankalmoigne. (fn. 35) In 1468 he gave the manor and church of Astley in Worcestershire. (fn. 36) From 1469 to 1474 William Canynges, the rich merchant who five times held the office of mayor of Bristol, was dean of Westbury. (fn. 37) In 1476 Bishop Carpenter was buried in the chancel. (fn. 38)
In 1535 (fn. 41) the college consisted of a dean, five prebendaries, a sub-dean, Bishop Carpenter's chaplain, a schoolmaster, eight fellows, four clerks, six aged priests, and twelve choristers. After the disbursements of alms according to the ordinances, the clear yearly value of the property amounted to £232 14s. 0¼d. The possessions of the college included the manors of Westbury, Clifton, Goodringhill, Wormington, Turkdean, Foxcote, Dowdeswell, and Elmstree in Gloucestershire; Astley, Shelve, Monehills, Greveley and Longborough in Worcestershire; Bereford in Warwickshire; Aston Tirrold and North Morton in Berkshire; rents in Bristol, Worcester, and elsewhere, the hospital of St. Lawrence, Bristol, and the rectories of Westbury and Kempsey.
Deans of Westbury-on-Trim (fn. 42)
Nicholas de Gore, occurs 1321 and 1323 (fn. 45)
John Barlow, 1530-44 (fn. 46)
A seal of the fifteenth century represents the Trinity in a canopied niche with elegantly carved side towers, each containing four small niches; on the carving on each side, a shield of arms; left, indistinct; right, paly of six, a chevron for John Carpenter, bishop of Worcester; in base under a depressed round-headed arch, between walls of masonry, the bishop, with mitre and pastoral staff, kneeling in prayer. The legend is:—
SIGILLVM . COMMUNE . COLLEGII . DE . WESTBURI . WIGORNIĒSIS DE . . . . . (fn. 47)