A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1926.
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2. THE CATHEDRAL PRIORY OF ST. ANDREW, ROCHESTER
Ethelbert, king of Kent, founded the church of St. Andrew the Apostle at Rochester, and granted to it a portion of land called ' Prestefeld,' and all the land on the Medway to the east gate of the city on the south, and other land without the wall of the city on the north; and in 604 Augustine consecrated as the first bishop Justus, who had been sent to England with others in 601 by Pope Gregory, and ordained priests to serve God in the church. (fn. 1)
Beyond the succession of bishops and the records of grants of lands made to Rochester little is known of its history before the Conquest. When Ethelred, king of Mercia, wasted Kent in 676, the city and the cathedral shared in the general disaster, the bishop removing to another church; and ravages of the Danes were frequent for three centuries. On the death or Bishop Siward in 1075 there were only four canons in the church, and many of its possessions had been lost. Archbishop Lanfranc recovered some of these from Odo, bishop of Bayeux, and others in a great assembly at Penenden and granted them back to Rochester, appointing Arnostus, a monk of Bee, as bishop, in 1076. Arnostus only survived for a few months and was succeeded by Gundulf, sacrist of Bee, who ruled for thirty-one years and with Lanfranc practically refounded the cathedral. He rebuilt the church, which was old and ruinous, and in 1080, in place of the five canons whom he found there, introduced twenty-two monks, the number rising to sixty at his death. The Domesday Survey makes no distinction between the possessions of the bishop and of the convent, but a division was made (apparently afterwards) by Gundulf, who granted to the monks a charter to that effect in the time of Henry I. He also built the castle of Rochester at his own expense for William Rufus, receiving in return the manor of Haddenham in Buckinghamshire, which he and Lanfranc granted to the monks. The next few bishops are said to have made many grants of vestments and ornaments, and Bishop Ernulf built a dormitory, chapter-house, and refectory.
Gervase records (fn. 2) that the cathedral church was consecrated by William, archbishop of Canterbury, in the presence of several bishops on 5 May, 1130, the day after the consecration of Canterbury. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions the consecration without the date, and adds that the king was at Rochester on 8 May and that the town was then almost burnt down. (fn. 3) The church and city were actually burnt in 1138 with all the offices of the monks, who were dispersed among various abbeys; and another general conflagration occurred on 11 April, 1177. Rebuilding went on vigorously. Prior Silvester made a refectory, a dormitory, and three windows in the chapter-house towards the east; Prior Ralph de Ros while sacrist, besides other things, covered the church and leaded most of it; and Historiarum (Rolls Set.)); and William de Dene, a notary, wrote a history from 1315 to 1350 (Cott. MS. Faust. B. v., 1-100; Anglia Sacra, i, 356-77). The principal documents relating to its history preserved in the cathedral and elsewhere are printed by Thorpe in Registrum Roffense, and several are given in Dugdale, Mon. i, 154-83. Several books which formerly belonged to the cathedral are now among the Royal MSS. at the British Museum. Prior Elias finished the leading of the church and leaded the part of the cloister towards the dormitory. Prior William de Hoo while sacrist built the choirs, and the first, formal entry into it was made in 1227. The church was dedicated on 5 November, 1240, by the bishops of Rochester and Bangor.
The relation between the cathedrals of Rochester and Canterbury was unique in England. The patronage of Rochester appears to have always pertained to the archbishop and not to the king, and after disputes in the twelfth century John, by a charter (fn. 4) on 22 November, 1214, recognized this and renounced all rights of interference at vacancies of the see. A long dispute between the bishop and archbishop was concluded by an. agreement on 19 July, 1259, that the bishop should have return of writs and amercements and other liberties on his lands, paying a rent of 12 marks yearly to the archbishop as service in return. (fn. 5) The election of the bishop was made by the monks of Rochester, but in the chapter-house of Canterbury, and as far back as 1148, it is said that this was according to old custom. (fn. 6) The bishop elect took an oath on the Gospels of fealty to Christchurch, Canterbury, and the archbishop, and during the vacancy of the see of Canterbury or the absence of the archbishop he was to perform episcopal ministrations in the cathedral of Canterbury when summoned by the chapter. The chapter of Canterbury also claimed that on the death of the bishop his pastoral staff should be brought to the altar of Christchurch by the monks of Rochester, but the latter denied the usage and buried the staff on the death of Walter in 1182. (fn. 7) The question came up again at the election of Gilbert de Glanville and was settled by a compromise, the staff being given to the archbishop, who handed it to the prior of Canterbury. (fn. 8) The monks of Canterbury repeated their claim in 1227, but were defeated on arbitration. At the vacancy in 1235 Richard of Wendover or Wendene, rector of Bromley, was elected, but the archbishop refused confirmation, and the convent was forced to appeal to the pope, to whom they sent three sets of envoys before the case was decided in their favour in 1238.
Bishop John of Seez took advantage of the dispersal of the monks by the conflagration of 1138 to grant away some of their churches, but on their return they complained to Rome, and after litigation Ascelin, the next bishop, was made to restore some of them, granting back the church of Southfleet for his anniversary. There seem to have been frequent quarrels between the bishops and convent in these times, and the annalist says of Ascelin that the evil which he did remained, but not the good, noting especially his presumption in granting offices and serjeanties in the church. The papal legate interfered with success on behalf of the monks, but the. matter was not finally settled until 1250, when Innocent IV ordered, that the bishop should be content with the same right of appointment of keepers of manors and serjeants for offices of the church which the archbishop had in the church of Canterbury. (fn. 9) The chief abuse of the monks was, however, reserved for Bishop Gilbert de Glanville (1184-1214), epigrammatically described as inter fundatores confundator, who is said to have broken the great chest of the monks, carried off the great seal and several charters, and seized some churches and the exenium or offering of St. Andrew, besides inflicting the crowning injury of the foundation of the hospital of Strpod, until at last the monks were forced to sell silver and other goods to maintain their struggle against him. Bishops Walter de Merton and John Bradfield are not favourably spoken of, and Thomas Ingaldsthorpe is said to have renewed the old disputes with the monks, but to have been checked by the archbishop.
In 1201 a Scot named William of Perth was murdered outside the city and buried in the church; and in 1256 he was canonized, many offerings being made at his tomb and many miracles reported. Pope. Boniface IX in 1398 granted indulgence to penitents visiting his altar at certain times. (fn. 10)
King John besieged and captured the castle of Rochester after Michaelmas in 1215, and in the disturbances the cathedral was plundered so thoroughly that not even the host was left on the altar. Rochester suffered again in the civil war in 1264, and once more the cathedral was robbed of gold and silver and other precious things, many charters were lost or torn, some of the monks were imprisoned, and horsemen rode round the altars and stabled their horses in the cathedral.
Archbishop Boniface made a visitation of Rochester with great pomp in 1250, and extorted from the house more than 30 marks; and another visitation by him is recorded in 1253. (fn. 11) Bishop Laurence made a strict inquiry into the claims of the monks to their manors and privileges in 1252, and the prior was struck dumb when trying to reply to him and died before evening.
Archbishop Peckham made a visitation of the cathedral by metropolitical authority in 1283, and sent injunctions in consequence in a letter to the bishop on 24 October. (fn. 12) The prior was accused of wasting the goods of the house and had no satisfactory answer to give; he was suspected of having interfered in an unlawful and simoniacal manner in the election of the last bishop; and he and others were believed to have laid up a secret hoard for themselves. The archbishop directed the bishop to inquire more fully into these three points and correct them, and he also removed the prior from office and ordered that three treasurers should be chosen by the chapter. A further point noticed was that the people- of the city had no parish church except the cathedral, from which they were debarred at night by the closing of the gates of the priory; and he ordered that either they should have access to it at all times, or a parish church, which had formerly been begun within the precincts of the monastery and had afterwards been destroyed, should be built again.
Reference is here made to the fact that the people of the parish of St. Nicholas had no church of their own, but heard mass at the altar of St. Nicholas in the cathedral, to which the chapel of St. Margaret was dependent. The patronage of this had been given to the monks by Bishop Gundulf, but after some uncertainty and dispute was resigned by them to Bishop Glanville. (fn. 13) The orders of the archbishop appear to have been neglected, although in 1312 an agreement was made with the people about the altar and services in the cathedral (fn. 14); and it was not until 1418 that Bishop Young ordered the building of the -church to be proceeded with. (fn. 15) Even then little was done till Archbishop Chicheley interfered and brought about a fresh agreement in 1422 (fn. 16); but at last in 1423 the new church was consecrated and the parishioners resigned their rights in the cathedral. (fn. 17)
Archbishop Winchelsey issued long injunctions, many of which were practically repetitions of Peckham's, after a visitation in 1299. (fn. 18) There was to be no absence from service and no eating with nuns, the gates were to be closed at the right times, proper care was to be taken of the possessions, and full accounts were to be given.
Stephen le Dane, constable of Rochester Castle, in 1304 incited the citizens to claim tallage from the close of Prestfelde, which had always been considered as a spirituality; but the monks carried the case before the barons of the Exchequer arid secured exemption.
William Dene's history deals almost entirely with the doings of Hamo de Hethe as prior and bishop. He was appointed prior by the bishop at the nomination of the brethren in May, 1314, but a rival faction appealed to the archbishop, who ordered three commissioners to make a visitation of the cathedral, and it was asserted before these that only five had nominated Hamo, while twenty had nominated another. Hamo, however, retained his position in spite of the efforts of the visitors, and Dene says that he did much for the house, which he found in a state of poverty and dissension. When the bishopric fell vacant in 1317 he was elected to it by twenty-six votes out of thirty-five, but the pope had made a provision to John de Puteolis, confessor of the queen, and a long argument followed, in which Dene acted as one of the proctors of the bishop, before he was finally consecrated and enthroned in 1319. (fn. 19) His expenses appear to have been very heavy, and in addition he had a dispute with the archbishop about the revenues of the see during the vacancy. During his episcopate he made many repairs and buildings at his manors and at the cathedral, and gave large sums for this purpose to the monks; but they do not seem to have relished his masterful manner, and in 1329 made several complaints against him to the archbishop, while in 1336 a monk preached an insulting sermon before him on the subject of visitation, to which, according to Dene, who always took his part, he made an effective reply. In 1344 he founded a chantry in the cathedral. (fn. 20) In 1349, weakened by old age and financial troubles, he wished to resign the bishopric in favour of John Sheppey, the prior, with whom he had always been oh friendly terms, but actually held it until, his death in 1352. John Sheppey then succeeded, but he had previously resigned the priorship. On his representation that during his sixteen years of office he had freed the priory from burdens laid on it by his predecessors, built the refectory, hospice and vestibule, repaired the dormitory, infirmary arid cellarsj added to the lands and rents of the church, and inclosed the whole with a strong wall, (fn. 21) the pope in 1350 granted licence for him to resign with a yearly pension of £40 and several other privileges; (fn. 22) and the pension was confirmed to him by the king in 1351. (fn. 23)
The grants of lands and liberties to the cathedral are set out in detail in the registers, and general charters of confirmation were obtained from several kings. (fn. 24) Various liberties were proved by the monks before the justices in eyre in 1279, 1293, and 1313; (fn. 25) and in 1295 Edward I granted to them a market on Thursday and a fair on the vigil, the day and the morrow of the Assumption at Haddenham, and free warren on their demesne lands there and at Cuddington (Bucks.) and Frindsbury, Darenth, Southfleet, Wouldham, and Stoke. (fn. 26) At the second of these eyres the liberties of chattels of fugitives and of gallows were allowed to the bishop and not to the monks, and they ascribed this to the influence over the justices of Solomon, ' not of the Bible, but of Rochester,' who had desired the bishopric, but had been rejected by them, and gladly noted his death by poison not long afterwards. Pope Innocent IV in 1245 gave licence for the prior and convent to wear caps in choir, provided that due reverence be observed at the gospel and elevation. (fn. 27) Pope Martin V in 1424 granted an indult to Prior William and his successors to administer or cause to be administered as often as expedient any ecclesiastical sacraments to the members of their household and their servants. (fn. 28)
The priory of Felixstowe or Walton in Suffolk was a cell of Rochester, to which it was granted by Roger Bigod, and was under the jurisdiction of the bishop and prior and not of the ordinary; (fn. 29) but its monks had no claim to be called to the election of the prior. (fn. 30) The manor of Lambeth was granted by the convent in 1195 to Hubert Walter, archbishop of Canterbury, in exchange for the manor and church of Darenth and the chapel of Helles. (fn. 31) The bishop and convent held the advowsons of the churches of Bexley and Stourmouth jointly. Henry I granted the church of Bexley to the prior and it was appropriated to him by authority of Archbishop William and the chapter of Canterbury, but Archbishop Theobald intruded secular clerks to it, and the prior thus lost the church for more than two centuries. Archbishop Simon at last restored it to the convent, confirmation being obtained from the king and pope in 1391, and the convent surrendered their moiety of the church of Stourmouth to the bishop. (fn. 32)
In the Taxation of 1291 the temporalities of the monks were valued at £95 7s. 4d. yearly in the diocese of Rochester, including the manors of Frindsbury, Stoke, Wouldham, Denton, Southfleet and Darenth; £1 18s. 10d. in the diocese of Canterbury; 14s. in London; £34 12s. 4d. in Buckinghamshire; and £2, in Southwark; making a total of £134 12s. 6d. yearly. In the Valor (fn. 33)of 1535 the possessions allotted to the office of treasurer, occupied by Laurence Mereworth, prior, amounted to the yearly value of £455 10s. 3d. gross and £388 13s. 9½d. net, and included the manors and rectories of Haddenham and Cuddington and the rectory of Kingsey in Buckinghamshire, the manor and rectory of Darenth, the manors of Denton, Southfleet, Frindsbury, Wouldham, Stoke and Sharsted, and the rectories of Hartlip and Hoo; those of the office of Walter Boxley, cellarer, to £39 13s. 7¾d. gross and £32 13s. 9¼d. net; those of the office of Antony London, sacrist, to £33 17s. 6d. gross and £24 9s. 10d. net, including the rectory of Sutton with the chapel of Wilmington; those of the office of Thomas Nevylle, chamberlain, to £35 0s. 8d. gross and £33 1s. 2d. net, including the rectory of Allhallows; those of the office of Robert Maydeston, precentor, to £1 11s. 8d. gross and £1 10s. 2d. net; those of the office of John Rye, warden of the chapel of St. Mary, to £1 6s 8¼d.; and those of the office of Robert Rochester, almoner, to £5 0s. 8d. gross and £4 16s. net; the whole net income of the convent being given as £486 11s. 5d.
Bishop John Sheppey founded a chantry of one secular priest at the altar of St. John the Baptist in the cathedral by licence of Edward III, and the prior and chapter bound themselves to its maintenance on 19 October, 1360. The priest was to be appointed by the founder during his life and afterwards by the chancellor of England; his duties were prescribed in detail, and he was not to hold any other ecclesiastical benefice; and he was to receive 16 marks yearly. The prior and chapter also bound themselves to distribute 10 marks yearly on the day of the bishop's obit or anniversary, viz. bread to the value of 13s. 4d. to the poor, 26s. 8d. for a pittance for the monks, 12d. to each monk in the priesthood, and 6d. to every other monk, any residue being applied to the fabric of the church. A curious point was that the chantry priest was to entertain the chancellor with three quarters of oats and the chief justice of the Common Bench and the keeper of the rolls of Chancery with two quarters each on All Saints' Day. (fn. 34)
Sir Robert Bealknap had licence in 1374 to grant to the convent the manor of Sharsted, a moiety of the manor of Lidsing, and land in Chatham and Wouldham at a rent of 22 marks, to find a monk to celebrate divine service daily in the cathedral according to his ordinance, and he afterwards released to them 2 marks of the rent. The remaining 20 marks were afterwards released to them by William Makenade, in consideration of services for himself, his parents and friends. (fn. 35) Thomas earl of Nottingham granted the church of Findon in Sussex, and it was appropriated to them in 1395, they undertaking to celebrate offices for him perpetually at the altar of Sts. Andrew and Ithamar on the east side of the high altar. (fn. 36)
Pope Boniface IX in 1390 granted licence for the early ordination of six monks of the cathedral as deacons and priests, as the number of monks of sufficient age had been much diminished by pestilence and other causes. (fn. 37)
Bishop Wells issued injunctions after a visitation in 1439, the principal points of which were that silence was to be kept, the beds were to be open and uniform, the Benedictine statutes concerning eating were to be observed, the entry of women was to be guarded against, there was to be no mixing with seculars, private property was discouraged, and the administration was to be properly looked after. (fn. 38)
Little is known of the history of the cathedral for some time before the Dissolution. The oath of acknowledgement of the royal supremacy was taken on 10 June, 1534, by Laurence Mereworth, prior, Robert Rochester, sub-prior, and eighteen others (fn. 39); and in 1535 the house was visited by Dr. Lay ton, (fn. 40) though no account of this has been preserved. The prior resigned in 1538, and the bishop wrote afterwards to Cromwell that since then many things had gone amiss with the house and he would like to have him back again. (fn. 41) Some exchanges of land were made in the following year. (fn. 42)
A commission to the archbishop of Canterbury, the chancellor of the Augmentations, the Master of the Rolls and others to receive the surrender of the priory was issued on 20 March, 1540; (fn. 43) and on 8 April pensions were allotted to those monks who were not fully provided for in the new secular establishment. (fn. 44) The original proposal (fn. 45) for this mentioned ten prebendaries besides the dean; but only six were included in the actual foundation by letters patent in June, 1541. (fn. 46) The endowment consisted of a large proportion of the possessions of the priory of Leeds and the hospital of Strood, besides those of the old cathedral. (fn. 47)
Priors of Rochester (fn. 48)
Ordouvin, occurs 1089, resigned
Ernulf, resigned 1096 (fn. 49)
Ralph, resigned 1107 (fn. 50)
Letard (fn. 51)
Brian, occurs 1146
Reginald, occurs 1154
Ernulf (fn. 52)
Silvester, occurs 1178
Richard, resigned 1182 (fn. 53)
Alfred (fn. 54)
Osbern de Scapeya (fn. 55)
Ralph de Ros, (fn. 56) occurs 1199
William, occurs 1222
Richard de Derente, elected 1225
William de Hoo, elected 1239 (fn. 56)
Alexander de Glanville, elected 1242, died 1252
Simon de Clyve, (fn. 56) succeeded 1252, resigned 1262
John de Renham or Rensham, elected 1262, deposed 1283
Thomas de Wouldham, elected 1283, resigned 1291 (fn. 57)
John de Renham, again, died 1294
Thomas de Shelford, succeeded 1294, resigned 1301
John de Greenstreet, elected 1301, resigned 1314
Hamo de Hethe, elected 1314, resigned 1319 (fn. 57)
John de Westerham, appointed 1320, died 1321
John de Speldherst, elected 1321, (fn. 58) resigned 1333
John de Scapeya, succeeded 1333, resigned 1351
Robert de Suthflete, succeeded 1352, (fn. 59) died 1361
John de Hertlepe, elected 1361, (fn. 59) resigned 1380
John de Sheppey, elected 1380, died 1419
William Tunbrygg, elected 1419 (fn. 60)
John Cardone, occurs 1449 (fn. 61)
Richard Pekham, occurs 1467 (fn. 62)
William Wod, occurs 1468, 1475 (fn. 63)
Thomas Bourne, occurs 1480 (fn. 64)
William Bisshop, occurs 1496 (fn. 65)
William Frysell or Fresell, elected 1509, occurs 1519 (fn. 66)
Laurence Mereworth, occurs 1534, (fn. 67) resigned 1538 (fn. 68)
Walter Philips, the last prior (fn. 69)
Deans Of Rochester (fn. 70)
Walter Philips, the last prior, 1540
Edmund Freke, 1570 (fn. 71)
Thomas Willoughby, 1574
John Coldwell, 1581 (fn. 72)
Thomas Blague, 1592
Richard Milbourne, 1611 (fn. 73)
Robert Scott, 1615
Godfrey Goodman, 1621 (fn. 74)
Walter Balconquall, 1625
Henry King, 1639 (fn. 75)
Thomas Turner, 1642
Benjamin Laney, 1660 (fn. 76)
Nathaniel Hardy, 1660
Peter Mews, 1670 (fn. 77)
Thomas Lamplugh, 1673 (fn. 78)
John Castilion, 1676
Henry Ullock, 1689
Samuel Pratt, 1706
Nicholas Claggett, 1724 (fn. 79)
Thomas Herring, 1732 (fn. 80)
William Barnard, 1743 (fn. 81)
John Newcombe, 1744
William Markham, 1765
Benjamin Newcombe, 1767
Thomas Thurlow, 1775
Richard Cust, 1779
Thomas Dampier, 1782
Samuel Horsley, 1793 (fn. 82)
Samuel Gpodenough, 1802 (fn. 83)
William Beaumont Bushby, 1808
Robert Stevens, 1820
Robert Scott, 1870
Samuel Reynolds Hole, 1888
Ernald Lane, 1904
The seal (fn. 84) of the cathedral (twelfth century), measuring 2¼ in., shows St. Andrew seated on a throne of ecclesiastical architecture representing the cathedral, holding in the right hand an orb and cross, in the left an open book. Legend:—
Another seal (fn. 85) (1371) is a pointed oval of red wax representing St. Andrew, with nimbus and saltire cross, and a bishop in two carved and canopied niches. In base a carved string-course and on the corbel a branch of three oak leaves.
Another seal (fn. 86) (1459) is of green wax measuring 2⅝ in.
Obverse.—Our Lord with nimbus, seated, holding a cross in right hand and a book in left hand, the feet resting on a footstool, held up by a man, half-length, in a niche of architectural details, probably intended to represent an elevation of the cathedral from the west. Legend:—