A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1954.
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31. THE COLLEGE OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF ST. MARY IN THE NEWARKE, LEICESTER (fn. 1)
In April 1330, Henry, Earl of Lancaster, obtained a royal licence to establish a hospital at Leicester, and in the following January the earl by letters patent founded the hospital in honour of the Annunciation of St. Mary, for a warden, four chaplains, fifty poor and infirm folk, and five women attendants. (fn. 2) The building of the hospital seems to have been begun in 1330. (fn. 3) The founder's regulations of January 1331 provided that the warden and chaplains, though secular clerks, were to lead a common life, and to wear a habit marked with a white crescent and star. The warden was to be elected by the chaplains, and then presented by the patron to the bishop. Of the fifty poor folk, twenty were to be permanent inmates of the hospital, living in a house beside the hospital's church, while the remaining thirty, who were to be admitted temporarily, were to be housed on beds in the body of the church. (fn. 4) In 1334 the hospital obtained papal licence for the celebration of all the sacraments in its chapel, and for the burial of those attached to the house in its cemetery. (fn. 5) The original endowment consisted of the site of the hospital, 4 carucates at Leicester, and the advowson of Irchester (Northants.), with certain common rights in the founder's woods around Leicester. (fn. 6) In 1331 Earl Henry added the advowson of Duffield (Derbys.) to the hospital's possessions. (fn. 7) The rectories of Irchester and Duffield were both appropriated to the hospital when they fell vacant. (fn. 8)
After the death of Henry of Lancaster the patronage of the hospital passed to his son Henry, created Duke of Lancaster in 1351, who munificently enlarged his father's foundation. In 1353 the duke obtained the Pope's permission for the transformation of the hospital into a college with a dean and canons. (fn. 9) In 1354 the duke provided that there should be in the enlarged foundation a dean, 12 canons, 13 vicars, 3 other clerks, a verger, 100 poor folk, and I o women attendants to care for the poor, (fn. 10) but it was not until the following year that the endowment was increased by the grant of the manors of Inglesham (Wilts.), Wollaston (Northants.), Kempsfprd (Gloucs.), Chedworth (Gloucs.), and Hannington (Wilts.), with the advowsons of Edmonthorpe (Leics.), Wymondham (Leics.), Higham Ferrers (Northants.), Raunds (Northants.), and Hannington (Wilts.). The college was authorized to appropriate the churches. (fn. 11) The churches of Llandyfaelog and Pembrey in Carmarthenshire were added to the college's possessions in 1356, in exchange for the advowsons of Edmonthorpe and Wymondham, which were restored to the Duke of Lancaster. (fn. 12) The college's regulations, as drawn up by Duke Henry and revised by Bishop Gynewell, (fn. 13) provided that the dean, canons, and vicars should all be priests; the poor folk were all to live together in one house, containing a chapel where masses were to be said daily for the poor; when the office of dean fell vacant, the canons were to nominate two persons to the duke, to his lieutenant if he should be. abroad, or to the duke's heirs after his death, and one of the two was to be chosen for presentation to the bishop; new canons were to be chosen by the duke or his heirs, and presented to the bishop for institution; the dean, canon, and vicars were to be allowed to be absent for up to two months every year, provided that no more than three canons and three vicars were absent at any one time; the canons and vicars were not to celebrate yearly masses or trentals for the souls of deceased persons, but were to rest content with their stipends; the dean and canons were each to have a separate house, and each vicar was to dwell in the house of one of the canons.
As established by Duke Henry the college was adequately endowed, and the regulations carefully provided for the maintenance of the morals of its clergy and the due celebration of the divine offices. (fn. 14) Duke Henry died in 1361, but John of Gaunt, who after a short interval succeeded to the Duchy of Lancaster, proved to be a generous patron of the college. In 1363 a licence was obtained for the alienation to the college.by John and his wife of the church of Llanelly, in Carmarthenshire. (fn. 15) The building of the college church continued, and in 1374 John of Gaunt granted 100 marks yearly, payable from the honour of Tutbury, to pay for its completion. (fn. 16) It was, however, not finished until after 1414. (fn. 17) By his will John provided for the establishment of a chantry with two chaplains in the college church, (fn. 18) though it was not until 1410 that the chantry was endowed by the grant to the college of the Warwickshire manors of Draycote and Bourton. (fn. 19) At about the same period other chantries were founded in the college church: (fn. 20) in 1401 a licence was issued for the foundation of a chantry, endowed with the advowson of Arnold (Notts.), for the soul of John Elvet; (fn. 21) in 1406 Mary Hervey gave to the college two manors at Southrop (Gloucs.), for the establishment of a chantry for the souls of her husband, William Hervey, of Alexander Dalby, and of herself after her death; (fn. 22) and Thomas, Duke of Clarence, provided in his will for the establishment of a chantry in the collegiate church, though his wishes do not seem to have been carried out. (fn. 23) Other important additions to the college's possessions were the manor and advowson of Cransley (Northants.), granted by Simon Symeon in 1380, (fn. 24) the advowson of Preston in Amounderness (Lanes.), granted by Henry IV in 1400, (fn. 25) and the advowson of Bradford (Yorks.), granted by Henry V in 1416. (fn. 26)
Despite these rich endowments and the detailed system of rules, the internal affairs of the college were in a very unsatisfactory state by 1440, when Bishop Alnwick visited the house. (fn. 27) Several canons were accused of immorality, (fn. 28) and one was deprived of his prebend for unnatural vice. (fn. 29) The poor folk of the college complained that a plot of land originally assigned to them as a garden had been used as a site for a stable, and that certain payments due to them had been selfishly withheld by the canons, (fn. 30) while on the other hand it was said that sick people who had been received into the almshouse remained there after their recovery, and worked for gain. (fn. 31) There were also complaints regarding the celebration of the divine offices in the collegiate church. (fn. 32) Though there were some complaints about the handling of business affairs by the provost, (fn. 33) to whom the management of the college's goods was entrusted, there is no indication that the college was in serious pecuniary difficulties.
For a considerable period after the visitation of 1440 there is little evidence about the internal state of the college. The deans, during the later 15th century, were mostly men who held important preferments outside Leicester. (fn. 34) The provision that the dean should be chosen from amongst the canons (fn. 35) was at first evaded by the practice of admitting the persons selected as deans to canonries for a qualifying period of a few days, before their advancement to the deanery. (fn. 36) Later, from 1485 onwards, the deans seem to have been chosen merely at the will of the Crown as patron, without election, and usually without having previously obtained a canonry in the college. (fn. 37) Under Edward IV, the college was fortunate in gaining the friendship of William, Lord Hastings, who bestowed on it the Hospital of St. Leonard, at Leicester, in return for an annuity of £20 for life, and for the keeping of the obits of himself arid of his wife Katherine after his death. (fn. 38) Hastings also obtained St. John's Hospital, at Leicester, for the college. (fn. 39) In 1491 the college was provided with new statutes issued by John Russell, Bishop of Lincoln, one of a commission appointed by the Pope in 1488 with powers to revise and add to the rules of the house. (fn. 40) Some minor relaxations were allowed by the new regulations. The number of months yearly during which the dean and canons were allowed to be absent from the college was increased from two to three and, in addition, the dean was allowed to be absent for a further two months, for recreation, and every canon beneficed elsewhere for a further month. Vicars were still allowed only two months' leave of absence yearly. (fn. 41) The rule which forbade canons and vicars, while in residence, to sleep outside the college was also to some extent relaxed. (fn. 42) In 1513 William Wigston founded a chantry in the college church. Wigston paid 100 marks to the college, and gave it the manor of Chester-by-theWater (Northants.); in return the college agreed to pay the two chaplains of the chantry a yearly stipend of £7 each, and to celebrate Wigston's obit annually. (fn. 43)
The record of the episcopal visitation of the college in 1518 reveals no such serious faults as had come to light in 1440, but does show that in some ways the state of the college was not good. It was reported that the canons and vicars did not attend the divine offices as they should, that the canons frequented taverns, and that women were received into the college without licence. (fn. 44) The canons complained of the arbitrary conduct of the dean, George Grey. (fn. 45) No serious delinquency was revealed, and there is no evidence that the college's finances were in an unsatisfactory state. A more detailed account of the college's affairs is provided by a visitation of 1525, carried out by Bishop Longland. (fn. 46) It is evident from the record of the visitation that there had been constant friction between the dean and Lady Hungerford, who with her second husband was living within the college precincts, and various scuffles had taken place in the college between the servants of the two parties. The dean was evidently also on bad terms with some of the canons. The visitation gives little evidence of any immorality in the college, though one of the canons was accused of incontinence. The bishop's injunctions suggest that in 1525 the college's finances were not altogether sound. (fn. 47) As in 1518, there were complaints about the irregular attendance of canons and vicars in choir, while, as in 1440, it was stated that people were allowed to remain in the almshouse after they had recovered from their sickness. It was further revealed that many of the poor had been admitted through bribery. The bishop in his injunctions endeavoured to remedy the faults revealed in the visitation, and especially to establish good relations between the dean and canons. (fn. 48) His efforts were apparently successful, for when the college was visited in 1528 by the chancellor of the diocese the dean and canons seem to have been on good terms. (fn. 49) No serious faults were disclosed in 1528, though complaints were made about the vicars' lax attendance in choir, and one of the canons was continually absent from the college. (fn. 50)
The college for some time survived the great religious changes of the 16th century. In 1534 the dean and thirty of the college clergy acknowledged the royal supremacy over the Church, (fn. 51) and Dr. Layton, visiting the college in the following year, reported that it was occupied by honest men, and that there were £300 in the treasury. (fn. 52) There seems at one time to have been a possibility that the college might be changed into a cathedral. (fn. 53) The clear yearly income of the college was assessed in 1535 at £595. 7s. 4d. (fn. 54) In 1544 the college was visited by the bishop's representative; the surviving records of this visitation mention no major faults, though it seems that some of the college clergy were in the habit of frequenting taverns. (fn. 55) In 1545, however, by the first Act for the Dissolution of Chantries the college, and the chantries associated with it, were placed in the king's hands. The certificate drawn up under this Act gives the total yearly income of the college as just over £850. (fn. 56) Henry VIII was apparently unwilling to destroy a religious house so closely connected with his Lancastrian ancestors, (fn. 57) but after his death the college was suppressed under Edward VI's Act for the Dissolution of Chantries, which provided that all chantry foundations should cease to exist at Easter 1548, their property passing to the king. (fn. 58) The dean received a pension of £20 a year, the canons pensions of £10 each, and the vicars and chantry priests pensions of £6 each. (fn. 59)
The College of the Newarke thus ceased to exist in its original form, and the collegiate church was before long demolished. (fn. 60) The subsequent history of the hospital attached to the college cannot be dealt with here.
Wardens Of Tthe Hospital Of The Annunciation Of St. Mary (fn. 61)
Thomas of Burthyngbure, presented 1331, resigned 1332.
John of Horncastre, presented 1332, resigned 1336.
Hugh of Scaldeforde, presented 1336.
John of Eydohe, occurs 1348, died 1349.
William of Knighton, presented 1349.
Deans Of The College Of The Newarke. (fn. 62)
Richard of Hamslape, presented 1356, died
John Porter, presented 1362, died 1369.
Peter of Kellisheye, presented 1369, died 13833. (fn. 63)
Thomas Brightewell, presented 1383, (fn. 64) died 1390.
William Chuseldene, presented 1390, died 1396.
Richard Elvet, presented 1396, died 1431.
William Walesby, presented 1431, resigned 1450.
Richard Andrews, presented 1450.
William Witham, died 1472.
William Dudley, presented 1472, resigned 1476.
William Chauntre, presented 1476, died 1485.
John Morgan, presented 1485, resigned 1496. (fn. 65)
Robert Middleton, presented 1496, died 14991500.
William (fn. 66) Stokedall, presented January 1500, died 1500.
James Whitston, presented November 1500, died 1512-13.
John Yong, presented 1513, resigned 1515.
William Knyght, presented 1515, resigned 1517.
George Grey, presented 1517, resigned 1530.
Robert Bone, presented 1530.
A 14th-century seal (fn. 67) of the college is a vesica, 2¼ by 1⅜ in., showing the Virgin Mary seated on a throne under a canopy, with the infant Jesus on her knee. Both have the right hand raised in the attitude of blessing. All that remains of the legend is:
The large and very beautiful 15th-century seal (fn. 68) of the college represents the Annunciation. The archangel Gabriel is depicted holding a scroll bearing the letters A.M.G., while the Virgin holds a scroll inscribed ECCE AN. DO. Below is a shield bearing the arms of England differenced with a label. The seal is about 2½ by 1½ in. The legend reads: