A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.
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45. THE COLLEGE OF ALL SAINTS, NORTHAMPTON
The fifteenth-century college of All Saints is an interesting instance of a union of the priests of an important town church for the better and more economical church work of the parish. The college held property in common, the members lived and boarded together, and owed obedience to their warden; but they had no cloister nor chapter-house like other similar foundations on a larger scale.
The object of the foundation of this union of priests is clearly specified in the licence for its creation on the Patent Rolls of 1460. It is there stated that it was founded of the pious devotion and religious purpose of William Breton, D.D., vicar of All Saints, who had already for a long time lived a common life with other stipendiary priests of the church, to the number of sixteen, the chaplains of the fraternities of the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin, Corpus Christi, St. George, the Rood, St. John Baptist, and St. Katharine, and who desired that this system should be kept up and definitely maintained in the future. 'And because they, the vicar and priests aforesaid, have spent and are spending their lives—especially in the time of the said vicar—away from the society of lay folk, constantly day and night observing (like fellow members of a college) divers statutes, ordinances, and laws, not only in the church, as is fitting, but in a certain messuage or close, commonly called the priests house (le Prestis house), the vicar humbly entreated the crown to establish them as a perpetual college, consisting of a warden and fellows. Thereupon the petition was granted, and it was ordained that the vicar and his successors, and the fraternity chaplains and their successors, should henceforth form a perpetual corporate body, to implead and be impleaded under the title of 'The Wardens and Fellows of the College of All Saints, in the town of Northampton.' They were entitled to acquire augmentation of their funds to the value of 20 marks a year, without any fine or fee, and were empowered to make statutes and ordinances among themselves for celebrating mass, for divine service, for the observance of good morals, and the extirpation of evil, and for the good estate of the king and queen and Prince Edward, and for their souls after death. (fn. 1)
The actual rules and statutes drawn up by this self-denying band of town clergy have not come down to us, but the kind of life they led can be gleaned from some of the pre-Reformation wills cited by Mr. Serjeantson. Thus the vicar of St. Giles, in 1531, left 'to every preste dwelling within the college of all hallows goeing to their comons a crysom to be ther napkyns.' Agnes Tuttam, of All Saints parish, left, in 1517, 'to an honest preste to syng in Saynt James' chapell for a whole yere, he to bord in ye college and kepe dayly servyng as hys bretheren do, viii marks sterlyng.' In 1528 Richard Bott bequeathed 'to the colege a gardyn that William Dixson hathe. I will that they synge a diryge and masse for me every yere. Also I will that the Mayr offer at the masse and take up viijd. of the forsayd gardyn.'
The Valor of 1535 shows that the actual clear annual value of the college (apart from the stipends) in rents and dues was merely 39s. 4d. From the same source we learn that the vicar, who was also the warden, paid the college 16d. for the privilege of having a private entrance. (fn. 2)
The College and Chantry Commissioners of Edward VI. describe this college, 'or prestes house,' as the place for the habitation and boarding of the vicar and priests serving the church, and give its clear annual value of 34s. 10d. (fn. 3)
The attenuated possessions of this college did not save it from confiscation. The site of the college was granted in 1548 to William Ward and Richard Venables, and the fellows' garden in College Lane, and another garden and stable belonging to the college, were sold at the same time to Francis Samwell; they only realised 18s. 4d. In the particulars of sale it is stated 'there is no leadde belonging to the seyd college, but there is one bell which hangeth on the hall to call the Prestes to Dyner praysyd at Vs.' (fn. 4)