A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1910.
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19. THE CHANTRIES OR COLLEGE OF NEWARK
Although not styled a college in pre-Reformation documents, the coalition in common life of a large number of chantry priests of the great parish church of St. Mary Magdalen, Newark, is more deserving of the name of college than the much smaller foundations of a like kind in Nottinghamshire, such as those of Ruddington, Sibthorpe, Tuxford, or Clifton. It is therefore thought well to give a brief sketch of these combined chantries under Religious Houses.
One of the earliest of these chantries was that founded in 1330 at the altar of St. Laurence by Maud Saucemer of Newark, for her soul when dead, for her husband William, and for their respective fathers and mothers. A rent of six marks was to be paid out of the monastery of Wellow by Grimsby. The presentation rested with Maud for her life and then with the vicar of Newark, taking counsel with six of the more trusty parishioners, preference being given to the kin of her and her husband. The chantry priest was to work in harmony with the priest of another chantry founded by William Saucemer, her late husband. (fn. 1)
Thomas Sibthorpe, rector of Beckingham, obtained licence in 1349 to assign a messuage in Newark to Robert de Alyngton, Robert Leef, and William de Stokum, chaplains respectively to the perpetual chantries founded for the souls of William Saucemer, of Maud his wife, and of Master William de Glentham, for them and their successors to celebrate divine service for the souls aforesaid, as well as for the souls of Thomas and Isabel Durant. (fn. 2)
Later in the same year (which was that of the Black Death, when many chantries were founded by survivors) confirmation was granted of an indenture of William, Prior of Shelford, and his convent, granting to John de Wodhouse, perpetual chaplain of the altar of Corpus Christi, to celebrate at that altar for Alan Fleming and Alice his wife, their sons and daughters and other persons, and for their souls when dead, a rent of 5 marks to be paid at Newark yearly. (fn. 3)
Another chantry was founded in this church in November 1349 by John Braye, king's yeoman and usher of the exchequer, endowed with 6 marks yearly. (fn. 4)
The chantry priests continued to increase, and somewhat later in the reign of Edward III Alice Fleming (after the death of her husband in 1361, to whose memory a noble brass is still preserved) founded a common mansion house for all the chantry priests, in order 'that they shulde be commensalls and associate togithere within the said mansion as by the licence of Kinge Edwarde the iij dothe appeare.' (fn. 5)
When the Valor of 1534 was drawn up, fifteen of these Newark chantry priests, all celebrating in the great parish church, are named, together with the amount of their respective stipends, which varied from £3 8s. 0¼d. to £5 17s. 8½d. (fn. 6)
Further particulars can be gleaned as to these chantries from the return of the commissioners of Henry VIII in 1545, preparatory to their dissolution.
They make mention of (1) the chantry of St. Nicholas, at St. Nicholas altar; (2) the Durant chantry, at the altar of St. James; (3) the chantry of Maud Saucemer, at the altar of St. Laurence; (4) the chantry of William Saucemer, at the altar of St. Laurence—here the morrow mass was celebrated at four o'clock every morning all the year round; (5) the chantry of William Wansey and others, at St. Katherine's altar; (6) Alan Fleming's chantry, at Corpus Christi altar; (7) Isabel Caldwell's chantry, at the same altar; (8) Robert Caldwell's chantry, at the same altar, for a daily mass of Corpus Christi; (9) the chantry of William Newark, Archdeacon of Huntingdon; (10) the chantry of the Blessed Trinity, at the Holy Trinity altar; (11 and 12) the joint chantries of All Saints and the Nativity of Our Lady, founded in 1367 by Simon Surfleet and other inhabitants, 'in consideration that Newark is a great town and a thorowfare and the vicar and his parish priest were not sufficient to find the cure, to the intent that two chauntry priests should say Mass Mattyns and other divine service and pray for the founder's souls and all Christian souls': (13) Foster's chantry, founded 1452 by John Burton, vicar of Newark, Thomas Foster, priest, and others, at the Trinity altar; (14) a chantry for Edward III and his mother and his queen and for the brethren and sisters of the Trinity Gild, at the Trinity altar; and (15) a chantry founded by John Leeke and others, for a priest to 'continually keep the quire at Mattins, Mass and Evenin song' &c. (fn. 7)
Another report was made on these chantries, immediately prior to their extinction, by the commissioners of Edward VI in 1547. On that occasion the report was expected to include comments on the degree of scholarship possessed by the chantry priests. One of the number was pronounced to be 'honest and lerned,' another 'lerned,' a third 'somewhat lerned,' a fourth 'something lerned', whilst nine were written off as 'unlerned.' (fn. 8)
On their suppression the chantry priests of Newark obtained pensions, varying in accordance with their age and the worth of the chantry, from £6 to £3 10s. (fn. 9)