A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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39. THE COLLEGE OF ST. BARTHOLOMEW, TONG
In November 1410 Isabel Pembridge obtained licence to acquire the advowson of Tong from Shrewsbury Abbey and to convert it into a collegiate church. The college was to consist of a warden and four chaplains and its principal function was to intercede for the souls of Isabel and her three former husbands, Sir Thomas Peytevin, Sir John Ludlow, and Sir Fulk Pembridge, the last of whom had died in 1409. Leave was given to endow the college with the advowson of Tong and a messuage there, the advowson of Orlingbury (Northants.), lands in Sharnford (Leics.), and the reversion of the manor of Guilden Morden (Cambs.). Patronage of the college was vested, after Isabel's death, in Sir Fulk's heir Sir Richard Vernon of Haddon. (fn. 1)
The remaining stages in the establishment of the college were quickly completed. The first warden was instituted in March 1411 (fn. 2) and a set of statutes for its government was drawn up in the same month. (fn. 3) In addition to the warden and chaplains the college was to include two clerks and thirteen almspeople. The warden was to be nominated by Isabel during her lifetime and thereafter was to be elected by the chaplains from among their own number and approved by the patron. Chaplains, who were to be appointed by the warden, were to serve a year's probation. One of them was to act as subwarden, sacrist, and precentor and others as steward and parochial chaplain. One of the chaplains or clerks was also to teach the clerks, other servants of the college, and the poor children of Tong and neighbouring villages. The duties of the two clerks, also appointed by the warden, included assistance in divine service and waiting on the chaplains at table. Annual stipends of 10 marks and 4 marks respectively were assigned to the warden and chaplains, but the subwarden, parochial chaplain, steward, and schoolmaster were to receive an additional 6s. 8d. a year. When too old or infirm for service chaplains were not to be removed from the college unless they had adequate private means. Chantry services, which were set out in detail, included annual obits for Isabel, her parents, and her former husbands. As in other such colleges each chaplain was to have a private chamber and all meals were to be taken in a common hall, where chaplains sat at an upper table and the clerks at a lower. The statutes contained the usual provisions for continual residence but chaplains were allowed a month's holiday a year and the warden might be absent for up to two months a year while on necessary business. Chaplains were required to contribute towards the cost of entertaining their guests and were forbidden to hawk or hunt, or to keep dogs in the college precinct. Poor people were to be admitted to the almshouses at the warden's discretion and each was to receive a pittance of one mark a year. They were bound to hear one or two daily masses and to pray for their benefactors; for those unable to come to church mass was to be said three days a week in the almshouse chapel.
The college endowments were enlarged in 1415 by the addition of the possessions of the dissolved alien priory of Lapley (Staffs.) including the overlordship of Silvington, (fn. 4) and this was reflected in revised statutes issued in 1423. (fn. 5) The stipends of the warden and chaplains were raised to £10 and £5 respectively and aged chaplains with private means were no longer to be displaced. Supervision of the almshouses was now vested in the lord of Tong manor and the wardens of a local religious guild, the Fraternity of All Saints. The warden was to pay £20 a year to the guild wardens, from which each inmate was to receive a weekly pittance of 2s. and an allowance of corn and malt. In the selection of inmates preference was to be given to those from Lapley, Wheaton Aston, and Tong, and to members of the fraternity.
The higher stipends provided in 1423 were not in fact paid, for the chaplains were still being paid at the rates of 1411 in the 1430s (fn. 6) and at the Dissolution. (fn. 7) Steward's accounts for 1437-8 and 1440-1 (fn. 8) indicate the importance of Lapley, the rents and tithes of which accounted for about half the college's total income of some £67 a year, while the original estate produced little more than £11. The college's demesne lands, which were always kept in hand, probably also lay in Lapley and in Wheaton Aston, near Tong, where the warden had a fishpond. At the date of the two accounts the college employed five farm servants and was producing sufficient corn, meat, and dairy produce for its own requirements. Surplus rye was sold in 1438 but the only significant cash crop was wool. In 1438, when the college had a flock of 92 sheep, 30 stones of wool were sold, and 39 stones were sold in 1441. There were then 11 oxen and six horses on the demesne but relatively few cattle and even for these it was necessary to hire keep. The amounts of stock and crops found on the college demesne at the Dissolution were smaller than in the mid 15th century but still adequate for domestic needs. (fn. 9)
In 1448 the college obtained a crown grant of rights of private justice in the lordship of Tong, including return of writs and the privilege of appointing its own justices of the peace. (fn. 10) By 1535 it had acquired a fifth of the manor of Weston under Lizard (Staffs.) and a small property in Wellington. (fn. 11) The college presumably also derived substantial benefits from gifts in money or kind forming the endowment of temporary chantry services. Such bequests were made in 1451 by William Fitzherbert, (fn. 12) who was already lodging at the college in 1437, (fn. 13) and by the warden's brother Fulk Eyton in 1454. (fn. 14) The only other permanent chantry service at Tong was that established by Sir Henry Vernon (d. 1515), who built the chapel of the Salutation of Our Lady to the south of the south aisle to house his tomb and that of his wife. (fn. 15) The chantry's endowments, consisting of lands in and near West Bromwich (Staffs.), (fn. 16) were not amalgamated with those of the college but his chantry priest was required to live in the college and to assist in the routine service of the church. (fn. 17)
There is no later evidence that the Fraternity of All Saints was concerned with the almshouses but in other respects the provisions of 1423 seem to have been followed. By the 1430s, when the tithes of Lapley and rents of Guilden Morden had been appropriated to their upkeep, the almshouses were supervised by a separate almshouse warden (fn. 18) and £20 was still the sum set aside for them annually in 1535. (fn. 19) The detailed instructions given to the new lay owner of the college in 1546 regarding allowances of corn, meat, and fish for the inmates (fn. 20) presumably represented existing practice.
The college, whose endowments were then said to be worth £56 a year, was dissolved together with Vernon's chantry in September 1546. (fn. 21) Both were granted in 1547 to Sir Richard Manners, (fn. 22) who then held the Vernon estates in right of his wife. (fn. 23) Later in the same year Manners sold the college site and Tong rectory to James Wolryche (fn. 24) and in 1548 he sold Lapley manor to Robert Broke. (fn. 25) By 1557 the endowments of Vernon's chantry had been acquired by their lessee Robert Forster. (fn. 26)
The college building, which stood to the south of the church, (fn. 27) was still substantially intact in 1757 (fn. 28) but was said to be in ruins a few years later (fn. 29) and its remains were demolished in the early 19th century. (fn. 30) The almshouses, near the west end of the church, (fn. 31) continued to be maintained by the lords of Tong manor. In 1697 an annuity of £12 was assigned to provide annual doles for the six widows then occupying them. (fn. 32) Provision for a school had been made in the college statutes (fn. 33) and, although none was recorded at the Dissolution, it is likely that this was the ancestor of the school standing near the almshouses, which was said in the early 18th century to have been maintained by the lord of the manor for a long time. (fn. 34) The school and the almshouses, except for one wall, were demolished at the same time as the college ruins and rebuilt on a new site. (fn. 35) A description of the church is reserved for a later volume.
Wardens Or Masters Of Tong College
William Galley, instituted 1411, resigned 1413. (fn. 36)
William Mosse, instituted 1413. (fn. 37)
William Admondeston, instituted 1418, resigned 1423. (fn. 38)
Walter Batell, instituted 1423, resigned 1437. (fn. 39)
Richard Eyton, instituted 1437, died 1479. (fn. 40)
Thomas Hynkley, instituted 1479. (fn. 41)
John Bryken or Bryton, occurs 1491, resigned 1493. (fn. 42)
Thomas Brown, instituted 1493, died 1496. (fn. 43)
John Lygh or Lye, instituted 1496, died 1508. (fn. 44)
Ralph Cantrell, instituted 1508. (fn. 45)
Thomas Forster, resigned 1515. (fn. 46)
Henry Bullock, died 1526. (fn. 47)
Thomas Rawson, instituted 1526, occurs 1535. (fn. 48)