A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1975.
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64. THE COLLEGE OF JESUS, BURY ST. EDMUNDS
A college was founded at Bury in 1480 by John Smyth, esquire, a wealthy burgess, as a residence for certain chantry priests presided over by a warden or master; they were to say divine service in the church of St. Mary and to pray for the souls of the founder, of his wife Anne, his parents John and Avice, and his daughter Rose.
By his will dated 12 September, 1480, John Smyth left 20d. to every priest of the college present 'at myne dirige,' and he further provided that whensoever the college of priests became incorporate and had royal licence to purchase or hold property, then he desired his feoffees of the manor of Hepworth, upon due request to them by the master or president and fellowship (phelaschep) of the same, to deliver the said manor with its appurtenances to them for the sustentation of the said chantry priests; he also made a like provision with regard to his manor of 'Swyftys.' (fn. 1)
Six days after drafting his will, the founder executed a deed conveying the manor of Swifts to trustees, who were to assign all the profits to the master or president of the college of priests 'newe builded within the town of Bury, to be wholly applied to the building and sustention and repair of the college,' reserving, however, to himself for his life a yearly sum of 10 marks. (fn. 2)
The royal licence was obtained in the following year, founding a chantry and perpetual gild of 'the sweet name of Jesus,' consisting of a warden and society of six chaplains or priests, who were to live together in a common man sion, to pray daily for the souls of John Smyth (the deceased) and others, as well as for the brethren and sisters of the gild, and to do other works of piety. (fn. 3)
The college received various small bequests by wills of Bury townsmen. William Honyborn, of Bury, dyer, in 1493, left 12d. 'to the gilde of the holy name of Jesu, holden at the college.' John Coote, by will of 1502, left 3s. 4d. to the gild of St. Nicholas held in the college, and also provided that 'at my thyrty day the priests of the colage to have a dyner among themseffes in the colage, after the discression of myne executors and supervisor.' Edmund Lee of Bury, esquire, in 1535, left 6s. 8d. 'to the company of the Jesus College in Bury, towards their stoke for salte fyshe and lynge.' Thomas Neche, master of the college, was one of the witnesses of this will. (fn. 4)
The messuage called the Colledge wythe vj small tenements in Burye. In feoffamente by oone William Coote clerke to contynnewe for ever to the intente that in the seid Capytall Messuage nowe called the Colledge, all the priestes of the parysshe churches of Seynte Jaymes and Seynte Maryes in Bury should contynually kepe & have their lodgings. And in iiij of the seide small tenementes iiij poore mene should have other dwellynges free for ever. And thother two tenementes to be letten yearly, and with the money that shoulde growe of the farme, the seid vj houses shoulde mayntayne the seid vj houses in reparation. The whiche capytall messuage and ij tenements bene at this daye and at all tymes sythe decayse commytted to thuse aforeseide and noother. And oone Thomas Neche clerke of thage of lxiii yeres having cs. yerely in the name of a pencian owte of the parsonage of Founcham All Seyntes, and hath the parsonage of Trayton of the close yerely valew of vj li, and xls of a prebente in Staffordshyre. A manne beinge indifferently welle learned.'
The college is described as being distant two furlongs from the parish church, and of the annual value of 40s. The goods and household stuff were valued at 77s. 2d., and a bell weighing 20 lb. at 3s. 4d.
Separate entry is made of a chantry endowment of £6 8s. 4d. yearly value, for the master or president of the college to say mass for the soul of William Coote in the parish church of St. Mary's, which was also held by Thomas Neche.
Also of another chantry founded by John Smyth for a chaplain of the college to say mass in St. Mary's Church, of the value of £12. The chantry priest was John Stacye, and the surplus was to be used for the repairs of the college. (fn. 5)