A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
58. THE COLLEGE OF HASTINGS (fn. 1)
The College of St. Mary of the Castle of Hastings was founded by Robert, count of Eu, probably about 1090. It is not mentioned in Domesday, when all its subsequent endowments are found in the hands of various tenants, but was presumably in existence in 1094, when Anselm consecrated Robert bishop of Lincoln in the church of St. Mary in the Castle of Hastings. (fn. 2) It was possibly the successor of an earlier collegiate establishment, as in the thirteenth century the canons claimed to be of the foundation of Edward the Confessor, and said that the Conqueror gave 'the castle and chapel with the prebends' to the count of Eu; but 'la livre domus dei' to which they appealed does not support their claim. (fn. 3)
Of the original endowment of the college we derive most of our information from a charter of confirmation granted early in the twelfth century by the founder's grandson Henry, count of Eu. (fn. 4) From this we learn that there were ten prebends; of these, which are here distinguished by the names of their holders, the first was that of Gwymund, to which Count Robert had given the chapels of Wartling, Hooe, and Ninfield, certain tithes of money and salt and a house in the castle and another in the bailey by the bridge. To the prebend of William fitz Allec belonged the churches of Bexhill, afterwards recovered by the bishop of Chichester as appurtenant to his see, and 'Stutinges,' (fn. 5) the chapel of Bulverhythe and land by the 'minster' in that place, (fn. 6) an annual render of 2,000 herrings and other fish dues, tithes at Chiceam (fn. 7) and elsewhere, a house in the bailey and another below it. The prebend of Hugh de Floscis was founded by Walter fitz Lambert who gave the tithes of his own lands and those of his vavassours, and one 'hospes'—or squatter—at Hailsham; Walter reserved to himself and his heirs the right of appointing a canon to this prebend when vacant with the common consent of the chapter; Geoffrey, brother of Hugh de Floscis, gave the church of Guestling and certain tithes, and the count gave a house in the castle. The prebend of Ulbert had only tithes of 'Malrepast' and 'Agintune,' but Count Henry gave a meadow beyond the mill below the castle; that of Eustace was endowed by Reinbert the sheriff with the churches of Salehurst, Mountfield, and Udimore, tithes in Etchingham and elsewhere, the count adding a house in the castle. The prebend of Auscher, or Anscher, possessed the church of West Thurrock (fn. 8) in Essex with land there and at 'Sistaleberga,' (fn. 9) a house in 'Esteham' and another in the castle. To that of Theobald belonged the churches of Peasmarsh, Beckley, Iham, and Iden and the chapel of Playden, with various tithes and a parcel of moor at Rye; to that of Geoffrey de Blangii the chapel of 'Weklintun,' land at 'Cyletona' and 'Horna,' tithes at 'Tyntuna' and other places and a house in the bailey. The prebend of Ralph Taiard was endowed with the church of Ewhurst, the chapels of Wilting, 'Vilesent,' Hollington and Bodiam, and the burial fees of parishioners of Bodiam chapel due to Ewhurst church, various tithes, a house in the castle and a garden outside the bailey. The prebend of Roger Daniel possessed the church of Brightling, the monastery of 'Bochehordea' (fn. 10) and certain lands and tithes. The control of the grammar school was assigned to the prebend of Thurrock and that of the choir school to the prebend of Wartling.
To the common fund of the church for food and clothing were given the church of St. Andrew at Hastings and a yearly rent of four ambers of salt from Rye, as well as certain rights of pasture. For the support of the fabric, lights and ornaments of the church, the count gave the tithes of his rents in the rape of Hastings, and other grants were made by various persons, Godfrey the priest giving the church of St. Sepulchre subject to the confirmation of Boniface, on whose land it was built and to whom the canons agreed to pay an annual rent of two shillings.
From about the beginning of the thirteenth century the prebends seem to have been as follows: Bulverhythe, Brightling, Crowhurst (sometimes with Ticehurst), Hollington (with Ewhurst and Bodiam), Marlepast, Peasmarsh, Stone, Thurrock, and the combined prebend of Wartling, Hooe, and Ninfield which was divided into three separate prebends (fn. 11); finally, there was the prebend of Salehurst, which from 1333 onward was held by the abbot of Robertsbridge. After the free chapel had been granted away from the crown these prebends seem to have gradually diminished in number, and in 1535 the Valor only records those of Hollington, Peasmarsh, Hooe, Wartling, Ninfield, Brightling, and Thurrock. (fn. 12)
John, count of Eu, son of that Henry whose charter of confirmation has already been noticed, in 1151 granted the church of St. Mary in the castle to the abbey of Tréport, so that as the canons died, resigned, or assumed the monastic habit, monks of Tréport should be introduced in their stead. (fn. 13) This grant, however, possibly owing to the confused state of England at this time and the death of Stephen in 1154, was either revoked or at least not taken advantage of—if indeed it was ever really made. (fn. 14) No trace of any claim by the abbey of Tréport is to be found until, in 1470, (fn. 15) apparently taking advantage of the brief restoration to power of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, the abbey petitioned the latter queen, who was then in France, to restore to them the church of St. Mary given, as they asserted, by Count John in 1151. (fn. 16) It would seem that she granted the request, as they appointed five of their number to act as their proctors 'in ruling and governing our church or priory of Hastings dependent upon our said monastery,' with power to receive the vows of those admitted into the priory according to the Benedictine rule, especially the vow of obedience, to correct all faults in the members of the priory and to call back to the cloister any who had left it if such there were. (fn. 17) Edward' IV recovering his throne, this attempt of the abbey to plant a cell at Hastings came to nothing.
The college remained in the patronage of the founder's descendants until 1267, when, on the death of Alice, countess of Eu, it escheated with the castle and rape of Hastings to the crown. (fn. 18) It then became a royal chapel, and so remained until its grant to Sir Thomas Hoo in 1446. It was therefore free and exempt from the jurisdiction of ordinaries, and although the bishops of Chichester on several occasions endeavoured to enforce their rights of visitation, &c. there, they were always unsuccessful.
Although the charter of Henry, count of Eu, was witnessed by 'Hugh the Dean,' it appears doubtful whether there was a dean constantly at the head of the college before the thirteenth century. In the agreement made by Walter fitzLambert for the election of future canons to the prebend of Guestling, the 'common consent of the chapter' only is mentioned, and in a deed of about 1190 (fn. 19) one Brunching, a canon, makes a grant 'by the common counsel and consent of the chapter.' Lyttleton's statement that Becket was dean of this college appears to have arisen from his misunderstanding the fact that the count of Eu gave the patronage of the prebends of Hastings to Becket. (fn. 20) Henry de Ow occurs as dean of St. Mary's in 1195. (fn. 21)
In 1275 the king ordered William of Faversham to visit the chapel and put over it some prudent member of the community in place of the dean. (fn. 22) That this was done is evident from the direction of a royal mandate next year to the vice-dean and chapter ordering them to convert to the support of the chapel and its ornaments the issues of vacant prebends and other things formerly set aside for that purpose. (fn. 23) A letter of 1280 addressed to the constable of Hastings Castle directs him to deliver the houses in the castle to Master Luke de Neuport, canon of the free chapel, to dwell in; (fn. 24) and a royal charter (fn. 25) was issued the following year confirming an undated grant of land made by Vincent the dean and the chapter of the free chapel.
The earliest constitutions of the college give full directions for the performance of divine service. (fn. 26) During the winter, from Michaelmas to Easter, the sacrist should ring for mattins at daybreak—the first bell being rung for the time it takes to go from St. Michael's church to St. Mary's; after a reasonable interval the second bell should ring for half the time of the first, and the third for half that of the second. The full peal (classicum) should be rung according to the dignity of the various festivals, and when it rang all should assemble, the lights should be lit in the church and the priest should begin mattins, all facing the east, as they should do at the beginning of all the hours until the 'Alleluia' after the doxology, when they turn and face one another across the choir. Anyone arriving after the end of the first psalm should lose his commons for that day, and if constantly so offending should be removed from the church. Immediately after mattins a bell shall ring three times for the mass of the Blessed Virgin; the priest shall robe and commence the office, and after the offertory any priests who wish to celebrate private masses may do so provided the priest whose duty it is to say high mass shall remain behind, and on anniversaries another priest to celebrate the mass for the departed. At a suitable hour the prime bell shall ring the time it takes to go a league, then after a short interval the 'little prime' shall ring and all shall come to the service and remain to the end, when they assemble in chapter and any faults shall be corrected. After chapter, mass for the departed shall be said, and then terce, during which the priest and his assistants shall robe for high mass. If any vicars are not in residence their stipends shall be divided amongst the canons and vicars who are. Two of the vicars shall note any vicars absent and read out the list in chapter, and distribute the commons according to the residence kept by the several recipients. Finally the 'proctor or dean' of the church with the advice of his brethren, and especially of those resident, shall order all things in the church to the glory of God and the good of the church.
Additions were made to these rules in 1286, when it was ordained that any minister absent for a fortnight without leave should lose his perquisites for a month, and any in residence absent from morning mass should lose his perquisites for a week. All taking part in any service should wear the customary dress and especially their hoods. Anyone causing strife or contention should be punished by the dean by the withdrawal of his commons. Finally all are strictly forbidden to submit to the jurisdiction of ordinaries to the prejudice of the chapel.
The last of these rules was doubtless due to the determined efforts of the bishops of Chichester about this period to subject the college to their jurisdiction. Some of the canons had had to appeal to the king against the bishop in 1279; and in 1299 orders were given to Robert de Burghersh to ascertain whether the bishop should have the institution and admission of the prebends, (fn. 27) which privilege he again claimed, but unsuccessfully, in 1307. (fn. 28) During the vacancy of the see of Chichester in 1305 the archbishop of Canterbury attempted to hold a visitation in the chapel but was refused admission by the keeper of the castle, whom, with certain of the canons, he excommunicated. Afterwards, while the castle was without a keeper, he sent officials who held a visitation, made divers statutes, and appointed William of Lewes dean, an appointment which the king at once annulled. (fn. 29)
Being exempt from episcopal control the free chapel of Hastings was visited periodically by royal commissioners, and a detailed report of their proceedings in September, 1319, is still extant. (fn. 30) Master Edmund of London, the dean, and five canons were present in person and three canons by proctors. It was then ordained that all repairs to the fabric of the church and the provision of vestments, books, and ornaments should be defrayed from the offerings made in the chapel. Also that the vicars should be fit persons sufficiently skilled in reading and singing, that they should be constant at their duties, not wander about the country, and that they should be of good report; if any of them were thrice found guilty of infringing these rules he should thereby forfeit his place in the church. The sacrist, into whose hands all oblations must come in the first place, should be at once removed if found unfit; also the offerings collected by the proper officers should be kept in safety in locked coffers, and the collectors should swear to collect faithfully and to keep nothing back. At the beginning of each quarter the canons should pay down the full amount due to their vicars for the ensuing quarter, at 2d. a day, and two of the vicars sworn for that purpose should distribute their commons to the vicars every week according to their merits; if by reason of their defaults anything remained over it should be divided between the vicars and canons in residence at the discretion of the dean. Canons in residence should reside six weeks in each quarter, attending at least one mass or one of the hours every day, and should keep up their houses. In future every canon, resident or not, should receive his share of the common revenues by the hands of his vicar to the amount which he formerly paid from his prebend to the vicar, to whose use the said money should remain. Any money left over after paying stipends and other expenses was to be divided amongst the dean and canons in residence every quarter, but if any failed to reside during the Michaelmas and Christmas quarters they should lose their shares for the year. Directions were also given about the letting of the houses belonging to the college.
The dean, being examined, said that there was a fund of £20 set aside for repairs and that the ornaments of the church were in good condition except that two antiphonaries and two graduals were wanting, and he at once presented an antiphonary of the Sarum Use to the church and appointed one of the vicars to write the other books. Of the spiritual condition of the chapel he had a worse report to make. Six of the vicars were quarrelsome and dissolute and frequently left the chapel unserved, and though often punished were incorrigible. They had also stolen a coffer fastened to the foot of the cross, from which the expenses of the church were paid, with a large sum of money: moreover they caused the constable's deputies to eject the vicars from their houses in the castle and the sacrists from their rooms in the chapel, where they used to be night and day to receive pilgrims to the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Cross, (fn. 31) and took from them the keys of the chapel, chambers, treasury, chapter and bell tower so that they might dispose as they pleased of the money; they also forcibly resisted the entrance of carpenters sent to repair the chapel and belfry, wherefore many defects still remain. In their defence the vicars alleged that they took the coffer by order of their masters, the non-resident canons, but could produce no evidence thereof; they also accused other vicars of stealing money from another coffer, but the latter asserted that they themselves stole the second coffer from the high altar by night. To ascertain the truth a jury was sworn who found that the charges were true as far as five of the vicars were concerned. They also made certain statements about several of the vicars, the details of which resemble the charges brought against the monks by Layton and his followers at the time of the dissolution. As a result four vicars were ejected, the fifth not having been convicted three times was allowed to remain.
The jury also found that the houses on the west of the chapel in the castle were built with the money of the chapel for the use of the clergy, and that two sacrists had always dwelt in the chapel day and night to receive pilgrims and had two rooms in the same chapel, one on the ground floor by the door for their meals, and an upper chamber at the west of the chapel for their beds.
Two years later, in 1321, the king issued a commission for another visitation, (fn. 32) stating that the ministers of the chapel were neglecting their duties, although receiving their stipends, that some of them were leading dissolute lives, and that the oblations of the Holy Rood which ought to be devoted to the repairs of the chapel and the payment of the ministers were being otherwise disposed of by the dean. Similar commissions were issued in 1328 (fn. 33) and 1334 (fn. 34) and also in 1335 (fn. 35) and 1336, (fn. 36) the visitors at the latter date being the abbots of Battle and Robertsbridge. An endeavour to effect some improvement in the condition of the chapel was also made by the canons themselves in 1335, when they assembled at Bermondsey Priory, where the prebendary of Thurrock, William de Cusancia—probably a brother of the prior—was staying, and passed certain regulations, the most important being that the dean should be always resident except for three months in the year, when he might be absent provided he left a sufficient deputy. It was also recorded that every canon upon his institution ought to present to the church a cope, or 10s. for the use of the choir and ornaments of the church. (fn. 37)
Misfortune now befell the college. In 1331 the dean and chapter had petitioned (fn. 38) the king to cause the castle of Hastings to be inclosed with walls and gates and houses to be built for the canons to dwell in, and to allow them to have the herbage of the castle within the will of Hastings towards the repairs, and also the custody of the castle in time of peace; as for lack of such inclosure, which had been destroyed partly when the castle was forfeited to the king by the count of Eu, and still more by the daily incursions of the sea, so that the king's predecessors had abandoned the castle and left it derelict, the chapel had been often broken into by malefactors, its relics, ornaments, and treasures plundered, its ministers beaten and wounded, and its cemetery defiled by wandering animals. This petition had been granted, and it was possibly owing to the castle being in such unwarlike hands that the French found it so easy a prey in 1339, when they landed and plundered the castle, free chapel, and the canons' houses. Shortly afterwards the king warned the canons of the probability of a renewed raid, and ordered them to secure the castle. (fn. 39) This order was apparently supplemented by the appointment of William de Percy as constable, in the exercise of which office he prevented the clergy from inhabiting their houses within the castle or serving in the chapel, and also prohibited the entrance of pilgrims, by whose offerings the college was supported. (fn. 40) Some idea of the injury done to the town at this time may be gathered from the respite granted to the canons of the annual tenth, payable from their churches of St. Michael, St. Peter, and St. Margaret, because their buildings and those of their parishioners had been burnt, so that the issues did not suffice to support any priest in these churches or for any other charges. (fn. 41) At a later date, in 1341, it is noted that the stipends of the vicars choral had been paid since 1322 out of the oblations made to the Holy Rood, which were then sufficient, but now, on account of the notorious poverty of the neighbourhood, the oblations were so diminished that they did not suffice, and the vicars, in default of payment, which should be made from the issues of the prebends, would soon have to withdraw from the church if remedy were not applied. (fn. 42)
These misfortunes were aggravated by internal disorder due to disputes concerning the deanery. In January, 1337, a mandate was addressed to the keeper and chapter of the free chapel, which is stated to have been long without a dean and to have suffered much harm thereby, to meet and elect a dean. (fn. 43) This is the only instance in which the chapter exercised the right of election, and it is specially stipulated that if the right to collate to the deanery be in the king, it shall not be prejudiced by this mandate. Walter de Lyndrigge was accordingly appointed, but resigned in November, 1339, upon obtaining the archdeaconry of Lewes. (fn. 44) In February, 1340, Walter was again granted the custody of the deanery, which is here stated to have been long void. (fn. 45) In March, however, Geoffrey de Clare, representing Lyndrigge to be a careless custodian, obtained his own appointment, (fn. 46) which was quashed in May. (fn. 47) The custody of the chapel was then granted for life to John Wade in 1342, (fn. 48) but next year Walter de Lyndrigge (fn. 49) was again appointed to administer the church, 'now greatly decayed by the neglect and insufficient rule of the keepers, whereby the vicars and other ministers are withdrawing from the service thereof.' Lyndrigge and Wade were then summoned to appear in Chancery to decide their claims, (fn. 50) and the abbot of Robertsbridge was ordered in the meanwhile to take charge of the chapel and deanery. (fn. 51) The dispute was settled in favour of Wade, who in February, 1344, was granted the deanery and wardenship of the king's chapel of Hastings. (fn. 52) It was no doubt in connexion with these disputed claims to the deanery that certain persons— by night forcibly entered by ladders over the walls of the castle of Hastings and assaulted the minister of the king's chapel and carried away books, chalices, vestments, and ornaments of the chapel, and now keep themselves in the said chapel by armed power. (fn. 53)
At the visitation held in April, 1345, (fn. 54) it was found that there were defects in the roof of the chapel, the belfry, bells, books, vestments, windows, &c., whose repair would cost £20. At the last visitation Geoffrey de Clare, then dean, said that he had £15 for such repairs, but he did not expend the money for that purpose but kept it; he also allowed certain rents to remain uncollected. Master Geoffrey further carried off two papal bulls, conferring privileges on the chapel; one of these he sold to Master Walter de Lindrigge, formerly dean. He also carried away a chalice and other things, and by the carelessness of his sacrist the cross from the top of a silver-gilt monstrance was lost; his prebend of Bulverhythe was therefore sequestrated. At the same time four of the vicars were ejected for continuing to keep concubines in spite of the dean's prohibition.
Another visitation was made in 1407, when it was noted that the vicars' houses at the west end of the chapel had lately been rebuilt, but the houses below the castle called 'Godelond,' used by the dean and canons resident, were ruined, and almost uninhabitable. Recent deans had mostly been non-resident, and had allowed many rents and annual payments to be withdrawn from the college to its great loss. (fn. 55) At last, in 1447, its privileged position as a royal free chapel was lost, Henry VI in that year granting that the collegiate church of Hastings, with its deanery and prebends, which he had given with the castle to Sir Thomas Hoo, should be exempt from visitation by the king or any other person except the bishop of Chichester and his official. (fn. 56) This arrangement was confirmed, in 1460, by an agreement between Sir William Hastings, then lord of the honour of Hastings, and the bishop, by which the college was declared to be entirely subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop. (fn. 57)
It survived the dissolution of 1536-8, but fell under the Act suppressing colleges, &c., in the last year of Henry VIII, and was granted by the king to Sir Anthony Browne, of Battle and Cowdray, and Elizabeth his wife. (fn. 58)
Deans Of The College Of Hastings
Hugh, early twelfth century (fn. 59)
Henry de Ow, occurs 1195 (fn. 60)
Vincent, before 1280 (fn. 61)
Giles de Audenard, appointed 1302 (fn. 62)
William de Lewes, intruded 1305 (fn. 63)
Geoffrey de Clare, appointed 1340 (fn. 68)
Robert Leggatt, 1369 (fn. 73)
William de Grysell, exchanged 1374 (fn. 74)
John Notyngham, appointed 1389 (fn. 79)
Richard Clyfford, resigned 1398 (fn. 80)
John Gamull, appointed 1401 (fn. 83)
William Hawe, appointed 1411 (fn. 86)
William Tanfield, 1415 (fn. 87)
John Kingscote, 1458 (fn. 90)
John Carpenter, 1460 (fn. 91)
John Fowkes (fn. 92)
Benedict Burgh, resigned 1480 (fn. 93)
John Pensell, appointed 1480 (fn. 94)
Richard Brokysby, or Roksbye, occurs 1535 (fn. 95)
The seal used in 1195 was oval (3 in. long), the Virgin seated holding a model of a church in her right hand and a slip of lily in her left. (fn. 96) Legend:—
SIGILLUM ECCLIE SCE MARIE DE HASTINGES
A deed of about 1230 has a seal; oval (1¾ in.) Virgin and child under a canopy. (fn. 97) Legend:—
S' DECANI ... MARIE DE HASTINGE
There is also a fragment of a seal of 1334 showing a robed figure, seated, in profile. (fn. 98)