CANTERBURY: Introduction

Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 3, Canterbury, Rochester and Winchester Dioceses. Originally published by Institute of Historical Research, London, 1974.

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, 'CANTERBURY: Introduction', in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 3, Canterbury, Rochester and Winchester Dioceses, (London, 1974) pp. 3-5. British History Online [accessed 24 May 2024].

. "CANTERBURY: Introduction", in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 3, Canterbury, Rochester and Winchester Dioceses, (London, 1974) 3-5. British History Online, accessed May 24, 2024,

. "CANTERBURY: Introduction", Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 3, Canterbury, Rochester and Winchester Dioceses, (London, 1974). 3-5. British History Online. Web. 24 May 2024,

In this section

Canterbury 1541-1857


The three cathedrals in this volume are all cathedrals of the New Foundation. On the dissolution of the monasteries, each of these cathedrals lost its monastic chapter, and Henry VIII replaced it by a dean and canons. The foundation charters of all these chapters were similar, though the chapters developed individual characteristics with the passage of time. At Canterbury, the cathedral was reconstituted 8 Apr. 1541 (fn. 1) with provision for a dean and twelve canons, their prebends being of equal value. (fn. 2) The king had the right of presentation to all of these, and of the original twelve canons, at least six are known to have been former monks of Christ Church Canterbury. (fn. 3) The endowments and privileges of the monastic chapter were transferred to the new chapter. (fn. 4) The king's statutes provided that, as in the other cathedrals of the New Foundation, general chapters be held twice a year at the feasts of St. John the Baptist (25 June) and St. Catherine (23 November). (fn. 5) The archdeacons of Canterbury were unaffected by the changes, and the office remained in the archbishop's gift.

In 1547, Edward VI granted the archbishop the right of presentation to three of the prebends, the first, fourth and sixth. (fn. 6) Subsequently, these prebends were always referred to by their numbers. The other prebends were not so designated, but at the appointment of a new canon his predecessor was usually mentioned, and the succession can be traced in this way, and is reasonably certain.

Revised statutes were issued by archbishop Laud in 1635 and confirmed by Charles I in 1637, (fn. 7) but no major changes occurred in the composition of the chapter until the nineteenth century. Then, as a result of the work of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, embodied in Stat. 3 & 4 Vic. c. 113, and made effective by Orders in Council, six prebends of Canterbury were suspended as they came vacant. The rather complicated procedure by which the cathedral chapter was reduced after 1841 is described in a table at the end of the Canterbury lists, and by 1852 the requisite number had been reached. By the same statute, one of these six prebends was annexed permanently to the office of archdeacon of Canterbury. (fn. 8) Another archdeaconry, that of Maidstone, was founded in 1841, and also endowed with one of the prebends. (fn. 9)

Le Neve's Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae was published in 1716, (fn. 10) and for Canterbury he drew heavily on Battely's 1703 edition of Somner's Antiquities of Canterbury, originally published in 1640. (fn. 11) His lists of archbishops generally give the dates of election, confirmation, temporalities and death, and refer to Rymer, (fn. 12) Wood's History and Antiquities of Oxford, (fn. 13) Strype's Annals, (fn. 14) and Burnet's History, (fn. 15) with occasional imprecise references to 'Reg. Cant.'. The lists of deans, archdeacons and canons are again taken straight from Battely, and revealing phrases such as this occur, 'The exact time of his admission is not mentioned in Battely'. Occasional references are given in vague terms to archbishops' registers, and few details of the canons are given, sometimes merely the name without dates or references. The Preface to his Fasti refers to several manuscripts of Christ Church, Canterbury, including what must be Register U (1541-51) and the sede vacante register of 1553-5.

T. D. Hardy, in his three volume revision of Le Neve, published in 1854, (fn. 16) besides continuing the Canterbury lists up to his own time, enlarged them by consulting the archbishops' certificates at the Public Record Office (E 331 Cant.). This was a mixed blessing as he frequently added confusion to the lists by mistakenly including men instituted to the office of six-preacher of Canterbury cathedral. (fn. 17) Apparently neither Le Neve nor Hardy used the archbishops' registers for the canons, and the vast chapter material after the Reformation was not consulted. The last appointment recorded by Hardy was that of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, 16 August 1851.

For this revision, the main manuscript sources have been the bulky series of archbishops' registers at Lambeth, the archbishops' certificates at the Public Record Office (beginning in 1587), and the chapter records at Canterbury. These latter fall into two main series, the Acta Capituli and the registers. Unfortunately there was a serious fire in 1670 in the audit room, where the records were then stored. (fn. 18) Some records were destroyed, and others were partially burnt, and have been painstakingly reconstructed. The Acta Capituli contain records of the two general chapters each year, with names of all those present, and also the installations of prebendaries, and the elections and enthronements of archbishops. The first four volumes, from 1561 to 1628, are reconstructed from charred pieces, and the material to be gathered is necessarily scrappy. Then follows a gap from 1628 to 1670, but the series is subsequently complete. The registers are mainly lease books, dealing with the very extensive property owned by the chapter of Canterbury. Once again, the early ones are imperfect, some are very badly damaged by fire, and there is a gap from 1607 to 1660. Whereas the record of installations is generally in the chapter act books, the mandate from the king or archbishop to install is entered in the registers, and proves useful if the institution is missing in the archbishops' registers at Lambeth.

Some business in the records is peculiar to the chapter of Canterbury. During the vacancy of the see of Canterbury, the dean and chapter were responsible for the administration not only of the diocese of Canterbury but also of all other vacant sees. (fn. 19) This material is found in both the registers and the Acta Capituli. Another individual feature is the occurrence of licences to bishops to be consecrated elsewhere than in Canterbury cathedral. This privilege of granting licences alibi consecrari (for a fee) had been one of the rights granted by archbishop Becket to the monastic chapter. (fn. 20) After the Restoration in 1660, the dean and chapter revived their claim to it, on the grounds that all the privileges of Christ Church priory were transferred to the new foundation by the charter of incorporation of Henry VIII. Archbishops Juxon and Sheldon recognized this claim, but Sancroft repudiated it, and no licences were issued during the period of his office, 1678-90. From 1670 to 1769, these licences figure in the Acta Capituli, and from 1697 in the registers also, sometimes with different dates. After 1769, they are recorded in the registers only.

These sources, together with printed and unprinted royal grants, and occasional information from wills, subscription books, first-fruit books and letters, have made reasonably complete lists of office-holders, although some queries remain for Mary's reign and the Commonwealth period. As usual, an attempt has been made to find the precise date of death of each person, in printed or manuscript source, monumental inscription, chronicle, periodical or newspaper, or the date of his burial in parish register or archbishop's transcript. (fn. 21) As the canons of Canterbury were often men of national importance, the task has been easier than at some other less well-endowed cathedrals.


  • 1. L. & P. XVI no. 779 (5).
  • 2. The terms 'canon' and 'prebendary' are virtually interchangeable by the sixteenth century. Strictly speaking, a man is a prebendary in respect of his emolument, and a canon in that he belongs to a society subject to a rule. The general custom seems to have been to refer to 'canons' in the cathedrals of the New Foundation, and 'prebendaries' in the cathedrals of the Old Foundation, where they normally had specific named prebends, but this was by no means an inflexible rule. The Cathedrals Act (Stat. 3 & 4 Vic. c. 113) standardized practice to some extent by establishing that from then on the word 'canon' should be used for all holders of cathedral prebends, and the word 'prebendary' confined to honorary canons in cathedrals of the Old Foundation.
  • 3. See pp. 17, 26, 30, 32, 34, 36; Ant. Cant. pt. ii App. p. 52.
  • 4. L. & P. XVI no. 878 (59).
  • 5. Ibid. App. 4; Statutes of Canterbury (privately printed, 1925) pp. 1-88.
  • 6. 31 Aug. 1547 (C.P.R. 1547-8 p. 38).
  • 7. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1635 p. 512; Statutes of Canterbury (privately printed, 1925) pp. 94-6.
  • 8. See p. 24; Lond. Gaz. no. 21390.
  • 9. See p. 34; Lond. Gaz. no. 19985.
  • 10. Referred to as Le Neve.
  • 11. W. Somner and N. Battely, The Antiquities of Canterbury. London, 1703. Referred to as Ant. Cant.
  • 12. Foedera, conventiones, literae et cujuscunque generis acta publica inter reges Angliae et alios imperatores . . . ed. T. Rymer. 17 vols. London, 1704-17.
  • 13. A. Wood, Historia et Antiquitates Universitatis Oxoniensis. Latin, 2 vols. Oxford, 1674. It was published in English for the first time as The History and Antiquities of the Colleges and Halls in the University of Oxford, by Antony Wood, ed. J. Gutch. 2 vols. Oxford, 1786-90.
  • 14. J. Strype, Annals of the Reign of Queen Mary (in vol. II of A Complete History of England). London, 1706. J. Strype, Annals of the Reformation and Establishment of Religion . . . during the first twelve years of Queen Elizabeth's . . . Reign. London, 1706-8.
  • 15. G. Burnet, History of the Reformation of the Church of England. 1st ed. London, 1679-1715. 2nd ed. London, 1681-1715.
  • 16. Referred to as Le Neve-Hardy.
  • 17. See pp. 18n. (ter) 21n., 23n., 24n., 27n., 35n.
  • 18. N. Sykes, Canterbury Cathedral Library (Canterbury Papers No. 6, 1954) p. 15.
  • 19. See Cant. Inst. sede vac.
  • 20. Burn, Eccles. Law I 208.
  • 21. Canterbury cathedral library has also an unusually complete series of transcripts of parish registers made for the archdeacon of Canterbury.