Pages ix-xi

Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 4, York Diocese. Originally published by Institute of Historical Research, London, 1975.

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John Le Neve compiled lists of dignitaries of York Minster up to 1715 for the original edition of his Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae and T. D. Hardy in his revision of the Fasti published in 1854 continued the work to about 1850 and included, in addition, lists of cathedral prebendaries. The revision, though of considerable value, was not entirely satisfactory from a scholarly viewpoint. The references to sources were scant and often uninformative, e.g. 'Reg. Ebor.' or 'Ex Epitaphio', and much had to be taken on trust. In the case of post-Reformation prebendaries there were generally no references at all to the sources of information. It is not possible to state with any degree of certainty whether Hardy worked mainly from the bishops' certificates in the Public Record Office or employed an amanuensis to provide him with information from the archbishops' registers and institution act books at York. Use was certainly made of the entries in the registers for the medieval period. What is certain, however, is that there was no attempt to investigate in any systematic fashion the York archiepiscopal and capitular records. There were only very isolated references to material in chapter act books and Hardy's basic framework of information was supplemented where necessary with details from patent rolls, Home Office church books and the London Gazette.

Of the source material used in the preparation of this present volume, the chapter act books, archiepiscopal registers and institution act books are obviously of the first importance. The archbishops' registers contain a record of collations and institutions until 1577 (fn. 1) but after that date they are of little use for our specific purposes. (fn. 2) From 1545 onwards a separate series of institution act books survives. There are gaps in these act books for the mid-sixteenth century and they are also deficient for the pontificates of George Monteigne (1628), Samuel Harsnet (1629-31) and Thomas Lamplugh (1688-91). Understandably there is little material for the archiepiscopate of John Williams (1641-50), the last entry in the relevant act book being for 1644. Missing information can be supplied in some cases from the bishops' certificates (beginning in 1553), subscription books and admission papers. The last-mentioned records are also particularly useful for the grants of patronage and the subsequent presentations pro hac vice which are a notable feature of the late sixteenth- and early seventeenthcentury appointments to York prebends. The archiepiscopal court books and cause papers and the visitation court books are of especial importance for the details they provide of the proceedings against Marian and Elizabethan prebendaries, leading, on many occasions, to their eventual deprivation.

The chapter act books do not exist for the periods 1558-65 and 1771-84 but the chapter files-collections of loose papers beginning in 1570 and including mandates, proxies, records of the act of installation and on occasion Crown grants or other presentations pro hac vice-provide additional information for the later years. There are no act books after 1641 until the restoration of the cathedral chapter in 1660. It may be of passing interest to note that the installation of dignitaries and prebendaries is recorded in two stages in the York chapter act books, for not only is the act of installation registered but there is also a record of the previous chapter meeting which had fixed a date for the installation ceremony, upon receipt of the archbishop's mandate.

Where lacunae exist use has also been made of the compilations of two antiquarians, James Torre (d. 1699) and Matthew Hutton (d. 1711), the collections of the former being deposited in the Minster Library at York, those of the latter in the British Library. Both Torre and Hutton abstracted information from sixteenth-century capitular records which have since disappeared and their statements are now the only authority available. It must be confessed that on occasion the reliability of Torre in particular is called into question when it is possible to compare his notes from a chapter act book happily still extant and the original entries.

It is obviously a more onerous task to furnish an exact date for the vacation of a dignity or prebend. The files of resignation papers which begin in 1531 generally provide the required information if that was the particular reason for the vacancy, but in the case of the holder's death, a lengthier and more difficult search is necessary. As in previous volumes in this series, much recourse has been made to the obituary columns of the Gentlemen's Magazine, The Annual Register, The London Magazine and similar periodicals, and newspapers such as The Times and local ones such as the York Courant and The Yorkshire Gazette. Parish registers, or the contemporaneous parish register transcripts, have been consulted when the deceased canon's parochial preferment is known and, whenever it has proved possible, the evidence of monumental inscriptions has been recorded. The probate records of the archbishop's prerogative, exchequer and chancery courts and of the capitular jurisdiction have also provided significant information in many instances. Needless to say, during the period of the Civil War and the Commonwealth, it proves extremely difficult to ascertain the whereabouts of former dignitaries and prebendaries, let alone their precise dates of death, and the phrase 'died at latest by . . .' is often used to show that a person may have died up to eighteen years before his office was filled after the Restoration in 1660.

The diocesan reorganisation following the passing of the statute 31 Henry VIII c. 9 brought with it important changes in the boundaries of the see of York, for in 1541, with the establishment of the bishopric of Chester, the vast archdeaconry of Richmond was severed from the York diocese. After that date there was no further dismemberment of the ancient diocese until the nineteenth century. In 1836 the new bishopric of Ripon extended its boundaries over certain portions of the archdeaconry of York and in 1837 the archdeaconry of Nottingham was transferred by Order in Council to the diocese of Lincoln. (fn. 3)

At about the same time as the royal foundation of new bishoprics, significant changes took place in the capitular structure of York minster. With the dissolution of the Augustinian priories of Hexham in 1537 and St. Oswald, Nostell, in 1539, the York cathedral prebends annexed to them-Salton and Bramham respectively-fell with these religious houses. Further spoliation came a few years later when the treasurership of the cathedral (with the prebend of Wilton annexed) and the prebends of Masham and South Cave were surrendered. Apparently there were also attempts to alienate the wealthy prebends of Strensall and Wetwang but in the event these proved unsuccessful.

The period under review also witnessed a gradual change in the pattern of residence at the expense of the non-resident members of the chapter. Originally it was permissible for any prebendary to become a residentiary merely by protesting his residence. A recent study of the composition of the York chapter in the sixteenth century has shown that two, three or sometimes four canons, including usually one of the four great dignitaries, resided at the beginning of the century, normally three or four at the end. Yet, a surprising number of non-resident prebendaries apparently kept up a formal attachment to the cathedral by the larger attendance at chapter meetings. (fn. 4) Residence at York was not in fact necessarily a life tenure, as in some cathedral establishments, and in theory there was no statutory limitation debarring all prebendaries from protesting their residence in any one year. Obviously financial considerations prevented this bizarre situation occurring in practice; nevertheless the sixteenth-century cathedral statutes indicate that residence was encouraged and that there was at no time a closed residential chapter. The statutes of King Henry VIII, promulgated in 1541, abolished the custom which had grown up of effectively limiting the number of residentiary canons to those who could spend one thousand marks on their greater residence. (fn. 5) The number of residentiaries was still undefined but by the late seventeenth century the resident canons began to make successful inroads on the non-resident prebendaries' rights. In 1698, as the result of a petition by the residentiaries, King William III limited the number of those who could reside to five, of whom the dean was always to be one. (fn. 6) Seventy years later the privileges of the prebendaries were further eroded by a royal ordinance which effectively vested the patronage of residentiaryships in the hands of the dean. (fn. 7) Whereas prior to this date, upon every vacancy, the dean had been obliged by ancient usage to admit as a residentiary the first qualified prebendary to protest his residence before him, the king now permitted him to choose a successor within three months. By the Cathedrals Act of 1840, (fn. 8) the patronage of the residentiary canonries (with the exception of the deanery) was transferred to the archbishop and the number of canonries was reduced to four. Nevertheless throughout this period, all non-residentiary prebendaries were entitled to be present at the meetings of the chapter and were equal by statute with the residentiaries, except for the obvious financial benefits accruing to the latter. After the notorious archiepiscopal visitation of the cathedral in 1841, the non-residentiaries asserted their rights over the exercise of patronage of chapter livings, (fn. 9) and as late as 1926 the Cathedrals Commission could report that the dean and residentiaries were subject to the control of the whole chapter, which met quarterly and decided on all matters of importance. (fn. 10)

The prebends have been called by the names which are in current use in the cathedral; and this volume adopts the names given in the York Diocesan Year Book and Clergy List for 1973.


  • 1. The record of collations and institutions in the register of the eighteenth-century archbishop Lancelot Blackburn (Reg. 35) does not reflect a real change in registrational practice. During this pontificate, the certificates of collations and institutions returned annually to the Barons of the Exchequer were entered in extenso in the archiepiscopal register, replacing the brief note of the despatch of the certificate which was customary in all other York registers of the period.
  • 2. It should be noted, however, that the confirmation of archbishops and the archiepiscopal confirmation of deans of York continue to be recorded in the registers to the nineteenth century.
  • 3. In accordance with the provisions of the Act of 14 Aug. 1836 (6 & 7 Will. IV c. 77).
  • 4. C. Cross, '"Dens of Loitering Lubbers": Protestant protest against cathedral foundations, 1540- 1640' (Studies in Church History, ix (1972), 234-5).
  • 5. The Statutes, etc., of the Cathedral Church of York (2nd ed., Leeds, 1900) pp. 43-52, esp. p. 43.
  • 6. Ibid. pp. 52-3.
  • 7. Ibid. pp. 53-7.
  • 8. 3 & 4 Vic. c. 113, s. 25.
  • 9. See Statutes p. 134; A Report of the Proceedings in the Visitatorial Court of His Grace the Archbishop of York . . . (London, 1841) passim.
  • 10. Report of the Cathedrals Commission appointed in pursuance of a Resolution of the National Assembly of the Church of England (London, 1927) p. 212.