ELY: Introduction

Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 7, Ely, Norwich, Westminster and Worcester Dioceses. Originally published by Institute of Historical Research, London, 1992.

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'ELY: Introduction', Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 7, Ely, Norwich, Westminster and Worcester Dioceses, (London, 1992), pp. 3-4. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/fasti-ecclesiae/1541-1847/vol7/pp3-4 [accessed 24 June 2024].

. "ELY: Introduction", in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 7, Ely, Norwich, Westminster and Worcester Dioceses, (London, 1992) 3-4. British History Online, accessed June 24, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/fasti-ecclesiae/1541-1847/vol7/pp3-4.

. "ELY: Introduction", Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 7, Ely, Norwich, Westminster and Worcester Dioceses, (London, 1992). 3-4. British History Online. Web. 24 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/fasti-ecclesiae/1541-1847/vol7/pp3-4.


On 10 September 1541, following the dissolution of the monastic chapter at Ely, and as part of King Henry VIII's reorganization of the former monastic cathedrals throughout the country, a new chapter was established by royal charter, consisting of a dean and eight canons. The dean was the former prior and three of the canons were former monks of Ely. (fn. 1) The prebends, which were all valued at twenty pounds, were always referred to by their numbers. The Crown initially had the right of presentation to the deanery and prebends, but Mary I granted Bishop Thirlby and his successors the right of collation to the prebends. (fn. 2) The archdeaconry of Ely remained in the bishop's gift after 1541 as it had been previously.

Although the foundation charter was similar to that of other cathedrals of the New Foundation, the Ely chapter developed some individual characteristics, especially as a result of Cambridge University's being within the diocese. The overwhelming majority of canons were graduates of Cambridge and at least forty were heads of houses (not counting bishops and deans). Most of the masters of Jesus College, which had been founded by Bishop Alcock of Ely, held a prebend or office.

On the death of Bishop Cox in 1581, Queen Elizabeth I made no appointment to the vacant bishopric for the unprecedented period of nineteen years and she retained the temporalities of Ely in her own hands. All appointments to prebends in this period were made by the Crown and the institutions were carried out by the archbishops of Canterbury.

During the Interregnum, Bishop Wren continued to make collations to vacant prebends, but these appointments were of course ineffective. No members of the chapter who had been installed before the Interregnum survived to 1660, so the bishop had to give special authority to a commissary to install one canon (Bernard Hale), and it appears that he installed at least five others the same day (four, and possibly all of them, by proxy).

The size of the Ely chapter remained the same for nearly 300 years until the statute 3 & 4 Vic. c. 113, which embodied the reforms found to be desirable by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of the eighteen-thirties, enacted that two canonries should be permanently annexed to the Regius Professorships of Hebrew and Greek in the University of Cambridge, and that two further canonries should be suspended. (fn. 3) This was put into effect by Order in Council of 11 August 1848, (fn. 4) and by 1854 the Ely chapter had been reduced from eight canons to six. (fn. 5) By the act of parliament 6 & 7 Will. IV c. 77, brought into force by Order in Council of 19 April 1837, the diocese of Ely was enlarged by the addition of the archdeaconry of Bedford and the county of Huntingdon from the diocese of Lincoln and of the archdeaconry of Sudbury and the liberty of Bury St. Edmunds from the diocese of Norwich. (fn. 6)

There are some serious gaps in the series of bishops' registers at Ely which normally constitute the principal source of information in compiling Fasti. No original registers remain for the period 1609-1702, although part of the loss is made good by transcripts of some of the missing registers by Thomas Baker (1656-1740) for the years 1609-19 and by James Bentham (1709-94) for 15991707. (fn. 7) The chapter order books, which form a complete series for this period, do not record installations of canons, although after 1662 there is normally a record of the day when a new canon took the oaths and read the service. A number of original installation mandates, endorsed with the date of installation, are fortunately still in existence. (fn. 8)

In the original Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae of John Le Neve (published in 1716), the compiler used the registers of the archbishops of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace (for the appointment of the bishops) and printed sources such as Rymer's Concilia, Camden's Annals, Wood's Athenae Oxonienses and Lloyd's Memoires, but relied principally on lists provided by Dr. Thomas Tanner, canon of the 2nd prebend in 1713. (fn. 9) Despite Le Neve's confidence that Tanner's 'Exactness in Extracts of this Nature is sufficiently known', these lists are very sketchy before 1660 and subsequently give details only of installation, without any documentation. The revision of Le Neve's work by Thomas Duffus Hardy (published 1854) continues the lists to 1849 and adds information from the Public Records (the Church Book in the Home Office, and the Bishops' Certificates), of which he was Assistant Keeper, but supplies no references at all for any of the canons. Frequently he reiterates Le Neve's unsubstantiated statements, and he does not seem to have made use of James Bentham's History and Antiquities of the Cathedral Church of Ely (published 1771; 2nd edition 1812-17), which is based on the episcopal and capitular records, some of which are no longer in existence.

The present volume is an entirely new compilation, based on original sources in the Public Records, records of the archbishops of Canterbury, bishops and chapter of Ely, parish records of death and burial, wills, monumental inscriptions and contemporary newspapers, periodicals, diaries and memoirs. Editorial conventions are the same as in earlier volumes in the series.


  • 1. L. & P. XVI no. 1226(11).
  • 2. C.P.R. 1555-7 p. 523, 27 Nov. 1556.
  • 3. Stat. 3 & 4 Vic. c. 113 ss. 12-13.
  • 4. Lond. Gaz. no. 20887.
  • 5. See Table to illustrate suspension of prebends, 1841-54.
  • 6. Lond. Gaz. no. 19499.
  • 7. Cambridge University Library, Mm. 1. 39 pp. 128-47; ibid., Add. MS. 2953.
  • 8. Ely Dean and Chapter MSS., 2/11/1-2.
  • 9. J. Le Neve, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae (London, 1716) p. 75.