Pages ix-xii

Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 9, Lincoln Diocese. Originally published by Institute of Historical Research, London, 1999.

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The diocese of Lincoln in the middle ages stretched from the Humber to the Thames, including the counties of Lincoln, Bedford, Buckingham, Huntingdon, Leicester, Northampton, Oxford and Rutland. The reorganization of dioceses after the dissolution of the monasteries took two areas out of this vast diocese to form new dioceses. Peterborough, consisting of Northants and Rutland, and with the former abbey church of Peterborough as its cathedral, was established in 1541. The diocese of Osney (later Oxford), founded in 1542, removed Oxfordshire from the bishop of Lincoln's jurisdiction. After these creations, Lincoln still remained a very large diocese, but the northern part was severed by Peterborough diocese from the southern part. These changes reduced the number of archdeacons from eight to six, as the archdeacons of Northampton and Oxford were transferred to the new dioceses. The remaining ones were those of Lincoln, Bedford, Buckingham, Huntingdon, Leicester and Stow (the north-west corner of Lincolnshire). (fn. 1)

At Lincoln cathedral, the treasurership had lapsed in 1538 on the execution for treason of the treasurer, and no further holders were appointed. This left the dean, precentor, chancellor and subdean as the dignitaries. In 1541 there were fiftyeight prebends, but some disappeared during the next three centuries. During the reign of Edward VI, the prebends of Banbury, Cropredy and Sutton-cumBuckingham passed to the duke of Somerset and later to the Crown, while the prebend of Leighton Manor was alienated to the queen's master of the horse and that of Thame was sold to Sir John Thynne. The prebend of Kilsby was reannexed to the precentorship in 1637 and that of Buckden was annexed to the bishopric of Lincoln from 1715. Stoke was annexed to the chancellorship throughout the period. All Saints in Hungate lapsed after 1670 because its value was so slight, and the same fate nearly overtook St. Martin in Dernestall and Thorngate, to which no appointments were made for almost one hundred years before they were revived in the mid eighteenth century.

However small the value of a prebend, it provided status and the qualification for the possible acquisition of a valuable residentiary canonry. Even the dean needed to have a prebend in order to enter residence. The canons were responsible for the administration of the cathedral and its lands, and were bound to a certain number of weeks' residence each year. The total of canons fluctuated at the beginning of the period covered by this volume, but was fixed at four in 1591. Normally, these were the dean, precentor, chancellor and subdean. (fn. 2)

The report of the royal commissioners appointed in 1832 to inquire into ecclesiastical revenues and patronage produced figures of average incomes for the three years to the end of 1831. The bishopric of Lincoln's average income was £4,542, although 'a considerable diminution' was expected in the next few years. This placed the bishopric of Lincoln eleventh out of twenty-six in order of wealth, well below Canterbury and Durham, with £19,182 and £19, 066 respectively, and below the average of £5,936, although comfortably ahead of the poverty-stricken sees of Rochester and Llandaff, with £1,459 and £924 each. The cathedral corporation came eighth among cathedrals, with an average annual income of £6,989, far below the £27,933 of Durham or the £15,982 of Canterbury. The income of the deanery, including fines received on the renewal of leases, amounted to £2,819, placing it fourth in value, after Salisbury (£6,273), Durham (£6,248) and St. Paul's (£3,422). Of course, individual deans received further income from their other benefices, as detailed in the report. Individual residentiary canons received £1,740 by virtue of their canonry: the chancellor's total income, however, was around £3,662, as he held the valuable rectory of Wheathampstead.

Wide differences in value were displayed among the prebends, especially when fines for the renewal of leases were taken into account. The prebends of Marston St. Lawrence and Milton Manor yielded an average of £110 and £125, but Langford Manor, worth £91, had made an average of £975 from fines. Scamblesby, worth £30, had received £1,750 from fines. Most remarkable of all, Welton Paynshall, with an average income of £6, had received £2,000 from fines. By contrast, eleven prebends were worth under £10 per annum and had received no fines for leases. Three prebends - Bedford Minor, Crackpole St. Mary and Sanctae Crucis - yielded £2 each, while St. Martin in Dernestall had no revenue. Thorngate was not listed. (fn. 4)

The series of acts of parliament which followed this report brought far-reaching changes to Lincoln diocese and cathedral. The statute 6 & 7 Will. IV c. 77 addressed the question of the large size of the diocese by transferring the archdeaconries of Bedford and Huntingdon to Ely diocese, Buckingham to Oxford and Leicester to Peterborough. Hertfordshire, formerly under the archdeacon of Huntingdon in Lincoln diocese, was transferred (with the county of Essex) to the diocese of Rochester. This left Lincoln diocese as merely Lincolnshire, with its two archdeaconries, but to this was added Nottinghamshire with its archdeacon, formerly in the diocese of York.

The statute 1 & 2 Vic. c. 106 aimed to limit the holding of benefices in plurality and to make better provision for the residence of the clergy. To this end, it enacted that no person holding cathedral preferment should in future hold more than one other benefice and this must be within ten miles of the cathedral. The archbishop of Canterbury's licence was necessary in order to hold any two benefices together. By contrast, at the time of the 1835 report, Thomas MannersSutton was holding two benefices in Kent together with the subdeanery of Lincoln, Precentor Richard Pretyman held rectories in Oxfordshire and Northants and a sinecure rectory in Wiltshire, while Chancellor George Thomas Pretyman held two rectories in Hertfordshire.

The statute 3 & 4 Vic. c. 113 made all the prebends honorary, with their former revenues vested in the ecclesiastical commissioners and their patronage remaining with the bishop. The revenues of the prebends annexed to the precentorship and chancellorship at Lincoln passed likewise to the commissioners. A fourth canon was added to the dean and three others who previously formed the chapter, and this canonry was conferred by the bishop on the archdeacon of Lincoln. Residence requirements were standardized in all cathedrals to a minimum of eight months in each year for the dean and at least three months for every canon. By the Act 4 & 5 Vic. c. 39 it became unnecessary for any dean to hold a prebend to qualify for residence, while the Act 13 & 14 Vic. c. 94 prevented any dean from holding a benefice not situated in the cathedral city. These provisions, enforced by Orders in Council, came gradually into effect at Lincoln as holders of offices died and were replaced. The changes in relation to the chapter were not fully implemented until after the deaths of the long-lived Pretyman brothers in 1859 and 1866. Subsequently, the prebends of Stoke and Kilsby were held independently of the chancellorship and precentorship, and the prebend of All Saints in Hungate was revived after 200 years. The Act 36 & 37 Vic. c. 64 decreed that no bishopric should have a benefice attached to it, and as a result a collation was made to the prebend of Buckden in 1874. The salaries of the dean and canons, paid by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, became fixed at £2,000 and £1,000 respectively, while the bishopric was worth £5,000. (fn. 5)

John Le Neve, in his Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae published in 1716, provided lists of the bishops, dignitaries and archdeacons, but none of the prebends. Dates of installations are given with reference to 'Reg. Linc.', though with no further details or folios. He is familiar with the registers of the archbishops of Canterbury and he cites printed works, such as Lloyd's Memoires, Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, Anthony à Wood's Athenae Oxonienses and Historia Universitatis Oxoniensis, Rymer's Foedera and Newcourt's Repertorium. (fn. 6) He acknowledges the help of William Wake, bishop of Lincoln, who condescended 'to peruse and correct so much of it as relates to the Bishops', and White Kennett, dean of Peterborough, who put his historical collections at Le Neve's disposal.

Thomas Duffus Hardy, who published his revision and extension of Le Neve in 1854, was more ambitious in that his work provides lists of all the prebends in addition. His information comes from sources in the Public Records, of which he was Assistant Keeper, but he gives no more specific detail than 'Bishops' Certificates' or 'Church Book, Home Office', and pages pass without even this minimal reference. Apparently he did not consult any of the Lincoln records, episcopal or chapter.

The present work is based on Lincoln sources of all kinds, the registers of the archbishops of Canterbury, the Public Records, together with wills and parish registers from all over the country, printed lists of monumental inscriptions, and contemporary journals and newspapers.

In contrast to the marvellous sequence of medieval Lincoln bishops' registers, the act books of the bishops for most of the period 1547-1660 have been lost or are incomplete. However, the bishops' certificates of institutions at the Public Record Office make good some of this deficiency. The chapter act books are generally well kept, and there is a wealth of other diocesan and chapter material, such as presentation deeds, installation mandates, chapter accounts and resignation deeds. With a few exceptions in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries the succession in each office is well established. A list is also given of the residentiary canons, to indicate the men who were actually running the cathedral's affairs.

A consolidated index of all the higher clergy in the nine volumes so far published in the series 1541-1857, with the offices held by each man, may be consulted on the Institute of Historical Research's website, History (


  • 1. For maps illustrating the changes, see M. Bowker, The Henrician Reformation: the Diocese of Lincoln under John Longland, 1521-47 (Cambridge, 1981) pp. xiv, xv.
  • 2. For fuller details on the canons residentiary see below pp. 133-4.
  • 3. Crockford's Clerical Directory (1881) pp. 472-3, and see below under prebends in question.
  • 4. Rept. of Commissioners on Ecclesiastical Revenues [67] H.C. (1835) xxii. 4-5, 18-19, 52-8.
  • 5. Crockford's Clerical Directory (1881) pp. 472-3.
  • 6. D. Lloyd, Memoires of the Lives, Actions, Sufferings and Deaths of those ...personages that suffered ...from the year 1637 to the year 1660 (London, 1668); J. Walker, An attempt towards recovering an Account of the Numbers and Sufferings of the Clergy ... (London, 1714); A. Wood, Athenae Oxonienses (2 vols., London, 1691-2); idem, Historia et Antiquitates Universitatis Oxoniensis (2 vols., Oxford, 1674); T. Rymer, Foedera, Conventiones. Literae et cujuscunque generis Acta Publica (20 vols., London, 1704-35); R. Newcourt, Repertorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londinense (2 vols., London, 1708-10).