The city of Exeter: Inventories of church goods

Pages 260-263

Report On the Records of the City of Exeter. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1916.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


Inventories of Church Goods.

Seventy-six documents (Nos. 1–75) in connection with Commissions appointed in 1552 (6 Edward VI). The Commissioners appointed for Exeter were the Bishop (Miles Coverdale), the Mayor (William Hurst), Sir Thomas Dennys, Sir Peter Carew, Richard Chidley (i.e. Chudleigh) and two Aldermen (viz., Thomas Prestwood and John Midwinter); (fn. 1) but the two Knights and Richard Chidley appear to have taken no part in the Exeter enquiry except as regards St. Sidwells, where they took the place of the Mayor and the two Aldermen. (No. 66, Notes and Gleanings, iv, 177.)

The Commission is dated May 16, 1552, and instructions (fn. 2) to the Commissioners, dated June 10, 1552, will be found in Book 55, f. 107b (printed in Surrey Archoeological Collections, iv, 190).

For a letter dated Aug. 14, 1552, from the Council at Titchfield to the Exeter Commissioners, see Acts of Privy Council, iv, 112.

The returns were sent up to London to be controlled by a sub- sequent Commission which was appointed on Jan. 16, 1553, (fn. 3) and nine of them still exist in the Public Record Office (Exchequer K.R. Church Goods,2/8–16). These have reference to the goods found in the churches of All Hallows-on-the- Walls (2/14), St. John's Bow (2/12), St. Martin (2/11), St. Mary Arches (2/10), St. Olave (2/15), St. Pancras (2/16), St. Paul (2/9), St. Petrock's (2/8), Holy Trinity (2/13). See Dep. Keep., 7th Rept., App.II,p. 317. Each consists of one sheet only, and most of them are quite legible. All are signed by four of the Commissioners, and each is endorsed with the names of the two Churchwardens of the parish concerned. The goods are inventoried under the heads of (a) plate, (b)Vestments and other things, with a schedule enumerating the articles "left for the necessary ministrations," the latter being usually one bell in the steeple (with its weight "by estimation"), a chalice (either silver gilt or parcell-gilt), a pall for the corpse (either of blue silk or black velvet or yellow velvet with a black cross), a few linen table cloths,(varying from to 3 to 11"good and badd"), font cloths (usually 3), a surplice of two, and in the case of St. Mary Arches a carpet of "bridges"[i.e. Bruges], satin for the Communion table. In the case of the Cathedral these articles are called "thinges reserved" [see Nos.59,60; Notes and Gleanings, iii, 61).

The inventories still existing at Exeter are bound in a volume marked Book 60 H. (called 60 G. in Calendar, II, P.1117), containing 149 ff., the documents being well mounted. The entries refer to goods found in the Cathedral and all the (19) parish churches in Exeter, (i.e. in addition to those mentioned above, St. Mary Michel or Muchel (i.e.the More), All Hallows, Goldsmith Street, St. Sidwells, St. Kyrian (or Quyrine), St. Mary Steps, St. David's Downe, St. Edmunds, St. George's, St. Lawrence, and St. Stephen's. To each are attached the answers made by the Churchwardens to the interrogatories of the Commissioners, together with the inventories of the goods (both rough drafts and fair copies). Some extracts will be found in Notes and Gleanings, Vols. II, III, IV, V, but the whole of the contents of the volume have been recently transcribed for publication by Miss Beatrice Cresswell, to whom I am greatly indebted for permission to read through her transcript. Several of the entries make reference to previous inventories made in 28 Henry VIII (1537) or 3 Edward VI (1549):e.g., "Commanded to make 3 years ago" (St. Paul's); or April 9, 1549 (St. Sidwell's); Sept.24,1550 (St. Petrock's); Dec.7, 1550 (St. Mary Major).

At St. David's Down, "two pair of vestiments, surples &c. have been stolen," also "at the Commossynge tyme (i.e. the Commotion in 1549, page 21) our Churche was robyed and toke all frome us and that ys now yn the churche whe bofft hit of anewe."

At St. Edmund's the plate had been shifted from house to house by the rebels "in the Comocyon tyme," a chalice being afterwards found under a man's bed.

At St. George's a silver cross gilt was delivered to the city of Exeter for the use of the haven.(See page 27)

At St. John's Bow plate was "sold in ye Comocyon tyme for the releif of the poor when the citie was beseiged and for mendyng of ye clock," and the Churchwardens say that "aboute foure years past 4 sidesmen appeared before Sir Roger Blewett, Kt., Anthony Harvey, Esquire, and others of the King's Commissioners, and showed one of their accounts of which the Commissioners took a copy, telling them that the jewels and plate should be safely kept and to be forth coming at all time that the King required."

At St. Kyrian's plate had been sold "for the reparacion of the church, releif of the poor in the Comocion tyme, or given to the Mayor to be employed upon the haven of Exe."

At St. Mary Arches a candlestick was sold about 7 or years ago for reparation of the church.

At St. Mary Major is a reference to "ye plate yt ye Citie borowed to helpe towards ye bringing in of ye haven."

At St. Tolaves or St. Tooles (i.e. St. Olave's), Mr. William Paryam [father of John Periam], who had set a coffer with a chalice and a pair of vestments of red velvet in the church 5 or 6 years ago, took it home again with its contents "and will not render them."

At St. Pancras the Churchwardens had "delivered plate into the City's hands to ye use of the haven, as appeareth by the indenture made betwixte them." Also plate was "stolen at the comocyon tyme being hyd in a garden," or "sold at the late comocyon for the defence of the rebelles and ayde for our solders at that time bestowed."

At St. Sidwell's "at ye comocion tyme ye church was spoyled of all things movable in a manner save only a pyx a paten and 2 cruetts."

In Act Book II,f 117, Dec. 15, 1551, it is agreed "that whereas the wardens with the assent of the parishes of St. George, St. Mary Arches, St. Mary the More, St. Stephyn's, St. Pancras, St. Tole's and St. Keryan's have gyvvyn to the use of the bryngyn upp of the Ryver of Exe such parcell of plate as particlerly apperith by the Indent's therof made betwene the cetie and them amountyng yn the hole the sum of 741 3/4 ozs., which plate wee ffully agree and by this presens do clerely bargayne and sell unto John Bodlegh aftir the rate of 5s 2d. the unce, which amonteth to the sum of 191l. 12 s. 4 1/2d.Also the wardens of St. Petrock have given for the use of the city a crosse of sylver al gilted, weighing 102oz., and an Oylefate(or oilbox—Book 60 H.,f. 63) of silver and a chales of sylver parcell gilt weighing 44oz., which was sold (at 5s. per oz.,)for 37l."

In Inventories No. 3, June 15, 1553, the Mayor and his brethren enter into a bond in 400 marks to make satisfaction when required for "certeyn plate and juelles lately belonginge to certeyne parishe churches of the said cittie of Exeter to the nombre of 891 unces [called 900 oz. in Freeman, 101; or about 1,000 oz. in Izacke, p. 126], takyn and imploide by the maire of the said cittie and his brethren withoute the commaundement, commission or warrante of our seid soverine lord or of his honourable counsell."

In Act Book IV, f. 31b, is a proclamation made to the Commons being called together by the bellman, Sept. 25, 1560, "agayn the pullinge downe and sellinge of belles or any ledde of any churche, &c."


  • 1. * See Dep. Keep. 7th Rept. App. II., p. 311.
  • 2. † For similar instructions in Northamptonshire see Fuller, Church History, p. 417 (edition 1655); Alcuin Club, vii., pp. xii-xiv.
  • 3. ‡ Dep. Keep. 7th Report, App. II., p. 312; Surtees Society, 97, p xiv.