Introduction: Life and Career

The Estate and Household Accounts of William Worsley Dean of St Paul's Cathedral 1479-1497. Originally published by Shaun Tyas on behalf of Richard III and Yorkist Trust and the London Record Society, Donington, 2004.

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'Introduction: Life and Career', in The Estate and Household Accounts of William Worsley Dean of St Paul's Cathedral 1479-1497, (Donington, 2004) pp. 3-17. British History Online [accessed 29 February 2024]

In this section

I. William Worsley – Life and Career

William Worsley was born around 1435 into a gentry family from Booths, in the Lancashire parish of Eccles. (fn. 1) His parents' marriage was a late product of a close friendship, formed half a century earlier, between his great-grandfather, Robert Worsley, and one of his neighbours, the Lancashire landholder John Booth of Barton. (fn. 2) The two families continued their close association in subsequent decades, and eventually cemented their alliance by the marriage of Robert Worsley's grandson, Seth, to John Booth's granddaughter, Margaret, widow of the wealthy Sir Ralph Langford. Seth's and Margaret's union resulted in a number of children, including William, the later Dean of St. Paul's. (fn. 3)

Seth and Margaret Worsley's offspring formed part of an extensive family, many of whose younger scions were provided for in the Church. In this vocation, two siblings of Margaret's father, Thomas Booth, rose to particular prominence. William and Laurence Booth both held important offices under the Crown while pursuing their ecclesiastical careers and were ultimately preferred to the archbishopric of York. (fn. 4) Their advancement in the Church allowed them to provide patronage for many of their younger kinsmen. Robert Booth, a younger son of Richard Booth of Bergham, Suffolk, became Dean of York in 1477, a year after Laurence Booth had been translated to the archbishopric. (fn. 5) Three other kinsmen, Thomas (d. 1501), John (d. 1496), and his brother Ralph Booth (d. 1497) were respectively made prebendaries of Ampleforth and Rikhill and Archdeacon of York at Archbishop Booth's cathedral, and the latter's nephew, Charles, later also entered the Church. (fn. 6) Along with the younger Booths, their Worsley relatives benefited from William and Laurence's successful careers. The later Dean's father, Seth Worsley, maintained close links with both Archbishops Booth throughout his career. A younger kinsman, Benjamin Worsley, became a trusted servant of William Booth in later life, was remembered in the Archbishop's will, and appointed keeper of his manor of Scrooby. (fn. 7) William Worsley's brother Thomas (d. 1501), was sent to study at Cambridge, where Laurence Booth was chancellor of the university. In June 1452 he became a canon of Lichfield and prebendary of Tachbrook in succession to his brother William, and he continued to hold this benefice until his death. In December 1471, after receiving his B.Cn.L., he was in addition granted the rectory of Waltham in Lincolnshire. Eventually, he received preferment to the prebend of St. Mary's Altar at Beverley, Yorkshire. (fn. 8) An illegitimate kinsman, John Worsley, was ordained acolyte in 1446. He went on to study at Oxford, where he gained his LL.B. by December 1455. During the same year he was preferred to the rectory of Bolton le Moors in Lancashire. In subsequent years, Archbishop William Booth continued to dispense patronage to him: in December 1458 he was collated canon and prebendary of the chapel of St. Mary and the Holy Angels at York, and in 1461 he became vicar of Felkirk. That same year the Archbishop also appointed him his commissary general. Two further benefices followed: in November 1465 John became canon of the royal free chapel of Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, and prebendary of Kynwaston alias Stonhall, and eventually rector of Bilton in Warwickshire, before dying at the end of the 1470s. (fn. 9) A fourth relative, Richard Worsley (d. 1491), became chaplain of Laurence Booth's chantry at Southwell. (fn. 10)

Likewise, William Worsley's career was from an early date shaped by the influence of his maternal great-uncles. By 1442, he had begun his education at Winchester College. While still under age, he received extensive preferment, for which he later had to seek papal licence. (fn. 11) In March 1449, he was collated to his first benefice, the prebend of Tachbrook at Lichfield cathedral. (fn. 12) He vacated this three years later, in June 1452, in favour of his brother Thomas, (fn. 13) and, in March 1453, instead became a canon of the collegiate church of Southwell, Nottinghamshire, and prebendary of Norwell Overall. He was to retain this benefice until his death. (fn. 14) Southwell Minster was a favourite church of the Booths, and both William and Laurence eventually chose to be buried there. (fn. 15) By the time of this preferment, Worsley had entered the university of Oxford where he read civil law, but preferments continued to flow: in July 1457 Archbishop William Booth secured the prebend of South Cave at his own cathedral church for his protégé. (fn. 16) Meanwhile, the Archbishop's younger brother, Laurence, had studied law at Cambridge. Elected master of his college, Pembroke Hall, in 1450, Laurence rose to become chancellor of the university in about 1458. There is little doubt that Worsley's decision to leave Oxford and move to Cambridge owed a great deal to Booth's influence. In December 1459, William was consequently granted a grace for a degree at that university, and by 1460 had been admitted to the degree of LL.B. there. (fn. 17) In the same year, he was also successively ordained deacon and priest within a period of six months. In the years immediately following, Worsley remained at Cambridge, but in March 1462 he was dispensed from further study for the degree of B.Cn.L. He nevertheless appears to have continued his education, perhaps even outside England, for by 1468 he also held a doctorate in the law, although it is not known where he obtained this degree. (fn. 18)

Although Worsley was already a significant pluralist at this date, his standing and wealth were further increased by the Booths' continued patronage. Before Archbishop William Booth died in 1464, he made provision for his great-nephew who appears to have been his particular favourite. In his will, he settled his holdings in Hackney and Tottenham on Worsley, thus providing him with a personal landed income in addition to any revenues he might draw by virtue of his benefices. (fn. 19) More of the latter were still to follow: Worsley was instituted to the rectory of Eakring in Nottinghamshire on 19 May 1467, and by 16 July 1468 was also prebendary of Willesden at St. Paul's cathedral, London, where Laurence Booth had briefly been dean in 1456–57. (fn. 20)

It was, however, at Southwell, his first prebend, that Worsley mainly exercised his residency during these early years. The church there had no dean and its chapter was presided over by the senior residentiary. (fn. 21) As many of the residentiaries were absent for large parts of the year, a heavy administrative burden fell on those remaining. Throughout the 1470s it was rare for even three of the canons to attend chapter, and Worsley, who stood out as a frequent attender, often transacted business alone. (fn. 22) In 1472, the chapter appointed him its special commissioner to settle disputes among the chantry chaplains at the minster, and in the following years he regularly conducted the triennial visitations of the church. (fn. 23)

While the administrative experience that William was thus able to gain would stand him in good stead in his later career, his duties at Southwell nevertheless also saw some unpleasant and time-consuming incidents. One of these arose from corrective action taken by Worsley against one of the vicars choral at Southwell, Thomas Gurnell, in 1470. At the time, Gurnell already had a record of unruly behaviour. He had been cited in November 1469 to appear before the canons to answer charges of having taken possession of the goods of John Terold, a deceased former residentiary, despite their formal sequestration by the chapter. He had shown himself contumacious and refused to acknowledge the chapter's jurisdiction and as a result had been excommunicated. He had nevertheless continued to farm his prebend of Normanton and, although on one occasion in August 1470 he had agreed on his knees to pay for its procuration, he had ignored the chapter's order to surrender the living. Now it was stipulated that not only had he openly engaged in trade, but he had insulted the canons, both in chapter and publicly, and had threatened them with physical injury. As a result, he was once more suspended from his benefice and ejected from the choir. On 13 September 1470, after hearing the evidence of the other vicars choral, who unanimously described Gurnell as headstrong and of bad morals, a panel of three canons headed by Worsley formally excommunicated him a second time. As a result of his continued refusal to surrender his benefice, Gurnell was bound by an obligation for a hundred marks to submit to the chapter's decision. However, he brought a suit against Worsley in the court of Chancery, accusing the later Dean of having caused him to be arrested and imprisoned at London out of sheer malice and ill will. It was only under such duress, he claimed, that he had bound himself to surrender his vicarage. He said that even though he had complied with this condition, Worsley had nevertheless brought a suit at common law to force him to pay the hundred marks. Worsley, by contrast, denied these accusations and claimed that Gurnell had forfeited his obligation because he had broken its terms by inducing Henry, Lord Grey of Codnor, to interfere in the matter on his behalf. (fn. 24)

Such issues as these no doubt absorbed much of Worsley's time at Southwell. Yet he may have found time to attend to his other benefices during the occasional spells when the residentiaries granted themselves leave of absence for weeks, and often months, on account of epidemics of the plague at Southwell. Even so, it is not surprising that one of the complaints raised during the 1481 visitation was that the canons were usually in residence for only eight months in the year. (fn. 25)

Although Worsley was clearly pre-eminent among the canons of Southwell and dominated the conduct of their business in the 1470s, he had not reached the apex of his career. In 1476 his patron Laurence Booth was translated from the bishopric of Durham to his brother William's former see at York. In September of that year he appointed his protégé, Worsley, archdeacon of Nottingham. (fn. 26) Further preferment was clearly intended, for the following February Worsley secured papal dispensation to hold three incompatible benefices. (fn. 27) There is no indication to what extent he found time to attend to his pastoral duties, but he did find time to exercise his legal knowledge on the affairs of various members of the middling and more important clergy, and it is not improbable that the expertise he revealed at Southwell also placed him at the forefront of administrative business elsewhere. (fn. 28)

An opportunity for advancement finally presented itself in the autumn of 1478 as a result of the death of the dean of St. Paul's cathedral, London, Thomas Winterbourne. The election of a new dean was invariably a complicated administrative exercise, as a number of the cathedral's prebends were held by absentees who had to be given time to appoint proxies to exercise their votes. Unfortunately, the record of Worsley's election as dean in Bishop Kemp's register is incomplete, with a whole quire missing since medieval times, as is apparent from a marginal entry. (fn. 29) Thus, thirteen of the thirty-one canons who might have exercised their vote are unaccounted for. Only eight prebendaries are known to have been present, either because their presence is recorded, or because their presence may be conjectured from their appointment as another canon's proxy. John Sutton, prebendary of Rugmere, presided over the election and Richard Martyn, prebendary of Hoxton and archdeacon of London, publicly announced the election result. Richard Lichfield, prebendary of Newington and archdeacon of Middlesex, acted as a procurator shortly afterwards and may therefore be thought also to have been present at the election. (fn. 30) Five other canons, Thomas Chaundeler, Thomas Jane, Richard Luke, William Worsley and William Wylde attended as proxies for between one and six other canons. Seven canons, Edmund Audley, Ralph Byrd, Thomas Hall, Robert Morton, Robert Pevesey, William Pykenham, and James Stanley had nominated proxies, while three men (John Bourgchier, John Davyson and William Kempe) were missing unexcused. The prebend of Tottenham was vacant by the death of Dean Winterbourne. (fn. 31)

Under these circumstances it was perhaps not surprising that William Worsley, who controlled five proxy votes, as well as his own, was promptly chosen as the new dean. (fn. 32) His election was confirmed by the bishop on 4 March, and he took up residence in London. Although he continued to take an interest in the affairs of Southwell minster, his attendance there grew increasingly irregular. He was absent from chapter at Southwell in February and when he next occurs in the chapter acts there, it was for a meeting at which the canons granted themselves leave of absence for the whole summer on account of the plague. (fn. 33)

The Deanery of St. Paul's

The cathedral chapter of St. Paul's had been headed by a dean since at least the eleventh century, one of the earliest instances of the office at an English cathedral. In the early years of its existence, the dean's authority was somewhat overshadowed by that of the archdeacons, but from the early twelfth century the dean emerged clearly as leader of the chapter and his role as such was reflected in its documents. (fn. 34) By the mid-fifteenth century the office's responsibilities were well-defined and enshrined in the cathedral statutes, a collection of which was compiled by Dean Lisieux in the 1450s. The dean's first responsibilities were of a pastoral nature. His particular ministry was directed at the cathedral clergy: he judged their morals, heard their confessions and administered the last rites. Beyond these internal duties within the cathedral community, there were more important pastoral tasks to be undertaken. In the bishop's absence, the dean would take his place as head of the church. He might then assume the more solemn duties during the offices, such as giving the benediction, or the celebration of divine service on greater feast days. He was also expected to preach public sermons on other feast days. (fn. 35) Further duties were defined by the different cults in existence within the cathedral church: within the Jesus chapel in the crypt of St. Paul's, the dean had an honorary stall as rector of the fraternity of the Holy Name. (fn. 36)

Alongside its pastoral duties, the office of dean brought with it extensive responsibilities of a secular nature, both within the cathedral close and without. In the first instance, there was the business transacted by the cathedral chapter. The statutes of St. Paul's stipulated that only residentiary canons who had held their prebends for more than a year could attend chapter, but as Worsley had been prebendary of Willesden for more than ten years when he became dean, he was able to take his place at the chapter's head immediately. (fn. 37) The dean had a responsibility not only to attend chapter but to summon it and, either in person or by deputy, to expound the business to be transacted. Yet, the extent to which the dean could act independently from the chapter remained limited, and many important decisions could only be taken by the full chapter, where the dean's vote was equal to that of any other canon. (fn. 38) Similarly, the statutes of St. Paul's placed severe limits on the dean's jurisdiction over the major canons and the sanctions available to him for their correction. By contrast, he had extensive powers and responsibilities concerning the administration of the chapter's common lands, an area in which some of Worsley's twelfth- and thirteenth-century predecessors made their marks. (fn. 39) These powers included the right of triennial visitations of the chapter's churches and manors, accompanied by a residentiary canon elected by the chapter. This power, however, did not extend to the estates held by the dean himself, which in their turn were visited triennially by two canons appointed by the chapter. (fn. 40)

Further afield, by the fifteenth century the dean of St. Paul's also customarily played a part in matters of state. Several fifteenth-century deans served as members of the King's council, while some others rose even further: Thomas Lisieux and Laurence Booth had served as Keepers of the Privy Seal while Roger Radcliff and Thomas Winterbourne had both been members of Henry VI's council. (fn. 41) Worsley never rose to such high office, but nevertheless played his part in the governance of the realm. He was appointed to royal commissions under both Edward IV and Richard III, (fn. 42) and regularly summoned to convocation, the assembly of the clergy of the province of Canterbury, into whose remit fell decisions such as grants of taxation to the King or the Pope (cf. pp. 21–22, below). In the fifteenth century convocation invariably met in the chapter house of St. Paul's and ten assemblies were convened during Worsley's time as dean. His activities in several of them are documented, and that which gathered at the cathedral on 21 March 1481 may serve as an example. On this occasion convocation was asked to consider a series of issues and financial demands. Worsley took a prominent role from the outset. On 26 March he and John Bourgchier, the archdeacon of Canterbury, presented the archdeacon of Suffolk, Master William Pykenham, as speaker (prelocutor) of convocation. (fn. 43) Although grants to the King and archbishop were quickly agreed, the issue of a papal subsidy proved more controversial and was referred to a committee of convocation that was first summoned to meet on 5 June. Worsley was one of three deans of cathedrals included in this body. (fn. 44) As the committee continued to meet at St. Paul's, Worsley was regularly present. By contrast, many of its other members frequently defaulted, and the committee was prorogued several times before being dissolved without result in mid-November 1482, as sickness and death had taken too much of a toll among the original membership. (fn. 45) On several occasions thereafter, when convocation was in session it fell to the dean of St. Paul's to present the chosen prelocutor to the assembled prelates. (fn. 46)

Otherwise, only limited information is available on Worsley's activities as dean. His lack of involvement within St. Paul's contrasts sharply with the enthusiasm and reforming zeal of some of his predecessors and successors, such as Thomas Lisieux, who left his mark on the statutes and administration of the cathedral, or John Colet, who refounded St. Paul's school. At the same time, he failed to play as central a part in royal government as had Lisieux or Laurence Booth. It is, however, interesting, and perhaps even suggestive, that the surviving evidence appears to place stronger emphasis on his secular and political activities than on his conduct of his pastoral duties, or even on his conduct of the office of dean. (fn. 47) Indeed, this may be indicative of Worsley's approach to his responsibilities.

Although formally more distant from the government than his predecessors, Worsley nevertheless found himself in close proximity to the King and court in other ways. The hospitality of the dean and chapter was famous, (fn. 48) and great lords with blood ties to the King such as Edward IV's stepson, the Marquess of Dorset, were entertained in the Dean's house. (fn. 49) Yet, Worsley also maintained close links with the King himself. In the months following his election, in the course of the year 1479, Anglo-Scottish relations – generally amiable since the treaty of October 1474 – had deteriorated rapidly. The Scottish government became increasingly tolerant of its subjects' breaches of the truce and raids on English territory. In early 1480 King Edward sent Alexander Legh to Scotland to demand not only reparations for the Scottish violations of the truce, but to threaten open war and demand the surrender of Berwick. In the first half of the same year Edward also began preparations for open warfare in the north, should it become necessary to back his demands up with force. When the Earl of Angus crossed the border and burnt Bamborough in the summer of 1480, the retinues of the Duke of Gloucester, warden of the West March since 1470, and the Earl of Northumberland rapidly retaliated. James III of Scotland now sent Ross herald to Westminster in an attempt to negotiate and sought to blame the English borderers for the breach of the truce, but his overtures were dismissed by Edward, who in November 1480 decided to lead an expedition to Scotland in person. Although preparations for this campaign progressed rapidly, Edward himself delayed in the south-east until September 1481. He only reached Nottingham at the end of October and remained there for three weeks before returning to London, leaving his commanders to besiege Berwick. (fn. 50)

Worsley appears to have been caught up in the general excitement of the preparations for the expedition to the north in the final months of 1480. His intention was obviously to accompany the King himself and, moreover, the provisions listed in the accounts indicate that he was to take a personal retinue of seven men. (fn. 51) The Dean had to be fully equipped for the expedition and, for his protection his retinue was armed with bows and arrows. For the company's transport, a wagon and a cart with six horses as well as six additional horses were acquired. The potential hardships of setting up camp in the field could not be avoided, but a degree of comfort and ostentation were nevertheless intended, and tents and pavilions were provided for the party's accommodation. Worsley seems to have set out before the King: in June 1481 he drew £80 in gold from his receiver for his journey to Southwell and the following month he was conducting a visitation there. (fn. 52)

The Warbeck Conspiracy and Worsley's Final Years

It is impossible to tell whether the death of Edward IV and the turbulence of Richard III's accession had any impact on Worsley's relationship with the court. There is no suggestion that he was either particularly close or particularly hostile to Richard, with whom he may be thought to have become acquainted either at court or in the course of the expedition of 1481. If anything, the transition appears to have been a smooth one, for he did not think it necessary to sue for a personal pardon from the new King for his protection. (fn. 53) It may have been as a consequence of this apparent indifference that the accession of Henry VII brought Worsley neither difficulties nor immediate benefit, even though two of his kinsmen, Edward and Seth Worsley, had been in exile with the pretender. (fn. 54) Unlike many others associated with Richard III, the Dean again saw no need to sue for a pardon from the new King. (fn. 55) For the first time since his installation as Dean, however, he was granted a further benefice: in February 1493 he was made Archdeacon of Taunton and prebendary of Milverton in Wells, resigning the Nottinghamshire rectory of Eakring in return. It was a significant preferment, and boded well for Worsley's further career: three of his five predecessors since the early 1440s had been elevated to bishoprics from the benefice. (fn. 56) Nevertheless, it is possible that he had hoped for more significant preferment on that occasion, perhaps even for immediate elevation to a bishopric on this occasion, and that it was dissatisfaction that caused him to become involved in the extensive conspiracy against Henry Tudor that came to light in late 1494. Certainly, like the Archdeaconry of Taunton, the Deanery of St. Paul's had been a stepping stone leading to further preferment for several of Worsley's predecessors, including his great-uncle, Laurence Booth.

The apparent aim of the conspirators of 1494 was to replace Henry with the Flemish pretender Perkin Warbeck, posing as Richard, duke of York, Edward IV's younger son. Henry VII's spies infiltrated the ranks of the conspirators at an early stage and the principal men involved were arrested at the beginning of 1495. Apart from Worsley, three other clergymen were arrested: William Richford (d. 1501), prior provincial of the English Dominicans, Thomas Powys, the Dominican prior of Langley, and William Sutton (d. 1503), the distinguished preacher and parson of St. Stephen Walbrook in London. (fn. 57) The leading laymen involved were John Radcliff, Lord FitzWalter, Sir Simon Mountfort, Sir Thomas Thwaites, William Daubeney, Robert Ratcliffe and Richard Lacy. (fn. 58) Mountfort, Robert Ratcliffe and William Daubeney were executed as leaders of the plot, while the rest, including the priests were spared. (fn. 59)

The background to Worsley's involvement in the plot and its extent remain obscure. It has been argued that the link between the main conspirators was their common connection with Edward IV and senior members of his family surviving into Henry Tudor's reign, a theory prevalent by the sixteenth century which survived into James I's reign. (fn. 60) A similar explanation appears possible in Worsley's case. The Dean had connections with the court, and members of the royal family were guests at his table. Worsley's kinsman and patron, Laurence Booth, Archbishop of York, had served as King Edward's chancellor and been elevated by him to the archbishopric. (fn. 61) Although the Marquess of Dorset, a guest in Worsley's household in 1481, played a part in trying the rebels of 1495, he was nevertheless viewed with suspicion by the King and in 1496 had to find substantial sureties for his good behaviour. (fn. 62) Perhaps even more suggestive is Worsley's close connexion with Sir Thomas Montgomery, whom he retained at an annual fee of £4, and who had been one of King Edward's executors. Although Montgomery was never charged with involvement in the plot, he may have escaped merely by his death in January 1495, before the conspirators' arrest. (fn. 63)

Worsley also had links among the other men arrested: in 1491 William Sutton and the Dean's kinsman, the mercer Edmund Worsley, jointly acquired the Essex manor of Uphavering and other lands in the county from Anne, widow of Sir Thomas Urswick. (fn. 64) Furthermore, one of the men who stood surety for Sutton's good behaviour in 1496 in the aftermath of the conspiracy was Richard Lee, who had earlier served alongside the Dean as a feoffee of Richard Culpeper, first husband of Worsley's kinswoman Isabella. Through his mercer relatives, who by the later fifteenth century were established at Calais as well as in London, the Dean was well placed to sustain contacts with conspirators further afield. Members of the London Mercers' Company and their mercantile contacts across the Channel played a central role in communications between the plotters, and the close connexion between William Worsley and his merchant kinsmen is illustrated by his appointment of Edmund Worsley to a central position in his household after the death of the steward Roger Radcliff in late 1496. (fn. 65)

Whatever the reason, Worsley was attainted and placed in the Tower. Yet, in keeping with his status, his imprisonment was not an uncomfortable one. He took his servants along, and Simon Digby, the deputy lieutenant of the Tower, received 16s. 8d. for them each week from Worsley's receiver. (fn. 66) Similarly, the Dean's diet remained a varied one. Various kinds of meat and fish were bought and sent to the Tower for Worsley's table. (fn. 67) Nevertheless, the Dean soon opened negotiations for a reconciliation with the King. It was not long before his efforts bore fruit: he was released from the Tower after only sixteen weeks, (fn. 68) his attainder was reversed in parliament, and on 6 June 1495 Henry granted him a general pardon. (fn. 69) However, the pardon cost Worsley dearly. In the first instance, he had to find eight mainpernors who each pledged £200 for his loyalty. He drew most of these from among his own household, and they included the faithful Roger Radcliff, three kinsmen, Edmund Worsley, Philip Booth and Thomas Orston, who had long administered Worsley's Southwell prebend, as well as the chaplain William Roke. (fn. 70) Immediately following the grant of his pardon, Worsley had to grant an annual rent of £200 from his ecclesiastical estates, payable for the rest of his life, to Lord Daubeney, Sir Reginald Bray, Sir Thomas Lovell, Andrew Dymmok, James Hobart and Richard Empson, to the King's use. For added security, he had to renew this commitment twice in the following years, and the Dean's receivers' accounts record the payment of the sum in subsequent years. (fn. 71) There also appears to have been another agreement made some days later on 28 June. The terms of this separate bond are obscure, but under it Worsley paid another £35 p.a. to King Henry. (fn. 72) Furthermore, the Dean had to surrender his archdeaconry of Taunton, which was regranted before the end of 1496. (fn. 73)

The King's close advisors were personally rewarded for their part in securing Worsley's pardon: (fn. 74) the Dean had little personal estate, but what he had – the lands in Tottenham and Hackney that he had inherited from Archbishop Booth – he was forced to make over to Sir Reginald Bray and the London goldsmiths John Shaa and Bartholomew Rede, joint masters of the mint, in March 1496. (fn. 75) While Worsley remained resident at Hackney, from this date on he had to pay £8 6s. 8d. in rent to Bray every half year. (fn. 76) In addition, Bray was granted an annual fee of £10, as was Sir Thomas Lovell, while Simon Digby, the deputy lieutenant of the Tower, annually received half that sum. (fn. 77)

If the financial constraints resulting from the need to make substantial payments for renewed royal favour were not enough, Worsley's final years were to be further overshadowed by the death of his trusted receiver, Roger Radcliff, in December 1496. Two of the Dean's kinsmen who had stood surety for him in 1496, Edmund Worsley and Philip Booth, now took control of his finances, probably to keep their own interest secure. As a result, William's relations with Booth and Worsley were cool, and before long led to litigation in the court of Chancery. (fn. 78)

To compound his troubles, Worsley's health now also began to fail. His stay in the Tower – however comfortable – may have adversely affected his constitution, for in 1496–97 the steward accounted for an ointment for his master's back. In this sense there may have been an element of truth in the claim of the author of the Great Chronicle of London that he had died as a consequence of his actions in 1494, although probably not of shame, as the chronicler asserted. (fn. 79) Feeling death approaching, Worsley made his will on 12 February 1499. He asked to be buried on one side of the choir of St. Paul's in London. He made fairly sumptuous provision for his funeral, providing for black liveries for his servants, as well as black gowns for a number of poor people. On the day of his funeral the sum of £3 6s. 8d. was to be distributed among the poor. For three years after his death a chantry priest was to sing for his soul in the chapel of St. Laurence in St. Paul's and for the same period of time his obit was to be kept in St. Paul's, with 20s. being distributed among poor people on each occasion. Having thus provided for his soul's salvation, Worsley's next thought was for his servants. He asked that his household be kept intact for their benefit for a month and that each of them should be paid their full wages for the quarter he died in. In addition, each of them was to receive a suitable reward. Further bequests went to the choristers and minor canons of St. Paul's. (fn. 80) Thomas Worsley, the Dean's brother, refused the execution of William's will, so it was entrusted to the lawyer William Ayloff, (fn. 81) and to the Dean's household retainers Thomas Shaa and John Saperton. (fn. 82) The exact date of the Dean's death remains obscure, but he was dead by 7 September 1499, when Bishop Savage collated his successor to the prebend of Willesden. (fn. 83) As he had requested, Worsley was buried in the cathedral, close to the chapel of St. Laurence. Apart from the inscription on his tomb brass, a further epitaph was engraved on a pillar close to the tomb, perhaps on the initiative of Ayloff, who in his own will of 1517 made provision for masses for Worsley's soul. (fn. 84)


  • 1. The date of Worsley's birth is estimated from his entry into Winchester College in 1442. William Worsley's career has been the subject of a number of short studies, most notably A. F. Pollard's account in the Dictionary of National Biography, soon to be superseded by Michael Bennett's biography in the Oxford DNB. Other brief notes can be found in C. N. L. Brooke, 'The Deans of St. Paul's, c. 1090–1499', BIHR, xxix (1965), 231–44, p. 244.
  • 2. The History of Parliament, The Commons 1386–1421, ed. J. S. Roskell, L. Clark and C. Rawcliffe (4 vols., Stroud, 1992), iv. 902–3.
  • 3. Testamenta Eboracensia, iv. 155 and A Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge to 1500, ed. A. B. Emden (Cambridge, 1963), p. 651 call Dean Worsley's father Robert, but the description of a Ralph Langford as his brother in the 1497–98 account provides conclusive evidence of the Dean's parentage (cf. below, p. 122). A biography of Sir Ralph Langford will appear in The History of Parliament, The Commons 1422–1504, ed. L. S. Clark (forthcoming).
  • 4. E. Axon, 'The Family of Bothe (Booth) and the Church in the 15th and 16th Centuries', Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, 53 (1938), 32–82; A. Compton Reeves, 'William Booth, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield (1447–52)', Midland History, iii (1975–76), 11–29; idem, 'William Booth, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, Archbishop of York', in Lancastrian Englishmen (Washington D.C., 1981), 265–362); idem, 'Lawrence Booth: Bishop of Durham (1457–76), Archbishop of York (1476–80)', in Estrangement, Enterprise and Education in Fifteenth Century England, ed. S. D. Michalove and A. Compton Reeves (Stroud, 1998), 63–88.
  • 5. Testamenta Eboracensia, iv. 31–32; PRO, C1/86/20; Fasti, vi. 8, 28, 91. Like his son, Richard Booth maintained close links with Laurence Booth: PRO, KB27/790, rot. att. 1; KB27/791, rot. 21.
  • 6. Fasti, vi. 19, 29, 76; PRO, PROB11/10, fol. 259v (PCC 33 Vox). On the younger Booths see also A. Compton Reeves, 'Bishop John Booth of Exeter, 1465–78', in Traditions and Transformations in Late Medieval England, ed. D. Biggs, S. D. Michalove and A. C. Reeves (Leiden et al., 2002), 125–44.
  • 7. CCR, 1429–35, pp. 232, 243; Testamenta Eboracensia, iv. 156; PRO, KB27/790, att. rot. 1; KB27/791, rot. 21; CP25(1)/294/75/5.
  • 8. Emden, Cambridge, p. 651; Fasti, x. 59.
  • 9. A Biographical register of the University of Oxford to AD 1500, ed. A. B. Emden, (3 vols., Oxford 1957–59), iii. 2089.
  • 10. Visitations and Memorials of Southwell Minster, ed. A. F. Leach (London, Camden Soc. n.s. 48, 1891), p. 108.
  • 11. CPL, xii. 311–12.
  • 12. Lichfield Joint Record Office, Reg. B/A/1/10, fol. 8v; Fasti, x. 59.
  • 13. Fasti, x. 59; Register of Wills of Dean and Chapter of York, ii, fol. 23r; Lichfield Joint Record Office, Reg. B/A/1/10, fol. 13v.
  • 14. BI, Register xxiii, Thomas Rotherham, fol. 110v.
  • 15. DNB, ii. 850.
  • 16. Fasti, vi. 43; BI, Register xx, William Booth, fols. 42–42v.
  • 17. Grace Book A, ed. S. M. Leathes (Cambridge, 1897), pp. 21, 25.
  • 18. University Library Cambridge, EDR G/1/5, fol. 208; Emden, Cambridge, p. 651; Emden, Oxford, vol. iii, p. 2089; Grace Book A, pp. 32, 39; CPL, xii. 311.
  • 19. CCR, 1476–85, no. 39.
  • 20. BI, Register xxiii, Thomas Rotherham, fol. 1780; Fasti, v. 71.
  • 21. A. H. Thompson, The English Clergy and their Organization in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford, 1947), p. 79.
  • 22. Visitations of Southwell, pp. 7–8, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18–19, 26–27, 29, 161, 168.
  • 23. Visitations of Southwell, pp. 12, 20–26, 32, 42–43.
  • 24. PRO, C1/1502/12–13; C253/44/9; CCR, 1468–76, no. 765; Visitations of Southwell, pp. 1–11. For Grey see CP, vi. 130–32.
  • 25. Visitations of Southwell, pp. 10, 11, 40, 43.
  • 26. Fasti, vi. 24; BI, Register xxii, Laurence Booth, fol. 241.
  • 27. CPL, xiii, pt. ii. 540.
  • 28. CCR, 1468–76, nos. 1330, 1359.
  • 29. GL, MS 9531/7, pt. ii, fol. 9v. See appendix 1.
  • 30. GL, MS 9531/7, pt. ii, fol. 13v.
  • 31. GL, MS 9531/7, pt. ii, fols. 9v–12v; Fasti, v. 63.
  • 32. GL, MS 9531/7, pt. ii, fols. 9–15; C. N. L. Brooke, 'The Earliest Times', in A History of St Paul's Cathedral and the Men Associated with it, ed. W. R. Matthews and W. M. Atkins (London, 1957), pp. 54–55.
  • 33. Fasti, v. 6; Visitations of Southwell, pp. 40–41.
  • 34. K. Edwards, The English Secular Cathedral in the Middle Ages (Manchester, 1967), p. 140; C. N. L. Brooke, 'The Composition of the Chapter of St. Paul's, 1086–1163', Cambridge Historical Journal, x (1950–52), 111–32, pp. 118–19; idem, 'The Deans of St. Paul's', p. 233.
  • 35. Edwards, p. 143; Reg. Stat., p. xxiii.
  • 36. Reg. Stat., pp. 437, 440.
  • 37. Reg. Stat., pp. 129–30.
  • 38. Edwards, pp. 144–45.
  • 39. Reg. Stat., p. 163; Edwards, p. 147; The Domesday of St. Paul's, ed. W. H. Hale (London, Camden Soc. o.s. 69, 1858); Radulphi de Diceto Opera Historica, ed. W. Stubbs (2 vols., London, R.S., 1876), i, pp. lvi–lxi.
  • 40. Visitations of Churches belonging to St. Paul's Cathedral in 1297 and 1458, ed. W. Sparrow Simpson (London, Camden Soc., n.s. 55, 1895); Reg. Stat., pp. xxiv, 96, 247; W. Dugdale, The History of St. Pauls Cathedral in London from its Foundation untill these Times (London, 1658), pp. 310–35.
  • 41. R. Virgoe, 'The Composition of the King's Council, 1437–61', BIHR, xliii (1970), 134–60, p. 159; J. R. Lander, 'Council, Administration and Councillors, 1461–1485', BIHR, xxxii (1959), 138–80, p. 172.
  • 42. CPR, 1476–85, pp. 215, 466.
  • 43. Registrum Thome Bourgchier, ed. F. R. H. Du Boulay (Oxford, 1957), p. 133.
  • 44. The others were the Deans of Wells and Chichester (Registrum Bourgchier, p. 147).
  • 45. Registrum Bourgchier, pp. 148ff.
  • 46. The Register of John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1486–1500, ed. C. Harper-Bill (2 vols. [Canterbury and York Soc. 75, 78], Leeds, Woodbridge, 1987–91), no. 102, where Worsley is erroneously called Thomas.
  • 47. The authors are grateful to Dr. Elizabeth New for her comments on this point.
  • 48. J. H. Lupton, A Life of John Colet, D.D., Dean of St. Paul's and Founder of St. Paul's School (London, 1909), pp. 148–49; The Collected Works of Erasmus, vol. 8: The Correspondence of Erasmus, ed. R. A. B. Mynors and P. G. Bietenholz (Toronto etc., 1988), p. 235.
  • 49. Document 3, below.
  • 50. C. Ross, Edward IV (London, 1974), pp. 278–83. The chronology of these events is problematic. Ross dates Legh's mission to early 1480, Ranald Nicholson, The Edinburgh History of Scotland, ii: Scotland: the Later Middle Ages (Edinburgh, 1974), p. 491, to the early months of 1481.
  • 51. It was not unknown for deans of St. Paul's to travel to the Scottish Marches on the King's business. In the Spring of 1375 Dean John de Appelby went there for a meeting with the deputies of the King of Scotland: PRO, E101/317/8.
  • 52. Visitations of Southwell, pp. 42–3; document 2, below.
  • 53. PRO, C67/51, 52.
  • 54. CPR, 1485–94, p. 32; Testamenta Eboracensia, iv. 155 suggests that Seth may have been the Dean's brother. Within weeks of Bosworth Edward was rewarded for his service by a grant of the farm of the lordship of Ballingham in Calais: D. Grummitt, '"For the Surety of the Town and Marches": Early Tudor Policy towards Calais 1485–1509', Nottingham Medieval Studies, xliv (2000), 184–203, p. 186.
  • 55. The pardon Worsley was granted in December 1485 related to his service as one of the feoffees of Richard Culpeper and included all his co-feoffees: PRO, C67/53, m. 4.
  • 56. Adam Moleyns, archdeacon 1441–45, became bp. of Chichester, Robert Stillington, archdeacon 1450–65, became bp. of Bath and Wells, Oliver King, archdeacon 1490–92, became bp. of Exeter. Only Andrew Holes, archdeacon 1446–50, was merely moved to the archdeaconry of Wells, while Richard Langport died as archdeacon in 1490. Likewise, Worsley's immediate successor in the archdeaconry, Robert Sherborne, became bp. of St. David's in 1505 when he surrendered the benefice: Fasti, viii. 16–17; The Registers of Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1466–1491, and Richard Fox, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1492–94, ed. H. C. Maxwell-Lyte (Som. Rec. Soc., lii, 1937), p. 179; The Register of Richard Fox while Bishop of Bath and Wells, A.D. MCCCCXCII-MCCCCXCIV, ed. E. C. Batten (n.l., 1889), p. 28.
  • 57. For Sutton see Emden, Oxford, iii. 1826–27, for Richford, ibid., p. 1575, for Powys, Emden, Cambridge, p. 459.
  • 58. For biographical details of the conspirators cf. CP, v. 486–87; The History of Parliament: Biographies of the Members of the Commons House 1439–1509, ed. J. C. Wedgwood (London, 1936), p. 706 (FitzWalter), Wedgwood, p. 603 (Mountfort), ibid., p. 855 (Thwaites), and also see Grummitt, "Surety of Town and Marches", p. 191.
  • 59. Memorials of King Henry VII: Historia Regis Henrici Septimi a Bernardo Andrea Tholosate Conscripta, ed. James Gairdner (London, R.S. 10, 1858), p. 69; The Anglica Historia of Polydore Vergil A.D. 1485–1537, ed. D. Hay (London, Camden Soc. lxxiv, 1950), p. 72; Ian Arthurson, The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy (Stroud, 1994), pp. 84–86. For Sutton's bond for future good behaviour see PRO, C54/376, m. 19d. The authors are indebted for this reference to Dr. Sean Cunningham, who is preparing an edition of the document.
  • 60. Arthurson, pp. 87–88; The History of King Richard the Third (1619) by Sir George Buck, ed. A. N. Kincaid (Gloucester, 1979), p. 161.
  • 61. See appendix 2.
  • 62. Arthurson, pp. 86, 138; CCR, 1485–1500, no. 972.
  • 63. See the entry for Montgomery in appendix 2.
  • 64. CAD, ii. C.2366, vi. C.6991.
  • 65. Arthurson, p. 90. See the entry for Edmund Worsley in appendix 2.
  • 66. Statutes of the Realm (11 vols., 1810–28), ii. 619; document 9, below.
  • 67. Document 9, below.
  • 68. The receiver's account allows for payment to Digby for this period of time: document 9, below.
  • 69. PRO, C65/128, m. 17; CPR, 1494–1509, p. 23; RP, vi. 489; Statutes of the Realm, ii. 619; C82/135. The authors are indebted to Dr. David Grummitt for this latter reference.
  • 70. CCR, 1485–1500, no. 863; PRO, E101/414/16, fol. 127.
  • 71. CCR, 1485–1500, nos. 795, 910, 965; documents 9, 10, below. In November 1498 Thomas Lucas replaced Dymmok among the beneficiaries.
  • 72. Documents 9, 10, below.
  • 73. The Registers of Oliver King, Bishop of Bath and Wells 1496–1503, and Hadrian de Castello, Bishop of Bath and Wells 1503–1518, ed. H. Maxwell-Lyte (Som. Rec. Soc. liv, 1939), no. 9, p. 2; Fasti, viii. 17.
  • 74. The role of Henry VII's inner circle, including Daubeney, Bray, and Lovell, in controlling access to the King is discussed by M. M. Condon, 'Ruling Elites in the Reign of Henry VII', in Patronage, Pedigree and Power, ed. C. Ross (Gloucester, 1979), 109–42. Specifically for Bray see M. M. Condon, 'From Caitiff and Villain to Pater Patriae: Reynold Bray and the Profits of Office', in Profit, Piety and the Professions in Later Medieval England, ed. M. A. Hicks (Gloucester, 1990), 137–68.
  • 75. CCR, 1485–1500, no. 910.
  • 76. Documents 9, 10, below.
  • 77. Document 9, below. For Lovell cf. appendix 2, below.
  • 78. PRO, C1/453/2–3.
  • 79. The Great Chronicle of London, ed. A. H. Thomas and I. D. Thornley (London, 1938), p. 257.
  • 80. Testamenta Eboracensia, iv. 155–57.
  • 81. William Ayloff of Breteyns in Hornchurch, Essex, was a lawyer trained at Lincoln's Inn with landholdings in Essex and Suffolk. He died in the late summer of 1517, leaving two legitimate sons and a daughter, as well as two bastards. In his will he bequeathed most of his books of law to his elder son William, but left a yearbook of Edward III's reign and a book of assize proceedings to the library of Lincoln's Inn: PRO, PROB11/19, fols. 1–4 (PCC 1 Ayloffe); M. K. Mcintosh, A Community Transformed, The Manor and Liberty of Havering 1500–1620 (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 52, 84, 272, 274, 374, 424, 440; N. Pevsner, Buildings of England, Essex (2nd ed., Harmondsworth, 1965), p. 245; VCH Essex, vii. 33, 48.
  • 82. The manuscript of Worsley's will is damaged and missing the appointment of executors. However, it is likely that the men to whom the administration of his goods was committed when the will was proven on 8 Nov. 1499 were also the Dean's choice of executors. For Shaa and Saperton see appendix 2.
  • 83. GL, MS 9531/8, fol. 33.
  • 84. PRO, PROB11/19, fols. 1–4 (PCC 1 Ayloffe); John Weever, Ancient Funeral Monuments (London, 1767) pp. 158–59.