Introduction: The Accounts II: The Dean's Household

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: The Accounts II: The Dean's Household', in The Estate and Household Accounts of William Worsley Dean of St Paul's Cathedral 1479-1497, (Donington, 2004) pp. 31-37. British History Online [accessed 29 February 2024]

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III. The Accounts II: The Dean's Household

A large part of Worsley's income was annually consumed by his household, based at one of his two mansions. For much of his tenure at St. Paul's, the Dean's favoured residence appears to have been his house (perhaps the building later known as Brooke House) in Hackney. It may have formed part of the holdings in Hackney which Archbishop Booth had left the Dean in his will, or may have been constructed on Worsley's orders shortly after he succeeded to the Hackney lands. (fn. 1) When his responsibilities at the cathedral necessitated his presence in London, he had at his disposal the dean's traditional residence in the south-west of the cathedral precinct, a building used for this purpose since the twelfth century. In 1486–87, Worsley was additionally granted the canonical house in Paternoster Row, opposite the postern door of the cathedral, which his fellow canon John Forster had previously inhabited and in which Laurence Booth had also lived during his time at St. Paul's. (fn. 2)

Unfortunately, little is known about the organisational structures of Worsley's household. It was headed by the steward of the household, an office which Roger Radcliff combined with that of receiver until his death in 1496. Subordinate to the receiver was another official, occasionally also described as steward of the household, who may have functioned as Radcliff's deputy with specific responsibility for the household. Below the steward, the household's departmental organisation is less clear, but it may be reflected to some degree in the paragraph headings in the expenditure sections of the receiver's accounts. Thus, Worsley's household had a buttery (wine, beer, ale), (fn. 3) while the pantry with its traditional responsibilities for bread and napery may have been merged with the kitchen, which took charge of all other victuals and spices. (fn. 4) The separate account heading for the Dean's apparel points to the existence of a wardrobe, and Worsley's stables were headed by the keeper of the horses, the only lesser household office of which there is concrete evidence, an office held in 1489–90 by one Thomas Morys. (fn. 5)

As in most secular households of the period, there were no female servants in Worsley's establishment. When a woman was required for certain tasks, such as the making of linen sheets in 1489–90, the wife of Thomas Shaa, one of the Dean's servants, was hired specially. (fn. 6) Shaa was one of a number of Worsley's servants connected with St. Paul's cathedral. Both he and John Haryngton, one of the Dean's chaplains, are likely to have been kinsmen of prebendaries there, Ralph Shaa and William Haryngton. Similarly, the steward Roger Radcliff was a kinsman of the former dean of the same name, and Robert Forster, steward of the soke in the early 1480s, was a brother of Master John Forster, the archdeacon of London. Other members of the household were drawn from among the minor clergy of St. Paul's: Thomas Bromley was a chantry chaplain there, and both the chaplain William Roke and the rent collector William Hill were minor canons.

Worsley's personal religious household consisted of up to five chaplains retained at any one time. In July 1473 and August 1474 respectively he received papal indults to chose a confessor and to receive absolution from him at the time of his death. (fn. 7) This function may have been performed by William Roke, the most permanent member of the Dean's clerical entourage, who stood surety for him in 1495. Whereas Roke was recruited to Worsley's household from the ranks of the clergy of St. Paul's, other chaplains shared other roots with the Dean: Thomas Cartwryght was a vicar choral at Southwell, while at least four men (John Slade, Thomas Smith, Thomas Turnour and Thomas Watson), like Worsley, were graduates of Cambridge university. (fn. 8)

More difficult to glimpse than the relatively small numbers of household servants with defined responsibilities were the members of Worsley's wider circle who were not permanently resident in the household, who held no specific household office, or were simply retained by a grant of an annual fee or a livery. (fn. 9) One such man was Sir Thomas Montgomery of Faulkborn who drew an annual fee of £4 from Worsley in the 1480s. (fn. 10) After the Warbeck affair, Worsley retained the lawyer Peter Peckham as a councillor at a fee of £2 13s. 4d. p.a. (fn. 11) Other men were hired for occasional services. Thus, in 1480–81 John Morton and William Ford were paid for transacting Worsley's business at the Exchequer, while M. Thomas Matyn, auditor of the English hospital in Rome, was paid for securing letters of absolution from the Roman curia that same year. (fn. 12)

At various times, blood relatives of the Dean were in some way or another attached to the household: a kinswoman, Isabel, daughter of Otwell Worsley, in 1480 had £40 as part of her marriage portion of 300 marks paid by the Dean; (fn. 13) another kinsman, Thomas Orston, served the Dean in his archdeaconry of Nottingham; (fn. 14) the Dean's half-brother Ralph Langford was paid a weekly wage of 12d. in 1496–97; (fn. 15) and two further kinsmen, Philip Booth and Edmund Worsley, replaced the receiver, Radcliff, after his death in 1497. (fn. 16)

The size of Worsley's permanent household can only be estimated. His retinue for the journey to the north, a kind of 'itinerant household' headed by the steward Thomas Bunewell, consisted of seven men, including a chaplain. (fn. 17) The resident household at Hackney was somewhat larger, and may have been of a size similar to that of Dean William Say, who in his will of 1468 remembered twenty-seven servants, arranged according to their four grades. (fn. 18)

Provisioning of the Household

As with other noble or great ecclesiastical households, one of the major tasks to be accomplished was its provisioning. (fn. 19) Meat of various kinds (beef, veal, pork and mutton), fresh and salt fish, spices and other provisions were bought when required and the expenditure noted daily in separate quarterly accounts, the sums from which were then included in the steward's annual account. Much of the bread that was needed could probably be drawn from the bakehouse of St. Paul's cathedral, the clerk of which was responsible for purchasing the necessary grain, although the price of a set quantity had to be delivered annually in cash or kind from the Dean's manors (cf. above, pp. 29–30). (fn. 20) Under the cathedral statutes all canons were entitled to twenty-one loaves and thirty gallons of ale per week, but while there is no further record of purchases of bread in the accounts, large quantities of drink had to be acquired every year. (fn. 21) In 1480–81 £26 5s. 3d. was expended on ale, as well as almost 50s. on beer. Whereas beer and ale were drunk by the household on a daily basis, the smaller quantities of malmsey, claret and Rhenish wine accounted for in the same year were probably intended for consumption by the Dean himself, as well as for the provision of hospitality. The dean of St. Paul's table was famous for the splendid hospitality it offered, and the austere Erasmus of Rotterdam noted with disapproval that, prior to the deanery's reform by John Colet in the early sixteenth century, 'hospitality had been an excuse for devotion to luxurious living'. (fn. 22)

An integral part of late medieval hospitality was the entertainment provided by visiting minstrels, otherwise attached to the royal and some noble households. Whereas these musicians could expect only limited fees from their parent households, their temporary hosts often paid them generous rewards. Such payments are recorded in Worsley's accounts on an annual basis, indicative of the regularity with which entertainment was provided in the Dean's household. (fn. 23)

Generally, the markets of London provided what was needed for the household; the accounts record only one instance of ale being purchased from a Hackney-based brewer. (fn. 24) The household patronised a select number of merchants, who maintained their connection with Worsley's establishment for years. On occasion, goods might be brought from further afield. Thus, in 1479–80 fifty-one baskets of salt fish were purchased at Canterbury. (fn. 25) For fuel, cartloads of wood were regularly brought to the household. Only towards the end of the period covered by the accounts is there evidence of quantities of charcoal being bought from the farmer of Bowes and Polehouse. Between 1495 and 1497 a series of cartloads were taken from the holdings in Edmonton to the Dean's household and used there. The price of the purchase was allowed against the farm of the holding, and otherwise left no trace in the receiver's accounts. (fn. 26)

Like the buildings on the Dean's other estates, the edifices that housed his domestic establishment were frequently in need of maintenance. Large sums were expended almost annually on the repair of the Dean's city mansion next to St. Paul's, including in 1488–89 the making of 'bars' outside the door. (fn. 27)

Servants' Allowances

The servants' annual allowances fell into two categories: the cash wage and the livery. In accordance with Worsley's lesser rank, his servants were paid about one-third less than comparable officials of contemporary bishops, and the recorded wages of the Dean's men dropped even further in the mid-1480s. Thus, episcopal auditors and surveyors could expect about £5 p.a. By contrast, Worsley's auditor between 1480 and 1482, John Hewyk, drew only £3 6s. 8d. p.a., and John Saperton, his successor after 1487, had only £2 p.a. Likewise, the steward of the soke of St. Paul's in Essex from 1480 to 1483, Robert Forster, was paid 40s. p.a., whereas his successor, William Clarkson, from 1487 received only 26s. 8d. By comparison, the Bishop of Worcester's understewards could expect to receive between £2 13s. 4d. and £5, and his other manorial officials between 10s. and £3 p.a., while Thomas Kemp, Bishop of London, paid £3 6s. 8d. to his estate surveyor and demesne steward. Lower in the administrative hierarchy these differences were less pronounced. Several of the Dean's servants received £1 6s. 8d. p.a., John Lokear, vicar of Belchamp St. Paul and farmer of Wickham St. Paul and answerable for the Dean's revenue there, was paid 40s. in 1480–81 (raised to 60s. by 1482–83), while his successor, Thomas Watson, annually received 40s. Again, the bishop's parkers, paid at a rate of 3d. per day, could expect an annual income of over £4. Of Worsley's three chaplains, two were annually paid £3 6s. 8d., whereas the third received £2 13s. 4d. from the manor of Norton Folgate. The wages of the lesser members of the Dean's household were accounted for collectively, making their individual assignments impossible to establish. (fn. 28)

Cloth liveries were distributed twice annually, in summer and winter, to the members of the household. On occasion, special events necessitated extra expenditure. Thus, a visit by the King's stepson, the Marquess of Dorset, in April 1481 led to the acquisition of a vast range of new cloth items, (fn. 29) and for the funeral of Edward IV in 1483 black livery was ordered for the household servants. (fn. 30)

Although the bulk of the Dean's responsibilities kept him at London, the household was not always stationary there. A pluralist, Worsley was obliged to visit his other benefices in person at least occasionally. Such journeys required a supply of cash both for their preparation and for prospective expenditure along the way. Thus, on 17 June 1481 the Dean received £80 in gold royals and nobles from Radcliff for his journey to Southwell for the visitation of that summer. (fn. 31)

The expenses of Worsley's household annually ranged from £158 to £209, averaging £181. The exception was the year 1480–81, when provisions for the Scottish expedition brought the year's outgoings to over £300. In an average year, the Dean could thus expect to have between about £150 and £250 of freely disposable money available to him. This meant that he could afford to make the annual payments to the King and his advisors required after the Warbeck conspiracy, but they stretched his resources to the limit. The Dean's new chief financial officers, and perhaps Worsley himself, realised this, and consequently embarked on a concerted effort to maximise estate revenue. (fn. 32)


  • 1. A Survey of London, ed. Sheppard, vol. 28, pt. i, pp. 68–69; VCH Middlesex, x. 78.
  • 2. CCR, 1476–85, no. 39; R. Macleod, 'The Topography of St. Paul's Precinct, 1200–1500', London Topographical Soc., xxvi (1990), 1–14, pp. 6–7; HMC 9th Report, appendix, pp. 10–11.
  • 3. Some fifteenth-century households had a separate cellar to look after wine, while the buttery retained responsibility for beer and ale. Although Worsley's accounts have distinct headings for the three commodities, it was probably too small to make such a distinction: C. M. Woolgar, The Great Household in Late Medieval England (New Haven, London, 1999), p. 17. For the departmental structure of a basic household see e.g. ibid. pp. 16–17, Dyer, Standards of Living, p. 51; Woolgar, Household Accounts, i. 23–24.
  • 4. The household of Dean Thomas Lisieux earlier in the century may have had a similar structure: in his will Lisieux remembered the steward of his household, his butler and his cook, but did not mention a separate pantler among the senior officials of his household: PRO, PROB11/4, fols. 56v–58r (PCC 8 Stokton).
  • 5. Document 8, below. Biographical details of these officials can be found in appendix 2.
  • 6. Document 8, below.
  • 7. CPL, xiii, pt. i, p. 381, pt. ii, p. 548.
  • 8. For biographical details of these men see appendix 2.
  • 9. Dyer, Standards of Living, p. 53.
  • 10. Documents 5, 6, below. For Montgomery see The Commons 1439–1509, ed. Wedgwood, pp. 605–6.
  • 11. Document 9, below.
  • 12. Document 2, below.
  • 13. Document 1, below; PRO, C1/84/7.
  • 14. Documents 1, 4, 9, 10, below.
  • 15. Document 12, below.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. Document 2, below.
  • 18. PRO, PROB11/5, fos. 199v–200v (PCC 26 Godyn).
  • 19. Dyer, Standards of Living, p. 55.
  • 20. History of St. Paul's, ed. Matthews and Atkins, p. 60.
  • 21. Edwards, p. 43; Reg. Stat., pp. 35, 75, 173.
  • 22. Lupton, Life of John Colet, pp. 148–49; Collected works of Erasmus, ed. Mynors and Bietenholz, p. 235.
  • 23. Woolgar, Great Household, pp. 26–27; Dyer, Standards of Living, p. 74. For an example of Richard III sending his minstrels to entertain an Imperial ambassador see Reisebeschreibung Niclas von Popplau Ritters, bürtig von Breslau, ed. Piotr Radzikowski (Kraków, 1998), p. 58. For minstrels and other entertainers in the later middle ages more generally see e.g. R. Rastall, 'The Minstrels of the English Royal Households', Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle, iv (1967), 1–41; J. Southworth, The English Medieval Minstrel (Woodbridge, 1989); idem, Fools and Jesters at the English Court (Stroud, 1998), esp. pp. 35–47.
  • 24. Document 9, below.
  • 25. Document 1, below.
  • 26. Document 12, below.
  • 27. Documents 3, 5–8.
  • 28. Documents 1–10, below. Comparative figures from Worcester after Dyer, Lords and Peasants, p. 159; for London see PRO, SC6/1140/25–27.
  • 29. Document 3, below.
  • 30. Document 4, below. There is no other explicit record of Worsley's presence at King Edward's funeral: A. F. Sutton and L. Visser-Fuchs, 'The Royal Burials of the House of York at Windsor', The Ricardian, xi (1998), 366–407. The provision of black liveries was the usual custom on such occasions: cf. e.g. A. F. Sutton and L. Visser-Fuchs, with P. W. Hammond, The Reburial of Richard Duke of York, 21–30 July 1476 (London, 1996), p. 7; H. Kleineke, 'The Reburial Expenses of Sir Thomas Arundell', The Ricardian, xi (1998), 288–96, pp. 291, 292, 294; A. F. Sutton and L. Visser-Fuchs, 'The Royal Burials of the House of York at Windsor: II. Princess Mary, May 1482, and Queen Elizabeth Woodville, June 1492', The Ricardian, xi (1999), 446–62, p. 451.
  • 31. Visitations of Southwell, pp. 42–3; document 2, below.
  • 32. Cf. above, pp. 23–24.