Introductory: The monastery

The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1. Originally published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1921.

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'Introductory: The monastery', in The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1, (Oxford, 1921) pp. 1-18. British History Online [accessed 4 March 2024]

In this section


The priory of St. Bartholomew, West Smithfield, was, from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, one of the most important monasteries in the City of London. After its suppression, in 1539, the monastic quire was made the parish church of St. Bartholomew the Great, the parish priest of the monastery being made the first rector of the parish church.

The monastic church and also the hospital of St. Bartholomew were founded in the year 1123; the monastic church for canons regular of the order of St. Augustine was governed by a prior; the hospital for the relief of the sick poor was served by a master who followed the same rule.

The founder, Rahere, had been a frequenter of the court of King Henry I, where he was an obsequious courtier, but whether he was in holy orders is not quite established. He, however, underwent conversion, possibly after the king lost his son in the White Ship whilst crossing the channel in the year 1120. He then gave up his frivolous life and went on pilgrimage to Rome. Whilst there he fell ill and vowed that if he were allowed to recover he would 'erect a hospital for the restoration of poor men'. On his way home he had a vision of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, who told him he was to come to London and found a church in Smithfield. In accordance with this command he founded the church, and in accordance with his vow he founded the hospital.

The priory of St. Bartholomew's was only one of many monasteries within and without the City of London, but it was one of the oldest, one of the wealthiest, and the most important of them (pl. II). It was by no means among the oldest of the ecclesiastical foundations of the city, for the cathedral of St. Paul dates from about the year 610; St. Martin's le Grand from about 700 (although the collegiate church was not founded until 1056). St. Peter's, Cornhill, probably the oldest parish church in London, tradition says was founded some time in the second century; St. Gregory by St. Paul's some time in the ninth; St. Alban's, Wood Street, in the tenth; St. Mary de Arcubus, or Bow Church, in the eleventh; St. Mildred's, Poultry, is also very early. St. John's Chapel in the White Tower was probably commenced in 1078.

When St. Bartholomew's was founded, in 1123, there were already existing the Benedictine nunnery, Clerkenwell, founded in the year 1100; the hospital of St. Giles's in the Fields, supposed to have been founded in the year 1101, and the Augustinian priory of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, founded by Queen Matilda in 1108. After the date of St. Bartholomew's there were the house of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem; the Benedictine nunnery of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, which some say was founded in the year 1160; the Knights Templars, or the New Temple, founded in 1185; the hospital of St. Thomas (the Martyr) of Acon, in Cheapside, founded about the same time; the priory of St. Mary, Spital, without Bishopsgate (a hospital for poor brethren of the Augustinian order), founded in 1197; St. Mary's Bethlehem Hospital, founded in 1247; and the abbey of St. Clare (or the house of the Nuns Minoresses), near Aldgate, founded in 1293. The hospital called Elsing Spital, near Cripplegate, dates from 1329; the Cistercian abbey of St. Mary Graces (the site of which is now occupied by the Mint) from 1349; the Carthusian monastery of the Charterhouse from 1362; and there were also others of minor importance.

The Friaries all date from the thirteenth century. Thus the Dominicans or Black Friars date from 1221; the Franciscans or Grey Friars from 1224; the Carmelites or White Friars from 1241; the Austin Friars from 1253; the Friars of the Penitentia, or of the Sac, from 1258, and the Crossed or Crutched Friars from 1298.

Fitz Stephen, writing about the year 1174, said there were in his time thirteen large conventual churches in London, but he does not mention them by name. Dugdale does not mention more than nine.

On the west side of the city, outside the wall, the large monastic houses were almost contiguous. Commencing with the Benedictine nunnery of Clerkenwell, there followed: the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem; the Charterhouse; St. Bartholomew's Priory; St. Bartholomew's Hospital; the Grey Friars; and the Black Friars, with the White Friars a little farther west.

In relative wealth, as compared with other monasteries in London, St. Bartholomew's, at the time of the suppression, came second, with a net income of £693. The Knights of St. John were first, with an income of £2,385. The income of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, may have been as large as St. Bartholomew's, but the figures are not known, as it was separately suppressed before the others. The Charterhouse came next with £642; then St. Mary's, Spital, with £504. The incomes of the nunnery of St. Helen's, of St. Katharine's by the Tower, and of St. Bartholomew's Hospital were but little over £300; the Black Friars £104; the White Friars £62; the Crutched Friars £52.

Some idea of the relative sizes of these religious houses is gained by comparing the number of persons in each assessed for the clerical subsidy. (fn. 1) Thus in the time of Richard II, in the year 1379, thirty were so assessed at St. Martin's le Grand; twenty-seven at the Nuns Minoresses; twenty-five at Holy Trinity, Aldgate; twentythree at St. Bartholomew's, and nine at the hospital. Twenty-two were assessed at the nunnery, Clerkenwell; twenty-one at St. Helen's, Bishopsgate; nineteen at St. Mary's, Bishopsgate, and fourteen at the Charterhouse. As regards the amount of assessment, however, St. Bartholomew's and Holy Trinity head the list with an assessment of 500 marks (fn. 2) each.

Although the income of St. Bartholomew's and others of the monasteries may seem to be large, especially when we remember that in comparing the purchasing power of money now with that at the time of suppression we must multiply by 4½, (fn. 3) which would make the income of St. Bartholomew's equal to over £3,100 of our money, pre-war, it must be borne in mind that the expenses were great, for, in addition to the cost of the maintenance of the fabric of the church and of the monastic buildings, the maintenance of the services, the feeding and clothing of the brethren, the maintenance of the servants, and the large amount expended on hospitality to all comers and the feeding of the poor, there were the heavy subsidies to be provided for the king, besides other calls from the state. So onerous indeed were these outgoings in the case of St. Bartholomew's that in the year 1433, (fn. 4) as we shall see, special steps had to be taken to avoid bankruptcy. In the case of St. Bartholomew's, at any rate, there is no evidence of extravagance or of high living, so often charged against the monasteries in general; such charges are well answered by the facts, patent to all, that the monasteries were the great cultivators of learning and of the arts, and the great educators of the people. They were the centres of religious zeal, the chief almoners of the nation, and types of hospitality. It is to the monasteries we are indebted for the preservation of the Bible, the writings of the early Christians, and all classical learning and literature. (fn. 5)

Apart from their religious life they took their part in service to the realm, to the church, and to the papacy; and it may be of interest to show from the records the part that St. Bartholomew's took in such affairs.

Service to the Realm.

When Simon de Montfort, after capturing King Henry III and his son Edward at the battle of Lewes, in 1264, summoned the famous parliament of 1265, he included, among the bishops, abbots, and priors, the Prior of St. Bartholomew's, then John Bacun. (fn. 6)

When the king, as the head of the realm, went to war, in addition to the subsidy granted by Parliament, a subsidy, usually of a tenth, was also granted by the clergy. The following records will serve to show how frequently the Prior of St. Bartholomew's was one of the collectors of that subsidy, and to what extent he was harassed and hustled in carrying out his work; also they show how he was otherwise called upon to aid the king by loans, both in money and in kind.

In January 1308 King Edward II, (fn. 7) before embarking from Dover to Boulogne to meet Isabella of France, his young bride of thirteen, borrowed from the Prior of St. Bartholomew's a good cart and horse to carry the vessels and the equipment of his household to Dover. On the same occasion the Prior of St. John's, Clerkenwell, the Master of the Temple, and the Abbot of Westminster had to find three carts each; other priors had to find two each, and others only one.

In the year 1310 the same king requested a loan of victuals from the Prior of St. Bartholomew's, among others, for his Scotch expedition (though he did not proceed to the battle of Bannockburn until four years later).

The prior, as lord of the manors of Great and Little Stanmore, was under obligation to the king to raise men-at-arms in the event of civil strife. Thus in the year 1321 (fn. 8) the barons, headed by the Earl of Lancaster, rose against the king's (Edward II) new favourites the Despensers, and marched to London under the Earl of Hereford. The citizens would not allow them within the walls of the city, as they did not wish to take sides; so, while the Earl of Hereford lodged with the Earl of Lancaster at his palace in Holborn, Lord Roger Mortimer at St. John's, Clerkenwell, Lord Roger d'Amari at the New Temple, Lord Hugh Audley lodged at St. Bartholomew's. The next day the earls, barons, and magnates held a great assembly at the priory of St. Bartholomew, the result of which was that, although the citizens declined to help the barons, the king, under the influence of the Earl of Lancaster, had to banish the Despensers. But the next year the king took up arms against the earl, his cousin, whom he beheaded, and the Earl of Hereford was slain. This was civil strife, so a parliamentary writ (fn. 9) was issued in February 1322 to the Prior of St. Bartholomew's and others to raise as many men-at-arms and foot-soldiers as they could, to march against the adherents of Lancaster and to muster at Coventry on the first Sunday in Lent.

In 1328, the year after King Edward III came to the throne, the merchants of the Society of Bardi of Florence had advanced, as the king says, 'a great sum of money for his urgent affairs,' and, as the exchequer was then closed, it being in August, he ordered the collectors of the tenth granted by the clergy, of whom the Prior of St. Bartholomew's was one, 'to pay at once £200 on account without delay or excuse'. (fn. 10)

In the year 1329, during the minority of King Edward III, and whilst the regents were allowing the Queen-mother Isabella and Mortimer to rule, the Prior of St. Bartholomew's, as collector of the clerical subsidy (fn. 11) of a tenth, had to pay £300 out of the subsidy to Queen Isabella, though it was probably required for defraying the cost of the Scotch war.

During the Hundred Years' War with France the records of the calls upon the Prior of St. Bartholomew's for financial aid are very numerous. Thus, at its commencement in the year 1337, when King Edward declared war on Philip, the king urgently required large sums of money both for the war and to secure alliances. He therefore called upon the Prior of St. Bartholomew's to have £550 of the tenth granted by the clergy ready at a short notice, otherwise the prior was to be punished as disobedient. (fn. 12) This was on the 10th of January; on the 23rd of April following the king ordered the prior, together with sixteen other abbots and priors, collectors, to have the money ready before Ascension Day (May 29) and paid over to three merchants of the Society of the Bardi (fn. 13) —who had no doubt made him an advance on the strength of the vote of the subsidy. Again, on the 28th of June following, the king ordered the prior to have the money collected by the 21st of July, 'under pain of punishment for disobedience.' (fn. 14) On the day appointed the prior appeared before the Dean of York, (fn. 15) the treasurer, but he was only able to pay part, for the reason given that the Abbot of Waltham and the heads of eight other important monasteries had not yet paid, in spite of the prior's endeavour to levy by ecclesiastical censure. The king therefore ordered the sheriff to go in person to the defaulting abbots and priors and to levy on their goods, and also ordered that the defaulters should appear before the council to answer for the contempt and injury done.

In 1339 the prior, as collector of the triennial tenth granted by the clergy, and of the wool granted by the prelates, was ordered to receive money from those abbots or priors who, having no wool, wished to pay money instead. They had besought the king to allow them to do this, as the merchants who had wool refused to sell at the fixed price, but asked more. (fn. 16)

In December of the same year the prior was again ordered to pay money under a threat of severe punishment and distraint, because William de la Pole had advanced money for the war and was prepared to advance more. (fn. 17)

In August of the following year (1340), the prior, as collector for the London diocese, was again ordered to pay arrears due to Pole, otherwise 'the king would stretch forth his hand to him and to his house with the utmost rigour and would cause the money to be levied of his manors, lands, possessions, goods, and chattels'. (fn. 18) At the same time the Prior of St. Bartholomew's, among others, had been commissioned to collect 20,000 sacks of wool, granted by parliament to enable the king to conclude a treaty with the Flemings against France. The king himself, in January 1341, wrote complaining that the prior and his fellows had not shown sufficient energy in collecting the wool, whereby the king is put to straits and the country endangered. He and his fellows were therefore empowered to arrest and imprison those who showed a reluctance to pay; the Sheriff of Middlesex being instructed to help them by all the means in his power. (fn. 19)

In November of 1340 a promise by the king is recorded in the patent rolls to hold the prior harmless in respect of £222 2s. 1d. taken out of the prior's hands by the king's command from money collected by him from procurations of cardinals. (fn. 20)

So hard pressed indeed was the king for money for the war that, in November of 1342, the Prior of St. Bartholomew's had been commanded by the king, then in France, to bring before the council at the Tower of London, a chest which had been delivered to the prior and sealed by James Gerard and Daniel de Burgham. The chest was there opened in the presence of Queen Philippa, the chancellor, and the treasurer, apparently with the idea that it might contain treasure available for the war. Whether it did or no we are not told, but it was delivered again by the command of the queen to James Gerard the owner, the king promising, by his letters patent, to hold the prior harmless. (fn. 21)

In 1346, the year when Edward the Black Prince won the battle of Crécy, a commission was issued to the Prior of St. Bartholomew's and to other priors, to see that all aliens who were beneficed in the realm, but were not resident in their benefices, came to the king's aid with the value of their benefices for that year, and that other aliens so beneficed and resident helped by way of loan. (fn. 22)

In 1347 the king borrowed money from 141 abbots and priors for the war in France, in sums varying from 9 marks from the Abbot of Dorchester, to £60 from the Abbot of Glastonbury, the amount borrowed from the Prior of St. Bartholomew's being £5, which was to be repaid by All Saints' Day 1349. (fn. 23)

This borrowing by the king for the Hundred Years' War was continued for some time, for in July of 1370 there was paid to the prior £13 6s. 8d. in discharge of 20 marks lent by the prior to the king in the previous March. (fn. 24) And in 1386 the king borrowed £20 from the prior on account of the subsidy granted by the clergy for his war against the Scots, who were then being helped by the French; of this subsidy also the Prior of St. Bartholomew's was one of the collectors. (fn. 25)

No doubt the calls upon the monasteries during the Hundred Years' War were exceptionally heavy, but the above quotations will serve to indicate that in times of stress the monasteries took their part in the service of the country. The only recompenses made to the Prior and Convent of St. Bartholomew's that we have found, in return for their labour for the state, were, firstly that at the commencement of the war in 1337 the king gave licence to them to acquire in mortmain land and rents not held in chief, to the yearly value of £20, (fn. 26) thus saving them the great expense of applying for licence for each property they acquired (a licence which the rector and churchwardens of the present day would be glad to possess, because, even in reclaiming land that formed part of the original church itself, they are compelled again to obtain licence in mortmain at a heavy charge).

Secondly, in the year 1440 the prior, who was still acting as a collector of the clerical subsidy (as appears from the clerical subsidy rolls of the years 1414 (fn. 27) and 1426), (fn. 28) was exempted both from paying and from collecting the subsidy. (fn. 29) But it would appear that this exemption was granted, not so much as a recompense for services rendered, as by reason of the poverty of the house, brought about partly by the many exactions made upon its funds, partly by the reduction of rents in London, which had not recovered from the effects of the Black Death, and partly no doubt by the cost of the great alterations made to the fabric about the year 1405. St. Bartholomew's was not, like many of the monasteries, liable to the payment of corodies (that is, an allowance of money, meat, drink, and clothing due to the king from a religious house of which he was founder) though attempts were made by Kings Edward II and Edward III to impose them. (fn. 30)

The yearly payment of £20 to King Henry VIII in the year 1533 recorded in the receipt of William Body, which says' of the Prior of St. Bartholomew's for my master's half year's fee ended at the Annunciation of our Lady £10', (fn. 31) was probably then payable for the first time under the first act of Annates of the year 1532, by which Prior Fuller would have had to pay his first year's income of his ecclesiastical benefices to the king instead of to the pope.

There is an instance in the fourteenth century of the priory being used as a place of safe custody for a monk accused of robbing the king. The king's treasury was under the Chapter-house at Westminster Abbey, and there Edward I stored the regalia and a large amount of money (fn. 32) for the conquest of Scotland after Wallace's victory at Stirling. This strong room was broken into in the year 1303 and (though subsequently recovered) an immense amount of treasure was carried off. We learn from the inventory of the exchequer of that time that a monk, Henry of Wantenge, one of the thieves, was taken in the act and committed to the Priory of St. Bartholomew to remain there until further notice. (fn. 33)

There is an instance recorded in the Close Rolls in 1384 (fn. 34) showing that the church was expected to find a place of safe custody for public records, for in 1384 the Keeper of the Rolls 'complains to the justices of the Common Bench of four writs being so much damaged and rotten that they could not be read, and he said that the Prior of St. Bartholomew's Smithfield of the foundation of former kings ought to appoint a place in his church sufficient for safe keeping of all writs and memoranda returned in the said bench' on the ground that the king was seised of the place in the time of the then prior in right of the Crown as founders. The Keeper of the Rolls said that 'the mischief was done to the writs by rain which because of the disrepare of the said church roof, this term suddenly fell by night through a door of the church upon a chest wherein they were put, and the water entered the chest through the keyholes and joints thereof and fell upon the writs' and so he claimed to be excused.

Besides the service of the priory to the king the religious houses in many ways rendered service to the general public in their daily lives:

Inquests were held in the priory of St. Bartholomew, as in the year 1278, when it is recorded that the body of a man who was so severely beaten in a quarrel at Bartholomew Fair that he died a week later was taken to the hostel of St. Bartholomew for the inquest. (fn. 35)

The right of sanctuary could be claimed at St. Bartholomew's from the first, for we read in the Book of the Foundation 'who would not be astonished that a remarkable building of piety should there be built to be a safe sanctuary to those who fled thereto, where of old was the common place of the condemned and the punishment of the wretched had been inflicted'. (fn. 36) Sanctuary was claimed here in the year 1177 by Honorius le Rumongour, who had slain Roger de Vilers with a knife; (fn. 37) and by John Toker in the year 1503, to avoid paying his surety to an escheator. (fn. 38)

The doors of the monastery were always open to the traveller. Were he rich or poor he could claim board and lodging for a night free of charge, just as now travellers over the Great St. Bernard pass in Switzerland can claim the same from the Augustinian hospice there. The Pope testified to the hospitality of St. Bartholomew's in the year 1409, when he wrote that 'the monastery being in a very famous place of the realm, very many resort thither from the realm and from divers other regions to its grave burden'. (fn. 39)

People were also accustomed to consider the monastery as neutral ground in which payments of importance could be made; as in the year 1269, when Stephen de Fuleburn, treasurer of the Hospital of Jerusalem in England, received in the conventual church of St. Bartholomew, from Sir John de Grey, for the use of Sir Roger de Leyburn, 500 marks for part of John's ransom for his lands. (fn. 40) In the year 1344 a lease of the Manor of Thragelthorpe was granted to the rectors of Bekyngham and Colyngham, Lincoln, on the condition that the rent should be 'payable in the Priory of St. Bartholomew, West Smythefield'. (fn. 41) Also, in the year 1364, the cancelling of a rent was granted on condition that the 80 marks recompense was paid in the priory church. (fn. 42)

The prior would sometimes act as attorney for a man whilst he was out of the country. For instance, in the year 1394, Robert de Faryngton nominated Robert, Abbot of Roche, and John, Prior of St. Bartholomew's, London, his attorneys for one year whilst in Ireland on the king's service. (fn. 43) Or the prior would act as executor to a will, as in the year 1329, when Master Richard de Gloucestre appointed the priors for the time being of Holy Trinity, London, and of St. Bartholomew's to be executors of the portion of his will relating to St. Paul's church and the hospital of the Blessed Virgin without Bishopsgate. (fn. 44) In the year 1340 Prior Pekesden of St. Bartholomew's, Brother Richard de Ivyngzho, his co-canon, and John de Bradewell, chaplain, were all three executors of the will of Thomas Bacoun of Newton, Suffolk. (There was some dispute and the executors sued a 'scire facias' upon a recognizance against one William Pernill. (fn. 45) ) In the year 1282 Elias de Wycombe left his house in Aldersgate to be sold under the supervision of his brother Sir Richard de Wycombe, who was a canon of St. Bartholomew's. (fn. 46)

At other times the prior would consent to hold some important document between parties which was only to be given up in certain eventualities; as in the year 1350, when a general acquittance, granted by Sir Walter de Manny, the founder of the Charterhouse, to a John Malwayn, citizen of London, was delivered to the prior on the understanding that, if Sir Walter de Manny impleaded John Malwayn by virtue of a recognizance for four pounds made in Sir Walter's favour, then the acquittance was to be delivered to the said John, but if John be not impleaded then the acquittance was to remain in the custody of the prior. (fn. 47)

The religious houses rendered very important service to the state by reason of their schools. The most important of these schools in London was that of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, dating probably from the year 1176. The oldest was that of St. Peter's, Westminster, which was certainly existing in the time of the Conqueror. Stow says that there were also schools in other religious houses in London, among which was that of St. Bartholomew's, as is shown later on. (fn. 48) Stow tells us that in his time the meeting of the schoolmasters on festival days and the disputing of their scholars logically, had long since been discontinued, but the arguing of the schoolboys about the principles of grammar was continued even to his time (1525–1605); he says: 'for I myself, in my youth, have yearly seen, on the eve of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, the scholars of divers grammar schools repair unto the churchyard of St. Bartholomew, the priory in Smithfield, where, upon a bank boarded about under a tree, some one scholar hath stepped up, and there hath opposed and answered till he were by some better scholar overcome and put down.' (fn. 49)

Service to the Church.

The monasteries took their part in the government of and deliberations of the church of the realm, the regulars and the seculars working together; and the records show that St. Bartholomew's took its share. Thus we find that the Prior of St. Bartholomew's was frequently summoned to convocation; as in 1407, (fn. 50) when 'Bro. John, prior of the priory', together with the Dean of St. Paul's, the Archdeacon of London, the Abbot of St. Mary Graces, the priors of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, and of St. Mary's, Spital, the masters of St. Thomas of Acon, of the hospital of St. Bartholomew, of the college of St. Lawrence Pountney, and many others, were included in the mandates of the Archbishop of Canterbury for the convocation to be held at St. Frideswide's, Oxford.

The next year, 1408, (fn. 51) those cited by the Archbishop included the Bishops of London, of Winchester, of Exeter, of Lincoln, and of Salisbury; also the Abbots of St. Albans, of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, of Peterborough, and of Bury St. Edmunds, John the Prior of St. Bartholomew's, and others. This was an important meeting summoned to consider the best means of dealing with Lollardism.

In the year 1437, (fn. 52) 'Reginald, Prior of the priory of St. Bartholomew', was cited, together with fifteen bishops, eleven abbots, and twenty other priors to meet at St. Paul's on the 1st of May. In 1439 (fn. 53) 'Prior John' was cited, but, as Reginald Collier was prior from 1436 to 1471, the scribe must have entered John in the episcopal register in error. In 1509 (fn. 54) and in 1529 (fn. 55) Prior William Bolton was cited.

The General Chapter of the order was occasionally held at St. Bartholomew's, as we show later, and, in addition, there is a record (fn. 56) that in the year 1458 the monastery was used by the Anglo-Premonstratensians, which was an allied order, for a general chapter of all their abbots, for the reason mentioned in the citation, viz. 'that the advice they will need to seek in temporals as well as in spirituals would be harder to obtain in a more remote spot'.

The priory church was constantly used, and occasionally the church of the hospital also, for ordinations. From the registers at St. Paul's it appears that the ordinations were always held on a Saturday (die Sabbati), and at any rate from the middle of the fifteenth to that of the sixteenth century they were held almost annually. They occur in the months of February, as in the year 1490; in March, as in 1442; in April, as in 1446; in May, as in 1448; in June, as in 1438; in September, as in 1443; and in December, as in 1436: but Easter, Michaelmas, and Christmas were the more usual times. They were conducted by various bishops by letters dimissory from the Bishop of London. In those times, as now in the Roman church, the first step to clericature in a monastery was the conferring of the tonsure. Then the four minor orders conferred by the bishop: the ostiarius, janitor or doorkeeper; (fn. 57) the lector or reader; the exorcist, who read the formula of exorcism and laid his hands on the possessed person (a power now reserved to priests only and then only by permission of the bishop); and the acolytus, who bore the candle when the gospel was read. Later the aspirant was admitted to the three higher orders of subdiaconus or subdeacon, who bears the vessel to the deacon; diaconus or deacon, who ministers to the celebrant; and presbyter or priest who celebrates.

To quote a few instances of ordinations here: on Saturday, the 22nd of December, 1436, (fn. 58) there were ordained by the Bishop of Ely 17 acolytes, 20 subdeacons, 15 deacons, and 10 priests; among the subdeacons was John Fuller, a canon of the priory. On Saturday, the 10th of May, 1448, (fn. 59) there were ordained by the Bishop of Gloucester 10 acolytes, 10 subdeacons, 15 deacons, and 17 priests; three of the priests were canons of St. Bartholomew's. On December 17, 1479, (fn. 60) at an ordination held at the hospital, the list commences with 5 exorcists, and on the 16th of September, 1498, (fn. 61) with one Benedict (presumably one on whom the tonsure was conferred). In the year 1506 (fn. 62) there were as many as 35 deacons and 38 priests ordained in 'the conventual church of St. Bartholomew in Smythfeld', but the average was 8 to 9 acolytes, 18 subdeacons, 15 deacons, and 15 priests. In the year 1497, when there was an ordination on Sunday, December 17, at the hospital, another was held at the priory only six days later, viz. on Saturday, December 23.

When persecutions for heresy were in vogue, in the time of Henry VIII, we have a record of the priory church being put to a very different use. Thus, in the year 1529, John Tewkesbury was examined before the Bishop of London and others concerning the book 'Wicked Mammon' which he had sold and, when he had abjured his opinions, 'he was enjoined as penance to carry a faggot at St. Paul's on the Sunday following; to wear faggots embroidered on his sleeve; and on Whitsun eve enter into the monastery of St. Bartholomew in Smithfield and there abide and not come out unless he were released by the Bishop of London.' He, however, soon returned to his previous opinions, and, being apprehended again two years later, was burnt in Smithfield in December 1531. (fn. 63)

Service to the See of Rome.

The abbots and priors of this country were called upon to render many services to the holy see of Rome, demands for their services reaching them in the form of a mandate. The Calendar of the Papal Registers now in process of publication illustrates the nature of the relationship of St. Bartholomew's with the papal see. Thus, in the year 1231, Pope Gregory IX, apparently to settle a dispute, issued a mandate to the Prior of St. Bartholomew's and to the Dean of St. Mary le Bow, to proceed in a cause touching tithes in the diocese of Canterbury. (fn. 64)

In 1238 the same pope, to safeguard the interests of the prioress and convent of the Benedictine monastery of Haliwell in Shoreditch, issued a mandate to the Priors of St. Saviour's, Winchester, of the Holy Trinity, Aldgate, and of St. Bartholomew's, Smithfield, not to suffer the prioress and convent to be molested in regard to a grant made to them by St. Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 65)

The annulling of a sentence of excommunication was in the hands of the pope; so, in October 1250, we find Innocent IV addressing a letter to the prior, subprior, sacristan, cellarer, and precentors of St. Bartholomew's, annulling their excommunication by the Archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 66) The excommunication had taken place after the affray with Archbishop Boniface earlier in the year, in connexion with which the Bishop of London, the Dean and five canons of St. Paul's, had had to go to the court of Rome (then in Lyons). (fn. 67)

In 1286 Pope Honorius V issued a mandate to the Prior of St. Bartholomew's, and to a canon of St. Paul's, in connexion with an appeal concerning first fruits which had been heard by the Abbot of Westminster. (fn. 68)

Again, in the year 1328, Pope John XXII addressed a mandate to the Abbot of Westminster and to the Prior of St. Bartholomew's, to induct and defend the master of the hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr, of Acon, in the diocese of Limassol, into possession of the hospital of St. Thomas, London, opposition having been made by the late master, who was deprived for simony and dilapidation. (fn. 69)

Sometimes the pope would call upon the prior and others to protect the English possessions of some foreign bishop; as in the year 1340, when Pope Benedict XII issued a mandate to the Abbot of St. Mary's, York, and to the priors of St. Bartholomew's, London, and of Lenton (Notts.) to protect Anibaldus, (fn. 70) Bishop of Tusculum, in his benefices and possessions. A system of general reservations of livings in England on their voidance, by mandate of the pope, was invented by Pope John XXII (1316–1334) so that he might appoint thereto his own nominees. This invasion of the kingdom was resisted by the king and resulted in the making, by Edward III, in 1351 (fn. 71) and 1353, and by Richard II in 1392, (fn. 72) of statutes of provisors, the last of which—known as the statute of praemunire—prohibited the pope from appointing aliens and others to benefices before they were vacant. There are several cases in the 'Regesta' where mandates were issued to the Prior of St. Bartholomew's in connexion with such reservation. Thus, in the year 1345, Pope Clement VI issued a mandate to Robert atte Chirche of Gunthorp with a concurrent mandate to the Abbot of Westminster, the Prior of St. Bartholomew's, and the Archdeacon of Norwich, for the reservation of the church of St. Mary Magdalene, Milk Street, London, on its voidance by William Russell, being professed in the order of Mount Carmel. (fn. 73)

In the following year (1346) the same pope issued a mandate to Robert de Eglesfeld, with a concurrent mandate to the Bishop of Norwich, and the Priors of St. Bartholomew's, London, and of St. Frideswide's, Oxford, for the reservation of a benefice in the gift of the Bishop of Winchester. (fn. 74)

In the following year, again (1347), the same pope issued a mandate to the Bishop of Llandaff and the priors of Holy Trinity and St. Bartholomew's, London, to give to Simon, called 'Clerk', the vicarage of Hermondesworth in the diocese of London. (It is, however, probable that this mandate was not carried out, because the church of Harmondsworth, which had been given to the abbey of St. Audoen in Normandy, was seized by Edward III, by reason of his wars with France, and he, in 1345, presented Simon de Barlinge, (fn. 75) who remained until 1348, when the king gave him licence to exchange with Richard de Wake.)

In 1349 Pope Clement VI again issued a mandate, with a concurrent one to the Prior of St. Bartholomew's and others, for the reservation of a benefice to John Northeley of Pagula. (fn. 76)

This Pope Clement had begun his pontificate by a promise to grant benefices to all poor clerks who should come to Avignon and claim them within two months of his coronation. As many as 100,000 are said to have come, and the 'Regesta' at Rome of his first year consist in consequence of twelve volumes. (fn. 77) The statute of 'provisors' caused these mandates to cease, although there is a record that, even as late as the year 1402, Pope Boniface IX issued a mandate to the Prior of St. Bartholomew's to reserve to the Rector of St. Clement's, London, a benefice in the gift of the Abbot of Westminster, with licence to hold it concurrently with St. Clement's for five years. (fn. 78)

Letters 'conservatory', that is to say, letters appointing conservators of privileges which had been granted, were issued by the popes to the Prior of St. Bartholomew's and others, and instances occur in the years 1348 (fn. 79) and 1357 of such letters being so issued by Pope Clement VI. Among the Bodleian Charters is a record that under such letters conservatory the conservators issued, in the year 1352, a commission to the Dean of Malling, commanding him to cite the Vicar of Tudley to appear before the Prior of St. Bartholomew's concerning the usurpation of ecclesiastical rights in the administration of the sacraments and the unjust taking away of offerings in the church of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, England. (fn. 80)

The Prior of St. Bartholomew's would sometimes be called upon to act as an examining chaplain, as in 1349, when he had to examine John Crochy for the office of notary conferred on him by the pope. (fn. 81) In the year 1398 (fn. 82) a priest, and in the year 1400 (fn. 83) a clerk, were also to be examined by the prior.

During the papacy of Boniface IX there are four instances of the pope conferring the dignity of papal chaplain, with the usual privileges, on canons of St. Bartholomew's; such instances being those of Philip Sihalden in 1390, (fn. 84) of John Tebbe in 1392, (fn. 85) of William Gedeney (who had been prior and resigned in January 1391) in 1393; (fn. 86) and of John Yong in 1394. (fn. 87)

The Black Death, which really lasted from 1345 to 1362, together with the difficulty of going to Rome for absolution owing to the war with France, led to a large demand for plenary remissions at the hour of death. The pope therefore granted such remission to whole dioceses at once as the plague spread. (fn. 88) There is a record in the papal registers that in the year 1352, (fn. 89) and in the year 1354, (fn. 90) indulgences were granted respectively to John de Carleton and John de Keston, both canons of St. Bartholomew's, 'to choose confessors who should give them, being penitent, plenary remission at the hour of death, with the usual safeguards.'

In the year 1355 a mandate was issued to the prior and others to perform a further service, this time for Pope Innocent VII; they were to cause the ordinances touching apostates to be observed in regard to a priest of the hospital named Richard Orewell, who had left his order but desired to be reconciled to it; on which occasion the priest himself was the bearer of the mandate. (fn. 91)

In the year 1402 a Cistercian monk named Ranulph Biber—or Bikere—of St. Mary Graces by the Tower, had violently cast Abbot William of St. Mary's out of the dormitory, had refused him entrance, had laid violent hands on him, and had applied to his own uses many of the goods of the monastery, and, to avoid correction, had apostatized and had appealed to the secular ecclesiastical judge. The Abbot of Beaulieu, the father abbot of St. Mary's, hearing of this on his visitation, pronounced sentence against the monk, who was, in consequence, imprisoned. Thereupon he became penitent, was ready to undergo penance and desired to return to St. Mary's and obey his superiors; he had fears, however, lest they should enjoin too rigorous a penance and punishment. Thereupon the pope issued a mandate to the Prior of St. Bartholomew's to absolve him upon satisfaction and penance; to rehabilitate and dispense him on account of irregularity; to deliver him from prison, and to restore him to his monastery. (fn. 92) On hearing of these letters of absolution and rehabilitation, Abbot William of St. Mary's petitioned the pope in Rome, saying that Ranulph the monk had voluntarily renounced these letters and asking for the sentence of the father abbot to be confirmed, which was done by a mandate of the pope to the Prior of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, 'the said revocation and letters notwithstanding.' (fn. 93)

An indulgence would often be granted to the secular clergy to enjoy the fruits of their benefices for a period of five to seven years whilst studying letters at a university; such an indulgence was granted in the year 1395 to William Fyscher, the Rector of Clayton, in the Chichester diocese, for seven years. (fn. 94)

A similar indulgence for ten years was granted in the year 1401 to John Parker, Rector of Snaves in the Canterbury diocese, though in this case there was the alternative of being in the service of an ecclesiastical prelate or of residing in the Roman court. (fn. 95) Though we have no record of the grant of such an indulgence to any one at St. Bartholomew's, a concurrent mandate was issued to the Prior of St. Bartholomew's (with others) in both the above cases.

There are other instances of concurrent mandates, and there are examples of services being required from St. Bartholomew's; but sufficient has been said to show the large amount of service demanded from the prior of this and other monasteries.

We may conclude this account of services rendered to the pope by mentioning that a corresponding service was rendered by the pope to the monastery by a grant of indulgences to the prior and convent to assist them in raising money to defray the heavy cost of the great restoration which took place about the year 1405. The account of it is well given in the calendar of the papal registers under the year 1409. (fn. 96)

The relations of the monasteries with the Corporation of the City of London were not always of the happiest nature, and this was so with St. Bartholomew's. The fact of the Fair belonging to the priory and not being under the control of the City was distasteful to a corporation jealous of privileges handed down, as some say, from the time of the Romans. The disputes were all in connexion with Bartholomew Fair; (fn. 97) but they did not prevent the prior from accepting the hospitality of the great city companies, which it was customary to extend to the abbots and priors of the monasteries. For the records of the Drapers' Company—a company which was intimately associated with the priory, owing to the large cloth market held at the Fair—show that the priors of St. Bartholomew's, of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, of St. Mary Overy, and of other houses were yearly visitors at their banquets. Thus at the election feast of the year 1519 it is recorded that Prior Bolton was present, together with other priors and the Bishop of Carlisle. (fn. 98)

Whilst the corporation in the sixteenth century did not favour monks, as is shown by Sir Richard Gresham's letter to the king in 1538, (fn. 99) they strongly favoured the great monastic hospitals, to which fact is due the survival of St. Bartholomew's, of St. Thomas's, and other hospitals to this day.

St. Bartholomew's was one of the starting-points of the great processions which the mayor and aldermen, arrayed in their suits, held annually at Whitsuntide. Thus, whilst on Whit-Monday they met at St. Peter's, Cornhill, whence they passed through 'Chepe' to St. Paul's, ascended to the altar and made their offering, on WhitTuesday they used to meet at St. Bartholomew's, whence they went through Newgate to St. Paul's; (fn. 100) and on the Wednesday they met at St. Thomas of Acon.


  • 1. Cler. Subs. 42–4 a.
  • 2. See also below, p. 170.
  • 3. Professor Ashley, estimate, Ch. Times, Apr. 16, 1909, and still more now.
  • 4. Below, p. 204.
  • 5. Heale, Tanridge Priory, 88.
  • 6. Close, 49 Hen. III, m. 11 d., 24 Dec. Also Rymer, Fæd. i, 449.
  • 7. Cal. Close, 1 Edw. II.
  • 8. Annales Paulini, i, 294. R. Ser.
  • 9. Parl. Writs, Div. III, p. 1437.
  • 10. Cal. Close, 2 Edw. III, Aug. 20.
  • 11. Cal. Close, 2 Edw. III, Jan. 10.
  • 12. Ib., 11 Edw. III, Mar. 20.
  • 13. Id., 11 Edw. III, Apr. 23.
  • 14. Ib., 11 Edw. III. July 24.
  • 15. Ib., 11 Edw. III, July 30.
  • 16. Cal. Close, 12 Edw. III, Jan. 16.
  • 17. Ib., 13 Edw. III, Dec. 16.
  • 18. Ib., 14 Edw. III, Aug. 14.
  • 19. Cart. Antiq., Mus. Brit.; L. F. Campbell, Charters, xiv, 28.
  • 20. Cal. Pat., 14 Edw. III.
  • 21. Cal. Pat., 16 Edw. III.
  • 22. Cal. Fine R. 463, 20 Edw. III, Apr. 1.
  • 23. Cal. Pat. 342, 21 Edw. III.
  • 24. Issue R., p. 190.
  • 25. Cal. Pat., 10 Rich. II.
  • 26. Cal. Pat., 11 Edw. III; also below, p. 159
  • 27. Cler. Sub., 2 Hen. V, 42/89a.
  • 28. Ib., 4 Hen. VI, 42/131a.
  • 29. Pat., 19 Hen. V, pt. 1, m. 15.
  • 30. See below, p. 150.
  • 31. Cal. State Pap, 1533, No. 841.
  • 32. Bond, Westm. Abbey, 74.
  • 33. Cal. Invent. Exch. P.R.O. i. 293.
  • 34. Cal. Close, 8 Rich. II, Mar. 4.
  • 35. Cal. Letter Book B, Guildhall, 278
  • 36. Book of Found., Lib. I, cap. x.
  • 37. Riley, Liber Albus, cap. xxxii, 88.
  • 38. Selden Soc., xii, 9. Court of Requests.
  • 39. Cal. Papal Reg. vi, 151.
  • 40. Hist. MSS. Com., Middleton MSS. 72.
  • 41. Cal. Pat., 18 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 15.
  • 42. Cal. Close, 87, 38 Edw. III, m. 5 d.
  • 43. Cal. Pat., 18 Rich. II.
  • 44. Cal. Hust. Wills, i, 342.
  • 45. Year Book, P.R.O., 14 Edw. III, 318.
  • 46. Cal. Hust. Wills, i, 58.
  • 47. Anc. Deeds, P.R.O. I.B. 198, July 8, 24 Edw. III, French.
  • 48. See Vol. II, chap, ii, N. Triforium.
  • 49. Stow, 28.
  • 50. Reg. London, Walden, 33 (Bishop Clifford) printed in Wilkins, Concilia, iii, 306.
  • 51. Wilkins, Concilia, iii, 306 et seq.
  • 52. Reg. London, Gilbert, 79.
  • 53. Ib., Gilbert, 86.
  • 54. Reg. London, Fitz-James, 10.
  • 55. Ib., Tunstall, 165 d–166.
  • 56. Collectanea Anglo-Premon. i, 131, No. 178.
  • 57. The head verger of St. Paul's is still the Ostiarius in the Lower House of Convocation.
  • 58. Reg. London, Gilbert. 131.
  • 59. Ib., Gilbert, 161.
  • 60. Reg. London, Hill.
  • 61. Ib., Hill.
  • 62. Ib., Hill.
  • 63. Fox, A. and M. (ed. 1684), ii, 242.
  • 64. Cal. Pap. Reg. i, 125.
  • 65. Ib. i, 167.
  • 66. Cal. Pap. Reg. i, 264.
  • 67. Ann. Mon. i, 141 (Ann. Tewksb.).
  • 68. Cal. Pap. Reg. i, 489.
  • 69. Ib. ii, 273.
  • 70. Ib. ii, 549.
  • 71. 27 Edw. III, cap. 1.
  • 72. 16 Rich. II, cap. 5.
  • 73. Cal. Pap. Reg. iii, 185.
  • 74. Cal. Pap. Reg. iii, 221.
  • 75. Cal. Pat., 19 Edw. III, pt. 2.
  • 76. Cal. Pap. Reg. iii, 282.
  • 77. Ib. iii, preface.
  • 78. Ib. v, 464.
  • 79. Ib. iii, 275.
  • 80. Bodl. Chart. and Rolls. Kent H. 4, Tunbridge priory, No. 8, m. 3d.
  • 81. Cal. Pap. Reg. iii, 324.
  • 82. Ib. v, 113.
  • 83. Ib. v, 191.
  • 84. Ib. iv, 278.
  • 85. Ib. iv, 282.
  • 86. Ib. iv, 287.
  • 87. Ib. iv, 288.
  • 88. Ib. iii, p. vi.
  • 89. Ib. iii, 442
  • 90. Ib. iii, 533.
  • 91. Ib. iii, 574.
  • 92. Cal. Pap. Reg. v, 517, June 2, 1402.
  • 93. Ib. v, 602 (16 Kal. Jan. 1403).
  • 94. Ib. iv, 526.
  • 95. Ib. v, 422.
  • 96. See later, p. 197.
  • 97. See later, p. 304.
  • 98. Herbert, Liv. Comps. i, 466.
  • 99. See later, p. 250.
  • 100. Riley, Liber Albus, 26.