The fourteenth century: Prior William Gedeney

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

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

'The fourteenth century: Prior William Gedeney', in The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1, (Oxford, 1921) pp. 178-181. British History Online [accessed 19 April 2024]



The congé d'élire resulted in the election of William Gedeney, who was a canon here in the year 1379, and at the time of his election was the cellarer. (fn. 1) The king signified to Robert de Braybroke, Bishop of London, his assent to the election on the 14th January, 1382. (fn. 2) The announcement of his election was made to him in the chapel of the infirmary of the priory. (fn. 3) The royal mandate to restore the temporalities was issued on the 10th March following. (fn. 4)

The few records extant concerning this prior are these:

In the year 1383 he obtained licence from the king to appropriate in mortmain the church of St. Martin Pomeroy; (fn. 5) and in 1384 the king nominated the prior's chaplain, William Smogger, for presentation to the vicarage of Lowestoft, then in the king's gift (fn. 6) by reason of the temporalities of the Bishop of Norwich (Henry Despenser) having been seized by the king the year before. There is a further record, in the year 1389, in connexion with one Geoffrey Ashwell, who owed £4 2s. 0d. to one Thomas Driver, called Newchapman, who had killed some one at Idlestre (Elstree) and fled the country. The debt was therefore due to the king, and as Geoffrey could not pay he was committed to the Fleet prison, but why this matter should be found 'in a certain process concerning William Gedeney, prior of St. Bartholomew's, and others', (fn. 7) as stated in the record, does not appear.

In the year 1390 the king, as mentioned above, (fn. 8) granted an inspeximus and confirmation concerning the grant by Prior Thomas de Watford, in the year 1363, of a pension and a chamber in the church. We do not know what necessitated this confirmation. It may have been that Gedeney was not inclined, or was unable, to continue the pension granted by Watford, and so Mirfield obtained the inspeximus for his own protection.

The most important record of Gedeney's priorate is that, in the year 1383, he obtained from King Richard a charter, dated 28th January, in his sixth year. It granted no new privileges, but merely inspected and confirmed the charter of Edward II, dated the 10th June, 1324. (fn. 9) For this inspeximus the prior paid £10. (fn. 10) The main interest in it to us is the many men famous in history who witnessed it; they were:

William, Bishop of Canterbury, primate of all England. (Archbishop Courtenay, who proceeded against Wycliffe for heresy in 1377, when he was summoned to St. Paul's, and crushed the Lollards at Oxford in 1382, and at Leicester in 1389.)

Robert, Bishop of London, our chancellor. (Robert de Braybroke, who succeeded Courtenay as Bishop of London in 1381. He held the Great Seal of England from September 1382 to March 1383.)

William, Bishop of Winton. (William of Wykeham or Wickham, Bishop of Winchester from 1367–1404; he remodelled Winchester Cathedral, and founded Winchester College and New College, Oxford.)

John, King of Castile and Leon. (John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the fourth son of Edward III and head of the house of Lancaster; he was father of Henry IV, grandfather of Henry V, and great-grandfather of Henry VI. He assumed the title of King of Castile and Leon after he married, as his second wife, Constance, daughter of Peter the Cruel, King of Castile and Leon.)

Edmund, Earl of Cambridge. Described with John of Gaunt as 'our most dear uncles'. (Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, the fifth son of Edward III. He was a founder of the House of York. He was the great-grandfather of Edward IV and his brother Richard III, and great-great-grandfather of Edward V.)

Richard, Earl of Arundel. (The brother of Thomas Arundel the archbishop, whose place as archbishop was held for a time by Roger Walden. (fn. 11) The earl conspired against the king and was executed on Tower Hill in 1397.)

Henry, Earl of Northumberland. (Sir Henry Percy, the first earl and father of Hotspur who was slain in the battle of Bramham Moor.)

Hugh de Segrave, our Treasurer. (Sir Hugh Segrave, the Treasurer of England from 1381 until his death in 1385.)

John de Montacute, steward of our hospice. (The third Earl of Salisbury, who was beheaded at Cirencester by the antiLollard mob.)

There were other witnesses not named.

In the year 1382 there was a disastrous earthquake in London when much damage was done to its buildings. St. Paul's Cross was so nearly ruined that Archbishop Courtenay had recourse to indulgences to raise the funds for its repair. Among the 'Political songs and poems relating to English History' (fn. 12) occurs the following account of this earthquake:

'For sothe this was a Lord to drede,
So sodeynly mad mon agast;
Of gold and selver thei tok non hede,
But out of ther houses ful sone thei past.
Chaumbres, chymeneys, al to-barst,
Chirches and castelles foule gon fare;
Pinacles, steples, to grounde [h]it cast;
And al was for warnyng to be ware.
. . . . . .
The rysyng of the comnunes in londe, (fn. 13)
The pestilens, (fn. 14) and the eorthe-qwake,
Theose threo thinges, I understonde,
Beoth tokenes the grete vengaunce and wrake
That schulde falle for synnes sake,
As this clerkes conne declare.
Now may we chese to leve or take,
For warnyng have we to be ware.'

Whether it was the effect of this earthquake that rendered it necessary, in 1405, to rebuild the bell tower of the church, or whether it was the effect of the settlement in the north-west pier of the crossing, we do not know.

The records several times refer to the prior in connexion with the hospital, thus: in the fourth of the Bishop of London's letters, dated 24th January, 1386/7 (which was referred to as being entered at the end of copy No. 644 of Simon of Sudbury's ordinance at St Paul's), (fn. 15) the prior is commanded to induct the new master, William Wakering, and 'to assign to him a stall in the quire as was usual', the prior having on the 4th of the same month presented the new master to the bishop. (fn. 16)

In the same year (1387) Gedeney and Wakering were together witnesses to the will of John Royston. (fn. 17) He bequeathed £10 to the fabric of the cloister, and £20 to Dom John Rankedych to be expended round and about the high altar. These two gifts suggest that the work of restoration was commenced, or in contemplation, earlier than the year 1405, which is the date indicated by the pope's grant of indulgences.

Royston also bequeathed to the prior 26s. 8d. and his 'best cloth with the tun'; to the master of the hospital he bequeathed 13s. 4d. and his second best cloth with the tun; the mark of the 'tun' was probably due to the last syllable of the testator's name—'Roys-ton'.

The records of the Merchant Taylors Company show that the prior was one of their fraternity of St. John Baptist.

In the year 1390 one John Bathe bequeathed to the prior (mentioning him by name), and to the convent, all his lands and houses in various streets in the city. (fn. 18)

In January the next year (1391) the prior resigned. He apparently continued to remain a canon of the church, for as such, in the year 1393, he was appointed 'papal chaplain with the usual privileges'. (fn. 19) Three years before, in 1390, Philip Sihalden, a canon of St. Bartholomew's, had received a similar appointment, as did John Tebbe (fn. 20) in 1392 and John Yong (fn. 21) in 1394. These last two appear as canons of the house in the lists referred to already in the years 1379 and 1382 respectively. (fn. 22) Licence to elect a successor was granted to the subprior on January 12th 1391, but Gedeney probably lived to 1395 or 1396. On the 15th April of the latter year one John Newport directed in his will (fn. 23) that a trental (30) of masses should be said in one day for the soul of this prior.


  • 1. Reg. London, Braybroke, p. 264.
  • 2. Pat., 5 Rich. II, pt. 1, m. 4, 14 Jan. (1382); also Cal. Pat., p. 65.
  • 3. His election is set out in extenso in Reg. London, Braybroke, p. 264, and will be printed in full by the Cant. and York Soc.
  • 4. Cal. Pat., 5 Rich. II.
  • 5. Ib., 7 Rich. II, 10 Dec.
  • 6. Ib., 382, 7 Rich. II, 5 Mar.
  • 7. Mem. R., L. T. R., 13 Rich. II, f. 9 d (marked ij).
  • 8. See above, p. 173.
  • 9. App. I, pp. 487–8, Charters Nos. 20 and 23.
  • 10. The Cal. says 10 marks. The charter says per finem decem librarum solut.
  • 11. See below, p. 186.
  • 12. Political Songs, Rolls Series, No. 14, vol. i, p. 250.
  • 13. The Wat Tyler riots.
  • 14. The Black Death.
  • 15. See p. 176, above.
  • 16. Reg. London, Braybroke, p. 285 d.
  • 17. App. I, p. 531; Courtenay, 2 June, 1387.
  • 18. Cal. Hust. Wills, ii, 284.
  • 19. Cal. Pap. Reg. iv, 278.
  • 20. Ib. iv, 282.
  • 21. Ib. iv, 288.
  • 22. Above, p. 172.
  • 23. App. I, p. 531.