The fifteenth century: Prior Reginald Collier

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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E A Webb, 'The fifteenth century: Prior Reginald Collier', in The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1, (Oxford, 1921) pp. 211-219. British History Online [accessed 27 May 2024].

E A Webb. "The fifteenth century: Prior Reginald Collier", in The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1, (Oxford, 1921) 211-219. British History Online, accessed May 27, 2024,

Webb, E A. "The fifteenth century: Prior Reginald Collier", The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1, (Oxford, 1921). 211-219. British History Online. Web. 27 May 2024,

In this section



The convent elected a canon of the house, Reginald Collier, to succeed William Coventry resigned. Twelve years before he had committed a fault of some importance, for on the 10th November, 1424, Pope Martin V issued a mandate (fn. 1) 'to the Bishop of London to absolve Reginald Colyer, Augustinian canon of St. Bartholomew's in West Smithfield', from excommunication which he had incurred, enjoining a salutary penance. He had left the monastery without leave of his superior, and was then living in the world without abandoning his habit; but he was desirous to return to the monastery. The mandate was also to dispense him on account of irregularity contracted, if any, and after temporary suspension to allow him to receive and hold dignities, &c., wont to be governed by canons of the monastery. He was thus made eligible for the office of prior.

No entry has been found in the Patent Rolls of the royal assent to the election, but it must have been given, because in the register of the dean and chapter of St. Paul's (fn. 2) is recorded the confirmation of the election on the 7th February by Master David Pryce, the custodian of the spiritualities of the diocese during the vacancy caused by the death of Bishop Robert FitzHugh in the previous month; and the issue of the mandate to Henry Frowyk, the Mayor of London, to deliver the temporalities to the prior, is duly chronicled, (fn. 3) 'whose election as prior', it says, 'has been confirmed by the guardian of the spiritualities of the bishopric of London and whose fealty the king has taken'. A like mandate was issued to the escheators of Bucks, Essex, Herts, and Middlesex, so it is possible that the escheators had again taken possession during voidance, in spite of the case having been gone into so fully in the year 1415. (fn. 4) And although, as already said, (fn. 5) in 1444 the king granted Letters Patent exempting the convent from the burden of the escheators for all time, yet after the confirmation of the election of the subsequent priors orders were issued to the escheators to restore the temporalities.

The first act recorded of Prior Reginald is in the Guildhall Letter Book L, when on the 20th June, 1436, in the chapter-house, he and the convent granted to Thomas Knolles, grocer, permission to convey superfluous water belonging to the priory by pipes to the gates of Newgate and Ludgate, for the relief of poor prisoners there. A brick arched passage in Giltspur Street by Cock Lane was exposed a few years ago running through Smithfield to the priory, and after the Zeppelin raid in 1915 another portion was exposed in the centre of the close, about 5 ft. below the surface, where was originally the conduit head. This may have been the passage through which the water-pipes were conveyed.

Other records of Prior Reginald (or Reynold, as he was often called) are numerous, as his priorate extended over 35 years; thus, on the 13th March, 1436/7, Prior Reginald was cited to Convocation by the archbishop (fn. 6) to meet at St. Paul's on the 1st May following, together with 15 bishops, 11 abbots, and 20 other priors and masters of hospitals, among the latter being the master of St. Bartholomew's. The prior was again cited to meet at St. Paul's on the 14th October, 1439, but he is called Prior John, apparently confusing him with John Wakering, the master of the hospital.

The record of the year 1438, in which the king granted that the prior and convent might be for ever quit of any corody, has been already dealt with. (fn. 7)

In the year 1440 the king granted Letters Patent, exempting the prior and convent from collecting or paying subsidies, which may be thus translated: (fn. 8)

'Whereas the prior and convent of the house or priory of St. Bartholomew in Smithfield have made supplication to us to the effect that their possessions have diminished to such an extent that they do not suffice for the maintenance of the said house, nor to pay the annuities granted to certain persons, nor for the repairs of the church of that priory: we of our special grace grant to them that they may be altogether quit for ever from the collection and levying of all tenths and fifteenths and all other subsidies to be granted to us in the province of Canterbury; and if they refuse to pay the same they shall not incur any damage or loss. Witness the king at Westminster 30th December.'

On the 14th November 1449, however, Convocation granted the king a fourth of a tenth of the possessions of certain persons that had been exempted by royal letters from the collection of tenths. The Prior of Thoby (an Augustinian priory at Mountnessing, Essex) was the collector; and it is recorded in the Memoranda Rolls (fn. 9) how on the quinzaine of St. Michael (October 14th), in the 29th year of King Henry VI (1450), when the Prior of Thoby came to the Court of Exchequer to account for his collection, the Prior of St. Bartholomew's also came, complaining that he was unjustly wronged and harassed in his goods and chattels by the Prior of Thoby (who had apparently distrained him for payment). For the Prior of St. Bartholomew's the king's letters of 30th December, 1440, were produced; and for the Prior of Thoby it was argued that eight days before this fourth of a tenth was granted, viz. on the 6th November 1449, King Henry in Parliament, by an act of resumption, made void all privileges and franchises granted since the first day of his reign (1st September 1422), to any abbot, prior, dean, chapter, master, warden, or brotherhood, and therefore the king's letters to Prior Reginald were made of none effect. There were various adjournments, and the hearing still remained without a day fixed when Edward IV seized the crown (4th March, 1460/1); but some years after that event Prior Reginald was constrained by the sheriffs to appear to give account of the fourth of the tenth, which presumably he had never paid, and he then produced Letters Patent of the 6th year of Edward IV (7th September 1466) (fn. 10) pardoning him and his convent for, among other things, all actions and demands which the king or others could bring against them: provided that the pardon should not extend to any one attainted of high treason, or to any adherent to his chief enemy Henry, 'lately in fact but not in right King of England.' (fn. 11)

The prior also brought to the court a writ from the king to the treasurer and barons of the exchequer, dated the 12th December 1466, in which the king said that as on the 7th September he had pardoned, remitted, and released to Reginald Collier the prior, he now commanded them not to harass and oppress the prior contrary to the meaning of his letters. And the prior therefore pleaded that, as neither he nor any one of the convent had been attainted of high treason, nor was any one of them a rebel against the king, nor an adherent of the late King Henry, so he asked for judgment; which we may assume he obtained. (fn. 12)

Other monasteries than St. Bartholomew's were also exempted from paying subsidies. The Cistercian monastery of St. Mary Graces and the Benedictine nunnery of Clerkenwell were exempted in the year 1435, (fn. 13) or earlier. St. Bartholomew's is again referred to in the Subsidy Rolls in the year 1478, (fn. 14) together with the abbots and convents of Westminster and of Waltham, as being still exempt. In 1517 the prior was exempted by Henry VIII from payment of two tenths to the Crown; the plea then being Prior Bolton's expense for the so-called rebuilding of the conventual church. (fn. 15)

In the year 1449 the prior took the precaution, though for what particular cause does not appear, to obtain a writ from the king under his great seal, directed to the sheriffs of Essex and Hertfordshire, concerning divers liberties, franchises, and releases granted by various kings of England, among which it had been granted that the prior and convent should be quit of toll, ferry-toll, wayfarers' toll, pontage, pavage, wharfage, cartage, stallage, and forage; and from every custom on land and in harbours of the sea; and from shire and from hundred pleas, as well as all suits of shires and hundreds whatsoever. The king strictly enjoined the sheriff that he should allow the prior and convent to use their liberties, &c., according to the charters, and not to molest or grieve them in any way. The prior by his attorney brought this writ to the Exchequer Court on the 24th May following to be enrolled among their memorials. (fn. 16)

In the year 1465 the prior had to obtain an inspeximus from Edward IV, granted by Letters Patent dated November 15th in his fifth year. (fn. 17) It is addressed not only to Reginald Collier and the convent, but also to the master and brethren of the hospital. The inspeximus simply recites and confirms the charter of 6 Richard II, (fn. 18) which was the last on the list of the charters confirmed by Henry VI in 1424, to which reference has already been made. (fn. 19) This inspeximus cost the priory 10 marks paid into the hanaper. (fn. 20)

The master and brethren of the hospital had already been granted an inspeximus, in the year 1439, of the above charter of Richard II, which is identical with this one to the priory. It is dated 9th December, 18 Henry VI. It is entered by John Cok in the cartulary of the hospital, but we have failed to find it enrolled among the Letters Patent. It is at the end of the entry of this inspeximus that Cok wrote:

'Scriptum per ffratrem Iohannem Cok cum tremulenta manu in vespere vite sue septimo die(?) Septemb. anno domini millesimo quadragentessimo sexagesimo sexto et anno regni Edwardi quarti sexto: per ff. Iohannem Cok.'

Thus, although this unenrolled inspeximus was granted to the hospital in the year 1439, it was not entered in the cartulary until 1466, a year after the similar inspeximus was granted to the priory and the hospital by Edward IV.

In the year 1453, 'to preserve peace, concord, and amity, and to pacify law suits and quarrels' between the priory and the civic authorities, an agreement, (fn. 21) supplementing that of 1377, was entered into and dated the 27th October, 32 Henry VI. Briefly stated, it provided that pickage and stallage for the booths of the fair, within the priory gates, should go to the prior, but that without the gates in Smithfield, and in the adjoining streets, they should go to the mayor and commonalty. The latter were to have the right of examining all weights and measures and things exposed for sale anywhere in the fair, and they were to take half the toll and half the forfeitures. The fees of the court of pie-powder were to be equally divided between the priory and the city; but the prior was to have half the fines.

Among other records of less importance there is among the early Chancery proceedings at the Public Record Office, (fn. 22) in the year 1445, an entry of the action brought by John Spenser, brewer, of London, against Reynold the prior of St. Bartholomew's, to upset an alleged acquittance which he held for beer supplied to the monastery, amounting to £293 15s. 5d. (fn. 23) The prior claimed that the acquittance was given in full on the 23rd June, 1439, on payment of £60, after it had been read to Spenser the brewer in English, in the prior's chamber, in the presence of the prior, the sub-prior, John Venys, three of the canons, a clerk of the exchequer, and two others: the brewer claimed that the acquittance was a forgery. Presumably the case was settled in favour of the prior, for five years later Spenser's widow, Margaret, petitioned Kempe, the archbishop and cardinal of York, that a servant of the prior should be subpoenaed to give evidence before him, because the servant 'knew the truth of the forged acquittance'; but there is no record that the petition was complied with.

The widow Margaret made various bequests to charitable objects in her will, but St. Bartholomew's is not mentioned; neither is there anything to indicate whether Spenser's brewery was the one of the sign of the Cock in Long Lane, which is referred to later. (fn. 24)

The amount of the bill for which the acquittance was disputed seems very excessive, especially when it is remembered that it would have been fully £1,500 in our money. But that the bill should have been settled for £60 or anything like it points to its having been a gross overcharge; there seems to have been considerable argument, as nine persons witnessed the settlement. On the other hand, it must be borne in mind that the number of guests entertained by the monastery must have been very large, that the drink provided for them would have been beer, that the drink of the canons at each meal was beer, and that the bill had probably been running for several years owing to the financial difficulties of the monastery.

In the first year of Reginald Collier's priorate commence the records in the episcopal registers (fn. 25) of the ordinations, which were regularly held in the priory church; and also, though not so frequently, in the church of the hospital. Particulars of these ordinations have already been given in the chapter on the monastery. (fn. 26)

In the year 1441 there is an acquittance, by the dean of the church of St. Martin (le grand), of £4 sterling to Reginald the prior in full payment of all arrears of a certain yearly payment of 20s. for the church of St. Botolph without Aldersgate, the nature of which is fully explained in the chapter on the parish. (fn. 27) There is also a record at St. Margaret's, Westminster, that Raynold 'Colyer', Prior of St. Bartholomew's, was a member of the Guild of the Assumption in St. Margaret's, Westminster, (fn. 28) his name appearing in the list of arrearages (of 3s.) in the accounts of the fraternity of St. Mary within St. Margaret's.

In the year 1443 there is the record at Lambeth, referred to in the chapter on the order, (fn. 29) in which the archbishop gave licence to a canon, who had been imprisoned, to serve the cure of a parish church in the diocese of Canterbury until he was restored to his house. And in 1458 there is the record that the Anglo-Premonstratensians held their general chapter here. (fn. 30)

In the year 1463 there is, among the Harleian MSS., (fn. 31) an indenture of lease in English by 'Reynold' the prior to 'William Hastyngs Lord Hastyngs Knyght' of 'an house with two solars (fn. 32) thereupon bielded', 'in the parish of seint Benet in Paulys wharfe', and a parcel of ground for sixty years, 'yielding therefore yerely a Red rose if it be asked', 'goven the XX day of Juyn, in the third yere of the reigne of King Edward the fourth'. (Hastings was a devoted Yorkist and held many offices from the king. He was at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury in 1471, the year the prior died. As he opposed the Duke of Gloucester, on the accession of Edward V, he was beheaded.)

The only occasion on which this prior had to grant the hospital licence to elect a master was on the death of John Wakering, in the year 1466, after he had been master for 44 years. John Nedham, Bachelor of Laws, was elected in his place in the same year, and, as the entry states, 'in the 19th week after his profession.' (fn. 33)

Provision for a chantry for the soul of Prior Reginald was apparently made more than 25 years before his death, since one Sir William Estfeld, Knt., an alderman of the city, in the year 1445, bequeathed the reversion of some quit rents in the parish of St. Botolph, Aldersgate, to the prior and convent of St. Mary Overy, 'whensoever the prior and convent of St. Bartholomew should make default in maintaining a chantry for the soul of Reginald "Colyer" the prior, the soul of the testator, his late wives and others, in manner prescribed.' (fn. 34)

In the next year, 1466, there is a record in the Husting Rolls that the prior granted an annual rent to one William Andrew, for the purpose of founding a chantry in St. Sepulchre's.

In 1471 the prior died, for on the 27th June of that year the royal licence was granted to the sub-prior and convent of the monastery and 'royal free chapel' of St. Bartholomew 'of the order of St. Augustine' to elect a prior 'in the place of Reginald "Colyer", deceased'. (fn. 35)

Smithfield Jousts and Tournaments.

As Smithfield was immediately outside the west doors of the priory church, it has been impossible to avoid some reference to what was being enacted there; and as the famous jousts and tournaments seem to have come to an end in the time of Prior Reginald Collier, they may be briefly referred to here: they do not seem to have lasted more than 120 or 130 years.

The royal jousts, which began at Smithfield in the reign of Edward III, were continued by Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, and Edward IV. The first example of a royal joust mentioned by Stow is in the 31st year of Edward III (1357), when, besides King Edward, the kings of France and Scotland were present. But Adam Murimuth, in his continuation of the chronicle of Robert de Avesbury, (fn. 36) says that in the year 1343 'there were fine tournaments at Smethfeld', where the pope and twelve cardinals for three days held against all who held knighthood. (Who were the thirteen champions for the Church we are not told, but he says later that they were all dressed alike. (fn. 37) ) The same author also refers to the tournaments held there in the year 1353 as being 'customary'. In the year 1374 Edward III had the bad taste to bring Dame Alice Perrers (as 'Lady of the Sun') to the royal joust, which that year lasted for seven days.

Trials by combat (which were only abolished in the year 1819) and challenges to combat were also fought out in Smithfield. In January 1442 such a challenge was carried out here within lists before the king (Henry VI) between Sir Philip la Beaufe (or Boyle) of Aragon and Sir John Ansley (or Astley). It is depicted in the Hastings MSS. (fn. 38) with an onlooker on the roof of one of the houses (as would occur to-day, were a similar sight to be seen). A church with a tower, apparently to suggest St. Bartholomew's, is depicted in the background (pl. VIII).

The last record met with of the use of Smithfield for such purposes is in the year 1467, when the Bastard of Burgoine challenged the Lord Scales, brother to the queen, to fight with him both on horseback and on foot. The kings and nobles were present, and the fight lasted three days. (fn. 39)

Encroachments on the open space of Smithfield, which commenced on the west side as early as the year 1417, (fn. 40) reduced the space available for such displays; and the building of the central meat markets in our own time has still further restricted what was once a fine open space.


  • 1. Cal. Pap. Reg. vii, 375, 7 Martin V, 4 Id. Nov.
  • 2. St. Paul's Reg. W. D. 13, f. 156d–157, 7 Feb. 1435–6.
  • 3. Cal. Pat., 14 Hen. VI, 13 Feb. (1436).
  • 4. See above, p. 142.
  • 5. See above, p. 150.
  • 6. Reg. Lond., Gilbert, p. 79.
  • 7. See above, p. 150.
  • 8. Pat., 19 Hen. VI, pt. 1, m. 15, 30 Dec.; App. I, p. 489, Charter No. 27.
  • 9. Mem. R. K.R., 30 Hen. VI, Roll 42.
  • 10. Recited in full in the Mem. R. above.
  • 11. The Wars of the Roses had commenced eleven years before this, viz. in 1455, two years after the close of the Hundred Years' War with France.
  • 12. This entry in the Memoranda Rolls is 'the process had and adjudged by the Barons' referred to in the Clerical Subsidy Roll concerning Prior Thoby's collection—42/217, 28 Hen. VI, 14 Nov. (1449). The fact that the Mem. Roll of 1450 contains records of 1466 is accounted for by the custom being the same then as now, to add subsequent proceedings to the first entry.
  • 13. Cler. Sub. R. 42/159, 12 Hen. VI.
  • 14. Ib. 43/242, 18 Edw. IV.
  • 15. See below, p. 227.
  • 16. Mem. R. L.T.R., 27 Hen. VI (1449). Rot. 7 Pasch. Record (it occurs on the lower half of the dorse of Roll 7, which, counting from the top, is the 89th membrane).
  • 17. Cal. Pat., 5 Edw. IV, 15 Nov., and App. I, p. 489, Charter No. 28.
  • 18. See above, p. 209.
  • 19. See above, p. 209.
  • 20. An office in the Court of Chancery.
  • 21. More fully set out in chapter on the Fair, below, p. 305.
  • 22. Early Chanc. Pro., 23 Hen. VI, 10 July (1445): Bundle 13, No. 38, Bundle 10. No. 348 (pp. 116, 199 of the list); transcript in App. I, p. 499.
  • 23. Briefly mentioned above, p. 204.
  • 24. See Vol. II, chap. x, brewhouse.
  • 25. Reg. Lond., Gilbert, p. 131.
  • 26. See p. 12.
  • 27. Vol. II, chap. xii.
  • 28. The Rev. H. F. Westlake supplied this reference.
  • 29. See above, p. 19.
  • 30. See above, p. 12.
  • 31. Harl. MS. 3881, Art. 15.
  • 32. A 'solar' was an upper room.
  • 33. Hosp. Cart., f. 63.
  • 34. Cal. Hust. Wills, ii, 511.
  • 35. Cal. Pat., 11 Edw. IV, 27 June (1471).
  • 36. R. Ser. No. 93, p. 146.
  • 37. Ib., 230.
  • 38. Ordinances of chivalry of fifteenth century belonging to Lord Hastings, 277 b. See Archaeologia, lvii, 36.
  • 39. Stow, Survey, p. 143.
  • 40. Ib. 142.