The sixteenth century: Prior William Bolton

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 sixteenth century: Prior William Bolton', The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1, (Oxford, 1921), pp. 223-238. British History Online [accessed 21 June 2024].

E A Webb. "The sixteenth century: Prior William Bolton", in The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1, (Oxford, 1921) 223-238. British History Online, accessed June 21, 2024,

Webb, E A. "The sixteenth century: Prior William Bolton", The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1, (Oxford, 1921). 223-238. British History Online. Web. 21 June 2024,

In this section




William Bolton was elected to succeed William Guy as Prior of St. Bartholomew's, and the royal assent was granted on the 21st August, 1505: (fn. 1) six days later the temporalities were restored, with the profits arising therefrom during the whole time of the vacancy, (fn. 2) and on the same day a mandate was issued to that effect to the escheators of London, Middlesex, and Hertfordshire. (fn. 3)

William Bolton is the best known of all the priors of the monastery. From the year 1477 to the year 1481 he held the prebend of Sanctae Crucis, Lincoln; and from 1481 to 1488 that of Consumpta per mare in St. Paul's. (fn. 4) We may assume that, as he held a prebend in the year 1477, he was born somewhere about the year 1450, which would make him 55 years of age when elected Prior of St. Bartholomew's, and 82 when he died.

On the accession of Henry VIII in 1509, his name appears in the Pardon Rolls but with no particulars, and so again in 1513. (fn. 5) He was, together with Thomas Crewker, the master of the hospital, cited to Convocation in 1509, (fn. 6) and again in the year 1529. (fn. 7)

Bolton was a member of Gray's Inn in the year 1520, and so occurs in a list of 'eminent members of Grays Inn' compiled by Segar (Harleian MS. 12). (fn. 8) The Lord Abbots of Westminster, Furness, and Battle, and the Abbot of St. Mary Graces, were members in the same year. In the same list are at various times five archbishops, many bishops, dukes, earls, barons, and knights (including Sir Walter Mildmay), so it was a position of some distinction. As already stated, the prior and convent of St. Bartholomew's had to find a chaplain to celebrate daily in Gray's Inn for the soul of John de Grey, the founder. (fn. 9)

Prior Bolton was a builder of some eminence, and as such he was employed both by Henry VII and Henry VIII. The man who superintended the work of a building in those days was called 'master of the works' or 'clerk of the works', and was usually a clerk in holy orders. Henry VI employed as clerk of the works his chaplain, William Cleve. (fn. 10) The Duke of Buckingham, in the year 1520, instructed his chancellor to 'inquire for some sufficient prest to be mayster of our workes' (fn. 11) : the master of the masons was the architect.

Bolton was in charge of the work at Westminster Abbey when Henry VII died in the year 1509; for in his will (pl. IX), (fn. 12) dated 31st March 1509, the king, who made provision for the completion of his chapel there in case it should not be finished before he died, (fn. 13) directed 'that the said chapell be desked and the windowes of our said chapell be glased with stores (stories), ymages, armes, bagies (badges), and cognoisauncs, as is by us redily divised and in picture delivered to the Priour of Sainct Batilmews beside Smythfeld Maistre of the work of our said chapell'.

Sir Reginald Bray, K.G., is generally considered to have been the architect of Henry VII's chapel. He helped Abbot Islip on the occasion of the laying of the foundation-stone in 1503, but died a few months afterwards. He was intimately connected with the Richmond family and carried out great alterations to St. George's Chapel, Windsor, for the king. Inasmuch as Bolton was employed by the executors of Lady Margaret (the Countess of Richmond), and also by the king, it is not unlikely that he took charge of the work at the abbey after the death of Sir Reginald Bray in 1503; that is, two years before he was prior of St. Bartholomew's.

Lady Margaret died in 1509, the same year as her son, the king. Two years later Bolton was employed for the erection of her monument in the south-eastern or Lady Margaret's Chapel at Westminster, where it now is. It was he who advised as to the designing of the tomb and who engaged Pietro Torrigiano, and others, to carry out the work. This is shown in the following entry in the executors' accounts of the Countess of Richmond: (fn. 14)

'Item to the prior of Saint Bartilmews for his counsell in devisynge the seide tombe, and for his labour and costis and expensis in surveyinge and countrollynge the werkmen of the same tombe at diverse and sondry tymes and ffor sendynge for diverse werkmen ffrom beyende the sea for makyng of the seide tombe.

On page 105 of the accounts is a note 'Md the thinge allowed yet for his labour prior of Seint Bartilmew's is no.'. Whether he was ever paid anything for his labour does not appear, but it will be seen by the following entries that he had been given £40 for outgoings, but that he only expended £9 8s. 2d., the balance being handed back to John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester.

'Item paiede to the prior of Seint Barthilomew's the ffirst day of August ffor my ladys tombe in Westminster, bi a bill xl li.' (fn. 15)

'Also the seide bisshop chargeth hymselff gratis upon this accompt of xxx li xi s x d of the rest of a somme of xl li which was delyverde to the prior of seint Barthilmews apon a prest towarde the making of my ladies tombe, as it appireth in the last accompt, of which xl li the seide prior expendit abowt the seide tombe but ix li viii s ii d as it appireth by his bill of pacellis.' (fn. 16)

There was paid 'to M. Erasmus for the ephitaff on the tomb xx s'. He was the Lady Margaret professor at Cambridge, and Bolton must have been acquainted with him.

Lady Margaret, on the advice of Bishop Fisher, instituted the foundations bearing her name at Oxford and Cambridge, and she also founded Christ's and St. John's Colleges at Cambridge. Among the records of the latter college is a letter to the 'Prior of Sent Bartylmew's', signed by Bishop Fisher, asking the prior to deliver unto the bearer for Lady Margaret's poor folk at Hatfield £104. In a postscript, in his own hand, the bishop adds:

'And I pray you do so moch to se Peter's work for my ladyes tomb and when ye have oones seen I will comm my self thyder' (fn. 17) (pl. XLVII b, Vol. II, p. 59).

In the chapel of Christ's College there is a window opening into the church on the first-story level from a chamber known as Lady Margaret's Prayer Room, which, as restored by Bodley (in wood), so closely resembles Prior Bolton's window at St. Bartholomew's as to suggest that it and possibly the whole chapel is Bolton's work.

In 1513–14 he built for the king storehouses and coin houses in the Tower of London, (fn. 18) and one of the king's payments in 1538 refers to 'tiling the houses of ordnance there which the Prior of St. Bartholomew's heretofore caused to be made'. (fn. 19)

But the principal building for the king was at New Hall, near Chelmsford, in Essex, which must have been largely rebuilt by Bolton. This is shown by the following entries in the King's Book of Payments:

March 1517. 'To the Prior of St. Bartholomew's for the king's business at Newhall £1,000'
April 1518. 'To the Prior of St. Bartholomew's for Newhall £2,000' (fn. 20)
October 1518. 'To the Prior of St. Bartholomew's for the buildings at Newhall £1,000.'

In 1519 there were monthly payments of £200 each, the sum occasionally being £400. In July 1519 occurs: 'To the Prior of St. Bartholomew's for the lead glass and finishing of New Hall, £200'; (fn. 21) but on the 27th June, 13 Henry VIII (1522), a further payment of £1,000 occurs, (fn. 22) perhaps for decoration, for the king celebrated the feast of St. George there in 1524. New Hall originally belonged to the Earl of Ormond; then to Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire, a grandfather of Anne Boleyn, from whom Henry VIII procured it by exchange and, says Camden, having been at great charge to enlarge it, gave it the new name of Beau-lieu. (fn. 23)

A fragment of an enamelled sixteenth-century terra-cotta tile was found on the site of the farmerer's house, No. 47 Bartholomew Close, in the year 1910, which is considered by the quality of the enamel and the Della Robbia-like blue tint to be North Italian work between the years 1510 and 1520. As this was the only piece of the kind discovered, it possibly formed a pattern obtained by Bolton with the view of importing glazed panels of that description for the work at New Hall or elsewhere. The fragment is probably part of a panel with a relief representing a circular wreath supported by amorini. Only one arm, a wing, and part of the wreath remain; the wreath and wing are coloured blue, the remainder is white. (fn. 24)

It was whilst the prior was busy in this building operation for the king that he was fined £10 by the chapter of his order for not obtaining a deputy to perform the duties of the visitation to which he had been appointed. (fn. 25)

It was also at this same time that Bolton applied to Cardinal Wolsey for preferment to the bishopric of St. Asaph. By a letter from Richard Pace (the king's secretary, and next year Dean of St. Paul's) to Cardinal Wolsey, dated at Abingdon the 14th April, 1518, (fn. 26) we learn that Wolsey had applied to the king for the advancement of the Prior of St. Bartholomew's to St. Asaph, but that the king had already promised that see to a learned friar; that the king had replied that 'though masters of the works had heretofore been promoted, he thought it was not for their skill in building, but for some other good quality annexed, as profound learning', and that he would reward the prior with some smaller preferment. Pace added that he was mortified to think that the friar was probably Standish, (fn. 27) who was not to be compared to the prior; 'Sed principum voluntatibus arduum est refragari.' (fn. 28)

The smaller preferment came some four years later, when in the year 1522 Bolton was appointed by Archbishop Wareham to the rectory of Harrow. (fn. 29) This was probably at the expressed wish of the king, who obtained the manor and rectory of Harrow by exchange with Archbishop Cranmer in 1545–6. Being an Augustinian canon, Bolton had to be 'dispensed' before he could undertake a cure of souls at Harrow; he therefore graduated M.A. at Oxford on the 3rd February, 1521/2, and was dispensed on the 14th of May following. (fn. 30)

Prior Bolton, before his work for the king at New Hall, carried on large building operations in the priory church, among the monastic buildings, and at Canonbury Tower, Islington, which had, for three centuries, formed part of the possessions of the monastery. The first record of his work in the church occurs in the year 1513, when one Walter Martyn (fn. 31) bequeathed 'to the reparacions of the churche or priory of greate seynt Bartilmewes xli'.

In 1517 the priory was exempted from payment of the two-tenths subsidy on the goods, benefices, and ecclesiastical possessions of the monastery' on account of the enormous burden of the new constructions of the church of the monastery taken upon himself by the prior'. (fn. 32) By this it would seem that the building at the priory was finished, or nearly so, before Bolton commenced New Hall for the king. Stow says in his edition of 1603 that 'Bolton . . . was a great builder there (St. Bartholomew's), for he repaired the priory church, with the parish church adjoining, the offices and lodgings of the said priory belonging and near adjoining'; (fn. 33) and of Rahere's monument he says 'of late renewed by Prior Bolton'. Bolton's work was very far from a new construction, but such work as remains is easily distinguishable, being mainly carried out in brick. It is described in detail in the chapter on the architecture of the church, and in that on the monastic buildings.

Prior Bolton demolished the curved east end of the south aisle, and by extending the south wall of the aisle eastward he formed the present rectangular termination. In this new south wall he formed a doorway, which led into the new prior's house that he built; and in the spandrels of the arch of the doorway he placed his rebus. In the story above he widened the south triforium by throwing out a gallery southward which overhung the south external chapel, and divided the triforium transversely into chambers.

Bolton then built out from the centre bay of the triforium his oriel window, which bears his rebus on the centre panel; the probable use of this was to enable the prior and his servants to see the celebration of mass. Lady Margaret's window at Christ's College, Cambridge, probably served a similar purpose. At Westminster Abbey Islip built a gallery in the south triforium of the nave, which may have been on the advice of Prior Bolton; (fn. 34) this (among other uses) may have served for seeing mass offered at the altar of the Rood.

What may have been the repairs 'to the parish church adjoining' to which Stow refers we do not know, because Henry VIII destroyed the parish chapel. To what extent Bolton renewed Rahere's tomb there are no indications: (fn. 35) he may have merely recoloured it.

As regards the repairs to the offices and lodgings referred to by Stow, there were distinct signs of a later rebuilding of the infirmary when the foundations were exposed in the year 1910. (fn. 36) And when the site of the chapter-house and the ground east of it were excavated in 1912, foundations were discovered of ancient brick buildings which were probably offices of Bolton's time. The lower part of the walls of the prior's house, or lodgings, were at the same time discovered, running south from Bolton's door in the church, (fn. 37) and these were evidently work of Bolton's time, as stated by Stow.

Stow says that Bolton 'built anew the manor of Canonbery at Islington, which belonged to the canons of this house'. Nichols, writing in 1788, considered this supposition plausible, because the device of a 'Bolt and ton', cut in free stone, then remained in several parts of the garden wall (fn. 38) (where it may still be seen).

As regards Harrow, Stow wrote as follows in the year 1598: (fn. 39)

'He (Bolton) built no house at Harrow-on-the-Hill as Edward Hall hath written (in his Chronicle, 1548), following a fable then on foot. "The people," saith he, "being feared by prognostications, which declared that in the year of Christ, 1524, there should be such eclipses in watery signs, and such conjunctions, that by waters and floods many people should perish, people victualled themselves, and went to high grounds for fear of drowning; and especially one Bolton, which was Prior of St. Bartholomew's in Smithfield, built him a house upon Harrow-on-the-Hill, only for fear of this flood; thither he went, and made provision of all things necessary within him for the space of two months," etc. But this was not so indeed as I have been credibly informed. True it is that this Bolton was also parson of Harrow, and therefore bestowed some small reparations on the parsonage house, but built nothing there more than a dove-house, to serve him when he had foregone his priory.' (fn. 40) (fn. 41)

Stow is not likely to have contradicted this story of Hall, written when Stow was a young man of about twenty-two, unless his informant had been really credible, so we accept his contradiction; but the astrologers of the time had predicted that a grand conjunction of the planets Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter, in the sign of Pisces (almost identical in character with that which produced Noah's flood), would occur in February 1524, and there can be no doubt that their prediction caused the greatest consternation among the learned and unlearned throughout the whole of Europe. (fn. 42)

There are various records about this time which relate to the assessment of the monastery. In the year 1524, among the procurations due to Wolsey (who had secured his aim in 1518 by being appointed Legate by the Pope) because of his 'visitations legatynes' exercised in the vacation between Easter and Trinity terms in and about London, St. Bartholomew's Priory was valued at £381 17s. 1½d., and the procuration fees at £15 5s. 5¾d. (fn. 43) In Arnold's Chronicle (fn. 44) the temporalities of the priory in the year 1519 figure at only £90 14s. 4d., on which tenths, £8 17s. 9d., were paid. In 1522 St. Bartholomew's appears among Tunstall's (fn. 45) spiritual benefices as 'land and possessions 600 marcs, goods 400 marcs'. But how these figures were arrived at we cannot say.

In the year 1517 there is, in the Minister's Accounts, (fn. 46) among the Duchy of Lancaster papers in the Record Office, a view of the account of Nicholas Wolfenden, the sub-prior of the monastery and collector of the rents and lease rents within the close, for the year from Lady Day 1516 to that of 1517. A list of all the tenants is not given, because the collector works from an old rental which had been brought up to date in July of 1509.

£ s. d.
He first charges the account with the arrears of the previous year's collection 8 7 4
And then with the total rents of the old rental 67 7 8
£75 15 0
He next credits the account with the rents of 10 unoccupied tenements, giving the names of the late tenants. They are variously described as in 'Church Row', 'next the great gate', 'above the outer gate' or 'in Petty Wales', one 'next the door of the church', and one in 'the Close'. The rents vary from 6s. 8d. to 40s. a year.
Total 6 3 4

He then credits payments of stipends to the following canons:

Nicholas Wolfenden, Sub-prior, £4

Thomas Stokes 40 0
Thomas Gibbons 40 0
Gilbert Lorymere 40 0
John Albone 40 0
Richard Mayler 40 0
Thomas Bilbarowe 40 0
John Hynde 40 0
William Wikes, alias Fynche 40 0
William Cherey 40 0
John Broune 40 0
John Smyth, 1 qr. (at) 26 8
3 qrs. at 40 0
Oliver Middleton, 2 qrs. at 26 8
2 40 0
Total (fn. 47) 27      0      0

And the following novices:

Thomas Grey 26 8
William Menley 26 8
Henry Crosse 26 8
Andrew Salman 26 8
John Bisshop 26 8
Total 6     13     4
Brought forward: £39 16 8
He then credits pence in the hands of tenants for drinks (potaciones) according to a separate and approved list 12 0
He then credits fees paid the attorney by order of the prior, and 'aids' to the king 13 4
10 0
He paid to the prior of the brothers of the Augustinian order in London 6s. 8d., to the vicar of St. Sepulchre's 6s. 8d., Dr. Bele for preaching sermons in Lent in the church 6s. 6d., for wine 6s. 8d. (fn. 48) 1 2 2
He paid for raiment and necessaries for John Tortyngton and . . . Mark, novices, 55s. 2d.; to Oliver Middleton, a canon, by order of the prior, 6s. 8d.; for paper and ink for J. Broune, canon, 4d. 3 2 2
He paid the auditor for making a new rental 3 4
He paid for wine for the convent and guest-house (hospicio) on Whit-Sunday 1 0
He paid for medicines and other necessaries for canons and novices when ill 10 9
He then credits moneys paid to the prior received from Stephen Gauvinns, shoemaker, £1 6s. 8d.; John Burgoyne for a tenement, 40s.; William Marteyn, 53s. 4d.; and from ten others at rents from 3s. 4d. to 13s. 4d. 10 16 8
He credits:
Allowed to the sub-prior for collection 13 4
For two tenements in Paradise, 5s.; and 6s. 8d. allowed to a widow, and another at the will of the prior 11 8
Arrears received from three tenants named 1 16 4
Total £60 9 5
£ s. d.
He finally charges the account for a garden in Petty Wales, between two other gardens, at 1s. a year for two years 2 0
Which, with the arrears and rents above 75 15 0
amounts to 75 17 0
60 9 5
15 7 7
He then, on the 21st July, 9 Henry VIII (1517), paid to Prior Bolton in the presence of the Auditors 7 10 1
Leaving uncollected in arrears £7 17 6

He then details the names of thirteen tenants and their rents, ranging from 1s. to 40s.; which amount would then have been carried to the next year's account.

The account is made out with much precision, but for an occasional slip in addition. Although the rental itself is not given (as is the case of the one at Kimbolton which is not available), the total of £67 7s. 8d. is only £5 less than the rental in the particulars for the grant to Rich, made four years after the suppression, showing that there were not many fresh houses built in that period.

The custom of the tenants retaining a recognized pourboire when paying the rent is to be noticed.

The number of the canons (13) is the same as in Rahere's time, though his successor, Prior Thomas, raised this number to 35. In 1379 the number was also 13, though there were 8 others of the house assessed for a subsidy. At the time of the suppression the number was still 13.

In the year 1521 occurs one of the few cases in which the name of the parish priest is given. A certain Hugh Grannger made some additional legacies to his will when lying on his death-bed in the presence of Sir Thomas Truplande, 'curate', (fn. 49) and as curatum is the description of John Deane, acting as parish priest in 1544, we may assume that the word 'curate' here indicates the same office as it does in the Prayer Book to-day. (fn. 50)

About this time there had been a dispute between the priory and the Charterhouse; and in the year 1526 there is a record that the prior, William Tynbeth, and the convent of the Charterhouse, gave a bond to Cardinal Wolsey of 1,000 marks to observe the award of the arbitrators chosen to decide all suits, quarrels, and matters of variance between 'those two monasteries', (fn. 51) and this composition is referred to in the award made in 1531.

There had been, as already observed, complaint by the vicar of St. Sepulchre's church, which was in the gift of the prior and convent of St. Bartholomew's, that the share of the tithes and offerings allotted to the vicar was not sufficient. The bishop was therefore asked to arbitrate in the matter. The award, which is dated 4th April, 1531, is very lengthy. It is entered in full in the episcopal registers at St. Paul's. (fn. 52) It is in English, and portions are quoted by Newcourt (i. 531). It is made by John Stokesley, Bishop of London, between Prior William Bolton and the convent of St. Bartholomew's, patrons, &c., and Robert Dyker, vicar of St. Sepulchre's, both being willing parties, concerning the tithes, rights, and properties of St. Sepulchre's.

The main points of the award may be summarized as follows:

The vicar was to have the third part of all tithes, oblations, and profits coming to the church throughout the year (with certain exceptions). Such tithes, &c., excepting those received at Easter and seven days after, were to be put into a box in the vestry of St. Sepulchre's, there to remain until divided at the end of each month into two-thirds and one-third.

The vicar was to have the third part also of all tithes and profits arising from the composition made between the prior and convent of the Charterhouse, the prior and convent of St. Bartholomew's, and the vicar of St. Sepulchre's, concerning the houses within the precincts of the Charterhouse, without any interference from the Prior of St. Bartholomew's.

The vicar was to make no claim for tithes, &c., coming from the precincts of St. Bartholomew's monastery, or hospital, or Clerkenwell Fields, or arising from the composition made between the lord of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in England and the prior and convent of St. Bartholomew's.

The vicar was to have one-third part of the candles and tapers offered on Candlemas Day; except the wax that the prior ordained for the choir to offer, which was to be the prior's solely.

Also the wax offered at all other times of the year was to belong to the prior, who was to find the lights before the Blessed Sacrament, tapers for processions, and other lights.

The branches of white wax brought for dead bodies were to remain the property of St. Sepulchre's, to be burnt in due time in the house of the Blessed Sacrament. Only the sockets were to go to the prior. (There are many other minor points of no special interest.)

The agreement was to last for five years and five weeks, after which, if the vicar or prior thought himself aggrieved and protested within two months of the five years and five weeks before the bishop's chancellor, then the award was to be void, but otherwise to be permanent. The date of the award was the 4th April, 1531. The presentation to St. Sepulchre's was with the prior and convent, and they presented the above Robert Dyker in the year 1524.

It would seem that the king wanted the next presentation for his chaplain, Dr. Rowland Lee; (fn. 53) so Thomas Cromwell, in conjunction with Gregory Cromwell, obtained from Prior Bolton a grant of the advowson (no doubt for value received in some form or another). On the death of Robert Dyker in 1532, Thomas Cromwell granted the presentation for that turn to the king (by a deed dated the 28th July, 24 Henry VIII), and the king then presented Dr. Rowland Lee. (fn. 54) On Lee's resignation, in the December following, Cromwell presented, for that turn, William Copland. (fn. 55)

In 1529, Dr. John Pennande, a prebendary of St. Paul's, was scheming for the appointment of prior to St. Bartholomew's; and, hearing that Cromwell had told Wolsey that he had obtained 'the advowson of Sepulchre's' for a friend, he writes to Cromwell (1st April, 1529), 'Whiche t'affirme yor saying shalbe always at yor com[m]andme[n]t'. (fn. 56) Pennande, however, died the following month. The Prior of St. Bartholomew's never again presented to St. Sepulchre's, because Copland retained the vicarage for ten years after the suppression of the monastery.

Bolton used as his 'rebus', or punning coat-of-arms, a crossbow 'bolt' passing through a barrel or 'ton' (pl. XXXVIII, Vol. II, p. 34). He seems to have used this long before it was formally granted to him by the College of Arms, for, as we have seen, the rebus appears on his oriel window and on a doorway in the church, which must have been built before the year 1517, whereas the formal grant was not made until the year 1530. A copy of this grant in Latin is preserved among the Arundel MSS. (fn. 57) The grant is made by Sir Thomas Benolt, Clarenceux King of Arms, and assigns to Bolton 'a shield with gules, a vessel in the manner of a ton argent pierced by a bolt or, feathered argent'. It is referred to by Ben Jonson in his play of The New Inn, or the Light Heart:

'The sign o' the Light Heart . . .
I will maintain the Rebus against all comers.
. . . . . . .
A heavy Purse makes a light Heart.
There 'tis exprest: first, by a purse of Gold,
A heavy purse, and then two Twittes, makes,
A Heart with a Light stuck in 't, a Light-heart!
Old Abbot Islip could not invent better,
Or Prior Bolton with his Bolt and Ton.' (fn. 58)

A rebus was a popular device in this country in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, especially among ecclesiastics, and the fashion lasted for over a hundred years; but it largely disappeared with the monasteries. A 'hart lying on water', for Walter Leyhart of Norwich, dates from 1468. A 'cock on a globe', for Bishop Allcock, occurs at Ely, 1488. The rebus was particularly popular with those whose names ended in 'ton', as Abbot Kirton at Peterborough, 1496, who had for rebus a 'kirk' on a 'ton'; Bishop Langton, 1500, and Prior Henton at Winchester are others among many instances. The rebus, however, was by no means confined to the clergy. In the year 1443, the White Friars had a grant of a hospitium or hostel called 'le Bolt en Ton'. There was also a 'Bolt in tun' coach office in Fleet Street (fn. 59) (which, however, may have been the successor to the hostel).

When Cardinal Wolsey failed to get the divorce which the king desired from Katharine of Arragon, Henry, in 1529, turned upon him and took proceedings against the cardinal for breaking the statute of præmunire by accepting legatine power from the pope (although the pope had granted it at the particular request of the king); but Wolsey died the next year on his way to London. The king then, later in the same year, charged the whole clergy with a breach of that statute by their submission to Wolsey's legatine authority, though the king knew that not a priest in England would have dared to offend him (the king) by resisting it. The king granted the clergy pardon on their acknowledging that he was 'the supreme head of the English Church and clergy so far as was allowed by the law of Christ' and upon their paying a fine of £118,000. There is a record that the prior and convent of St. Bartholomew's paid on this occasion into the king's coffers £100 as their share of this unreasonable fine. (fn. 60)

Reference has already been made (fn. 61) to the record of the appointment by William Bolton, in the year 1522, of a steward of the manor: an appointment which the Court of Augmentations recognized twenty years later by granting an annuity to Geoffrey Chambers, the holder of the office. (fn. 62) Reference has already been made (fn. 63) to the commitment of John Tewkesbury to the monastery when accused of heresy in the year 1529, and of his being burnt in Smithfield two years later.

Four times during his priorate Bolton had to give his consent for the election of a new master of the hospital. On the death of Master Thomas Crewker, Brother Robert Beyley (fn. 64) was elected on the 10th August, 1510. On his death, in the year 1516, Richard Smyth, D.D., was elected master. On Dr. Smyth's death in 1525 (February 20th) the 4th March was fixed for the election of his successor, on which occasion two of the brethren were absent in apostasy. It was decided to elect by the method of delegation, and Cardinal Wolsey was delegated to elect. He presented Alexander Colyns, who died in 1528. His election, (fn. 65) and that of Robert Beyley (above), (fn. 66) is set out in full in the episcopal registers at St. Paul's, where it is stated that the Vicar-General sat 'in a certain chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the eastern part of the conventual church of the priory', where Prior Bolton presented Robert Beley to him for confirmation of the election.

On the 28th June, 1528, Sir Thomas Hennege the elder (who was gentleman usher to Wolsey and of the Privy Chamber, and in waiting this year on the king) wrote to Wolsey that he had shown the matter concerning the mastership of the hospital to the king and that he had moved him to send Master Wylson to Wolsey to be shown the statutes of the house, and that the king wished the cardinal would use all the means he could to bring the disposal of the mastership into the cardinal's hands so that the king might put Wylson, or some other good man, in his place. (fn. 67) Edward Staple, Bishop of Meath, however, was eventually appointed master in commendam, that is to say the mastership was placed in his hands on trust, the appointment being revocable at any time. (fn. 68) This, no doubt, was done in consequence of the impending suppression of the hospital, and to avoid the necessity of granting a pension by way of compensation. Being a bishop, Staple had to obtain dispensation from the pope, and this he did; he resigned on the 1st July, 1532, or two and a half months after Prior Bolton's death.

Bolton was taken ill some five years before he died; for, on the 6th August, 1527, Lawrence Stubbs, President of Magdalen College, Oxford, wrote to Wolsey: 'The Prior of St. Bartholomew's is sick and likely to die. The friends of William Fynch, cellarer of the same, have offered to give you £300 for your college at Oxford (fn. 69) for your favour towards his preferment'. (fn. 70)

It will be seen by the following letter that the prior was lame for some years before he died and that a lewd priest tried to accuse him, after his death, possibly with the intention of shielding himself:

From Willysbourne to Wriothesley: (fn. 71)

'Maister Wrethesley, I com[m]end me unto you, after tellyng you that all our business here is in good forwarnese, and I nevr was in cõpanye of more discret honest men than thes gentlemen be, wt whom the kyng and my lorde hathe matched me now. I trust we shall ende here shortly, and I pray you, as for the lewd prest sr Man that he have no cause to crabbe as he hath don, he saithe and hathe said in Oxford that I am sory and shalbe shamed for medlyng wt hym, with this addic[i]on that ther was nevr man medled wt hym yett but he hadd shame at his hands, I trust I shall have noone for all his crabbe pryde and richese, he saithe he hathe mony to defend all the world. As toching his sistre's child he said it was the prior of saint Bartilmew's that died last, he was lame, he could not stere in or out iiii or v yeres before he died. If you woll send a comyssion to Sr John Brome Knight, and to Mr. Wyllms to enquire of his evyll demands at Oxford and in certeyn townes thereabouts you shall know that he kept his systre, sens she was meryed, in this contre and wold have slayne his own father who was with Sir John Brome a while for fere of his lewd son, in my next lres I woll certifie you of or business, etc. etc.

Yor old acquientence and friend

John Wellysbourne.

Endorsed to the Right worshipful Master Wrothesley.'

Fortunately no credence need be placed in an insinuation against Prior Bolton coming from a person with such a character as described above. The fact of Bolton being incapacitated so many years before his death accounts for a man like Dr. Pennande scheming for the post. (fn. 72)

He died on Friday, the 5th April, 1532. (fn. 73) (fn. 74) Weever, however, says (fn. 75) that 'he died at his parsonage house at Harrow-upon-the-Hill (as I have it by relation) the fourth of Edward the sixth (1550–1), and was there interred', but as, in addition to this extraordinary date, he says that 'he surrendered up this his Priorie the 30th of Henry the 8', that is to say, seven years after his death (!), no reliance can be placed on Weever's statements.

Machyn in his diary, (fn. 76) on the other hand, describing the funeral of Cisele Mansfield (fn. 77) on the 20th September, 1558, says she was 'buried before the high altar at the head of the old Prior Bolton', and it seems far more likely that he should have been buried in his priory church than at Harrow.

Weever also says, 'This Bolton and the rest of his brethren were portraied upon a Table sometimes hanging in this church, now it is in Sir Robert Cotton's Librarie, holding up their hands to the Crucifixe, under whom, these verses were depensi'd:

Gulielmo Bolton precibus succurrite vestris,
Qualis erat pater hic, Domus hec, Etcetera Monstrant.' (fn. 78)

Licence to elect a successor was granted by the king at Westminster on the 17th April, 1532. This was granted on the petition of Thomas Gybbons, the sub-prior, and the convent, which stated that the prior had died as above. The petition was signed in the chapter-house on the 9th April and carried to the king by John Symkyns, the cellarer, and by John Bowser, another of the canons.


  • 1. Cal. Pat., p. 429.
  • 2. Ib., 441.
  • 3. Ib., 442.
  • 4. Le Neve, ii, 200, 381; Newcourt, i, 637; Dugdale, St. Paul's, 244.
  • 5. L. and P., For. and Dom., Hen. VIII, sec. ed. No. 438 (4 m. 21).
  • 6. Reg. Lond., Fitz James, x.
  • 7. Ib., Tunstall, 165 d, 166.
  • 8. Quoted in Gray's Inn, by W. R. Douthwaite, 1886.
  • 9. See above, p. 147.
  • 10. Strickland, Lives, iii, 244 (quoting from acts of the Privy Council). See also A. H. Thompson, Medieval Building Documents, address to Som. Archaeological Society, July, 1920.
  • 11. Cooper, Lady Margaret, p. 260.
  • 12. Exchequer T. R., R. O. Will, King Henry VII, dated 31 Mar. 1509. He died 21 Apr. that year.
  • 13. The king left £5,000 in cash with Abbot Islip for the completion of the work, with instructions to his executors to give more if required.
  • 14. C. H. Cooper, Countess Richmond, Appx. Exors'. Accts., p. 201; see also Archaeologia, lxvi, 370.
  • 15. C. H. Cooper, Countess Richmond, 199, App. Exors'. Accounts, 2–4 Hen. VIII (1510–1513).
  • 16. Ib. 200, 4–6 Hen. VIII (1512–1515).
  • 17. 'The Eagle,' St. John's Coll., Cam., vol. xxxi, p. 145, a.d. 1910, where is a facsimile of the letter.
  • 18. L. and P., For and Dom., Hen. VIII, sec. ed. Nos. 3162, 3307, 3363, 3410, p. 1511.
  • 19. L. and P., For. and Dom. xiii, pt. 2, No. 1280.
  • 20. Ib. ii, pt. 2, pp. 1474, 1477, 1479.
  • 21. Ib., p. 1527.
  • 22. Ib., No. 2750.
  • 23. Camden, Brit. 346; Morant, Essex, ii, 14.
  • 24. Proceed. Soc. Antiq. (1915) xxvii, 115.
  • 25. See above, p. 24.
  • 26. L. and P., For. and Dom. ii, pt. 2, No. 4083.
  • 27. Henry Standish, S. T. P., was appointed Bishop of St. Asaph 28 May, 1518.
  • 28. 'It is hard to withstand the wills of princes.'
  • 29. Reg. Lambeth, 375 d, 23 Sept. 1522.
  • 30. Foster, Alumni Oxon.
  • 31. App. I, p. 539.
  • 32. Reg. Lond., Fitz James, p. 121; also above, p. 213.
  • 33. p. 141.
  • 34. Islip was abbot 1500–1532; Bolton was prior 1505–1532.
  • 35. See Vol. II, chap. ii, quire.
  • 36. See Vol. II, chap. x, infirmary.
  • 37. See Vol. II, chap. ix, chapter-house.
  • 38. Nichols, Canonbury, p. 3.
  • 39. Stow, p. 141.
  • 40. Stow, p. 141.
  • 41. Edmund Gibson, in his edition of Camden's Britannia (1695), p. 326, misquotes Stow as saying that the dove-cot was 'to serve him with that sort of fowl after he was spoiled of his priory', and then comments, 'But the date of this deluge, and the dissolution of the priory, anno 1539, not well agreeing, I know not what to say, but leave it to the reader's decision'. Stow said (as above), 'To serve him when he had foregone his priory', i.e. resigned, not 'after he was spoiled' of it. Newcourt was also misled by this quotation (vol. i, p. 637).
  • 42. N. and Q., 18 Feb. 1865, p. 140.
  • 43. L. and P., For. and Dom. iv, No. 964.
  • 44. p. 249.
  • 45. Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London, 1522–1530; Malcolm, Lond. Red. i, 285 see also below, p. 321.
  • 46. Duchy of Lanc. Min. Accts., No. 4714, bundle 287.
  • 47. Should be £27 10s. 0d. The sub-prior here made an error of 10s. against himself.
  • 48. This also is an obvious error for £1 6s. 6d.
  • 49. App. I, p. 540.
  • 50. 'Send down upon our bishops and curates.'
  • 51. Cat. Anc. Deeds, R. O., A. 2109, 9 Feb., 17 Hen. VIII.
  • 52. Reg. Lond., Stokesley, 49 b.
  • 53. He held in turn many posts: in 1527 he held the prebend of Curborough, Lichfield; in 1528 he became Archdeacon of Cornwall; in 1529 he was commissarygeneral to Cardinal Wolsey when he visited all England; in 1533 he married the king to Anne Boleyn; in 1534 he was elected Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and died in 1543. Le Neve, vol. i, pp. 594, 399, 555; Newcourt, vol. i, p. 533.
  • 54. L. and P., For. and Dom., A.D. 1532, No. 1270 (8).
  • 55. In 1537 also rector of All Hallows, Bread Street, Newcourt, i, 246.
  • 56. L. and P., For. and Dom. (1529), No. 5410.
  • 57. Arundel MSS. Mus. Brit. 26, f. 71 b.
  • 58. Ben Jonson, Complete Works, 1631, p. 724, Act I, Sc. 1, 11. 3, 9, 14–19; N. and Q., 1 Feb. 1913, p. 95.
  • 59. Mr. Robert Gray has a seal with the rebus of the coach office.
  • 60. L. and P., For. and Dom. (1531), No. 657, Fines.
  • 61. Above, p. 33.
  • 62. This was probably the Geoffrey Chambers who was a friend of Thomas Cromwell and who was with him in Italy.
  • 63. Above, p. 13.
  • 64. Variously spelt Byley and Beley.
  • 65. Reg. Lond. Tunstall, Installations, p. 80.
  • 66. Ib., Fitz James, Installations, p. 15.
  • 67. Cal. State Papers, i, 289 (1528).
  • 68. Jacob, Law Dictionary.
  • 69. Now Christ Church.
  • 70. Cal. State Papers, No. 3334 (1527).
  • 71. Cal. State Papers, vol. xiii, pt. 1, No. 260, 11 Feb. 1538.
  • 72. See above, p. 234.
  • 73. Reg. Lond., Stokesley, p. 65.
  • 74. Cal. State Papers, No. 978 (1532).
  • 75. Weever, Fun. Mon., p. 434.
  • 76. Machyn, Diary, p. 174.
  • 77. Mansel.
  • 78. 'Help William Bolton with your prayers. This and other houses shew what sort of man this father was.' The present whereabouts of this tablet has not been traced.