The sixteenth century: Prior Robert Fuller

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 Robert Fuller', in The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1, (Oxford, 1921) pp. 238-252. British History Online [accessed 25 May 2024].

E A Webb. "The sixteenth century: Prior Robert Fuller", in The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1, (Oxford, 1921) 238-252. British History Online, accessed May 25, 2024,

Webb, E A. "The sixteenth century: Prior Robert Fuller", The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1, (Oxford, 1921). 238-252. British History Online. Web. 25 May 2024,

In this section


(perpetual commendatory and abbot of the exempt monastery of Holy Cross, Waltham). (fn. 1)


On the 28th June, 1532, Robert Fuller, the Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross, the great Augustinian abbey in Essex, was elected prior. He was elected by the choice of the Bishop of London, at the request of the convent, to please the king. The bishop gave his consent to the election on the following day. (fn. 2) The royal assent, (fn. 3) given at Greenwich, is dated the 2nd July; it was delivered at Westminster on the 10th of the same month. On the 7th July the king granted licence to Fuller to obtain papal bulls allowing him to hold for life in commendam (fn. 4) the priory, along with the abbatial dignity of Waltham. This licence was delivered at Westminster on the 10th July (fn. 5) and the temporalities of the priory were restored on the 14th. (fn. 6)

The process of his election is set out at great length in Bishop Stokesley's register, (fn. 7) and the following outline may be of interest.

It is in the form of a report by the sub-prior (Thomas Gybbons) to the bishop. He declares that the priory had long been vacant by the death, on the 5th April, of William Bolton, whereby it had sustained grave detriment both in spiritual and in temporal matters; that licence to elect had been granted to himself and the convent, which consisted of the following canons and priests:

John Hynde. John Smyth, Senior. John Darkington.
Mark Fletcher. Thomas Lichefelde. Henry George.
John Smyth, Junior. John Symkyns. (fn. 8) John Bonofer.
Robert Glasyer. (fn. 9) Richard Cooper. Christopher Reynolds.
Robert Kenham.

Also of the following constituted novices professed for life:

Peter Wade, sub-deacon. Bartholomew Dikons.
Richard Duff. John Sutton.
George Chapman.

Thomas Bilbarowe, the sacristan, was away ill in the infirmary of the monastery, where he had appointed John Bowser his procurator.

The proceedings commenced with a Mass of the Holy Spirit; that the bell was then rung for the assembling of the chapter, at which the Bishop of London was present; that the canons sang 'Come, Holy Ghost' and 'Lord, who the hearts of the faithful', after which the names of the canons and the king's licence to elect were read. Those having a right to vote were summoned at the door of the chapter-house, any not attending being pronounced contumacious by the sub-prior, who acted as president. That he then read to the chapter the threefold manner of proceeding in elections, which was either:

(1) per viam scrutinii—that is, by individual voting;

(2) per viam compromissi, by choice of a certain number of delegates to elect in the name of the community, and by a mutual promise to abide by their award; or

(3) by acclamation or the uncontradicted declaration of the common wish of the body. (fn. 10)

Then, having stated that the votes of Bartholomew Dikons, Richard Duff, George Chapman, who were in minor but not holy orders, would be disannulled if they were not entitled to vote, the chapter unanimously chose the method per viam compromissi, 'with the intention of gratifying his Royal Highness and the bishop', and so gave their right to choose the new prior to the bishop, and to Rowland Lee and to John Olyver, chaplains of the king, and gave their bond to receive as their prior whoever was chosen. Their consent was read by John Symkyns, the cellarer. The president and chapter then nominated as their procurators two of the canons, Thomas Lichefelde and Robert Glasyer, to show the deed of their submission to the delegates, to ask them to accept the burden of choosing the prior, to obtain the consent of the person chosen, to certify the same to the president and chapter, and to see that he was presented in person to the king, whose Letters Patent, giving the royal assent, were, as usual, to be sent to the bishop for his confirmation, and they were to see that all other matters were duly performed. The chapter was then prorogued.

Afterwards, on the 28th June, in the vestibule of St. Paul's Cathedral, in the presence of the public notary, and of two witnesses duly appointed, the bishop (having first given an address), with the other two delegates present, directed the vote of the canons to 'Robert the abbot of the exempt monastery of Waltham Holy Cross of the order and rule of St. Augustine'. The award was committed to writing and witnessed by William Maior, Prior of St. Mary's, Bishopsgate, and Lawrence Gopsorper, Master of St. Thomas of Acon's. Subsequently, on the same day the Vicar-General, Richard Foxford, declared the nomination before the high altar in the Conventual Church of St. Bartholomew, before the members of the convent and the people there congregated, for which nomination they solemnly sang the Te Deum Laudamus 'with the organ sounding'. Then, on the next day, Saturday, June 29th, by appointment made, the two procurators came to the abbot at Waltham about the dinner-hour in the refectory, and in the presence of the notary and witnesses notified his election to the abbot in the presence of Thomas Warren, the prior of the abbey, Edmund Saunders, one of the canons, and Robert Cressy, the public notary.

The abbot's reply was that the matter was so difficult to agree upon that he ought to deliberate until the second hour after noon for granting his consent, at which time the procurators again asked the abbot for his consent to his election, to which he then complied, giving his assent in writing. In this document he refers to the procurators 'seeking and requiring my consent instantly, more instantly and most instantly', and proceeds, 'not wishing further to resist the divine will to the honour of our Lord Jesus Christ and the glorious Virgin Mary His Mother and of Saint Bartholomew, patron of the said priory, and of all saints [I] give my consent and assent expressed in these writings'.

It seems to have been the usual custom not to give assent at the first request, even though, as in this case, the appointment had been eagerly sought.

There is also entered at length in the episcopal register, (fn. 11) the bond of appointment by Fuller of proxies whom he empowered to obtain the confirmation of his election, his induction, and the canonical obedience of the canons. It sets out how he, Robert, the abbot of the exempt monastery of Waltham Holy Cross, had been elected per viam compromissi Prior of St. Bartholomew's, to which election he had lawfully consented; and then continues, 'and at present being in many ways busied and hindered by so many and so diverse difficult and urgent causes and also labours touching our lord the king, and thus probably for some time I shall be; and therefore in the furtherance of the matter of the confirmation of the election or designation of such kind and of the other matters required by law in that behalf, I cannot conveniently take part, as I would willingly do, did not such things stand in the way'. He nominated as his proctor, Rowland Lee, (fn. 12) the Archdeacon of Cornwall, Richard Gwent, official of decrees of the Court of Canterbury, John Tregenwell, doctor of laws, and Simon Cotton, notary public and one of the general proctors of the Court of Canterbury. To these he gave power to appear before the bishop or his representative, in the chapter-house of the priory, to excuse him from personal attendance; to produce the papal bulls of licence to hold the two positions; to obtain confirmation of his election; to obtain his canonical admission as prior; to have the administration of the spiritualities and temporalities of the house; also to be inducted and installed by the registrar, both in the stall of the prior in the quire and in his place in the chapterhouse; and finally to receive the oath of canonical obedience of the regular canons. This deed he sealed as abbot on the 10th July, 1532.

Following on this entry in Stokesley's register (fn. 13) is a report in the matter of the confirmation. It sets out how the Vicar-General, Richard Foxford, having had all the matters of the election of Robert Fuller before him, and Rowland Lee his proctor having also appeared before him, he pronounced that he found Robert Fuller to have been canonically elected and to have been dispensed to retain in commendam the priory, and so admits him as being perpetual commendatory of the dignity of prior, and as such institutes him. (fn. 14) Then follows Rowland Lee's oath, on Fuller's behalf as his proctor, of obedience to the Bishop of London; to preserve the honour of divine worship in the house; to maintain and observe the statutes, rules, and customs of the priory; to attend the synod or visitation of the bishop when summoned, and not without the consent of the bishop, even with the consent of the chapter, to alienate, mortgage, diminish, or waste, but, according to his power, to increase, the possessions of the house. Finally he promised, on Fuller's behalf, that he would every year draw up and exhibit a faithful account of the state of the house in the presence of the canons in the chapter-house.

Then follows the deed on the confirmation of the election, dated in the chapter-house on the 13th July, 1532, whereby Foxford confirms in writing that the administration of the spiritual and temporal goods are given to the new prior, that it was decided to ask the bishop to induct him and to apply to the king for the investiture of the temporalities.

It is some evidence, if such were wanting, that Fuller was one of the tools of the king, Cromwell, and Rich for the suppression of the monasteries, that he appointed a man like Rowland Lee as his proctor. For there is much evidence of Rowland Lee's activity in helping Cromwell in his work of suppression; (fn. 15) of his perversion of the truth in so doing; and of his sharing in the plunder by obtaining, when Bishop of Lichfield, the priory of St. Thomas, Stafford.

Abbot Fuller had been on good terms with the king before Bolton's death; for on the 1st November, 1531, Fuller had granted the king the manor of Stanstead Abbots, with the lands called Joyses and Isney Parke, Boar House, and other lands and tenements in Stanstead, Herts, and Roydon, Essex. (fn. 16) The king was anxious to obtain the manors of Canonbury and Cutlers in the parish of Islington, part of the possessions of St. Bartholomew's; he already had a lease of the house and garden of Canonbury (fn. 17) (called Canberie in the record), and the desire of the king to obtain the manor no doubt assisted Fuller in getting St. Bartholomew's.

As soon as Prior Bolton was dead, the abbot, on the 22nd May, 1532, had written to Thomas Cromwell, then the master of the king's jewel house, (fn. 18) who was very susceptible to bribes, either for himself or his master:

'Please continue your goodness towards finishing this matter for the house of St. Bartholomew's, as liberal motions have been set forward. Such matters shall be largely recompensed on my part, not only in reward for your labours, but also for such yearly remembrance as you shall have no cause to be sorry for.'

The letter is signed 'yor assueryd dayly bedisman, Robert Abbot of Waltham', and endorsed 'To the right worshipful Mr. Cromwell, one of the kyng's noble counsell and my lovynge ffrynde this be dd'.

This promise Fuller fulfilled shortly after his election as Prior of St. Bartholomew's, for, on the 22nd September, 1532, he granted Cromwell, probably for the king, a lease of the manors of Canonbury and Cutlers. Also in August and in December of the same year (as already seen (fn. 19) ) he granted to Cromwell the next presentation to St. Sepulchre's. (fn. 20)

The king was constantly obtaining lands by exchange or otherwise, and as there were other of the abbey of Waltham's lands that he coveted, the king no doubt found that it answered his purpose very well for Fuller to be seeking a favour from him in the appointment to St. Bartholomew's (for at this time the appointment of a Prior of St. Bartholomew's was practically in the hands of the king, as is shown in the account of Fuller's election above). On the 31st December, 1532, Fuller wrote to Cromwell from Waltham: (fn. 21)

'I have, according to your letter, assembled my convent for sealing the deed and "departure" of the lands comprised in the same. I much doubt to their consent to the exchange of such lands as the king would have; you had better therefore come over and speak with them in the king's behalf, as your politic wisdom shall see best, and then to perceve the matter that resteth in their heads.'

This letter may refer to Copt Hall Park and house, for on the back of a letter dated the 6th April, 1533, from Cromwell to the Bishop of Ely, (fn. 22) occurs: 'Lands to be appointed for the Abbot of Waltham, in lieu of Coppydhall park and the manor of Eppyng', and a foot-note 'see statute 26 Hen. VIII. c. 24' (1534–5) (the endorsement therefore was made some time after the date of the letter). Again, among Cromwell's Remembrances, occurs: (fn. 23) 'To remember my lord of Waltham's recompense for Copped Hall Park' (as this exchange was the subject of an Act of Parliament on the 15th January, 1534, c. 24, (fn. 24) this explains the reference to the statute above).

It would seem that one proposal had been that the priory of St. Bartholomew should be appropriated to Waltham in exchange for the manor of Epping, for in the year 1534 Cromwell drew up articles of agreement on the king's behalf with Abbot Fuller providing that if the king, at his own cost, appropriated the monastery of St. Bartholomew to the monastery of Waltham, the abbot and convent should make sure to the king and his heirs the manor of Epping. (fn. 25)

Henry VIII was always building and acquiring new estates. Among his Remembrances in 1534 Cromwell wrote: (fn. 26) 'What a great charge it is to the king to continue his buildings in so many places at once. How proud and false the workmen be, and if the king would spare for one year, how profitable it would be to him', &c.

Fuller, as Abbot of Waltham, was a mitred abbot, with exempt jurisdiction from the diocesan episcopal authority, and he was a lord of Parliament. (fn. 27) As such he is mentioned as being present in Parliament on the 30th March, 1534, in company with the Abbots of Westminster, St. Albans, St. Augustine's, Canterbury, Bury St. Edmunds, &c., (fn. 28) and as being summoned for the 28th April, 1539. (fn. 29) As Abbot of Waltham, Fuller was present at Hampton Court on Monday, the 15th October, 1537, at the christening of Prince Edward (afterwards Edward VI).

He was an able man of business (fn. 30) and industrious, for, during his abbacy at Waltham, he compiled a cartulary or 'leiger book' of the muniments of Waltham Abbey, which is transcribed on 456 large paper folios. With the exception of the two last charters of the alienation of Copt Hall Park to Henry VIII, it is all written in his own hand; and his name is inserted in nine places in the initial letters or in the text. (fn. 31)

Though he was too busy on the king's behalf to be personally inducted to the priory, he tried to obtain promotion for some of the canons; for in the year after his appointment, viz. on the 23rd April, 1533, he wrote thus to Cromwell:

'Whereas it has pleased you to promise to help my cellarer (John Symkyns) of St. Bartholomew's to some promotion, I am informed that the Abbot of St. Osith in Essex is dead. The Bishop of London is founder, and if you will take pains for my cellarer, I shall heartily thank you, and you shall be largely recompensed.

I trust you will speed it before the Bishop of London leaves the realm.' (fn. 32)

(This was written from Waltham, but was ineffectual, as the prior, John Colchester, became abbot.)

After this disappointment, on the 7th May, in the next year (1534), Fuller again asked Cromwell's favour for Sir John Symkyns, 'cellarer of my house of St. Bartylmewes', this time to be Prior of St. Gregory's Augustinian monastery, Canterbury, the present prior being about to resign. Master Cressey would declare his qualities to Cranmer (who was 'founder' or patron). (fn. 33) We have not found whether he was successful this time, but the name of John Symkyns does not occur on the list of canons pensioned in 1539; therefore it is possible he was.

In the same year (1534), probably at Fuller's instigation, one of his canons was elected to be the abbot of the Augustinian monastery of St. Mary de Pré (de Pratis in the grant). (His name is variously given as John Bourcheher and Bourcher: he was probably the John Bonofor mentioned in the list of the canons entitled to vote at Fuller's election. (fn. 34) )

In the same year again (1534) he appointed his canon, Robert Glasyer, as collector of rents within the precincts of the close of the monastery, who then proceeded to make a compotus, or list of those paying rent there from Michaelmas for a year. It is described (fn. 35) as a paper roll 7 ft. long, but we have never been able to see it. Further evidence of the care of Fuller for the interests of those under him appears in 1536, when he and the convent formally appointed Stephen Fyndley as 'clerk of the church of the monastery', and 'parish clerk of the chapel of All Saints within the church', (fn. 36) which offices Stephen had exercised before the time of the grant, so no doubt this formal appointment was made to enable him to secure a pension after the suppression of the monastery. The appointment of parish clerk was for life (as it would be now), and carried with it a yearly wage of 20s., with meat and drink, which was to be taken at the porter's lodge within the precincts of the monastery. He was also given, for the exercising of his office, three yards of broadcloth yearly for his livery, of such price and colour as was given to the yeomen servants of the monastery. If he were unable to perform his duties from age or sickness, then the yearly wage of 20s. was to cease, at the pleasure of the prior and convent. Nevertheless for 'the gooddence' that Stephen before that time had done to the prior and convent, they granted him a yearly wage of 6s. 8d., to be taken from the manor of Little Stanmore. In the event of the 20s. yearly not being paid for four weeks after the four quarter days, then Stephen was given power to distrain on the manor of Stanmore. The deed, which is in English, was sealed in the chapter-house on the 28th March, 28 Henry VIII.

On the 10th February, 1541, Stephen Fyndley came to the Court of Augmentations with this deed, and on its being found to be bona fide, he was granted for life in satisfaction of all claims £3 10s. yearly, with arrears at the same rate from the time of the dissolution of the monastery.

It has already been recorded (fn. 37) in the chapter on the order that in the year 1539 Prior Fuller appointed John Chesewyk of London, yeoman, and 'Alyce' his wife, during their lives, and the life of the survivor, to the office of launder or washer of all the linen clothes belonging to the church and convent. They undertook to wash all the linen and to be responsible for any lost or stolen, for a payment of £10 a year, with a house, rent and repairs free, a gallon of ale and a 'caste' of bread every Friday, they giving a bond for £20. This grant was sealed in the chapter-house by the prior and convent and by John Chesewyk on the 28th February, 1539, only eight months before the surrender.

On the 20th October, 1541, John brought this deed to the Court of Augmentations, and he and his wife were allowed 40s. annually and any arrears at the same rate, for which object no doubt this formal grant also was made.

Another of Fuller's appointments recorded is that to which reference is also made in the chapter on the order, (fn. 38) when he and his convent appointed John Burgoyne and his son Thomas, both living in the Close, auditors for their lives of all collectors of rents, &c., for the monastery, within the City of London and suburbs, and of all lands and tenements within the precincts of the priory. The annuity of 40s. granted for exercising the office of auditors was to be paid from the rent of the house in the close, then in the occupation of John Burgoyne himself, and 20s. granted for the services of a clerk was to be paid from the rent of any of the aforesaid lands, &c. The deed was sealed in the chapter-house on the 11th December, 25 Henry VIII (1533). (fn. 39)

Fuller was only called upon once to grant licence to the hospital to elect a master, viz. on the 23rd September, 1532, whilst his own election was in progress.

It was on the occasion of the resignation of Bishop Staple that John Brereton, the king's nominee and chaplain, was chosen to succeed. He held among other things a prebend of St. Paul and St. Stephen in the London diocese, (fn. 40) and held the parish churches of Malpas and Cristelton in the Coventry and Lichfield diocese. These being benefices incompatible with the mastership of the hospital, which he was to hold (like Fuller) in commendam, he obtained (apparently in anticipation) on the 22nd February, 1531–2, a bull of dispensation from Pope Clement VII. Brereton, having obtained this bull without the sanction of the king, had to obtain pardon, which was granted on the 9th August, 1532. (fn. 41) This election, like Fuller's, is set out in full in Bishop Stokesley's Register. (fn. 42) It was per viam compromissi, and the choice was left to Dr. Gwent. John Brereton, when chosen, was presented to Prior Fuller, who in turn presented him to the bishop.

The hospital at that time, Brereton said, was encumbered with much borrowed money, and its houses were in a ruinous state. The revenues, he said, did not exceed £66 13s. 4d.

It was with this master, John Brereton, that Prior Fuller, in the year 1538, jointly entered into an agreement with one Richard Callard, for the sum of £40, to be allowed access at all times to repair the pipes of the water supply from Canonbury, which since 1433 (as has been seen (fn. 43) ) had been the joint work of the priory and hospital.


It will now be necessary to relate briefly the historical events which led up to the suppression of the monasteries, in order that the records of St. Bartholomew's may be properly understood.

In the year 1530, as has been seen, (fn. 44) the king constrained the clergy to acknowledge that he was 'the supreme head of the English Church and clergy so far as was allowed by the law of Christ', and this was formally acknowledged by Convocation of the province of Canterbury in February, and by that of York in May 1531. In 1534 the king induced Parliament to pass an Act of Supremacy which gave him the title of 'supreme head on earth of the Church of England', and which also made it an act of treason to deny it.

John Brereton, the master, and two others subscribed to the supremacy, (fn. 45) on behalf of St. Bartholomew's Hospital; but it is not recorded whether Fuller subscribed either for Waltham Abbey or St. Bartholomew's Priory. (fn. 46) It was for refusing to subscribe that John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (to whom reference has already been made) (fn. 47) and Sir Thomas More were executed for treason in the year 1535. And it was for the same cause that the monks of the Charterhouse, who had been imprisoned the year before for refusal to take the oath of the Act of Succession, were barbarously put to death at Tyburn.

In consequence of this assumption of the supremacy by the king, the firstfruits and tenths, hitherto paid to the pope, now came to the Crown (and so remained until Queen Anne's bounty returned them to the Church). It was therefore necessary to re-value all the ecclesiastical property in the country, which had not been done since the valuation of Pope Nicholas about the year 1291, a valuation known as the Taxatio Ecclesiastica. In the year 1535 a Commission was appointed to carry out this re-valuation, and upon it Robert Fuller, as Abbot of Waltham, was placed. (fn. 48) The report of this Commission is known as the Valor Ecclesiasticus. Subsequently, after the suppression, a further valuation was made, many changes in the possessions of the monasteries having taken place since 1535: this valuation, to which reference will be made later, is known as the computi Ministrorum. In the year 1536 the king obtained a decree to be signed during the synod regarding general councils of the Church, 'that whilst nothing was more necessary for the establishment of the faith and the extirpation of heretics, yet neither the Bishop of Rome nor any prince may summon a council without acknowledging any other supreme authority'. This decree was signed by Thomas Cromwell, Archbishop Cranmer, Bishop Stokesley, and many other bishops and abbots, among whom was Robert Fuller, who signed as Abbot of Waltham, and also as proxy for the Abbots of Crowland, Tewkesbury, and Winchecombe. (fn. 49)

Abbot Fuller again was one of those who signed the articles of religion set out by Convocation and published by the king's authority in 1539. A bill was drafted by the Archbishop of York, and the Act, commonly called 'the Six Articles', was passed by Parliament, Archbishop Cranmer both speaking and voting against it.

The Six Articles confirmed the doctrines of:

1. Transubstantiation;

2. Communion in one kind only;

3. The compulsory celibacy of the clergy;

4. The perpetual obligation of vows of chastity;

5. The use of private masses; and

6. Auricular confession.

Whoever spoke against the first article was to be burnt; or against any of the other articles, on a second offence, to be hanged. Thus, in spite of the destruction of images and relics the year before, the king showed no inclination to protest against any of the doctrines of the Catholic Church of his time, although he had utterly abolished the authority of the pope in England, and was at this time engaged in seizing the property of the last of the monasteries.

In the year 1538 many images, on roods and elsewhere, had been burnt as idolatrous. One image called Darvell Gidarme may be referred to as being burnt in front of St. Bartholomew's in Smithfield on the 22nd May of that year. It was used to swell the flames that burnt Friar Forest, who was suspended in chains above it. Forest was condemned for treason for denying the king's supremacy, but yet was burnt as a heretic. Dukes and earls, the mayor, sheriffs, and aldermen of London, and ten thousand people were present to witness the scene, and Wriothesley adds that there was 'a long skaffold next to Sainct Bartholomew's Spittell Gate, where the Lordes of the Privie Counsell sate with the mayor and aldermen and other gentlemen and commons of the cittie'. (fn. 50)

On the occasion of the burning of Anne Askew and three men in Smithfield on the 16th July, 1546, the journals of the Court of Common Council (fn. 51) record the erection of a special scaffold which, it is there stated, they granted to the king. It was erected immediately before what had been the west front of St. Bartholomew's Church, in order that Chancellor Wriothesley and others of the Privy Council might witness the terrible scene. (fn. 52) Wriothesley on this occasion expressed alarm lest their persons should be endangered by the gunpowder exploding among the faggots, but Russell reassured him by saying that 'it was only intended for the condemned prisoners'! Anne Askew was condemned under the first clause of the Six Articles Act, six months only before King Henry's death.

What very materially led to the suppression of the monasteries was the general visitation undertaken in the year 1534, not by the bishops, but by Thomas Cromwell for the king, on the strength of the Act of Supremacy, which made the king supreme head of the Church, and on the ground of correcting abuses. There were eightysix questions to be answered by each monastery. (fn. 53) This visitation was followed by injunctions, also by Cromwell, and this secular visitation, in place of the usual episcopal visitation of the monasteries, is considered to have impaired their religious character and to have materially paved the way for their final surrender.

That the monasteries had need of reform at this time, which probably could not have come from within, is most likely true. As regards London, the following letter of Sir Richard Gresham, Lord Mayor, to the king, (fn. 54) shows that, although the hospitals were valued, the monasteries were not in good repute with the citizens.

'Near and within the city of London there are three hospitals, St. Mary's Spital (Shoreditch), St. Bartholomew's Spital, and St. Thomas' Spital and the new abbey of Tower Hill founded of good devotion by ancient farders and endowed with great possessions and rents only for the relief, comfort, and helping of the poor and impotent people not being able to help themselves,' (and adds) 'not to the maintenance of Chanons, priests and monks to live in pleasure, nothing regarding the miserable people lying in every street, offending every clean person passing by the way, with their filthy and nasty savours.'

This state of things, however, was capable of reform and did not justify the degrading steps taken to enforce the surrender. (fn. 55)

Alien monasteries had been suppressed as early as the fifteenth century by Henry V, in consequence of the war with France. William of Wykeham and other bishops had suppressed smaller monasteries to found colleges. Cardinal Wolsey, in 1524, obtained a papal bull to use the revenues of St. Frideswide's, Oxford, and of thirty-nine lesser monasteries for founding his Cardinal College, now Christ Church, Oxford, and a college at Ipswich.

The scheme for a general suppression of all the monasteries probably took shape just before Fuller was made Prior of St. Bartholomew's, and we may safely assume that that was the reason why he and Brereton were allowed to hold the priorship of the church and mastership of the hospital respectively in commendam with their other benefices.

The scheme of the suppression originated in the king's need of funds to meet his great and lavish expenditure, and it was commenced and carried through by the advice and counsel of Thomas Cromwell, Richard Rich, and a few others.

The first step was taken in the year 1535, when it was decided to suppress all monasteries whose income was less than £200 a year; (fn. 56) and in 1536, no less than 380 of the lesser monasteries were so suppressed. The machinery to carry out the scheme was provided by the establishment of the Court of Augmentations. (fn. 57) It consisted of a chancellor, a treasurer, an attorney, solicitor, ten auditors, seventeen receivers, &c. (fn. 58) The first chancellor was Sir Richard Rich, who (as will be seen) was intimately associated with St. Bartholomew's (a fact which further justifies these references to the suppression of the monasteries in general).

The suppression of the lesser monasteries (together with the Act of Succession) resulted in the rising in the North known as the Pilgrimage of Grace; a protest aimed not so much at the king as against Cromwell and Rich and others who were considered to be the authors of all the injustice. The abbots and priors, who at first were treated reasonably, were in the two years following—1537–1538—brutally hanged. Many of the superiors thus attainted for treason ruled over larger monasteries than were allowed to be suppressed by Act of Parliament, but their houses were seized by the king and their suppression was not legalized by Parliament until the spring of 1539. After these Parliamentary powers were obtained, the greatest brutality was used if the houses did not surrender, as in the well-known instances of the Abbots of Glastonbury and Reading, who were beheaded and quartered, their heads being set upon their own abbey gates. This occurred in September 1539. After this, in London, Dr. Petre, one of the commissioners, took the surrender in the following month (and no wonder) of the nunnery of Holywell, of the priory and hospital of St. Bartholomew, the priory of St. Mary Overy, and, in November, that of Syon Isleworth. (Holy Trinity, Aldgate, had surrendered apparently in a bankrupt condition in 1532.)

As regards St. Bartholomew's, there is no reason to believe that Prior Fuller was coerced into the surrender either of the priory or of the Abbey of Waltham Holy Cross, because everything points to his having been chosen prior because he favoured, for personal or other reasons, the policy of the king. It has already been noticed that, when he was chosen Prior of St. Bartholomew's in 1532, he was engaged 'in divers difficult and urgent causes for the king'. In 1538 he is found on the Commission of Peace in company with men like Thomas Cromwell, Sir Richard Rich, and the Abbot of St. Osyth's. (fn. 59) In 1539 it is known from Cromwell's accounts that he sold Canonbury, the coveted possession of St. Bartholomew's, (fn. 60) some four months only before the suppression, to the king, (fn. 61) with whom up to the last he cultivated the friendliest relations. In addition to being present at the christening of Prince Edward, Fuller used to make the king New Year gifts; he appears, as the Abbot of Waltham, on the list of the donors, headed by the king, as giving '2 oxen and 20 muttons'; (fn. 62) and on the New Year's Day following (that is, after he had surrendered his priory), he again appears in company with the king, Lady Mary, Lady Elizabeth, the Lord Chancellor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and many of the nobility, as giving '2 oxen and 10 muttons': (fn. 63) on the other hand the king gave the servants of the Abbot of Waltham on New Year's Day, 1540, 20s. each 'as hath been accustomed'. (fn. 64)

Cardinal Gasquet has pointed out other instances than that of Abbot Fuller in which the king prepared the way for the suppression of the greater monasteries by skilfully selecting men who were likely to resign their houses when called upon to do so: as John Capon, Abbot of Hyde, who, although made Bishop of Bangor in 1534, was allowed to remain commendatory of his monastery, and upon his surrendering it in 1539, was rewarded with the see of Salisbury. So, too, Robert Pursglove, the Prior of Gisburne, who was Bishop of Hull, not only surrendered his own monastery, but also was active in persuading others to do the same. He, like Fuller, was rewarded (as will be seen (fn. 65) ) with a pension of £200 a year.


  • 1. Cat. Anc. Deeds, II, B, 3622.
  • 2. Reg. Lond., Stokesley, p. 65.
  • 3. Cal. State Papers (1532), No. 120 (24).
  • 4. In commendam is explained on p. 236.
  • 5. Cal. State Papers (1532), No. 120 (25).
  • 6. Ib., No. 1207 (35).
  • 7. Reg. Lond., Stokesley, f. 65.
  • 8. Cellarer.
  • 9. Subsequently the sub-prior.
  • 10. Gasquet, Engl. Mon. Life, p. 44.
  • 11. Reg. Lond., Stokesley, 88.
  • 12. One of the delegates who elected Fuller.
  • 13. Reg. Lond., Stokesley, 89.
  • 14. Fuller signed document as 'perpetual commendatory' of the priory. Cat. Anc Deeds, II, B, 3622, 30 Sept. 1532.
  • 15. Hibbert, Diss. Mon. 142, 170, &c.
  • 16. Cal. State Papers, 1531, No. 622.
  • 17. Ib., 1531, No. 1285.
  • 18. Ib., 1532, No. 1044.
  • 19. See above, p. 234.
  • 20. Hennessy, Nov. Rep. 383.
  • 21. Cal. State Papers, No. 1684.
  • 22. Ib., No. 312.
  • 23. Ib., 1533, No. 137.
  • 24. Ib., 1534, No. 54. It was entitled 'An Act of Exchange between the king and the Abbott of Waltham'. The abbot and convent conveyed Copt Hall Park and house in exchange for Cane Fields and Cane Woods in St. Pancras, Kentish Town, and the manor of Dame Ellyns in Little Warley, Essex.
  • 25. L. and P., Hen. VIII, vii, No. 63 (2).
  • 26. Cal. State Pap. 1534, No. 143.
  • 27. Newcourt, Rep. ii, 628.
  • 28. Cal. State Papers, No. 391.
  • 29. Dugdale, Sum. to Parl. 501.
  • 30. Cal. State Papers, 1534, No. 771.
  • 31. Stevens, Suppt. ii, 115.
  • 32. L. and P., Hen. VIII, 1533, No. 378.
  • 33. Ib., 1533, No. 449, and 1534, No. 691.
  • 34. See above, p. 239.
  • 35. Hist. MSS. Com., Rep. 1, p. 13 d, Kimbolton Castle.
  • 36. See above, p. 33; also Vol. II, chap. iii, N. transept. Also Aug. Off. Misc. Bks., vol. 97, p. 99.
  • 37. See above, p. 32.
  • 38. See above, p. 33.
  • 39. Harl. Charters, 83 a, 43. A fine impression of the priory seal is attached to the deed; see p. 320. The translation of this charter made by Dr. Nairn has had to be omitted for want of space.
  • 40. Reg. Lond., Stokesley, 91.
  • 41. Ib., 91.
  • 42. Ib., 66.
  • 43. See above, p. 210.
  • 44. See above, p. 235.
  • 45. Cal. State Papers, 1534, 27 June, No. 891 and 921.
  • 46. Inventory in 7th Report, Dep. Keeper Pub. Records, App. II, p. 279, only names as signing the royal supremacy in London, St. Mary's Spital, Charterhouse, Elsing Spital, St. Bartholomew's Hospital, St. Paul's Cathedral, St. Thomas of Acon.
  • 47. See above, p. 224.
  • 48. Cal. State Papers, No. 129.
  • 49. Wilkins, Concil. iii, 809; Herbert, Life of Henry VIII, p. 406.
  • 50. Wriothesley, Chronicle, i, 81.
  • 51. Journal 4, f. 88. See also Repertories, Guildhall, 6 Apr. 1546, No. 11, f. 275 b, when a substantial 'stay' was ordered to be made in Smithfield for the king's Council, the Lord Mayor, &c., at the examination of Anne Askew to be burnt, at the cost of the city.
  • 52. Fox, A. and M. ii, 490.
  • 53. All are fully set out in Burnet, History of the Reformation.
  • 54. Cal. State Papers, 1538, xiii, pt. ii, No. 492.
  • 55. Hibbert, Dissolution Mon.
  • 56. Act of Parliament, 27 Hen. VIII, cap. 28.
  • 57. Ib., cap. 27.
  • 58. Gasquet, Hen. VIII, 179.
  • 59. Cal. State Papers, 1538, No. 1309 (24).
  • 60. For £296.
  • 61. Cal. State Papers, 1539, No. 782.
  • 62. Ib., 1539, No. 5.
  • 63. Ib., 1540, No. 1.
  • 64. Ib., 1541, No. 380 (f. 179).
  • 65. See below, p. 258.