The city and liberty of Rochester: The priory and cathedral church

Pages 86-110

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 4. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798.

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In this section

The priory and cathedral church

ABOUT THE YEAR 600, Ethelbert, king of Kent, at the instance of St. Augustine, began to build a CHURCH at Rochester, in honour of St. Andrew, and a MONASTERY adjoining to it, of which church St. Augustine in 604, appointed Justus to be bishop, and placed secular priests in the monastery; for the maintenance of whom the king gave a portion of land to the south of the city, called Prestefelde; to be possessed by them for ever, and he added other parcels of land, both within and without the walls of the city. (fn. 1) And notwithstanding in after times the gifts to this church were many and extensive, yet by the troubles which followed in the Danish wars, it was stripped of almost all of them, and at the time of the conquest it was in such a state of poverty, that divine worship was entirely neglected in it, and there remained in it only five secular priests, who had not sufficient for their maintenance.

Many of the possessions belonging to the church of Rochester had come into the hands of the conqueror at his accession to the crown, most of which he gave to his half-brother, Odo, bishop of Baieux, from whom archbishop Lanfranc recovered them, amongother lands belonging to his own church, in the solemn assembly of the whole county, held by the king's command at Pinnenden-heath, in the year 1076.

Soon after this, Gundulf was elected bishop of Rochester, to whom and to this church, archbishop Lanfranc immediately restored all those lands which he had recovered, formerly belonging to it.

Bishop Gundulf displaced the secular canons which he found here, and with the advice and assistance of archbishop Lanfranc, placed Benedictine monks in their room, the number of which, before his death, amounted to sixty. Besides which, the bishop continuing his unwearied zeal in promoting the interest of his church, recovered and purchased back again many other lands and manors, which had been formerly given to it by several kings, and other pious persons, and had been at different times wrested from it. He followed the example of archbishop Lanfranc, and separated his revenues from those of his monks; for before the bishop and his monks lived in common as one family. He rebuilt the church and enlarged the priory; and though he did not live to complete the great improvements he had undertaken, yet he certainly laid the foundation of the future prosperity of both. (fn. 2) The most material occurrences which happened to the church and priory, from the above time to the dissolution of the latter, will be found in the subsequent account of the several priors and bishops of this church.

From the conquest to the reign of Henry VIII. almost every king granted some liberties and privileges, as well to the bishop of Rochester as to the prior of the convent; each confirmed likewise those granted by his predecessors. The succeeding bishops and archbishops confirmed the possessions of the priory to the monks of it, as did many of the popes. The Registrum Roffense is full of these grants in almost every page and as the most material of them are mentioned under the respective places they relate to in the course of this history, the reader will, it is hoped, the more readily excuse the omission of them in this place.

A list of the Priors of Rochester.

Ordowinus was appointed the first prior, and was witness to the charter of foundation, dated Sept. 20, 1089. He afterwards resigned. (fn. 3)

Arnulph, originally a monk of Christ church, was constituted in his room, and continued here till he was elected prior of Canterbury, in 1096, from whence he was preferred to the abbot of Peterborough, and in 1115, to the see of Rochester. He was a good benefactor to this priory, and built the dormitory, chapter house, and refectory.

Ralph succeeded him; he had been a monk at Caen, and came over into England with Lanfranc, in 1107. On his being chosen abbot of Battle, in Sussex, he resigned this office. On the death of bishop Gundulf, the monks of Rochester desired him for their bishop, but in vain.

Ordowinus was again restored in 1107. He is said to have held this office under bishop Ernulph, therefore he was living in 1115.

Letard presided here under the same bishop.

Brian presided in 1145; and died on Decemb. 5, 1146.

Reginald, who in the year 1154, obtained from pope Adrian IV. a confirmation of the privliges of the church of Rochester. He is said to have died on April 29, in the obituary of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, but the year is not mentioned, nor that of the election of

Ernulf II. who was prior in the time of bishop Walter. The next I find is

William de Borstalle, who was preferred to the priorship from being cellarer to this monastery.

Silvester, who was his successor, from being cellarer was likewise made prior. In his time, anno 1177, the church and the offices, as well within as without the walls were burnt. He rebuilt the refectory and dormitory, and three windows in the chapter house, towards the east. His successor was

Richard, who in 1182, resigned this office on being chosen abbot of Burton, in Staffordshire.

Alfred succeeded him as prior, and quitted it on being made abbot of Abingdon by king Henry II. between the years 1185 and 1189. (fn. 4)

Osbert de Scapella, from being sacrist was chosen prior. He wrote several books, and made the window of St. Peter's altar, and did many other works; he was a great benefactor to the buildings of this church.

Ralph de Ros, who presided in 1199, was the next prior, and whilst he was sacrist built the brewhouse, and the prior's great and lesser chamber, the stone houses in the church yard, the hostiary, stable, and the barn in the vineyard, and caused the church to be covered and most of it leaded.

Helias seems to have succeeded him. He finished the covering of the church with lead, and built with stone a stable for himself and his successors. He also leaded that part of the cloisters next the dormitory, and made the laundry and door of the refectory.

William is said after him to have enjoyed this office in 1222.

Richard de Derente was elected prior of Rochester in 1225; he, among others, in the year 1227, signified to the archbishop the election of Henry de Sandford to the see of Rochester, and he is said to have presided in the year 1238, and to have been succeeded by

William de Hoo, sacrist of this church, who was chosen prior in 1239. He built the whole choir of this church, from the north and south wings, out of the oblations made at the shrine of St. William; and after having governed here for two years, because he would not consent to the sale of some lands belonging to his convent, he was much persecuted, and resigning this office, became a monk at Wooburn, and there died. In his time, in 1240, the altar in the infirmary chapel was dedicated to St. Mary; and on the nones of November that year the cathedral church itself being finished, was dedicated by the bishop, assisted by the bishops of Bangor and St. Andrew. (fn. 5)

Alexander de Glanville succeeded him, who dying suddenly of grief, in 1252, was succeeded by

John de Renham or Rensham. In his time the church and monastery were plundered, and many ornaments and charters taken away. He is said by some to have resigned in Dec. 1283; but in reality he was then deposed by John, archbishop of Canterbury, visiting this church as metropolitan.

Thomas de Woldham, alias Suthflete, was elected bishop of Rochesler, and refused it; but being elected a second time, was consecrated in the parish of Chartham, in Kent, the 6th of January, 1291. (fn. 6)

Simon de Clyve, sacrist of this church, who growing infirm, resigned this office of prior in 1622, and was the same year succeeded by

John de Renham or Rensham who, was again chosen prior, in 1292. He died in 1294, and

Thomas de Shuldeford succeeded him, who being infirm, resigned in 1301, and was succeeded by

John de Greenstreet in February the same year, on whose resignation, in 1314.

Hamo de Hethe was elected to this office that year, as he was to the see of Rochester in 1317, though he was not consecrated till two years afterwards; during the time he governed this church as prior and bishop he was a great benefactor to it.

John de Westerham succeeded him, in 1320, and died in 1321, and was succeeded by

John de Speldhurst, cellarer of this convent, who was chosen by the monks, and confirmed by the bishop; he resigned in 1333. His successor was

John de Shepey, S. T. P. In 1336, he built the new refectory, and received towards the expence of it one hundred marcs. In his time also, in 1344, the shrines of St. Michael, St. Paulinus, and St. Ythamar, were now made with marble and alabaster, which cost two hundred marcs; and the year before he caused the tower to be raised higher with wood and stone, and covered it with lead, and placed four new bells there, calling them Dunstan, Paulin, Ythamar, and Lanfranc. On December 27, 1352, he was elected bishop of Rochester by papal bull. (fn. 7)

Robert de Suthflete, warden of Filchestowe cell succeeded on his predecessor's preferment to the bishop. ric in 1352, he died in 1361.

John de Hertlepe or Hertley, warden of the same cell, was chosen to succeed him that year; he resigned in 1380, and was succeeded by

John de Shepey, S. T. P. the subprior, who was elected the same year; he governed the priory thirtynine years, and died in 1419.

William de Tunbrigg was the next prior, who having been elected by the monks, was confirmed by the archbishop of Canterbury (the see of Rochester being vacant) the same year; he presided in 1444, and was soon succeeded by John Clyfe, in 1447. After him,

John Cardone was prior, in 1448.

William Wode was prior in the reign of king Edward IV. and he was succeeded by

Thomas Bourne, who was prior in 1480, to whom

William Bishop probably succeeded; he occurs prior in 1496, and seems to have been succeeded by

William Frysell, who was elected to this office in 1509. His successor in it was probably

Laurence. Mereworth, who occurs prior in 1533 and 1534, when he, with eighteen monks, subscribed to the king's supremacy.

Walter Boxley was the next, and last prior of this monastery; for king Henry VIII. in the 31st year of his reign, granted a commission to the archbishop of Canterbury, George lord Cobham, and others, to receive the surrendry of this priory; and accordingly, the above mentioned prior and convent, by their instrument, under their common seal, dated April 8, that year (1540) with their unanimous assent and consent, deliberately, and of their own certain knowledge and mere motion, from certain just and reasonable causes, especially moving their minds and consciences, of their own free good will, gave and granted all that their monastery, and the scite thereof, with all their churches, yard, debts, and moveable goods, together with all their manors, demesnes, messuages, &c. to king Henry. VIII. with a general warrantry against all persons whatsoever. This deed was executed in the presence of a master in chancery, and was afterwards inrolled in the court of augmentation.

The prior above mentioned, after the dissolution of this monastery, again took on him his original family and lay name of Phillips; for when any person took upon him the monastic habit, he immediately assumed the name of the place of his dwelling or birth, that by having so done, he might be divested and alienated from all former family connections and relationship, and consider himself entirely as the son of the church, and as having no other relations than those who were his brethren in the monastery.

The priory of Rochester was valued at 486l. 11s. 5d. yearly income; (fn. 8) the whole of which came into the king's hands, as above mentioned; who, though he was empowered by parliament to erect new sees, and ecclesiastical corporate bodies out of the estates belonging to these suppressed monasteries, yet more than two years passed before there was any new establishment founded by him here.

AFTER the dissolution of the priory of Rochester, king Henry VIII. by his charter under his privy seal, dated June 18, in his 33d year, founded within the precincts of the late monastery here, to the glory and honour of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, a CATHEDRAL CHURCH of one dean and six prebendaries, who were to be priests, together with other ministers necessary for the performing of divine service, in future to be called, The Cathedral church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary of Rochester, and to be the episcopal seat of the bishop of Rochestet and his successors; and he granted the same episcopal seat within the precincts of the late monastery, to him and his successors for ever; and he appointed Walter Philippes, late prior there, the first dean of this church, and Hugh Aprice, John Wildbore, Robert Johnson, John Symkins, Robert Salisbury, and Richard Engest, the six prebendaries of it; and he incorporated them by the name of the dean and chapter of it, and granted that they should have perpetual succession, and be the chapter of the bishopric of Rochester, to plead and be impleaded by that name, and have a common seal; and he granted to the dean and chapter and their successors, the scite and precincts of the late monastery, the church there, and all things whatsoever within it, excepting and reserving to the king the particular buildings and parts of it therein mentioned; which premises, or at least the greatest part of them, seem to have been afterwards granted to the dean and chapter; and also excepting always to the bishop of Rochester and his successors, the great messuage, called the Bishop's palace, with all other his lands and tenements, in right of his bishopric, to hold the said scite, precincts, church, and appurtenances, to the dean and chapter and their successors for ever in pure and perpetual alms; and he granted them full power of making and admitting the inferior officers of the church, and afterwards of correcting and displacing them as they thought fit; saving to the king the full power of nominating the dean and six prebendaries, and also six almsmen, by his letters patent, as often as they should become vacant; and lastly, he granted, that they should have these his letters patent made and sealed in the accustomed manner, under his great seal. These letters patent were sealed with the great seal, June 20th following.

The dotation charter, under the king's privy seal, is dated the same day; by which he granted to the dean and chapter, and their successors, sundry premises, manors, lands, tenements, rents, advowsons and appropriations, part of the possessions of the late priory of Rochester, of the late priory of Ledys, of the hospital of Stroud and of the priory of Boxley, in the counties of Kent, Buckingham, Surry, and in the city of London, to hold in pure and perpetual alms, and he granted them, and each of them to be exempt and discharged from all payments of first fruits and tenths, reserving to him and his successors, in lieu thereof, the yearly sum of one hundred and fifteen pounds, (which rent has been since increased to 124l 6s. for reasons as has been already mentioned under Southfleet and Shorne in the former volumes of this history) and lastly, that they should have these his letters patent made and sealed with his great seal, &c. On the 4th of July following, the king granted a commission to George, lord Cobham, and others, reciting, that whereas he had lately founded and erected the said cathedral church in the scite and place of the late priory at Rochester, and in the same one dean, six prebendaries, six minor canons, one deacon and subdeacon, six lay clerks, one master of the choristers, eight choristers, one teacher of the boys in grammar, to consist of twenty scholars, two subsacrists, and six poor men, he gave power and authority to them, or any two of them, to repair to the scite of the late priory, and there, according as they thought fit, to allot the whole of it, and to assign to the dean and canons separate and fit stalls in the choir, and separate places in the chapter there, and to allot to the dean the new lodging, containing two parlours, a kitchen, four bedchambers, the gallery, the study over the gate, with all other buildings leading to the house of John Symkins, one of the residentiaries, together with the garden adjoining, on the north side of the king's lodging. The hay, barn in the woodyard of the dean under the vestry, a stable for the dean adjoining the gate of the tower, and the pidgeon-house on the wall adjoining the ponds; and also to the prebendaries and minor canons and other ministers, and persons above-mentioned, and to each of them, according to their degree, convenient houses, and places about the church to be divided and assigned to each of them, as far as the buildings and ground of the scite would allow, so that the said dean and canons might have separate houses for their convenient habitation, and that the rest of the ministers and persons, that is, minor canons, deacon and subdeacon, scholars, choiristers, and upper and under master, should have smaller houses, in which they and their families should inhabit, and further, that they should put the dean, canons and other ministers in possession of the houses and premises so assigned as asoresaid, provided always, that the said minor canons, and other ministers (except the dean and prebendaries) should eat at one common table, according to the statutes to be prescribed to them, and that they should certify under their seals to the chancellor and court of augmentation what they had done in it.

About three years afterwards, a body of statutes for the government of this church was delivered to it by three commissioners appointed by the king for that purpose, but like many others, they were neither under the great seal nor indented, so that their validity continued in dispute till the reign of queen Anne, in the sixth year of whose reign, an act passed to make them good and valid in law, so far as they were not inconsistent with the constitution of the church, or the laws of the land.

In these statutes, besides the members already mentioned, there is named a porter, who was likewise to be a barber, a butler, a cook and an under-cook; all the members still subsist in this church, except the deacon and subdeacon, the butler, cook and under-cook; the two first have been disused ever since the reformation, or at least very soon afterwards, and the other three are not necessary, as there is not. any common table kept, nor indeed does there appear to have been one kept as directed by the statutes, for the several members of this church, excepting the dean and prebendaries, and the six almsmen. There were also by the statutes yearly exhibitions of five pounds to be paid to four scholars, two at each university. By the statutes they were to be more than fifteen, and under twenty years of age, to be chosen from this school in preference, and if none such were here, then from any other, so that there were neither fellow or scholar in either university; the pension of five pounds to continue till they commenced bachelor, and that within the space of four years; after which they were to enjoy the same for three years; when commencing master of arts they were to be allowed six pounds per annum, and after that 6l. 13s. 4d. The college to be at the option of the dean, or vice-dean, and chapter, who nominate the scholars, and forty pounds was directed to be laid out yearly in charity, and the repairing of highways and bridges.

By the charter of foundation, king Henry VIII. reserved to himself and his successors the right of nominating and appointing, by his letters patent, the dean and prebendaries, and by the statutes the dean must be a doctor of divinity, a batchelor, or doctor of law, and each of the prebendaries the same, or master of arts, or batchelor of laws, and to be appointed by the king's letters patent under his great seal, and presented to the bishop. The dean continues to be nominated by the king, four of the prebends are in the gift of the lordkeeper of the great seal, one is annexed by letters patent, and confirmed by act of parliament, anno 12 queen Anne, to the provostship of Oriel college, in Oxford, and confirmed by parliament the same year, and another was by letters patent, anno 13 king Charles I. annexed to the archdeaconry of Rochester. The crown likewise nominates the six poor bedesmen, who are admitted by warrant under the sign manual; these are in general old and maimed sailors, who are pensioners of the chest at Chatham.

Walter Phillips, the last prior, on the surrendry of this monastery into the king's hands, was, by the foundation charter of the dean and chapter, dated June 18, anno 33 Henry VIII. appointed the first dean. He died in 1570. (fn. 9)

Edmund Freake, S. T. P. was installed in 1570, and was consecrated bishop of Rochester in 1571.

Thomas Willoughby, S. T. P. and prebendary of Canterbury, in 1574, he died in 1585.

John Coldwell, M. D. of St. John's college, Cambridge, in 1585, and was consecrated bishop of Salisbury in 1591.

Thomas Blague, S. T. P. master of Clare-hall, and rector of Bangor, in 1591, and died in 1611.

Richard Milbourne, A. M. rector of Cheam, in Surry, and vicar of Sevenoke, in 1611, and was consecrated bishop of St. David's in 1615. (fn. 10)

Robert Scott, S. T. P. and master of Clare-hall, in 1615. He died in 1620.

Godfrey Goodman, a native of Essex, and fellow of Trinity college, then master of Clare-hall, Cambridge, afterwards prebendary of Westminster, rector of Kemmerton, in Gloucestershire, and West Isley, in Berkshire, and S. T. P. in 1620, and was consecrated bishop of Gloucester in 1624.

Walter Balcanquall, a native of Scotland, and S. T. P. in 1624. He was first fellow of Pembroke-hall, Cambridge, then master of the Savoy. (fn. 11) He resigned this deanry for that of Durham in 1638. (fn. 12)

Henry King, S. T. P. of Christ-church, Oxford, archdeacon of Colchester, residentiary of St. Paul's, and canon of Christ-church, (fn. 13) in 1638, and was consecrated bishop of Chichester in 1641.

Thomas Turner, S. T. P. canon residentiary of St. Paul's, London, rector of St. Olave's, Southwark, and of Fetcham, in Surry, in 1641, and was made dean of Canterbury in 1643.

Benjamin Laney, S. T. P. master of Pembroke-hall, vicar of Soham, in Cambridgeshire, rector of Buriton, in Hampshire, and prebendary of Westminster and Winchester, in 1660, and was consecrated bishop of Peterborough, at the latter end of that year. (fn. 14)

Nathaniel Hardy S. T. P. rector of St. Dionis Backchurch, archdeacon of Lewes, and rector of Henley upon Thames, in 1660. He died at Croydon in 1670, and was buried in the church of St. Martin's in the Fields, of which church he was vicar, having been by his will a good benefactor to the members of this cathedral, and their successors, as well as to the parishes of this city.

Peter Mew, S. T. P. succeeded in 1670. He had been canon of Windsor, archdeacon of Berks, and pre sident of St. John's college, Oxford. He was consecrated bishop of Bath and Wells at the end of the year 1672. (fn. 15)

Thomas Lamplugh, S. T. P. in 1672. He was first fellow of queen's college, Oxford, then principal of Alban-hall, and vicar of St. Martin's in the Fields. He was consecrated bishop of Exeter in 1676. (fn. 16)

John Castilion, S. T. P. prebendary of Canterbury, and vicar of Minster, in Thanet, in 1676. He died in 1688, and was buried in Canterbury cathedral.

On the death of Dr. Castilion, Simon Lowth, A. M. was nominated that year by king James II. to succeed him; but not being qualified as to his degree according to the statutes, his admittance and installation was refused, and the revolution quickly after following, he was set aside, and Dr. Ullock was nominated in his itead.

Henry Ullock, S. T. P. succeeded in 1689, at that time prebendary of this church, and rector of Leyborne. He died in 1706, and was buried there.

Samuel Pratt, S. T. P. clerk of the closet, succeeded in 1706. (fn. 17) He was canon of Windsor, vicar of Twickenham, and chaplain of the Savoy chapel. He died in 1723.

Nicholas Claggett, S. T. P. rector of Brington, in Northamptonshire, and of Overton sinecure, in Hampshire, and archdeacon of Buckingham in 1724. He was promoted to the bishopric of St. David's in 1731.

Thomas Herring, S. T. P. was first of Jesus college, Cambridge, and afterwards fellow of Bennet college. After a variety of parochial preferments he was advanced to this deanry in 1731, which he held in commendam from 1737, when he was promoted to the bi shopric of Bangor till his translation to the archbishopric of York in 1743. (fn. 18)

William Bernard, S. T. P. prebendary of Westminster, (fn. 19) succeeded in 1743, but next year was promoted to the see of Raphoe, in Ireland. (fn. 20)

John Newcome, S. T. P. lady Margaret's lecturer of divinity, and master of St. John's college, Cambridge, in 1744. He had supplied the divinity chair at Cambridge with great reputation, during the latter part of Dr. Bentley's life, then regius professor, who for several years before his death had retired from all public business. He died in 1765.

William Markham, LL. D. and prebendary of Durham, in 1765. He was a great benefactor to the deanry-house, the two wings of which were erected by him, but were not finished before his quitting this preferment for the deanry of Christ-church, Oxford, which he did in 1767. (fn. 21)

Benjamin Newcombe, S. T. P. and rector of St. Mildred's, in the Poultry, in 1767. He was afterwards vicar of Lamberhurst, and died at Rochester in 1775.

Thomas Thurlow, D. D. and master of the Temple, in 1775, was in 1779 made bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 22)

Richard Cust, S. T. P. canon of Christ-church, in Oxford, which he resigned on this promotion. He was a younger brother of the late Sir John Cust, bart. of Lincolnshire, speaker of the house of commons, and uncle to lord Brownlow. He resigned this deanry in 1781, on being made dean of Lincoln, and residentiary of that cathedral.

Thomas Dampier, son of Thomas Dampier, dean of Durham, was educated at Eton, and was afterwards fellow of King's college, in Cambridge, vicar of Boxley, prebendary of Durham, and master of Sherborne hospital. In 1780 he was created by royal mandate S. T. P. and in March 1782, succeeded to this deanry, with which he holds, excepting the fellowship, the several preferments before-mentioned.

THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF ROCHESTER is situated at a small distance from the south side of the middle of the High-street, within the antient gate of the priory.

This church was rebuilt by bishop Gundulph in the year 1080, and some part of this building still remains. The whole bears venerable marks of its antiquity, but time has so far impaired the strength of the materials with which it is built, that in all likelihood the care and attention of the present chapter towards the support of it will not be sufficient to prevent the fall of great part of it at no great distance of time.

The cathedral consists of a body and two isles, the length of it from the west door to the steps of the choir is fifty yards; at the entrance of the choir is the lower or great cross isle, the length of which is one hundred and twenty-two feet; from the steps of the choir to the east end of the church is fifty-two yards; at the upper end of the choir is another cross isle of the length of ninety feet. In the middle of the western cross isle, at the entrance of the choir, stands the steeple, which is a spire covered with lead, being one hundred and fifty-six feet in height, in which hang six bells. Between the two cross isles, on the north side without the church, stands an old ruined tower, no higher than the roof of the church. This is generally allowed to have been erected by bishop Gundulph, and there is a tradition of its having been called the bell tower, and of its having had five bells hanging in it; yet the better conjecture is, that it was first intended as a place of strength and security, either as a treasury or a repository for records. The walls of it are six feet thick, and the area on the inside twenty-four feet square. On the opposite side, at the west end of the south isle, is a chapel of a later date than the isle, wherein the bishop's consistory court is held, and where early prayers were used to be read till within these few years. The roof of the nave or body of the church, from the west end to the first cross isle, is flat at the top like a parish church, as it is likewise under the great steeple; but all the other parts, viz. the four cross isles, the choir, and those on each side of it, except the lower south isle, which was never finished, are handsomely vaulted with stone groins.

The choir is upwards of five hundred and seventy years old, being first used at the consecration of Henry de Sandford in 1227. It is ornamented, as well as other parts of the church, with small pillars of Petworth marble, which however, as well as many of those in a neighbouring cathedral, have been injudiciously covered with whitewash, and several of them with thick coats of plaister. The choir was repaired, as to new wainscot, stalls, pews, &c. at a large expence, in 1743, and very handsomely new paved; at which time the bishop's throne was rebuilt at the charge of bishop Wilcocks.

The organ is over the entrance into the choir. The late one was erected early in the last century, and was but a very indifferent instrument. In the room of which a new one, built by Green, was erected in in 1791, which is esteemed an exceeding good instrument.

At the north end of the upper cross isle, near the pulpit, is a chapel, called St. Williams's chapel, a saint whose repute brought such considerable profit to this priory, as to raise it from a state of poverty to affluence and riches. A large stone chest, much defaced, is all that remains of his shrine.

At the south-east corner of the opposite cross isle is an arched door-way, richly carved and ornamented with a variety of figures, which formerly led to the chapter-house of the priory, in the room of which there is erected a small mean room, which is made use of as a chapter-house and library; for the increase of this library, the same as was intended at Canterbury; every new dean and prebendary gives a certain sum of money at their admission towards the increase of books in it, instead of making an entertainment, as was formerly the custom. In this library is that well known and curious MSS. called the Textus Roffensis, compiled chiefly by bishop Ernulfus in the 12th century, which was published by Thomas Hearne, from a copy in the Surrenden library. During the troubles in the last century this MSS. was conveyed into private hands, nor could the dean and chapter after the restoration, for two years, discover where it was; and at last they were obliged to solicit the court of chancery for a decree to recover it again. Since which they have been once more in great danger of being deprived of it; for Dr. Harris, having borrowed it for the use of his intended history of this county, sent it up to London by water, and the vessel being by the badness of the weather overset, this MSS. lay for some hours under water before it was discovered, which has somewhat damaged it.

There is also another antient MSS. here, entitled Custumale Roffense, thought by some to be more antient than the other. Great part of this MSS. has been published by Mr. Thorpe in a volume under that title.

Near the west end, in the same isle, is a square chapel, called St. Edmund's chapel; hence you descend into the undercroft, which is very spacious and vaulted with stone. There seems to have been part of it well ornamented with paintings of figures and history, but the whole is so obliterated, that nothing can be made out what it was intended for.

The body of this church, the greatest part of which is the same as was erected by bishop Gundulph, is built with circular arches on large massy pillars, with plain capitals; the smaller arches above them being decorated with zigzag ornaments. The roof of the nave seems to have been raised since, and all the windows made new and enlarged at different times, particularly the large one in the west front; though the roof is now flat, by the feet of the groins still remaining, it appears as if this part of the church had been, or at least was intended to be vaulted. The breadth of it, with the side isles, is twenty-two yards. The west front extends eighty-one feet in breadth; the arch of the great door is certainly the same which bishop Gundulph built, and is a most curious piece of workmanship; every stone has been engraved with some device, and it must have been very magnificent in its original state. It is supported the depth of the wall, on each side the door, by several small columns, two of which are carved into statues representing Gundulph's royal patrons, Henry I. and his queen Matilda. The capitals of these columns, as well as the whole arch, are cut into the figures of various animals and flowers The key-stone of the arch seems to have been designed to represent our Saviour in a niche with an angel on each side, but the head is broken off; under this figure are twelve others, representing the apostles, few of which are entire.

In this front were four towers, one on each side the great door, and the others at the two extremes; three of these terminated in a turret, and the other in an octangular tower, above the roof. That tower at the north corner being in danger of falling, was taken down a few years ago, in order to be rebuilt. Dean Newcombe left one hundred pounds towards the finishing of it. Against the lower part of this tower was the figure of bishop Gundulph, with his crozier in his hand; on the rebuilding of which it was replaced, but the tower remains unfinished, at not half the height it was before, to the great disfigurement of the front of this church. Since which the tower at the opposite, or south-west corner, being ruinous, has likewise been taken down even with the roof of the church.

The royal grammar school of this foundation, besides the exhibitions before-mentioned, has had a later benefactor in Robert Gunsley, clerk, rector of Titsey, in Surry, who by his will in 1618, gave to the master and fellows of University college, Oxford, sixty pounds per annum, for the maintenance of four scholars to be chosen by them from the free school of Maidstone, and from this grammar school, such as are natives of the county of Kent only, of whom those of his name and kindred to have the preference, who are to be allowed chambers, and fifteen pounds per annum.

To conclude the account of this priory and cathedral, it should be observed that the precincts of it, after the dissolution, seem to have been a scene of devastation and confusion: the buildings were huge, irregular and ruinous, and little calculated to be turned into separate dwellings for small private families. Even a century afterwards, in the great rebellion in 1647, they were reported to be in a ruinous and woeful condition; at which time the church itself does not seem to have been much better; for archbishop Laud, in his return of the state of this diocese to Charles I. in 1633, says, that the cathedral suffered much for want of glass in the church windows, that the church-yard lay very indecently, and that the gates were down; about nine years afterwards this church suffered much from the fury of the rebel soldiers under colonel Sandys, who having plundered it, and broken to pieces what they could, made use of it as a tipling house, (fn. 23) and the body of the church was used as a carpenter's shop and yard, several sawpits being dug, and frames for houses made by the city joiners in it.

After the restoration dean Hardy took great pains to repair the whole of it, which was effected by means of the benefactions of the gentry of the county, and 7000l. added by the dean and chapter; notwithstanding which, time has so corroded and weakened every part of this building, that its future existence for any length of time has been much feared, but this church has lately had every endeavour used, and great repairs have been made which it is hoped will secure it from the fatal ruin which has threatened it, the inside has been beautified, and being kept exceeding clean, it makes at this time a very pleasing appearance.

In this cathedral, among other monuments, inscriptions, &c. are the following:— In the choir, within the altar rails on the south wall, under three small arches, are pictures of three bishops with their mitres and crosiers, now almost defaced, on the outside these arms, first, the see of Rochester; second, the priory of Canterbury; third, a cross quartier pierced azure; within the rails, under the north and south windows, are several stone coffins and other remains of bishops monuments, but no inscriptions or arms; on the north side the choir a large altar monument for bishop Lowe, on the south side of it, these arms on a bend, three wolves heads erased, and the same with the addition of those of the see of Rochester in the sinister chief point. In the chapel, north of the choir, under an arch in the north wall, a tomb, with the figure of a bishop, for Walter de Merton, put up in 1598, by Merton college, and having been demolished in the civil wars, after the death of Charles I. again repaired by them in 1662, on it are his arms, or, three chevrons party per pale argent and gules. At the east end a beautiful marble tomb for bishop Warner, obt. 1666; another for John Lee Warner, S. T. P. archdeacon, and the bishops nephew and heir, obt. 1679, put up by his son Henry Lee, arms, Lee and Warner quartered; a tablet for Lee Warner, esq. eldest son of the archdeacon, obt. 1698. In the chapel south of the choir, are three several defaced tombs of the antient bishops of Rochester; a memorial for Daniel Prat, A. M. son of dean Prat, and rector of Harrietsham, obt. 1723. In the nave, memorials for Christopher Allen, gent. John Gilman, A. M. prebendary, rector of Kingsdown, and vicar of St. Nicholas, Rochester, obt. 1710, Christopher, son of Richard Fogge, of Tilmanstone, esq. obt. 1708, being captain of the Rupert, and Mary his wife, obt. 1714, for Isaac Rutton, gent. and Mary his wife, obt. 1665; a monument and memorial for Francis Barrell, serjeant at law, obt. 1679, Anne his wife, 1707; another for Francis Barrell, esq. obt. 1724, Anne his wife, obt. 1717; a memorial for Anne, widow of Edmund Barrell, obt. 1710, on them the arms of Barrell ermine, on a chief sable, three talbots heads erased of the field, langued gules, with different quarterings and impalements. In the south isle, a monument for Richard Somers, gent. obt. 1682, erected by John his eldest son, arms, Somer, with impalements and quarterings. In the south cross isle, memorials for James Thurston, attorney at law, son of Hearne, and grandson of George, obt. 1695, and Mary his wife, obt. 1724, erected by his son Morrell Thurston; on the east wall a monument with his bust in an oval, for Sir Richard Head, bart. obt. 1689, put up by Sir Francis Head, bart. a hatchment for Mary, wife of captain Robert Wilford, obt. 1683, in the middle window argent, a lion passant gules, between two cotizes azure, and the date 1664. In the north cross isle, memorials for Margaret, widow of John Pymm, gent. and daughter of Finch Dering, gent. of Charing, obt. 1684; for Augustine Cæsar, M. D. obt. 1683; on the east wall a monument for Augustine Cæsar, M. D. obt. 1677; on the east wall a monument for William Streaton, nine times mayor, and a good benefactor to this city, obt. 1609; in one of the north windows these arms, Barry of eight, or, and sable, eight martlets of the first. In the chapel of the Virgin Mary, south of the nave, a memorial for John Crompe, esq. eldest son of Benjamin Crompe, prebendary. obt. 1718; a monument for Benjamin Crompe, A. M. rector of Halstow, and prebendary, obt. 1663; a memorial for Frances, wife of Daniel Hill, prebendary, obt. 1706, arms, azure, a book expanded argent, garnished, or, between three cherubims of the 3d, with impalements; on a small brass plate in our lady's chapel, for Frances Hill, obt. 1729, placed by Daniel Hill, S. T. P. a monument for Robert Hill, third son of Daniel and Frances Hill, obt. 1729, erected by Thomas, his brother. In the nave, memorials for Ann and Frances, wives of Francis Barrell, esq. the former died 1734, the latter 1736; for Henry Barrell, son of Francis Barrell. serjcant at law, and chapter clerk, obt. 1754; for Catherine, daughter of William Upcott, esq. obt. 1727; for Jane, wife of Thomas Faunce, esq. and daughter of Edmund Barrell, prebendary, obt. 1759; for Francis, only son of Francis Barrell, esq. obt. 1755. In the south isle, memorials for John Benson, A. M. rector of Halstow, obt. 1753; for Robert Unitt, obt. 1738; Elizabeth, his wife, 1739, Robert, their son, 1754; for Edmund Strange, esq. obt. 1756; and Mary, his wife, 1760. In the south cross isle, a memorial for John Denne, D. D. archdeacon and prebendary, and rector of Lambeth, obt. 1767; a marble tablet for Morrell Thurstone, obt. unmarried, 1747; memorials for George Prat, A. M. curate of Chatham, and vicar of Boughton Monchelsea, obt. 1747, and buried in the same grave with his brother the Rev. Daniel Prat; for the Rev. Samuel Prat, A. B. obt. 1765, son of George and Mary Prat, and for several others of their children; a mural white monument, with a small bust at the top, fixed to the wall on the right side of the choir entrance, under it, Archetypum hunc de. dit Joseph Broke de Satis arm; underneath a tablet to the memory of Richard Watts, esq. a principal benefactor to this city, obt. 1579, at his mansion house on Bully-hill, called Satis, the monument erected by the mayor and citizens in 1736, Richard Watts, esq. then mayor. (fn. 24)

At the SOUTH WEST corner of the precincts of the cathedral, bishop Gundulph separated a portion of ground for an habitation for himself and his successors; and though there is no particular mention of a palace for near eighty years after his death, yet there is the strongest reason to think he built himself one here at the time he re edified the church and priory, with the offices belonging to it, when he separated his own maintenance from that of the monks, and lived no longer in common with them, as one family. Bishop Gilbert de Glanvill, who came to the see in 1185, is recorded to have rebuilt all that had been burned down of this palace by one of those dreadful fires which laid waste the greatest part of this city. What situation it remained in till the time of bishop Lowe I have not discovered; but he seems to have rebuilt it, one of his instruments being dated from his new palace at Rochester, in the year 1459. But whether the building was not so substantial as it ought to have been, or that the six succeeding bishops being translated to better sees, the repair of it was neglected; it appears to have been but a cold and uncomfortable habitation when bishop Fisher resided here, in 1524; for Erasmus of Rotterdam, in his letter to him that year, complains of the bishop's want of attention to his health, by residing at this house, and adds, that his library here was composed of such thin walls, that the air came in through the crevices of them; that it was neither wainscotted nor floored with wood, having only a brick pavement.

This learned prelate and cardinal was the last who resided here; and after the Reformation, which soon followed, not only this house, but those belonging to the see at Halling and Trotescliffe, were let for terms of years, and forsaken for the palace at Bromley, in this county, as a pleasanter spot, and more convenient habitation for the bishops of this see. The tenements which are now standing on this scite, on the south side of the College-green, were erected, as is supposed, by those who obtained a grant of it during the civil wars, before which it must have been in a deplorable situation, as appears by the return of the survey made by the parliamentary commissioners, in 1647, as follows—The scite of the palace, containing one great messuage, called the palace, where the bishop's court is held; four rooms, in the tenure of Bathe; a gallery, divided into two rooms and four chambers; the ward, a prison, wash-house, kitchen, three rooms, an orchard, and one garden, John Walter, steward, with the office of bailiff and beadle to all the manors, except Bromley and the keeping of the gaol, granted by patent for life: The extended rents of all which were only 12l. 13s. 4d. The prison, which was formerly a part of these buildings, at the west end of them, has been disused for more than thirty years; and near the spot where it stood, an office for the register of the diocese was erected, at the charge of bishop Pearce, in 1760.

About the year 1678, Francis Head, esq. of this city, by his will, generously bequeathed his mansion house, in the parish of St. Margaret, to the bishops of this see, for their better accommodation when at Rochester; but his intent was unhandsomely frustra ted, by the bishop's granting a lease of it soon afterwards, in which state it has continued ever since.


  • 1. Reg. Roff. p. 1. Lamb. Peramb. p. 408. Hist. Rochest. p. 74.
  • 2. Reg. Roff. p. 1. Dugdale's Mon. vol. iii. p. 1. History of Rochester, p. 75 and 116.
  • 3. Willis's Mitred Abbies, vol. i. p. 290.
  • 4. Willis's Mit. Abbies, vol. i. 291. Stev. Mon. vol. i. p. 453.
  • 5. Willis's Mit. Abbies, vol. i. p. 294.
  • 6. Le Neve's Fasti, p. 248.
  • 7. Le Neve says, by papal provision, bull dated October 22, 1352. Fasti, p. 249.
  • 8. Tan. Not. Mon. p. 202. History of Rochester, p. 85.
  • 9. See a list of the deans in Le Neve's Fasti, p. 252. History of Rochester, printed in 1723, p. 102.
  • 10. He was afterwards translated to Carlisle.
  • 11. Willis's Cath. vol. i. p. 255. Afterwards rector of Adisham, and vicar of Goudhurst, in this county. Rym. Fœd. v. xiii. p. 663.
  • 12. Wood, in his Ath. vol. i. Fasti, p. 184, says, one John Richardson, D. D. succeeded Dr. Balcanquall, and died in 1636.
  • 13. Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, part ii, p. 11.
  • 14. Whence he was translated to Lincoln. Willis's Cathedral, vol. i. p. 71.
  • 15. He was afterwards translated to Winchester.
  • 16. He was afterwards translated to York. Willis's Cathedral, vol. i. p. 60.
  • 17. The docquet for the grant bears date July 26, 1706. Harl. MSS. No. 2262-192.
  • 18. In 1747 he was promoted to the archbishopric of Canterbury, and died at Croydon ten years afterwards. History of Rochester, p. 199.
  • 19. He kept his prebend in commendam with his deanry.
  • 20. He was afterwards promoted to the bishopric of Derry.
  • 21. He was in 1771 advanced to the see of Chester, and since to the archbishopric of York.
  • 22. Brother to lord Thurlow, late lord chancellor.
  • 23. Merc. Rusticus, p. 135. Hist. Rochester, p. 62.
  • 24. See these monuments and inscriptions more at large in Registrum Roffense, p. 701.