Colleges: Greystoke

Pages 204-208

A History of the County of Cumberland: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1905.

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The district served by the collegiate church of Greystoke ranks third in the list of the extensive parishes in Cumberland, the civil parishes of St. Bees and Crosthwaite being considerably larger. The church occupies a picturesque corner of Greystoke Park near to the gates of the castle on the eastern side of the parish, close to the boundary of the parish of Dacre. It contains two ancient chapelries, Threlkeld on the west side of the parish and Watermillock on the south towards the lake of Ulleswater. The area of the whole district is over 48,000 acres. In 1291 the church of Greystoke, valued at £120, (fn. 1) was the richest parochial institution in the diocese of Carlisle.

When the fashion of founding collegiate churches was introduced into Cumberland, a start was not made with the church of Greystoke. The credit of the first attempt was due to Sir Robert Parvyng, the well known chancellor of Edward III., who owned considerable property in the county. Though his foundation at Melmerby was never completed, mention may be made of the preliminary steps taken with that intent, inasmuch as they furnish us with some very interesting features of collegiate institutions at an early period of their history. In 1342 Sir Robert entered into negotiations with the ecclesiastical authorities for the purpose of transforming the parish church of Melmerby into a college of eight priests, one of whom, Richard de Caldecote, was designated the custos or master. The fragmentary record (fn. 2) of the proposed foundation supplies us with the particulars of the institution in contemplation. One messuage and an oxgang of land in Melmerby together with the advowsons of the rectories of Melmerby and Skelton were assigned for the support of the college. In the former parish the master was to be responsible for the cure of souls, but in the latter a vicar was to be appointed. No member of the college could be removed by the Bishop of Carlisle except for reasonable cause, and all chaplains were subject to the master. The founder strictly reserved to himself and his heirs the rights of patronage. It was arranged that the master and chaplains should repair daily in the morning (aurora) or at sunrise to the church of Melmerby, vested in surplice, amice, and black cope, and sing the Canonical Hours devoutly and distinctly, viz. matins and prime according to the use of Sarum; which done, immediately without pause, the mass of the Blessed Virgin should be celebrated cum nota by one of the chaplains; then two chaplains by the direction of the master should celebrate two masses at the altar of St. Nicholas, one a mass of St. Nicholas, and the other a mass of St. Margaret. In this abortive attempt to found the college, licences were sought from the king, the bishop and chapter of Carlisle, and Thomas de Blith, rector of Melmerby, but there is no evidence to show why the foundation was not completed, except that Sir Robert Parvyng died in 1343, the year after the proposal was made.

A similar incident attended the next attempt to found a collegiate church in Cumberland, though the scheme was ultimately successful. In 1358 Lord William de Greystoke proposed to change the rectory of Greystoke into a college with a master or custos and chaplains, and obtained a licence from the Crown to bestow the advowson of the church and certain lands and tenements in Newbiggin on the new foundation. (fn. 3) Bishop Welton of Carlisle gave his sanction and confirmed the appointment of the rector, Richard de Hoton Roof, to be the master, and Andrew de Briscoe, Richard de Brampton, William de Wanthwaite, Robert de Threlkeld and William de Hill, to be the chaplains. (fn. 4) The scheme, however, was carried no further at that time owing to the death of Lord Greystoke in July 1359, and the minority of the heir. (fn. 5)

Soon after Ralf, Lord Greystoke, came of age, the scheme for founding the college was revived. In 1374 the licence granted to Lord William, his father, was renewed to him (fn. 6) by Edward III., but many difficulties had to be surmounted before the foundation was brought to a successful issue. Lord Greystoke appealed to Bishop Appleby of Carlisle in January 1377-8, alleging that the church of which he was patron was wealthy; that in the absence of the rector the church was badly served and the sick were not properly visited; and that in consequence the parishioners were not as devout as they should be. The bishop issued a commission, composed almost equally of clerics and laymen, which made a report on the local conditions. It was found after inquiry that the church was valued at £100, or £80 after taking away all deductions; that it was served by one parochial chaplain and his parish clerk (clericum aquebajulum) in the parish church, and by another chaplain and his clerk in the chapel of Watermillock (Wethirmelok), three miles distant from the mother church, and by another chaplain and his clerk in Threlkeld, four miles distant; and that the parish of Greystoke, though it was extensive, being seven miles long and four miles broad, was thus served from time immemorial. (fn. 7) The report was apparently not satisfactory to the bishop, for in April 1379 he issued another commission with substantially the same reference. After the second inquiry it was reported that the church was rich, though not so rich as of old; the revenues were on the decrease rather than the increase; that the value was £100, though it was once £120; that the said church used to be ruled by three chaplains and three clerks, and that it was at that time so served; and that it could not be on account of the size of the parish or the fewness of the ministers that the parishioners were spiritually neglected, as the parish and the ministry were constituted then as of old; yet it would be to the greater glory of God if the number of ministering clergy was increased; and that the revenues were able to sustain a provost and five chaplains at the parish church as well as the chaplains at Watermillock and Threlkeld. (fn. 8) Notwithstanding all these negotiations, nothing more appears to have been done for two or three years. (fn. 9)

The bishop and the patron were not turned from their purpose by the continued opposition to the scheme, for the college was formally founded in 1382. When all the preliminaries were arranged Bishop Appleby sent a mandate to the parochial chaplain of Greystoke and to the chaplains of Threlkeld and Watermillock, calling their attention to the great defects in the nave of the parish church, its stone walls, wood work, fittings, and glass windows, and to the ruinous condition of the tower (campanile eiusdem totaliter ruit ad terram), and setting them a time for their repair. He had heard also at his recent visitation that certain of the parishioners were frequenting the chapels of Threlkeld and Watermillock for divine offices, and were refusing to pay their portions to the maintenance of the mother church. It was intimated to them that all the inhabitants were obliged to contribute or incur the usual penalty. (fn. 10) On the petition of Ralf, Lord Greystoke, setting forth the urgent need of the new foundation, Pope Urban issued the necessary faculties in May 1382 for the erection of a college of seven perpetual chaplains, and Archbishop Nevill of York, his legate, completed the work. Gilbert Bowet was constituted the first master or keeper of the perpetual college of Greystoke, and to the six chantries other appointments were made: John Lake, of the diocese of Lichfield, to the chantry of the altar of St. Andrew; Thomas Chambirleyne, of the diocese of Norwich, to the chantry of St. Mary the Virgin; John Alve, of the diocese of York, to the chantry of St. John the Baptist; Richard Barwell, of the diocese of Lincoln, to the chantry of St. Katharine the Virgin; Robert de Newton, of the diocese of Lichfield, to the chantry of St. Thomas the Martyr; and John de Hare, of the diocese of York, to the chantry of the Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul. (fn. 11) The master and chantry priests were bound in canonical obedience to the Bishop of Carlisle. Not one of the first collegiate staff was drawn from the diocese, except Gilbert Bowet, the master, who had been chaplain there from 1365 till the foundation of the college. (fn. 12) The patronage of the new establishment in head and members was retained in the house of Greystoke. (fn. 13)

The relationship of the college to the chapelry of Threlkeld was the subject of an ordination or award (laudum) made by Bishop Lumley of Carlisle in 1431. As discord had arisen between the rector or master and chaplains, fellows (consocios) or chantry priests (cantaristas) of the collegiate or parochial church of Greystoke on the one part and Sir Henry Threlkeld and the tenants of the vill or lordship of Threlkeld on the other, about the appointment of a chaplain or chaplains successively in the church or chapel of Threlkeld, which is dependent on the said church of Greystoke, and about the manner of tithing corn and hay and other fruits within the vill of Threlkeld, the whole dispute was placed in the bishop's hands at his personal visitation of the diocese in the collegiate church of Greystoke on 26 September 1431, and both parties undertook to abide by his award. It was decided by the bishop that Sir Henry Threlkeld and his heirs after him, with the consent of their tenants, should nominate the chaplain, within one month after the time of vacation, to the rector or master and chaplains of the college, and if they found him fit and able to celebrate divine offices and to minister the sacraments and sacramentals, they should admit him within six days to the chaplaincy; but if they considered him unfit or unable they should send him to the bishop or his official for fuller examination. If the bishop found the nominee unfit, it should be lawful for the master, with the consent of the chaplains or chantry priests, for this one turn to nominate a fit person to the bishop within ten days from the rejection of the former candidate; otherwise the nomination for that turn only should pertain to the bishop, future nominations remaining with Sir Henry Threlkeld and his heirs. It was also ordained that the college of Greystoke should receive all the tithes of Threlkeld except tithes of corn and hay together with the oblations due and accustomed; that the inhabitants should pay to the chaplain celebrating in the chapel £3 17s. in decem denariis at the feast of St. Peter ad vincula and Michaelmas in lieu of the tithes of corn and hay, whether the land was cultivated or not; and that the college should allow the chaplain a yearly stipend of 12s. sterling over and above the sum contributed by the inhabitants. (fn. 14)

When the ecclesiastical survey was taken in 1535, the total value of the rectory and college was set down as £82 14s., out of which the master was obliged to pay £42 6s. 8d. in pensions, synodals and procurations to the Bishop of Carlisle, and in stipends of the chaplains. Each chantry priest received an annual allowance of £3 6s. 8d. for victuals, and a like sum in money for private use, at the hands of the master of the college. (fn. 15)

In pursuance of the Act of Parliament (1 Edw. VI. cap. 14) for the dissolution of chantries, the king issued a commission, dated at Westminster on 14 February 1547-8, 'for thenquyrie, survey and examynacon of all colleges, chauntries, frechappelles, fraternyteis, guyldes, stipendaries, priestes, and other spirituall promocons' within the county of Cumberland 'whiche are geven and oughte to come unto his highnes.'From the survey we learn that there were 3,000 'howslinge people' in the parish of Greystoke, and that the 'colledge in the parish churche there' was 'off the foundacon of one Urbane, bishoppe of Rome, at the peticon of one Rafe, baron of Graystocke, auncestor to the lorde Dacre that nowe is.' John Dacre, clerk, of the age of forty years, was the master, and had for his annual salary £40 'over and besides £61 in other places.' (fn. 16) It is also stated that 'James Beamont, of th'age of 80 yeares, George Atkinson of th'age of 56 yeres, Anthony Garnett and Lancelot Levyns of th'age of 40 yeres, Edwarde Elwood of th'age of 50 yeres, and John Dawson of th'age of 58 yeres, (fn. 17) have every of them yerely for his salarie, over and besides £26 wch James Beamont hath in other places, £3 6s. 8d. besides their borde wch is in the hole £20.' The lands and tenements belonging to the college were valued at £84 19s. 8d., from which £2 17s. 10d. should be deducted for reprises, 'and so remayneth clere by yere £82 1s. 10d.' The goods and chattels were valued at £16 17s. 8d. As a postscript to the survey the commissioners noted that 'the said John Dacre, master there, is also parson and hath no vycare indowed, but serveth the cure hymselfe.' (fn. 18)

When the king's agents had seized the chantries, the valuation of the college of Greystoke was returned at £78 14s. From the notes added to the new survey we may gather that there was some doubt in the minds of the commissioners about the legality of their proceedings in seizing the property of this college. To the schedule of pensions, in which the annual sum of £19 was assigned to the master, that is, somewhat less than half of his stipend, and £5 to each of the chaplains, the following memorandum was appended: 'Forasmuch as the title of this colleage is supposed doubtefull, respect the pencions untill it be examyned in the court.' It is odd that it was to the college of Greystoke, and not as an appendix to the whole survey, that the commissioners affixed this observation: 'In all whych colleges, chauntryes, frechappelles, guyldes, fraternytyes, stypendaryes, ther ys no precher founde, grammar scole taught, nor pore people relevyd, as yn ther severall certyfycates yt doth appere.' It was also reported that 'ij chaples are belonging to this colleage caulled Watermelike and Threlkett, thone distant vii myles and thother vi myles from the parish churche.' (fn. 19) When the legality of seizing the rectory and its profits on the king's behalf came to be reviewed in court, it was argued by the incumbent that he was possessed by presentation, admission, institution and induction; that the church was indeed made collegiate, but it was by the pope's authority only; that they had no common seal, and therefore were not a legal corporation. As judgment was given against the king, the church continued rectorial and parochial. In reporting the case Judge Dyer laid stress upon the want of a common seal, but Lord Coke was of opinion that the king's title failed owing to the fact that the church was made collegiate by the pope's authority only without the royal assent. (fn. 20) The argument of the appellant and the remarks of Lord Coke seem strange in the light of the letters patent of Edward III. and Richard II., by which the proposal to found the college of Greystoke received the royal sanction.

Masters of Greystoke

Gilbert Bowet, first master, 1382

Richard Lascy, 1412 (fn. 21)

Adam de Aglionby, 1420 (fn. 22)

Richard Wryght (fn. 23)

Thomas Eglisfelde (fn. 24)

Walter Readman, S.T.P. 1507, (fn. 25) died in 1509 (fn. 26)

William Husband, 1509, (fn. 27) 1518 (fn. 28)

John Whelpdale, died in 1526 (fn. 29)

John Dacre, last master, 1535, (fn. 30) 1547 (fn. 31)


  • 1. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 320.
  • 2. Carl. Epis. Reg., Kirkby, MS. f. 459. The deed, as recorded in the episcopal register, ends abruptly without apparent cause, but it is undoubtedly authentic, for on 4 May 1342 Robert Parvyng had licence from the king for the alienation in mortmain of the advowson of Melmerby to certain chaplains to celebrate divine offices in that church and for its appropriation by the chaplains (Pat. 16 Edw. III. pt. i. m. 7). It may be taken that the scheme was abortive owing to the death of Sir Robert in the following year and the division of his property among grandchildren (Inq. p.m. 17 Edw. III. ser. i. No. 48). The proposed institution was described as a college or chantry, but there is no doubt that the former was intended: a chaplaincy in a collegiate church was frequently described as a chantry.
  • 3. Orig. R. 32 Edw. III. m. 25.
  • 4. Nicolson and Burn, Hist. of Cumb. ii. 362.
  • 5. Inq. p.m. 33 Edw. III. ser. i. No. 43. That the scheme was not completed at the death of Lord Greystoke is certain, for Richard de Hoton was rector, and not master or custos, in 1361 when he had the king's pardon for acquiring lands and tenements in Greystoke without licence (Orig. R. 35 Edw. III. m. 49). His nuncupative will was proved on 22 January 1365-6, by which he bequeathed his body to be buried in the churchyard of Greystoke, and made certain dispositions by way of settlement with his successor for dilapidations in the choir of the church and houses of the rectory (Carl. Epis. Reg., Appleby, f. 145).
  • 6. Orig. R. 48 Edw. III. m. 33. The licence was again renewed by Richard II. on 6 December 1377, in which the two former licences were confirmed. The decease of William, Lord Greystoke, is stated to have been the cause of delay in the first instance as the alienation was incomplete when he died (Pat. 1 Ric. II. pt. ii. m. 10).
  • 7. Carl. Epis. Reg., Appleby, ff. 306-7.
  • 8. On 12 February 1379-80, the rector, John de Claston, had leave to absent himself for two years and to farm the cure during that period (Carl. Epis. Reg., Appleby, f. 321). It seems that William Eston acted as his substitute, for he was returned as the rector of Greystoke for the clerical subsidy granted to Richard II. in the second year of his reign, the value of the benefice having been returned at £40 and the tax at £1 (Clerical Subsidies, 60/1, dioc. of Carlisle).
  • 9. Carl. Epis. Reg., Appleby, f. 342.
  • 10. Ibid. ff. 309-10.
  • 11. Ibid. f. 343.
  • 12. Ibid. ff. 145-6; Clerical Subsidies, [?], dioc. of Carlisle.
  • 13. Cal. of Inq. p.m. Hen. VII. i. 109; Inq. p.m. 9 Hen. VIII. Nos. 32-8.
  • 14. Carl. Epis. Reg., Smith, ff. 364-9. A notarial copy of this deed was entered in Bishop Smith's register on 27 July 1698, by desire of Archdeacon Nicolson, from the original in possession of Lord Lonsdale.
  • 15. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), v. 287.
  • 16. In July 1526 the churches of Folkton, in the diocese of York, and Wemme, in the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, were united during the incumbency of John Dacre, LL.B., of noble birth (L. and P. Hen. VIII. iv. 2360). Dacre can have been only about nineteen years of age at that time. Perhaps this young sprig of nobility may be identified with the 'parson Dakers of St. Nicholas Hostell,' Cambridge, who 'hurt Christopher, Mr. Secretary's servant,' in 1530. When the vice-chancellor committed him to ward he escaped from the beadle, 'and that night there was such a jetting in Cambridge as ye never heard of, with such boyng and crying, even against our college, that all Cambridge might perceive it was in despite' of the vice-chancellor. It must have been a 'town and gown' row, for the vice-chancellor complained that it was 'made a country matter and greatly labored' (ibid. iv. 6325).
  • 17. It may be mentioned that the three chaplains, first named in this list, held respectively the chantries of St. Katharine, St. Peter and St. Mary the Virgin, in 1535 (Valor Eccl. [Rec. Com.], v. 287).
  • 18. Chant. Cert. No. 11, Cumberland.
  • 19. Chant. Cert. No. 12, Cumberland.
  • 20. Nicolson and Burn, Hist. of Cumb. ii. 363, quoting Dyer's Reports, f. 81, and Coke's Reports, iv. 107. See also Tanner, Notitia (ed. 1744), p. 77.
  • 21. Named in a commission with John de Burgham, rector of Melmerby, and Robert de Bampton, vicar of Crosby by Eden, to collect a tenth given to Henry IV. by the clergy of Carlisle, 20 Jan. 1411-2 (Clerical Subsidies, 60/7, dioc. of Carlisle).
  • 22. Sued in that year by William Rebanks and his wife for lands in Raughton (Nicolson and Burn, Hist. of Cumb. ii. 363). Aglionby had been appointed priest of the chantry of St. Mary in 1386 on the death of Thomas Chamberlayne (Carl. Epis. Reg., Appleby, fo. 359).
  • 23. In 1704 Bishop Nicolson copied the following inscription in a window over the south door of the choir: 'Orate pro anima Ricardi Wryht quondam magistri Collegii de Graystok' (Miscellany Accounts, ed. Ferguson, pp. 129-30). As no date has been found, the name is placed here for convenience.
  • 24. Commemorated with Walter Readman on a sepulchral brass in the choir, the inscription on which was copied by the Rev. T. Lees about 1860: 'Hic jacent corpora magistri Thome Eglisfelde et Walteri Readman veritatis professoris quondam huius collegii prepositorum. Qui Walterus obiit iiij° die Novembris Anno domini M° ccccc° ix°. Quorum animabus propicietur Deus.' Browne Willis set down the date of Eglisfelde's mastership about 1440 (Tanner, Notitia, app. of edition, 1744), but from his association with Readman on the brass the date must be considerably later. He seems to have been Readman's immediate predecessor.
  • 25. One of the executors of Roger Leyburn, Bishop of Carlisle, under his will, dated 17 July 1507; appointed by the dean and chapter of York to collect the bishop's goods (Test. Ebor. Surtees Soc. iv. 262-3).
  • 26. Memorial brass given above.
  • 27. For the term, Michaelmas 1509-10, the registrar of the diocese of Carlisle accounted to the bishop for 13s. 4d. 'de institutione domini Wilhelmi Husbande ad ecclesiam collegiatam de Graistok' (MS. in diocesan registry).
  • 28. Jefferson, Leath Ward, p. 360. If Jefferson's date is correct, this was the master of Greystoke sent by Thomas, Lord Dacre, into Scotland on 8 Aug. 1516, to levy the queen's feoffment (Ellis, Orig. Letters, first ser. i. 133; L. and P. Hen. VIII. ii. 2293).
  • 29. On the floor in the south transept there is a memorial brass plate containing a half length figure of a doctor of laws, clad in gown and fur tippet with the arms of Whelpdale—three, greyhounds current in pale and collared—on either side of the inscription: 'Orate pro anima Johannis Whelpdall, legum doctoris, magistri Collegii de Graystok et rectoris de Caldebek qui obiit viij° Julii anno domini 1526.' Around the head of the east window of Caldbeck church there runs a Latin legend that John Whelpdale 'hoc opus fieri fecit.' Care should be taken to discriminate between two rectors of Caldbeck of that name. The younger succeeded the elder in that church in 1488.
  • 30. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), v. 287.
  • 31. Chant. Cert. (Cumb.), Nos. 11, 12. In the church there is a through-stone bearing the inscription: 'J.D.P.G. anno domini 1557.' The initials seem to mean 'John Dacre, provost of Greystoke,' as if he had resumed his old title in Queen Mary's reign. He conformed to all the ritual changes during the first years of Queen Elizabeth and died in 1567 (Carl. Epis. Reg., Best, fo. 22).