Colleges: St Mary de Castro

Pages 45-46

A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1954.

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The College of St. Mary de Castro at Leicester is traditionally said to have existed before the Norman Conquest, when it is stated to have been destroyed, (fn. 1) but there is no reliable evidence for this. A college for a dean and twelve secular canons was established at St. Mary's church at Leicester by Robert de Beaumont, (fn. 2) in honour of the Virgin Mary and in veneration of All Souls, and for the souls of William I, his queen Maud, and his son William II, and in the future for the souls of Henry I, his wife and children, and for the souls of the founder and his relatives. Robert de Beaumont endowed the college with the churches of All Saints and St. Peter at Leicester, the churches of the sokes of Shepshed (Leics.) and Halse (Northants.), with various lands near Leicester, and with revenues worth £6 yearly from the town of Leicester itself. Ralph pincerna gave the college the church of St. Martin at Leicester, and the church of Lilbourne (Northants.). The date of foundation is said to have been 1107. (fn. 3)

The college of secular canons existed until 1143, when all its endowments were transferred by the founder's son, Robert le Bossu, Earl of Leicester, to the canons of the new Augustinian abbey at Leicester. (fn. 4) The new abbey, however, did not altogether replace the old college of secular canons. At some date before 1167 the Abbot and convent of Leicester agreed to provide for the service of St. Mary's church eight clerks, consisting of a sacrist, a chaplain, and six others, who were all to be appointed, and if necessary removed, solely at the will of the abbot and convent. The Abbot of Leicester, or one of his canons appointed for the purpose, was to preside over the chapter of the collegiate church. The eight clerks were to receive all the offerings of St. Mary's parish, and most of the tithes, with a revenue of 20s. given by Robert de Beaumont for the lamps and other needs of the church. The sacrist and clerks of the college had to serve in person, and were not allowed to appoint vicars to act in their places. (fn. 5) About 1220 there were seven clerks, including presumably the sacrist, serving at St. Mary's, with two chaplains, instead of only one as originally provided. (fn. 6) The college existed in obscurity for the rest of the Middle Ages. In 1379 the Abbot and convent of Leicester had licence to alienate the advowson of Hathern to the sacrist and canons of St. Mary's, on condition that the grantees should provide a chaplain to celebrate daily for the souls of the king, his mother, Robert le Bossu, and others. (fn. 7) The alienation was carried out within the next few years. (fn. 8) The college's clear yearly income, as assessed in 1535, was only £23. 12s. 11d., of which the dean (fn. 9) had a stipend of £4. 19s. 2d., and the prebendaries £2. 9s. 7d. each. (fn. 10) The certificate returned in 1546 under Henry VIII's Chantry Act (fn. 11) states that one of the prebends was then vacant. It also mentions that a dwelling-house was provided for the college's clergy. (fn. 12) The college was dissolved under the Chantry Act of Edward VI. (fn. 13)

Sacrissts (fn. 14) Of The College Of St. Mary De Castro

Richard de Tuttebury, resigned 1376. (fn. 15)
John de Hemyngburgh, collated 1376, (fn. 16) died 1382. (fn. 17)
Simon Bache, collated 1382, (fn. 18) occurs 1390. (fn. 19)
James Whistones, died 1512. (fn. 20)
John Yong, collated 1512. (fn. 21)
Thomas Darby, occurs 1534. (fn. 22)
Richard Fowler, occurs 1535, (fn. 23) resigned before 1546. (fn. 24)
Ralph Cowley, occurs 1546. (fn. 25)

A 14th-century seal, (fn. 26) a pointed oval about 2 by 1¼ in., shows the Virgin Mary, crowned, seated beneath a canopy, holding the infant Jesus on her left knee. Both Mother and Child have their right hands raised in benediction. All that remains of the legend is:

. . . CESTRIE . . .


  • 1. Nichols, Leics. i, 303; Dugd. Mon. vi (3), 1456. The account given by Hen. Knighton, Chron. (Rolls Ser.), i, 62, seems to indicate that a coll. existed before the Conquest, for Knighton speaks of Robert de Beaumont restoring lands and chs. to the canons.
  • 2. Probably the 1st Earl of Leicester.
  • 3. Dugd. Mon. vi (1), 466-7; Nichols, Leics. i, App., 53; A. Hamilton Thompson, Abbey of St. Mary of the Meadows, Leicester, 1, 2.
  • 4. Dugd. Mon. vi (1), 466-7; Knighton, Chron. (Rolls Ser.), i, 62.
  • 5. Ancient Chart. (Pipe R. Soc. x), ed. J. H. Round, 59-63; Nichols, Leics. i, 303.
  • 6. Rot. Hugonis de Welles, ed. W. P. W. Phillimore, i, 238.
  • 7. Cal Pat., 1377-81, 371.
  • 8. Hamilton Thompson, Abbey of Leic. 145.
  • 9. The head of the coll., originally styled the sacrist, was frequently known as the dean, at least from the 14th century onwards: Cal Pat., 1374-7, 339; 12921301, 524; Cal of Chart. and Other Doc. Belonging to the Hosp. of Wm. Wyggeston at Leicester, ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, 320.
  • 10. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 172.
  • 11. 37 Hen. VIII, c. 4.
  • 12. A. Hamilton Thompson, 'The Chant. Cert, for Leics.', Assoc. Arch. Soc. Rep. and Papers, xxx, 492-3.
  • 13. For particulars of sale of an item of the coll.'s property, see ibid, xxx, 544.
  • 14. Or deans; see n. 9 above.
  • 15. Cal Pat., 1374-7, 339. Resigned on exchange of benefices.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. Cal of Chart. of Hosp. of Wm. Wyggeston, 320.
  • 18. Ibid.
  • 19. Hamilton Thompson, Abbey of Leic., 145.
  • 20. L. & P. Hen. VIII, i, p. 459.
  • 21. Ibid.
  • 22. Hamilton Thompson, Abbey of Leic., 146.
  • 23. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 172.
  • 24. Assoc. Arch. Soc. Rep. and Papers, xxx, 493.
  • 25. Ibid.; he was the last sacrist (Char. Com. Rep. [163], p. 42, H.C.(1839), xv).
  • 26. D.L. 25/317.