Colleges: St Laurence Pountney

A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1909.

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'Colleges: St Laurence Pountney', in A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, ed. William Page( London, 1909), British History Online [accessed 14 July 2024].

'Colleges: St Laurence Pountney', in A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark. Edited by William Page( London, 1909), British History Online, accessed July 14, 2024,

"Colleges: St Laurence Pountney". A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark. Ed. William Page(London, 1909), , British History Online. Web. 14 July 2024.

In this section


John Poultney, mayor of London, added to the church of St. Lawrence, 'Candelwyk Street,' (fn. 1) a beautiful chapel in honour of Corpus Christi and St. John Baptist, and in it established a chantry of a master and six other secular priests, (fn. 2) apparently in augmentation of an earlier foundation of two chaplains (fn. 3) by Thomas Cole. This must have occurred at the beginning of the reign of Edward III, since from the terms of the king's petition to the pope on Poultney's behalf in July, 1332, it is evident that the chantry was then in existence. (fn. 4) As endowment Poultney gave the rectory of St. Laurence, the advowson of which he obtained from Westminster Abbey in 1334; (fn. 5) a messuage in that parish in 1336; (fn. 6) messuages and rents in the parishes of St. Martin Orgar, St. Bride, St. Margaret Bridge Street, and in seven other London parishes, (fn. 7) and the manor of Catford (fn. 8) in Kent in 1338; the advowsons of the churches of West Tilbury, co. Essex, Speldhurst, co. Kent, Cheveley, co. Cambridge, Shenley, co. Herts, and Napton, co. Warwick, in 1345; (fn. 9) and the manor of Speldhurst in 1346. (fn. 10) Poultney's care for his foundation was unremitting: he used the king's interest with the pope on more than one occasion, (fn. 11) and the result may be seen in the many papal concessions he received, among them being a relaxation of penance granted in 1337 (fn. 12) and 1345 (fn. 13) to those who assisted the chapel with their alms. The scheme appears to have been of gradual development, for the college did not take its final form until 1344, when the number of chaplains was increased from seven to thirteen, (fn. 14) and the statutes were not drawn up before 1347. (fn. 15) These provided (fn. 16) that on the death of the first master the chaplains should choose another from among themselves and present him to the bishop of London; a sub-master, (fn. 17) appointed and removable by the master, was to have the custody of the books and ornaments and oversight of divine service, and also administration of the college during a vacancy; he was to receive 53s. 4d. a year, the other chaplains 40s. each, and out of these salaries they were to find their clothes, which were to be of the same kind; the chaplains and the four choristers were to reside in the house provided for this purpose near the church, to have their meals in the common refectory, and to sleep in the dormitory; the chaplains were to be always resident; they were never to enter a tavern, they were not to go out without leave of the master nor to walk about the City without a companion assigned by him, and they were to be within the gates before nightfall. As regards services, they were to observe the use of Sarum; (fn. 18) each priest was to have cure of souls among members of the college and parishioners for a week in turn; all the priests were required to be present at mattins, vespers, and compline and to remain in the choir until the service was ended.

A few rules were made concerning the college property: a tripartite inventory of goods was to be made every year, the three parts being kept by the master, the sub-master, and the chaplains, and shown to the bishop of London at least once a year; the master was to apply any surplus income to the benefit of the college, and he was forbidden, even with the consent of the chaplains, to grant a corrody or pension out of the revenues; there was never to be a common seal. The endowment of the college at that time may be presumed to have been ample, and to this must be added the property bequeathed to it for the maintenance of chantries in the church during the next half-century; (fn. 19) yet for some unex plained reason its income seems to have dwindled until in 1420 it is said to have been only £12. Poverty, therefore, may have been one of the causes of the neglect of obligations which was the subject of complaints against the master in Parliament on two occasions, though it must be admitted that no excuse of this kind was offered on his behalf. John Carpenter, in 1430, petitioned the king in Parliament (fn. 20) to ordain that the master should carry out the terms of Poultney's will and distribute every year 4 marks to the prisoners of Newgate, as he had done before the gaol had been taken down and rebuilt. In 1439 the dean and chapter of St. Paul's stated that the sums for Poultney's obit and for the maintenance of three chantry priests in the cathedral had not been paid for two years, and they requested that they might have power to distrain on the possessions of the college in such circumstances. (fn. 21) The college would probably have rejoiced as much as the king if the investigations of Henry Sharp, the master, in 1457 for the discovery of the philosopher's stone (fn. 22) had been successful.

According to a patent of 1525 the patronage of the college had been granted to the duke of Buckingham by Henry VII, (fn. 23) though there is no evidence as to how it had come into the king's hands. On the duke's attainder Henry VIII gave it to the marquis of Exeter, but as the patent to the marquis was void on some technical ground, (fn. 24) and appears not to have been renewed, the king henceforth nominated the masters.

No opposition was raised to the dissolution of the college under the Act of 1547. (fn. 25) The master, William Latimer, had adopted the new doctrines, and with them the ways of his party, and was merely interested in securing for himself a share of the plunder. (fn. 26) Pensions were assigned to Latimer and the three other chaplains of the college and to four 'conducts.' (fn. 27)

The clear income of the college at the time of its surrender was estimated at £79 17s. 10d. (fn. 28) Its possessions included rents of assize and ferms in London amounting to £25 16s. 8d.; the manors of Catford and Speldhurst, (fn. 29) in Kent; the rectory of St. Laurence Pountney; the rectory of Allhallows the Less, the gift of Adam, bishop of Winchester, in 1336; (fn. 30) a pension of £2 from the church of St. Mary Abchurch, which with the advowson had been obtained by an exchange made with the marquis of Suffolk in 1447; (fn. 31) the advowson of Eastling (fn. 32) in Kent, given to Poultney for that of Napton, co. Warwick, by the archbishop of Canterbury in 1348; (fn. 33) the rectory of Napton, received in exchange for 'Pulteney's Inn' from the earl of Arundel in 1385. (fn. 34) The college had held the rectory of Speldhurst from 1347 to 1448, but had then given up all but its patronage of the church. (fn. 35)

Masters of the College of St. Laurence Pountney

William de Chetwode, occurs 1338, (fn. 36) 1346, (fn. 37) and 1348 (fn. 38)
Robert Witherdeley or Wytley, presented 1363, (fn. 39) occurs 1368, (fn. 40) and 1391 (fn. 41)
Nicholas Mocking, presented 1399, (fn. 42) occurs 1409 (fn. 43) and 1411 (fn. 44)
William Thorp, occurs 1426, resigned 1433 (fn. 45)
John Pye, instituted 1433 (fn. 46)
John Thurston, occurs 1447 (fn. 47) and 1448 (fn. 48)
Henry Sharp, LL.D., occurs 1457, (fn. 49) resigned 1481 (fn. 50)
Richard Hethcott, instituted 1481, (fn. 51) resigned 1488 (fn. 52)
Richard Ruston or Smith, instituted 1488, (fn. 53) resigned 1525 (fn. 54)
John Stevyns, M.A., presented 1525, (fn. 55) resigned 1532 (fn. 56)
John Blackden, presented 1532, (fn. 57) died 1536 (fn. 58)
Thomas Starkey, presented 1536, (fn. 59) died 1538 (fn. 60)
William Latimer, presented 1538, (fn. 61) occurs 1539, (fn. 62) and was master at the surrender 1547 (fn. 63)

A seal in the British Museum (fn. 64) shows three niches with trefoiled arches, canopied, and in them an altar with a chalice and paten thereon, and two female saints. In the base to the left a priest is kneeling in prayer under a carved roundheaded arch. The legend is uncertain.


  • 1. The chantry is said to be founded near the church of St. Laurence. Rymer, Foed. (Rec. Com.), ii (2), 841.
  • 2. Ibid. Seven priests, ii, 536. A royal grant of Jan. 1334 mentions the master and chaplains. Cal. of Pat. 1334–8, p. 60.
  • 3. Stow, Surv. of Lond. (ed. Strype), ii, 189.
  • 4. Rymer, Foed. ii (2), 841.
  • 5. Doc. of D. and C. of Westm., Lond. L. (1).
  • 6. Cal. of Pat. 1334–8, p. 262.
  • 7. Ibid. 1338–40, p. 1.
  • 8. Ibid. pp. 104, 203.
  • 9. He had obtained the royal licence for the appropriation of these churches to the college. Ibid. 1343–5, p. 489.
  • 10. Ibid. 1345–8, p. 64; Hasted, Hist. of Kent, i, 428
  • 11. Cal. of Pap. Letters, ii, 383, 542.
  • 12. Ibid. ii, 536.
  • 13. Ibid. iii, 175.
  • 14. Cal. of Pap. Petitions, i, 37.
  • 15. They are undated, but John de Stratford, who died in 1346, is called the late archbishop of Canterbury. Wilson, Hist. of Parish of St. Laurence Pountney, 53.
  • 16. Ibid. 53–7.
  • 17. A bequest of a chalice and paten was made to Sir John Norwiche, sub-master, by Idonia Salesbury in 1386. Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, ii, 274.
  • 18. For this they had special leave from the pope. Cal. Pap. Petitions, i, 39.
  • 19. Idonia, formerly wife of Robert Salesbury, left for this purpose lands and tenements in the parishes of Allhallows the Less, St. Michael Crooked Lane, and St. Olave Hart Street. Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, ii, 274. Edelena Atte Legh ordered the sale of lands for the endowment of a chantry. Ibid. ii, 179. Gilbert Marion in 1391 left to the master and parishioners his tenement at the corner of the churchyard. Ibid. ii, 290. Margaret, widow of William Wotton, left to the master and wardens in 1404 part of a tenement in the parish of St. Magnus. Ibid. ii, 361.
  • 20. Parl. R. (Rec. Com.), iv, 370b.
  • 21. Ibid. v, 9.
  • 22. Wilson, op. cit. 58, 59 n. a.
  • 23. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, 1610 (5).
  • 24. Ibid. iv, 2576.
  • 25. Wilson, op. cit. 67–8.
  • 26. Ibid. 69.
  • 27. Chant. Cert. No. 88, m. 7. Five pensions varying from 20s. to £6 were still paid in Mary's reign. Add. MS. 8102, fol. 4.
  • 28. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 387.
  • 29. Cat. of Chart. &c. in Bodl. Lib. 101. In 1539 the master and brothers let the manors of Speldhurst and 'Harwarton' in Kent for sixty years at 56s. 8d. per annum. Add. Chart. 211.
  • 30. Cal. of Pat. 1334–8, p. 308. Poultney gave to the bishop and his successors in return the right of appointing one of the chaplains. Ibid. 319. See Wilson, op. cit. 36.
  • 31. Pat. 26 Hen. VI, pt. 1, m. 11, in Tanner, Notit. Mon.
  • 32. Hasted, Hist. of Kent, ii, 758.
  • 33. Cal. of Pat. 1348–50, pp 130, 132.
  • 34. Ibid. 1381–5, p. 527; Dugdale, Hist. of Warw. 337.
  • 35. Hasted, op. cit. i, 435–6.
  • 36. Cal. of Pat. 1338–40, p. 104.
  • 37. Ibid. 1345–8, p. 73.
  • 38. In Poultney's will. Wilson, op. cit. 58.
  • 39. Newcourt, Repert. Eccl. Lond. i, 389.
  • 40. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. ix, App. i, 14.
  • 41. Sharpe, Cal. of Wills, ii, 330.
  • 42. Cal. of Pat. 1399–1401, p. 175. He appears to have been presented by the king.
  • 43. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. ix, App. i, 6.
  • 44. Cal. Pap. Letters, vi, 292. He was then subdean of Wells, and held prebends in St. David's, Hoo in Hastings, and other places.
  • 45. Wilson, op. cit. 58, says he was master for more than seven years, and then exchanged his office for the rectory of St. Mary Abchurch.
  • 46. Newcourt, op. cit. i, 389.
  • 47. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. ix, App. i, 28; Wilson, op. cit. 58.
  • 48. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. ix, App. i, 16.
  • 49. Wilson, op. cit. 58.
  • 50. Newcourt, op. cit. i, 389.
  • 51. Ibid. i, 389.
  • 52. Ibid.
  • 53. Ibid.
  • 54. Ibid.
  • 55. Newcourt, op. cit. i, 389. He was presented by the king, as were his successors. Wilson, op. cit. 60.
  • 56. Newcourt, op. cit. i, 389.
  • 57. Ibid.
  • 58. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xi, 1417 (29).
  • 59. Ibid.
  • 60. Ibid. xiii (2), 491 (14).
  • 61. Ibid.
  • 62. Add. Chart. 211.
  • 63. Wilson, op. cit. 60.
  • 64. B.M. Seals, lxviii, 60. This appears to be the same as the seal of Robert Witney, master in the latter half of the fourteenth century, shown in Wilson, op. cit. 33. In the engraving, however, one of the saints appears to be male (? St. Laurence), and the legend is given as:—SIGILLU. ROBERTI . . .