A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.
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113. THE COLLEGE OF RUSHWORTH (fn. 1)
Sir Edmund de Gonvile, founder of Gonvile Hall, Cambridge, was both rector and patron of Rushworth (now Rushford), when he formed the plan of making Rushworth a collegiate church. On 7 May, 1341, he obtained licence for the alienation in mortmain of a messuage in Rushworth, and the rectory of the church for two chaplains to celebrate daily for his good estate in life, and for his soul after death, and for the souls of his ancestors and heirs. (fn. 2) In 1342, Sir Edmund resigned the rectory of Rushworth, and was instituted to that of Terrington, where he died in 1350. On his resignation the college was ordained on a larger scale than was at first intended, and consisted of a master or warden and four brethren or fellows. The fellows were to elect the master and present him at Larling, the principal seat of the Gonvilles, to the founder's heirs if there were any there residing; he was then to be presented to the bishop and installed by mandate to the archdeacon. The church was appropriated to the college without any endowment for a vicar, for the cure of the parish was laid upon the master, who had to pay eight marks for firstfruits at the time of his appointment.
The master and fellows were to lodge and board in the same house, and always to use a common table save when hindered by sickness. For other necessaries, such as clothing, the master was to have an annual stipend of 50s. and each of the fellows 30s. Any fellow leaving the college was to assign half his goods to the house. All were enjoined to lead honest, modest, quiet, peaceable, and chaste lives, quatenus humana permittit fragilitas. Offences were to be corrected by the master in chapter, more religiosorum. Collects for the founder and for their benefactors, living and dead, were to be said daily in chapter after Mass. All the brethren, or at least four, were to rise at dawn and say mattins of Our Lady without music in the church of Rushworth, and afterwards to sing mattins and the other canonical day hours according to the use of the diocese. There were to be four daily Masses: namely, High Mass, Lady Mass, and Mass for the departed, in the church; and the Mass of the Holy Trinity, in the chapel annexed to their dormitory. The anniversary of Edmund Gonville was to be solemnly observed. All from the college, whenever they were in the church, were to wear a white mantle or cope with hood or amice, save those who were in surplices or other ecclesiastical vestments. Outside the church they were to conduct themselves in gesture, dress, and in every particular as became honest clerks. They were forbidden to stay a single night away from the college without the express leave of the master or his deputy. The master was to present a complete balance-sheet every Michaelmas. (fn. 3)
In 1409 Alexander Thelyk, the master, obtained the sanction of Pope Gregory XII to appropriate to the mastership, to be held in conjunction with it, one other benefice with cure of souls; but on condition that in that event he was not to receive his stipend of 50s. over and above the benefit of the church of Rush worth. The petition to the pope set forth that it had been the intention of the founder to endow this college (for a master and five chaplains) much better, but that he had died before this could be accomplished, and that the master had to discharge much hospitality as the college was near a great road. The bishop of Norwich's assent being given, Alexander was presented, in 1414, to the rectory of Larling by the fellows, and held it with the mastership till his death. This arrangement, however, broke down; for, though the fellows of the college of Rushworth continued to present to. the, rectory of Larling until their dissolution, no subsequent master was appointed thereto.
In 1387 Richard II granted licence to the college for a further endowment up to the annual value of forty marks; and on 1 July, 1389, leave was given to Anne, wife of the late Sir Robert Wingfield, Sir John Hevenyngham, Sir William Calthorp, William Berdwell, and Henry Spelman, to assign the manors of Rushworth and Larling, of the annual value of £22, in part satisfaction of the forty marks. (fn. 4)
In 1485 Lady Anne Wingfield, heiress of Gonville, who died in 1500, re-settled the manors of Rushworth and Larling on the college, with further augmentation of the endowment, for her soul's health and that of her three husbands. (fn. 5) Two chantry priests or additional fellows were appointed, to be termed Dame Anne's priests, to sing ' for the wele of her soule, and her husbandes, and anncestres, and kynnesfolkes soules, and for all those for whiche she was mooste specially bounden to pray.' By indenture of 1490 with this benefactress the master and fellows were bound to support five children, called Dame Anne's children, to be nominated in turns by the master and fellows. Their duty was to wait on the fellows, for which they were to be taught the service of God in the church. These five children, who lived in the college, and eight other poor children, were to. be taught by one of the two chantry priests, who was always to be ' well studyd and lernyd in gramer.' As each child came to the age of eighteen he was to be removed and another appointed. An indenture of 1501, by the executors of ' Dame Anne Lady Scrop,' increased the children in the college from five to seven.
By his will of 1492, William Halliday, the senior fellow, left certain lands to the college to keep the south porch of the church in repair. He also gave a good stone house in Rushworth to the college to be used as a gild hall (for the gild of St. John Baptist) or as a hostelry for guests when there was not room for them at any time in the college.
George Windham, last master, and five chaplains or fellows, subscribed to the royal supremacy on 25 August, 1534. (fn. 6)
According to the Valor of the following year the rectory of Rushworth was worth 109s. 10½d. a year, and the manors of Rushworth, Brettenham, Larling, and Elveden (Suffolk), £84 9s. 1½d. The clear annual value of the college -was £85 15s. 0½d. Among the outgoings was the sum of 71s. 8d. for the feeding and clothing of seven boys (Dame Anne's), and 20s. as stipend for the priest who instructed them.
George Windham, the last master, was archdeacon of Norwich from 1528 until his death in 1543, and was also precentor of St. Paul's, London, from 1531 to 1543.
The college was surrendered on 6 December, 1541, by Windham and three of the fellows, (fn. 7) and the whole possessions were at once granted to Henry, earl of Surrey. (fn. 8)
Masters of Rushworth College (fn. 9)
Nicholas de Wrotham, 1349
Hugh Herbert, 1351
Thomas de Wattone, 1354
Thomas Heyward, 1364
Thomas Le Mey, 1371
Robert de Asschele, 1374
Robert de Wortham, 1376
Robert Carter, 1381
Alexander Thelyk, 1385
Edmund Cooper, 1421
Thomas Sygo, 1436
Robert Crask, 1443
John Wurlych, 1443
Edmund Coupere, 1444
Ralph Beauford, 1446
Lawrence Gerard, 1450
Henry Costesey, 1472 (fn. 10)
John Bulman, 1483
John Brennys, 1508
Edward Anson, 1526
George Windham, 1529
The fourteenth-century seal (fn. 11) of this college is oval (1¾ + 1¼ in.) and shows, under a canopied niche crowned with crocketed pinnacles, a small figure (? a priest), kneeling in adoration to a saint standing upon a dragon and carrying in the right hand a palm branch. Below is a shield of arms— a bend charged with three (? scallop shells). Legend:—
. . . COM' SCI . IOH'IS EWA . . . EL DE RUSSCHEWORTH