Colleges: Cotterstock

A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.

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, 'Colleges: Cotterstock', in A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2, (London, 1906) pp. 166-170. British History Online [accessed 30 May 2024].

. "Colleges: Cotterstock", in A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2, (London, 1906) 166-170. British History Online, accessed May 30, 2024,

. "Colleges: Cotterstock", A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2, (London, 1906). 166-170. British History Online. Web. 30 May 2024,

In this section



The retired village of Cotterstock is remarkable as having been the seat of one of the largest—probably the largest—colleges of private foundation, of a chantry character, throughout the kingdom.

John Gifford, clerk, rector of the church of Cotterstock, resigned the living in 1317, and being then possessed of considerable means, farmed the manor or rectory, and eventually purchased them. He was one of numerous instances of servants of the crown to whom was granted a variety of benefices, and he eventually became a considerable pluralist. In May, 1313, he was attached to the service of Queen Isabella, and in that capacity obtained letters of protection to accompany her across the seas; a passport for similar reasons was granted him in February, 1314. (fn. 1) He gained the special favour of the queen, and soon afterwards became steward of her lands beyond Trent, a position of considerble importance. This office he held until 1330, when the queen dowager having resigned to the king all her castles, boroughs, honours, hundreds, manors, and lands beyond Trent, John Gifford became steward and surveyor of the same under the crown, and was henceforth known as a king's clerk. He was deputy justice of South Wales, 1331-2, and afterwards for a time justice, and held a variety of other crown appointments.

In 1332 he was appointed to the prebend of Grindale, as a canon of York, where he occasionally resided, and about the same date he was also given the Wells prebend of St. Decuman, and the Salisbury prebend of Yat minster Netherbury. (fn. 2) In 1336 John Gifford received the very lucrative appointment of master of the wealthy hospital of St. Leonard's, York. (fn. 3) All these benefices he held until his death from the plague in 1349.

Affection for his native county and the place of his first preferment, coupled with great loyalty to his royal benefactors, was probably the motive that caused Gifford to establish so considerable a college at Cotterstock.

Between 1317 and 1333 John Gifford made four appointments to the rectory of Cotterstock, the last being John Ward of Holt. In February, 1335, the said John Ward and his brother Peter acknowledged their indebtedness to Gifford for the sum of eighty marks, to be levied on their lands and chattels in the county. (fn. 4) It was just at this time that Gifford began to formulate his plans for a college on a great scale, and through the rector's indebtedness to him was doubtless able to prevent any opposition from that quarter. The Patent Rolls have a variety of full entries sanctioning the first inception of this project and its gradual accomplishment; but it was not until 5 December, 1339, that the scheme received the necessary episcopal sanction, whilst the formal appropriation of the rectory to the college was only accomplished on 19 February following. (fn. 5) When the rectory was appropriated, the bishop of Lincoln retained a pension out of it of 40s., the dean and chapter of Lincoln of 20s., and the archdeacon of Northampton of 6s. 8d. (fn. 6)

This college, or very large chantry, was to consist of a provost, twelve chaplains, who might be either secular or religious, and two clerks, to say daily mass in the church for the good estate of the queen dowager as well as of the king and queen and their children, and for their souls after death; and for the good estate of John Gifford and his brother William and heirs, and afterwards for their souls, as well as for the souls of their parents, and of all benefactors of the college. The charter, granted by the king on 23 June, 1338, was evidently regarded as a document of grave importance. It is witnessed by many magnates of the realm, the first being the archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 7) The original endowments for sustaining this great foundation were the manor of Cotterstock, with two mills, an acre of meadow at Pirho, a certain fishery in the waters of the Nen, eighty-five acres in the forest of Rockingham, with pasture rights throughout the whole forest, and the advowson and rectory of Cotterstock, together with the advowson of the hospital of Pirho. The king also granted the provost and chaplains free warren over their forest lands, and immunity from every conceivable kind of toll. In acknowledgement of these special quittances to the college of St. Andrew's, Cotterstock, John Gifford paid over to the collectors of the customs of wool in the port of Kingston-upon-Hull twenty sacks of wool. (fn. 8)

A confirmation of the first charter of endowment, granted 21 April, 1340, gives a variety of interesting additional particulars. In addition to lands, John Gifford granted to the provost and his twelve chaplains the following chattels:— 21 oxen, 6 plough horses, 6 cart horses, 24 cows, 2 bulls, 500 sheep (of which 40 were muttons and 100 ewes), 6 sows with 80 swine and little pigs (half of the age of one year or more), 40 swine of the age of two years or more, and 2 boars.

The full dedication of the college or chantry was in honour of the most Holy Trinity, and of the glorious and most blessed Virgin Mary, the most sweet Mother of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the blessed Apostles, and especially of the blessed Andrew, and of All Saints in the church of St. Andrew of Cotterstock. The provost and chaplains should be men of letters and of good fame, free from all forms of luxury and from quarrels and strifes; they should study divinity after the example of the blessed Titus and Timothy, and strive to be a fragrant example to other priests. On the death or resignation of the provost, the chaplains should within ten days choose two of their number the best fitted to succeed, and send their names to the bishop of Lincoln, who within ten days of such presentation should collate one of the two to the provostship; in default of the bishop or his vicar-general, the collation was to pass to the chapter of the cathedral church of Lincoln. The provost was to take an oath of personal and continuous residence at the chantry. The provost, with three or four of the chaplains, should prepare a balance-sheet of the affairs of the college yearly, about the first day of May. On a vacancy among the chaplains, the provost and chaplains should choose another within twenty days, and to insure the vacancy being speedily filled were ordered to fast on bread and water every day until the appointment was made. Each chaplain was to take an oath of canonical obedience to the provost. The two clerks were to be men of regular life, and thoroughly competent to read and sing. Mattins, and the other hours up to vespers, in addition to masses, were to be solemnly sung daily in the chancel at the accustomed times after the use of Sarum, and that distinctly and fitly with good psalmody. The hebdomadarian was to be careful, when singing the daily hours, before each prayer to pronounce slowly the 'Hail, Mary.' The mass of Our Lady was to be sung daily, as well as a mass de Angelis for Queen Isabella whilst living, and a mass de defunctis after her death; the chaplains were then to return to the choir and sing another mass, with deacon and subdeacon in dalmatic and tunicle as laid down in the use of Sarum. The mass Salus populi was also to be daily celebrated. Every Sunday there was to be mass of the Trinity; on Monday, of the blessed Andrew; on Tuesday, of St. Thomas of Canterbury; on Wednesday, of St. John Baptist; on Thursday, of Corpus Christi; on Friday, of the Holy Cross; and on Saturday, of St. Martin.

There was also to be sung daily another mass for the dead, or of some special saint, according to the rota laid down by the provost. Each chaplain celebrating mass should remember the founder and other benefactors, the kings and queens of England and their progenitors and children, the father, mother, and relations of the founder, Henry, bishop of Lincoln, and the canons of the cathedral church; William de Kyrkeby, Christina his wife, John de Honby, John Knyvet, Joan his wife, Richard Knyvet, Joan his wife, and Walter de Honby, their heirs and children. The anniversaries of Queen Isabella, and of the founder and his parents, were to be specially observed after the use of Sarum. The provost and chaplains were to be clad in black or russet colour, without red, and when in church at the divine offices they were to wear black tippets with black fur or lining and surplices or rochets, after the manner of the vicars of the church of Lincoln. But from Easter Eve to the festival of the Exaltation of the Cross it was permitted to lay aside the copes, and to wear only the surplices. They were to have large definite and uniform crowns to their tonsures, suitable for canons. The provost and chaplains were to live in common, and not to have more than two kinds of fish or flesh. On Sundays and festivals their meals were to be neither too slender nor too excessive. All their meals were to be in the hall or frater, when there was to be silence, one of their number reading from the Bible (de biblia) or the lives of the saints. Their goods were to be in common, neither provost nor chaplains selling anything or appropriating it to his sole use. The provost was to have yearly 40s. for his necessary purposes and for the honour of the chantry, and to give a strict account of its expenditure. The chaplains were all to sleep in a common dormitory, without any division, but the provost, with his various occupations, might have a separate chamber. The infirm were to occupy another room, and to have suitable food. The provost and brethren were yearly to choose one of their number who was to be called the college warden (custos collegii), who should rule in the absence of the provost. Another was to be appointed sacrist, and have charge of the books, ornaments, and lights of the church, and of all valuables, books, vestments, and silver of the college, and specially of two silver cups, one of which he should retain and the other be kept with the muniments. The warden should be responsible for the administration during the vacancy of the provostship. No chaplain should play at tables either out of doors or in houses or elsewhere, nor visit anywhere save for some special reason, and with the leave of the provost or warden. Nevertheless he might once a year visit his friends by leave of the provost. A small bell was to be rung for dinner and supper. The common seal was to be kept under four different keys in the respective custody of the provost and three chaplains selected by the rest; the seal only to be used by common consent, or at the will of the majority. The founder reserved to himself, during his life, with the consent of the ordinary, full power of interpreting, correcting, adding to, diminishing, and altering the statutes of the college. (fn. 9)

The possessions of the college were increased in 1343 by certain tithes in Horshaw and Calonheye, (fn. 10) in 1345 by Thomas Wake, of Blisworth, who gave them two hundred and fifty acres of land in the forests of Rockingham and Whittlebury; (fn. 11) and in 1357 by several messuages and ninety-six acres of land in Cotterstock, Glapthorn, and Southwick, from Richard de Spalding, chaplain, and three other donors. (fn. 12)

A difficulty speedily arose with respect to the royal gift of the tithes of the wastes and assarts (forest clearings) of Horshaw and Calonheye, which were within Rockingham Forest. The gift exempted such wastes and assarts as were within a parish that had a parish church, and the parson of Kingscliffe wrongfully received them, for Horshaw and Calonheye were extraparochial. The provost and brethren of Cotterstock took action against the Kingscliffe parson, but when the matter came into the ecclesiastical courts no cognizance could be taken of the suit, for these courts knew nothing of such terms as 'wastes' or 'assarts'! Thereupon, in 1347, the college of Cotterstock petitioned for a more explicit definition of the king's grant, and the crown entered on the Patent Rolls that they were entitled to the tithes of all wastes and assarts or clearings in woods, lawns, heys, and parks outside parish boundaries. (fn. 13)

In 1403 the provost and chaplains secured confirmation from Henry IV. of the charter of Edward III. on payment of four marks, (fn. 14) and in 1468 the college secured a like favour from Edward IV. for half that sum. (fn. 15)

The last institution of a rector of the church of Cotterstock was that of William de Stoke on 17 December, 1339, on the presentation of the provost and brethren of Gifford's chantry, with the express consent of Canon Gifford. (fn. 16)

There is a beautiful canopied brass, nearly perfect, to the memory of Provost Wyntryngham, who resigned in 1398, on the south side of the chancel. The provost wears a full surplice with wide hanging sleeves and a canon's tippet with long ends; over this is a cope with orfreys and a clasp embroidered with fleurs-de-lis. The hands are joined in prayer; at the wrists are shown not only portions of the sleeves or cuffs of the cassock but also of an inner vest. The figure stands under an arched canopy with crocketed finial and pinnacles; the base of the canopy rests on a bracket supported by a single pillar. Round the margin of the stone is a ribbon inscription, having the evangelistic symbols at the corners. The legend runs:—'Hic jacet magister Robertus Wyntryngham, nuper Canonicus Ecclĩe Cath. Lincolñ et Prebendarius de Ledyngton ac Prepositus prepositur, sive Cantarie de Cotherstoke qui obiit quinto die julii Anno domini Mill†o ccccxx cujus amime (sic) ppicietur Deus. Amen.'Between every word one and sometimes two cinquefoils are engraved, and one between each letter of the final Amen, so as to fill up the space. The whole is a particularly nice example of its date.

Bridges gives a list of fourteen provosts (and their patrons), from the Lincoln register, appointed between the death of Wyntyrngham and Edmund Oliver, who was the last to hold office as warden of the college. (fn. 17) It is remarkable that the right of appointing the head of the college, from 1398 down to its dissolution, passed from the college itself to the lord of the second or Holt manor of Cotterstock. Members of the Holt family or their trustees presented to the provostship until the death of Richard Holt without issue in 1452, when Simon Norwiche was declared heir. Simon's grandson of the same name, after prolonged litigation, secured the manor of Cotterstock and consequently wrecked the college, which was formally dissolved in 1536.

The Valor of the previous year, when the college was under Provost Richard King, gives the profits of the rectory, house, glebe, and certain rents at £46 18s. 2d. From this there was deducted the bishop's pension of 40s., the dean's and chapter's of 20s., the archdeacon's of 5s., the prior of Fineshade's of 6s. 8d., and procurations and synodals 10s. 7d., leaving the net income at £42 15s. 11d. (fn. 18) Much of the original endowment had by this time disappeared.

In the Chantry and College certificates, temp. Henry VIII., Cotterstock is described as a hospital or college, and it is stated that it was dissolved on 4 February, 1536. The document of dissolution was exhibited to the commissioners by Edmund Oliver, late provost of the college, (fn. 19) by whom it was stated that the provosts, since the first foundation in the time of Edward III., had been parsons of the benefice and church of Cotterstock, and the parsonage there their chief mansion house; that John Craye, at Michaelmas 1538, by a writ of entry recovered against Edward Astwick, (fn. 20) late provost, the manor of Cotterstock, 12 messuages, two mills, two dove-houses, 400 acres of arable land, 100 acres of meadow, 400 acres of pasture, 100 acres of wood, etc., as well as lands in Glapthorn, Southwick, and Benefield; that Symon Norwiche, Esquire, patron of the church of Cotterstock, entered into the premises, and various discords and suits began; that eventually judgment was given by the Lord Chancellor and others on 28 November, 1539, in favour of Norwiche's title to the manor lands.

The provost-manor of Cotterstock was granted by Edward VI. to Sir Robert Kirkham, (fn. 21) who occupied the large collegiate or chantry house near the east end of the church. As the college gradually lost its lands the number of the chaplains was perforce considerably reduced. Leland, writing about 1538, says:—'Malory (fn. 22) told me that there was a late Collegiate Church at Cotterstoke almost in the middle way betwixt Foderingey and Undale, but cuming from Foderingey onto Undale it standith a little out of the way on the right hand. In this College was a Mr., a three prestes, and a three clerks. The Parsonage of Cotterstock was appropriate to it, and praty Landes beside. One Gifford was, as I hard, the first Founder of it. One Nores clayming to be Founder even of late hath gotten away the Landes that longid to it. So that now remainith only the Benefice to it.' (fn. 23)

Provosts of Cotterstock (fn. 24)

Richard Catel, instituted 1340

William of Walcote, instituted 1341

Robert Hokkle, instituted 1349

Robert of Wyntryngham, resigned 1398

William Smyth alias of Wyntryngham, instituted 1398

Robert of Wyntryngham, reappointed 1401

John Bishopestre, instituted 1420

William Maydewall, instituted 1420

John Grendon, occurs 1432

Robert Yerburgh, instituted 1434

Richard Hephyll, instituted 1439

Thomas Salysbury, instituted 1444.

John Sconce alias Burgh, instituted 1447

Walter Oudeby, instituted 1467

John Deye, instituted 1498

Robert Barnard, instituted 1510

Robert Letheley, instituted 1521

George Malory, instituted 1528

Edward Astwick, instituted 1532

Richard King, occurs 1535

Edmond Oliver, (fn. 25) occurs 1536


  • 1. Pat. 6 Edw. II. pt. 2, m. 9; 7 Edw. II. pt. 2, m. 22.
  • 2. Le Neve, Fasti Eccl. Angl. i. 196, iii. 190, and Pat. 14 Edw. III. pt. 2, m. 22.
  • 3. Close, 10 Edw. III. m. 19d. Separate letters nominating attorneys to act for him as holder of these three prebends and the hospital mastership were granted in the year 1340, when he was about to visit the court of Rome; at the same time other letters of attorney were granted him as lord of Cotterstock. Pat. 14 Edw. III. pt. 2, m. 22.
  • 4. Close, 9 Edw. III. m. 35d.
  • 5. Pat. 10 Edw. III. pt. 3, m. 40; 11 Edw. III. pt. 3, m. 6; 12 Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 2; pt. 2, m. 34; 14 Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 14; Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. of Burghersh, f. 232.
  • 6. Pat. 14 Edw. III. pt. 2, m. 15.
  • 7. Chart. R. 12 Edw. III. No. 15.
  • 8. Pat. 12 Edw. III. pt. 3, m. 11.
  • 9. Pat. 14 Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 3 and 4.
  • 10. Close, 17 Edw. III. m. 5.
  • 11. Rot. Fin. 19 Edw. III. m. 28. This gift was confirmed by the bishop in the same year. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. of Beck, f. 52.
  • 12. Inq. p.m. 31 Edw. III. No. 23.
  • 13. Close, 17 Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 5; Pat. 21 Edw. III. pt. 3, m. 27.
  • 14. Rot. Fin. 4 Hen. IV. m. 4.
  • 15. Pat. 8 Edw. IV. pt. 2, m. 10.
  • 16. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. of Burghersh.
  • 17. Bridges, Hist. of Northants, ii. 439, 440.
  • 18. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv. 293.
  • 19. Oliver must have succeeded King in 1535, directly after the Valor was taken. He was instituted as vicar of Cotterstock in 1544 by the bishop of Peterborough.
  • 20. Instituted 22 September, 1532.
  • 21. Pat. 1 Edw. VI. pt. 6.
  • 22. George Malory was provost from 1528 to 1532.
  • 23. Leland, Itin. (Hearne ed.), iv, 29.
  • 24. This list is taken from the Lincoln registers cited by Bridges, Hist. of Northants, ii. 439–40.
  • 25. The last provost must have been appointed after the Valor of 1535.