A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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38. THE COLLEGE OF ST. MARY MAGDALEN, BATTLEFIELD
The principal object of Battlefield College was to provide intercession for the souls of those slain in the battle of Shrewsbury (1403), on the site of which its church was built. (fn. 1) Although Henry IV provided the bulk of its endowment and figured as founder in 1410 (fn. 2) the college owed its inception not to the king but to Roger Ive, its first master. Ive, member of a burgess family of Shrewsbury, had been Rector of Albright Hussey, the parish in which Battlefield lay, since 1398. (fn. 3) In 1406 he obtained licence to acquire a two-acre site in Hateley Field from Richard Hussey, the lord of the manor, with the object of building a chapel there so that daily masses might be celebrated by himself and a fellow-chaplain for the souls of the slain. (fn. 4) The site was described in some detail in 1410; (fn. 5) it was surrounded by a ditch with two 20-foot entrances to the north and south and within it was the large common grave in which most of the dead from the battle had been buried.
The evolution of Battlefield as a college of priests from its beginnings as a simple chantry chapel seems to have been the result of negotiations, 1406-10, between Ive, Hussey, and the Crown. In March 1409, when Ive had nearly finished building the body of the church, (fn. 6) it was constituted a perpetual chantry, to be served by 7 chaplains and a master, and was to be independent of the mother-church of Albright Hussey. (fn. 7) Licence was given for the chaplains to acquire lands and later in that year they obtained a crown grant of the advowson of St. Michael's-on-Wyre (Lancs.), with licence to appropriate it. (fn. 8) This scheme was evidently found unsatisfactory. Having surrendered the chapel to the Crown early in 1410, (fn. 9) Ive obtained a fresh foundation charter in May of that year. (fn. 10) This was addressed to Ive alone, appointed him master, and reduced the number of chaplains to five. It provided that Battlefield should be united with the benefice of Albright Hussey and vested the office of master in successive rectors of that church. The Crown increased its original endowment by the addition of the advowsons of Shifnal (including Dawley chapel) and of the chapel of St. Michael in the Castle, Shrewsbury (including Shrewsbury St. Julian and Ford chapels), both of which were to be appropriated. Further clauses exempted the master from taxation on his spiritualities and temporalities and granted him the right to hold an annual fair at Battlefield on the patronal feast day (22 July). It is perhaps significant that a papal confirmation of October 1410 (fn. 11) refers to Battlefield for the first time as a college and not simply as a perpetual chantry. As patrons of Albright Hussey the Hussey family were also patrons of Battlefield and they maintained a close connexion with the college throughout its history. Prayers for their welfare were among the services required of the chaplains of 1410 (fn. 12) and two members of the family became masters in the early 16th century. (fn. 13)
Until his resignation in 1447 the college was dominated by the strong personality of Roger Ive. He seems to have regarded the endowments secured in 1410 as adequate for its maintenance. A small piece of land near the college in Harlescott was bought in 1421 (fn. 14) and in 1428 lands there and in Albright Hussey were leased from Shrewsbury Abbey, (fn. 15) but the only substantial addition was the township of Aston in Shifnal, acquired before 1444. (fn. 16) Solvency may, however, have been maintained at the expense of the college's obligations to its appropriated churches, for there were complaints of neglect at Ford in the 1440s. (fn. 17) Throughout its history the college seems to have relied on alms to cover expenditure on the fabric of the church and its other buildings. Indulgences to stimulate almsgiving were obtained from the bishop of Hereford in 1418, (fn. 18) from the Pope in 1423 (fn. 19) and 1443, (fn. 20) and from the bishop of Lichfield in 1460, (fn. 21) while proctors of the college are found collecting alms, nominally for the fabric and new buildings, in 1461, (fn. 22) 1480, (fn. 23) 1484, (fn. 24) and 1525. (fn. 25)
The charter of 1410 had vested the site of the college and its endowments in Roger Ive and he also regarded as his property the furnishings and other contents of the church and communal collegiate buildings. In the years immediately before his resignation he took steps to ensure that the college should not suffer when it ceased to be a proprietary establishment. By his will of 1444 (fn. 26) he directed that he should be buried in a stone tomb near the high altar, and he granted the church plate, vestments, and service books, together with a dwelling house, kitchen, and buttery with their furniture, to the five chaplains as the endowment of a chantry for his soul. The will also apportioned the revenues between the master and chaplains and laid down rules of conduct. The master was alloted the income from the appropriated churches of Shifnal and Shrewsbury St. Julian and rents from Aston in Shifnal. The chaplains, who were to pay 5 marks a year for their board, were required to have dinner and supper together in the hall, not in their own chambers. They were not to absent themselves without leave and were forbidden to keep women inside the college or elsewhere on pain of expulsion. Their salaries, up to that time 8 marks apiece, were to be drawn from the revenues of St. Michael's-on-Wyre. An additional 2 marks apiece was to be paid them if they celebrated daily for Ive's soul and kept an obit on the anniversary of the battle of Shrewsbury for Ive, members of the Hussey family, and others. They might also receive the revenues of Ford chapel if they celebrated a weekly requiem on Mondays for the same intentions. The liturgy to be observed on high feast days was set out in some detail.
The college's immunity from taxation, based on the charter of 1410, was tested in what appears to have been a collusive action in the Exchequer in 1445 (fn. 27) and confirmed later in that year. (fn. 28) There is some evidence too that at about this time significant additions were being made to the church fabric and fittings. Although the tower at Battlefield church was probably not completed until c. 1500, during the mastership of Adam Grafton, (fn. 29) Ive's will makes it clear that building there was in contemplation if not actually in progress by 1444. (fn. 30) The stained glass formerly in the church, depicting the arms of the Hussey family, their relatives and neighbours, has been dated to the years 1434-45 (fn. 31) and the oak statue of Our Lady of Pity, still in the church, probably dates from the same period. (fn. 32)
Ive resigned in 1447 on a pension of £10 a year (fn. 33) and may have been dead by 1454. (fn. 34) His successors appear to have made less impact on the life of the college. Roger Phelips (master 1454-78) built six chambers for the chaplains near the college gateway. (fn. 35) These are thought to have stood within the present churchyard to the south of the church and may have replaced earlier quarters in a three-story building adjoining the south wall of the chancel, of which slight traces remain. (fn. 36) Adam Grafton, who took some part in the completion of the tower, held a number of other preferments, served as chaplain to Prince Edward (later Edward V) at Ludlow, and was successively archdeacon of Salop and Stafford. (fn. 37) He seems to have been living at Withington in 1506 (fn. 38) and it is unlikely that he was ever in residence at the college. His successor John Hussey may also have been non-resident, since he did not appear at the bishop's visitation in 1518. (fn. 39)
No significant additions were made to the endowment of the college after 1447. Its privilege of spiritual jurisdiction in the parish of Shrewsbury St. Julian was evidently called into question soon after Ive's resignation, for the master was inhibited from exercising such jurisdiction in 1454, (fn. 40) but his right to prove wills there was confirmed in 1536. (fn. 41) By the early 16th century the college no longer enjoyed the exemption from taxation which Ive had gone to such pains to procure. (fn. 42) The burden of taxation, together with the pensions due to the former master Adam Grafton, was the chief complaint of the chaplains at the visitation of 1518. (fn. 43) The college statutes were then said to be well observed but, according to the master, they were no longer fully observed in 1524. (fn. 44) The chaplains, however, were obedient and of good character and he intended to make the necessary reforms. One of the chaplains complained that they were being held answerable for the debts of a former master, and another alleged that the present master had carried off the college muniments.
In 1535 the college's gross income was said to be £56 1s. 4d. (fn. 45) Of this sum £3 was derived from rents in Aston, £50 14s. 8d. from the lessees of the rectories of St. Michael's-on-Wyre and Shifnal and of the tithes of Dawley, Shrewsbury St. Julian, Ford, and Albright Hussey, and £2 6s. 8d. from alms and oblations. The master's salary was then put at £34 a year and those of the five chaplains at £4 apiece, but the former was said to be about £20 in 1546 and 1548, when the chaplains each received 8 marks a year, (fn. 46) as had been the practice in the earlier 15th century. There is no evidence that the additional stipends offered in Ive's will were ever paid. If the terms upon which Roger Mosse was admitted as a chaplain in 1546 were typical each chaplain was given the use of a garden and fishpond in the college orchard in addition to a chamber. (fn. 47) Edward Shorde, one of the chaplains, obtained a lease for life of the chapels of St. Michael in the Castle and St. Julian in 1542 (fn. 48) and it is possible that this living, being close to the college, was normally served by the chaplains in person, but by 1548 the rectory of St. Julian had been leased to the college's patron Richard Hussey. (fn. 49) Ive's will contains references to an almshouse or hospital at the college (fn. 50) and a deponent in a lawsuit of 1581 recalled going to school there as a boy, (fn. 51) but no expenditure is recorded under either of these heads in or after 1535.
The formal dissolution of the college seems to have taken place early in 1548, for a pension of 10 marks was assigned to the master in June of that year, (fn. 52) but the master and five chaplains were still in residence in November. (fn. 53) By this date the church had replaced Albright Hussey chapel as the parish church, (fn. 54) the parish being subsequently styled Battlefield. Edward Shorde was retained as curate at a stipend of £5 a year and was assigned quarters in the 'curate's chamber'. (fn. 55)
The site of the college, the rectory of St. Julian, Albright Hussey chapel, tithes in Harlescott, market stalls near the college, and the tolls of Battlefield fair were granted in 1549 to John Cowper and Richard Trevor, (fn. 56) who conveyed the Harlescott tithes to Thomas Ireland later in that year (fn. 57) and presumably disposed of the remainder soon afterwards, for the college site is found in the possession of the Hussey family until 1638. (fn. 58) Lands in St. Michael's-on-Wyre were also sold in 1549 (fn. 59) and the estate at Aston in Shifnal in 1553. (fn. 60) Shifnal rectory and Ford church were retained by the Crown until 1588 (fn. 61) and 1590 (fn. 62) respectively and the rectory of St. Michael's-onWyre until the early 17th century. (fn. 63)
Apart from the feature on the south wall of the chancel no remains of the college are now standing; it was probably demolished soon after the Dissolution. Depressions in the field to the south of the churchyard are thought to mark the site of the college fishponds (fn. 64) but neither these nor the site of the college buildings have ever been excavated. A description of the church is reserved for a later volume.
Masters of Battlefield College
An oval seal of the master, attached to a deed of 1530, (fn. 79) measures 21/8 × 15/8 in. It shows the Virgin, with Child, standing under a canopy. There are shields of arms to the right (Henry IV) and left (Roger Ive) surmounted by swords erect, and beneath is the kneeling figure of Roger Ive. Legend, black letter:
SIGILLUM COMMUNE DOMINI ROGERI IVE PRIMI MAGISTRI ET SUCCESSORUM SUORUM COLLEGII BEATE MARIE MAGDALENE IUXTA SALOP
In his will Roger Ive directed that a new seal should be made on the ground that the first seal had been forged. This was to bear the same legend but its device included figures of the Holy Trinity, St. Mary Magdalen, and St. John the Baptist. (fn. 80) No impression of such a seal is known and it may never have been made.