Colleges: Stafford, St Mary

A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.

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'Colleges: Stafford, St Mary', in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3, (London, 1970) pp. 303-309. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]

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The existence of a group of canons in Stafford before the Conquest is attested only by Domesday Book. (fn. 1) In 1086 there were 13 of them, described as the king's prebendary canons, who held 14 messuages in Stafford and 3 hides, probably in Whitgreave and Butterton. (fn. 2)

By the beginning of Stephen's reign the church of Stafford, like that of Penkridge, was held in chief by Jordan, clerk to Roger de Fécamp, probably by grant of Henry I. (fn. 3) The two churches were given by Stephen in 1136 to the bishop and cathedral churches of Coventry and Lichfield; (fn. 4) the bishop's possession of them was confirmed by the Pope in 1139, 1144, and 1152. (fn. 5) The church of Stafford, like other royal property alienated by Stephen, returned to the Crown under Henry II (fn. 6) who appointed Robert and probably also Robert's predecessor, William de C., the first known deans of Stafford. (fn. 7) Although a royal chapel, Stafford was still apparently not claiming exemption from the bishop's authority as late as the end of the 12th century. In 1199 one of the canons appealed to the protection of either the bishop or the dean in a dispute about his prebendal lands. (fn. 8) Four years later, however, another canon in similar circumstances invoked the dean alone. (fn. 9)

There is no obvious explanation of the tradition, recorded in 1546 and 1548, that King John was the founder of the collegiate church. (fn. 10) Canons and deans of Stafford are known before his time, but it is possible that the dedication to St. Mary was due to him: the first mention of it belongs to his reign. (fn. 11) The earlier parts of the present church date from the late 12th century. (fn. 12) Perhaps John promoted the building and a new dedication. (fn. 13) This church may have had a predecessor on the same site, or may have replaced as the collegiate church the adjoining Saxon church dedicated to St. Bertelin (fn. 14) which continued alongside St. Mary's and preserved a separate though allied existence. (fn. 15)

The king usually appointed to the deaneries of royal chapels clerks in his service whom he wished to reward. This system had advantages, for royal servants, though much occupied, were often influential men of outstanding ability. Henry III sent frequent gifts to Stafford while two clerks of his household chapel, Walter of Lench and Simon of Offham, were deans: timber for repairs to the canons' stalls and the building of a belfry in 1244; more timber in 1246 and 1255; venison, pike, and bream for the dean in 1234, 1249, and 1250. (fn. 16) He also backed the dean and chapter's claims to dependent chapels. With royal support, the right of St. Mary's to the burial of the parishioners of the chapel of Tixall and the institution of its chaplain was vindicated in 1247. (fn. 17) The advowson of Castle Church was recovered from Stone Priory in 1255, when Henry III declared that it was in the gift of the dean like the prebends of Stafford. (fn. 18) In 1258 the king sued on behalf of St. Mary's for the advowson of the chapel of Middle Aston in Steeple Aston (Oxon.), claimed as a dependency of Hopton church. (fn. 19)

Even more important was the king's support of the claim to exemption from the bishop's jurisdiction. That this exemption had been taken for granted by the Crown is evident from recorded royal appointments to the deanery (the earliest belongs to 1207), (fn. 20) for it was to the sheriff that the king sent his mandate to institute new deans. There was no dispute until 1244, and then it was not the bishop who was involved, for the see was vacant. Henry III appointed three canons of St. Mary's as his proctors to defend the liberties of the church, (fn. 21) evidently against the archdeacon. (fn. 22) Next year he secured a papal declaration that royal chapels were immune from ordinary jurisdiction. (fn. 23) The new bishop, Roger Weseham, almost immediately obtained a papal letter excluding Stafford and some other churches in the diocese from the terms of the bull, (fn. 24) and he proceeded to hold an ordination in St. Mary's. Henry III continued to assert the privileges of his free chapels (fn. 25) and was said to have established, apparently in a charter, that St. Mary's was a royal chapel enjoying the accompanying immunities. This charter was reported stolen in 1251. (fn. 26) Although when the king re-issued it only secular privileges were specified, it was claimed in 1293 that St. Mary's had become exempt from the bishop's jurisdiction by Henry III's consent. (fn. 27) Certainly Henry III treated Stafford as exempt. In 1247 his attorney objected to matters concerning St. Mary's being heard in court Christian, (fn. 28) and in 1252 he ordered the sheriff to arrest a man excommunicated by the bishop 'unless he be of the liberty of the king's chapel of Stafford'. (fn. 29)

The claim to exemption brought the king into conflict with the diocesan. In 1257, before Weseham's successor, Roger Meuland, had even been consecrated, the king appointed canons of St. Mary's as his proctors to defend the chapel's liberties. (fn. 30) Soon after Meuland's consecration in March 1258 proctors were again appointed, (fn. 31) and in December the bishop came to Stafford with many armed men who, it was claimed, broke down the doors of the church and ill-treated the canons, chaplains, and clerks. The king summoned him before his court, but Meuland claimed benefit of clergy and refused to plead. (fn. 32) He suspended the chapter of Stafford, excommunicated the dean and two leading canons, and sequestrated one of the prebends. (fn. 33) The king personally ordered a justice to inquire into the bishop's jurisdiction over St. Mary's, but this order was later stayed, probably owing to the shortage of judges in 1259. (fn. 34)

Although St. Mary's resisted the bishop's authority, no objection was raised against the archbishop when he came on provincial visitation in 1260. (fn. 35) Perhaps the canons hoped that he would support them against the nearer and more oppressive diocesan. Archbishop Boniface heard their complaint and found against them. The canons claimed that they had a recent papal grant of exemption and, after failing to produce it on this and two later occasions, appealed from the archbishop to Rome. (fn. 36) Urban IV appointed commissioners in England to hear the case, but as they failed to decide it within a year it was remitted to Rome. (fn. 37) Though twice cited the Dean and Chapter of Stafford failed to appear or be represented in Rome, and in 1267 judgment was given in their absence. (fn. 38) The chapter remained suspended and the dean excommunicated. They were to render obedience to their bishop until they produced proof of exemption, and they were to pay the expenses incurred by the bishop in sending his proctor to Rome. It is not clear why the canons failed to defend their cause. Perhaps they could not afford the expense. Perhaps they relied on royal influence at Rome: Meuland had joined Simon de Montfort while papal sympathies were with the king. Certainly they must have suffered from lack of an effective dean. Bevis de Clare, son of the Earl of Gloucester, was appointed to the deanery at the age of eleven in 1259; (fn. 39) when the final judgment was given in 1267 he was still under 19 and already a notable pluralist. (fn. 40)

When Archbishop Pecham came to Stafford in 1280 during his metropolitical visitation the chapter of St. Mary's was still under the papal sentence of suspension and still obdurate. The church was under interdict imposed by the bishop, (fn. 41) but enjoyed the support of the townspeople, who had asked the king whether they should join his free chapel in resisting the archbishop's citation. (fn. 42) Edward I replied ordering them and the Sheriff of Staffordshire to prevent Pecham from entering St. Mary's, and this they did by force. (fn. 43) Despite his conviction that the claim to exemption was baseless, (fn. 44) in deference to the king's wishes Pecham reluctantly consented to whatever settlement might be reached between the king, the royal chapels, and their diocesans. Meuland was now old and infirm whereas Edward I was vigorous and unyielding. The long dispute ended in 1281 with the bishop's capitulation. He recognized the exemption of St. Mary's and five other royal chapels in his diocese from all ordinary jurisdiction. (fn. 45)

The secular privileges of St. Mary's were set out in Henry III's charter of 1251 replacing the earlier charter of the same king which had been stolen. (fn. 46) The dean and chapter had the right to hold a court for themselves and for their tenants in the town of Stafford and in Orberton, Butterton, Worston, and Whitgreave. Their court followed the custom of the king's manors without interference of the sheriff or any other royal officer, and they owed no suit to shire, hundred, or borough courts. They had their own gallows and right of infangentheof and utfangentheof. Their tenants were quit of all customs and tallages except those tallages granted by other exempt churches. In virtue of this charter St. Mary's was declared quit of royal tallages in 1252 and 1253. (fn. 47)

In theory St. Mary's was also exempt from ecclesiastical taxes. Henry III had asserted in 1250 that no prelate had power to tax royal chapels, (fn. 48) but this exemption was not claimed when papal taxes benefited the king. Like the other royal chapels St. Mary's paid the papal tenths granted in 1266 and subsequently. (fn. 49)

The assessments for papal taxes give some indication of the value of the church. In 1268 and 1269 St. Mary's paid £3 6s. 8d., representing a tenth of its assessment, but this valuation of £33 6s. 8d. and all other assessments were superseded by that made for the Taxation of 1291. This gives the total value of St. Mary's as £58 17s. (fn. 50) There are no details of the value of the individual prebends, but it is possible to supply most of these from later documents, since the 1291 assessment was not superseded until 1535. An inquisition of 1428 (fn. 51) quotes the old taxation as follows: the deanery £10 16s. 8d.; the prebend of Marston £6 13s. 4d.; the prebend of Salt £6 13s. 4d.; the prebend of Coton £6 13s. 4d.; the free chapel of Tixall £6 13s. 4d.; the free chapel of Ingestre £3 6s. 8d.; the free chapel of Creswell £3 6s. 8d.; two prebends in Whitgreave £5 and seven small prebends there £10 10s. These items add up to £59 13s. 4d., which is 16s. 4d. more than the total given in 1291. A possible explanation is that some of the prebends of very little value escaped taxation, although in 1428 they were all said to have paid the tenth. At least two of the nine Whitgreave prebends were worth only 2s. 4d.; (fn. 52) one, worth 13s. 4d., was said in 1366 not to have been taxed; (fn. 53) another was worth £1. (fn. 54)

Obviously the only prebends in St. Mary's really worth having were Marston, Salt, and Coton. It was probably one of these which was annexed to the deanery when in 1247 Simon of Offham was authorized by the king to convert to his own use for life whichever of the prebends he chose. (fn. 55) His successors did not enjoy the same privilege: subsequent references to prebendaries (fn. 56) show that neither Marston, Salt, nor Coton can have remained attached to the deanery. It became the practice, however, to unite one of the Whitgreave prebends to the prebend of Marston. In the 13th century two successive sub-deans held Marston with a prebend of Whitgreave. (fn. 57) Such a practice might explain statements made in the 14th century that Alan of Conisbrough in 1328 (fn. 58) and Simon Gentyl in 1366 (fn. 59) held a prebend of Stafford worth £8; no one prebend was valued as highly as that, but Marston (or Salt or Coton) together with a Whitgreave prebend worth 2 marks would make up the total. A Whitgreave prebend was still united to Marston in the 16th century; its property consisted of 40 acres of arable in Whitgreave, known as the Hall prebend. (fn. 60) By this time, although the Hall prebend retained its separate name, it had lost its separate identity and was reckoned among the assets of Marston. But there were still nine Whitgreave prebends. This suggests that the Whitgreave property had been further subdivided to keep up the number of prebends, irrespective of their value. Surprisingly these very small prebends seem usually to have been held separately. In 1366 two canons residing in the diocese held prebends of Stafford worth only 2s. 4d. and 13s. 4d. respectively, but each held a parish church in the diocese as well; (fn. 61) their prebends perhaps gave them a house in Stafford and added status. It is harder to understand the position of William Dyngell who held in the diocese only a prebend of Stafford taxed at 2s. 4d. and yet resided there, though he had a parish church in Lincolnshire taxed at £24. (fn. 62)

The free chapels of Tixall, Ingestre, and Creswell were included in the assessment of St. Mary's because they were within the liberty of the collegiate church. This meant that the dean had jurisdiction over them and instituted their chaplains, but he had no control over the advowsons, which belonged to different individuals. (fn. 63) These chapels, it was stated in 1428, were separate churches, and by ancient custom their parishioners buried their dead in St. Bertelin's Church and graveyard and not at St. Mary's. (fn. 64)

It might be expected that Castle Church would have appeared with St. Mary's in the Taxation of 1291, since the dean owned the advowson and the property in tithes and lands attached to the living. The lands were claimed by Stone Priory in 1293, when the verdict was in the dean's favour, and again from 1311 until at least 1319. (fn. 65) Once more, however, the dean seems to have made good his claim, for he was in possession in 1535. (fn. 66) It is likely that the dean had always kept Castle Church for himself, providing a priest but taking the bulk of the revenues as he was doing in 1535. This would explain why Castle Church was not assessed separately in the Taxation of 1291: it would have been included in the assets of the deanery. In the period 1282-6 the bailiff administering Castle Church was liable for 40 marks (£26 13s. 4d.) a year for it. (fn. 67) Presumably the priest had to be paid out of this, but a sizeable sum would have been left. In addition the bailiff was accountable for £5 13s. 4d. for the dean's prebend, (fn. 68) and the dean had the church of Hopton to his own use by gift of the king. (fn. 69) The Taxation of 1291 valued the deanery at only £10 16s. 8d., but a comparable difference between this assessment and the real value of the property is to be found elsewhere. (fn. 70) The statement of a jury of 1293 that the church of St. Mary, Stafford, held by Bevis de Clare was worth 50 marks (£33 6s. 8d.) a year (fn. 71) was probably nearer the truth.

Royal chapels paid only those papal taxes which were assigned to the king. Against other demands the Crown was their firm defender. Edward I and Edward II repeatedly declared them exempt from all papal exactions (fn. 72) and in 1307 and 1317 included St. Mary's when issuing prohibitions against the collection of papal procurations from specified chapels. (fn. 73) When in 1318 the papal nuncio was forbidden to exact annates from the king's chapels, Edward II named nine churches with this exempt status; St. Mary's came third on the list. (fn. 74)

Since royal chapels were exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop, their visitation and correction was the responsibility of the king who delegated this power to special commissioners or the Chancellor. In 1368 commissioners were appointed to visit and correct five royal chapels, including St. Mary's, whose officers were reputed negligent. (fn. 75) The deans were accused of failing to safeguard property and privileges, and the clergy of leading dissolute lives and appropriating revenues which should have been used for divine service, works of charity, and repairs. The next visitation of St. Mary's, in 1381, was probably at the request of the new dean, William Pakington, since the inquiry was confined to practical matters: the state of the church's property and the diminution of the number of chaplains. (fn. 76) Pakington received compensation for his predecessors' shortcomings, but after his death in 1390 his successor petitioned for an inquiry into what had become of this money and into Pakington's own neglect of the property for which the dean was responsible. (fn. 77) Despite the resulting visitation there was no improvement. John Mackworth in 1407 complained of all three deans between Pakington and himself; they had allowed the dean's buildings to fall into total disrepair, and Mackworth's immediate predecessor had misappropriated 50 marks allotted to him to put right the dilapidations that he had inherited. (fn. 78) Neglect of the dean's property was not surprising when deans were absentees, but apparently they had kept the chancel and furnishings of the church in good repair, since Mackworth made no complaint about them; nor was neglect of divine service alleged.

By the late 14th century it had become accepted that the king's right of supervision of his chapels was exercised by the Chancellor. It is remarkable that in 1400-1 royal rights were disregarded when Archbishop Arundel's commissioners included the king's chapels in their visitation of the diocese. St. Mary's was the last chapel to be visited and raised no protest. Representatives of the dean, canons, vicars, and chaplains appeared and were examined, each professing canonical obedience to the archbishop. (fn. 79) The findings are not recorded. This archiepiscopal visitation did not create a precedent: apparently it was the result of temporary political circumstances. (fn. 80) In 1407 St. Mary's was visited by royal commissioners; and at some time between 1467 and 1471 the dean, Thomas Hawkins, appealed to the Chancellor in a dispute about tithes, stating that he and his predecessors had no other judge or protector. (fn. 81)

By Hawkins's time St. Mary's was no longer in Crown patronage. In 1446 Henry VI had granted the advowson to Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. (fn. 82) This made no difference to the status of St. Mary's as a royal chapel, since it claimed to be a royal foundation. (fn. 83) Subsequent loss of a direct relationship with the Crown could not alter this. Nevertheless the bishop seems to have considered that it was no longer exempt from his authority, for in 1501, on the death of Hawkins's successor, he appointed commissioners to govern the collegiate church and receive the revenues of the deanery during the vacancy, claiming this right by canonical ordinance and laudable and long-standing custom. (fn. 84) If this had become custom, it did not stand much longer, for St. Mary's returned to the Crown in 1521 when Edward, Duke of Buckingham, was executed and his estates forfeited. (fn. 85) The surveyors of his property explained the status of St. Mary's, 'which ever hath been capella regia and is privileged accordingly', adding that 'albeit the Duke was patron, yet the King was founder'. (fn. 86) Although the manor of Stafford was restored to Edward's son Henry in 1531, (fn. 87) the advowson of St. Mary's remained with the Crown.

When Buckingham became patron in 1446 he had been licensed to endow a chantry in St. Mary's with lands and rents worth 100 marks. (fn. 88) No trace of this appears in the survey of church revenues made in 1535. By this date there was only one chantry in St. Mary's, that of St. Thomas the Martyr, which had been founded by Thomas Counter probably in the late 15th century for a chaplain to celebrate mass daily and keep a school. (fn. 89) In 1535 its revenues were £4 7s. a year. (fn. 90)

In the survey of 1535 (fn. 91) separate names were given for the nine prebends of St. Mary's which formerly had shared the name of Whitgreave: Swetnam, Blurton, Hervy, Walsall, (fn. 92) Sandall, Orberton, Denston, Potrell, (fn. 93) and Croft. Their assessments were low, together amounting to only £5 8s. 8d.; Coton, Marston, and Salt were still the only prebends of real value. The deanery's assets included the chapel of Hopton (here called a prebend), which was annexed to it, as was Castle Church; the dean also received annual pensions from the prebends of Coton, Marston, and Salt and from the chapels of Creswell, Ingestre, and Tixall. The list of chapels within the liberty of St. Mary's now included not only Creswell, (fn. 94) Ingestre, and Tixall but also the hospitals of St. John and St. Leonard in Forebridge and the chapel of St. Nicholas within Stafford castle; these three lay within the parish of Castle Church and had been founded by the ancestors of Lord Stafford, who held the advowsons. (fn. 95) St. Nicholas's acted as a parish church for the inhabitants of the castle and its park, except that burial was at St. Mary's, Stafford, (fn. 96) since Castle Church (St. Nicholas's mother-church) was appropriated to the deanery.

The surveys of chantries and collegiate churches ordered in 1546 and 1548 as a prelude to their dissolution (fn. 97) give a clearer picture of the organization of the college of Stafford and its annexed churches than the surviving evidence for earlier periods can afford. The dean and canons were represented in St. Mary's by four priest vicars; these were paid at the rate of £5 a year by the dean and three of the prebendaries (those of Coton, Marston, and Salt), who maintained one each. (fn. 98) Besides these four priests there were four 'lay' or 'clerk' vicars (fn. 99) to sing the services; these were said in 1546 to be paid 8s. each a year, (fn. 100) and in 1548 to share revenues worth £4 13s. 4d. a year, each taking £1 3s. 4d. (fn. 101) The Prebendary of Coton, who was also sacrist, provided at his own cost the wine and wax needed for the services. (fn. 102) Thomas Counter's chantry priest sang morrow mass and kept a school in the church. (fn. 103) Priests serving Castle Church and Hopton were paid by the dean, (fn. 104) who drew the revenues of these churches. Chapels at Marston and Salt were served by priests paid by the prebendaries of Marston (fn. 105) and Salt (fn. 106) respectively. It seems likely that the holders of the nine Whitgreave prebends did no more than draw their small incomes: in 1548 it was not even known whether the Prebendary of Sandall was still alive. (fn. 107)

The college was dissolved in 1548 under the Act of 1547. (fn. 108) The pensions granted to its members (fn. 109) represented compensation for what they were in fact receiving whether in direct payments or as a result of leases already in force. Dean Leighton had leased the deanery for a pepper-corn, (fn. 110) and this meant that he got no pension. The prebendaries of Salt, Coton, and Marston were awarded £1 10s., £5, and £6 respectively. The Whitgreave prebendaries received almost complete compensation, the vicars choral £5 each, and the clerk vicars £1. The Prebendary of Denston and one of the vicars choral were appointed to serve St. Mary's, their stipends being £16 and £8 respectively. (fn. 111) The priests of Salt and Hopton chapels were pensioned off, but the chaplain of Marston was retained to serve his chapel at a stipend of £8. Thomas Counter's chantry priest was kept on as schoolmaster at a salary of £4 5s. a year paid by the Crown, and in addition in 1550 revenues worth £20 a year were granted by Edward VI to the burgesses of Stafford to make the foundation into a grammar school, with one master and one assistant. (fn. 112)

Some of the college's property was disposed of within a few years; the rest was kept by the Crown until 1571 when Elizabeth I granted it to the burgesses of Stafford. The assets of the deanery, worth £44 8s. 2d. a year, were given to Henry, Lord Stafford, in April 1550. (fn. 113) Four of the Whitgreave prebends, Swetnam, Blurton, Walsall, and Hervy, were sold to two gentlemen of London in April 1549, (fn. 114) and the disused chapels and graveyards of Salt and Hopton to two other Londoners in July. (fn. 115) Three more Londoners bought the house of the vicars choral in the same month. (fn. 116) Part of the endowment of Thomas Counter's chantry was sold to two Londoners in March 1549, (fn. 117) but the rest, together with property given to maintain lights in the parish churches of Stafford and Castle Church, and the lands of the clerk vicars, went to local buyers, Walter and Edward Leveson, in July 1550. (fn. 118) The property in Whitgreave belonging to the prebends of Coton and Marston was sold to speculators in 1553 and 1554. (fn. 119) This left in the hands of the Crown five of the Whitgreave prebends (Croft, Potrell, Sandall, Denston, and Orberton), the prebend of Salt, and the prebends of Coton and Marston less their Whitgreave lands and less Marston's tithes in Stafford which had been granted in 1550 to the grammar school. It was this remaining property (and not the whole endowment of the former collegiate church) which Elizabeth gave in 1571 to the burgesses of Stafford. At this date it was worth £41 2s. 10d. a year. Out of it the stipends granted in 1548-9 to the three priests (two for St. Mary's, Stafford, and one for Marston) and the schoolmaster had to be met; the rest was to be applied to the repair of St. Mary's church and to works of charity in Stafford. (fn. 120)

Even the privileged jurisdiction belonging to the collegiate church, which in the case of some royal chapels passed to the new owners of the deanery and survived until the 19th century, came to an end in Stafford at the dissolution. It seems likely that this was because Henry, Lord Stafford, did not retain the ownership of the deanery but soon disposed of it to a London merchant among whose heirs it was subsequently partitioned. (fn. 121) The jurisdiction lapsed to the bishop. (fn. 122)

The collegiate buildings included the deanery house, which formed part of the grant to Lord Stafford in 1550, (fn. 123) and the 'capital messuage of the priests of the late collegiate church', so described when it was sold by the Crown to a group of speculators in 1549. (fn. 124) The latter stood on the south side of the churchyard and eventually came into the hands of the corporation. Known as the College House, it was normally held by the master of the grammar school from at least 1615 until the 1720s, but by then it was decayed. Most of it was demolished between 1736 and 1738 and a workhouse established in some of the outbuildings. (fn. 125)


William de C. (predecessor of Robert). (fn. 126)

Robert, occurs temp. Henry II. (fn. 127)

Ralph of the Hospital, occurs at some time between 1184 and 1190, resigned 1207. (fn. 128)

Henry of London, appointed 1207, elected Archbishop of Dublin 1213. (fn. 129)

Bartholomew, appointed by King John, occurs 1227. (fn. 130)

Master Walter of Lench, appointed 1231, occurs 1246. (fn. 131)

Simon of Offham, appointed 1247, resigned 1259. (fn. 132)

Bevis de Clare, appointed 1259, died 1294. (fn. 133)

Master John of Caen (de Cadamo), appointed 1294, died 1310. (fn. 134)

Master Lewis de Beaumont, appointed 1310, provided to the bishopric of Durham 1317. (fn. 135)

Thomas Charlton, D.C.L., appointed 1317, resigned 1318. (fn. 136)

Robert of Sandall, appointed 1318, resigned 1325. (fn. 137)

Robert Holden, appointed 1325, deprived 1326 as a supporter of Edward II. (fn. 138)

Robert Swynnerton, appointed 1326, died 1349. (fn. 139)

Nicholas Swynnerton, appointed 1349, died probably 1356. (fn. 140)

James Beaufort, appointed 1356, died 1358. (fn. 141)

John of Bishopston, appointed 1358, probably resigned 1366. (fn. 142)

Robert More, appointed 1366, resigned by February 1376. (fn. 143)

Adam Hartington, appointed 1376, died 1380. (fn. 144)

William Pakington, appointed 1380, died 1390. (fn. 145)

Master Lawrence Allerthorpe, appointed 1390, resigned 1397. (fn. 146)

Master John Syggeston, appointed 1397, died 1402. (fn. 147)

Robert Tunstall, LL.B., appointed 1402, resigned 1406. (fn. 148)

John Mackworth, appointed 1406, died 1451. (fn. 149)

William Wore, occurs 1452, resigned 1463. (fn. 150)

Master Thomas Hawkins, appointed 1463, occurs at some time between 1467 and 1471. (fn. 151)

Name unknown, died 1501. (fn. 152)

John Thower, resigned 1524. (fn. 153)

Thomas Parker, D.Can.L., appointed 1524, died 1538. (fn. 154)

Edward Leighton, S.T.B., appointed 1538, dean at the dissolution. (fn. 155)

No seal is known.


  • 1. V.C.H. Staffs. iv. 44, no. 100.
  • 2. Ibid. iv. 37, 44. This is an early example of a prebendal system; for its introduction at Lichfield see above p. 141. The canons held 3 hides in Whitgreave and Butterton in the 13th century (S.H.C. vi(1), 215, 287; S.H.C. 1913, 220-2), and 9 of their prebends lay in Whitgreave (Feud. Aids, v. 19-20).
  • 3. See above p. 298.
  • 4. S.H.C. 1924, p. 285. The full text is given in Ric. II's inspeximus: Cal. Chart. R. 1341-1417, 308.
  • 5. S.H.C. 1924, pp. 126-7, 215-16; Dugdale, Mon. vi(3), 1249, 1252.
  • 6. For the resumption of royal demesne by Hen. II see Chronicles of the reigns of Stephen, Hen. II and Ric. I (Rolls Ser.), i. 103.
  • 7. See below p. 308.
  • 8. S.H.C. iii(1), 51.
  • 9. Ibid. 76.
  • 10. E 301/40, no. 16; /54, no. 2.
  • 11. S.H.C. iii(1), 170-1.
  • 12. S. A. Cutlack, 'St. Mary's Church, Stafford', T.O.S.S. 1945-6 and 1946-7.
  • 13. For a possibly analogous dedication associating St. Mary with St. Bertelin see J. Tait, 'The Foundation Charter of Runcorn Priory', Chetham Soc. N.S. vol. c, 8-9.
  • 14. The Church of St. Bertelin at Stafford, ed. A. Oswald, 7, 14-27.
  • 15. In 1428 a jury stated that St. Bertelin's had the right of burial of the parishioners of the chapels of Tixall, Ingestre, and Creswell, which otherwise looked to St. Mary's as their mother-church (see below p. 306); but a jury of 1247 ascribed to St. Mary's the right to Tixall's burials (S.H.C. iv(1), 112-13). The presumption that St. Bertelin's shared the chaplains of St. Mary's is supported by the wording of a grant of the deanery in 1524 (L. & P. Hen. VIII, iv(1), p. 169), when it was called the deanery of St. Mary and St. Bartholomew, a not uncommon rendering of Bertelin (Church of St. Bertelin, 9).
  • 16. Close R. 1321-4, 516; 1242-7, 160, 462; 1247-51, 244, 254; 1254-6, 233.
  • 17. S.H.C. iv(1), 112-13. See above n. 15 for the statement by a jury in 1428 that the burial of Tixall's parishioners belonged to St. Bertelin's.
  • 18. V.C.H. Staffs. v. 95.
  • 19. S.H.C. iv(1), 136. For the connexion of Middle Aston with Hopton see S.H.C. N.S. xii. 139 n. The right to the advowson of Hopton was disputed in 1293: S.H.C. vi(1), 225.
  • 20. Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 80.
  • 21. Cal. Pat. 1232-47, 420.
  • 22. Hen. III named the Archdeacon of Stafford as responsible for an attack on the privileges of the royal chapel of Bridgnorth at this time: T. Rymer, Foedera (Rec. Com.), i(1), 261.
  • 23. Ibid. The bull is also given in Close R. 1247-51, 99, 226. The king sent a transcript to the Dean of St. Mary's: K.B. 27/178, m. 1; and see Cal. Pat. 1281-92, 360.
  • 24. Annales Monastici (Rolls Ser.), i. 275-6.
  • 25. Ibid. 275; Close R. 1247-51, 226; F. M. Powicke and C. R. Cheney, Councils and Synods, ii(1), 446-7.
  • 26. The theft is mentioned in a new charter (Cal. Chart. R. 1226-57, 368) and in an inquisition of 1293 (J.I. 1/804, m. 75d.).
  • 27. J.I. 1/804, m. 75d.; part of this is given in S.H.C. vi(1), 287. Hen. III began to refer to St. Mary's as his 'free' chapel in 1244: Cal. Pat. 1232-47, 420.
  • 28. S.H.C. iv(1), 112.
  • 29. Close R. 1251-3, 194.
  • 30. Cal. Pat. 1247-58, 550.
  • 31. Ibid. 621.
  • 32. S.H.C. iv(1), 140-1.
  • 33. S.H.C. 1924, pp. 271-2; Close R. 1256-9, 486.
  • 34. Close R. 1256-9, 405; this justice was particularly busy (see Cal. Pat. 1247-58, 665). For the pressure of judicial business and shortage of qualified judges in 1258-61 see R. F. Treharne, The Baronial Plan of Reform, 1258-63, 145-6, 196, 249.
  • 35. W. Prynne, Records, iii. 1234, where the date 1265 is an obvious error for 1260 (see S.C. 1/11/94).
  • 36. The whole story is contained in a letter from Abp. Boniface to Pope Alexander IV: Prynne, Records, iii. 1234-5.
  • 37. S.H.C. 1924, pp. 271-2.
  • 38. Ibid. pp. 268-71.
  • 39. He was born in 1248: Ann. Mon. i. 136. His father had to appear for him when Bp. Meuland came before the king's court in 1259 to answer for his forcible visitation of St. Mary's: S.H.C. iv(1), 140-1.
  • 40. Cal. Pat. 1258-66, 40, 42, 449, 498, 510. No one has anything good to say of him: he acquired more benefices than any English contemporary (A. Hamilton Thompson, 'Pluralism in the Mediaeval Church', Assoc. Archit. Soc. Rep. and Papers, xxxiii, 53-56), and neglected them thoroughly (Reg. Epist. Fratris Johannis Peckham (Rolls Ser.), i. 371-2); his personal extravagance and meanness as regards charity are brought out by his household accounts (M. S. Giuseppi, 'The Wardrobe and Household Accounts of Bogo de Clare, 1284-6', Archaeologia, lxx).
  • 41. Reg. Epist. Peckham, i. 111, 3920-p.
  • 42. Prynne, Records, iii. 1236.
  • 43. Cal. Chanc. Wts. i. 5-6; Reg. Epist. Peckham, i. 111, 392p.
  • 44. Reg. Epist. Peckham, i. 180-1, 392t.
  • 45. See below p. 324.
  • 46. S.H.C. 1911, 120-1; Cal. Chart. R. 1226-57, 368; see above p. 304.
  • 47. Close R. 1251-3, 81, 210.
  • 48. Wilkins, Concilia, i. 697; Cal. Pat. 1247-58, 77.
  • 49. Cal. Pat. 1266-72, 221, 329; Cal. Close, 1313-18, 172-3; Cal. Fine R. 1319-27, 39-40.
  • 50. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 242. The sum is given here as £58 17s., but the tenth (£5 17s. 8d.), and the sum quoted as the assessment of 1291 in the Nonae Rolls of 1341 (Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 128), where it is given as 88 marks 3s. 4d., indicate that the true amount was £58 16s. 8d.
  • 51. Feud. Aids, v. 19-20.
  • 52. S.H.C. N.S. x(2), 218-19, 220.
  • 53. Ibid. 219; Cal. Papal Regs. viii. 528; ix. 6-7.
  • 54. Cal. Papal Regs. ii. 70-71.
  • 55. Cal. Pat. 1247-58, 1.
  • 56. Names of these prebendaries before 1535 may be traced as follows: Marston from the mid 13th cent. in S.H.C. vi(1), 177; Abbrev. Plac. (Rec. Com.), 303; Cal. Pat. 1307-13, 480; 1317-21, 471; 1374-7, 372, 460; 1377-81, 323; Cal. Papal Regs. vi. 512; Coton from the late 14th cent. in Le Neve, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae, 1300-1541 (new edn.), vi. 40; x. 33; Cal. Pat. 1391-6, 467; 1401-5, 158; Salt in 1390 in Cal. Pat. 1388-92, 298. The holders of these prebends in 1531 and 1533 are given in taxation lists for the Archdeaconry of Stafford in Lich. Dioc. Regy., B/A/17/1, and D. & C. Lich. lxiii. There is a full list of prebendaries in 1535 in Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii. 118-19.
  • 57. S.H.C. vi(1), 177, 239.
  • 58. Cal. Papal Regs. ii. 267.
  • 59. S.H.C. N.S. x(2), 220.
  • 60. The property of Marston prebend is given in full in S.C. 12/28/12, f. 32 (1547-8).
  • 61. S.H.C. N.S. x(2), 219, 220.
  • 62. Ibid. 218-19.
  • 63. For the patrons of Tixall see S.H.C. iv(1), 112-13; ibid. xi. 237, 244; ibid. 1911, 103; for Ingestre, S.H.C. 1911, 71; Cal. Pat. 1396-9, 410; for Creswell, Cal. Pat. 1334-8, 32, 42, 45; 1345-8, 67, 86; Cal. Close, 1346-9, 29.
  • 64. Feud. Aids, v. 19-20.
  • 65. S.H.C. vi(1), 14, 238; ix(1), 34, 73; Cal. Close, 1318- 1323, 52-53.
  • 66. Valor Eccl. iii. 117.
  • 67. S.H.C. vi(1), 210.
  • 68. Ibid.
  • 69. Year Bk. 20 and 21 Edw. I (Rolls Ser.), 408-9; S.H.C. vi(1), 225.
  • 70. The deanery of Wolverhampton was similarly underassessed: see p. 324. Tables showing the real value and the 1291 assessments of selected benefices in the dioceses of Lincoln, Durham, and Wells and similar evidence for other dioceses are given by Rose Graham, 'The Taxation of Pope Nicholas IV, Eng. Eccles. Studies, 285-9.
  • 71. S.H.C. vi(1), 275.
  • 72. Cal. Close, 1288-96, 423; 1302-7, 530; 1307-13, 236; 1313-18, 566, 596; Rymer, Foedera, ii(1), 297.
  • 73. Cal. Close, 1302-7, 530; 1313-18, 566.
  • 74. Ibid. 596.
  • 75. Cal. Pat. 1367-70, 142, 143.
  • 76. Ibid. 1377-81, 629.
  • 77. Ibid. 1388-92, 349-50.
  • 78. Ibid. 1405-8, 352; C 145/285/6.
  • 79. Lambeth Palace Libr., Reg. Arundel, i, f. 482.
  • 80. For this visitation see p. 325.
  • 81. C 145/285/6; S.H.C. N.S. vii. 269.
  • 82. Cal. Pat. 1441-6, 413; Dugdale, Mon. vi(3), 1439.
  • 83. Hawkins described himself as Dean of Stafford, 'the which is of the foundation of the King our soverayn lord': S.H.C. N.S. vii. 269.
  • 84. S.R.O., D.(W.) 1721/1/1, f. 17d.
  • 85. L. & P. Hen. VIII, iii(1), p. 510.
  • 86. Ibid.
  • 87. V.C.H. Staffs. v. 87.
  • 88. Cal. Pat. 1441-6, 413; Dugdale, Mon. vi(3), 1439.
  • 89. The name of the founder, as well as the purpose of the chantry and its value, is given in the Chantry Certificates of 1546 and 1548: E 301/40, no. 16; /54, no. 2. The founder was probably the Thos. Counter, Rector of Ingestre, who was a party to a deed of 1480: S.H.C. N.S. vi(1), 130.
  • 90. Valor Eccl. iii. 120. The revenues were said to be worth £4 13s. 4d. in 1546 and 1548: E 301/40, no. 16; /54, no. 2.
  • 91. Valor Eccl. iii. 117-19.
  • 92. One of the prebends had borne this name since at least 1348: Cal. Pat. 1348-50, 214.
  • 93. A prebend of Powtrell in the church of Stafford is mentioned in a papal bull of 1504: Diplomatic and Scottish Docs. and Papal Bulls (P.R.O. Lists and Indexes, xlix), 317.
  • 94. Here called a prebend, no doubt in error since it does not so appear in the Chantry Certificates.
  • 95. V.C.H. Staffs. v. 83, 85, 91, 97. For the hospital of St. John see above p. 291 n. 26.
  • 96. E 301/40, no. 40; /54, no. 2; /44(1), no. 41.
  • 97. Under the Acts of 1545 and 1547: see p. 326. Six returns survive for Stafford, dated 15 Feb. 1546, 30 May 1548, 30 June 1548, 15 Mar. 1549, June 1549, and 19 Sept. 1548: E 301/40; /54; /44(1); /44(2); /43; S.C. 12/28/12. The information which they provide is supplemented by a list of pensions granted when the college was dissolved (E 101/75/30, 22 June 1548) and a bailiff's acct. of the revenues in 1547-8 (S.C. 6/Edw. VI/424).
  • 98. E 301/40, no. 16. Salaries of £5 are recorded for the priest vicars of the dean and the prebendaries of Marston and Coton in E 101/75/30, mm. 1d., 3, 5, and for all four priest vicars in E 301/44(2). A stipend of £6 is given for the Prebendary of Coton's vicar in E 301/40, no. 16, but this seems likely to be an error.
  • 99. E 301/43.
  • 100. E 301/40, no. 16.
  • 101. E 301/44(1), ff 11v.-12. In June 1549 it was explained that these revenues came from oblations, mortuary fees, and Easter offerings in St. Mary's, besides lands and rents in Stafford and Butterton; this year they were assessed at £4 3s. 6d.: E 301/43.
  • 102. Valor Eccl. iii. 118; E 301/40, no. 16. The cost was £2 a year.
  • 103. E 301/40, no. 16; /54, no. 2; /44(1), no. 49; /43.
  • 104. E 301/54, no. 2. The dean paid three priests a total of £14 6s. 8d. a year: E 301/40, no. 16. Of this his priest vicar in St. Mary's had £5 and the priest of Hopton £4 6s. 8d.: E 301/44(2). The stipend of the priest of Castle Church was therefore £5.
  • 105. The Prebendary of Marston paid two priests a total of £9 13s. 4d.: E 301/40, no. 16. Of this his priest vicar in St. Mary's had £5 (see above n. 98), which should have left £4 13s. 4d. for the priest of Marston chapel; but it is possible that, like the chaplain of Salt, he was in fact paid £4 6s. 8d. (see below n. 7).
  • 106. The chaplain of Salt was paid £4 6s. 8d. (E 301/44(2)), but the salaries of the two priests paid by the Prebendary of Salt (his priest vicar, £5, and this chaplain), were said to amount to £9 13s. 4d. in E 301/40, no. 16.
  • 107. E 301/44(1), no. 2.
  • 108. See below p. 326.
  • 109. E 101/75/30; E 301/44(1), no. 2; /44(2).
  • 110. For the circumstances of the granting of this lease and subsequent disputes concerning it see C 1/1122/59 and 60; S.C. 12/28/12, f. 31; E 315/219, f. 48; C 1/1193/5; E 315/105, f. 109.
  • 111. E 301/44(1), no. 2; /44(2).
  • 112. E 319/9; Cal. Pat. 1550-3, 21. The endowment included the possessions of the two Stafford hospitals of St. John and of St. Leonard as well as collegiate property.
  • 113. Cal. Pat. 1550-3, 18.
  • 114. Ibid. 1548-9, 409-10.
  • 115. Ibid. 1549-51, 131-2.
  • 116. Ibid. 126.
  • 117. Ibid. 1548-9, 420.
  • 118. Ibid. 1549-51, 362-3. None of the property of the chantry school came into the possession of Stafford grammar school.
  • 119. Ibid. 1550-3, 316; 1553-4, 506.
  • 120. J. W. Bradley, Royal Charters and Letters Patent granted to the Burgesses of Stafford, 99-107; Cal. Pat. 1569-72, 394-5; G. Griffiths, Free Schools and Endowments of Staffs. 21 sqq.
  • 121. Cal. Pat. 1550-3, 66-67; S.H.C. xii(1), 212-13; W.S.L., S.MS. 402, f. 15v. Lord Stafford took a lease of the property: S.H.C. 1938, 96-97; S.H.C. N.S. ix. 11-14.
  • 122. S.H.C. 1926, p. 18; Lich. Dioc. Regy., B/C/5; ibid., B/V/5/4 and 9. The borough charter of 1614 included a clause safeguarding the rights of the bishop; there had originally been a scheme to include in the charter a provision reviving the exempt jurisdiction and allowing its exercise by the corporation: S.R.O., D.(W.) 1721/1/4, ff. 13, 24v., 28; Bradley, Royal Charters, 174-5.
  • 123. Cal. Pat. 1550-3, 18.
  • 124. Ibid. 1549-51, 126. It is presumably to be identified with the house 'wherein divers ministers did lie' mentioned in 1546: E 301/40, no. 16; E 101/75/30. The Revd. L. Lambert, however, thought that this referred to a third building: St. Mary's and the College Quarter of Stafford (Birmingham, 1925).
  • 125. See e.g. C. G. Gilmore, Hist. of King Edw. VI School, Stafford, 27; J. S. Horne, Notes for Hist. of King Edw. VI School, Stafford, 30, 70; S.R.O., D.(W.) 1721/1/4, f. 113v.; W.S.L. 49/112/44; S.R.O., D.(W.) 0/8/18; Town Clerk's Office, Stafford, Corporation Order Bk. 1648-91, pp. 7, 17, 256; ibid. 1691-1739, pp. 412, 449.
  • 126. Year Bk. 20 and 21 Edw. I (Rolls Ser.), 432-3. He was possibly Wm. de Capella: see below p. 311 n. 43.
  • 127. S.H.C. iv(1), 136.
  • 128. S.R.O. 938/7967, charter of Abp. Baldwin; Rot. Litt. Pat. (Rec. Com.), 70.
  • 129. Rot. Litt. Pat. 70; Handbk. of Brit. Chron. 336.
  • 130. S.H.C. iv(1), 73. He was a nephew of John's chief adviser and supporter Peter des Roches, Bp. of Winchester, and was probably Bartholomew de camera, a clerk of the king's household: Rot. Litt. Pat. 113; York Minster Fasti, vol. i (Yorks. Arch. Soc., Rec. Ser. cxxiii), p. 2; vol. ii (Y.A.S., Rec. Ser., cxxiv), p. 138; T. F. Tout, Chapters in Admin. Hist. of Mediaeval Eng. i. 161 n. 2.
  • 131. Pat. R. 1225-32, 424, 426; K.B. 27/178, m. 1.
  • 132. Close R. 1242-7, 525; Cal. Pat. 1258-66, 42.
  • 133. Cal. Pat. 1258-66, 42; 1292-1301, 106; and see above p. 304.
  • 134. Cal. Pat. 1292-1301, 106; Cal. Close, 1318-23, 52.
  • 135. Cal. Pat. 1307-13, 219; Cal. Close, 1318-23, 52; Handbk. of Brit. Chron. 220.
  • 136. Cal. Pat. 1313-17, 642; 1317-21, 237; A. B. Emden, Biog. Reg. of Univ. of Oxford to A.D. 1500, i. 392.
  • 137. Cal. Pat. 1317-21, 237; 1324-7, 110.
  • 138. Ibid. 1324-7, 110; Tout, Chapters, iii. 4-6. He was pardoned in 1327 (ibid. 6 n.) but did not recover the deanery.
  • 139. Cal. Pat. 1324-7, 343; S.H.C. vii(2), 36.
  • 140. Cal. Pat. 1348-50, 363; S.H.C. i. 286. The reference in Cal. Papal Pets. i. 233, to Rob. Swynnerton as Dean of Stafford in 1352 must be a slip for Nic.
  • 141. Cal. Pat. 1354-8, 409; Le Neve, Fasti (new edn.), iii. 84; x. 69.
  • 142. Cal. Pat. 1358-61, 3. He resigned his rectory of Cliffe-at-Hoo (Kent) and his prebend at Chichester in 1366, presumably as a result of the inquiry into pluralities (Reg. Simonis de Langham (Cant. & York Soc.), 270; Cal. Pat. 1364-7, 325); he probably resigned Stafford at the same time and for the same reason.
  • 143. Cal. Pat. 1364-7, 325; 1374-7, 232.
  • 144. Ibid. 1374-7, 232; 1377-81, 559, 560.
  • 145. Ibid. 1377-81, 556; Le Neve, Fasti (new edn.), i. 80; v. 46. He was also Dean of Lichfield: see above p. 197.
  • 146. Cal. Pat. 1388-92, 295; 1396-9, 88, 93. The reference to Allerthorpe as still dean in Aug. 1398 is apparently a slip, for Syggeston is styled Dean of Stafford in July 1397: ibid. 1396-9, 410; Cal. Close 1396-9, 207. Allerthorpe was also Dean of Wolverhampton 1394-1406: see below p. 330.
  • 147. Cal. Pat. 1396-9, 88, 93, 113, 207; 1401-5, 117. He is referred to erroneously as Ric. Sigston in C 145/285/6.
  • 148. Cal. Pat. 1401-5, 117; 1405-8, 277, 352; Emden, Biog. Reg. Oxford, iii. 1915. He is not to be confused with Rob. Tunstall, Sch. Th., of Gonville Hall, Cambridge (Emden, Biog. Reg. of Univ. of Cambridge to 1500, 598).
  • 149. Cal. Pat. 1405-8, 277; Le Neve, Fasti, viii. 27, 80.
  • 150. Cat. Anct. D. vi, C 4399; Cal. Pat. 1461-7, 270. In 1446 the right of presentation to the deanery was granted to Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham: see above p. 306.
  • 151. Cal. Pat. 1461-7, 270; see above p. 306. He was appointed by the Crown during the minority of Hen., Duke of Buckingham. He was evidently the M. Thos. Hawkins who was Archdeacon of Stafford 1459-c. 1467 and held other preferment in the diocese; he died in 1479: Emden, Biog. Reg. Oxford, ii. 891-2, which does not, however, give him as Dean of St. Mary's; Le Neve, Fasti (new edn.), iii. 16.
  • 152. S.R.O., D.(W.) 1721/1/1, f. 17v.
  • 153. L. & P. Hen. VIII, iv(1), p. 169.
  • 154. Ibid., pp. 169, 610; ibid. xiii(2), p. 60. He was also Dean of Tamworth 1525-38: see below p. 315. The Crown had recovered the advowson on the attainder of Edw., Duke of Buckingham, in 1521: see above p. 307.
  • 155. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xiii(2), p. 490; E 301/44(1), no. 2. He is given as Dr. Leighton in L. & P. Hen. VIII, xvii, pp. 78-79.