A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.
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37. THE COLLEGE OF ST. MICHAEL, TETTENHALL
The earliest mention of priests at Tettenhall occurs in Domesday Book, which records that they held two hides of the king in alms. (fn. 1) Whether they were thus endowed by William I or had possessed these lands before the Conquest is not clear. A jury of local residents in 1401 attributed the foundation and endowment of the collegiate church to King Edgar, (fn. 2) but there is no reason to believe them better informed about events centuries before their time than those who in 1546 and 1548 ascribed the foundation to Edward III. (fn. 3)
Domesday Book does not give the number of priests, but their 2 hides (one in Tettenhall, the other in Bilbrook nearby) were sufficient to support four, since the average glebe holding was half a hide. (fn. 4) The earliest known member of this group described himself simply as 'priest of Tettenhall' when witnessing a charter between 1161 and 1165, (fn. 5) but half a century later the term 'canon' was in use. (fn. 6) A dean is first mentioned about 1176. (fn. 7) The second known dean, Elias of Bristol, who was also Dean of Penkridge, was one of Richard I's clerks. (fn. 8) His successors were similarly clerks in royal service: they included many officials of the Exchequer, the Chancery, and the king's household. The deanery was worth having not only for its revenues but as a fund of patronage, for it carried with it collation to the prebends; (fn. 9) their number, when first recorded in 1255, was five. (fn. 10)
From the time of the earliest known royal grants of the deanery (that is, from 1226), mandates were sent to the Sheriff of Staffordshire to put the new dean in possession. This shows that Tettenhall was treated as exempt from diocesan jurisdiction, the bishop having no right of institution. Henry III was insistent that royal demesne chapels were immune from the jurisdiction of the ordinary. In 1245 he secured from Innocent IV a bull declaring royal chapels immediately subject to the Roman church and exempt from diocesan authority. (fn. 11) For Tettenhall the effect of this was nullified almost at once since Innocent conceded to the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield that the exemption did not apply to four churches in his diocese which claimed to be royal chapels, Tettenhall among them. (fn. 12) In the struggle with the bishop which followed, the king was the champion of these churches. In 1247 he granted his protection to Tettenhall which he declared was his royal chapel. (fn. 13) This document is the earliest to give the dedication of the church to St. Michael and to describe it as a royal free chapel. The privileges of all the royal chapels of the diocese were under attack from successive bishops and archdeacons until 1281 when Bishop Meuland was persuaded to recognize the claims of six of them, including Tettenhall. (fn. 14)
Exemption from diocesan jurisdiction did not necessarily mean that royal chapels were also free of the jurisdiction of the archbishop. But when Archbishop Pecham tried to visit the royal chapels in the diocese in 1280, they all resisted him. Like the others Tettenhall claimed exemption and was required to show proof of its privileges. When this was not forthcoming its members came under a general sentence of excommunication and were cited to submit to archiepiscopal judgment. (fn. 15) But at the king's insistence Pecham seems to have accepted the agreement made with Bishop Meuland in 1281.
Tettenhall was among the fourteen royal chapels whose status Pecham's successor, Archbishop Winchelsey, was disposed to recognize. (fn. 16) It is therefore surprising that there was an attempt to subject it to metropolitical jurisdiction in 1304. The prebend of Codsall was in dispute, and the Dean of Arches had cited one of the claimants before him, together with the Dean of Tettenhall, who presumably had collated him to it. Edward I would not allow the case to be considered in the court of the province of Canterbury, and the Dean of Arches was inhibited from proceeding further. (fn. 17)
Circumstances of the moment prompted Edward II in 1315 to forbid even the Chancellor to meddle with Tettenhall's spiritual affairs or trouble its dean. (fn. 18) The dean in question was Ingelard Warley, one of the most hated of Edward II's household officers, who had been expelled from royal service by the Lords Ordainers at the end of 1314 (fn. 19) and had departed on timely pilgrimage overseas. (fn. 20) His return in 1315 was followed by this attack on his conduct of his duties at Tettenhall, through the Chancellor, John Sandall, whom the Ordainers had put in office. (fn. 21) To protect his friend Edward II was ready to deny the Chancellor's competence to interfere in royal chapels, although it is likely that this was already established. Certainly it was accepted later in the century. (fn. 22) In 1399 it was expressly stated by Richard II that Tettenhall was exempt from ordinary jurisdiction except that of the Chancellor, and on that occasion and in 1411 royal commissioners were appointed to visit it because the Chancellor was too busy. (fn. 23)
Royal goodwill towards Tettenhall was shown in other ways besides the defence of its privileges. In 1251 the king gave a silver chalice, (fn. 24) and in 1257 six oaks from Ashwood in Kinver Forest to repair the church. (fn. 25) In 1265 Henry III intervened to save the endowments of a chantry founded by John Chishull in Tettenhall church, when they were seized by the coroner after the chantry chaplain had been outlawed for a felony. (fn. 26) But the king's favour stopped short when his revenues were involved. Despite a royal declaration in 1250 that royal chapels were immune from papal taxes, (fn. 27) they were obliged to pay when these were assigned to the Crown, for instance in 1268 and 1269.
Tettenhall paid 40s. for the papal tenth in 1268; (fn. 28) the assessment of the whole church was therefore £20. Since the church, perhaps even the deanery alone, was valued at £33 6s. 8d. in 1255 and 1272, (fn. 29) it is obvious that the assessment was a mild one. In 1269 for some reason the amount paid as tenth by only four of the prebends was recorded; these were the prebends of Tettenhall, Pendeford, Wrottesley, and Perton, and together they paid 26s. 8d. (fn. 30) The deanery and the fifth prebend, Codsall, between them must have been liable for the remaining 13s. 4d. The sums suggest that each of the six members of the chapter was liable for half a mark. If so the assessment was conventional as well as mild. The new valuation of clerical incomes in 1291 was more realistic; but it still allowed an unofficial tax abatement, so that the assessment remained well below the real value of the benefices. Tettenhall was assessed at £29 6s. 8d. (fn. 31) No details of how this amount was divided between the deanery and the prebends are recorded, but it is apparent that they were not given equal assessments: in 1366 (when this valuation was still in force) the prebend of Codsall was said to have been taxed at 10 marks (£6 13s. 4d.), and the prebend of Tettenhall at £5. (fn. 32) Local jurors testified in 1293 that the church was worth 100 marks (£66 13s. 4d.), (fn. 33) rather more than twice the assessment of 1291.
Although royal chapels had to pay these papal tenths, they were privileged to pay them directly to the Crown and not through the diocesan collectors. In 1308 the dean paid to the Exchequer the arrears of the triennial tenth granted in 1301. (fn. 34) In 1315 Edward II named twelve free chapels with the privilege of appointing their own collectors: Tettenhall was among them. (fn. 35) But the king protected his chapels against papal taxes which did not benefit himself. For instance in 1318 the papal collector was forbidden to exact 'intolerable impositions and payments' from nine royal chapels of which Tettenhall was one. (fn. 36)
Attempts by the Pope to provide to benefices in royal chapels were firmly resisted by the king. In 1341 the Pope tried to provide to the prebend of Codsall. Edward III prohibited any attempts to dispossess the prebendary who had been collated by the late dean, (fn. 37) and when this prohibition was ignored he sued the provisor and his supporters. (fn. 38) An attempt by the bishop to intervene (fn. 39) and decisions by the papal court in the provisor's favour (fn. 40) were without effect. The king's will prevailed. (fn. 41)
At the time when this attempt at papal provision was made there were grounds for regarding Tettenhall as no longer a royal chapel. In 1338 Edward III had granted the manor of Tettenhall to his chamberlain, Henry, Lord Ferrers of Groby. With this manor and others granted at the same time went the advowsons of churches belonging to them. (fn. 42) When Lord Ferrers died in 1343 leaving an heir under age, (fn. 43) the custody of most of his lands, including the manor of Tettenhall, was granted by the king to Queen Philippa. (fn. 44) Philippa regarded Tettenhall church as appurtenant to the manor, and when the deanery fell vacant she granted it to Robert Caldwell, one of her clerks. Caldwell was said to have secured peaceful possession of it. (fn. 45) This appointment must have occurred between 1343 and 1354, when Lord Ferrers's heir, William, came of age. (fn. 46) When William died in January 1371, the advowson of the deanery was reckoned as part of his property. (fn. 47) Since the deanery became vacant soon afterwards, the king presented to it in October as guardian of the heir. (fn. 48) In November the advowson was assigned to William's widow, Margaret, as part of her dower. (fn. 49) But despite the acceptance, implied by these proceedings, of the Ferrers right to the advowson of the deanery, the matter was far from clear.
It is difficult to discover who actually held the deanery between 1338, when the manor of Tettenhall was granted to Lord Ferrers, and 1374, when the problem of the advowson was settled. There seem to have been two series of deans. One line was appointed by the Ferrers family and, during the minority of heirs, by the keepers of their possessions in Tettenhall. A second line was created by the king. Disregarding the grant to Robert Caldwell by Queen Philippa, who represented the Ferrers heir, Edward III made rival appointments. (fn. 50) Presumably these appointments did not take effect, for Caldwell was said to hold the deanery in 1361, when he valued it at only 3 marks. (fn. 51) But by 1366 Caldwell seems no longer to have been dean, for he was holding the prebend of Pendeford, which he exchanged in July for a prebend of York. (fn. 52) The vacancy of 1371 in the Ferrers line of deans was caused by the resignation of 'Edmund'. (fn. 53) Presumably he had succeeded Caldwell in the deanery at some date between 1361 and 1366. The king's awareness of the problem was apparently sporadic, for in 1371, as guardian of the Ferrers heir, he appointed a dean in succession to Edmund.
The confusion was not confined to the deanery. What made the question acute was the position of the prebendaries. Not only did title to the prebends depend upon the dean who had collated to them, but during a vacancy of the deanery the right to present to the prebends fell to the patron. For instance, in 1371 Edward III took care to fill the prebend of Tettenhall (by then called the prebend of Tettenhall and Compton) (fn. 54) before appointing a new dean. The situation was exploited by the Crown in 1373. If every collation to the deanery made by the Ferrers family or its representatives was regarded as invalid, no prebendary had been legally appointed since the resignation of Caldwell's predecessor, William of Shenton. (fn. 55) All five prebends were therefore vacant, and Edward III made his own appointments to them. (fn. 56) A test case was brought against Thomas of Bushbury who had held the prebend of Codsall since 1361, by Caldwell's collation. The king's attorney claimed that since Tettenhall was a royal free chapel it could not be alienated from the Crown without a special deed of record. No special mention of the advowson of the deanery was made in the grant of the manor of Tettenhall to Lord Ferrers. Consequently it still belonged to the king, and the deanery had been vacant since Shenton resigned. No argument could prevail against this contention, and Thomas withdrew his claim. (fn. 57)
Even the king's own appointment to the deanery in 1371 was invalid, since he was then acting as guardian of the Ferrers heir. Another royal appointment was made in January 1374. (fn. 58) But the new dean, John Hatfield, found the perquisites of his office much diminished. Although it was only during a vacancy of the deanery that the king had the right to present to the prebends, Edward III continued to dispose of them when they were exchanged or fell vacant, (fn. 59) and the advisers of the young Richard II began to follow suit. (fn. 60) Hatfield took advantage of the opportunity afforded by the change of king to recover his lost rights. His petition, that the Crown should no longer claim to present to the prebends in respect of the former voidance of the deanery, was granted. In August 1377 collation to the prebends was recognized as belonging to the dean. (fn. 61) Nevertheless Henry IV assumed the right to present to the prebends of Wrottesley (fn. 62) and Compton (fn. 63) in 1402 and 1405, when Thomas Hanley was dean. This intervention might have been justified on moral grounds, for there had been an inquiry into the shortcomings of the prebendaries of Wrottesley and Compton in 1401. They were reputed to have neglected their duties for more than ten years and to have misappropriated lands and rent belonging to the church. (fn. 64) But the king's attempts to replace them were unsuccessful. (fn. 65)
While Hanley was dean there were as many as three royal inquiries into the negligence of the ministers of the chapel. The only known visitation of Tettenhall before Hanley's time was in 1368 when it was one of five royal chapels in the diocese to be visited by the king's commissioners. (fn. 66) At this time the patronage was in the possession of the Ferrers family, and it is obvious that the bishop regarded the church as no longer exempt from his jurisdiction, for in March 1368 he appointed a penitentiary to exercise jurisdiction over the parishioners of Tettenhall. (fn. 67) One of the prebendaries was chosen, but his authority was derived from the bishop. Nevertheless, when the king ordered the visitation in May, he described Tettenhall, like the other four churches, as a royal free chapel exempt from the bishop's jurisdiction. Among the items of inquiry was the loss through negligence of liberties, immunities, and privileges. This applied particularly to Tettenhall and perhaps was the reason for its visitation.
In Hanley's time the inquiries were concerned exclusively with spiritual failings. In 1399, 1401, and 1411 the king was informed that the celebration of divine service and other works of piety in the chapel had long been neglected. (fn. 68) At last, after the visitation of 1411, decisive action was taken. Henry IV ordered the revenues of the deanery and prebends to be sequestrated until the dean and prebendaries were willing to do their duty, and cited the obstinate to appear in Chancery. (fn. 69) The result was Hanley's resignation. He had avoided possible consequences of the visitation of 1399, which had been ordered by Richard II, by losing no time in securing ratification of his status in his benefices from Henry IV. (fn. 70) The inquiry of 1401 had concentrated on the unsatisfactory prebendaries of Wrottesley and Compton. But in 1411 the dean, as well as the prebendaries, was found at fault and there was no convenient revolution to save him from royal reprimand. Nevertheless he withdrew with dignity, exchanging his deanery for a canonry of Windsor in 1412. (fn. 71) But Tettenhall had not seen the last of him. Just over a year later he exchanged his Windsor canonry for the prebend of Wrottesley. (fn. 72) Canonries at Windsor were profitable only to residentiaries, (fn. 73) but Tettenhall's revenues he knew could be enjoyed in absentia.
It is strange that Tettenhall's spiritual state was not improved earlier in Henry IV's reign, for in February 1401 the chapel was subjected to metropolitical visitation. Archbishop Arundel and his commissaries had already visited three royal chapels in the diocese before Tettenhall's turn came; Wolverhampton had attempted to resist and failed. At Tettenhall the dean, canons, and ministers appeared and were questioned, and some of the parishioners were similarly examined. (fn. 74) The outcome is not known; possibly the royal inquiry of August 1401 was prompted by Arundel's discoveries.
The dean should have been responsible for the correction of his clergy: his position was not a sinecure. But on the other hand his duties were not regarded in the 15th century as incompatible with those of another benefice with cure. John Stopyndon, one of the masters in Chancery of Henry V, was allowed by the Pope to hold the deanery with a parish church, an archdeaconry, four prebends, and the wardenship of a hospital for the poor. (fn. 75) His obligations towards Tettenhall could be fulfilled by maintaining adequate deputies to perform his spiritual and administrative functions there: a priest vicar to represent him in the chapel, an official to preside in his peculiar court, and a steward or bailiff to manage his property. But no record proving the existence of any of these deputies is known. By the reign of Henry VIII, when information about the clerical establishment is available, (fn. 76) the dean's revenues were negligible and apparently he maintained no vicar. How this state of affairs came about is not discoverable. Perhaps the dean's property had been alienated while the Ferrers family had the advowson; (fn. 77) perhaps the deanery had always been ill-endowed, though this seems unlikely. (fn. 78) In 1498 the advowson of the deanery was again thought to belong to the Ferrers family, as lords of Tettenhall manor; Sir Thomas Ferrers was said by a local jury to have died possessed of it. (fn. 79) It may be that the Ferrers family actually presented to the deanery after this date, for no royal appointments are recorded after Thomas Bowd's in 1489; but this may be fortuitous, for the appointments of only three of the six deans of the 15th century appear on the patent rolls. In 1531 the deanery was valued at only 2s. 1d., (fn. 80) and in 1535 its rents were worth only 1d., though fees from those subject to the dean's spiritual jurisdiction brought his total income up to an estimated £1 14s. 9d. a year. (fn. 81) In 1548 his clear portion, after expenses had been deducted, was said to be 17s. 9d. (fn. 82) After the dissolution of the college, when the dean's property was in Crown possession, it consisted of land in Autherley worth 1½d. a year and the profits of his spiritual court worth 10s. a year. (fn. 83)
Although the dean provided no vicar for Tettenhall, there were six stipendiary priests on the establishment in the second quarter of the 16th century. One of these was the curate of Codsall chapel, whose salary of £5 a year was paid by the Prebendary of Codsall. (fn. 84) Two priests served in chantries in Tettenhall church. Our Lady's Chantry had been founded in the 13th century by John Chishull, who endowed it with land in Tettenhall and farm stock. (fn. 85) Other unspecified donors were said to have given property to it; in 1548 it possessed lands in Tettenhall, Compton, and Bilbrook. (fn. 86) The priest's stipend was a little over £5 a year. (fn. 87) The other chantry was known as Cronkhall's. It was said to have been founded in 1528-9 by Richard Cronkhall and was endowed with lands in Tettenhall which produced a stipend of £4 7s. 2d. for the priest in 1548. (fn. 88) Cronkhall's chantry chaplain in 1548 was also vicar of the Prebendary of Pendeford, with a salary of £5 a year. (fn. 89) Four of the prebendaries maintained priest vicars: (fn. 90) Pendeford, Wrottesley, Codsall, and Bovenhill (by 1535 the name of the prebend formerly known as Tettenhall and Compton). (fn. 91) Since the Prebendary of Perton had no vicar, it is to be presumed that he was resident at Tettenhall.
The college was dissolved in 1548 under the Act of 1547. (fn. 92) By this date all the prebends were let on long leases at rents well below the real value of the property; (fn. 93) no doubt large entry-fines had been paid. The pensions (fn. 94) assigned to the prebendaries were closely related to the incomes remaining after the discharge of liabilities such as the salaries of their vicars. (fn. 95) Perton's income was highest since it supported no vicar; the clear value was £6 7s. and the pension granted £5. The other prebendaries were given pensions corresponding exactly to their clear incomes: Pendeford £4, Bovenhill £4, Codsall £3 9s. 4d., Wrottesley £3. Similarly the dean was allotted full compensation for his meagre revenues: his pension was 17s. 9d. Two of the vicars received pensions of £5, equalling their salaries; the vicar of the Prebendary of Codsall, whose salary was £4 6s. 8d., had a pension of £4; (fn. 96) the Prebendary of Bovenhill's vicar was appointed to serve Tettenhall church at a stipend of £13 6s. 8d. The curate of Codsall was retained to serve his chapel.
The property of the deanery and prebends, including the college buildings, was assessed by the king's commissioners at £50 17s. 0½d. a year. (fn. 97) In May 1549 Walter Wrottesley bought it at the standard purchase price of 22 years' rent: £1,118 14s. 11d. The lands lay in Tettenhall, Autherley, Pendeford, Wergs, Compton, Perton, Trescott, Bilbrook, Wrottesley, Wightwick, Oaken, and Codsall. (fn. 98) A few weeks later Wrottesley disposed of three of the prebends, keeping for himself the prebends of Wrottesley and Codsall, of which he held the leases. (fn. 99) Perton (fn. 100) he sold to his nephew Edward Leveson; the Levesons already held the lease of the major part of Perton's property. (fn. 101) Pendeford and Bovenhill (fn. 102) were bought by Richard Creswell (who held the leases) and Henry Southwick, formerly Prebendary of Bovenhill. (fn. 103)
The properties which endowed chantries, obits, and lights in Tettenhall church were not included among the assets of the college as sold to Wrottesley but were assessed and sold separately. Two tenements belonging to St. Mary's Chantry and two of the obit endowments were bought by John Hulson and William Pendred of London in 1549. (fn. 104) The purchase price was 22 years' rent in each case: £31 14s. 4d. for the chantry lands and £6 12s. for the obit endowments. (fn. 105) It is likely that most of the other chantry and obit lands had been sold off piecemeal in this way before any that remained to the Crown of the Tettenhall properties were granted in 1588 to Edward Wymarke of London together with any remaining of a large number of former religious houses in various counties. (fn. 106)
Walter Wrottesley's purchase of the college had included the deanery, of which almost the sole assets were the profits of spiritual jurisdiction. Consequently the Wrottesleys were entitled to hold a peculiar court for the whole area formerly under the dean's jurisdiction. Their right to hold a secular court for this area, as lords of the manor of Tettenhall Clericorum, was periodically contested by the Creswells, (fn. 107) who held the former prebends of Pendeford and Bovenhill; but their right to spiritual jurisdiction seems to have been unchallenged. It survived until the 19th century, when all such peculiars were abolished. The last wills proved in this court and the latest marriage bonds made before its official belong to 1858. (fn. 108)
Some at least of the collegiate buildings seem to have stood to the east of the church, although this was only a memory about 1800. (fn. 109) There was a house for the vicars by the 16th century. (fn. 110)
William, occurs about 1176 and at some time between 1177 and 1182. (fn. 111)
Elias of Bristol, occurs about 1225. (fn. 112)
Thomas Blundeville, appointed September 1226, elected Bishop of Norwich November 1226. (fn. 113)
Walter of Brackley, appointed November 1226, elected Bishop of Ossory 1232. (fn. 114)
Nicholas de Neville, appointed 1232, vacated deanery by March 1245. (fn. 115)
Peter Chaceporc, appointed 1245, died 1254. (fn. 116)
Henry Wingham, appointed 1254, retained deanery while Bishop of London from 1259, died 1262. (fn. 117)
Peter of Winchester, appointed 1262, occurs 1272. (fn. 118)
Walter Langton, resigned by January 1291. (fn. 119)
Master William Burnell, appointed 1291, occurs 1293. (fn. 120)
John Benstead, appointed 1297, resigned 1300. (fn. 121)
Geoffrey Stokes, appointed 1300, occurs 1304. (fn. 122)
Ingelard Warley, appointed 1314, resigned 1318. (fn. 123)
William of Shenton, B.C.L., appointed 1318, resigned probably by March 1341. (fn. 124)
Jordan de Gathorp, resigned by April 1348. (fn. 125)
Stephen Broxbourne, appointed 1348. (fn. 126)
Robert Caldwell, appointed by the queen between 1343 and 1354, occurs 1361, had evidently resigned by 1366. (fn. 127)
Edmund, resigned 1371. (fn. 128)
John of Harewood, appointed 1371. (fn. 129)
John Hatfield, appointed 1374, resigned 1383. (fn. 130)
William Hermesthorp, appointed 1383. (fn. 131)
John Lincoln of Grimsby, Sch.Cn.L., appointed 1385, resigned 1386. (fn. 132)
Nicholas Slake, appointed June 1386, resigned July 1386. (fn. 133)
John Nottingham, appointed July 1386, resigned 1389. (fn. 134)
Thomas Hanley, appointed 1389, resigned 1412. (fn. 135)
Robert Wolveden, appointed 1412. (fn. 136)
John Stopyndon, occurs 1435. (fn. 137)
Richard Well, resigned 1465. (fn. 138)
Ralph Hethcote, B.Cn.L., appointed 1465, occurs 1473. (fn. 139)
John Vernham, died 1489. (fn. 140)
Thomas Bowd, B.Th., appointed 1489. (fn. 141)
William Capon, D.Th., occurs 1531, dean at the dissolution. (fn. 142)
The seal of the peculiar jurisdiction in use in the 18th century is a pointed oval, 21/8 by 1¼ in., depicting a figure in robes in the upper part and the arms of the Wrottesleys in the base. (fn. 143) Legend, roman:
SIGILLUM PECULIARIS IURISDICTIONIS ECCLESIAE COLLEGIATAE TETENHALL
SIGILLUM HELIE DECANI DE PENCRIZ ET DE TETEHAL'.