Colleges: Cardinal's College, Ipswich

Pages 142-144

A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1975.

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A college of secular canons at Ipswich to which was attached a school was one of the two considerable educational schemes projected by Cardinal Wolsey. The college at Oxford came eventually to a successful issue, but the college at Ipswich perished ere it had come to maturity.

This college was erected on the site of the dissolved priory of St. Peter and St. Paul. On 14 May, 1528, the king confirmed the bull of Pope Clement for the suppression of this monastery and the founding of the college at Ipswich. (fn. 1) To help to find funds for this considerable project, the pope also sanctioned the appropriation to it of the Ipswich churches of St. Peter, St. Nicholas, St.-Mary-at-Quay, St. Clement, and St. Matthew, and the small monasteries of Snape, Dodnash, Wikes, Tiptree, Horkesley, Rumburgh, Felixstowe, Bromhill, Blythburgh, and Mountjoy, together with the various churches pertaining to them. (fn. 2)

The actual date of the laying of the foundation stone is known from the inscription with which it was at that time incised. The stone was found in two pieces built up into a common piece of walling in Woulfoun's Lane, in 1789, and given to Christ Church, Oxford. It is inserted in the wall at the entrance to the Chapter House, on the right-hand side. It bears the following inscription: 'Anno Christi 1528, et regni Henrici Octavi Regis Angliae 20 mensis vero Junii 15, positum per Johannem Episcopum Lidensem.' John Longland, bishop of Lincoln, was also employed by the Cardinal to lay the first stone of his college at Oxford. (fn. 3)

The royal licence for the founding of this college in Ipswich, the cardinal's birthplace, granted in the same month as the laying of the foundation stone, set forth that it was to consist of one dean or master, twelve priests (sacerdotes), eight clerks, eight singing boys and poor scholars, and thirteen poor men, to pray for the good estate of the king and cardinal, and for the souls of the cardinal's parents, and also of one undermaster (hipodidasculus) in grammar for the said poor scholars and others coming to the college from any part of the realm. This licence also included a grant of incorporation for the foundation, bearing the name of the Cardinal's College of St. Mary in Ipswich, with mortmain licence to endow it to the annual value of £100 for the erection of chantries and appointment of anniversaries, etc. (fn. 4)

Dr. William Capon, master of Jesus College, Cambridge, was appointed dean, and on 3 July, 1528, a commission was nominated consisting of Dr. Capon, Dr. Higden, dean of Cardinal's College, Oxford, Dr. Stephen Gardiner and others, to amend and reform the statutes of the two colleges. On the same day the notarial attestation of the foundation charter of Ipswich College was made in the south gallery of Hampton Court. (fn. 5)

The exemption of the college from diocesan jurisdiction was granted by a bull of Pope Clement VII, which was confirmed by the king on 20 August, 1528. (fn. 6)

A letter from the cardinal to the younger countess of Oxford was written on 3 September, asking her to send 'two bucks next Lady Day' (Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary, 8 September), to the college at Ipswich, for the entertainment of Drs. Stevyns and Lee, whom he is sending thither for the induction of certain priests, clerks, and children, for the maintenance of God's service there. Various presents for a great dinner on this occasion also reached the college on 7 September, from the Duke of Norfolk, the Duke of Suffolk, Sir Philip Booth, and others. (fn. 7)

The newly appointed dean wrote at length to Wolsey on 26 September, acknowledging the receipt on 6 September of parcels of vestments and plate, hangings, &c. Cromwell and Lee and Stevyns, who brought the parcels, remained in the college four days, and Cromwell was at great pains in preparing the hangings and benches for the hall, which was then well trimmed. On Our Lady's Even, the dean, subdean, six priests, eight clerks, nine choristers, and all their servants, after evensong in the college church (St. Peter's), repaired to Our Lady's Chapel and sang evensong there. They were accompanied by the bailiffs of the town, the portmen, the prior of Christ Church (Holy Trinity), and others. On 8 September it rained so continuously that the procession through the town had to be abandoned, but they made as solemn a procession as they could in the college church, all the honourable gentlemen of the shire were there as well as the town officials, the Bishop of Norwich, and the priors of Christ Church and Butley. They all dined together in the college. The dean considered the singing men well chosen, but some of them said that they had got better wages where they came from. One man was not sufficient to keep the church vestry clean, ring the bells, prepare the altar lights, etc., therefore he had put in another man and called him sexton. There were but five priests under the sub-dean, too few to keep three masses a day, and the sub-dean could not attend as he was required to superintend the buildings. Mr. Lentall was of much zeal with the quire both for mattins and masses: 'there shall be no better children in any place in England than we shall have here shortly.' He had made fifteen albs of the new cloth, but there were many more to be made. Nine bucks arrived for the Lady's Day, which were distributed with money to make merry withal to the chamberlains and head men of the town, to the bailiffs and portmen's wives, and to the curates. They also received coneys, pheasants, quails, and a fat crane. One hundred and twenty one tons of Caen stone had arrived, and he expected a hundred more after Michaelmas, and there was promise of a thousand tons more before Easter. (fn. 8)

With regard to the school attached to the college, there is an interesting letter extant of William Goldwin, the schoolmaster, dated 10 January, 1528-9, to Cardinal Wolsey. He expressed his gratitude and that of the people of Ipswich, and sent specimens of the handwriting of some of the boys, who, he hopes, will soon be able to speak Italian; the number is increasing, so that the school-house is becoming too small. (fn. 9)

A letter from William Brabazon to Cromwell on 24 July, 1529, mentions that my lord's college at Ipswich is going on prosperously, and 'much of it above the ground, which is very curious work.' The sub-dean, Mr. Ellis, takes the oversight of it; he has stone and all other necessaries, and they are working day and night. (fn. 10)

In the following year came the fall of Wolsey, and with his fall this unfinished college came to an end. On the disgrace of its founder, the king claimed all the founder's property.

On 14 November, 1530, the commissioners made an inventory of all the plate and goods. They seized a vast amount of church and domestic plate, and after stripping the buildings of everything of value, they charged Dean Capon with having £1,000 of the cardinal's treasures in his possession. Not believing his denial the commissioners, with six yeomen of the guard and eighteen other persons, waited five days on the premises ere they left. On Sunday 21 November, members of the Duke of Norfolk's council took possession of the buildings, and on the morrow the dean left for London. (fn. 11)

In 1531 the actual site of the college, formerly the priory of St. Peter and St. Paul, was granted to Thomas Alvard, one of the gentlemen ushers of the king's chamber, together with all the Ipswich property pertaining to 'the late Cardynelles College.' (fn. 12) Other property of the college was granted by patent to the provost and college of Eton, (fn. 13) and yet more to the abbot and convent of Waltham. (fn. 14) 'The very site,' says Mr. Wodderspoon, 'of the Cardinal's College becomes in a brief space of time a spot for depositing of the refuse and filth of the town.'


  • 1. Rymer, Foedera, xiv, 241.
  • 2. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, pt. ii, 4229, 4259, 4297, 4307, 4424, 5076.
  • 3. Proc. Suff. Arch. Inst. vi, 334-5.
  • 4. Pat. 20 Hen. VIII, pt. i, m. 32.
  • 5. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, pt. ii, 4460, 4461.
  • 6. Ibid. 4652.
  • 7. Ibid. 4696, 4706.
  • 8. Ibid. 4778. This letter is set forth at length in Ellis, Orig. Let. (1st ser.), i, 185.
  • 9. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, pt. iii, 5159.
  • 10. Ibid. 5792.
  • 11. Wodderspoon, Mem. Ipsw. 327-8.
  • 12. Pat. 23 Hen. VIII, pt. ii, m. 4.
  • 13. Ibid. m. 27.
  • 14. Ibid. m. 26.