Colleges: Sudbury

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

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'Colleges: Sudbury', in A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2, (London, 1975) pp. 150-152. British History Online [accessed 29 February 2024]

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There lived at Sudbury in the first half of the fourteenth century, close to the old church of St. Gregory, a worthy burgher, Nigel Theobald, a person of some position and one of the leading wool merchants in the county of Suffolk. (fn. 1) To Nigel and Sara his wife were born two sons, Simon of Sudbury and John of Chertsey. The eldest son, distinguished for his learning, was consecrated bishop of London in 1361, and translated to the primatial see of Canterbury in 1375.

Among the records of the borough of Sudbury is a grant of land near the croft adjoining his father's house, which was assigned to Simon the future archbishop by Hugh de Dedlyn in 1339. (fn. 2) On this plot of land and on the site of their father's house, the two brothers Simon and John founded the college of St. Gregory, a charter granting the requisite permission being sealed by Edward III on 21 February, 1374-5. In the previous year the brothers had obtained the advowson of the church of St. Gregory from the prioress, prior, and convent of Nun Eaton. The advowson and appropriation of the church were to be put in the hands of a community of chaplains, one of whom was to be warden. (fn. 3)

A deed dated 9 August, 1375, when Simon had become archbishop, was enrolled between Simon and his brother John, of the one part, and Henry bishop of Norwich, of the other part, for the actual erection of the college, with the licence of the latter prelate, who secured for himself the sum of two marks and for the prior and chapter of Norwich five shillings annually as an acknowledgement. This licence was confirmed in 1381. (fn. 4)

In March, 1380, licence was granted for the alienation to the college by the joint founders, of the manors of Balidon and Middleton, 570 acres of land, &c., of the yearly value of £17 0s. 9½d. (fn. 5) There were further grants in the following year of a messuage and three shops in St. Michael's, Cornhill, London, and of over 200 acres of land in Sudbury and other places in Suffolk, which were the endowment of the priory of Edwardston (commonly called the priory of St. Bartholomew, Sudbury), a cell of the abbey of Westminster. (fn. 6)

In the college the warden lived, with five secular canons and three chaplains; they kept the canonical hours and celebrated in the adjoining church of St. Gregory.

In 1384 the endowments of the college were increased by the alienation to the warden and chaplains, by John Chertsey and John Rennyshale, of the manor of Braundon, Essex, of the yearly value of £12 5s. 11d. (fn. 7)

The Valor of 1535 shows that the college was then in receipt of £37 0s. 0¾d. from houses, lands, rents, &c., in Sudbury and the Sudbury manor of Neles; of £76 1s. 4½d. from lands in Essex; and of £19 from property in London. In spiritualities there was the further income of £15 1s. 4d. from the church of Sudbury with its chapel of St. Peter, and a small pension from Cornard Parva. The gross annual value was £147 2s. 9d., and the net value £122 18s. 3d. (fn. 8)

Archdeacon Goldwell visited this college as commissary of his brother in 1493.

Thomas Aleyn, the master, presented his accounts, and eight other fellows attended; it was found that no reform was needed. (fn. 9) The next recorded visitation was in 1514, by Bishop Nykke in person. Master John Carver, and eight fellows were examined; all declared that everything was in good order, save that there was a debt of £15. The bishop enjoined on the master and fellows to prepare a tripartite indenture of the jewels and movable goods of the college, whereof one part was to be handed to the bishop at his next visit. (fn. 10)

At the visitation of 16 June, 1520, Richard Eden, the master, although he had been duly cited, made no appearance either personally or by proctor. His name was again called on the following day, and as there was again no appearance, the bishop excommunicated him. John White, aged 80, testified that he had been a fellow of Sudbury for 50 years; he said they lacked three fellows of their full foundation number, but they had two 'conducts' or stipendiaries in their place; that one of the fellows had been acting as chantry priest at Melford for five years; and that divine worship was duly observed; and that all temporal mat ters were well ordered at the college and that they were out of debt. Thomas Legate, the college steward, who had been a fellow for 12 years, gave a good report of everything, save that the statute as to their dress being of one colour and pattern was not observed. William Tublayne, who had been fellow for 12 or 13 years, William Nutman for 7 years, and John Sickling for 10 years, all made favourable reports. (fn. 11)

The bishop next visited Sudbury College on 10 July, 1526, when Richard Eden, the master, was in attendance; he was examined and gave an undeviating favourable report of everything pertaining to the house. But the bishop, acting apparently on private information, (fn. 12) contented himself on that occasion with the master's testimony, and prorogued the visitation, adjourning it until after the Michaelmas synod. On the visitation being resumed, evidence was given of great disorder. The master was absent, and Thomas Legate, a fellow and president in the master's absence, deposed that annual accounts were not rendered and that the fellows were ignorant of the state of the house, that he believed they were in debt, and that Nutman, the steward, was much in fault. He also complained of the almost daily quarrels and disputes between Nutman and Sickling, another of the fellows. William Tublayne also complained of Nutman, stating that he neglected to pay their quarterly stipend properly, and did not attend to the repairs of the manors, farms, and granges. Nutman deposed that all was well, save that the house was in debt. Sickling said that he had not heard or seen any accounts for 14 years, and that the steward made no monthly returns as he was ordered by the statutes, that their stipends were not properly paid, and that there was a niggardly supply of provisions. Thomas Coche alias Kerver, a former fellow, had provided the infirmary with feather beds and other bedding, but they were not at the service of the fellows when ill. Robert Chickering, another fellow, stated that the manor houses, granges, and other houses belonging to the college were in a grievous state of dilapidation, through the negligence of the steward, that the agriculture of the college property was in a sad plight, and that their food was sparse and unhealthy, all owing to the bad management of the same official, who refused to supply any accounts. William Fisher, another fellow, testified in a like manner. The injunctions consequent on this visitation are missing. (fn. 13)

The last visitation of this college, prior to its dissolution, was made on 7 July, 1532. Thomas Legate, the sub-warden, testified that the number of the fellows was defective. There ought to have been eight, but there were only three. The two other fellows, Chikering and Fisher, said that there had only been three fellows for the last three years, and that they knew nothing of the accounts, for they were never presented. It was further stated that sometimes, at time of divine service, there were only two chaplains in quire; that there were no choristers, and that a youth of eighteen acted as college steward. On 9 July the bishop called the master, Richard Eden, to account in the chapter-house, ordering him to exhibit the faculties, together with institutions and collations, whereby he held many benefices; he was to appear before him on the morrow of St. Nicholas's Day in the chapel of his manor of Hoxne, and to hear his will as to the charge of perjury, which, with other articles, had been alleged against him. The warden swore on the Holy Gospels that his faculties, with institutions and collations, were in his house at London in a secret place to which he only had access.

The bishop ordered the warden at once to remove from the college a French chaplain; and to fill up the number of fellows to eight before next Michaelmas. The visitation was then prorogued until the following Lady Day. (fn. 14)

Richard Eden, the last master of the college, who was also archdeacon of Middlesex, surrendered it to the king on 9 December, 1544. The surrender, in addition to the master's signature, was signed by Edmund Lyster, Thomas Legate, and Robert Paternoster, chaplains. (fn. 15)

On 3 February, 1544-5, the king granted the college and its appurtenances and property to Sir Thomas Paston, one of the gentlemen of the privy chamber. (fn. 16)

Masters of the College of Sudbury

John Cordebef, (fn. 17) occurs 1375

Peter Hermis, (fn. 18) resigned 1393

John Stacy, (fn. 19) appointed 1393

George Bryce, (fn. 20) died 1446

Thomas Bett, (fn. 21) appointed 1446

Henry Sything, (fn. 22) appointed 1452

Robert Sylman, (fn. 23) appointed 1464

Thomas Aleyn, (fn. 24) occurs 1493

John Carver, (fn. 25) occurs 1514

Richard Eden, (fn. 26) occurs 1520

The fine seal bears St. Gregory seated in a canopied niche, with papal tiara, the right hand raised in benediction, and a cross in the left. Above, in a smaller niche, the Trinity, and on each side in a canopied niche, a saint. In the base Archbishop Simon kneeling, between two shields of arms. Legend:—

SIG' LU ....... GREGORII DE SUDBURY (fn. 27)


  • 1. Close, 13 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 34; 14 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 1; 15 Edw. III, pt. ii.
  • 2. Proc. Suff. Arch. Inst. vii, 24.
  • 3. Pat. 49 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 29.
  • 4. Norw. Epis. Reg. vi.
  • 5. Pat. 3 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 1; pt. ii, m. 17.
  • 6. Ibid. 4 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 11. See previous account of the priory.
  • 7. Ibid. 7 Ric. II, pt. ii, m. 29.
  • 8. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 456.
  • 9. Jessopp, Visit. 41-2.
  • 10. Ibid. 80.
  • 11. Jessopp, Visit. 150-1.
  • 12. Ibid. 224-6.
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. Ibid. 297-8.
  • 15. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xix, pt. ii, 718.
  • 16. Proc. Suff. Arch. Inst. vii, 30-1.
  • 17. Bodl. Chart. Suff. 233.
  • 18. Pat. 17 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 15.
  • 19. Ibid.
  • 20. Norw. Epis. Reg. xi, 2.
  • 21. Ibid.
  • 22. Ibid. xi, 29.
  • 23. Ibid. xi, 143.
  • 24. Jessopp, Visit. 41.
  • 25. Ibid. 80.
  • 26. Ibid. 150.
  • 27. Add. Chart. 8405; B.M. Cast, lxxii, 14.