Colleges: Knowle

Pages 121-123

A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.

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Walter Cook, a canon of Lincoln, and a native of the great parish of Hampton in Arden, in the year 1397 rebuilt the chapel of Knowle, over a mile distant from the parish church, on a large and beautiful scale, with a tower and bells, to the honour of St. John Baptist, St. Laurence, and St. Anne, for the health of his own and his parents' souls. He also added thereto a churchyard, and endowed it with a sufficiency to maintain a resident priest. For this purpose he obtained a bull from Pope Benedict IX (1384-94) authorizing its use for baptismal and burial purposes. (fn. 1) In 1399, when the new chapel was finished, Bishop Burghill granted a licence to the inhabitants of Knowle to use the chapel and chapelyard instead of the parish church, reserving certain rights, (fn. 2) and granting a remission of enjoined penance to all penitents devoutly repairing there at the festivals of our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, St. John Baptist, St. Peter and St. Paul, St. Anne, St. Laurence, All Saints, or the octave of Pentecost, provided they made an offering for the fabric fund of the chapel.

Letters patent were granted by Henry IV on 18 November, 1402, to Walter Cook and to Adam Cook his father, to establish at Knowle a chantry of one or two priests. (fn. 3) In the following year the founder granted the patronage of this chantry to the abbey of Westminster. (fn. 4)

The manor of Knowle was held by the abbot of Westminster, hence some arrangement with that powerful abbey became necessary ere the chantry could be founded. On 4 August, 1404, an agreement was made whereby William, abbot of Westminster, and his convent, in consideration of 300 marks paid to them by Walter Cook and of the patronage of the chantry of Knowle, assigned to the chaplain a yearly stipend of 10 marks. (fn. 5)

In February, 1413, Walter Cook associated himself with William Wynnewik, William Hawe, William Arncok, William Bowdy, Thomas Elford, and Hugh Ruggeley in the founding of a gild or fraternity in connexion with this church, consisting of a master or keeper (or two masters or keepers) with brethren and sisters, to be called the gild of St. Anne of Knowle. Letters patent were granted for their incorporation and authorizing the use of a seal. (fn. 6) In the gild list of the original founders, the names stand as in the patent, save that the wives of Hawe, Arncok, Bowdy, Elford, and Ruggeley are associated with their husbands as gild sisters, and the names of Adam Cook and Robert Fraunklyn are added.

Meanwhile Walter Cook obtained further preferment (in addition to his Lincoln canonry, he was also canon of York and St. Paul's, and archdeacon of Berkshire and Exeter), and was desirous of further benefiting his birth-place. He associated himself with the Lady Elizabeth, widow of John, Lord Clinton, and obtained letters patent on 6 November, 1416, authorizing them, or either of them, or their executors to found in the chapel of Knowle, in honour of St. John Baptist, St. Laurence, and St. Anne, a college of ten chantry priests, for the health of their souls, their parents and friends, and all the faithful departed. One of the number was to be their rector or warden, and they were to have a common seal for their business. (fn. 7) This was to secure common board and lodging, and a certain amount of regular life for the various priests attached to the church or chapel, whether directly connected with the gild or otherwise. No two of the collegiate churches of England founded in the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries seem to have been established on precisely the same lines; that of Knowle much resembles the still later college of the various chantry and gild priests serving the church of All Saints, Northampton. (fn. 8) It does not appear that the full number mentioned in the patent for this college was ever reached. The number of priests in the college probably never exceeded the six that were found there at the time of its dissolution.

The Valor of 1535 set forth the clear annual value of the college of Knowle, of which John Townesend was then rector sive custos, as only £18 5s. 6d.; but this was exclusive of the definite gild endowment with which that survey had no special concern. (fn. 9)

The 'Certificates' of the chantry surveys 37 Henry VIII, and of Edward VI, have been copied by Mr. Bickley in the introduction to the gild register. The survey of 1545-6 names the farm of the site of the college with all buildings and gardens as worth 13s. 4d. a year. The gross annual value of the first, second, and third chantries was £12 12s. 4d., £7 6s. 4d., and £5 10s., respectively. After deductions the clear annual value of the three was £22 3s. 3d. It is stated that the college was founded for ten chantry priests, but there were only three. The commissioners were evidently most anxious that the king should not confiscate the property. They concluded their report after this manner:

Also the seyd Collegeate Church ys ii mylys from the parisshe church callyd Hampton, and some of the parishyoners be dystant iii mylys from the same parissche church and there be CCC houselying peaple and above within the seyd hamlett of Knoll which hamlett ys Also A markett towne and in Wynter tyme so Fowle Waye and a greate Ryver runnynge betwyxt them that the peaple can have no passage nother on horsebake nor on Fote.

At the same time there was a separate survey of the property of the gild of St. Anne, the clear annual value of which was stated to be £29 3s. 8d. Three chaplains who served the gild drew each £5 6s. 8d.; the organist £1 6s. 8d.; and the deacon and clerk £1 3s. 4d.

From these two surveys it is clear that there were six priests in the college, the one who held the first chantry, worth £12 12s. 4d., being the rector or warden. The commissioners do not seem to have been aware that the college was intended to associate together all the priests of the church.

The survey of 1 Edward VI named two chalices of silver parcel gilt, weighing 18 oz. The commissioners stated that the foundation had been used to 'mynister all sacraments and sacramentalls within the chappell of Knowle for the ease of the inhabitants in ye same towne,' adding that it was very necessary that the chapel should stand in consequence of its distance from the parish church, and because of its being divided from the same by

a greate and danngerouse water wch in winter at everye Raine so Rageth and overfloweth all the Cuntrey theare aboute that neyther man nor beaste can passe withoute ymmynent danger of peryshing.

A later survey of the same reign gives the following as the names and stipends of the clergy:—

£ s. d.
Gilbert Fowler, warden, aged 60 12 0 3
William Wright, chaplain, aged 52 5 10 0
John Browne, aged 47 5 7 10
Ralph Marshall, chaplain, aged 42 5 6 8
Ralph Wydford, aged 70 5 6 8
John Whitmore, aged 38 5 6 8

The last three were the gild priests. The commissioner added that none of these six priests had 'other promotions.'

Two of these six priests were still drawing in 1553 pensions of £5 6s. 8d., which had been allotted them at the dissolution of the college. (fn. 10)

The old register proves the importance and popularity of the gild of St. Anne of Knowle. In the days of its fame the members must have numbered about 3,000. From 1497 to 1506, though the register is not perfect and only six years are entered, upwards of 3,000 members were enrolled. A considerable number, however, are the entries of the souls of deceased members, and probably of many who had not been members during their earthly life, the annual subscription being doubtless kept up by relatives or friends. From the few entries of money payments, it may be inferred that the subscription varied according to the condition of the person admitted from 30d. to 40d. The gild was mainly composed of the ordinary folk of Warwickshire and the district. About the beginning of the sixteenth century, more influential people began to join. On a single page, of the year 1506, are entered the names of the marquis of Dorset, and the earl of Kent, and their wives; the abbots of Evesham, Pershore, Bordesley, and Hales, Sir Richard Empson and wife, the archdeacon of Coventry, and the rector of Solihull; members of the Verney and Russell families, and 'Johannes Walleston Cofurrer to prince Artur et Agnes his wyf de yslep.'

Wardens of Knowle (fn. 11)

William Bulker, died 1435

Richard Bryan, 1435

Thomas Rewle, 1461

Thomas Kyxley, 1465

William Dee, 1487

John Wryght, 1500

John Townesend, 1527

Gilbert Fowler, 1537

The seal is a pointed oval: St. Anne, teaching the Virgin, in a canopied niche with taberncale work at the sides. In base, three shields of arms: centre, a rose en soleil, for KNOLL or KNOLLYS; on either side, two church bells in fesse, for a rebus on the word knoll. Legend:—



  • 1. The register of the gild of Knowle from which most of these particulars are taken, an 8vo. MS. of 239 fols. begun in 1407, is in the Free Library, Birmingham. It was transcribed and edited by Mr. Bickley in 1894.
  • 2. Lich. Epis. Reg. Burghill, fol. 145.
  • 3. Pat. 4 Hen. IV, pt. i, m. 6.
  • 4. Ibid. 5 Henry IV, pt. ii, m. 6.
  • 5. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. x, App. pt. vi, 100.
  • 6. Pat. 14 Hen. IV, m. 5. This patent is Englished at length in the gild register. The patent of the last year of Hen. IV was confirmed in the first year of Hen. V, and the sixth year of Hen. VI.
  • 7. Pat. 4 Hen. V, m. 14.
  • 8. Serjeantson, All Saints, Northampt.
  • 9. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 75.
  • 10. Willis, Abbeys, ii, 253.
  • 11. Dugdale, Warw. ii, 960; the dates are those of appointment.
  • 12. B.M. xxx, 32.