Colleges: Stratford-on-Avon

Pages 123-124

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

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On 8 October, 1331, John Stratford, then bishop of Winchester, founded a chantry in the chapel of St. Thomas the Martyr in the south aisle of the parish church of Stratford-on-Avon, which he had recently rebuilt. (fn. 1)

For the maintenance of this chantry of five priests in the town of his birth, the bishop settled a messuage in Stratford-on-Avon, together with the manor of Ingon in that parish. They were to celebrate daily at the altar of St. Thomas for the good estate of the founder and of his brother Robert, afterwards bishop of Chichester, and for the souls of Robert and Isabel, their parents. They were also to pray for the good estate of Edward III and for the bishop of Worcester for the time being, and also for the souls of all the kings of England and bishops of Worcester deceased. Of these five priests, two were to be perpetual or beneficed; and one of the two was to be termed the warden, and govern the rest; the second was to be the sub-warden, but the remainder were to be merely chaplains, removable at the warden's will. The founder ere long increased the endowment in 1334, by giving 69s. of rents in Stratford. (fn. 2) After his advancement to the archbishopric of Canterbury, he purchased the advowson of the parish church of the Holy Trinity in 1337, from Simon Montacute, bishop of Worcester. The rectory of Stratford, valued in 1291 at 35 marks, had been in the patronage of the diocesan from its earliest foundation. The archbishop united the advowson to his chantry of St. Thomas. (fn. 3) Three years later he obtained a charter from Edward III, conferring privileges and immunities on these chantry priests and their successors; and later in the same reign he materially increased their endowment by further grants of lands in Stratford and Ingon. (fn. 4)

In June 1345 Clement VI granted confirmation of the foundation of this chantry to Archbishop Stratford with the statutes and ordinances as successively modified, together with the endowments of Adam, bishop of Winchester (translated from Worcester), and of Simon, bishop of Worcester. (fn. 5)

An excellent house of squared stone, for the habitation of these priests, adjoining the churchyard, was built by Ralph Stratford, bishop of London (1340-55), the near relative of the founder. He began the work in 1353, employing ten carpenters and ten masons together with their respective labourers. (fn. 6) From that date the clergy led a collegiate life in their new house or college, having separate chambers, but a common hall.

On 16 June, 1340, John Geraud, who had been rector of Stratford since 1334, was presented to the reconstructed wardenship, which now included the charge of the whole church. From that date the collation to the wardenship rested with the diocesan. Early in the days of Bishop Brian (1352-62) Warden Geraud resigned in order to visit Rome, but passage being refused by the king, he was reappointed; finally, however, he resigned in 1354. Previous wardens had been instituted or collated as wardens of the chantry of Stratford. But on the death of Warden Stoley in 1423, his successor Richard Praty was appointed under the more appropriate title of warden or dean of the collegiate church of Stratford. Warden Henry Seber, B.D., who retired in February, 1466, was granted the large retiring pension of £24 by the bishop. Dr. Balsall, his successor, rebuilt the quire of the collegiate church at his own cost. He was followed by Dr. Ralph Collingwood, afterwards dean of Lichfield. Dr. Collingwood, with the consent of Bishop Silvester de Gigliis (14981511), established a foundation of four boys choristers in connexion with the collegiate church, who were to live in the college and wait at table. Warden Collingwood by his will dated 10 November, 1521, left £6 to the college. (fn. 7) He was succeeded in the wardenship by Dr. John Bell.

On 19 August, 1534, John Bell, warden, William Crace, sub-warden, Robert Midleton, precentor, Humphrey Sadler, curate, and Richard Borrow, and Thomas Reddell, vicars, signed their acceptance of the royal supremacy. (fn. 8)

The Valor of 1535, when John Bell, LL.D. was warden, gave the clear annual value of the college as £123 11s. 9d. Dr. Bell drew the large sum of £55 as warden; William Crace, sub-warden, £6 13s. 4d.; Humphrey Sadler and Robert Midleton, as the two curates (capellani curati ecclesie parochialis) the like sum each; and Richard Borowes and John Elys, chaplains, £6 each. (fn. 9)

In 1546 on the eve of the suppression of the college, another survey was taken, when Anthony Barker was warden. The annual value was then returned as £127 18s. 9d. The warden's stipend was £68 5s. 1d.; but out of that Barker had to pay Dr. Bell, who had been consecrated bishop of Worcester on 17 August, 1539, £22 a year as a resigning pension. (fn. 10)

The commissioners reported that:—

The seyd College was Founded by one John Strattforde somtyme Archebysshoppe of Canterburye, For one Warden Fyve prests and 4 querysters to maynteyne Dyvyne servyce within the parisshe churche of Strattforde whyche be there nowe Reysdent, And the seyde Warden ys parson of the same churche as in the ryght of the seyd college and the same parisshe ys 10 myles compasse, And he hathe the cure of M.D. (1500) Houselyng people within the same parisshe so that withowte the helpe of the seyd prestes he ys not able to serve the seyd Cure.

Also there ys belongyng to the same Collegiate Churche 2 chapelles, the one caulyd Bysshopston, and the other Luddyngton, being members of the seyd parisshe, and eche of them Dystaunt from the seyd churche 2 myles and the preste of the same chapell of Bysshopston hathe the mynute tythes of the village of Bysshopston for servyng the cure there, Whiche ys not comprised above in the Revennewe of the seyd college, nor yet within the Deduccions of the same; And the other Curate of Luddyngton, ys payde by the Warden as apperythe above in the Deduccions of the same college.

The site of the college was granted in 1550 to John, earl of Warwick. (fn. 11)

Wardens of Stratford (fn. 12)

John de Offchurch, 1331

John de Suthwaltham, 1336

John Geraud, 1340-54

Hugh de Ferrariis, 1354

William Boys, 1368

William Owty,

William Hulle, 1379

Robert Mile, 1384

Simon Stoley, 1414


Richard Praty, 1423

Henry Seber, 1436

Thomas Balsall, 1485

Ralph Collingwood, 1491

John Bell, 1518

Anthony Barker, 1536

Two seals ad causas in the British Museum are attributed to this college. The first is a pointed oval: the Trinity, in a canopied niche with tabernacle work at the sides. In base, a shield of arms: on a fesse three crosslets. Legend:—


Beaded borders.

The other shows the Trinity, in a canopied niche with tabernacle work at the sides. Legend:—



  • 1. The history of this college has recently (1903) been set forth with much detail in Harvey Bloom, Shakespeare's Church.
  • 2. 'Registrum Album' of this college, cited in Dugdale, Warw. ii, 692.
  • 3. Pat. 10 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 33.
  • 4. Chart. R. 11 Edw. III, n. 27; Pat. 11 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 29; 19 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 27; 21 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 21.
  • 5. Cal. Papal Let. ii, 216.
  • 6. Pat. 26 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 6.
  • 7. Mag. Reg. Alb. Lich. (Salt Soc.), vi, pt. ii.
  • 8. Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii, App. iii (106).
  • 9. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 94.
  • 10. Chant. Cert. 31.
  • 11. Pat. 4 Edw. VI, m. 7.
  • 12. a Harvey Bloom, op. cit. 142.
  • 13. B. M. xxxv, 42.
  • 14. Ibid. 53.