Colleges: St Edmund, Salisbury

Pages 385-389

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.

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This college was founded in 1269 by Bishop Walter de la Wyle, and dedicated to St. Edmund of Abingdon, a former treasurer of Salisbury cathedral. (fn. 1) The bishop's ordinances (fn. 2) clarified at the outset the dual nature of the foundation. The thirteen priests, with a provost at their head, were not only to carry out the normal work of a college: they were also to serve the parish of St. Edmund. Whether or not the creation of this parish coincided with the foundation of the college it is impossible to say. The fact that the boundaries of all three parishes in Salisbury are indicated in the bishop's foundation ordinance suggests that this might have been the case, but no conclusive evidence is available.

Despite the dual purpose of the foundation, unity rather than diversity is the keynote of the bishop's ordinances. No details are given regarding parochial work: only the usual daily routine of collegiate chaplains is described. Both the provost and the priests were ordered to wear modest habits of one colour, e.g. blue, russet, camlet, or black burnet, and over these, when in church, surplices and black copes. Unless excused by illness or some other good reason, all were to eat and drink together in the refectory and sleep in a common dormitory. Detailed regulations were made regarding religious observances, from which the priests were to be diverted only by their theological studies. Whenever the weather permitted, all who were able were to attend the solemn processions in the mother church. Its use and ordinal were to be followed in all divine offices held within the college. Each weekday, matins were to be said at dawn, followed by morning mass. Immediately afterwards the priests were to attend lectures in the neighbouring theological schools. On their return, they were to say the hours of the Blessed Virgin, and then solemn mass. This over, one priest was to celebrate for the souls of benefactors, a second for the founder, and others for the souls of the dead. The usual hours of the day were also to be said in the choir. Mass was always to be heard according to the custom of the mother church, but on solemn days and feastdays the custom of the other parochial churches of Salisbury was to be observed during matins. Both the provost and the priests were to swear on their admission to follow these observances and to use a special collect in masses said for benefactors. The provost alone was to transact external business. It was his duty also to see to the clothing and feeding of the priests, and to ensure that all were treated alike in this respect. To facilitate his work he was to receive on behalf of the college 20 marks a year from the church of Winterbourne Whitchurch (Dors.). Each successive vicar of the church was to be bound by oath to discharge the payment every quarter. The bishop reserved to himself and his successors or, sede vacante, the dean and chapter, the right to remove any priest who had contravened his ordinances more than three times, and to fill all vacancies which occurred within the college whether due to the death or misbehaviour of a provost or priest. In addition to the payment from the church of Winterbourne Whitchurch, the college was endowed by its founder with certain rents in the parish of St. Martin and the income formerly drawn by the hospital of St. Nicholas and the Rector of St. Thomas from that parish. It is in these grants that the origin probably lies of the claim made by the provost of St. Edmund's to the vicarage of St. Martin's. In the 15th century no one disputed this claim, (fn. 3) and although no clear proof of its origin seems possible it is likely that the church was always served by the provost or a chaplain of St. Edmund's. There are certainly no episcopal institutions to St. Martin's until after the dissolution of the college, and it seems reasonable to suppose that certain profits of the parish were given to the college by Bishop Wyle in 1269 in recompense for the duties it assumed.

It was not long before the defects of these foundation ordinances became apparent. No machinery had been set up to control the provost's administration of the revenue; no positive check had been imposed upon the movements of the priests in and out of the college. Nicholas Longespée attempted to remedy these defects in 1294. (fn. 4) The provost was ordered to render a yearly account before a representative chosen by the bishop, or, sede vacante, by the dean and chapter, and two members of the college chosen from amongst themselves. All surplus revenue was to be placed in a common chest for the use of the college. No priest was to leave the precincts for any purpose whatever without the permission of the provost or his deputy. Nor was he to go out unaccompanied except in a case of dire necessity. In such a case he was to return immediately his business had been completed. These ordinances, in conjunction with those of the founder, seem to have ensured for the time being the execution of the work of the college. Apart from a complaint by the bishop in 1319 of the failure of the chaplains to participate in the processions of the cathedral church, (fn. 5) there is no evidence of any wilful contravention of the ordinances for nearly a century.

In one important respect, however, it proved impossible for a considerable time to realize the wishes of the founder. It seems clear that the endowment made by Walter de la Wyle was inadequate. Despite the additional income from the annual fairs, held by virtue of Henry III's charter (fn. 6) under the college walls, the full complement of priests was not maintained. In 1309 only six priests were living in the college, (fn. 7) and in 1339 Bishop Wyville complained that there had never been more than seven priests in the college since its foundation. (fn. 8) The earliest additions to its revenue had apparently been the gift of a messuage and carucate in Homington by Henry de Lacy in 1285, (fn. 9) and the grant of 5 marks' rent in Salisbury by Reynold de Tudworth in 1305, (fn. 10) for the foundation of a chantry. The endowment of this chantry was increased in 1318, (fn. 11) and a second founded by Henry Burry in 1330 and endowed with a messuage and 12½ marks' rent in Salisbury. (fn. 12) But these grants had done little to solve the financial problems of the college, and in 1339 the revenue was not even sufficient to support seven priests. (fn. 13)

In 1339 the situation began to improve. That year the college was granted the advowson and rectory of Alderstone, or Whiteparish, (fn. 14) valued in an inquisition of 1337 at £20; (fn. 15) and in 1347 land in Alderstone and Winterbourne Earls (fn. 16) similarly valued at £7 6s. 8d. (fn. 17) In 1349 William Randolf granted it the patronage of the church of Compton Chamberlayne. (fn. 18) The gift to the Abbot and Convent of Abbotsbury (Dors.) in 1351 of the advowson of the church of Winterbourne St. Martin (Dors.) on condition that they founded alms in the church of the abbey and in St. Edmund's college, (fn. 19) resulted in the foundation of the chantry of St. Katherine in St. Edmund's cemetery. The chaplain serving it was paid 100s. a year from the church of Winterbourne St. Martin. (fn. 20) By 1362, when a further grant of 8 messuages in Salisbury was made, the full complement of priests was being maintained. (fn. 21) Numerous vacancies which had occurred in 1348, at the time of the Black Death, had been quickly filled, (fn. 22) and there is no evidence that the life of the college was interrupted by the epidemic.

Not long afterwards, in 1383, the college was visited by Bishop Erghum. The lengthy corrective ordinances which followed (fn. 23) bear eloquent witness to the contempt into which the regulations of the founder had fallen during the provostship of Adam Charles. The priests were ordered to respect the provost and never presume to reprove him. If his actions seemed likely to endanger the college seriously, they could appeal to the bishop to take action. The provost for his part was reminded that he was supposed to be the superior not only in position but also in behaviour. It was his duty to act benignly and to assist in divine offices as a good example to others. The foundation ordinances regarding eating in common were henceforth to be observed and no guests were to be invited without permission from the provost. No stipendiary priest was to reside in the college. The infirmary, intended for the relief and care of the sick, was to be restored to its original use. The passage from the infirmary to the church was to be walled up to allow only one means of entry and exit. Careful provision was made for the safe custody of the common seal and records of the college. They were to be kept under a triple lock, the keys to which were to be kept by the provost, and two representatives elected by the members of the college from amongst themselves. No oblations were to be retained by the priests without the special permission of the provost. The priests were forbidden to visit the city in future at night and at other improper times and to stay there for long periods haunting taverns. On no account were they to go out without leave from the provost. An exception had to be made, however, in favour of the parochial chaplains, whose duty it was to visit the sick. Copies of both these and the foundation ordinances were ordered to be put in prominent places in the college in full view of the priests.

If this was done it was to little effect, for Erghum's successor, Bishop Waltham, complained that the priests made sport of the ordinances. Their strict observance under pain of greater excommunication was now demanded. (fn. 24) In 1394 the provost, Adam Charles, was called before the bishop and charged with neglecting to celebrate mass regularly and failing to maintain the correct number of priests. (fn. 25) The bishop admitted that there had often been two or three less than the full number of priests in the past, but maintained that there were now only two priests and five deacons. The provost, having failed to provide an adequate explanation, was ordered to hand over to the bishop's representatives the money which ought to have been allocated to the other priests. This was to be applied to the use of the college either to supplement masses or in some other way determined by the episcopal representatives. No directive appears to have been issued regarding the increase in the number of priests, nor was Adam Charles removed from office. (fn. 26)

Throughout the 15th century financial difficulties loomed large in the history of the college. The position at the beginning of the century is somewhat confusing. The college was described as a poor foundation when granted exemption from the tenth in 1399, (fn. 27) and an indulgence was granted on its behalf in June 1400. (fn. 28) Yet the church appears to have been rebuilt about this time. (fn. 29) Of the college's financial embarrassment later in the century, however, there is no doubt. St. Edmund's was supposed to receive from the church of Compton Chamberlayne 20 marks annually for the support of two of its chaplains. Yet in May 1431 this church was reported to be scarcely able to support its own vicar. The amount payable to the college was now reduced to 17s. 4d. (fn. 30)

To what extent the decline in this particular source of income was due to the maladministration of the provost, William Spaldington, it is impossible to say. Bishop Neville obviously suspected his liability for the general state of affairs, and in the same year, 1431, summoned him to answer for his dissolute life, and the dilapidation and devastation of the property of the college. (fn. 31) The provost was found guilty of the charges levelled against him and suspended from office. His duties were temporarily entrusted to deputies appointed by the bishop. They were ordered to indemnify the college for the goods subtracted by William Spaldington from sale of the latter's sheep and cattle at Whiteparish. All jewels and stock in pawn were to be redeemed as soon as possible. The number of priests, which had been reduced to three, was to be increased to seven until the revenue sufficed to maintain more. All efforts to exclude salaried priests had long been abandoned: (fn. 32) the deputies were to ensure that each priest received a yearly salary of 9 marks. They were also enjoined to carry out repairs and rebuilding in the college and its property as rents and profits accrued; beginning with matters of the greatest urgency. William Spaldington was ordered to take himself off to a university or some other respectable place and live there content with the stipend the bishop chose to give him.

If William Spaldington was actually dismissed he must have been reinstated, (fn. 33) for in 1444 we find him, as provost, endeavouring to augment the income of the college from the church of St. Martin's, Salisbury. (fn. 34) In his capacity as vicar of the church, he claimed certain tithes of hay from a meadow recently returned from pasture, against the dean and chapter of the cathedral, rectors of the church. He lost his claim. All the great tithes, including the hay from the disputed meadow, were confirmed to the dean and chapter; the provost had to be content with the small tithes.

On 27 October 1447 the tailor's guild of Salisbury founded a fraternity in the chapel of St. John within the college, providing for one chaplain to celebrate at the altar. (fn. 35) The fraternity was transferred from the collegiate church, however, in 1449, to the parish church of St. Thomas. (fn. 36) From the early 15th century the altar of the Holy Cross was supported by the guild of Jesus Mass and the Holy Cross. (fn. 37)

When the college was visited by Bishop Beauchamp in 1478 (fn. 38) it seems to have been practically empty. Not a single perpetual fellow or priest was to be found. With the aim of fulfilling the foundation ordinances as far as possible, the bishop appointed six resident fellows. This was presumably as many as the revenue was capable of supporting. No grants of property of any consequence appear to have been made in the 15th century, and existing endowments no longer sufficed for the needs of the college.

In 1535 St. Edmund's was valued at £102 5s. 5d. (fn. 39) Its most substantial sources of income comprised £27 11s. 3d. from rents in Salisbury, £21 2s. 10d. from private tithes received at Easter, £11 13s. 4d. from the tithes of St. Martin's Church, £12 from the rectory of Whiteparish, and £14 (less £8 paid to the vicar) from that of Whitchurch.

Like all similar foundations, the college was surrendered to Henry VIII. It was already in lay hands by 1543, for on the death of the provost, John Gough, in that year, the office was given to William St. Barbe, a layman of the king's privy chamber. (fn. 40) In the following March he was granted a royal dispensation to hold the office by collation of the Bishop of Salisbury, provided divine service and the cure of souls were not neglected, and all the necessary duties of the church were maintained. (fn. 41) The final break with the church came in 1546. On 17 June the Mayor of Salisbury, Robert Griffith, in conjunction with William Webber, Thomas Chaffyn, and Henry Goldston, took formal possession of the college and its property for the use of the king. (fn. 42) Two months later it was sold to William St. Barbe for the sum of £400. (fn. 43)


Nicholas de Sancto Quintino, appointed 1269, (fn. 44) occurs 1285. (fn. 45)

William de Saundford, died 1313. (fn. 46)

Richard de Hertyngg, collated 1313, (fn. 47) occurs 1322. (fn. 48)

Adam de Northover, resigned 1335. (fn. 49)

Peter de Wymbourn, appointed 1335, (fn. 50) resigned 1351. (fn. 51)

John de Arnale, appointed 1351, (fn. 52) occurs 1355. (fn. 53)

William, occurs 1358. (fn. 54)

Walter Childenham, occurs 1361 (fn. 55) and 1368. (fn. 56)

William David, appointed 1375, (fn. 57) resigned 1378. (fn. 58)

Adam Charles, appointed 1378, (fn. 59) died 1395. (fn. 60)

Robert Ragenhill, collated 1395, (fn. 61) occurs 1399. (fn. 62)

Robert Bussh, occurs 1414. (fn. 63)

John Conge, collated 1416, (fn. 64), resigned 1428. (fn. 65)

William Spaldyngton, exchanged with above 1428, (fn. 66) died 1445. (fn. 67)

John Pyville, collated 1445, (fn. 68) resigned 1454. (fn. 69)

William Osgodby, collated 1454, (fn. 70) resigned 1458. (fn. 71)

John Lax, collated 1458, (fn. 72) occurs 1460. (fn. 73)

Peter Courtenay, collated 1463. (fn. 74)

Francis de Salviatis, collated 1466. (fn. 75)

William Elliot, died 1506. (fn. 76)

Christopher Twyneho, collated 1506. (fn. 77)

Edmund Powell, collated 1509. (fn. 78)

Thomas Thurlby, collated 1534, (fn. 79) resigned 1537. (fn. 80)

John Gough, collated 1537, (fn. 81) died 1543. (fn. 82)

William St. Barbe, appointed 1543. (fn. 83)

The common seal of the college depicts the canonized archbishop, Edmund of Abingdon, seated, and a priest in prayer below. On either side of the archbishop are arms, the one comprising three suns, the other a chevron between three castles. The seal is inscribed:



  • 1. Edmund Rich, treasurer of the cathedral 1222–34, canonized before 1247.
  • 2. Printed in Hoare, Mod. Wilts. City of Salisbury, 735; Sar. Chart. & Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 346–9; Fifteenth-Century Cartulary of St. Nicholas' Hospital, Salisbury, ed. C. Wordsworth, 40–44.
  • 3. When the dispute with the dean and chapter arose in 1444 no attempt was made to question the position of the provost as Vicar of St. Martin's: D. & C. Sar. Reg. Houchyns, f. 53.
  • 4. Sar. Reg. Mortival, f. 181.
  • 5. Cart. St. Nicholas' Hosp. ed. Wordsworth, 49–50.
  • 6. Leland, Itin. ed. L. Toulmin Smith, iv, 162.
  • 7. Cal. Pat. 1307–13, 161–2.
  • 8. Sar. Reg. Wyville, i, f. 50.
  • 9. Cal. Pat. 1281–92, 176.
  • 10. Ibid. 1302–7, 309.
  • 11. Ibid. 1317–21, 76.
  • 12. Ibid. 1330–4, 27.
  • 13. Sar. Reg. Wyville, i, f. 50.
  • 14. Robert de Woodford appears to have been the donor (Sar. Reg. Wyville, i, f. 50) although the licence for the alienation of the advowson was granted in 1337 to John de Spersholt: Cal. Pat. 1334–8, 534.
  • 15. Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1327–77 (Index Libr.), 124.
  • 16. Sar. Reg. Wyville, i, f. 189b.
  • 17. Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1327–77 (Index Libr.), 156.
  • 18. Sar. Reg. Wyville, i, f. 113b.
  • 19. Cal. Pat. 1350–4, 42.
  • 20. Sar. Reg. Wyville, i, f. 226b.
  • 21. Cal. Pat. 1361–4, 189.
  • 22. Six new priests were admitted in the first two months of 1348: Sar. Reg. Wyville, ii, ff. 191, 197, 201;
  • 23. Sar. Reg. Erghum, f. 66b.
  • 24. Ibid.
  • 25. Sar. Reg. Waltham, iii, f. 43.
  • 26. He died in office the following year: Sar. Reg. Waltham (Inst.), f. 95.
  • 27. Cal. Pat. 1396–9, 589.
  • 28. Cal. Pap. L. 1396–1404, 338.
  • 29. The will of William Mercer (d. 1407) contains a bequest of 100s. for the fabric of the 'newly built church of S. Edmunds': Hoare, Mod. Wilts. City of Salisbury, 87.
  • 30. Sar. Reg. Neville, ii, f. 81b.
  • 31. Ibid. f. 70b.
  • 32. The priests were being paid salaries at least as early as 1394. In that year Bp. Waltham ordered the 'stipendia' due to the priests to be handed over to his own representatives: Sar. Reg. Waltham, iii, f. 43.
  • 33. Thereafter he held office until his death in 1445: Sar. Reg. Aiscough, f. 81.
  • 34. D. & C. Sar. Reg. Houchyns, f. 53.
  • 35. Cal. Pat. 1445–52, 122.
  • 36. D. & C. Sar. Reg. Burgh, ff. 45–47.
  • 37. Hoare, Mod. Wilts. City of Salisbury, 244.
  • 38. Sar. Reg. Beauchamp, f. 21b.
  • 39. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii, 88.
  • 40. Sar. Reg. Capon, f. 18.
  • 41. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xix (1), p. 172.
  • 42. Ibid. xxi (1), p. 570.
  • 43. E 318/990.
  • 44. Sar. Chart. & Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 347.
  • 45. Cal. Pat. 1281–92, 176.
  • 46. Reg. Simon de Gandavo (Cant. & York Soc.), 810.
  • 47. Ibid.
  • 48. Sar. Reg. Mortival, ii, f. 134.
  • 49. Sar. Reg. Wyville, ii, f. 41.
  • 50. Ibid.
  • 51. Ibid. ii, f. 241.
  • 52. Ibid.
  • 53. Cal. Pap. L. 1342–62, 555.
  • 54. Inq. p.m. x, p. 352.
  • 55. Sar. Reg. Wyville, ii, f. 292.
  • 56. Cal. Pat. 1367–70, 175.
  • 57. Ibid. 1374–7, 208.
  • 58. Sar. Reg. Erghum, f. 20.
  • 59. Ibid.
  • 60. Sar. Reg. Waltham, f. 95.
  • 61. Ibid.
  • 62. Sar. Reg. Metford, f. 55b.
  • 63. Sar. Reg. Hallam, ff. 43b, 47b.
  • 64. Ibid. f. 62b.
  • 65. Sar. Reg. Neville, 11b.
  • 66. Ibid.
  • 67. Sar. Reg. Aiscough, f. 81.
  • 68. Ibid.
  • 69. Sar. Reg. Beauchamp, f. 35b.
  • 70. Ibid.
  • 71. Ibid. f. 65b.
  • 72. Ibid.
  • 73. Cal. Pat. 1452–61, 640.
  • 74. Sar. Reg. Beauchamp, f. 109.
  • 75. Cal. Pap. L. 1458–71, 254. This papal appointment was made on the death of John Lax, who went to Rome in 1460: Cal. Pat. 1452–61, 548–9; 640.
  • 76. P.C.C. 21 Adeane.
  • 77. Sar. Reg. Audley, f. 30.
  • 78. Ibid. f. 46.
  • 79. Sar. Reg. Campeggio, f. 52.
  • 80. Sar. Reg. Shaxton, f. 8.
  • 81. Ibid.
  • 82. Sar. Reg. Capon, f. 18.
  • 83. Ibid.
  • 84. Hoare, Mod. Wilts. City of Salisbury, facing p. xvii, no. 12.