Medieval Beverley: The Chapter and Beverley

A History of the County of York East Riding: Volume 6, the Borough and Liberties of Beverley. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.

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A P Baggs. L M Brown. G C F Forster. I Hall. R E Horrox. G H R Kent. D Neave, 'Medieval Beverley: The Chapter and Beverley', in A History of the County of York East Riding: Volume 6, the Borough and Liberties of Beverley, (London, 1989) pp. 16-19. British History Online [accessed 24 May 2024].

A P Baggs. L M Brown. G C F Forster. I Hall. R E Horrox. G H R Kent. D Neave. "Medieval Beverley: The Chapter and Beverley", in A History of the County of York East Riding: Volume 6, the Borough and Liberties of Beverley, (London, 1989) 16-19. British History Online, accessed May 24, 2024,

Baggs, A P. Brown, L M. Forster, G C F. Hall, I. Horrox, R E. Kent, G H R. Neave, D. "Medieval Beverley: The Chapter and Beverley", A History of the County of York East Riding: Volume 6, the Borough and Liberties of Beverley, (London, 1989). 16-19. British History Online. Web. 24 May 2024,

The Chapter and Beverley

The archbishop of York was not the only ecclesiastical force in medieval Beverley. Rather more immediate were the clergy of the minster itself. The early relationship of those two powers is ambiguous. Edward the Confessor had declared Beverley to be the archbishop's town, and the reforms of the pre-Conquest archbishops left little doubt that the minster also came under their jurisdiction. Other, and probably earlier, rights were, however, enjoyed by the minster. It was the church of St. John rather than the archbishop which received thraves. (fn. 1) It was the minster which had possession of the saint himself, as Archbishop Gerard (1100-8) was publicly reminded on one occasion. (fn. 2) The minster also owned land in its own right, both within Beverley and elsewhere, distinct from the archbishop's general overlordship. The administration of that land, and of the chapter's revenues generally, was in the hands of the provost, whose post was said to have been created by Archbishop Thomas of Bayeux (1070-1100). (fn. 3) The office was a lucrative one and was considered an appropriate reward for leading royal servants, (fn. 4) who were generally well able to maintain the minster's claims. The fullest statement of the provost's rights within his fee was made by William Melton in the early 14th century and was a virtual reprise of the archbishop's claims within his liberty. (fn. 5) The provost claimed to act for the king within his fee, an authority symbolized by the right of his servants to carry a rod within the town. Royal officers were accordingly barred from acting within the fee. The provost's right to hear cases in his own court had been confirmed by John, who cited the precedent of Henry I. (fn. 6) In 1251 the justices in eyre in Yorkshire were ordered not to interfere with the provost's liberties. (fn. 7) On occasion the king did intervene in local suits, (fn. 8) but by the 14th century the provost's claim to pleas of the Crown seems to have been established. (fn. 9) His claims were confirmed by charter of Richard II in 1380. (fn. 10) The provost also claimed toll within his liberty, both within and without the borough of Beverley, although the burgesses themselves were toll-free. (fn. 11) In 1278 the tolls were farmed for 6s. 8d. and in 1360 for 9s. (fn. 12) The provost also received stallage, which in 1360 yielded 1s. 8d. (fn. 13)

The provost's jurisdiction necessitated a range of servants similar to that of the archbishop. At their head was the steward, who was recorded in the mid 13th century. (fn. 14) In 1373 the stewardships of the provost's and archbishop's fees were held by the same man, Thomas Beverley, (fn. 15) and there was also some overlap in the late 15th century, when the post had become the preserve of the local gentry. (fn. 16) The office of bailiff is said to have been instituted in the early 13th century, (fn. 17) although the first known holder was John of Newton in 1311. (fn. 18) By the mid 14th century there were two bailiffs, intrinsic and foreign. (fn. 19) The intrinsic bailiff was responsible for the town, including the so-called manor of Ridings and the provost's land at Hull Bridge, Sandholme, and Stork. (fn. 20) He may have had some responsibility for the provost's share of tolls in Beverley, which he farmed in 1350 for 1s. (fn. 21) He answered to the lord for the profits of the court held in the Bedern, which yielded over £15 a year early in the 15th century, (fn. 22) although the collection of fines and amercements might be delegated to others. (fn. 23) Among other officials the provost had his own coroner (fn. 24) and receiver, the latter responsible for the provost's land in Holderness and elsewhere as well as in Beverley. (fn. 25) He is also said to have had an escheator and feodary, although no independent reference to them survives and their functions may have been performed by the bailiffs. (fn. 26) He had his own gaol (fn. 27) and gaolers. (fn. 28) The administrative centre of the provostry was the Bedern, probably to the west of the minster. As well as being the home of the vicars choral it housed the provost's gaol and court, and he also had his residence there. (fn. 29) As proctor of the chapter it was the provost who met the running costs of the Bedern. (fn. 30) He was also responsible for appointing its staff: the cooks, butlers, ushers, porters, and, until their offices were abolished by Archbishop Arundel, a goldsmith and a mason. (fn. 31)

The provost's land lay mostly on the eastern side of the town. A rental of c. 1417 shows extensive property on the north side of Beverley beck, in Norwood, at Riding fields, and in Grovehill. There was another block of property west of the minster, including land in Keldgate and Minster Moorgate. The rest of the fee was made up of scattered property at the western end of Minster Moorgate, and in Market or Fishmarket Moorgate (later Well Lane), Lairgate, and Highgate. (fn. 32) The limits of the fee had been established by the beginning of the 13th century, the date of the earliest material in the Provost's Book. In 1207 it was divided into three constablewicks: Mill beck (later Beckside) and Grovehill; Minster Moorgate and Fishmarket Moorgate; and Norwood and Alford. (fn. 33) In 1356 the constable of the provost's liberty at the beck was mentioned, (fn. 34) and in the 15th century the provost was responsible for three of the town's fourteen wards: Keldgate, distinguished from Keldgate archbishop's, Norwood, and Beckside. (fn. 35) Once the fee had become established, later acquisitions of land by the chapter did not become part of the provost's jurisdiction, although the provost did claim some right in any land outside the fee acquired by his nativi. (fn. 36) There may have been some readjustments in the archbishop's favour in the south part of the town, where the creation of the park seems to have absorbed some of the chapter's land. (fn. 37) In 1309 the provost and three prebendaries claimed tithe in part of the park, (fn. 38) and the rental of c. 1417 mentions herbage there, including a close called Provost Apple garth. (fn. 39) The chapter was said to be entitled to 100 faggots from the park at Midsummer, but the archbishop was accused of withholding them in 1315 and the custom evidently lapsed. (fn. 40) The chapter's interest in the area was perhaps represented by the garden of St. John, which in the mid 13th century formed the northern, or townward, boundary of some of the land acquired by the archbishops in Bradwell. (fn. 41)

Although the provost was seen as the chapter's proctor his jurisdiction did not extend to the canons' prebends. By the early 14th century those were regarded as a separate chapter fee, with its own steward and bailiff. (fn. 42) The steward held the courts of individual prebendaries for their tenants, (fn. 43) who were not to be cited before any other court. (fn. 44) He was also responsible for the assize of bread within the fee. (fn. 45) If he needed to enter a prebend on duty, however, he had to take the vicar of the prebendary with him. The chapter's bailiff was responsible for collecting rents and the profits of the court. (fn. 46) The tenants of the chapter were, if necessary, to tax themselves for town business rather than submit to taxation by the town. They were exempt from taxation for gifts to the king and his officials, for which the chapter answered, (fn. 47) but not from royal taxation. The chapter fee constituted a separate ward of the town. (fn. 48)

Little is known of the relations between the chapter and the townsmen. In 1304 the provost was condemned by the archbishop for immoderate extortions imposed on the clergy and laity of the provostry, (fn. 49) but that was only one move in a dispute between the archbishop and the then provost, Aymo de Carto, and the extent of lay disaffection is unknown. (fn. 50) Pasture rights were a grievance. In 1277 a group of Beverley men was accused of impounding the provost's sheep on his pasture of Swine Moor, which suggests that the town claimed the land. (fn. 51) In 1327 the provost's court was still fining men for grazing sheep on Swine Moor without licence. (fn. 52) Matters may have come to a head in 1330, when one of the prebendaries was besieged in his house. (fn. 53) No formal settlement survives, but by 1344 the town was apparently in possession, for it received money from grazing rights and paid a man to catch stray beasts. (fn. 54) The strays themselves, however, remained the right of the provost, (fn. 55) just as the archbishop claimed the strays on the other town pastures. (fn. 56) In 1362 the town regulated grazing on Swine Moor. (fn. 57) The next recorded outbreak of hostility occurred towards the end of the 14th century and seems to have arisen out of the dispute between Archbishop Neville and the chapter, rather than from any specifically civic resentments. (fn. 58) Relations remained strained and in 1403 two Beverley men were arrested at the suit of the provost, Robert Manfield. They were released only after finding sureties that they would do no harm to the provost or his servants. (fn. 59) Manfield was under attack again in 1408, when he was besieged by several of the town's keepers, acting with John Tickhill the archbishop's bailiff. (fn. 60) Peace was apparently restored later in the century with the appointment of a local man, Robert Rolleston—the son of one of Manfield's opponents—as provost in 1427. (fn. 61)


  • 1. E.Y.C. i, pp. 105-6.
  • 2. D. Nicholl, Thurstan, Abp. of York, 126.
  • 3. Chapter Act Bk. i, pp. xxvii sqq.
  • 4. Ibid, ii, pp. viii sqq.
  • 5. B.L. Add. MS. 25703, ff. 3-4; cf. Chapter Act Bk. ii. 307 sqq.
  • 6. Poulson, Beverlac, 537-8; Cal. Chart. R. 1257-1300, 39.
  • 7. Cal. Close, 1247-51, 562.
  • 8. H.R.O., PE/129/150 (Provost's Bk.), f. 43v.
  • 9. Ibid. f. 54; Poulson, Beverlac, 564-6.
  • 10. Poulson, Beverlac, 561-2.
  • 11. H.R.O., PE/129/150, f. 60; Chapter Act Bk. ii. 310.
  • 12. H.R.O., PE/129/150, ff. 43-4.
  • 13. Ibid. f. 61.
  • 14. B.L. Lansd. Ch. 208.
  • 15. B.L. Add. MS. 40008, f. 348; H.R.O., BC/II/2, f. 7.
  • 16. H.R.O., BC/II/3, f. 22v.; T.E.R.A.S. xviii. 63; Reg. Rotherham, i, p. 226.
  • 17. Poulson, Beverlac, 524.
  • 18. H.R.O., PE/129/150, f. 52.
  • 19. Ibid. ff. 44, 54.
  • 20. Sheffield City Libr., Lindsay Colln. 69.
  • 21. H.R.O., PE/129/150, f. 44.
  • 22. Ibid. f. 70v.
  • 23. Sheffield City Libr., Lindsay Colln. 69.
  • 24. H.R.O., PE/129/150, ff. 53v., 62.
  • 25. Ibid. f. 18v.; B.L. Lansd. Ch. 319.
  • 26. Poulson, Beverlac, 578.
  • 27. Below, Public Inst. (Boro. Prisons).
  • 28. H.R.O., PE/129/150, f. 77v.
  • 29. Below, Relig. Hos.
  • 30. Poulson, Beverlac, 597.
  • 31. Ibid. 578-9; V.C.H. Yorks. iii. 358.
  • 32. Chapter Act Bk. ii. 313-20. 'Hegate' was probably Highgate rather than Hengate.
  • 33. H.R.O., PE/129/150, f. 44v.
  • 34. Ibid. f. 55v.
  • 35. Below, Boundaries.
  • 36. H.R.O., PE/129/150, ff. 39v., 63.
  • 37. B.L. Lansd. MS. 402, f. 88v.
  • 38. Reg. Greenfield, i, p. 214.
  • 39. Chapter Act Bk. ii. 321.
  • 40. Ibid. i. 338; ii. 321-2.
  • 41. B.L. Lansd. MS. 402, ff. 65, 71. It was apparently at the end of Lurk La.: Bodl. MS. Univ. Coll. 82, p. 35.
  • 42. B.L. Lansd. Ch. 263; Chapter Act Bk. i. 21, 50, 92, 385.
  • 43. Chapter Act Bk. i. 319.
  • 44. Ibid. 34-5.
  • 45. Ibid. 288-9.
  • 46. T.E.R.A.S. vii. 70.
  • 47. Chapter Act Bk. i. 288-9.
  • 48. Below, Boundaries.
  • 49. Chapter Act Bk. i. 9-10.
  • 50. Ibid, ii, pp. xxxvii sqq.
  • 51. Cal. Inq. Misc. i, p. 331.
  • 52. H.R.O., PE/129/150, f. 61v.
  • 53. Cal. Pat. 1330-4, 61.
  • 54. H.R.O., BC/II/6/1.
  • 55. Ibid. PE/129/150, f. 63; Chapter Act Bk. ii. 310; Corp. MSS. 124, 167.
  • 56. Town Doc. 16.
  • 57. Ibid. 19.
  • 58. Cal. Pat. 1377-81, 633-4.
  • 59. Cal. Close, 1402-5, 286.
  • 60. Cal. Pat. 1405-8, 482.
  • 61. Rolleston Cart. f. 6; Chapter Act Bk. ii, p. lxxxvi.