Chantries at Edwinstowe.

By the Rev. Atwell M. Y. Baylay.

BY the kindness of Mr. James Ward, who has in his possession a manuscript transcript of a certain 14th century Cartulary of Newstead Priory, I am enabled to give the following translation of a deed prescribing the terms of foundation of a double chantry, in the Parish Church of Edwinstowe, in the year 1342. It is a good specimen of its class, giving a very clear idea of what sort of thing a chantry was, and what were the duties of chantry priests. It should be remembered that the word "chantry" does not mean a place:—any more than the words "deanery," "rectory," "vicarage," are properly names of places:—but a benefice. Sometimes a chantry had its own chapel, exclusively belonging to it, as in the case of the Beauchamp chapel in St. Mary's church, Warwick. But far more often a chantry was founded at some altar in a church, and there was nothing to prevent several chantries being founded at the same altar, as in the present case : and when they were founded, it did not by any means, in all cases, imply that such altar was reserved exclusively for the services of the chantry or chantries so founded.

As regards the chaplains who served these chantries, the chantry priests, as we call them, they may not always have been learned men, they certainly were very poorly paid, but in the Middle Ages they were far from being a useless body. Besides the duties of their office, they generally assisted the parochial clergy in singing the service on Sundays and festivals, and they very commonly eked out their slender revenues by teaching boys to read, write, and sing, whereby, again, the choral service was benefited. In fact, I have very little doubt that the existence of these chaplains in considerable numbers, all over the country, was one of the causes which encouraged our forefathers, in the 14th century and after, to pull down, in hundreds of churches, the old small chancels, and replace them by large ones, furnished with stalls for singers.

The transcript, referred to above, states that some of the original deeds relating to the foundation of these chantries at Edwinstowe are in existence, forming Nos. 48, 49, and 50, in the Newark Corporation Records.

From another deed, contained in the same Cartulary, it appears that in case of any difficulty as to obtaining the annual income from the Canons of Newstead, these Edwinstowe Chantries had power of distraint on the manors of North Muskham and Walkeringham, belonging to that priory.

I have preserved the various spellings of Edwinstowe throughout the deed. We have here a fine example of the laxity then allowed in that matter, even in the course of one single document.

"To all sons of Holy Mother Church who shall see or hear this present ordinance, Henry of Edenestaw and Robert of Edenestawe, Clerks and brothers, wish health in the Lord.

"Whereas, amongst other means for restoring fallen humanity, the solemn celebration of Masses, in which, for the well-being of the living and the repose of the departed, to God most High, the Father, His Son is offered, is to be judged highest in merit, and of most power to draw down the mercy of God; we have, before all things else, thought it meet and right to promote with earnest affection such things as have for their object the saying of Masses and the advancement of Divine Worship. Since therefore, on consideration of the arguments now rehearsed, and earnestly desiring to acquire lasting wealth in the place of that which perisheth, and heavenly treasure instead of earthly, we have, by licence of his most serene Majesty our Lord Edward, by the grace of God illustrious King of England, the Third of that name since the Conquest, and by leave of such others as have any concern therein, given and granted by our deed the Manor of North Muskham in the County of Nottingham to those religious persons the Prior and Convent of Newstead in Sherwood,1 to be held in perpetuity by them and their successors for the maintaining of two perpetual Chaplains to celebrate Divine Worship daily in the Church of Blessed Mary at Edenestawe for ever in accordance with our express ordinance now to be set forth; and also for the Obit of me, Henry, and for the performance of other pious works according to the said Ordinance; so that the said Prior and Convent and their successors pay every year for ever, to one of the said perpetual Chaplains, viz. to him that is to be appointed and constituted Custos of S. Margaret's Altar in the said church of Edenestawe, or that is to be preferred to the office of Custos of the said Altar, and to his successors in that office, a certain annual income of eleven marks; to be paid in equal portions on the Winter Feast of S. Martin,2 the Annunciation of Blessed Mary, the Day of Pentecost, and the Assumption of the said Virgin Mary; viz. ten marks for the sustenance and stipend of the Custos of the said Altar for the time being, himself, and of one other Chaplain, perpetual in like manner and their successors, and for all other charges of whatever kind incumbent on these Chaplains and their Chantries, — and the remaining 13s. and 4d. for the obit of me, Henry, and for other pious works, to be done in accordance with this our ordinance; and the aforesaid Prior and Convent, judging from what is above rehearsed that the well-being of their Church is notably advanced and actually procured, have by unanimous consent, on behalf of themselves and their successors, for the causes herein premised, all necessary forms of law being observed, granted to the said Chaplain and Custos thus to be appointed and constituted, or to be preferred to the office of Custos, the said annual income of eleven Marks, to be received by the Custos of the said Altar himself, and his successors in that office, as well from the said Manor of North Muskham as from the Manor of Walkryngham in the same County of Nottingham, which is held by the said Prior and Convent, and from all other lands and tenements of theirs in the same towns of North Muskham and Walkryngham, in equal portions, on the above-named festivals; and have bound themselves and their successors for ever, and the Manors, lands, and tenements aforesaid, into whosesoever hands they may have passed, to the payment of the said eleven marks annually, to be made every year as is stated above to the said perpetual Chaplain and Custos thus to be appointed, constituted, or preferred to the office of Custos of the said Altar: We also, the aforesaid Henry and Robert, by licence of our Lord the King himself, and of all such others as have any concern in the matter, have given, granted, and assigned to Sir William de Babworth, Chaplain, as Custos of the said Altar, to be appointed, constituted, or preferred to that office by the Reverend Father the Lord Archbishop of York, Primate of England, for the time being, if the see be occupied, or by the Chapter of York, if the see be vacant,—one Messuage, and one bovate of land, in the town of Edynstawe, with the appurtenances,—(except two acres of land in the same town)—to be held by the same Custos of the said Altar and his successors in that office, for ever,—to provide for his own sustenance and that of the other Chaplain, perpetual in like manner, and their successors, for ever. And we, the aforesaid Henry and Robert, with the expressed concurrence of those venerable men, the Chapter of Lincoln, to whom the said Church of Edenestawe is appropriated, and with consent likewise of the Perpetual Vicar of the said Church of Edenestawe, have, out of regard to devotion, judged that this ordinance should, to the praise of God, be made as follows:—

" First of all, then, we will and ordain that at the said Altar of S. Margaret in the said Church of Edenstaw there shall be two perpetual Chantries, and two perpetual Chaplains, who shall celebrate Mass at the same Altar daily, unless hindered by some grave impediment; One of whom, and in like manner his successors from time to time, shall be designated and constituted the perpetual Custos of the said Altar. And the same Custos shall year by year for ever receive from the Prior and Convent of Newstead aforesaid eleven marks sterling, for the support of the' charges hereinafter set forth; and shall have fully committed to him the keeping, disposition and administration in his time of all such lands, tenements, goods, chattels and effects, as may in any way belong to those Chantries, whether given into his personal charge, or bestowed on the Chantries aforesaid, or in whatever way in time to come conferred or obtained; and shall minister, as it is fitting, to the other Chaplain in like manner perpetual, all necessary sustenance, both as regards eating and drinking, equally with himself, and at the same table, unless sickness or some other urgent necessity shall cause it to be otherwise ordered: in which case, according to the requirements of the man hindered by sickness or otherwise, and so far as the emoluments of the Chantries allow, suitable provision shall by the said Custos be made. And for all other things needed by the second Chaplain in like manner perpetual, he shall pay to him annually for ever the sum of four and twenty shillings sterling; and out of the residue of the fruits, revenue and income of the said Chantries, the same Custos shall support the charges of the Chantries, as regards bread, wine, lights, books, vestments, and ornaments, and also the repairs, improvement, and roofing of the buildings, and all other necessary charges of whatever kind that shall fall upon those Chantries.

"And that the attention of the same custodians, in regard to the goods, chattels and effects aforesaid, may the more clearly be manifested, each Custos of the said Altar shall, immediately after his admission to office and possession obtained thereof, in the presence of the remaining Chaplain, or of two men of credit of the town of Edenestawe, faithfully make out an inventory of the state in which the said Chantries were found by him; so that he may hand them on, as regards the value of books, vessels, ornaments, utensils, and all other things found there by him at the time of his admission, and also as regards houses, land under tillage, and everything else in any way belonging to the said Chantries, in as good state as he found them, or, if possible better,—only excepting the necessary expenditure that has to be made from the annual income, and any heavier charges that may chance to be incurred.

"And if the aforesaid Custos in his lifetime, or the other perpetual Chaplain during the time of the office of Custos being vacant, shall waste or destroy the said goods, chattels or effects, or shall suffer the buildings to fall down, or be destroyed in any other way, by his own fault, or shall allow the said goods, chattels and effects to be notably deteriorated, or shall cause any notable and unjust burden to be laid on the Chantries themselves, or shall alienate any lands and tenements belonging to those Chantries, we will and ordain that he be altogether deprived of his Chantry, so soon as by process of law he shall be convicted.

"We further will and ordain that on the resignation, decease, or deposition of the Custos of the said Altar for the time being, another Chaplain, whomsoever the party to whom the nomination belongs shall deem worthy to be nominated—the same Chaplain being found fit and well-conducted in both temporal and spiritual affairs,—shall be presented and nominated for the office of Custos to the Lord Archbishop of York for the time being, if the See be occupied, or to the Chapter of York if the See be vacant. We also will and ordain that after the death of me, Henry, no other person than a Chaplain3 be presented for, or be admitted to, the said Chantries, or either of them.

"And further, that every Custos of the said Altar shall every day,—except on Double feasts4 and Sundays, and on the festivals of Saint Katherine and Saint Margaret, Virgins,—say Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary;—unless the devout wish of some eminent person who may chance to be present, or some other reasonable cause, shall make another Mass to be substituted.

(1) "De Novo Loco in Shirewode."
(2) viz., November 11th.—The "summer feast" of St. Martin is July 4th.
(3) i.e., no doubt, a person already ordained priest.
(4) About thirty-five Double feasts were observed in England at that period. St. Margaret and St. Katherine were only simple feasts, but were evidently for some reason observed at Edwinstowe with special devotion. On these excepted days, the Custos would, of course, say the Mass of the Sunday or Festival.