The Pre-Reformation Church in Kingsclere

THOSE who would like to know something of the life of the layman in the pre-reformation church in Kingsclere will be disappointed, for little or no evidence survives and those who seek a picture of contemporary church life must look elsewhere. Here we are concerned with the organisation of the Church in the parish up to the time of the dissolution of the monasteries.
It has been observed that,

throughout the Middle Ages, on the rare occasions when parishioners as such were mentioned at all in ecclesiastical records, it was virtually in the capacity of property, and often troublesome property at that . . . Parishes were viewed, not as spearheads for pastoral activity, but as steady sources of income.

The result is a rather jaundiced view of church history. It is unfortunate that whilst we can examine the skeleton, the shape of the body eludes us. It is known that at the time of the Conquest there was a church in Kingsclere. It was appurtenant to the manor held by Queen Edith, widow of Edward the Confessor, described in the Domesday Book, as in Clere, and valued at 7. Although it appears as a relatively minor possession among her many manors which in all were valued at over 1500 a year It is possible that this small manor had an important place in her travels, much as the Angevin Kings were to find their houses at Wolverton, Tidgrove and Freemantle. The city of Winchester had come to Edith as part of her 'morning gift' on her marriage to Edward, and she was living there at the time of the Conquest, when, consulted by the chief men of the city, she advised that it should be surrendered to William. At Kingsclere she had a hall, a convenient stopping place a day's journey from Winchester. It is not known whether she held the manor as the daughter of the powerful Godwin, Earl of Wessex, or as the wife of Edward, and so no light is thrown on the previous history of the church. It has been suggested that Kingsclere Church was an ancient Minster, with the implication that it was a collegiate church from which monks served chapels in the surrounding parochia. Whilst it is true that in the early development of the English Church, active pastoral workers generally belonged to some kind of communal institution, monastic or otherwise, which was called a 'minster', there is no evidence that Kingsclere church was such an institution. In a much-quoted study of Hampshire Minsters, Kingsclere is listed as a possible mother church, on the grounds that it was connected with a royal estate and hundred, and that the church had extensive glebe for its maintenance. This involves a misreading of the Domesday record, where it is evident that the church was appurtenant to the manor and itself possessed no land. The only chapel known to be dependent was North Oakley (Ocle) The chapels at Ecchinswell and Frobury were free chapels, and each had its own income for the maintenance of the incumbent, who was sometimes styled 'rector'. The tithes of Ecchinswell were separated from those of the mother church from antiquity (a decimis Matrici Ecclesie debitis separatas ab antiquo), but this does not necessarily imply that at one time it was dependent on the parish church. In the early days of the establishment of tithes, it was possible for the proprietor of a church to appropriate the tithes from his lands for his own church. Thus we find the tithes arising from Baderon's property in Clere (Earlstone) appropriated to St. Mary's Priory, Monmouth, which belonged to the Benedictine Abbey of St. Florent, Samur. church, and then of the bishop, until in 1446 bishop Henry Beaufort obtained licence from the crown to alienate the advowson of the free chapel belonging to his manor of Ecchinswell to the Hospital of St. Cross. Nothing is known as to the way in which the chapel at Sydmonton was served. From an early date the manor belonged to Romsey Abbey, and presumably the abbess made some sort of provision. After the death of Queen Edith, and at some time before 1086, William I granted to Ryuuallonus and the monks of the New Minster at Winchester the church of Clere (ecclesiam de Clera), together with the tithes and other revenue that belonged to the church. The Minster was also given the land that had belonged to the Queen's manor. The grant was in exchange for land in Winchester, belonging to the Minster, on which the King wished to build a castle. Edward the Elder, in accordance with the wishes of his father, King Alfred, founded the New Minster in 901. Originally a house of secular canons, but in 963 Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, as part of his reforms, insisted upon the adoption of the Benedictine rule. The New Minster stood immediately to the north of the Cathedral Church, but in 1110 removed outside the north gate of the city to Hyde Moors, where much of the land was already owned by the Minster, which now became known as Hyde Abbey. The charter of Henry I, confirming the grant of the church of Kingsclere (ecclesiam de Kyngeclar) does not mention the land at Clere, which by then must have been disposed of, possibly in exchange for land at Hyde belonging to the bishop. The monks themselves would not have served the church at Kingsclere, for the cure of souls was no part of the vocation of monks. Popes, councils and monastic writers alike had prohibited them from serving churches that had been appropriated to them. The benefice of Kingsclere was a valuable piece of property, reported about 1291 to be worth 100 a year, the highest in the diocese. Part of this income would have been used to hire a clerk to serve the cure on the best terms that could be arranged, but such parochial chaplains were servants of the convent and could be dismissed at will. This custom practically withdrew a parish from episcopal control, so that in the latter half of the twelfth century there was increasing pressure for the ordination of vicarages. This had the effect of making such appointments perpetual and subject to episcopal institution, and required the assignment of a definite income to the vicar. Despite the ordination of vicarages for appropriated churches being enjoined by two Lateran councils, and again by the Council of Oxford in 1222. Kingsclere was not ordained a vicarage until 1306. It should not necessarily be concluded that up to that time the monastery appropriated the whole of the balance to its own use. The income from tithes and other oblations was customarily used for the relief of the poor and the building and maintenance of churches. Sometimes the purpose of the appropriation of a church was stated, as when in 1302 Micheldever Church was granted to the Abbey when it was a condition of the grant that the revenue should be applied to the use of guests, and of the poor and infirm persons who flocked to there. In 1110 the monks of the New Minster moved in solemn procession to the newly completed Hyde Abbey, and it cannot be much later that they undertook the re-building of Kingsclere church. The work has been dated c. 1130-40, and probably took place during the abbacy of Osbert (1124-35?). A later date seems improbable, for in 1141, in the midst of a fierce civil war between the adherents of Maud and Stephen, the abbey perished in the conflagration, and there followed a long period of dissension and strife. It was not until the appointment of John Suthill in 1181 that the affairs of the abbey again prospered and enjoyed internal peace under his vigorous rule. In 1208 England was placed under an interdict by pope Innocent III because of King John's intransigence over the appointment of Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. John reacted by taking the income of the Church into his own hands, on the not unreasonable grounds that, if the clergy had effectively been called out on strike, there was no reason why they should be paid for doing no work. John, always in need of money, was adept at turning situations to his own financial advantage, and was willing to restore temporalities at a price, and Hyde Abbey quickly recovered theirs. As far as the parish was concerned, for five years, until John's surrender in 1213, the life of the church was at a standstill. Mass could not be celebrated nor marriages solemnised, it was even doubtful whether baptism might take place in church. What distressed people most was that burial could not take place in the churchyard. Possibly it was then that the piece of land behind the present Crown Inn, long known as the Litten, was taken into use as an unconsecrated burial ground. In May 1213 John resigned the kingdoms of England and Ireland to Pope Innocent III, and received them back under the bond of fealty and homage, in return for a tribute to the Holy See of 1,000 marks a year. Parochial life returned to normal. During the interdict the advowson of Kingsclere came into the hands of Peter fitz Herbert, lord of the manor North Oakley. In 1209 he granted to 'the abbot and convent of St. Peter of Hyde 100 lbs. of wax, to be had annually at Michaelmas, at the hand of the parson of Kingsclere, for lights for the monks'. From this point on, until the advowson was sold in 1336, the right of presentation to the dispute with Walter, abbot of Hyde, about his right, but in 1217 obtained a confirmation from the abbot in return for the yearly grant of wax. This pension was confirmed about 1240. Valued at 1 13s. 4d a year it continued to be paid for a considerable period, and in 1346 the abbot of Hyde succeeded in recovering from the prior of Bisham, by that time patron of the living, arrears of rent amounting to 2,010 lb. of wax. Peter fitz Herbert died in 1235, and for the next hundred years the Crown presented to the living, using its revenues to reward clerks in the royal service. Henry III presented James de Kewurthe in 1246, and Edward I appointed successively in 1275, 1292 and 1296 William de Saham, Hugh de Cressingham and John de Drokensford. Some account of these last three will be found in the Dictionary of National Biography, from which it would appear that their connection with Kingsclere was remote. This may be illustrated by the life of John de Drokensford who became rector of Kingsclere in 1296. A Hampshire man, he rose rapidly in the royal service. From 1291 he was controller of the wardrobe of Edward I, and during a period when there was intense activity from Saxony to the Low Countries, his staff 'paid horsed and equipped the armies, purchased and distributed supplies, financed the king's allies and the king's fleet at Plymouth, issued letters both of great and privy seal, and went on diplomatic missions'. He was in constant attendance at court, and accompanied Edward I on many expeditions to Scotland. His services were rewarded with much ecclesiastical preferment. Besides Kingsclere, he was rector of Droxford in Hampshire, Hemingburgh and Stillingsfleet in Yorkshire, and of Balsham in Cambridgeshire; he held prebends in Southwell and four other collegiate churches in England, besides certain prebends in Ireland; was installed as prebendary in the cathedral churches of Lichfield, Lincoln and Wells, and was a chaplain to the pope. It is little wonder that in 1305 he wrote to Henry Woodlock, bishop of Winchester, saying that he was unable to attend to his parochial duties owing to his preoccupation with the king's business, and begged the bishop to institute Richard de Hamme as perpetual vicar. This belated action was no doubt under pressure from the bishop. Described as a worldly man, both magnificent and liberal, it is possible that it was he who rebuilt the chancel of St. Mary's church, the maintenance of which was the responsibility of the Rector. In 1309 he resigned the benefice and was consecrated bishop of Bath and Wells. In 1179 Pope Alexander III decreed that clergy who filled secular offices should be deposed, but he did not press the matter, and there were those who defended the practice. Peter de Blois wrote,

I do not condemn the life of civil servants, who even if they cannot have leisure for prayer and contemplation, are nevertheless occupied in the public good and often perform works of salvation.... I think it is not only laudable but glorious to assist the king, to hold office in the State, not to think of oneself, but to be all for all.

The lives of some of the rectors of Kingsclere suggest that this judgement was nave. Hugh Cressingham, who preceded Drokensford, was even more involved in the affairs of Scotland, not only as treasurer of Scotland, but also in war with the rebels. It said of him that he never put on chasuble or spiritual armour, but put on helmet and breastplate. He joined the army in the war against Wallace, and in 1297 fell in battle. It is said that the Scots gratified their hatred of him by cutting up his skin into small pieces. According to another account Wallace ordered that a piece of skin should be taken from his body, large enough to make him a sword-belt. Richard de Hamme was instituted as vicar of Kingsclere on 22 January 1306. He was to receive all tithes belonging to the church except those of all kinds of corn, of lambs, wool, and hay, all mortuaries and ten pounds of the oblations to the Holy Cross. For his residence he had assigned to him,


The mansion called La Morwell in the cemetery of the parochial church of Kyngesclere with the garden adjoining thereto for the support of himself and a fit chaplain, and for all the yearly, ordinary and extraordinary burdens of the vicarage.

He appears as a married man, not uncommon despite papal and episcopal strictures. In May 1322 a grant of land was made 'to Richard Seman, called de Hame, and Joan his wife,' and in August 1330 his widow sold a garden that had once belonged to her husband. Of chaplains, or as we would now say 'assistant curates', there is little evidence, except that in 1357 Sir Walter at Forde, chaplain, obtained possession of the tenement which much later became known as the Golden Falcon, and in a grant of 1394 Sir William Schepenere, chaplain, is mentioned. Alexander de Bykenore succeeded John de Drokensford, and when he was consecrated archbishop of Dublin in 1317, Edward II presented Richard Tybetot to the rectory. The benefice soon fell vacant for, on 26 October 1318, the bishop wrote to the pope seeking permission to appropriate the church to the use of a convent of Benedictine nuns which the king planned to found at Guildford. Permission was refused, and in October the following year the bishop issued a commission to the archdeacon of Winchester to sequestrate the fruits of the church of Clere Regis, with the proviso that meanwhile divine service should be continued and the souls in the cure by no means neglected. In February 1321 the archdeacon issued a monition to the parishioners of Kingsclere for the payment in full of all just and due tithes and other oblations, without any diminution or subtraction, on pain of excommunication. This was not only a time when the burden of taxation had been increases to pay for the Plantagenets wars, but also after a succession of bad harvests had led to famine in 1315-6, and this again had been followed by cattle murrain and sheep disease. People at all levels of society were becoming increasingly sceptical of clerical pretensions, and there was increased resistance to payment of tithes. On 29 November 1326 Robert de Wyville was instituted to the rectory on the presentation of the Prince Edward, at that time guardian of the realm. Wyville was secretary to Queen Isabella. He was made a canon of Lincoln in 1327, and in April 1330 he received further reward when the pope provided him to the bishopric of Salisbury. A contemporary said that the pope could never have appointed him if he had first seen him. There followed a period of some instability. Edward III presented Peter de Vernoun in July 1330, but his presentation was recalled in November, and Walter de Wyville, brother of Robert, was presented in his place. He was given preferment in the Diocese of Salisbury and eventually resigned the rectory. In 1336 Edward sold the advowson to William Montagu, Earl of Salisbury, for 500 marks. An acre of land in Kingsclere and the advowson of the church were to be held by the earl of the king 'by the yearly payment of a rose at the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist in lieu of all service'. The earl's intention in making this purchase was that it should be added to the endowment of the priory for canons regular which he had built on his manor of Buttlesham (Bisham, Berks.). There he had assembled thirteen brethren, of whom one held the office of prior, and in order that the service of God should be further extended by the admission of thirteen other brethren, he petitioned Adam Orlton, the bishop of Winchester, for the appropriation of the benefice of Kingsclere. After consultation with the prior and convent of the cathedral church, as required by law in the case of appropriations, the bishop granted the church to the prior and canons of Bisham, reserving of the fruits of the church a sufficiency to maintain a vicar and to pay episcopal and archidiaconal dues. The grant was made on condition that the then vicar, John de Bradeweye, and his successors,


should always have without any diminution those portions which they were accustomed to receive, whilst at the same time, by reason of the appropriation, the prior and canons were to receive "all oblations at the great cross of the church or elsewhere, all mortuaries of parishioners, and the greater tithes arising from the lands of the parishioners in the villages or hamlets of la Putt and Boltesham, and of all lands called la Hethe within the parish, save only the hay from the meadows.

The vicar was also to have for his dwelling the manse assigned to him, in which he was then residing, together with a certain area adjoining, belonging to the church.
In 1347 bishop Edington granted a licence to the prior and convent to lease the church at farm for a period. The reason given was, that after the transfer of the profits of the church to them by appropriation, the canons found that it would be better to lease the church to some suitable person rather than deal with bailiffs. Their request was granted on condition that in the meantime a suitable proctor was found to rebuild the buildings of the rectory, do general repairs, care for the poor of the parish and pay all ecclesiastical dues.
John de Bradeweye was succeeded as vicar in 1344 by John called le Dyare, who in 1348 exchanged his benefice with John Yongwyne of Boxgrove, the priest of the chapel of St. Elizabeth, Winchester, who was admitted to the vicarage with the obligation of ministry. On 25 March of the same year the bishop granted a licence to Nicholas Talemache, the non-resident prebendary of the prebend of Wherewell, to lease at farm his prebend for one year to John de Frollebury, vicar of Litchfield, and John de Boxgrove vicar of Kingsclere. The abbess of Wherewell had already petitioned the pope complaining that Nicholas Talemache had been non-resident, and had neglected his prebend over a period of twenty years. Evidently he was only interested in the income, and decided that to let the prebend at farm was more satisfactory than managing the prebend himself. Nicholas later resigned and exchanged his benefice for another prebend.
John Yongwyne de Boxgrove died of the plague, and was succeeded on 17th March 1349 by Richard de Guldeforde who also fell victim. John de Whicchebury was instituted in June and was followed by John Frankelayn in October. It is largely as a result of the deaths of the clergy that we become fully aware of the devastating effect of the plague in Hampshire. Much of the evidence comes from register of Bishop Edington. The plague struck the diocese of Winchester with special violence; forty-eight percent of all beneficed clergy died, a figure not exceeded in any other diocese in England. In 1348 there were twelve benefices to be filled, but in 1349 the total reached three hundred and fifteen, subsiding to fifty-four in 1350. It can be argued that the clergy were more exposed to contagion because of their pastoral duties in administering the sacrament and conducting funerals, nevertheless it gives an indication of the terrible effect of the plague. In October 1348, before the plague had reached Hampshire, the bishop was already calling for prayers to avoid the pestilence. A mandate was issued to the archdeacon of Winchester instructing him to appeal to all grades of clergy and religious to instruct the faithful to meet in church on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the recitation of the seven penitential psalms and the fifteen gradual psalms. In Winchester there were to be processions through the city during which the litany encourage the laity to have recourse to the sacrament of penance in view of the impending risk of sudden death.
There is little else to notice in the succession of vicars, otherwise than noted in the appendix to this chapter, except that on 6 May 1486 Richard Sewy, prior of the priory of Bisham, was instituted to the vicarage of Kingsclere on the presentation of the Bishop of Salisbury. Although members of the Augustinian order had papal licence to serve parochial cures, the church was probably served by a poorly paid curate, since it was no doubt an arrangement to secure additional income for the priory. The need for the priory to increase its income is also suggested by the grant of the patronage to William Sandys for one turn in 1497, and to John Palmar in 1513. Patronage then reverted to the priory until it was suppressed in 1537.
Some of the difficulties that Bisham Priory faced are reflected in the register of William of Wykeham. Letters to the pope in the late fourteenth century show that the priory was weighed down by debt, its rents diminished through pestilence, and its church in great measure unbuilt. Moreover its nearness to Windsor Castle, and the great multitude both of rich and poor that passed its door, made much hospitality necessary, whilst its proximity to the Thames resulted in flood damage both to crops and buildings.
In 1374 the vicarage of Kingsclere was sequestrated for arrears of pensions which the priory had undertaken to pay on behalf of the vicar at the time of the appropriation. Four marks were payable to the bishop, and one mark to the master of the works of the cathedral church, at the feast of the Annunciation. In 1399 the priory was cited for non-payment of papal dues in respect of their appropriated church of Kingsclere. All this doubtless reflects the de-population and poverty consequent on the plague.
After the dissolution the advowson of the rectory of Kingsclere and the chapel of Ocle (North Oakley) were, in 1541, granted by Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves. On her death in 1557 it reverted to William Marquess of Winchester, in accordance with a grant of 1545, when he had purchased the reversion for £1,744 13s. 4d. From that date the advowson followed the same descent as the manor.
Few events affecting the lives of the people of Kingsclere emerge from the records. On 23 October 1306 John Hereward received absolution from the bishop for an attack on John le Coteler in the church and churchyard of Kingsclere. In 1349 bishop Edington granted a faculty for the reconciliation by any catholic bishop of the cemetery of St. Swithun, Kingsclere, which had been desecrated by bloodshed. Presumably this was the burial ground known as the Litten where there was a chapel, possibly dedicated to St. Swithun.
On a more positive note we learn that in 1402 the bishop granted a forty-day indulgence to such as should contribute to the building of the church of Kingsclere. In 1473 Margery Faulkes directed by her will that her body should be buried in the church, that 4d should be given to the church of St. Swithun, and 6s 8d for the repair of the highway called le Whithill, and the residue to her husband Thomas. He died in 1490 having directed that,


My body to be buried in church of the Monastery of St Mary, Romsey, before the altar of the Holy Cross; to nuns there a plain silver bowl; to the fabric of the church of St Swithun of Winchester 12d; to the fabric of church of St Lawrence in Romsey 20d; to the fabric of the church of St Mary, Kingsclere 3s 4d; to Winchester College all my lands, tenements, rents, reversions etc. within the Soke of Winchester, on condition that they celebrate my obit, and I will that they find a priest for 1 year to celebrate for the repose of my soul and the souls of my deceased wives Margerie and Alice; the residue of my goods to John Whyte, clerk, and John Fesant Esq (whom he appoints as executors) to dispose of for the health of my soul

Thomas Bladen, who died in 1549, gave instructions in his will that he should be buried in the parish church. He bequeathed two cows to the church, 7d. for a light to St Mary in the chancel, and 2 sheep for lights in the church, and for the fabric of the cathedral 12d. Other legacies were a sheep to each of his godsons and goddaughters, and to each of the sons and daughters of William Caston. For the repair of the highway to the south of the spring in Kingsclere 6s. 8d. His wife Margerie, whom he appointed as his executor, was to dispose of the residue of his personal property 'for my soul'. His real property, which included two tenements which later became The Swan and The Golden Falcon, were granted to Winchester College, and later became a matter of some dispute. Another bequest was that of Thomas Smith who left Crooked meadow for the maintenance of mass, and a light before the image of St. Katherine in the parish church. This was lost when in 1566 Queen Elizabeth granted the meadow to Thomas Blackwaye and Francis Barker. Despite the break with Rome signified by the Act of Supremacy of 1534 old customs died hard, and the reformation of the church was a slow process. In 1543 John Norman, formerly prior of the Augustinian priory of St. Denys by Southampton, was instituted to the living on the presentation of Anne of Cleves. His will, dated 1554, suggests that he was an unreconstructed Catholic, and not unhappy when in that year Queen Mary submitted to Rome. In his will he left to the church a vestment of red silk with gold stars and altar curtains to match, a gilt chalice and a 'pax' of silver set with white precious stones. Among his other bequests was 10 a year for ten years to pay a priest to 'teach school' without any charge to the scholars; 2 as a marriage gift for each of five crippled parishioners 'of honest nature and fame'; 6 13s. 4d. for the repair of the highways. His instructions as to his burial were explicit. After the celebration of three requiem masses, there was to be a funeral procession in which twelve poor folk, carrying long candles, and attired in gowns or frocks provided for the occasion, should accompany his body to the church where he was to be buried before the high altar. There were to be three more masses at the 'month's mind', four weeks after the funeral, when the twelve poor people were to receive 2 each.


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