This article is from "Aspects of the Early History of Hungerford" by Norman Hidden, 2009.
At its simplest a chantry was a service which arose from an endowment for a priest to sing masses or obits for the souls of the dead. This involved a cantarist or chantry priest and a place where these obits might be sung. Sometimes a chantry chapel was built especially for this office; more often use was made of an altar or chapel of an existing church. Income from the endowment was used primarily to provide a living for the cantarist, but also to furnish the altar or chapel where necessary. A foundation charter usually laid down conditions for ensuring the exact and proper use of the endowment throughout the years to come.
Towards the close of the thirteenth century foundation of a chantry came to be seen by the wealthy as an act which combined spiritual and worldly aspirations, both piety and fame. For well-to-do landowners it provided a way to dispose of surplus wealth and at the same time to ensure their own spiritual salvation. It enabled them to acknowledge their subservience to God and to calm their fears of purgatory or everlasting hell. The very permanence of the institution they thus created opened up an endless vista of rents and income, chaplain after chaplain, prayer upon prayer, until the end of time. In this way they set up a sort of eternity of their own selves against theeternity of death, the murmur of continual prayers against everlasting silence, the illumination of an undying wax candle against an endless darkness.
Men who could afford the luxury of such a mind-blowing idea hastened to fulfill it. With some the dream became an obsession. In the 14th century Sir Robert de Hungerford, who had acquired vast estates in Berkshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, and Somerset, showed in his later years a zealous fervour for the foundation of one chantry after another. His foundations included chantries at Calne, Easton, Heytesbury, all in Wiltshire, another at Hungerford and finally the chantry which bears his name in the great cathedral of Salisbury.
Sir Robert had connections, particularly through land-ownership, with each of these places where he founded a chantry. The chantry at Hungerford was sited within the parish church, but Sir Robert’s estate (later known as Hopgrass) lay just within the Wiltshire border on the northern or Wiltshire bank of the the river Kennet. The church, then as now, stood on the river’s opposite or Berkshire bank, clearly in view to Sir Robert and his manorial tenants. It is with this chantry at Hungerford that this account is primarily concerned. Its foundation is particularly well documented and may serve as a good example of the mind-set of its founder; and there are good records of its subsequent history during the two hundred or so years before its dissolution.
That this foundation was not purely an exercise of altruistic piety by Sir Robert may be illustrated by the fact that an earlier chantry of St. Mary already existed in Hungerford, available for anyone who paid a small obit ‘for the celebration of the mass in the chapel of St. Mary and for one wax light before the altar of St. Anne in Hungerford church ’. Sir Robert’s intention was both more specific and more personal, viz. that the chantry priest should celebrate divine service ‘daily before sunrise ’ in honour of the Holy Trinity and should pray for the souls of himself and Geva his wife, those of his ancestors and - an addendum required by the church - of all the faithful departed .
Thus, the chantry of the Holy Trinity was essentially a private chantry, whose services were at a secluded hour, whose explicit function was to honour the Holy Trinity, but implicitly to glorify the Hungerford family name (he had no children) and to maintain their obits for ever.
The Indulgence Tablet from The Chantry of the Holy Trinity
The chantry was situated on the south side of the nave of the parish church. It contained a monument of its founder, resting on an altartomb within an elegant arched canopy; and above it was an inscription in Norman French, which promised that those who prayed for Sir Robert while he lived and for his soul after death shall be granted (on the word of fourteen bishops) 550 days of pardon. No mention of any of his manors in the inscription, it will be noted, and no wifely replica alongside him in the tomb. The guarantee by the fourteen named bishops and the inducement of 550 days’ pardon to pray for the knight, alive or dead, foreshadows the hard sell and cunningly devised warranties of more material benefits which are familiar to a later age. This practical approach in Norman French was itself contained within an outer circle which returns to the piety of the Latin creed which states a belief in resurrection, in the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and, of course, in Judgement ‘by works’. It was by his ‘works’, in particular the foundation of chantries that Sir Robert particularly hoped to be saved.
Walter Money [in his ‘Historical Sketch of Hungerford’] gives a detailed account of the chantry as it once stood on the south side of the church and then describes how the marble tablet now lies on the floor of the chapel on the north side of the church, along with the badly mutilated effigy of Sir Robert. The elegant canopy has disappeared. Money’s description makes the best of what remains from such vandalism. ‘This most interesting sculptured figure, which is unfortunately much maimed, particularly in the lower extremities, represents the departed knight as cross-legged, at his feet a lion, the hands conjoined in prayer on his breast, on his left arm a middle-sized shield, a sword and surcoat, with the head resting on pillows. Although so much broken, yet one may perceive it to have been of most excellent workmanship. This crossed-legged attitude, it may be observed, does not necessarily denote the crusader; and possibly in this case, as in many others, may indicate the founder and great benefactor of churches or chapels, or as an expressive token that the person commemorated, having lived a true son of the church, died professing the Christian faith .
The effigy of Sir Robert de Hungerford
Like heavenly salvation, earthly fame too is obtained at a price. In Sir Robert’s case in order to fund his endowment it was necessary for him to bypass the law of mortmain. As far back as Edward I the Crown had realised that where land was granted by individual lay owners to ecclesiastical corporate bodies it remained free of manorial services, or payments in lieu of services due to the Crown. To prevent this loss of income, the Crown had promoted legislation involving penalties for causing land to come under mortmain (literally the ‘dead hand’, which held tight for ever what it had thus acquired). The king was prepared however to waive the general law in a specific instance and for a fee or fine, grant a licence (i.e. permission) to an applicant to alienate (that is, to transfer) property into mortmain. In 1325 Robert de Hungerford obtained a licence for alienation in mortmain of 2 messuages, 3 acres of land, 5 acres of meadow and 70 shillings of rents in Hungerford, Sandon and Charlton for his new chantry of the Holy Trinity . In 1331 he applied to increase the chantry’s original endowment and a licence was granted to him in respect of an additional endowment of one messuage, a mill, 9 acres of arable land, 6 acres of meadow, 10 shillings in rents, plus the price of 5 quarters of wheat from lands or properties in Hungerford, Balston, Sandon and Charlton. This income was to be used for the maintenance of John de Pewelle as minister of the chantry . The licence for this cost him a fine of £5 to the king. A third licence granted in 1336 permitted him the right to alienate a further 4 houses, 10 acres of arable land, 4 acres of meadow and 10 shillings of rent in Hungerford, Sandon and Charlton .
Even though such licences cost money, the advantages of land alienation in this way were great. By passing his property into mortmain on such a large scale as his various chantries required, or could be made to appear to require, the lands thus granted became untaxable, liable for no services and inalienable. It seems clear from a later inquisition that the Holy Trinity chantry did not in fact acquire all, even many of the lands etc to which the second and third licences applied. There would seem to be something of a bookkeeping transaction here which no doubt left the incidence of taxation satisfactorily vague. Certainly the value of the original benefaction was generously adequate, at the time at which it was made, for the support of a single full-time chaplain.
In presenting John de Pewelle to the chaplaincy of the chantry, Sir Robert was providing an income for an existing member of his household. John de Pewelle was a trusted household clerk who was appointed also to be chaplain of the de Hungerford-founded hospital at Calne. He probably had had legal training as his name occurs as a party in several feet of fine where he clearly is acting on behalf of his lord .
The process involved in the appointment of a clerk to an ecclesiastical benefice normally passed through four stages - presentation, admission, institution, and induction. Presentation involved the patron of the benefice presenting to the bishop the name of his nominee. The bishop then had to satisfy himself that the nominee was suitable i.e. was ordained, was of age, was free-born, and of good life and conversation. ‘Conversation’ in this context meant more than good clean speech; it meant honest and trustworthy conduct. The bishop also required to know the nature of the foundation, the value of its income and the nature of the chaplain’s proposed duties. Admission occurred upon his approval of these circumstances. Institution could then occur i.e. the bishop would commit the benefice to the cleric who had thus been presented and admitted. The final stage was the induction or ceremonial introduction of the new incumbent into his benefice.
In 1337 de Pewelle died and Sir Robert presented to the ecclesiastic authority his nomination as replacement to the Holy Trinity chaplaincy, Henry de Bradenham . Although nothing is known of de Bradenham’s antecedents, the likelihood is that, like de Pewelle, he was in Sir Robert Hungerford’s employ. The vicar of Hungerford was sent a mandate requiring him to report on both the priest and the chantry and on whether the right of presentation did indeed belong to Sir Robert de Hungerford as had been alleged. He was asked for details of the previous presentation, the age of the priest, his manner of life and conversation, the value of the foundation, whether a curate was employed or not, and what the chaplain’s duties were . Within a matter of days the vicar had replied, stating that the vacancy arose from the death of Sir John de Pewelle, the previous chaplain, which had occurred on the eve of All Hallows. He confirmed that Sir Robert was patron of the chantry and as such had previously presented de Pewelle. Sir Henry de Bradenham, he reported, was aged 40, a man of good life and honest conversation, who held the rank of ordained priest. The chantry’s foundation consisted of 2 messuages, 3½ acres of land, one piece of meadow, 66 shillings and 8d. annual rents, with certain other unspecified appurtenances in Hungerford, Sandon and Charlton, which all together were worth according to common estimate 100 shillings p.a.
The chaplain’s duties were to celebrate mass daily in the church for the wellbeing of Sir Robert and his wife Geva during their lifetime and for their souls after death and for the souls of all the faithful departed. The chaplain was required to be present in the parish church at morning and evening service to assist the vicar, along with other chaplains, once on Sundays and feast days and twice at requiems for the dead. He should maintain a curate to celebrate mass daily before sunrise at the altar of Holy Trinity in St. Lawrence’s church, the Lord’s day and feast days excepted. The chantry had been ordained by the Bishop and there was nothing prejudicial in the appointment ‘if the said ordination of the chantry is observed in all respects ’.
Until the Reformation the parish church of Hungerford was fortunate to possess a number of clergy carrying out their duties within it. First there was the vicar; then there were two chaplains, one each for the chantries of the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary, both of which were located in the parish church, and there was also the prior, warden or chaplain of the priory or free chapel of St. John. In addition there were chapels, and their concomitant chaplains, in outlying areas of the parish, such as North and South Standen (Standen Hussey).
The parish itself was part of the diocese of Salisbury but formed a peculiar, exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop (and subject instead to the jurisdiction of the prior of Ogbourne). On the one hand the Crown or its Duchy of Lancaster presented in respect of the priory of St. John, whilst the chaplaincy of the chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary seems to have been in the hands of the burgesses whose foundation it was; and that of the Holy Trinity chantry was in the gift of the bishop. For records of these appointments, therefore, we have to look to different sources: for the vicars in the Ms. collection of the Deans and Canons of Windsor; for the priory of St. John in the royal Patent Rolls; for the chaplaincy of the chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the town Mss; and for that of the Holy Trinity chantry in the registers of the Bishop of Salisbury. One result of this curiously scattered and divided source of clerical supply was that the bishop had, as far as appointments were concerned, the merest toe -hold within the parish, and this by virtue of his gift of the chaplaincy of the Holy Trinity chantry. It is not surprising therefore that in the event of disputes occurring in Hungerford the bishop may have had occasion to rely on the loyalty of the chaplain of the Holy Trinity chantry. This is noticeably apparent in a dispute in 1408 involving vicar Robert Napper and chaplain William Brown .
In 1399 William Brown had become chaplain of the Holy Trinity chantry and he continued in this office until 1411 . During most of this time he was contemporaneous with Robert Napper who was presented to the vicarage in 1403  and was referred to in a document of 1420 as ‘perpetual vicar of Hungerford14’. In 1408 a dispute arose in which the defendants were William Soper of Hungerford and Alice Sawser of the tithing of Hidden. The defendants were summoned by William Brown to appear before the bishop’s commissary; two days later they were similarly summoned by William Brown to appear before the bishop himself. When, after a third summons, Alice did not appear, the bishop’s commissary decreed that she should be excommunicated for her contumacy.
However, it would seem that the vicar of Hungerford neglected (or refused) to make the customary declaration of her excommunication, and so the bishop’s commissary ordered the vicar himself to be summoned for contempt and disobedience. At a special court to deal with the matter, certificates were received from William Brown detailing the failure of Napper, whom he terms ‘the alleged vicar of Hungerford,’ to make the summons of William Roper and Alice Sawser in the case mentioned above. Since Napper did not appear in court, he too was excommunicated. The vicar appealed to the Archbishop’s Court of Audience where the case proceeded to several legal actions. Napper appealed even further to the Apostolic See. In the end, Napper made his formal submission to the bishop and was absolved from excommunication after he had sworn to obey the laws of the church .
There are two small footnotes, which may be added to this section of the history of the Holy Trinity chantry. The first concerns an apparent attempt to provide an addition to the original endowment. In 1350 Peter Farman granted 1 virgate of land called Ponzardesland to Robert de Hungerford on condition that Robert should in his own lifetime and at his own expense appropriate it to the chantry of the Holy Trinity. Robert died in 1354 without having fulfilled this condition and after various legal processes the estate was restored to Peter Farman by the Crown who had taken it on Robert’s death .
The second item comes from Aubrey’s ‘North Wilts’ where he describes the Sir Robert Hungerford foundation at Calne in all its magnificence: ‘In 1336 Sir Robert de Hungerford gave to John de Pewelle, the custos of the hospital, 40 acres at Stock, Querneford, Calstone etc. for maintenance of a daily mass for his soul at the altar of St. Edmund in the church of Calne, the mass to be said by the second presbyter in rank. Also a set of robes and green hanging powdered with small white crosses ...... In 1442, however, the altar had become so neglected that Walter, Lord Hungerford, obtained leave to transfer its endowment to a chantry founded by him at Heytesbury’ . Heytesbury was the family seat, and this act was a melancholy but realistic admission that a chantry devoted to the Hungerfords was not necessarily assured of survival into perpetuity once the presence of its founder was removed from the area.
The records of Sir Robert Hungerford’s endowment, based as we have seen on the rent from lands and properties which he had alienated to the chantry, provide glimpses of persons and places during a particularly sparse and misty period. Names of tenants and of properties occur and sometimes recur throughout the centuries. In some cases these can be assigned to sites inhabited today.
Unfortunately the references to chantry properties are not only scattered in time but also differ from one another in purpose, and so are not always easily comparable. For instance, the vicar of Hungerford’s report to his bishop in 1337 in connection with the appointment of Henry de Bradenham as chaplain corresponds, more or less, though not exactly, with the details of the original grant of 1325; and this raises the question of what happened to the additional grants licensed in 1331 and 1336.
In the Register of Bishop Beaumont of Salisbury a later scribe has entered an undated grant made by Robert de Hungerford to John de Pewelle, the first chaplain of the Holy Trinity chantry . This grant consisted of 66 shillings and 8 pence in rents plus 5 quarters of wheat. The total of rents corresponds with that in the vicar’s report of 1337 and the 5 quarters of wheat were mentioned in the 1331 grant, but the document’s special interest to us is the breakdown it gives of the names of tenants with details of their holdings: ‘from Robert Hopgrass for 1 virgate in Charlton, one 6th of the manor of Charlton, ½ virgate and 6 acres in Charlton: 5 quarters of wheat and 40 shillings; from Richard le Fode for certain unspecified holdings in Hungerford: 10 shillings; from John Gifford for 1 messuage and curtilage in Hungerford: 5 shillings; from Walter Grimmesden [rectius Brimmesden]: 6s.8d; from John and Margaret Grimmesden [Brimmesden] for 1 messuage in Hungerford and 1 acre of land: 4 shillings; from William le Taylour for 1 messuage in Hungerford: 12 pence. Total: 66s.8d.’
Another account appears in 1331 in Chancery Inquisitions Ad Quod Damnum which states that the properties licensed to the chantry in that year are all held of John Maltravers the elder by service of one half of a knight’s fee, except for 8 acres of land which are held of Henry, Duke of Lancaster, by service of 3 pence per annum. The premises are said to be worth 5s 7d besides the rents; the wheat (in an average year with wheat at 4 shillings a quarter) is worth 20 shillings. John Maltravers held the manor of Charlton and the Duke of Lancaster that of Hungerford and Sandon Fee. This determines the amount of chantry land at that time in the manor of Hungerford as 8 acres, all the rest lying in Charlton .
The religious upheavals in the reign of Henry VIII not only led to the final dissolution of the monasteries but also affected the chantries, the dissolution of which followed in the reign of Henry’s successor, Edward VI. The Act for their dissolution was passed at the end of 1547 and commissioners were appointed by the Crown to survey their possessions. Early in 1548 the commissioners had completed their survey of the two Hungerford chantries of the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary and issued a certificate of their findings.
The commissioners stated the objects of the Holy Trinity foundation, ‘as reported to them’ (thus making it clear that they had not seen the foundation deed itself). They do not state that the reported object of the foundation, viz. celebration of divine service, was still being observed (as by comparison, they report it was being observed in the neighbouring chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary), nor do they report the existence of a chantry priest to perform this duty. Ornaments, plate, jewels, goods and chattels belonging to the chantry are said to appear in another, presumably separate, inventory and were not appraised. The value of the lands and tenements belonging to the chantry (in addition to 5 quarters of wheat) was £10. 3. 0. After deduction of what is described as the king’s ‘tenth’, viz. 16 shillings, there remained £9. 7. 0. ‘which was employed as well towards the fynding’ [i.e. maintainence] ‘of the chantry priest there as also towards the repairing of the houses to the said chantry belonging20’.
Upon the return of the Commissioners’ certificate, the next step for the Crown was to consider petitions from prospective purchasers or lessees. These often were middlemen, and the first to get in a bid for the Holy Trinity chantry was Roger Chaloner, an official of the Duchy of Lancaster, resident in London, and himself a commissioner to enquire into chantries in Hertfordshire and Essex. The customary procedure on receipt of a petition from a prospective purchaser was for the Pipe Office to draft a ‘particular’ or detailed account of the properties, which were then rated at a purchase price equivalent to so many years’ rental. Following this, a draft lease was prepared for the approval of the Lord Chancellor. In the case of the Holy Trinity chantry this was a 21 year lease granted by the Duchy of Lancaster to Roger Chaloner, to commence at Easter 1548 .
The draft lease on which the sale to Chaloner was based contains two main sections, rent from individual tenements let on a tenantat- will basis and rents from small blocs of property leased by indenture. There are 14 individual items in the first category (of which 12 appear to be houses with or without accompanying lands, one a parcel of meadow and one the rent in cash and wheat from Hopgrass); these 14 rents total £8.19.8. In the second category are two blocs or groups of property whose rents amount to £3.17.4. The two sets of rent thus amount to a grand total of £12.17.0. However, this includes 5 quarters of wheat at 6s.8d per quarter = £1.13.4. and so, to compare this figure with that of the Commissioners’ certificate, we should deduct £1.13.4., which gives us the sum of £10.3.8. It would seem therefore that the two figures do not differ to any significant amount. The Victoria County History of Berkshire has stated that there exist three different valuations of the chantry’s endowments, viz. £10.3.0, £12.7.0. and £8, a puzzle which it leaves unexplained . In quoting the figure £12.7.0, however, the V.C.H. is guilty of a slip. Its reference is to the draft lease quoted above, and in fact the total in that document is £12.17.0. Thus the first two of the V.C.H.’s ‘differences’ may be reconciled, as we have shown. The third evaluation of £8 is given in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 as net income and it must be on this net evaluation that the one tenth tax is fixed at 16 shillings . When the lands were let to Chaloner it was (as might be expected) the higher or gross figure of £12.17.0. which was used in the rental calculations.
In the category of tenants at will contained in the draft lease the annual rent from the manor of Charlton or (as it was by this time called) Hopgrass, viz. 40 shillings plus the value of 5 quarters of wheat priced at 3s.8d. per quarter. The 1548 particular has a section difficult to transcribe which seems to refer to the rent from one virgate of land in Charlton ‘once belonging to Alexander de Marishe and afterwards to Hopgrass’, a sixth part of the manor of Charlton, and another ½ virgate of land in the same manor .
The reference to one sixth part of the manor is interesting because we know that Robert Hopgrass died in 1349 holding 5/6ths of the manor as tenant of the heir of John Maltravers. His inquisition post mortem in that same year shows him also holding what is presumably the remaining 1/6th viz. 1 messuage, 80 acres of land, 3 acres of meadow, 7½ acres of pasture, 33 acres of wood and 7s rent, ‘held of Sir Robert de Hungerford by service of 40 shillings and 5 quarters of wheat per annum.’
The above mentioned references to the tenancies of Charlton alias Hopgrass are particularly useful because neither the rental of Hungerford which took place c.1470 nor the town surveys of 1552 and 1573 include either the vill of Charnham Street or the lands that were within the manor of Hopgrass, and it was in this area that a substantial portion of the chantry’s holding lay. In the town rental of c.1470 the Holy Trinity holdings in Hungerford and Sandon Fee amounted to 8 burgage holdings in the town and ‘certain lands’ in Sandon Fee . The town survey of 1552 attributes to the chantry eleven tenements in town and ‘a piece of meadow’ in Sandon Fee .The extra tenements, as compared with c.1470, arise from each of two burgages having been divided into two tenements, and an extra tenement (that occupied in 1552 by Thomas Hedache) which had in 1470 been attributed to John Warnewell and about the ownership of which there may have been some dispute. Thus the town survey of 1552 compares closely with the draft lease of 1548 with its 12 houses. One of the twelve houses (that occupied by William Beech) cannot be identified in the 1552 survey and may have been in neighbouring Charnham Street.
If we now return in the 1548 draft lease to the two indenture leases of small blocs of property, William Lovelake ‘s indenture was of the tenement adjoining that of M. Longford in the 1552 survey in which he and Longford were jointly quitrented at 12d. In the 1573 survey Lovelake’s is clearly the tenement then occupied by Nicholas Marshall, quit rent 8d; and Longford’s tenement has become that of Thomas Grant, quit rent 4d . Marshall’s tenement was accompanied by 15½ acres just as Lovelake’s had been. Both tenements are wrongly attributed as once having belonged to the B.V.M. Chantry.
The other indenture lease gave Robert Brabant one messuage let as 2 tenements on the east side of the [High] street. The text at this point is corrupt but a clear text occurs in the contemporaneous Minister’s Account for 2-3 Edward VI , that is, that the messuage was one formerly inhabited by Thomas Bosgrove and was situated between a tenement of the chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the south and another tenement of the Holy Trinity chantry on the north. This corresponds with the position, revealed by the order in which the town surveys list the houses, of Culver House, a tenement which appears in the rentals of 1470, 1552 and 1573; and although it appears in the draft lease of 1548 this house does not appear in the Minister’s Account of 2-3 Edward. The lands leased to Brabant are given in clearer detail in this Account which derives Brabant’s holding from an indenture made in 1516 by the Bishop of Salisbury, who is described as the patron of the chantry. The rent income from these lands is stated to be £3. 4. 0, broken down as follows: the house, divided into 2 tenements 24s. 8d; 5 acres in Chantry Field 20 shillings; and in Charnham Street 6 acres of meadow with 1 acre arable and 2 pieces of meadow estimated to contain 3 acres: 13s. 4d. These three items total only £2. 18. 0, however. Some late lawsuits provide us with a little further evidence of the way in which problems arose from the chantry estates. In or about the year 1545 Thomas Langsloo, a newly appointed chaplain of the chantry, tried to obtain payment of 40 shillings plus the price of 5 quarters of wheat at 6s. 8d. a quarter from Ralph Hanley ‘out of a farm called Hopgrass’[ 29]. Langsloo describes himself as ‘a very poor man’ - and indeed the major portion of his stipend was at stake in the dispute - whereas ‘the said Raffe is a very rich man and hath many friends and adherents in the said countrie’. Langsloo on the other hand was ‘a stranger in the country’, that is, in the district. It would seem that he was a new broom, for Hanley answers that Langsloo had refused to accept from him a rent of £3. 5. 0 p.a. when this had been offered. It seems likely that Langsloo was insisting on 40 shillings plus 5 quarters of wheat at current prices. By 1545 wheat was worth a great deal more than 6s.8d. a quarter and, as we shall see, a later tenant had to pay the amount in kind, as the original endowment provided for. Behind the suit one may sense the growing resentment at old feudal and ecclesiastical patterns which had already been broken by Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, and of which the chantries were the last relic, themselves about to be dissolved also.
In a later suit in 1581 William Curteys, then the lessee of the dissolved chantry lands sued Brian Gunter, his tenant in Hopgrass, alleging assault and claiming that Gunter had given false measure of wheat. He alleged that Gunter and his wife ‘very arrogantly and reproachfully uttered that the Queen’s majesty should find them a chapel to say mass or service twice every week in the said manor or farm of Hopgrass or else they would not pay the said rent of money and wheat’. If the chantry was dissolved and thus no longer performed the function for which the rent had formerly been applied, any demand for rent in its name might seem a one-sided arrangement some 35 years after dissolution. The argument is a false one, but to those who were aware of the past history and services of the chantry, it lay at the back of the mind and could rise to the surface in moments of anger. In his answer Brian Gunter denies that when Curteys sent to collect the rent Anne Gunter ‘divers times falsely and corruptly brought forth a false bushel not allowable for the measuring of the said wheat and with the same did measure out wheat which in every twenty bushels wanted one bushel,’ but he admits that on one occasion one of his servants had measured some 17 bushels ‘by a bushel measure which the clerk of the market had pared too little almost by the quantity of one pint’ and discovering this he had offered to pay for the 17 pints thus deficient. The court found Gunter guilty not only of short measure but also of delivering ‘foul, musty, and uncleaned wheat’. It ordered that the rent should be paid in ‘good clean, sweet, and merchantable wheat and in no other grain, as it may also appear evidently by an ancient deed showed in this court whereby the same is termed “quinque quarten” frumenti ’.
Clearly all was not plain sailing for the purchasers of the former chantry lands. In another suit in 1569 Henry Edes, who was Curteys’ predecessor as farmer of the Holy Trinity chantry rents, claimed that the defendants had pulled down a house in Charnham Street, part of the possessions of the former chantry, and carried away its timber and thatch. They had also taken possession of a meadow which went with the house. The defendants claimed that the building in question was part of the Bell Inn and with the meadow adjacent belonged to the Chock family who had held it in fee simple as far back as the reign of Edward IV, paying what they described as an annual quit rent of four shillings to the Holy Trinity chantry for this property .
When the dissolution of the chantry took place in 1548 Langsloo had received a generous pension of £6. 13. 4. What happened to him thereafter we do not know; he may have left the district to which he had come only a few years earlier as a stranger. If so, who would remain locally to recall reliably the exact extent of the former chantry’s possessions? It may be for this reason that successive town surveys in 1552, 1573 and 1591 seem gradually to decrease the number of properties which had once belonged to the Holy Trinity chantry and generally to attribute them to the former chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary instead. When one agent acquired leases from both of the former chantry lands the tendency to confusion became pronounced.
Another cause of difficulty in comparing survey details is a tendency to subdivide individual holdings. When the larger blocs became broken up by sub-letting, the problem of identifying these parts becomes in several cases insuperable. Yet another difficulty is posed by the decay of buildings, and some tenements may have been omitted from surveys or rentals because they had become uninhabitable and no rent could be expected from them, unless they were rebuilt. Having become the property of the Crown after the dissolution of the chantry, their restoration depended upon the Crown’s willingness to undertake this, whereas previously the responsibility had been the chantry’s and repairs were paid for out of the foundation rents.
A report prepared for the Duchy of Lancaster, fifty years after the dissolution of the chantries, shows that nearly all the properties of both the chantries in Hungerford needed extensive repair or rebuilding, to the joint extent of 100 tons of timber . Doubtless this was thought to be exaggerated, as the Crown sanctioned the use of only 40 tons.
The uncertainty and confusion that arose once the link between priest and chantry had been snapped is highlighted by the difficulties of the jurors who presented the 1573 survey to the commissioners. Apparently they had been asked to give particular attention to sums for obits arising from the property of dissolved institutions. On the oaths of various elderly townsmen sums were stated to be due on lands and premises going back in time to well before the dissolution. Memories were inevitably vague. Thus, ‘George Toggye upon his oath affirmeth that there was an obit’ [on a particular house] ‘and knoweth not what’. On another property a deponent declared that there had been two obits consisting of ‘4 bushels of wheat yearly to be paid to the poor, and in money he knoweth not the sum’. The jurors also reported that ‘the chantry priest of the Trinity ought of right to have a common way through a plot of ground of George Essex esq between the sun rising and sunset ’. Essex was lord of Hopgrass manor. With no chantry priest left to claim his right to use the footpath it is doubtful if the lord of the manor hesitated to enclose what must have been a convenient right of way for others besides the priest. Although the loss to the community may have been small, it was typical of what happened when the affairs of the community and the life of the chantry became divorced.
The history of the lands which had once provided the income for the chantry continued long after the chantry itself had disappeared. Sold off in blocs to speculative landlords they passed from owner to owner, tenant to tenant. In the course of this disposal by sale the lands of the Holy Trinity and of the Blessed Virgin Mary became cast together or dispersed indiscriminately, so that it is difficult to follow their history under privatisation or to pursue some of the later references to what became known simply and indistinguishably as ‘the chantry lands.’
1 Hastings Mss, no.1176; Berks. R.O.:H/RTa 32
2 Ms. Ashmole 1125; Cal.Pat.Rolls 1324-7 p.191
3 W. Money, ‘Historical Sketch of Hungerford’
4 Cal.Pat.Rolls 20 Nov.1325
5 Ibid 15 Oct 1331
6 Ibid 3 July 1336
7 Hastings Mss.
8 Ms Ashmole 1125
11 Register of Bishop Hallum (1407-17), ed. Joyce Horn
12 Sir T. Phillips, ‘Wilts. Institutions.’
14 Berks. R.O.: H/RTa 16
15 Hallum op.cit. item 11
16 For Farman family see V.C.H. Berks. iv.190
17 J. Aubrey, North Wiltshire, p.32
18 Wilts. R.O.: D1/2/11 vol.1, pt.2 ff.60-61
19 Chancery Inq. ad q.d. 177 (17)
20 P.R.O.: E301/51
21 P.R.O.: DL14/6/43
22 V.C.H. Berks. iv p.198
23 Valor Eccl. Rec. Comm. vol 2 p.158
24 P.R.O.: E36/258/ f.148 v
25 P.R.O.: DL43/1/4
26 P.R.O.: DL42/108
27 Berks. R.O.: HM5/1
28 P.R.O.: DL29/723/11779
29 P.R.O.: C1/1139/29
30 P.R.O.: DL1/116/C3; DL5/17
31 P.R.O.: DL1/79/E2
32 P.R.O.: DL42/98 ff.329-30
33 Berks. R.O.: HM5/1