Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in Medieval Miscellany

Richard as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

Where we today can come closest to Richard and his patronage of learning is through the centres of learning, which he supported.  There are the two universities, Oxford and Cambridge, but we must not forget the collegiate churches he founded.

The late middle ages saw the foundation of numerous chantries and collegiate churches to provide prayers for the dead.  A chantry was an altar endowed for one or more priests to say Mass for its founder and possibly other patrons.  The size of chantries ranged from a side altar in an existing parish church to separate chapels.

A collegiate church or college was a corporation of secular priests set up for the same purpose as chantries.  Sometimes they were not part of a parish, but most often they were added to an existing parish church.

It was not unusual to have almshouses or schools attached to chantries and colleges [Keen, p.273; Melhuish, p.1].  While Richard followed the fashion for college foundations enthusiastically – in total he was responsible for 10 chantry or collegiate foundations [Ross, p.130] – there is no evidence that schools (or almshouses for that matter) were to be included in the colleges he set up, but this does not necessarily mean that no education took place.  As with all these foundations “Divine service and the ability to sing God’s praise came first, education second, but they were closely interrelated.” [Sutton & Visser Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, p. 106]  It also needs to be remembered that choristers would need a teacher of grammar and music, who could very well teach other boys as well. [Sutton & Visser Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, p.120]

1. The College at Middleham

Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

St Mary and Alkelda, Middleham (© D Preis)

In 1477 Richard began to establish two colleges, one at Middleham and one at Barnard Castle, for both of them he procured royal licences on 21 February 1478. [Ross, p.130].

The origins of the parish church of St Mary and St Alkelda in Middleham might date back to Saxon times, but its elevation to college status was Richard’s work.  The college was to consist of a dean, 6 chaplains, 4 clerks, 6 choristers and a sacristan.  One of the clerks was charged with offering perpetual masses for the good of Richard’s living family and the souls of all the faithful departed [Melhuish, pp.1-2].

The statutes for the college are in English, and probably reflect the most detailed indication of Richard’s personal religious taste.  The dean had to have his continual residence at Middleham and it is emphasised that he had to have sufficient learning.  [Dobson, p.141]

Over time Richard settled property on the college, though his last settlement, made shortly before Bosworth, by which he wanted to make the college more financially secure, was not enacted by Henry Tudor. [Melhuish, pp.6-10]

The first dean was William Beverley, who probably came from York and was a Cambridge graduate.   He had been the rector of Middleham before Richard set up the college and then became its first dean.  Richard must have liked him a lot.  When he became king, Beverley’s career took off dramatically.  He was promoted to dean of the king’s chapel of St Stephen’s, Westminster, and dean of St George’s, Windsor, and was granted many other benefices, among them that of dean to the collegiate church of Wimborne in Dorset.  He was also made precentor at York Minster.  Previously this had not been a valuable benefice, but this was changed when Beverley came, which might have been just as well, as he kept this position after Bosworth.  Towards the end of 1493 he contracted the sweating sickness and died.  He requested to be buried either at York Minster or the church at Middleham. [Sutton & Visser-Fuchs, ‘Cambridge’, pp.124-125; Dobson, pp.142-144]

While many of these collegiate foundations became victims of the reformation, the King’s College of Middleham was one of the few exempted from suppression [Melhuish, p.8] and continued as a college until 1845, when a special Act of Parliament had to be passed to abolish it.  Nor is Richard forgotten:  he and his family have a memorial window in the South Aisle and his pennant is flown from the tower on significant dates [‘Middleham Collegiate Church’].

2. The College at Barnard Castle

Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

St Mary’s, Barnard Castle (© Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

Compared to Middleham, nothing much is known about the college at Barnard Castle, but it has to be assumed that it was planned along similar lines, though on a far grander scale with twelve priests, ten clerks and six choristers.  This would have made it “the most ambitious late medieval chantry establishment in the palatinate of Durham”. [Dobson, p.141]  However, as the only existing document is the licence, it seems likely that it never came into being.  [Ross, pp.130-131; BHO ‘Barnard Castle’]  Nevertheless, Richard carried out extensive alterations to the church of St Mary’s from 1477 until his death in 1485.  If you visit the church today you can come face to face with Richard:  The chancel arch is decorated with Yorkist roses and two portrait heads, believed to be those of Edward IV and Richard.  Outside the church Richard’s badge, the Boar Passant, is carved in the exterior of the East window of the South Transept.  The church’s website remembers him as their “great benefactor”, [‘St Mary’s Barnard Castle’] and a newspaper article said:  “Fate smiled on St Mary’s in Barnard Castle when Richard III came to power”.  [‘Church on mission to revamp building’].

3. The College at York Minster

Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

York Minster (© D Preis)

As king, Richard planned an even larger college with 100 priests as an extension to St William’s College at York Minster, which had been founded by George and Richard Neville.   Contemporary information on this project rather limited.  At the time of Richard’s death, six new altars had been constructed within in the minster for the king’s chaplains and the building of their collegiate house had been started and he had given the Minster money, precious relics as well as a magnificent jewelled altar cross.  It is not known whether any of the priests had actually arrived, nor do we know what their exact responsibilities would have been apart from celebrating mass for Richard and his family.  [Dobson, pp.144-146; Ross, pp.130 +132; Sutton, ‘Piety’, pp.85+88, Melhuish, p.14]  Because of his grand plans for the York Minster, it has been suggested that this is where his son Edward is buried.  Richard and – probably – Anne visited York unofficially for three days in the beginning of May 1484, which might have been for their son’s burial. [Hammond, p.31]  It is even possible that he might have planned this chantry to serve as the tomb for himself and his family [Dobson,pp.146-147] with the priests looking after the family’s spriritual needs in this world and the next.

4. The College at St. Mary, Allhallows

Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches

All Hallows by the Tower (© Copyright John Salmon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

The three previous colleges were all in the North, but Richard also “founded another in the church of St. Mary of Barking, by the Tower of London” [John Rous, History of the Kings of England; quoted in Potter, p.88].  St Mary was a chapel in the churchyard of Allhallows near the Tower of London, which had been founded by Richard I (the’ Lionheart’).

In 1465 Edward IV had had founded a chantry there with two chaplains, who were to pray for the king and his family including brothers and parents.  The chapel was governed by a fraternity, whose warden was John Tiptoft, earl of Worcester, another man of great learning and an early importer of printed books. [Armstrong, p.269]

Richard then wanted to erect a deanery and give it the status of a royal free chapel.  He persuaded Barking nunnery in Essex, to whom the mother church Allhallows belonged, to give up the mother church to the chapel in exchange for a pension.  Like Middleham, it was planned as a college with a dean and six cannons.  Edmund Chaderton was appointed first dean.   He had been treasurer of George Neville and became Richard’s treasurer of the chamber.  He was a trusted administrator and had taken “personal charge of most of Buckingham’s forfeited lands as receiver and surveyor”. [Wolffe, p.10; Ross, p.176]  The canons were to be all university graduates and hold M.A. degrees.  Stow writes about Richard’s “new built“ chapel, but it is doubtful how much building work was actually carried out during the short time.  The chapel only received its status as a free chapel in March 1485.  As soon as Henry VII came to power the Abbess of Barking Nunnery petitioned for the return of the church and regained it.  The chapel was destroyed in 1548 and the area was initially used as a garden plot and later a store house was built there. [BHO ‘All Hallows Church’; Horrox; Stow, p.50]

Part 1 – Richard III and Learned Men

Part 3 – Richard III and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge

Part 4 – Richard III as Law Maker (incl. bibliography)

Tags: , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 5th, 2012 at 0:01 and is filed under Medieval Miscellany. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Trackbacks/Pings

  1. Richard III Society of NSW » Blog Archive » Richard III and Learning. Part 1: Richard III and Learned Men    May 05 2012 / 8am:

    […] Part 2 – Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches […]

  2. Richard III Society of NSW » Blog Archive » Richard III and Learning: Part 3 – Richard III and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge    May 07 2012 / 9am:

    […] Part 2 – Richard III as the Founder of Collegiate Churches […]

Leave a reply

Name (*)
Mail (will not be published) (*)