Ely Cathedral.

Sacrist rolls of Ely (Volume 1) online

. (page 1 of 20)
Online LibraryEly CathedralSacrist rolls of Ely (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook











/U^^ ^7 A


5 wO


\_All Rights reserved]

TitteHon, E

Previous to the painting of the octagon vault.






Printed for private circulation only



dDambrtDge :



v. I


ONE of the ancient Sagas of Iceland bears the title of" Hungurvaka 1 " —
the " Hunger-waker " — an indication from the author to his readers
that he presents to them no finished or perfect work, but only a first
instalment by which he hopes to kindle an interest in the subject of his
book, and to provoke a desire for more.

Some such design is offered as an apology for the publication of a first
and very small portion of the documents which have been for centuries
lying in the Muniment Room of Ely Cathedral.

The present issue is but a sample of a large store: whether it will prove
"a Hungurvaka" or whether the response will be "Hold, enough," time
will show; but in either event, the success or failure of the publication
must fall, as well on those by whose desire the task was undertaken, as on
him who undertook it.

As successors to the Prior and convent of a Benedictine Monastery,
the Dean and Chapter of Ely in the 16th century inherited parchments
which had accumulated in the hands of men, trained in each generation
to treasure with care the documents which descended to them from the
past, and in their turn to hand on the records of their own time 2 .

Very numerous, therefore, must have been the writings which under
Henry the Eighth's charter came into the possession of the new occupants
of the Ely College. But, alas ! as with the fair buildings of the Monastery,
so with the parchments in the Muniment Room. Careless custody, wanton
destruction, the rust, the moth and the mildew, have since made sad havoc
with the once rich legacy bequeathed by the past.

The destruction of some of the old manuscripts of the house is sadly
apparent while Prior Wells or Dean Steward, for he is # known by both
names, was guardian of its properties of all kinds. In the copy of the

1 Hungurvaka— Pals Biskups Saga, Hafniae, 1778.

2 Some signs of the care which the monks of old bestowed on their muniments may
still be seen in the docketing of the contents of papers on the outside, that they might be
recognised without being unfolded ; and the inscriptions on them of numbers referring to
the cista or box to which they belonged. One oaken chest, some six feet long, six inches
deep and six wide, is still preserved, with its compartments arranged for the closely
folded parchments; and an entry in Roll ix. B (p. 117) of the present series reveals the
method in which the Sacrist's documents were kept in the 14th century, "In ij. baggis
de coreo pro rotulis custodiendis " — " Bags made of skins for keeping the Rolls."


vi (preface

return which he made to Henry the Eighth of the income of the Monastery,
in order to strengthen and bind together the leaves on which he had
written his account, he makes use of several of the ancient parchments
which were under his hands in the Muniment Room. Stitched on to the
back of his papers, we find two sheets cut out of a fine Psalter, a skin
from a Compotus Roll of the Sacristy, and a skin from a Roll of a

The pages of Steward's work which thus illustrate one of the uses to
which our old parchments have been put, have been photographed and
are here inserted. In one picture Psalm cxliv., taken from the Psalter,
appears opposite to one of Steward's heraldic drawings ; in the other, a
portion of the Pitanciarius Roll faces items of entries in Steward's own
handwriting. In this, and doubtless in various other ways, the so-called
ages of enlightenment destroyed valuable things which the dark ages had
preserved ; yet notwithstanding the losses which we deplore, we are glad
to acknowledge that there is still preserved in the Muniment Room of
Ely a collection fairly representative of the several classes of documents,
which are usually found in old Benedictine monasteries.

These may be roughly classified as follows : —

A. Royal Charters ; Charters of Bishops and other Benefactors,
reciting grants of privilege and of lands.

B. Documents relating to ecclesiastical matters, issuing from Popes,
Papal Legates, Archbishops and Bishops ; with transactions of the Priory
with other Religious Houses.

C. Secondary papers concerning titles to property; conveyances of
lands, final concordats, etc.

D. Court Rolls of Manors with their customs and the accounts of the

E. The Compotus Rolls of the Departmental Officers of the Monastery,
who being responsible for separate incomes had to present their annual or
biennial accounts to the Chapter.

These officers were 10 in number.

(i) The " Thesaurarius Prions et Conventus," the head Treasurer.

(2) The Sacrist.

(3) The Celerarius.

(4) The Camerarius.

(5) The Elemosynarius, or Almoner.

(6) The Custos Feretri, of the shrine of St Etheldreda.

(7) The Custos of the Lady Chapel.

(8) The Precentor.

(9) The Infirmarius.

(10) The Roscarius, or Roserius.



Of each of these departmental officers Ely still retains some account
Rolls, varying in number and in interest ; as it does of each of the classes
which have been alluded to as A, B, C, D.

All these documents, with others of later date, are preserved in a fire-
proof room over the archway which gives access to the Cathedral precincts
from the North ; and are to a considerable extent so classified and arranged
that they can be easily inspected and consulted.

It is the desire, however, of the Dean and Chapter, for the greater
convenience of those who are interested in the ancient history of the
Monastery and Cathedral, to reproduce in transcripts some, if not all,
of these parchments, in a readable form. Much of this work must be left
in faith to the zeal and industry of future generations ; the present members
of the Corporation must be content to make their offering of duty and
of goodwill, in the form of a beginning of the undertaking ; as a " hungur-
vaka " for the larger store which they possess.

In the selection of the documents first to be transcribed and published,
the Chapter have had regard to the judgment of some of the leading
members of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, that the first issue should
consist of the Rolls of the Sacristy in which Alan of Walsingham recorded
the expenses of the rebuilding of the central tower of the Cathedral which
fell in 1322.

Extracts from those documents have indeed appeared in print from
time to time, but by reason of their brevity and disconnection from the
text, they have failed to satisfy those who were interested in the subject.
The hope, therefore, was expressed that full transcripts of all Alan's
Rolls, called often the Building Rolls, might be given in the intended

This suggestion is now carried out ; only with a slight modification
rendered advisable by the existence of two Sacrist Rolls some years earlier
than the date at which Alan of Walsingham took office. The two
documents, therefore (dated respectively 1291 — 2 and 1302 — 3), are placed
at the head of the series ; next follow those which were written while Alan
was Sacrist ; then the Rolls of Alan's successors in the Sacristy, which were
presented to the Chapter while he held the more dignified position of
Prior of the Community. The break of interest between these two later
parts or divisions is but slight. The restoration of the central portion
of the Church was by no means completed when Alan moved from the
Sacristy into the Priory. It drags on in several subsequent Rolls, and we
may be confident that the experienced builder, who bore the chief brunt of
the labour in the earlier years, will have exercised a corresponding influence
as it drew to its close. At least it will be remembered that each of the
parchments passed through the hands and under the eye of our renowned



Sacrist, whether he were at the time a monk acting for the Chapter, or the
Head of the House 1 .

The Rolls themselves, it may here be mentioned, are formed of strips
of parchment from i o to 12 inches wide, several skins being sewn together
till they reach a length of from 4 to 8 feet.

In several of them the edges have been destroyed : in others the damp
has settled in patches obliterating words or even whole sentences and
paragraphs, while an attempt made some 50 years ago to preserve or
restore the parchments by pasting paper over the whole surface of the
second or dorso side, has rendered the task of deciphering the writing
through that veil exceedingly difficult.

The Latin of the Rolls, according to the custom of that time, is in an
abbreviated form ; and as that language may only have been acquired and
practised in the Monastery, the scribes are satisfied to adhere to the Latin
colloquial expressions ordinarily in use. Classical Latin would indeed
be in itself inadequate to render faithfully the local words for the animals
and instruments which in those days were familiar in Cambridgeshire, but
not in Italy. Such words are numerous in these Rolls, and they will
be found left in their native simplicity; the transcriber not venturing to do
aught with them, beyond putting them into the glossary with the best
explanation and the nearest English equivalent which he can command.

Frequent cases will also be noted in the Rolls where the summaries of
the figures in a paragraph fail to agree with the sums which are set down in
the columns belonging to it, the discrepancy most often arising from one
or other of the figures in the original text being illegible; and though they
might be recovered and reinserted by some ingenuity, they remain un-
touched in the transcript: the reader being equally competent to the
exercise as the transcriber.

One slight change, however, in the representation of the figures in
the "Expense" side of the account has been made for clearness' sake.
They will be found to follow the plan which the Sacrist's scribe ob-
served in his setting out of the receipts ; that is to say, each item of the
expenses has been given a line to itself and the sums belonging to it have
been carried on to the right-hand side of the page, and set formally in
a column. A desire to economise parchment was probably the only motive
for huddling all the entries of the expenses with all the figures into a con-

l The Sacrist Rolls which remain to us after the Roll here numbered xv. and which is
the final one of Alan's date, reach to the 8th year of Henry VIII. These it is proposed
shall form the next issue, but whether each Roll shall be transcribed in full, or whether
when the entries in any of them yield no matter of interest, the summaries alone shall be
given, waits on future determination. Some care has been taken in the notes of this first
issue, not to encroach on, or to diminish the interest of, the Compotus Rolls which are
to follow, either of the Sacrists, or of any other of the officers of the Monastery.



tinuous stream, often enduring through 20 or 30 lines, till they become a
tangle difficult to unravel. In these days of cheap paper some extravagance
of material may be condoned, if the strain on the eyes and the brain of
the reader be thereby somewhat relieved.

The transcripts of the Rolls are for convenience' sake placed in a
volume (Vol. ii.) by themselves. In Vol. i. by way of introduction notes
are offered which call attention to the subject-matter contained in each
Roll, and especially to any entries of peculiar interest, having respect
to the twofold division which is observed throughout the Rolls, viz., first,
for the usual work of the Sacristy, and secondly, for the new labour which
was then thrown upon the Sacrist and which he enters under the heading
of "cost of the new work" — "custus novi operis." For it is of im-
portance to observe that the Compotuses of the Sacrist of Ely are not
concerned only with building in the Cathedral or in the precincts of the
Monastery, but primarily with the commonplace accounts of the Sacristy,
which represented a considerable establishment with distinct departments.

These notes indeed will not be limited in their scope to the exact
words which arise in each of these divisions, but extended to amplify
the history and to illustrate the life of the Monastery at that particular
time, thus helping, though in an imperfect manner, to form a more
continuous story of the time in which Alan of Walsingham was Sacrist
and Prior.

The items of history which may be drawn out of these Sacrist Rolls are
far too fragmentary to constitute by themselves a chronicle; they are
of value mainly as they answer to, or supplement, the more continuous
writings which are extant in other forms, relating to the same period ; and
as the Ely Monastery possesses records of its past life written by its own
scribes and in its own cloisters, we must naturally, from time to time, turn
aside to refer to them.

Of these chronicles, the well-known Liber Eliensis with its three books
brings the history of Ely and St Etheldreda's foundation to the close of the
life of Nigel, second Bishop of Ely.

Another chronicle, distinct and original, starting from the year 156 a.d.,
brings the history of the Monastery of Ely up to the year 1430 — and with
additions to i486 1 .

1 The Chapter Library has treasured for centuries an original MS. of the Liber
Eliensis in three books, of a very beautiful character. And it has acquired, by the gift
of Dr Stanton, Canon of Ely and Professor of Divinity, a very interesting copy of the
same work, which appears to have been made in the 17th century by Bollandus, in
preparation for the Acta Sanctorum; and this copy of the Liber Eliensis is rendered
peculiarly valuable by having also at the end an excellent copy of the other chronicle
referred to above and usually known as the History of the Bishops of Ely. Thus the two
works may be compared.


The heading to this work runs thus : " Incipiunt Chronica Abbatum et
Episcoporum Eliensium." It is to this last-mentioned history that we have
to look for the story of the career of Alan of Walsingham as Sacrist and
Prior of Ely, as it is given in the lives of Bishops Hotham, Montacute and
de Lisle.

Unfortunately no early MS. of this chronicle is preserved at Ely. At
the time of the dissolution of the Monastery at least one was in the
Muniment Room under the care of the first Dean, Robert Steward ; but
at his death, in 1557, the MS. seems to have disappeared from Ely. At a
later period, however, it was found in the Lambeth Palace Library. It is
there still, and is known as No. 448. In the same volume there are bound
up many separate pages of parchment and paper, containing matter interest-
ing to Ely, prepared apparently by Steward himself, who has added some
elaborate notes concerning his own family pedigree.

Other MSS. of the same chronicle exist ; two in the Cottonian collec-
tion in the British Museum, marked as Nero A. xv. and xvi. ; and Titus
A. 1 ; there are also amongst the Harleian MSS. two copies, Nos. 3721
and 82, and in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, a copy
given by Archbishop Parker.

In 1689 Mr Henry Wharton, when he gave to the world a history
of the dioceses of England under the title of Anglia Sacra, drew his
information for his history of Ely almost entirely from the MS. No. 448 in
the Library of the Archbishop at Lambeth, of which he was at the time

He tells us, indeed, in his preface that he was acquainted with the
Cambridge MS. and with those in the Cottonian collection. During his
lifetime the Cottonian Library had not been presented to the nation,
and was still in the hands of the Cotton family. Wharton, who died
in 1695, would have visited the Library when it was in Cotton House,
Westminster, where the MSS. were arranged in fourteen presses which
were surmounted by busts of twelve Roman Emperors and of Cleopatra
and Faustina. When the Library had been presented to, and accepted
by, Parliament, after several moves and a fire, it found a permanent home
in the British Museum, where the old system of cataloguing the manuscripts
by the names of the Emperors Nero, Claudius, etc., was still continued.

It is by means of Wharton's Anglia Sacra that readiest access is now
obtained to the text of the original Ely MS. chronicle. That work,
however, has become so scarce that it is seldom met with outside the
larger public libraries ; and though the Ely Cathedral Library possesses a
copy, it is much to be desired that the portion of Wharton's work which
relates to Ely may be re-edited and published alone, perhaps translated.

The re-editing would, indeed, involve a collation of the Lambeth MS.
with the MSS. in the British Museum and the one at Cambridge, and some



corrections ; for while the Anglia Sacra wins our admiration both by the
greatness of the undertaking and by the energy and learning of a man who
had scarcely attained his 31st year when death called him from his labours,
it cannot be denied that errors exist in Wharton's published text, which
might have been avoided if he had consulted with more care the other
existing MSS. of the chronicle, and if he had been more watchful over the
work of his transcriber.

Two such errors having, unfortunately, occurred in the special portion
of the history which relates to Alan of Walsingham and Bishop Hotham, it
will be incumbent on the present editor, to his regret, to notice and correct
them when those passages come up for consideration in this work.

With regard to other available sources of information concerning the
Monastery in the 14th century, it may be well to mention here a MS.
volume in the British Museum, catalogued as MS. Additional 33,381,
which was of old times an Ely book and in which is an Ely Calendar, with
the days of the anniversaries of Ely worthies among which both Alan and
Crauden find mention.

Tiberius B ii. of the Cottonian collection has also Ely information
giving a summary of the episcopal manors, and in folio 246 et seq. the
particulars of Bishop Hugh of Northwold's expenditure on the presbytery
are given with considerable detail; the accounts passing periodically
through the hands of the Sacrist, although the greater part of the cost was
defrayed by the Bishop.

At Oxford, the Bodleian holds many documents of interest to the Ely
Monastery, some forming part of the " Laudian Collection " ; some perhaps
dropped there by Tanner, whilom Canon of Ely ; others transferred from
the Ashmolean Collection and from Jesus College. The "Ecclesie Elyensis
Historia," Laud. Misc. 647, is a very fine MS. and contains cartae to the
date of Bishop de Luda.

Of the Petworth MS. described in the Appendix to the sixth report of
the Historical Manuscripts Commission, one portion was originally an Ely
possession. It consists of a number of parchment leaves bound together
relating to transactions mainly 14th century. The summary of its contents
gives but an imperfect idea of the interesting matter contained in it,
though for the most part the parchments are not originals but very early

A copy of Bishop Fordham's survey of Ely, of which the original is
catalogued in the British Museum Harl. MS. 329 is now to be found in the
Ely Muniment Room, carefully made by an expert ; also a copy, in the same
hand, of a story of a quarrel in the Ely Monastery between the Supprior
and the third Prior, in which Fressingfield and Crauden take part, which is
from the Lambeth Library MS. No. 448.



The large number of other papers preserved in the Record Office and
other depositories of medieval documents, now open to the public, and
which have to be searched for special information concerning the men and
the transactions of the Middle Ages, is overwhelmingly great to those
whose time and strength are limited. And the present Editor has to
acknowledge his indebtedness to a friend who has attained to a knowledge
of all records which few possess, and to confess that without such assistance
he would have been unable to prosecute the enquiries necessary to this

The Editor desires, therefore, gratefully to acknowledge the most
kindly and friendly help which in this portion of his work he has received
from Miss Rose Graham, whose book on the Gilbertine Monasteries is not
the only evidence of her learning and literary ability.

Mr St John Hope's stores of knowledge of ecclesiology in all its
branches have been opened to him with a kindness for which he is most
thankful ; while to Mr J. W. Clark's wide experience he is indebted for
many valuable suggestions concerning the arrangement and printing of
this work; and to Mr W. J. Corbett, Fellow of King's College, for
assistance and advice.

In Canon Stewart's "Architectural History of Ely Cathedral" [1868]
we have a work of great interest into which is gathered the result of wide
research ; it has been continually consulted and made use of in these
notes, more especially when in the latter part it enters on the larger
subject of the History of the Monastery itself and of the Monastic
Buildings which remain to the present time.

A MS. in the Muniment Room, prepared and presented by the present
Precentor, the Rev. J. H. Crosby, in which the Compotus Rolls of the
Custos Capelle Marie, the Feretrarius and the Camerarius have been
carefully analysed, is of great value; and it will be found of special
service to any future Editor of those Rolls.

Mention need scarcely be made of the " Memorials of Ely Cathedral "
by the present Bishop of Truro. That Book with others has borne
testimony to his interest in the labours of Alan of Walsingham and John
of Crauden, and will long remain in this city as a proof of his love for
the Ancient Foundation, over which he presided as Dean.

The Almonry, Ely.

December, 1907.




v to xii



Roll No. I. Clement of Thetford
No. II. Ralph of Waltham .



Roll No. Ill 8

No. IV 27

No. V 31

No. VI 35

No. VII 49

No. VIII 56

No. IX A 64



Roll No. IX B. Nicholas of Copmanford 75

No. X. Robert of Aylsham 79

No. XI. Adam of Lynstede 83

No. XII. Adam of Lynstede 86

No. XIII. Robert of Sutton 88

No. XIV. Robert of Sutton 92

No. XV. Robert of Sutton 100



Appendix A.
Appendix B.

Appendix C.

The Receipts of the Sacristy in

Buildings in the Monastery, Erected or Restored in
the time of Alan of Walsingham


The Hereditary Goldsmiths of Ely, with the purchase
of Brame

Plans ;

Appendix D. The Sacrist of Ely. By whom appointed? .


List of Illustrations:

Ely Cathedral. Previous to the painting of the
octagon vault

Roll of a Pitanciarius

A page of Steward's Return to Henry VIII

A page from a Psalter. (Ps. cxliv) .

Steward's Drawing

Section of Ely Dome and Lantern .

The Eastern portion of the Norman Church .

Candelabra in Milan Cathedral ....

Base of the Shrine of St Etheldreda, Ely Cathedral

The Tomb of Edward the Confessor, Westminster

Oak Window from Prior Crauden's Study

I. The Old Priory

II. The Infirmary, Camera Sacriste, etc.

III. The Sacristy, Almonry, etc.



. 178



to face p. vi


p. VI


p. VI


p. VI


p. 41


P- 93


P- 97


p. 98


p. 98


p. 128


p. 129


P- 139


p. 145


In Preface, page x, line 18, for 82 read 258. " Ex historia Eliensis Ecclesie
per Will. Archiepiscopum Cantuar." etc.


Page 31, line 20. Dele " £7 "—the amount of this annual payment is not legible
until Roll vij. page 76, where, and in succeeding Rolls, it is " 7^."

Page 86, line 28. Concerning Swamsethe, see the word in the Glossary,
Vol. 11.

Page 97, line 15. For "high" read "side."

Page 117, line 30. For " iij " read "11,."





(Koff Qto* U tU Compotm of Cfemenf of £§ttfox\

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryEly CathedralSacrist rolls of Ely (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 20)