Ely Cathedral.

Sacrist rolls of Ely (Volume 1) online

. (page 3 of 20)
Online LibraryEly CathedralSacrist rolls of Ely (Volume 1) → online text (page 3 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


although the eastward enlargement of the Church had shown the love of
the saintly Northwold for St Etheldreda, the Altar of the Virgin Mary
still stood in the retired south aisle of the Presbytery.

It may be that John of Wisbech was the first preacher of this new
movement in Ely, and that his desire to exalt the Mother of the Lord,
taken up and loved by the people, won the heart of Prior Fressingfield,
even to his latest days, in his restless zeal and his grand contempt for
financial impediments, ready to embark in a new enterprise.

1 " Quo se verteret vel quid ageret." — Ibid. p. 644.



12 (goff (Jto* tin

Yet it was not unnatural that when Tower and ritual Choir lay ruined
before their eyes, there should have been a lull in the enthusiasm for
the Lady Chapel scheme, and that divided counsels should have been
heard in Chapter. Sympathy there would have been on the one hand
with John of Wisbech and the fascinating hopes he had excited : but on
the other, fears that the resources of the House would not warrant a
continuance of this half-formed scheme, in the face of the huge labours
suddenly created by the new calamity.

Alan of Walsingham, when Supprior, had shown his interest in the new
Lady Chapel by laying the foundation stone, but after the disastrous night
of the 1 2th of February we can discover no signs that either he or Prior
Crauden afforded to it any open or material support.

And the reason for this volte-face is obvious, and requires no
defence.

The revelations of financial ruin which resulted from Crauden's
Audit of the Priory accounts were appalling, and the Treasury was empty,
save of bills of indebtedness which could only be satisfied by fresh bor-
rowings from friends and Italian merchants 1 . The decision, therefore,
was wise, as it seems to be underlying the history of those days — not
wholly to withdraw from John of Wisbech and his Lady Chapel the
sanction which had been accorded to it ; but to throw the whole strength
of the community into the pressing work of raising again in new beauty
their prostrate House of Prayer.

To Wisbech, therefore, though doubtless grieving at the failure or delay
of his cherished hopes, permission was accorded to continue his personal
exertions for their ultimate fulfilment ; and in that poverty which the
historians tell us was cheered by devout faith in Heavenly assistance, and
by the aid of a few monks faithful also to the great idea, henceforth he
seems to be separated from the main life-stream of the Monastery.

From this somewhat hazy story of the conception and development of
the scheme of the new Lady Chapel, we must return to watch the progress
of the great undertaking for which Alan of Walsingham was mainly re-
sponsible.

The destruction of so large a portion of the fabric of the Cathedral
must, we may be certain, have occasioned a revival of the time-honoured
discussion, as to whose duty it was to maintain the structure of the Church.
Since the partition of the revenues of the Abbey between the Bishopric and
the Priory, divergent opinions had been held — whether, to the Bishop or to



l Cf. "Status Prioratus."



(goff Qlo. xiu 13

the monks, had been assigned the honour or the burden of building up the
waste places of their Sion l .

No echoes indeed have reached us across the centuries of the debates
on this subject which must have arisen when the central tower and three
bays of the choir lay on the ground, and we are left to the happy
conclusion, that the leading men of those days were so gifted with wisdom
and liberality of mind, that they were able to find at once a fitting solution
of the difficulties of the moment. Reports of the conferences in the
Chapter House and in the Palace do not exist ; we judge by the movements
of the personages chiefly concerned, and we see the Bishop taking under
his charge the restoration of the three bays of the Chancel, the Sacrist
summoning his skilled assistants and his army of workmen for the
construction of the central tower, while Prior Crauden sets on foot a
subscription list in the Monastery and in the city, uses the Bishop's
mandate for a general collection in all the parishes of the Diocese 2 , and
pledges his monks to surrender their special doles of money and wine and
sweet things until the work should be accomplished 3 .

It is to the Sacrist's side of the compact that our interest is now drawn.
The form in which his share of the obligation was laid on him and his office
was especially onerous, because, while it created new duties of a kind
similar to those which belonged to the Sacrist's office, it forced him to
keep two separate accounts in the returns of his yearly Compotus.

For instance, in addition to his usual staff of masons, carpenters, etc., in
the Sacristy, and to his regular purchases of materials, stone, timber, etc.,



1 The earliest note concerning the obligation of Bishop and Convent to build or keep
in repair the Church and Buildings of the Monastery of Ely seems to be in the following,
which is in the Lambeth Book of MSS. no. 448, f. 98 :

" Nota quod hec scripta sunt in rubeo consuetudinario Sacriste; videlicet de ecclesia
construenda et de officinis, etc.

"A primis namque fundamentis ecclesie statutum fuit quod Episcopus debet Ecclesiam
construere et feretrum See. Etheldrede et omnia in Ecclesia... magnifica et perfecta
custodie Sacriste deputare ac deinceps resarcire; et ne vetustate omnino consumetur, de
redditibus sibi communicatis reparare debet. Item Capitulum perfectum et officia que
adherent ecclesie custodire et resarcire debet Sacrista, et non nova fabricare, hospicium
etenim suum et grangias suas et domos et grangias apud Wynteworth sacriste incumbit
parare et reparare."

2 "De collecta Eliensis Diocesis per Dominum Episcopum concessa, lxxjs. ob."
Sacrist Roll, iii. p. 36.

3 The reservation of these pleasant things to the sacred work in hand is to be noticed
under the headings of "O et Olla" and "grade conventus," and in the Priory Rolls,
where they are sometimes entered as if they were benefactions of the Prior himself.

Similar acts of self-denial were frequent in Benedictine Houses : in St Albans, when
it was found necessary to rebuild the refectory and dormitory, all wine was given up for
fifteen years. Gesta Abbat. Monast. Sci. Albani, Rolls Series, vol. i., p. 220.



H (Roff QXo. iff*

he had to engage and pay another set of skilled and unskilled workmen,
and to accumulate a second set of stores for his novum opus. Yet must he
present a statement of accounts for each of these sets of duties ; and that
the Sacrist found this double account-keeping difficult and distracting is
evidenced by his deflections from a hard and fast line, when the exigencies
of his work led him to employ the artificers engaged for one purpose, on
works which should belong to a different account, or to use materials
indifferently in the Church or on other buildings.

This division of accounts, however, which must be taken notice of in
every Compotus, will not be found to diminish, but perhaps rather to
increase, the general interest of the Sacrist's rolls. The two sets of entries
may appeal to the different tastes and studies of their readers.

Alan of Walsingham's Sacrist's Rolls are sometimes spoken of as the
" Building Rolls," but unfortunately they have only a limited claim to that
title. While they give very minute lists of the materials purchased and used
for the building of the Octagon (and for other opera), with payments of
wages of workmen, they afford no hints of any scheme or plan on which
the building was proceeding, and but few notes of the continual advance
of the operations.

And although in this respect their publication may bring disappoint-
ment 1 , yet is it possible that the scattered notices which are found in them
touching the men whom Alan of Walsingham associated with himself in
his great works, their various employments, their stipends and wages, with
the cost of materials, may stir up in the minds of those who are competent
to judge, a series of problems concerning the resources mental and physical
of the planners and craftsmen who, more than five centuries ago, were able
to raise structures so admirable in solidity and grace that in the twentieth
century they are not easily to be surpassed.

The system of account-keeping which we find in Walsingham's Roll
improves considerably on those of his predecessors which have been
already before us, Rolls i. and ii.

He gives no further array of weekly or monthly entries for the Domus
or Camera; and in the place of the nine heads set out in the Roll of Ralph
of Waltham, in which items of incongruous nature stand together in one



l The following paragraph is responsible for raising too great expectation concerning
the contents of the Rolls.

"The Treasury of the Cathedral [of Ely] possesses a tolerably complete series of
Sacrist Rolls, which give a more than usually vivid picture of that busy time when the
Fabric both of the Church and the Convent underwent more remarkable changes than
had ever been attempted in any period of its previous history : and from these Rolls the
yearly growth of the new structure will be traced."

Architectural History of Ely Cathedral, Stewart, p. 92.



QRoff (Jto* tin 15

paragraph, he classifies the expenses of the whole year under 25 divisions,
each with its separate summary, and at the end a " summa omnium
summarum."

A simple list, therefore, of these divisions which are observed with very
general uniformity throughout Alan's returns, will render facile the com-
parison of one year with another, and will serve as a note of the place in
the Compotus in which any item may be expected to be found. Not
unfrequently the marginal headings of the paragraphs have disappeared on
the parchments owing to the condition of the edges of the skins ; but in the
transcripts they have been generally restored in square brackets.

The Expenses in the Rolls are usually in the following divisions ; the
marginal headings of the paragraphs in the Transcripts are here given in
blacker type ; and expanded, with short explanations.

Redd. — Redditus — Rents or rent charges payable on Lands etc.
Alloc. Redd. firm. dom. ten. — Allocacio redditus, firmarum,

domorum, tenementorum — Allowance for sums due to the

Sacrist's accounts in respect of property under his charge.
Expens. domus — Household expenses of the Hospice or Domus in the

Sacristy.
Expens. Cam. — Expense Camere— The expenses of the more private

Camera of the Sacrist.
Minut. — Minucio — Charges for the Minucio of the Socii joined with

the Sacrist.
Conuoc. Conuen. — Conuocacio conuentus — Sums assigned to the

Sacrist at the meetings of the Community.
Exhenn. — Exhennia — Gifts in connection with hospitality to the

Bishop, Prior and others, voluntary, or customary.
Pitanc. — Pitancie — Pittances; distributions of a special allowance of

food, etc., to the monks arising from Benefactions ; under the charge

of an official, the Pitanciarius.
O et Olla — Refers to allowances to the chief officers, of groceries,

wine, etc., at the time when the seven O's were recited in the Advent

Season.
Cer. Lich. — Cera, Lichinum — The purchase of wax, the making of

wax candles with the material for wicks.
Cepum, or sepum — Fat or tallow bought for the tallow candles.
Spec. — species — Purchases not only of spices but of groceries of all

kinds.
Rob. — robe — Under this head appear cloths for coats — or complete

suits — and also coats of fur for the workmen employed by the Sacrist

and the members of his household.



1 6 (goff (&©♦ tin

Vin. — Vinum — Wine bought for the tables in the Sacristy, for gifts, and
for use in the Cathedral and in the parish Churches.

Ferr. et Clau. — Ferrum et claui — Iron, nails and such like, purchased
for building purposes, for immediate use or for the store.

Bord. et Merem. — Bord. et Meremium — Boards and Timber.

Cust. Calcet. — Custus Calcetorum — Cost of keeping up the cause-
ways from Ely to Stuntney and Soham, for which a portion of the
tithes, etc., of Wentworth was assigned to the Sacrist.

Cust. dora. — Custus domorum — Cost of repairs of houses in the
Monastery ; and of tenements in Ely and elsewhere which belonged
to the Sacristy.

Minut. — Minutie — Small payments in all departments of work per-
taining to the Sacrist's office.

Spec, conuent. — Species conuentus — Spices or groceries to be dis-
tributed for the use of the monks on certain occasions by the order of
the Community.

Feoda — Fees, annual or special, for duties of a superior character:
professional fees.

Stipend. Vad. — Stipendia, uadia — Stipends or wages, no clear dis-
tinction being drawn between the two words.

Stipend, mai. seruienc. Eccl. et Hosp. — Stipendia maiorum
seruiencium Ecclesie et Hospicii — Stipends of the first class
of the Servants, in the Church and in the Hall of the Sacrist.

Stipend, min. seruienc. — Stipendia minorum seruiencium —
Stipends of the second class.

Cust. Vestiar. — Custus Vestiarii — An entry of things bought for
the Vestiarius and Vestry, only appearing in the later rolls.

Expens. forin. — Expense Forinsece — Outside expenses — incurred
in the execution of duties outside the Monastery — customary or
special ; as attendances at Synods, fairs, markets ; consultations with
lawyers, etc.

Talliag. Dec. Procu. — Talliagia,Decime, Procuraciones — Taxes;
tenths ; procurations paid to King, or pope, or Archbishop, etc.,
during the year.

Denar. liberat. — Denarii liberati — Sums of money paid out at the
close of the account ; to farm servants at autumn ; or gifts to the
workmen, etc., at the Bishop's Barton in Ely.

The summaries which are given at each section, are at the end drawn
into a total of the general expenses of the Sacrist's office.

Then follows the Custus noui operis, the cost of the reconstruction
of the Central Tower of the Church.



(Roff (Ito. tit.



17



Under this head also the payments are set out in convenient divisions,
of stone, wood, iron, painting, wages, etc. ; and it is from these special
entries that information is to be extracted concerning the progress of the
Octagon and Lantern of the new Campanile.

The Receipts of the Sacristy in the Rolls prepared by Alan of
Walsingham always come after the Expenses.

The items follow one another in each year's Compotus in a fairly
uniform order ; but they are so numerous, and offer so many interesting
suggestions concerning the origin and growth of the Sacrist's income, that
it has been thought better to assign to them a separate chapter ; and they
will be found in Appendix A, The receipts of the Sacristy.

The following Table gives a combined scheme of the income and out-
goings of the Sacristy gathered from the extant Rolls issued by Alan
of Walsingham. The arrears are included in the 'General outgoings.'







INCOME


OUTGOINGS


BALANCE




From


















No. of
Roll


Sep. 30th

to
Sep. 29th


General


Special

for the

Novum

Opus


General


Special

for the Novum

Opus


+ or -




1321 — 22










- 53- 3- 2


III


1322—23


260. 11. 7!


74. 6. 5 i


170- 3- 3l


156. 9. oh


- 44- 17- 5


IV


1323—24

24—25


216. 17. 54


68. 7. 5


185. 11. 9


122. 17. 3£


- 23. 4. 2

- 5. 16. nh


V


1325—26
26 — 27
27—28
28 — 29
29—30
30—31
31—32
32—33
33—34


244. 3. 8|


20. 1. 8


177. 1. 7


123. 5. 6£
190. 13. 6 a


- 36. 1. 8^

- 78. 15. 10


VI


1334—35
35—36


327- 7- 4*




233- 9- 8 |


33. 11. io£
71. 10. of f


- 201. 17. 9

- 166. 11. 7


VII


1336—37
37-38
38—39


316. 18. 7|




299. 5. 2|


104. 0. 10J


- 86. 7 - Si

- 141. 10. 1^


VIII


I339—40

40— 4 T


226. 18. 8




297. 4. 1


98. 18. 6


-169. 3. 11




IX A


1341—42

(9 weeks

closing

Alan's term

of office)


35. 12.0




£ifc


. 7. oh


-132. 15. oh



N. B. a — purchase of Brame. b = Nova Camera. c — Novum opus.
C. VOL. I. 2



NOTES

ON

ROLL NO. III.

$fan of Wafetn^am* Sacrist from Michs. 1322
to Michs. 1323.



Alan of Walsingham's first extant Sacrist Roll gives his accounts
for the year Michaelmas 1322 to 1323. As, however, he had been
promoted to the office of Sacrist on December 21st, 132 1, the Compotus
which he presented at Michaelmas 1322, would have contained further
information concerning his first efforts to clear away the ruins of the Tower
which had fallen on the 12th February, nearly eight months before.
Unfortunately that Roll is not found in the Ely Muniment Room.

When, however, his earliest extant Roll opens, the clearing work is
still going on and the Sacrist is engaged in preparations for the serious
task which has been laid upon him by the Chapter.



At this point it may not be inconvenient to make some reference
to opposing theories which are abroad concerning the persons to whom
generally the great building operations of the Middle Ages are to be
attributed — whether to those who by reason of their dignified positions
have had their names associated with them, or to craftsmen, masons or
carpenters, who were actually engaged on the works.

Such discussions have naturally gathered around Alan of Walsingham,
who as Sacrist of the Cathedral acted in the name of the Prior and
Convent of Ely, and in whose Compotus Rolls are entered the expenses of
the building.

The theory which has been advocated by Ely writers of late years is
that several works, each of the highest excellence in itself, owe their
existence to the architectural genius of Alan and that his mind is to
be recognised in the design and execution of them all. This theory,
however, is not acceptable to modern criticism ; and receives little support



(Hoff (Jto, xiu 19

either from the writers of the monkish chronicles, who were as a race not
backward in claiming honour for their own fraternity, or from the evidence
of the stones themselves if carefully consulted. The words of a modern
writer, whose judgment is enforced by professional knowledge and ex-
perience, offer us an opinion on which those who are not experts may be
content to repose.

"The testimony of the records is too treacherous for us to build
thereon any theory of Alan of Walsingham being a personal builder, whose
work can be recognized in the Octagon, the Choir, the Lady Chapel
of Ely. And the testimony of the buildings themselves is unfortunate
for the contention. Instead of that likeness of treatment, which would
have been so interesting and conspicuous, had the architectural personality
of Alan counted for anything, we see at Ely three works of singular
unlikeness built during his office as [Sacrist and] Prior 1 ."

It is the conviction of the wisdom of this opinion which gives
importance to a search for all observable signs, in the existing accounts
of those three buildings, of the intervention of any other persons to whom
may be attributed at least some considerable share in the design and
construction of those now famous works of art. History, indeed, seems to
justify us in appropriating the chief thought of the Lady Chapel to John of
Wisbech; of the Choir (so called) to Bishop John of Hotham; and of the
Octagon to Alan of Walsingham ; yet the general acceptance of this
division still leaves open the possibility of each one of these personages
having entrusted to others the practical ordering of the building for which
they were responsible. With regard to the Lady Chapel and John of
Wisbech it must be confessed at once, that no evidence has come to
light. Yet may it be added, that the Cambridgeshire of that day was
not so destitute of good craftsmen that a man of Wisbech and Ely must
have depended as a sole hope on Alan of Walsingham.

And if we turn to speculate on the quarter to which Bishop Hotham
turned his eyes for a competent supervisor and director in the rebuilding
of the fallen Choir, we cannot but note at once the special opportunities
which he possessed of being acquainted with and of securing superior
assistance, opportunities which we must think were closed to John of
Wisbech, as well by the narrowness of the circle in which he moved,
as by his acknowledged poverty.

The lofty station and enormous wealth of John of Hotham, to say
nothing of his early connection with the inspiring Minster of Beverley,
may naturally have made him a sharer of that devotion to architecture



l E. S. Prior, " The Cathedral Builders in England," p. 75.



20 QRoff Qto. tit.

which seems to have captivated so many of the religious and cultivated
minds in his century.

Elected Bishop in 1316, appointed treasurer of the King's exchequer
the next year, and in the year following Chancellor of England, he must
necessarily have become acquainted with the Palace and Chapel of the
King in London and with the works which were being carried on by royal
authority in St Stephen's and Westminster Abbey, while, with his favourite
nephew a Canon of St Paul's Cathedral, he would have known of works
which were going on there.

From the date of his appointment as Bishop he would have been
in possession of a house of residence at Holborn ; his own extensive
purchases of tenements and gardens in the parish of St Andrew's and
in Gracechurch Street were commenced in 1327. With such experiences
of London it would not be surprising if the Bishop had consulted some of
the leading persons connected with the works going on around him,
concerning the great enterprise at Ely Cathedral; and the hope remains
that as the accounts of Bishop Northwold's building of the Presbytery 1
in the previous century are preserved in the British Museum, so among
the numerous papers of the Record and other Offices, public and private,
some information may be disinterred touching Hotham's beautiful work in
the same Church.

It is, however, with the division of the work which was assigned to
Alan of Walsingham in the year 1322 that we are now chiefly concerned;
and it is touching that work that signs are to be sought for whether
the glory of the Octagon and Lantern, which are especially associated with
his name, is to be attributed to him alone or whether others are to share
with him the responsibility and the renown.

And, first, the testimonies of the monastic writers themselves must
be fairly weighed pro et con.

After describing the despair which at first unnerved the Sacrist at
the sight of the ruin caused by the fall of the Tower, the historians
proceed to speak of the design of the Lantern as personal to Alan himself.
It was he, Alan, who after removing the debris, divided the space, on which
the new Campanile was to be constructed, for the eight stone columns with
great architectural skill. It was he who conducted the search for secure
foundations, it was he who at last began the erection of the columns.

After this statement the nominative is altered and the work itself
alone is spoken of — the stonework grows towards its consummation ; the



1 Cf. Cotton Tiberius B. 11. 246, 248.



(Roff QXo. tin 21

woodwork mounts upwards; the timbers are diligently searched for far and
wide. So also, the cost of the new Campanile through twenty years is
noted as being in the time of Alan of Walsingham, Sacrist ; the Camera
in the Infirmary, the work in the Sacristy, the double purchase of Brame,
the restoration of the Bougre are " tempore fratris Alani '."

Against this, however, may be set a paragraph not found in the
ancient MSS. but added by a somewhat later hand, which attributes the
building of the Octagon to Alan. This opinion, albeit claiming only a
secondary authority, may nevertheless be regarded as a witness that some
at least of the monks considered Alan as the chief if not the sole author
of the work 2 .

It remains, then, to draw out the evidence on this subject which Alan
himself has incorporated in the accounts of his office which were issued at
that time.

And the first movement of the Sacrist's own mind seems plainly
exhibited in his earliest roll (Roll iii. p. 29) by this simple entry: "Paid
to a boy for carrying a certain letter to Newport to Master Thomas,
Carpenter." The expression Master Carpenter tells us that Thomas was a
man of some position in his profession, and the sending to him at once
shows personal knowledge of the man and his work on the part of the
Sacrist.

This entry is not indeed found under the heading " Cost of the new
work " but is a payment out of the general funds of the Sacristy ; and it
is doubtful whether the letter contained more than an enquiry whether


1 3 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 3 of 20)