James Wayland Joyce.

England's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic online

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Online LibraryJames Wayland JoyceEngland's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic → online text (page 33 of 83)
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nation of committees on that occasion, abbots ^ and priors are
named, in conjunction with those of the episcopal rank, from
the upper house; while the lower house, meeting in the
appointed place, chose •^ twenty-four persons from among
themselves for the same purpose.

Again, in the convocation held at S. Paul's ', a.d. 1438,


A.D. 1279

c Coll. Eccl.
Hist. vol. iv.
p. 212.

d Coll. Eccl.
Hist. vol. iv.
p. 213.

e Ibid.

fConc. Mag
Brit. iii. 306

g Ibid.

Ibid. 525.




J Cone.
Map. Brit,
iii. 533.

k Buinct'8
Hist. Ref.
Pt. i. Ad-
dend, p 315.
Coll. iv.3(J5.
Cone. Mag.
Brit. iii.
822, 3.

124 ILn.
Vlll. c. 1:

"' 24 Tien.
Vlll. c. 12.
sec. ix.

under Archbishop Henry Chicheley, during the session lield
May 5, we find the lesser prelates with the bishops in the
upper, the rest of the clergy in the lower house ^

In the convocation which met at S. Paul's J, a.d. ]4o9, also
under Archbishop Henry Chicheley, we find a similar sepa-
ration between the houses taking place, the bi.shops uniting
with the lesser prelates again in the u])per, the rest of the
clergy sitting in the lower house '.

Still later, among the acts of the famous convocation as-
sembled at the chapter-house, Westminster, under Arch-
bishop Warham, a.d. 1532, a certain schedule is mentioned
as having received the assent of both upper and lower houses.
And here the members of the upper house are specified as
consisting of bishops, abbots, and priors \

And lastly, in the subscription-list^ to the "articles about
religion set out by the convocation," a.d. 1536, the evidence
is plain that on that occasion bishops, abbots, and priors con-
stituted the upper house ; and that deans, with all below
them in rank, sat in the lower. Indeed, the members of
the two houses then signed separately; so that no room
for doubt is left, the words "lower house" occurring be-
fore the signatures of those who constituted it. Add to
this that the statute' which gives a final appeal, in eccle-
siastical causes touching the sovereign, to the upper house of
convocation specifies the members of that assembly as consist-
ing of '■'■the spiritual prelates, and other abbots and priors of
the upper house ""."

But, as was before said, though usually the me-

Somctimcs tlie ,. • i i • i i i i .

metio].oiitan with tropolitan. With bishops, abbots, and priors con-
stituted the upper house, and all the other clergy
home^ ^anV aU ^^^ lovvcr, yct such a Statement must not be re-


shops only con
uted the
ISO, an(

other clergy the coivcd as of Universal application. For records
remain of instances in which the metropolitan
and bishops alone deliberated in the upper house, while all

2 " Communicatione habita inter dominos episcopos ac prselatos religiosos in
domo superiori, et inter clerum in domo inferiori." — Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 526.

^ " Post aliqualein corainunicationem habitam super cadem inter dominos epis-
copos et praelatos religiosos de domo superiori, tandem ipsis de clero domus infe-
rioris," &c.— Ibid. iii. 535.

* " Per ipsum [scil. arcluepiscopum] ct alios episcopos abbates et priores domus
superioris convocationis prselatorum, et cleri provincijE Cant.," &c. — Ibid. iii. 754.




otlier members of the synod betook themselves to the lower.
Instances of such an arrangement are not rare : the following
may suffice as examples.

In the convocation held at" S. Paul's, a.d. 1399,
under Archbishop Thomas Arundel, on the 8th of October,
" the archbishop and the reverend fathers in God the
bishops treated by themselves on ecclesiastical aifairs, the
other i^relatcs and proctors of the clergy separating apart °.*"
Again, on the 11th of October during the sitting of the same
convocation, "after dismissing the above-mentioned prelates
and proctors in the chapter-house, the archbishop with his
suffragans^ \\(A^ a session in S. Mary''s Chapel belonging to
S. Paul's Cathedral." And again, shortly after " the arch-
bishop sent for the other prelates and clergy proctors of his
province, desiring that they would come from the chapter-
house to S. Mary's Chapel into his presence, and that of his
suffragans as aforesaid '." On these occasions it seems,
beyond doubt, that the bishops sat apart by themselves, and
that all other ecclesiastics, including those who enjoyed the
dignity of lesser prelates, deliberated together.

Again, when the convocation was held at S. Paul's", a.d.
1406, under Archbishop Thomas Arundel, " he sat on
the 10th of May, together with his suifragans, the clergy
proctors being separated, and meeting in the room under the
chapter-house, according to the accustomed usage'." It
may, indeed, be said that the clergy proctors only are here
mentioned as sitting in the lower house ; but it would appear,
on a due consideration of the whole passage, that that expres-
sion is used here generically to include all clergy below the
rank of bishops.

* " Tractabant ipse dominus et reverendi patres episcopi antedicti per se de
negotiis omnibus Ecclesise, aliis praslatis et procuratoribus cleri seorsim separatis."
— Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 239.

" " Dictis prselatis et procuratoribus in eadem domo capitulari dimissis, dictus
dominus una cum suffraganeis suis accessit ad capellam B. Marise ejusdeiii Ec-
clesise." — Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 239.

^ " Dominus archiepiscopus misit pro ceteris prcelatis et procuratoribus cleri
dietae suse Cantuar. provincise, quod venirent ad dictam capellam B. Mariae coram
eo et dictis suffraganeis suis." — Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 239.

^ " Decimo die mensis Mail in domo capitulari convenerunt archiepiscopus et
sui sutfraganei ; procuratoribus cleri seorsum separatis et convenientibus in basso
sub domo capitulari more solito." — Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 284.

A.D. 1279

" Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. -238.

' Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. 284.




A.D. 127!)

P Cone.
Ma?. Brit,
iii. 717.

• Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. 487.


As another proof that the bishops sometimes constituted
the upper house, and all other prelates with the inferior clergy
the lower, the acts of the convocation may be quoted which
assembled on the 5th of November, a.d. 1529, the twenty -first
year of K. Henry VIIL, under Archbishop Warham. In
the fourth session, November 15, the archbishop " consulted p
with his suffragans;" on the 17th of the same month "the
archbishop ^ held a secret communication with his suffragans,
all other persons being excluded ;"" and on the 22nd of No-
vember he again held another "secret communication^ with
them" alone.

From the foregoing records we may gather that the practice
was not always in this respect the same ; that, speaking gene-
rally, the bishops, abbots, and priors constituted the upper, that
deans and all ecclesiastics of inferior degree to them constituted
the lower house of the Convocation of Canterbury ; but that
occasions sometimes arose when the metropolitan and bishops
alone sat in the upper house, to the exclusion of all other per-
sons whatsoever. The inquiry is interesting to those who are
curious in the original constitution of our provincial synods,
though it is not of much practical importance in the present
day ; because since the dissolution of the abbeys and monas-
teries, as we have neither abbots or priors in this country, it
is not necessary to define their precise position as members
of synods. The above examples, however, very clearly shew
that the present division of the members into their respective
houses, taking into consideration the ranks now existing
among our clergy, is in accordance with an ancient practice.
As regards the constituent members of the
two houses of the synod of the northern ])ro-
vince, it would appear from the acts of the
cfer^^the lower couvocatiou which assembled in the chapter-
Louse. i^oygg of York « Cathedral, a.d. 1 426, as though

the wliole clergy, with the exception of the archbishop and
his suffragans, belonged to the lower house. On this occasion
the Bishops of Durham and Carlisle attended, together with
the' Abbot of S. Mary's, York, specially deputed as com-
missioners for the metropolitan. The fact of this abbot's
sitting in the upper hou.se cannot be quoted as a proof that
the northern abbots usually sat there, as he appeared in the

York. Metro
politanand suffra
gan bishops con-
stituted tlie nil



charactei* of a representative of the absent archbishop. Now
on this occasion, when the lower house went apart for the
purpose of electing their prolocutor, John Cast ell, the prelates^
and clergy are represented as constituting that branch of the
assembly ; and this expression would seem to include all save
the three commissioners above mentioned.

Further, we find upon the submission of Thomas Richmond,
who had been arraigned for heretical teaching before this con-
vocation, that the Bishops of Durham and Carlisle, together
with the archbishop's representative, had a private' consul-
tation among themselves on the subject; from which it would
appear that then again they alone constituted the upper

When a subsequent session " was held, on the 1 6tli of
August, and the prolocutor, John Castell, on the part of
the prelates and clergy, petitioned for the dissolution of the
convocation, the two bishops, with the archiepiscopal repre-
sentative above mentioned, held a private ^ consultation on the

Shortly afterwards, upon another similar application through
the prolocutor, the Bishop ^ of Durham, with his co-presidents,
held a separate conference and deliberation.

And again, when K. Henry the VI.'s commissioners
were sent to ask a subsidy from this convocation for the
defence of the kingdoms of France and England, the Bishop
of Durham, with the consent of his co-presidents *, addressed
the synod, and ordered "the^ prelates and clergy to retire apart,
and to deliberate on the subject proposed." And, after their

" " Dictis dominis commissariis in loco solito iterum prsesidentibus, prselati et
clerus prsedicti de mandato dominorum praesidentium, ad partem se divertentes,
reverendum et raagnse discretionis virum magistrum Johannem Castell sacrae
paginse professorem in ipsorum referendarium coiicorditer, ut apparuit, elegerunt."
—Cone. Mag. Brit. in. 488.

' " Dominus Dunelm. de consensu conprsesidentium suorum post aliqualem
contractationem inter eos habitam," c^c— Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 489.

2 " Super qua petitione per dictos dominos prsesidentes contractatione inter se
habita et tractata." — Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 489.

3 " Dominus Dunelm. habitis traetatu et deliberatione cum conpraesidentibus
suis."— Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 489.

■* " De consensu conprsesidentium suorum." — Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 489.
'" " Mandavit ut prselati et cleius seorsim se diverterent et super hiis effectualiter
contractarcnt."— Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 489.

A.D. 1279

" Cone.
Mag. Bi
in. 489.




A.D. 127£


Majr. Br
iii. 491.

" Cone.
Ma?. Brit.

separate deliberation, we are infonned that tliey returned*
into the presence of the presidents, and that their answer was
given by the mouth of the prolocutor.

On the occasion of the session held on the 8th of October
of this same year, 1426, K. Henry VT.'s commissioners, the
Earl of Northumberland and Richard Nevill, appeared, and
urged the defenceless state of the kingdom as a reason for
granting a supply ; when again the Bishop of Durham, as
president, desired' the prelates and clergy to betake them-
selves to a separate place for deliberation with their pro-

And on the fifteenth day of the same month, the lower
house being called before the presidents, as distinguished
from all the rest of the clergy, a statement was made that it
was expressly in accordance^ with the ancient laudable institu-
tions of their province, that the articles of the clergy should
be brought before the presidents by word of mouth of the

In all these circumstances we see a clear distinction drawn
between those who are denominated the presidents, in the
northern convocation, and the rest of the members ; the presi-
dents evidently signifying the archbishop or his commissioners
associated with the suffragan bishops. The same distinction
appears upon a perusal of Archbishop Edward Lee's ^ letter to
K. Henry VIII., informing him that the York provincial synod
had formally rejected the papal supremacy in 1534. In that
document it is stated, that the prelates and clergy "being''
asked and requested by the presidents to affirm the aforesaid
conclusion .... after diligent conference on the subject and
mature deliberation assented to it without a dissentient
voice." Here, again, the same distinction appears to be
recognized. Thus the conclusion seems inevitable, that the
lower house of York consisted of all the clergy, save the
presidents as before mentioned. And this conclusion it is
reasonable to maintain until some fresh evidence is produced
on the subject, at present involved in uncertainty from the

'' " Ipsis ct cloro ad pra;sidentes rcdeuntibus, ipsonim r.?fcrendarius coram
doininis prsesidentibus . . . dixit," &c. — Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 490.

^ " Ut prselati et clerus cum suo refereiidario seorsim divertcrent," &o. — Cone.
Mag. Brit. iii. 4!)1.




XI. Provincial
synods not always
held in separate
houses during this

scantiness of the records which as yet have been discovered
relating to the acts of the northern convocation.

It must be observed, while it was the cus-
tom on special occasions to separate the pro-
vincial Synods of Canterbury and York respec-
tively into two houses, that this practice was by
no means universal. And it appears in cases where persons
were convened for heresy or false teaching, that the offenders
always appeared before the whole convocation sitting in a
united body. Such was the case when William Sawtre was
brought before the convocation held at S. Paul's y, a.d.
1401 N.S., under Archbishop Thomas Arundel, This may
be learnt also, among other instances, from the acts of the
convocation begun at S. PauFs^ in October, 1419, under
Archbishop Henry Chicheley. During the session of that
synod held on the 8th of November, one Richard Walker,
a chaplain in the diocese of Worcester, was summoned be-
fore the assembly and accused of superstitious practices, and
it is plain that the synod sat * in one body to hear tlie cause.
On the 20th of the same month a like ' course was pur-
sued, when Ralph Owtrede, William Brown, and Richard
Wyche were convened to answer to the charge of heretical
opinions. The two former abjured their tenets before the as-
sembly, and were sent to the Chancellor of England ^ to enter
into recognizances for the future ; but the latter, according to
the sentence of the whole ' synod, was remitted to the Fleet
prison until final determination on his case should be come to.
In the convocation held at S. Paul's^, a.d. 1421, under
Archbishop Heni-y Chicheley, William Tailour was convened
by the Bishop of Worcester for heretical teaching at Bristol,
within that diocese ; and here again the offender was brought
before the undivided ^ synod. The articles against him

* " Reverend issimo patre coepiscopis ac prselatis et clero prsedictis in dicta
domo capitulari ut prius insimul congregaiis." — Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 394.

3 " Concilio provinciali ut prius in domo capitulari insimul congregato." — Cone.
Mag. Brit. iii. 395.

' " Dominus ex consensu fratrum suorum et communi deliberatione totius oon-
cilii remisit eundem dominum Richardum ad carceres vocat. ' Le Fkte,' " &c.—
Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. .S95.

2 " Coram domino et confratribus suis totoquo clero in dicto concilio. "^ — Cone.
Mag. Brit. iii. 40G.

,D. 127


y Conr.
IMacr. Biit.
iii. 1'54.

Vlatr. Brit.

ii. -as.

'^ Cone.
Mag. Brit.
Iii. 395.

^ Cone.
Mag. Brit.
iii. 399.




.D. 1279

c Cone.
Majf. Brit,
iii. 4-28.

<1 Cone.
Mag. Bi
iii. 429.

e Trevor,
] Two Conv.
I p. 1-2G.

were read before tlie united ' assembly ; and two days after,
on the 26th of May, when the offender again appeared,
the synod sat without separating into two houses *.

Subsequently, in the convocation held at S. Paul's % a.d.
1424, under Archbishop Henry Chicheley, when John Russell
was convened for teaching that incontinence in a clergyman
was not a mortal sin, and when one John AVathe appeared under
a charge of forging papal bulls, we are particularly informed
that the offenders were dealt with by the whole ^ synod.

These examples are sufficient to shew that when a con-
vocation was about to act judicially at this time, it sat as an
undivided provincial synod. And in the event of such judicial
functions being now exercised (in any case ' not touching the
king upon an appeal) it is j)resuraed that the same course
would be pursued.

Indeed, the separation of our provincial synods respectively
into two houses does not appear during this period to have been
so universally carried out as it is at present in the sessions of
the Convocation of Canterbury. The two houses, as we have
seen, did on occasions separate, but also they frequently deli-
berated together. Now they always sit separately after the
first commencement of business, and the presentation of the
prolocutor for the ajjproval of the archbishop ; and so com-
plete is this separation, that in the province of Canterbury
each house has separate officers and journals of its own ;
though in the northern province, as the archbishop and
bishops have seldom attended in person the synods of later
times, there are now "no separate records *= or officers
attendant for the lower house at York."

It is no part of our present plan to enter into the ad-
vantages or disadvantages of this habitual separation of our
provincial synods into two houses. But it may be said that
this practice, however convenient for special purposes, does
not appear to be in accordance with the primitive examples of

' " Coram domino et confratribus ac toto clero," &c.— Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 406.

* " Domino cum confratribus suis procuratoribusque et clero ... in concilio
simul congregatis." — Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 406.

^ This parenthesis applies since the year 15;j3, because the upper houie of con-
vocation by itself became then, and is still, an ultimate court of appeal in " eccle-
siastical causes touching the king," by 24 Hen. VIII. c. 12, as confirmed by
25 Hen. VIII. c. li), notwithstanding some late remarkable announcement.^.




provincial synods ; that in our national Church it only pre-
vailed by almost insensible degrees, and that it is now carried
to an extent which certainly was not at first contemplated,
even here.

XII. Of the The office of prolocutor is a necessary con-
proiocutor. sequencc of the division of a provincial synod

into two assemblies. As soon as one branch of the synod
was withdrawn from the inmiediate and personal direction of the
metropolitan, it became necessary that some one should be ap-
pointed to preside in his place, in order to moderate the debates,
and to perform those acts of superintendence and inspection
which are essential to the good government of a deliberative
assembly. In addition to this it became also a matter of
importance that a person should be elected who might com-
municate the conclusions of the lower portion of the synod to
the upper. Such are the duties of the prolocutor, or, as
he has been sometimes called, the " organum cleri ^."'"' Another
appellation has also been given to that officer, namely, " refe-
rendarius," a term derived ^ from his relating to the president
and the upper house the results of the lower clergy's debates.
Canterbury pio- At first a prolocutor was not appointed, as
at this day, to continue his office throughout
the entire continuance of a convocation, but
was chosen only for particular occasions; and this practice
would seem naturally to have arisen from the custom which
then prevailed, that the synod, as a rule, should sit together,
only separating occasionally for specific purposes.

Thus in the convocation held at S. PauFs'^, under Arch-
bishop William Courtney, a.d. 1395 n.s., the clergy's grant
was presented to the upper house by Mr. John Barnet, spe-
cially elected ^ for that purpose. In the convocation held
at S. Paul's ' in the first year of K. Henry IV., a.d.
1399, Mr. John Maydenheth, in the name ^ and on the
part of the clergy, presented their gravamina twice to the
upper house, which then sat in S. Mary's chapel of S. Paul's

fi " Per venerabilem virum mag. Johannem Barnet ... ad hoc specialiter elec-
tum."— Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 223.

' " Quiuam venerabilis vir magister Job. Maydenheth, et nomine cleri provinciae
antedictae, certos articulos ex parte cleri provinciae antedictce conceptos, et quam
plura gravamina continentes, pubHce perlegebat," &c. — Cone. Mag. Brit. ii. 239.

A.D. vm

— l.'OO.

Syii. Ai.g.
). 63.

locutor first elec-
ted for particular

'' Cone.
Mag. Brit.
iii. 223.

i Cone.
Maa. Brit,
iii. 238.




k Svn. Ai
p. 6"4.

j ' Cone.
I Mag. Brit.
I iii. 334.

"' Svn. Aug
' I>. 64.

"Svn. Aug.
p. 65.

" Cone.
Mag. Biit.
iii. 433.

cathedral. In 1408 we find Mr. Henry Ware as prolocutor.
In that year the convocation was sunnnoned to meet at
S. Paul's J, under Archbishop Thomas Arundel, to consider
the course which should be pursued by the English Church in
reference to the great schism, which had now for thirty years
disturbed the papal government. For a due management of
the business two committees were chosen, one consisting of
seventeen members of the upper house, another of twenty-four
members of the lower. The resolution of this last committee
was presented and explained " in their * name and behalf "
by Mr. Henry Ware^ to the upper house. Eut up to this
time the office of prolocutor does not appear to have been
conferred on a particular individual for the whole continuance
of a convocation, but only to have been created as exigency
might require. And, indeed, three years after this, in the con-
vocation held at S. PauPs \ a.d. 141 1, we find two persons pre-
senting the "gravamina™" of the clergy, Mr. Henry AVare and
Dr. Philip Morgan, both^ of whom are said to be prolocutors.
Then elected As the Separation of the convocation into two
l'he"^durat'ion '^'of houscs arose by degrees, so it seems that this
the convocation, office, as uow existing, followed the same course,
and was gradually introduced. It was not until the year
1425 that the clergy elected a person to serve, as at present,
through the entire continuance of the convocation. That
person was \Villiam Lyndwood ", the famous canonist ; and
of his appointment we have a detailed account in the acts of
the convocation held at S. Paul's", London, a.d. 1425, under
Archbishop Henry Chiclieley. Upon the day following the
inauguration of that synod, and after the archbishop had
detailed tlie princijjal subjects to be treated of in the assembly,
" he desired the lower ^ house to withdraw and choose from

* "Nomine et vice suis per vcnor. virum mag. Ilenr. Ware." — Cone. Mag.
Brit, iii. 309.

^ "Vener. viri mag. Hen. Ware . . . ct Phil. Morgan, U. J. doctor . . . grava-
mina pro et ex parte cleri, cujus gerebant organa vocis, exposuerunt." — Cone.
Mag. Brit. iii. 335.

• " Quibus expositis, decani archidiaconi ct procuratoros capituloriun et cleri, de
luandato dieti reverendissimi patris, traxcrunt se in domum inferiorem sub domo
prajdicto capitulari, ut de hujusmodi causis tractarent, et iinum rcfercndarium .';ive
prolocutorem ex seipsis eligcrent, qui vice eorum omnium et singulorum causas
exponeret et responsa."— Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 433.




among themselves a referendary, or prolocutor, who in the
name of each and of all the members might explain the heads
of business and carry up their answers." The clergy accord-
ingly chose William Lyndvvood, whose work, on the pro-
vincial constitutions received in this country, abides as a
text-book to this time, a notable monument of industry, re-

Online LibraryJames Wayland JoyceEngland's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic → online text (page 33 of 83)