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New York: E. & J. B. YOUNG & CO.




My thanks are due to the Commissioners on His-
torical Manuscripts for allowing me to see, while yet
in the press, the Calendars of the Wells Chapter
Records, drawn up by the Rev. J. A. Bennett,
rector of South Cadbury, to whom, also, I would
express my thanks for his ready permission to use
his work, and for much other help. Had I seen
these interesting Calendars earlier my labour would
have been lighter, and the result probably more
satisfactory. To the Right Reverend Bishop Hob-
house, D.D., who has most kindly supplied me with
much matter from manuscripts at Wells, to the
Rev. C. M. Church, Canon of Wells, to E. Green,
Esq., to the Rev. J. Hardman, LL.U., and other
clergy of the diocese, I am indebted for help of
various kinds, and especially for extracts from unpub-
lished documents. I should also acknowledge the
courtesy of the Dean and Chapter of Wells, and of
the Bishop's Registrar, the late W. H. Dore, Esq.,



in allowing me to study the Chapter Manuscripts
and the Episcopal Registers. In the case of the
registers, however, I have chiefly used the Hutton
Transcripts. MSS. Had. 6964-6968, in the library of
the British Museum. Many papers contained in
the Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and
Natural History Society have been of considerable
service to me. The materials for the last chapter
have been largely supplied by the kindness of my
friend, the Rev. J. Coleman, vicar of Cheddar, and
late secretary of the Bath and Wells Diocesan

London,////)' 30, 1S85.




Introduction — The Celtic Church : Glastonbury, Congres-
bury, Celtic Saints — The Conquest — Ini, King of
the West-Saxons — The Bishopric of Sherborne :
Ealdhelm — The Schism — Parochial Organisation —
The Danes — Alfred : the Treaty of Wedmore, the
School at Athelney page



Foundation of the See — Dunstan : his Life and Eccle-
siastical Work — Doubtful Succession of Bishops —
Duduc — Gisa : Disputes about Property, the Rule of
Chrodegang ... ... ... ... ... ... 15



The Norman Conquest — Domesday — John de Villula : See
removed to Bath — Bishop Robert — Prebendaries and
Dignitaries — Reginald Fitz-Jocelin — Savaric and
Glastonbury — Jocelin, Bishop of Bath — Period of the
Great Charter — Fabric of the Cathedral Church of
Wells — Rules for Residence ... ... ... ... 27




Monasticism and the Conquest — Benedictines — Glaston-
bury : its Wealth, Economy, and History — Cistercians
— Cluniacs — Carthusians: Hugh of Avalon — August-
inian Canons — Preceptories — Nunneries — Friaries —
Alien Houses — Colleges and Hospitals — General
Character of Monastic Houses — Anchorites ... page 56



Royal and Papal Claims — Final Settlement of the Style
of the See — The Friars — Ecclesiastical Taxation —
Number and Character of the Clergy — Wells Ordinal
and Statutes — Rights of Jurisdiction — Suppression of
the Knights Templars Cathedral Fabric — John of
Drokensford Ralph of Shrewsbury Ordination of
Vicarages — The (heat Plague — Illustrations of Eccle-
itical Jurisdiction ... ... ... ... ... 93



Translations Bishop Beckington Worldliness — Super-
stitions, Ignorance, Witchcraft— Lollardy : Special
1 1 of Lollardy— Rebellion and Fines An Alien

bop The New Learning — Architecture ... ... 131




Character of the Reformation under Henry VIII. — The
Visitation of the Monasteries and the Dissolution of
the Smaller Houses — Surrender of the Greater Houses
— Fall of Glastonbury — The Effects of the Suppression
— Foundation of the See of Bristol — Suffragan See at
Taunton — Reform and Robbery — An Insurrection —
The Strangers' Church— Plunder of the See — Bishop
Bourne — The Work of Elizabeth — Scarcity of Clergy
— The Chapel Question — The Wells Charter —
Romanists — Presbyterian Tendencies— The Queen and
the Bishops ... ... ... ... ... page 15S



James I. and the Puritans — Bishops' Courts — Sports —
Church Ales — Lectures — The Altar Question — Out-
break of War — Civil War in Somerset — Persecution
of the Clergy — Rise of the Sectaries — Ministers and
Religious Ordinances ... ... ... ... ... 194



The Restoration — Ejection of Nonconformists — Bishop
Ken — Monmouth's Rebellion — The Nonjurors —
Bishop Kidder — General Character of the Diocese in
the Eighteenth Century — The Methodist Revival —
Hannah More and her Work in the Mendip District 218




Boundary of Diocese — Bishops Law, Auckland, and
Hervey — The Cathedral and other Churches —
Diocesan Societies — Wells Theological College —
Diocesan Conference — Conclusion ... ... page 241


A Letter Concerning the Surrender of Athelney

Abbey ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 247

List of Bishops from the Foundation of the See to the

Present Time ... ... ... ... ... ... 251

Index ... ,., ... ... .. .. ... 253




Introduction — The Celtic Church : Glastonbury, Congresbury.
Celtic Saints — The Conquest — Ini, King of the West-
Saxons — The Bishopric of Sherborne : Ealdhelm — The
Schism — Parochial Organisation — The Danes —Alfred :
the Treaty of Wed more, the School at Athelney.

The history of the diocese of Bath and Wells has a
special interest belonging to it. The bishopric is,
and always has been, virtually coterminous with a
shire. Nor is that shire a mere artificial division,
l'or Somerset is not a department arbitrarily mapped
out, such as Buckinghamshire is ; nor did it grow out
of the subject-lands of some great town as Middlesex
probably grew out of the district that owed obedience
to London. And although its name does not, like
Sussex, preserve the name of an ancient kingdom, it
does preserve the name of a tribe, and declares it
to be the land of a tribal settlement. The bishop of
Hath and Wells, then, is the bishop of the Sumorsretan,
the settlers in Somerset ; and his diocese may be
said to extend over their land, and over their land


only. Such history as Somerset has is the history of
a people possessed of a certain measure of distinct
existence, and the history of the diocese is, there-
fore, the history of that people looked at in an
ecclesiastical light.

Although the bishopric of Somerset was not founded
until the beginning of the tenth century, the con-
tinuous existence of one remarkable monument of
prse-Anglican Christianity, the monastery of Glaston-
bury, calls for some notice of the ecclesiastical
condition of the land of the future see even before
the coming of St. Augustine. The memory of
Roman Christianity may, perhaps, be preserved by
an inscribed stone found at Bath, a slender record
compared with the abundant relics both of the
heathenism and of the secular life of the imperial
people that are scattered throughout the shire. Of
deeper interest than any such doubtful memorial is
the monastery which connects the Christianity of
Celtic Britain with our own Church. "While in many
dioceses it would be a vain labour to attempt to prove
a relationship between the churches of the conquered
and the conquerors, in the diocese of Bath and Wells
we have an abiding link between them. What the
beginning of Glastonbury was is unknown. Legends
speak of a mission of St Philip and St. James, of a
church built of wattles by St Joseph of Arimathca,
of another church built by Fagan and Diruvian, and
of a third by St. David. A story of an earlier date
ill. in the ( laboration of the Arthurian romance in the
twelfth century connects the name of Arthur with

the isle of Ynysvitrin, though it is certain that, in


the time of William of Malmesbury (that is, in the
middle of the twelfth century), the monks had not
yet thought of claiming to possess the burying-place
of the British king and his queen Guenever.

While these and other such-like stories are, of
course, absolutely unhistorical, they point to the
existence of a famous church at Glastonbury in
times before the Saxon conquest ; and the first
historical mention of the monastery confirms their
witness. William of Malmesbury tells us that the
monks showed him a charter by which a certain king
of Dyfnaint, in 60 1, granted Ynysvitrin to "the old
church." It is probable that this was a genuine
grant, for, if the monks had set about to forge such a
charter, they would scarcely have given so late a date
to the possession of the island by their church.
While, then, this grant sweeps away the legends of
the temporal greatness of Glastonbury in remote
times, it shows that the monastery was in existence
before the Saxon conquest. And, as in Dunstan's
youth large numbers of Irish pilgrims resorted thither,
because they believed that it was the resting-place of
the younger St. Patrick, there must have been an
Irish tradition of a famous church there in early times
— a tradition which may safely be held to have been
independent of any spurious records manufactured
by its monks.

The first inroad of the Saxons into Somerset was
made while they were still heathens, for in 577
Ceawlin overthrew the Roman city of Bath and cut
off the Britons of Dyfnaint from the help of their
fellow-countrymen beyond the Severn. From that
b 2


time the monastery inYnysvkrin stood almost on the
very border of heathendom, and year after year it
seemed as though at any moment the heathen might
enter on the Lord's inheritance. Before the next
wave of Western conquest, however, the invaders were
converted by the labours of St. Birinus, and when
the West-Saxons subdued the district, 652-8, "the
old church " seems to have remained unharmed.
Next among the records of Glastonbury after the
grant made by the British king of 601, conies an
alleged charter of the Saxon Genwealh, the founder
of the see of Winchester, who in 658 conquered the
land as far as the Parret, and even if this charter
is spurious, it is not the less a proof that the invaders
did not destroy the church. Another stage in the
conquest of the land is marked by the victory ot
Centwine, who in 682 " drove the \\ elsh to the sea,''
or in other words added the Quantock district to the
West Saxon land, and Centwine. too, is reckoned
among the benefactors of the old church. A
third advance was carried to its farthest point, when
in 722 Ini made Taunton the border fortress of his
1 . im, and [ni appears at Glastonbury as a founder.
It is, then, a small matter when the monastery was
firs! formed, or even what meaning should be attached
to the li gends of the various founders who are said to
h.r. e built chun he i on the island. It may be that the
charter ol 60 j nun! . thi beginning of the important e
of the house, and that it did nol become the great
ol the British until after the fall of Ambres-
bury. Et may be thai Vhysvitrin, like Clonmacnois,
on< 1 held a group 1 ii 1 hun h I memoi ' whi< h


has been preserved by stories referring their founda-
tion to the saints to which they were dedicated. 1
What is really important is that " the old church " of
wicker and timber, the object of the veneration of
Briton, Englishman, Dane, and Norman, enriched
alike by Ini and by Cnut, lived on through successive
shocks of conquest; and still, in another shape, as
the ruined church of St. Joseph, bears witness that,
in the larger part of the diocese of Bath and Wells,
the worship of Christ was never displaced by the
worship of Woden.

Another legend of early Christianity in Somerset
records that a bishop's see was planted at Congres-
bury, and was removed to Wells, with the consent of
King Ini, in 721, by Daniel, the last British bishop;
while Congresbury itself is said to have derived its
name from St. Cungar, who is described as having
founded an oratory there and in Morganwy in the
time of Dubritius, bishop of Llandaff (died 612?).
The story of the removal of the see evidently arises
from a confused recollection of the division of the
West Saxon diocese on the consecration of Daniel to
the see of Winchester (705), while the choice of Con-
gresbury as the place of the see probably points to its
ecclesiastical importance in British times : for either
a monastery, or at least a church of sufficient im-
portance to be called a minster, existed there in the
reign of Alfred, and was granted by him to Asser,
bishop of Sherborne. Although the story of St
Cungar is purely legendary, it is not to be set aside as

1 Freeman, " English Towns and Districts," p. 98.


worthless. He is said to have come to Congresbury
from beyond sea, to have moved thence to Morganwy,
and to have been called " Doccuin," because he taught
the people (quod doceref) ; the derivation is fanciful, for
the name preserves the memory of Docwinni, a famous
monastery in the diocese of Llandaff. Disregarding
the date assigned to St. Cungar, we may, then, accept
the legend as an illustration of the strict connexion
between the Celtic churches here and in the land to
which the name of Wales is now appropriated, and in
Armorica, from the middle of the fifth to the middle
of the sixth centuries. The name of St. Cungar is
commemorated in the dedication of the churches ot
Badgworth in Somerset, of Hope in Flintshire, and
of Llangafni in Anglesey. The Celtic Church in
Somerset has left its mark in the names of various
churches and villages,— at Barton St. David, for ex-
ample, which is named after the bishop of Menevia
(died 601 ?), and at St. Decumans, called after a
hermit who crossed over from Wales. St. Dubritius
is the patron of Porlock ; a chapel dedicated to St.
Columban once stood at Cheddar, ami the ammo-
nites of Kcynsham were believed to show forth the
victory of St. Ceneu over the snakes that once in
tested the place. In the same way the ecclesiastical
connexion with Ireland Is pointed at in the Glaston
bury stories of the Irish saints, and by the dedications

at Brean and Chelvey to St. Bridget These instances

mUSl !»■ taken only as illustrations, for the subject is

capable of further development. The legend of the
n idence of St. Gildas on the steep Holm appears

historically worthless. From the saint's vague tirades


two important facts may be gathered concerning the
British Church at the time of the invasion : — it is
evident that the Church was fully organised, and that
it possessed a version of the Scriptures peculiar to

The signs of the continuous life of the Celtic Church,
equally with the physiology, the dialectical distinctions,
and the place-names of Somerset, illustrate the milder
character of the war between the two races after the
conversion of the invaders. Although Ini continually
pressed on the kingdom of Geraint, within the bor-
ders of the land already won the conquerors and the
conquered dwelt side by side. Within the dominions
of Ini the Briton might be a landowner and a scot-
payer, and a special wer, or money value, was set upon
his life. The ecclesiastical character of Ini's laws is
strongly marked. They are declared in the title to be
made by the advice of Hosddi, the West Saxon bishop.
God's servants are bidden to keep their rule ; baptism
is to be administered within thirty days after a child's
birth, and, if any die unbaptized, the priest is to make
amends with all that he has. A provision that if any
swear falsely before a bishop he shall make amends
with 1 20s. proves the existence of an ecclesiastical
jurisdiction apart from the ordinary sphere of the
shire-moot, though exercised in its sessions. This
jurisdiction was exercised by the bishop and his
officers, his archdeacon and his deans, in the ordinary
courts of the shire and the hundred. In these courts
they declared the law in spiritual matters, enforced
the canons and the religious laws of the kings, and
administered the penitential system devised for the


correction of morals, in addition to, and apart from,
the private discipline of the confessional.

During the reign of Ini a step was taken towards
the formation of our diocese by the division of the
West Saxon diocese into two parts. West of the forest
of Selwood the new bishopric of Sherborne included
part of Wiltshire, and the whole of Somerset and
Dorset, and was bounded on the west only by the
border of English conquest or influence. The rest
of Wessex lying to the east of Selwood was left to the
see of Winchester. A detailed account of the work
of Ealdhelm, the first bishop of Sherborne, belongs
to the history of the diocese of Salisbury, and his
work must only be noticed here so far as it specially
concerned the Sumorsanan. Among the churches
built by him were St. John the Baptist's at Frome,
which William of Malmcsbury says was destroyed by
his time, and St. Peter's at Bruton, the east end of
which, the historian tells us, had been enlarged
shortly before he wrote. These churches were, of
course, built in the same primitive Romanesque style
as Ealdhelm's still existing church at Bradford.
Ealdhelm had great influence with the king, who
carried out whatever he suggested. Bj his advice [ni
-ranted a charter to t '. 1 . i s t < ml airy, which is now to be
(ailed by its English name, for it now stood on English
soil. Avalon and even Vnysvitrin are names that
on slender historical foundation. Glastonbury

is said to d( < laic itself tO he the abode of the (Ikes

an otherwise unknown family of the conquering
race, f"i hi re, as elsewhere, the syllable ingis held to
he patronymic, Ini is also said to have been moved


by Ealdhelm to build the church at Glastonbury. He
built, that is to say, a church dedicated to St. Peter
and St. Paul, the forerunner of the great ruin we still
see, to the east of" the old church " of St. Mary, and
standing a little apart from it, for the connecting
building which unites the ruins representing " the old
church " and the church of Ini respectively, is of a
later date.

While, however, the West Saxon king thus recog-
nised the conquered people as law-worth)-, and
honoured their famous shrine, a bitter schism divided
the two Churches. The main points of difference
concerned the date of the Easter Festival and the
shape of the tonsure. As regards Easter, the Britons
followed the ancient computation of the Western
Church ; but, being far from Rome, they did not adopt
the change made in the Roman cycle in the middle
of the fifth century, and still kept their Feast on the
Sunday next after the equinox, between the fourteenth
and twentieth days of the moon — a practice which,
though contrary to the Roman use in the time of Ini, is a
distinct witness to the Western origin of their Church.
In the shape of the tonsure they seem to have adhered
to the fashion followed by the Scots and by their own
kinsmen in Armorica, which was different both from
the Greek and the Roman custom. Other smaller
differences divided the Churches, and national hatred
inclined the conquered people to cling passionately
to their own usages. Small as these matters may seem,
they had a real importance. To the Britons, more
especially to those who dwelt in the western part of
Somerset, on the borders of the conquered district,


and probably to many throughout the whole land of
the Sumorssetan, these peculiar usages were signs that
they were still a people ; while, on the other hand,
all hopes of peaceful dominion and of the success of
Ini's policy depended on the conquerors being able
to wipe out these signs of separation. Apart from
any national cause, it is evident that there were
Englishmen who were grieved at this schism for
higher reasons. Paganism was still secretly practised
by many of their people, and the larger part of Europe
still lay in darkness. In the face of a pagan world,
ecclesiastical uniformity was of the first importance.
Accordingly, at a West Saxon synod, Ealdhelm, who
was not as yet a bishop, was requested to write a
letter setting forth the opinions of Latin Christendom,
and urging the duty of union. This letter, addressed
to Geraint, king of Dyfnaint, is still extant ; it had
great success, for it was the means of turning many
of the British subjects of the West Saxons who,
probably, for the most part dwelt in Somerset, from
the error of their ways. The next year (705) Eald
helm was made bishop of Sherborne. Very earnestly
did he fulfil the duties of his office, going on foot from
place to place throughout his diocese, and preaching
in the open air. It was, perhaps, on one of these

expeditions, whi< h so Impressed men that they became

the subject of legends, that he fell sic k at Honking, a

village he had given to the church of Glastonbury,
ing the profit \ to himself foi his life. He bade

men carry him into the little wooden church of the
village, and there, silting on a stone scat, he died.

When Doulting came into the possession of the


monks, they built a stone church in place of the
wooden one, and Doulting church still preserves the
memory of Ealdhelm in its dedication.

As the invaders pushed westwards they settled in
colonies or townships. These townships, whether
under a lord, or at first held by independent freemen
(the question does not concern our subject), were
the origin of our parochial system, for the parish is
nothing else than one or more townships, as the case
may be, in their ecclesiastical character. The priest
was the spiritual officer of one or of a cluster of
townships, according to size, and the area over which
he exercised his office was his parish. These town-
ships became the manors of Norman times. For the
most part, their ecclesiastical has outlived their civil
character, and the purely secular business of the
township is transacted in the vestry of the parish
church. For while the priest was a spiritual person, he
had a place in the civil administration. As the bishop
sat with the ealdorman in the courts of the shire
and the hundred, so the parish priest went up with
the four best men of the township to attend these
courts. Save for the rights of the lord and his
steward, he was the head of the parish ; and he still
presides as of right over all parish meetings even for
secular purposes, held nominally or actually in the
vestry of the church. Offerings were made by the
faithful for the support of the church and its priest.
The payment of tithes, though recommended, was
not as yet enforced by spiritual censure, nor was
their appropriation determined. Strangers, the poor,
and the parish church had an equal claim on them.


Certain dues belonged by law to the clergy. Chief
among these was the church-scot, a payment resem-
bling our Easter offerings, save that it was made for
the house, and not for each member of the house-
hold. Besides these and voluntary offerings, a grant
of land (glebe) was no doubt generally made for the
maintenance of the priest. Even where the two races
dwelt side by side, the English land system naturally
became universal; and, in like manner, the rights and
position of the parish priest were the same throughout
the conquered land. Whatever the organisation of
the Celtic Church may have been, it gave way before
that of the Church of the conquerors. The schism
died out in the West soon after the time of Ealdhelm.
Parishes were multiplied by the devotion of men who
built churches in the various townships, and gave
lands for the maintenance of the priests who served

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Online LibraryWilliam HuntThe Somerset diocese, Bath and Wells → online text (page 1 of 18)