St Mary’s Church – Vicars before 1602

The evidence that we have so far indicates that the vicars of Thornbury were appointed by the Abbey of Tewkesbury from the early fourteenth ceniury to 1546.  From that date it seems that they were appointed by the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church Oxford.

A decorative list displayed in St Mary’s Church in Thornbury shows that “the Abbot and Convent of Tewkesbury received an Indult dated 5 Kalens 1221 from Pope Honarius II to enter and retain to their own uses when void the churches of Thornbury, Marshfield and others already granted to the Abbey by Pope Lucius (Larius III) on condition of their putting fit persons therein as vicar”.  We have a photograph of this list below on the right.  We can only apologise that we have found it hard to photograph in a way that makes it fully  legible. 

British History Online explains that in 1314 a licence was obtained from Edward II for the appropriation of Thornbury by Tewkesbury.  This was allowed with immediate effect on the grounds that “although the monastery was amply endowed by Gilbert de Clare it was so much oppressed by misfortune and the attacks of enemies that speedy Succour was needed.”

The archives of Christ Church College Oxford hold copies of a document in Latin and other documents concerning a legal case of 1750 that refer to a letter from Walter, Bishop of Worcester dated 12th August 1315.  This letter says that the Parish Church of Thornbury had “recently” been appropriated to the Abbot and Convent of Tewkesbury by the Bishop of Worcester but that he (the Bishop of Worcester) reserved the power of ordering and taxing the Vicarage of Thornbury.  This seems to have given rise to the later disputes about what tithes were payable to the Vicarage and what to the Rectory.  Read more about tithes

We understand that it was the duty of the Abbott of Tewkesbury to send a chaplain to Thornbury every Sunday to celebrate service in the church.  Apparently there is a record in the manor court of Thornbury of the Abbot being fined £5 for neglecting to send a chaplain and some cattle were distrained to enforce the penalty.

The monastery at Tewkesbury was dissolved in January 1540 and its possessions surrendered, including the rectory of Thornbury.  In 1546 Henry VIII re-founded the College of Christ Church and it was at this time that the benefice of Thornbury amongst many others was transferred to Christ Church.  Probably at the beginning Christ Church took a large proportion of the tithes raised but it seems that eventually it almost gave up this right.  This was certainly the case by the 1890s although Christ Church retained its patronage.  A Gazetteer of 1894 described the living of Thornbury as “a vicarage in the diocese of Gloucester and Bristol with a net value of £326 with residence.  Patron Christ Church Oxford.”  To this day the website of St Mary the Virgin says that the patronage of the Parish of Thornbury is with Christ Church Oxford.  This is reflected in the fact that the majority of the vicars appointed to this church were graduates of Christ Church.

We have been able to trace a little information about most of the Vicars of Thornbury

William Pikerel.  William was described as Rector of the Church of Thornbury in a Commission dated at London the third of the Nones of November 1279….. A Certificate of his ordination to Priest’s Orders and stating that he had been presented to the Church of Thornbury by the Abbot and Convent of Tewksbury within a year was dated at Wyck the 15 Kalens of March 1283….. Episcopal Register, Worcester.  1297

John de Penbrok.  John’s name appears on the board in St Mary’s Church which also notes that it is more likely that that he was a parson of Thornbury in Hereford than Thornbury in Gloucestershire.

William de Cherington.  The Bishop conferred the vacant Church of Thornbury on William de Cherington priest on the 12 Kalens November 1297 ( Episcopal Register, Worcester. 1297).  A publication of the society of Thornbury Folk in 1948 quotes Epis. Reg. Worc. and tells us that: “the Bishop conferred the vacant church of Thornbury on William de Cherinton priest 12 Kal November 1297 but on Sunday the Vigil of St Katherine the Virgon in the same year (24th Nov) there were proceedings touching the said vacancy to which Peter de Leye (Leycestre) had been presented” (see below for more of the Peter de Leycestre story).

William appears to have been quickly compensated for the confusion over his appointment to Thornbury.  In the same year (1297) according to “a Little History of Cherington and Stourton, Warwickshire” by Margaret Dickins William de Cherinton was appointed steward over the lands of the Bishopric of Worcester.  By 1317 the Pope had confirmed that William was Abbot of Evesham.

Peter de Leycestre.  Peter was presented to Thornbury by the Abbot of Tewkesbury but the Bishop refused to institute him in 1297.  Peter then sued the Bishop and was inducted in 1298.

We know a little more about the interesting career of Peter de Leycestre from the cartullary of the Collegiate Church of St Mary in Warwick.  A cartullary is a medieval manuscript or roll containing transcripts of original documents.  Apparently Peter de Leycestre was appointed to the rectory of Hendon in Middlesex in 1271.  He was also vicar of Tardebrigge in Worcester and Wolfamcote in Warwickshire also prebendary of Bishopshill near Lichfield and of Westbury and Warwick.  In August 1303 he obtained a dispensation from Pope Boniface III for having obtained these posts without papal dispensation.

During Peter’s career in the diocese of Warwick (to which Thornbury was attached at that time) the Bishop was a very controversial character called Godfrey Giffard.  Bishop Giffard absolved a priest who had been excommunicated by the Canon of St Mary’s Robert de Plecy.  The animosity between the two clerics had a great influence on Peter de Leycestre who was a member of the household of Bishop Giffard. When Peter was appointed to the church at Budbroke Robert de Plecy opposed the appointment.  Peter was concerned about his position so he felt it necessary to apply to Bishop Giffard for an indemnity against any lawsuits brought against him by de Plecy.  Peter must have been placed in an even more difficult situation when he was appointed as the bishop’s proctor in a legal case between Robert de Plecy and another canon.  The Bishop eventually requested de Plecy’s removal and he was excommunicated in 1286.

Peter died in or before August 1304. His will appointed Richard de Vienne rector of Ulveston, William de Dalby and Robert de Wylewes as executors. These men were summoned to appear at the Court of Westminster to answer the auditors about the tithe lately imposed on the clergy in aid of the Roman Church.

William de Apperley.  The letters of Institution and Induction of William de Apperley subdeacon to the Church of Thornbury were issued from Kemsey on 13 Kalens of August 1304 (Episcopal Register, Worcester. 1305).

According to the Cartullary of St Mary’s Warwick William was ordained as a subdeacon on 13th March 1294 and as a priest on 27th February 1295.  He was warden of the Hospital of Kincardine in Neel, Aberdeenshire in 1298.

A newsletter published in 1948 by the Society for Thornbury Folk refers to the short-lived tenure of William de Apperley.  It quotes “Epis Reg” and tells us that in

“1304 Letters of institution and induction of William de Apperley subdeacon to the church of Thornbury vacant by the death of Peter de Leycestre the last rector were issued from Kempsey 13 Kal August 1304.  He died before 25th January 1304/5.  It was found by an inquisition held in the church of Wotton in full chapter on the morrow of St Oswald 1305 that the church of Thornbury had been vacant since the death of Peter de Leycestre the last rector who had formerly been Dean of St Mary’s Warwick.  The Abbot and Convent of Tewkesbury were the true patrons and made the last presentation and the church paid a pension of 63/- to the convent but the person was beneficed elsewhere namely in the church of Estletch with the dignity of Llandaff. ”

There was also trouble over a levy which should have been made on the goods of the said William de Apperley.

Roger le Mareshall.  According to a Writ received by the Bishop at Brendon on 2 Kalens of March 1305, Roger le Mareshall the new rector of the Church of Thornbury was acquitted of 63/4d demanded of him as a tenth of the said church (Episcopal Register, Worcester. 1305 & 1312).

The Society of Thornbury Folk published a newsletter in 1948 which offers a slightly different version of the above statement. It quoted “Epis Reg Worc”s as its source and said;

“According to a writ received by the Bishop at Bredon 2 Kal March 1305 to distrain the executors of Peter de Leycestre now rector of the church of Thornbury was to be acquitted of 63/4 demanded from him as a tenth of the said church.  He had a further acquittance in 1308 but he owed the same in 1309 when the Bishop reported that he had sequestered the goods of the parson of Thornbury to the value of 20/- but had not found a buyer.  A further return in the same year records : – But from the parson of Thornbury I could raise nothing because at the k

King’s command I released the sequestration imposed till after St John the Baptist and meanwhile the rector withdrew and removed everything so that afterwards I found nothing there whence I could raise any money .”

On 17th Kal July 1309 J…….. Bishop of Llandaff Suffragan for the Bishop of Worcester consecrated the great altar of the church of Thornbury.  In August 1312 Master Roger called the Mareschal rector of Thornbury and Thomas de Haselschawe rector of Pokelschurch were appointed commissioners to demand Richard de Paris clerk who had been committed to the King’s prison for the death of John Dyrwynne.”

Roger le Mareshall would appear to be the same Roger le Mareschal (sic) who built Tackley’s Inn in Oxford about 1320.  At that time Roger was the parson of Tackley.  This inn survives in Oxford at 106 and 107 High Street.  It is extremely significant because it is one of the rare surviving examples of the academic halls once scattered around Oxford that were built to accommodate the students.  This was the way most students lived until the sixteenth century when they were housed in colleges.

On 17 Kalens July 1309 J….. Bishop of Llandaff.  Suffragan of the Bishop of Worcester consecrated the Great Altar of the Church of Thornbury …. Episcopal Register, Worcester.

Robert Silvestre.  Robert was the Chaplain presented to the Chantry of St Mary in the Church of Thornbury in the King’s gift by reason of his custody of the lands and heirs of Hugh, Earl of Stafford, tenant-in-chief (Patent Roll. 1387).  See also The Chantry

Please note that although he was chaplain of the Chantry of St Mary, despite the fact that he appears on the list of vicars in the church, we do not have any information as to whether he was also the vicar of the church.

We know from Rudder’s account of the history of Thornbury that Hugh Earl of Stafford was 28 when he succeeded to the title.  When Robert died at Rhodes on his return from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the ninth year of the reign of Richard II, the King was “seized of Thornbury with its members Oldbury, Kington, Morton, Falfield and Mares and of the manors of Rendcombe and Estington.”  Robert was later succeeded in turn by three of his sons Thomas, William and Edmond.

John de Brampton.  Although Robert Silvestre (see above) was a chaplain of the Chantry of St Mary, it seems he was not the vicar.  An inquisition taken at Pucklechurch in 1379 says that

it would be no damage to the King or any other to allow William Wyryot and Margaret his wife to enfeoff John de Brampton vicar of the church of Thornbury and Roger de Dene parson of Siston with the manors of Alueston (Alveston) and Herdecote (Earthcott?) and Hundred of Langleye which are held of the King in chief for the purpose of re-enfeoffment to the said William and Margaret in tail with contingent remainder to the right heirs of Margaret.”

It seems that prior to this John de Brampton may have been a parson in St Peter’s in Bristol.  The University of Houston hosts an on-line project called WAALT(a website called Wiki for the Anglo-American Legal Tradition) which has the record of an inquisition or legal case between the Abbot of Tewkesbury and John de Brampton parson of St Peter in Bristol and John Wachet a tapermaker.  De Brampton was accused of taking 60 piglets and 80 geese at Mangotsfield in 1355.  He pleaded in regard to six piglets and six geese that the chapel of Mangotsfield is annexed to St Peter’s in Bristol and that the twelve animals were sent as tithes and so he took them.  It would be interesting to hear his explanation for the remaining animals.

Volume 32 of The Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society also mentions that John de Brampton had financial difficulties, at least whilst he was at St Peter’s. On 24th November 1353 soon after he had been made Rector there he acknowledged that he owed William de Hawkesworth, clerk, and Ralph de Houton parson of Morston Church 20/-.

Nicholas Foulere. Nicholas was the Chaplain presented to the Chantry of St Mary in the Church of Thornbury in 1389.  Again although he appears on the list of vicars in the church, we have no confirmation that being a chaplain also implied that he was also Vicar of Thornbury.

John Williams.  Ratification of his estate as Vicar of Thornbury was made on 3rd March 1395 (Patent roll).  John had a legacy of 12d by the Will of Agnus Dyers of Thornbury 1404.  He was described in the will as perpetual vicar of Thornbury.

Thomas …… Thomas was also described as a Perpetual Vicar of Thornbury.  He had a legacy of 3/4d by the Will of William Clevedon 1423.

John Greyve.  John was Chaplain of St Mary’s Chantry.  He was bequeathed 6/4d in the Will of Adams 25th September 1423.  Although his name appears on the board of vicars in the church we do not know whether being a chaplain implies that he was also the vicar of the church.  See also The Chantry

Thomas Hulpe. (or Hilpe)  Thomas was Chaplain of St Mary’s Chantry.  He was left 3/4d in the Will of John Adams 29th September 1473.  Although his name appears on the board of vicars in the church we do not know whether being a chaplain implies that he was also the vicar of the church.   See also The Chantry

Thomas With (also spelled Withe, Whith or Wyth).  The cartullary for Christ Church College Oxford refers to an indenture dated 16th June 1482 by which Richard Abbot of Tewkesbury

leases to master Thomas With, vicar of the church of Thornbury, John Pichare of the same, and Thomas and William his sons, and John Payne lately of Morton in the parish of Thornbury, the site of the rectory and all tithes etc for 40 years, if they live as long.

This is a reference to land that included what is now Glebe Cottage.  Read about Glebe Cottage and its tenants

We are grateful to Tina Kelly, another member of Thornbury Museum’s Research Group, for her research into the history of the church in Thornbury and its vicars.  Tina has been able to provide the following account of a turbulent period in the administration of the Church of England and how this was reflected in Thornbury.

John Sonager and John Collyns were, it appears from the records, interchanging vicars in Thornbury in the years 1540-1561.  The Alumni Oxfoniensis has an entry for John Sonager (Sonaker or Sonageyr) attaining a BA on 27 June 1522.  According to Bigland, he was appointed vicar in 1540 by Tewkesbury Abbey, and in the Church of England Clergy database (CCEd), a ‘Senagar’ was a vicar in ‘Barkeley under Thornebury’ up to 1548.  There are many instances of this family name in Berkeley, both before and after this period, and mentions of him as a witness to wills in 1542, 1544 and 1545 – all as “vicar of Thornbury”.

According to Bigland, John Sonager was deprived and removed from his benefice of Thornbury in 1554.  The CCEd has a series of confusing entries for him, and his successor, John Collyns in 1554 and 1555.  This was the period during the reign of Mary I (1553-1558) when Injunctions were issued which deprived married clergy of their benefices, as part of her attempts to restore Roman Catholicism to England.

John Collyns was appointed and instituted Perpetual Vicar on 27 September 1554 by the “Patron by advowson granted to Thomas and Edmund Tyndall by abbot and convent of Tewkesbury Abbey before its dissolution.  To be inducted by archdeacon of Gloucester.”  The reason for the vacancy given was that the previous incumbent had been deprived and removed because he was married.

Bigland also mentions John Collyns in 1554, as presented by “Thos Tyndall, Grantee of T. [Tewkesbury] Abbey”.  Thomas Tyndall/Tyndale was elected MP of Marlborough in 1554; he was the son of Edward (Receiver-General of the Crown Revenues for Berkeley’s lands; Auditor and Seneschal of the Abbot of Tewkesbury in 1519, d 1546), and was granted Eastwood Park in Thornbury by the Crown in 1565.  There is no record of an “Edmund Tyndall”, but Thomas (d 1571) did have a brother called Edward (d 1582); it is possible that these two presented John Collyns to Thornbury in 1554.

On 27 September 1555, John Sonager’s name appears again in the CCEd, along with John Collyns (Collynge), stating that there was a vacancy/deprivation (of Sonager) followed by an appointment/institution (of Collyns).  It is not clear why John Sonager would be deprived again, and John Collyns instituted again.  The answer may lie in the reference for this entry (Returns to First Fruits Office) whereby some clergy were re-instated.  If Sonager was re-instated, then deprived again, Collyns was still available to be re-instituted.  However, the CCEd says Collyns was vicar in 1561, and may have continued in this post until 1571 when William Singleton (Shingleton) was instituted.

William Singleton or Shingleton Vicar of Thornbury from 1571 -1577.  The Alumni Oxonienses says that William was a scholar or fellow of New College from 1564-1571.  He graduated at B.A. in January 1566-7 and was awarded M.A in 1570.  After leaving Thornbury he was rector of Bishops Waltham 1577-1620, of Baghurst 1578-9, of Chilcomb 1598-1601 and Millbrook 1601-1620.  The Clergy of the Church of England Database refers to him as “Williehelmus Shingleton” and also has a note that he was a perpetual vicar.

John Moreton Vicar of Thornbury from 1577 -1602.  It is likely that John Morton was chaplain of New College in and before 1564.  In 1596 he was involved in a legal case concerning tithes payable by John Chewe.  The Clergy of the Church of England Database refers to his surname as “Mourton” as well as “Moreton”.  He appears to have been included in a “list of clerks admitted to benefices that have subscribed to the articles.”  The Church of England website tells us that these articles were introduced in 1562 and that these amongst other things allowed the clergy to marry or not according to their own consciences.  John Moreton died in 1602 and the living once again became vacant.  During the time that John Moreton was vicar in Thornbury we know that one of the curates in 1594 was called Thomas Pricharde.

Read about Vicars 1602-1798