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legacies to his parish church, charges his executors to pay the king's taxes for all people of the town assessed at 4a1. and under, for two years after his death. John Barton was a merchant of the staple, and had made his wealth by the wool trade. At Holme he built "a fair stone house and a fair chapel like a parish church," and to remind his descendants of the source whence their means had come, and in humble acknowledgment of God's goodness to him, he set in the windows of his home the following posie—
"I thank God, and ever shall,
As an example of specific bequests for pious purposes, we may take the following: Sir Gervase Clifton, in 1491, gives many sums of money to churches in Yorkshire and to various chantries in Southwell Minster. For the use of these latter, also, he directs that "all the altar cloths of silk, a bed of gold bawdkyne and another bed of russet satin, which belonged to (Archbishop Boothe of York) be delivered to make vestments."2 In 1493-4, John Vavasour, Justice of the Common Pleas, leaves £ 100 in money to the monastery of Ellerton, to which he says he had previously given all his vestments. He names the Priors of Ellerton and Thorneholme his executors, and tells them that the Prior of the Charterhouse of Axholme has ^"800 of his in his keeping, and also that a chest of his plate is in charge of the London Carthusians.8
Again, Agnes Hildyard, of Beverley, in 1497-8, leaves "an old gold noble to hang round the neck of the image of Our Lady in the church of Beverley," some money to purchase a mantle for the statue of the Blessed Virgin at Fisholme, and another gold piece for the statue at Molescroft.4 About the same time Lady Scrope, of Harling, left "to the Rood of Northdor my heart of gold with a diamond in the midst. To Our Lady of Walsingham, ten of my
great gold beads joined with silk of crimson and gold, with a button of gold, tasselled with the same. . . . To Our Lady of Pew ten of the same beads; to St. Edmund of Bury, ten of the same; to St. Thomas of Canterbury, ten of the same; to my Lord Cardinal, ten aves with two Paternosters of the same beads; to Thomas Fynchman, ten aves and two Paternosters of the same beads."1 Again, in 1502, Elizabeth Swinburne bequeathed to the Carmelites of Newcastle a piece of silver to make a crown for the image of Our Lady at her altar "where my mother is buried," and to Mount Grace a rosary, "fifty beads of gold, a hundred of corall, with all the gaudys of gold," on condition that she and her mother might be considered consorores of the house, and that thirteen poor people might be fed on the day of her burial.2 So, too, a chain of gold is left to make a cup for the Blessed Sacrament, velvet and silk dresses to make vestments,8 plate to make a new chrismatory, crystal beads to adorn the monstrance used on Corpus feast day."4
William Sheffield, Dean of York, whose will is dated 1496, after some few bequests to friends, leaves the residue to the poor, and he thus explains the reason: "Also I will that the residue of my goods be distributed among the poor parishioners in each of the benefices I have held, according to the discretion of my executors, so that they may be bestowed more or less in proportion to the time of my living and keeping hospitality in them; for the goods of the church are the riches of the poor, and so the distribution of church goods is a serious matter of conscience, and on those badly disposing of them Jesus have mercy."5
The Vicar of Wighill, William Burton, in 1498-9, left a sum of money to remain in the hands of his successors for ever "to ease poor folk of the parish, for to pay their
farms with, so that the said people set not their goods at wainworth (i.e. cartloads—what they would fetch), and that they have a reasonable day to pay the said silver again duly and truly to the Vicar for the time being, and the said Vicar to ask and keep eyes (aye) to the same intent, as he will answer for it at the dreadful day of judgment betwixt God and the devil; and he shall not lend the aforesaid money for any tax or tallage, nor for any common purpose of the town, but only to the said poor men." With kindly thought for the young among his old flock, the Vicar adds a bequest of 4d. "to every house poor and rich among the children." 1
The above is not by any means an isolated instance of a sum, or sums, of money being left to assist the poorer members of the Christian brotherhood, represented by the parish, with temporary loans. One document sets out the working of such a common parish chest under the supervision of the priest. The original chest and the necessary funds for starting this work of benevolence were furnished by one of the parishioners. In order to maintain " this most pious object," as it is called, the rector undertakes to read out the name of the original donor at the "bedesbidding" on principal feasts, together with those of all who may subsequently add to the capital sum by alms or legacies, in order that people might be reminded of their duty to offer up prayers for the eternal welfare of their benefactors. The chest was to have three locks, the keys being kept by the rector and the two wardens. Those who might need to borrow temporarily from the common stock to meet their rent, purchase of seed or stock, or for any other purpose, were to bring pledges to the full value of the loan, or else to find known sureties for the amount. No single person was to be surety for more than six shillings and eightpence, and for wise and obvious reasons the parish priest was not to be allowed to stand security
under any circumstances. The loan was for a year, and if at the end of that time the pledge was not redeemed, it was to be sold, but all that it might fetch over and above the amount of the original loan was to be returned to the borrower.1
In close connection with the subject of wills in preReformation times is that of chantries and obits. Both these two institutions of the later mediaeval church in England have been commonly much misunderstood and misrepresented. Most writers regard them only in the light of the doctrine of Purgatory, and as illustrating the extent to which the necessity of praying for the dead was impressed upon the people by the ecclesiastical authorities, and that with a view to their own profit. It has come, therefore, to be believed that a "chantry" only meant a place (chapel or other locality) connected with the parish church, where masses were offered for the repose of the soul of the donor, and other specified benefactors. No doubt there were such chantries existing, but to imagine that all followed this rule is wholly to mistake the purpose of such foundations. Speaking broadly, the chantry priests were the assistant priests or, as we should nowadays say, the curates of the parish, who were supported by the foundation funds which benefactors had left or given for that purpose, and even not infrequently by the contributions of the inhabitants. To speak the language of our own time, the system held the place of the "additional curates" or "pastoral aid" societies. For the most part the raison d'etre of these chantry priests was to look after the poor of the parish, to visit the sick, and to assist in the functions of the parish church. By universal custom, and even by statute law of the English Church, every chaplain and chantry priest, besides the fulfilment of the functions of his own special benefice, was bound to be at the disposition of the parish priest in the common services
of the parish church. His presence was required in the choir, vested in a surplice or other ecclesiastical dress proper to his station, or as one of the sacred ministers of the altar, should his services be so required. In this way the existence of guild chaplains, chantry priests, and others, added to the dignity of the ecclesiastical offices and the splendour of the ceremonial in most parish churches throughout the country, and afforded material and often necessary assistance in the working of the parish.
It will give, perhaps, a better idea of the functions of a chantry priest on the eve of the Reformation than can be obtained by any description, to take an example of the foundation made for a chantry at the altar of Saint Anne in the church of Badsworth. It was founded in 1510 to pray for the soul of Isabella, wife of William Vavasour, and daughter of Robert Urswick. The charter deed ordains that the chaplain shall be a secular priest, without other benefice, and that he should say a Requiem each week with Placebo and Dirige. At the first lavatory of the Mass he is to turn to the people and exhort them to pray for the soul of the founder, saying De Profundis and the prayer Inclina Domine. Once every year there is to be an anniversary service on Tuesday in Easter week, when ten shillings and eightpence is to be distributed to the poor under the direction of the rector. The chaplain is to be learned in grammar and plain song, and should be present in the choir of the parish church at Matins, Mass, Vespers, and Compline, with other divine services on Sundays and feasts, when he is to take what part the rector shall ordain. He is not to be absent for more than a month, and then only with leave of the rector, by whom, for certain specified offences, he may be deprived of his office.1
In these chantries were established services for the dead commonly called "obits." These were not, as we have been asked to believe, mere money payments to the priest
1 Yorkshire Chantry Surveys (Surtees Soc.), ii., preface, p. xiv.