RELIGION Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Bridport chantries presentment priests duties church services endowments finances regulations property values
Subject: Foundation of the Munden chantry
Original source: Borough archives
Transcription in: K.L. Wood-Legh, ed. A Small Household of the XVth Century: being the account book of Munden's Chantry, Bridport. Manchester: University Press, 1936, 84-86.
Original language: Latin
Location: Bridport
Date: 1361


Know all people, present and future, that I, John Munden, having obtained licence from the king and other chief lords, have given, granted and by this present charter have confirmed to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Michael archangel, Nicholas Gourtop and Nicholas de Portlond priests, and the priests who succeed to their posts, for the purpose of divine services celebrated in perpetuity in the chapel of St. Michael at Bridport for the souls of King Edward, myself and my late wife Christine, Nicholas Pynnok, Robert de Faryndon, and the souls of my father and mother and of all the faithful who are deceased: twelve tenements and four acres of land with appurtenances in Bridport; six tenements, thirty-eight acres of land, four acres of meadow, thirty acres of pasture, 60s. in rent, and the rent of five pairs of gloves and half a pound of pepper, with appurtenances, in Allington, Bradpole and Walditch. The said Nicholas and Nicholas, priests, and their successors to the chapel are to have and to hold the aforementioned tenements, land, meadow, pasture, and rents with their appurtenances for purposes of celebrating divine services in the following manner. Viz. that one of those priests celebrate the daily mass each day and the other the mass of the Blessed Virgin in the chapel of St. Michael, and every day they are jointly to say matins, vespers and the other canonical hours, and the placebo, dirige, and commendatio in the chapel according to the Salisbury usage, unless one is incapacitated or has other reasonable cause to be excused, and one or other of the priests shall conduct the daily services dressed in the surplice designated and prepared for that.

While I live, I am to have the presentation of the priests, and those who succeed them in the office, to the Bishop of Salisbury. I grant, on behalf of myself and my heirs, that after I die whoever is at that time rector of the church of St. Mary, Bridport, may in perpetuity present to the chantry or chantries a suitable priest or priests, within a month after being informed of the deaths of those priests, or any one of them. If, after a month, the presenting rector proves negligent or remiss in presenting those priests, or any one of them, then the bailiffs and community of Bridport may in perpetuity present a suitable priest or priests to the chantry or chantries within a month following that month which the rector has exhausted. If, after a month, the bailiffs and community prove negligent or remiss in presenting those priests, then the incumbent Bishop of Salisbury shall appoint suitable priests to the chantry or chantries; first, as a a pre-requisite for the conferral, an oath is to be administered to the presented priests that they will not fail to celebrate divine services in the manner specified above. It is to be ensured that those priests thus presented, or on whom after a lapse in time the Bishop may confer the chantries, have no obligations related to any other benefice or ecclesiastical office, but can devote their complete attention to the chantry duties and will be continuously resident, twenty-four hours a day, in the house where I, John, used to reside. If those priests, or any one of them, acquires thereafter obligations to, or possession of, a benefice or office elsewhere, then they are to be deprived of their rights in the chantry and be completely excluded from [control over] the lands, properties and rents. Each of the priests and their successors in perpetuity is to receive annually for food and clothing 100s., in equal quarterly installments at the principal terms of the year. For bread, wine, and lighting for the masses, 10s. from the rents and other revenues from the tenements, land, meadow, and pasture. They are to take their meals together. Any surplus income from the land, tenements, and rents that Nicholas Gourtoup and those named to succeed him as warden of the house of St. Michael can clearly demonstrate before the rector, bailiffs and community each year at Michaelmas, I require to be put to the benefit of the two priests through repairs and improvements to the chapel and tenements. Each priest, when admitted and instituted [to the benefice], is to take oath before the Bishop of Salisbury that he will adhere faithfully to the above ordinances, and every one of them, to the best of his power.

In case the priests are unable to continue their divine services, because of the inadequacy of the revenues from the tenements mentioned, I have given and granted to [support] the celebrations of the priests in that chapel £200; of which £100 is in the custody of the abbot and convent of Cerne, and the other £100 is in the custody of the abbot and convent of Abbotsbury, [secured] under my seal and [those of] the bailiffs and community and the priests, to be and remain there during my lifetime. After my death, it is to be delivered to the priests and their successors when they may be in dire need, in annual allocations, at the discretion of the incumbent rector, bailiffs and community, to support the priests and also to maintain the tenements.

It is a duty of the priests to participate in each of the principal holy festivals at vespers and mass, and for one of them to be present at mass each Sunday, in the parish church of St. Mary, Bridport, until vespers and mass on such days have been concluded.

I have also given and granted to the chapel, for the use of the priests, two missals, three breviaries (of which two are large), a good bible, one gradual, two chalices, three sets of vestments (of which one costume incorporates a cope and tunicle), one silver basin, and two silver cruets, to remain within the chapel in perpetuity and to be inspected by the rector, bailiffs and community each year at Michaelmas, to ensure they are not disposed of by the priests or put to other uses. I, John, and my heirs will warrant, defend, and acquit in perpetuity the aforesaid Nicholas and Nicholas, priests, and the priests who succeed to their duties in celebrating divine services in the chapel, against all persons concerning [legal challenges to] all the above-mentioned tenements, land, meadow, pasture and rents with their appurtenances.

In testimony to which matters, I have put my seal to this charter. Witnesses: Sir John de Chidiok, Sir Robert Latymer, Sir Richard Tourbervile, Sir Edmund Everard, Sir John de la Hale, Ivo de Chiltecombe, John de Watton, John de Fighelten, Robert de Bemynster, William Hichecok, Richard Laurenze, and others.

Drawn up at Bridport on 24 May 1361.


John Munden was a prominent member of Bridport society, having represented the county of Dorset in parliaments of 1339, 1346 and 1352, and found acting as a county justice on several occasions during the 1340s and '50s. By giving the borough authorities some responsibility for the supervision of the chantry – they having to audit the financial accounts and inspect the property and its moveables each Michaelmas – he assured that relevant records would find their way into the borough archives, and a few of these have survived. It was written into the borough custumal that the inspection of the chantry should take place on the Monday following Michaelmas (September 29), and that the warden's accounts be presented in writing.

It is not clear whether the chapel of St. Michael was a stand-alone building (no such exists today), or was within St. Mary's church, which still stands, although its present fabric is mostly of the fifteenth century. Wherever situated, certainly the chapel was in existence prior to Munden's time, for an earlier chantry was instituted there by Robert de Farendon; this does not appear to have lasted – perhaps inadequate provision was made for it, financially or administratively – and the inclusion of Farendon's name in the list of souls for special mention in services may indicate that Munden was taking responsibility for the earlier chantry. We can see from Munden's foundation document that a chantry was viewed as a service rather than a location.

Chantries were usually supported through endowments of the revenues from real estate. Munden evidently feared – perhaps prompted, Dr. Wood-Legh suggests, by the decline of property values following the plague's extermination of tenants and buyers – the property he provided might not be sufficient; the provision of a cash fund as an emergency reserve is unusual. For a later period, when we have figures as to income and expenditures, the former was not greatly exceeding the £10.10s. assigned by Munden as the operating expenses, although the expenditures were generally a little higher than Munden had anticipated.

By contrast with the Whittington foundation, Munden made no explicit provisions for absences of either of the priests from the chantry at any point. Those priests whom we know to have staffed the chantry were aged and unlikely to travel far afield. Possibly such institutions were perceived as appropriate for older priests in a state of semi-retirement; certainly Munden expected that there be no other demands on their time, although this was primarily to ensure chantry duties were attended to conscientiously.



"Allington, Bradpole and Walditch"
Hamlets in the neighbourhood of Bridport.

The right to appoint a priest to a living (or other benefice).

"twenty-four hours a day"
The original has cu[m]bantes, meaning lying down – i.e. staying overnight. Absentee priests, dividing their time between multiple posts, were a problem in the Church.

At the time from which the priests' financial accounts survive (1450s), they were in fact receiving 20s. each, leading Dr. Wood-Legh to conclude that the remaining £4 due each were probably being pooled to pay for common expenses, such as food.

"principal terms"
Quarters focused on the major Church festivals of Christmas, the Annunciation, the Nativity of St. John Baptist, and Michaelmas.

Dr. Wood-Legh read this as 10s. per priest; the text is not precise on this, however. The punctuation inserted by Wood-Legh would suggest a single allowance for the pair, while a late fifteenth century document, referring to the borough authorities having temporarily taken direct control of administering the chantry budget, read it likewise.

Books containing prayers and other devotions said or sung during mass.

Books compiling the order of prayers for the canonical offices.

A book containing liturgical texts (psalms, readings etc.) used during mass.

Small containers, one for the sacramental wine and a second for the water used (poured into the chalices) during mass.

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Created: March 14, 2003. Last update: January 6, 2019 © Stephen Alsford, 2003-2019