RETIREMENT Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Salisbury university schools pensions hospitals maintenance contracts accommodations mass endowments
Subject: Grant of a corrody by De Vaux College to a Salisbury couple
Original source: British Library, Add.Ms. 28,870, Cartulary of the College of St. Nicholas de Vaux, f.157b
Transcription in: Christopher Wordsworth, ed., The Fifteenth Century Cartulary of St. Nicholas' Hospital, Salisbury, with Other Records, Wiltshire Record Society, vol.3 (1902), 287-88.
Original language: Latin
Location: Salisbury
Date: 1317


Gilbert Lovelle, master of the De Vaux school, Salisbury, and the scholars themselves give greetings to all etc. Know that we, by unanimous agreement, voluntarily and out of our goodwill, have granted and by this present charter confirm to Roger Moton and his wife Christine sustenance in our house for the term of their lives, while they reside in our house, in sickness and in health, on the same terms as any scholar of the house receives there.

Roger may sit at the second table [in the refectory] beside Roger Fouk, on his right, while Roger is alive. After the death of Roger Fouk, he may take over for the rest of his life the place at the table where Roger [Fouk] was accustomed to sit. Christine may have a place at whatever table she would most like. A chamber is to be built, half at Roger's expense, on the east side of the hay-barn next to the water, with a privy and a fireplace. When it suits him, Roger shall build at his own expense a stable for a horse. From this day forth, Roger and Christine may have access in and out, inside the close as well as outside, as freely as any scholar of our house. After Roger's death, Christine may have each year, for as long as she lives, 13s.4d on 25 March.

We, the master and scholars of the house, grant for ourselves etc. that after Roger and Christine die an anniversary mass will be celebrated for them by the scholars, each year in perpetuity, and that on the day of the anniversary of [the deaths of] Roger and Christine every scholar who attends [the mass] shall receive 2d.

Given at Salisbury on 14 April 1317, these being witnesses: Geoffrey de Weremunster, then bailiff of Salisbury, Reginald Tuddeworth, then mayor of Salisbury, William Berewik, then coroner of Salisbury, John Baudry and Walter Saucer, then reeves of Salisbury, Robert Cnowelle, Henry de Melkesham, William de Keynes, William de Calewey, William de Morden clerk, and others.


The "House of the Valley of Scholars of Blessed Nicholas", as it was originally called, has been considered by some as the first university college in England, founded two years before Merton, the earliest Oxford college. Like the early Oxford colleges, that at Salisbury was until late in the Middle Ages, called a "house" rather than a "college". After a violent argument between the entourage papal legate and Oxford students in 1238, there was an emigration of students and teachers from Oxford, mainly to Northampton and Salisbury. New Salisbury as we call it now – in reference to its eclipsing an older borough now called Old Sarum (although the former was actually a development of a manorial settlement probably as old as the latter) – had by then acquired a reputation as a centre of learning, and by the 1270s several faculties had been established there. After lectures resumed at Oxford, some of the migrants returned, some divided their time between Oxford and Salisbury, and others may have remained at Salisbury; their numbers may have swelled again when there was a renewed exodus from Oxford during the town-gown troubles of the 1260s and '70s.

It was perhaps with a view to accommodating such scholars that in 1262 Giles de Bridport, Bishop of Salisbury, founded a hospital dedicated to Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Nicholas. He may have been inspired by the University of Paris, with which his brother was associated and where he himself may have studied. The name he chose for his foundation echoes the order of Augustinians called "de Valle Scholarium", which had built a college in Paris in the 1230s; its teachers and students had relocated elsewhere in protest over the growth of Aristotelian studies at Paris. The site of the Salisbury foundation was a meadow just south of the cathedral precinct, on the northern bank of the River Avon, and across the road from St. Nicholas's Hospital, a slightly older episcopal foundation, with which there was some association, although not a close one – the two institutions were separately administered. Yet several early colleges at Paris had emerged as offshoots of hospitals originally for the sick and aged, which expanded to offering board and financial support to students.

The aim of the foundation was to maintain a warden, or master, two chaplains, and twenty poor but respectable scholars, who would be taught theology and the liberal arts. The Bishop made the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury the college's patrons, and required that all masters be chosen from the cathedral chapter. A secondary goal was to establish a chantry college, whereby the chaplains and students would pray for the souls of the founder and benefactors. The master was assisted in his duties by a steward, or proctor, an officer elected from the scholars for a year or two at a time; during the fourteenth century he played an increasing part in college administration.

The main role of the de Vaux college then was to support and teach students. The Motons were clearly a different category of resident, being provided with private accommodations and various amenities and privileges. This corrody is unusual in its degree of detail about the terms. It was rare for the college to make this type of arrangement; more common were arrangements for spiritual benefits, such as endowments in return for obits, or that by which Salisbury citizen Gervase Apothecarius and his wife Emma agreed to up the rent they paid the college for a tenement in Minster Street, in return for two candles being kept burning perpetually for their souls. The Moton arrangement was not, however, the earliest corrody granted by the college. In 1304 John de Wotton had endowed it with a piece of land in return for a corrody giving him the same support, for the rest of his life, as a fellow of the college.

A subsequent entry in the cartulary, drawn up ca.1447, is a copy of a record of a grant made in the borough court, a little later in the same year, by Roger and Christine to Gilbert Lovel, representing payment for the corrody granted by the college. This payment was in the form of an endowment to the college of the Moton's property in Minster Street and Winchester Street, including one tenement (possibly a shop) near the west gate of the college, along with 43s. in rents from other properties. Lovel, in his role as a canon of the cathedral chapter, became the feoffee of these properties, on behalf of the college, until a licence for alienation in mortmain could be obtained (1325), allowing him to transfer the property to himself, as warden, and the scholars. The income from these properties would provide the funding for the college to support the living expenses of the Motons; after their deaths, the college would be able to reallocate the income to its own uses, other than the money required for the celebration of the anniversary masses.



"Roger Fouk"
One of the more prominent scholars, who had served as acting master in 1296.

"a privy and a fireplace"
It may seem odd to specify that the chamber in which the Motons would live would be equipped with privy and fireplace/chimney – features taken for granted in the western world in the latter half of the 20th century – but they were not standard features in the early 14th century. Fireplaces, for example, were only beginning to be introduced in domestic architecture, largely due to the necessary protective structure surrounding the flue being either expensive (stone) or an innovation (brick).

As the date of the document, based on regnal year, does not specify whether Edward II or Edward III is intended, there is some uncertainty as to whether the date is 1317 or 1337. The former appears more likely, given the identity of the master of the college, yet some of the names of witnesses suggest the later date (without clearly ruling out the earlier).

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Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: December 16, 2010 © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2010