Chantry Priest of Barnet - Alfred J. Church

Of the College of St. Mary Magdelen

On the Feast of St. Mary Magdalen, in the year 1456, the Lord Bishop of Winchester did by God's blessing and favour fulfil the purpose which was in his heart, founding his college, which he named after the said saint, to whose honour he had ever a most special devotion. Let no one, indeed, think that he has at this time altogether finished the said college. Verily, at this present writing much yet remaineth to be done. Nevertheless, he at this time made a beginning, yea, and such a beginning as would have contented one of a less princely heart for an end. For on the feast day aforesaid there were finished for use lodgings for the President of the said college, and chambers for certain of the fellows and demies (for he called the scholars demies as having half commons). Also, there were built such necessary things as a kitchen and a buttery. But the chapel and the hall were not yet finished. For the Bishop was minded that these should be of such an excellence as should not be surpassed in any college of Christendom. And for the sustentation of this said college he had given sundry manors. Certain benefices also had he given, that when they that taught therein had fulfilled a certain number of years they might for greater ease and rest—for the Bishop knew how much toil and trouble they have who teach—be presented to the said benefices. Now the order of the doings on this day were as I shall now write.

First, there was the singing of High Mass in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, at which many were present, and not a few notable persons—bishops, and abbots, and nobles, and the Chancellor, George Nevill, of Balliol College, and the principals of all the colleges, being seven in number, for the Rector of Lincoln College, Master Beck, came not, being hindered by the sickness of which not long after he died. Mass having been sung, the Bishop cometh to the Hall of St. Mary Magdalen, which was indeed to the college of the like name even as in the Commonwealth of the Jews the tabernacle was to the temple. In the said hall were gathered together the President and masters and scholars, and all others that did partake of the Bishop's bounty. And all the place about, even to the housetops, was crowded with an innumerable company of spectators. Then the Bishop leadeth across to the college the whole company of masters and scholars, the people making a great shouting, and not a few praying to God that He would bless this great work. Even as in old time some man of renown would lead a colony from a city whose borders were too strait for its inhabitants, so did the Bishop lead his company. And verily, as such founders of colonies were ever held in especial honour throughout all generations, so shall the Bishop be held in honour by all that enjoy his benefactions in time to come; yea, and by all Christian men. Truly, the lines have fallen in pleasant places to them that have a part in this college. For, not to speak of the beauty and conveniency of the buildings, the place itself is by nature delightsome. Here Cherwell floweth with a clear stream, bordered with fair trees; and there is a park of deer, such as a baron or earl might gladly possess. And when the Bishop, the President and masters and scholars following him, had compassed the whole domain, he gathered the whole company together under a great tree that there was, they of the college standing nighest to him, and the rest—that is to say, all the notable persons both in the University and in the city of Oxford—being without, and made an oration, of which I will here set clown the substance. "Ye see here the beginning of a work which I have purposed to do for the glory of God, and for the commemoration of the Blessed Saint Mary Magdalen, and for the setting forward of religion and sound learning in this University and realm. And now, not for the glorifying of myself, but for the more effectual carrying out of my purpose, I will declare what is in my heart to do. I will that there be a President and Fellows of this college, the said Fellows being forty in number, priests all of them, but given to various studies such as are commonly followed in this place; and because there hath been talk elsewhere of favour and partiality in the choosing of fellows, I will that these be taken from various shires and dioceses in this realm as shall be ordered hereafter. And there shall be thirty scholars who shall be called demies. And for the more decent performance of divine, service there shall be chaplains skilled in singing, also singing men and singing boys, and for the teaching of the said boys and of others dwelling in this town, a schoolmaster and an usher. And I do lay a charge on all that are now or shall be hereafter partakers of this benefaction that they use such good things as shall be provided soberly and in the fear of God, and for the promoting of true religion and sound learning. And because the frailty of man is such that he needeth overseeing, I have ordained that the Bishop of Winchester shall be visitor of this college, with power to correct all disorders and abuses, so only that he change not the statutes that are made for its good government." This oration ended, the Bishop took from the hands of his notary sundry parchments and gave them to the President. "Here," said he, "ye have the titles of sundry manors and benefices which I have given, even as God hath given them to me, for your sustentation. Take heed that ye waste them not." After this the notary read aloud the charter under the hand of the King, whereby the President, fellows, and demies of the College of St. Mary Magdalen were made a Corporation with power to hold lands. And this done, the Bishop gave to the President a seal, saying, "Ye shall use this seal when ye shall have occasion to make any deed."

After this we went to the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, the chapel of the hall being too strait for the company, where the clerks sang the Te Deum Laudamus. This ended, it being now one of the clock, there was a great feast held. Of this I have kept the bill, and will here set it forth, knowing that such matters, though they are but of little moment to them that read at this present, will seem notable to them that come after. For do we not ourselves read with much pleasure how the ancients did eat and drink, at what price they did buy flesh and fish and wine, and many other matters of the same kind?

First. Brawn and mustard, with Malmsey.

A subtlety of St. George (that is to say, a figure of St. George slaying the Dragon done in sugar and wax).
Soup of meat of Cyprus.
Partridge in Red sauce.
Pestles of Venison roast.
Swan roast.
Fatted Capons.
Teals roast.
Pike salted.
Woodcocks baked.
Partridge in jelly.
A Dolphin in paste, a subtlety.
A Hart, a subtlety.
Crane roast.
Cony roast.
Heronshaw roast.
Curlewe roast.
Venison baked.
A Dragon, a subtlety.
Jelly of Damascus.
Samson, a subtlety.
Dates in paste.
Peacock with his beak gilt.
Rabbits roast.
Partridges roast.
Plovers and Quails roast.
Larks roast.
Tench in jelly.
Venison baked.
Marchpane of filberts, pine nuts, pistachios, almonds, and rosed sugar.
Also Wafers and Hippocras when dinner was done.

Dinner ended, the Bishop drank to the President, and after gave him the cup out of the which he drank, a fair goblet of silver gilt, having three handles, which might hold three quarts at the least, saying, "This shall be thy cup, Master President, and of them that shall sit after thee in thy place." And the Chancellor drank to the Bishop. After this the company rose up and went each man to his own place.

The same day, after evensong, which the Bishop did sing himself, for he is not one who will do all such things by his chaplain, the Bishop sendeth for me, and, after he had questioned me of my welfare and of my studies, putting to me sundry questions in logic and philosophy which, by the favour of the Saints, I answered not amiss, he said, "Thy elders speak well of thee, Nephew Thomas. Now, as this is a day of benefactions, ask what thou wilt; and if it be within reason, as I doubt not it will, it shall be done unto thee." Then I bethought me of John Eliot, and that haply I might further his fortunes. So I set forth to the Bishop his poor estate and his great love of learning, saying at the last, "One hath helped him that he is not in any present need; but I doubt me much how it shall fare with him in the time to come; for he came to this place, he telleth me, but ill-taught, and can scarce answer for his degree for three years." Then said the Bishop, "And who is it that helped him? Nay, answer not, for thy blush betrayeth thee. Thou shalt have thy desire. I must needs ask, if it be but for form's sake, of the Principal of Peckwater, what manner of life he hath followed. And if, as I doubt not, the report be good, thy friend shall have a demy's place in the college." And this, that I be not tedious, was done the day following. After this the friendship that was between us two grew yet stronger and closer, seeing that we had not only as before oneness of temper, but also oneness of place.