A Frosty Petition

The lay clerks of 1605 were not noted for their good behaviour. Many of them appear before the Dean and Canons to be disciplined, and one of them, Ambrose Frost, was dismissed in 1605. The Chapter Acts record that he was elected and admitted Clerk in September 1600. Along with another lay clerk, Thomas Cherchman, he was admonished in November 1602 for ‘Contemptuous and Irreverent behaviour towards Mr Deane and the Canons…and for their Unquiet and contentious beharviors’. This was probably because of a petition that two of them wrote to the Dean and Canons about their pay. In January 1603 Frost was again admonished for his ‘contemptuous abusage of Mr Deane and in goinge abroad manye daies together contrary to Mr Deanes expresse prohibition’. These admonitions took place in public in the Chapter House.

The next incident took place on 8 July 1605, when the virger was sent to Frost to call him into the Chapter House, but he refused to come on his own. The next day, he was called again and ‘contemptuously answered that he wold not’ and said that he had not sworn canonical obedience to them, and they could say anything to him outside the Chapter House. On the ninth, the virger was sent to him for a third time and again Frost refused. On the sixteenth, Frost was in the Chapter House, but refused to stay in there unless the door was kept open. The statutes about the Clerks were read to him, and he denied that he had sworn an oath to obey them, although when he was admitted to the College he took the oath.

By the 26 July, the Dean and Canons were growing impatient, and sent their officer to require him to come to answer charges about him intolerable and insolent behaviour against them. Yet again he refused unless some other lay clerks accompanied him. The Dean then reviewed the number of incidents against Frost, including irreligious and scandalous behaviours in the choir during services and him ‘contynuall Contemptuous behaviour even in the open streets’ to the Canons, and so, with the consent of the Canons, removed him from his place.

It was probably at this point that Frost wrote to the Lord Chancellor, who was the Visitor of the College, and therefore could be appealed to in disputes. In his petition, he asked for the Lord Chancellor to examine the causes of his expulsion, but also pointed to a Minor Canon, Henry Walker, who, having been expelled from the College, appealed to the Lord Chancellor, who allowed a lawyer of Gray’s Inn to represent him. Walker was then reinstated in 1596. Tellingly, Frost brought this up because also wanted representation because he was ‘both unlearned and also utterly ignorant of the statutes of the colledge as whereupon the causes of his expulsion wille grounded’.

Any reply of the Lord Chancellor is not preserved, but Frost was not readmitted. He features for the final time in April 1606, when Chapter decreed that £10 should be given to him ‘in the waye of Charitie’ – which, perhaps predictably, Frost refused.

Anne Courtney, Assistant Archivist

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.