The First Catalogue?

William Day (Dean 1572-1595) was not fondly remembered in Windsor. He seems to have been reasonably popular previously (he is described as affable and courteous when he was at Cambridge), but less popular in Windsor. Thomas Frith (Canon, 1610-1631) called him a rapacious and unpopular Dean, blaming him for reducing the College revenues by leasing out College estates. Lord Chancellor Ellesmere is supposed to have said ‘Dean Day had excellent skill to creep out of the law’. However, this unpopularity may have been because Day preserved the long-term assets of the College, while reducing the short-term gains for the canons.

16th century handwriting in black ink on rough paper
An inventory of the particular evidences left with the college by my Lord elect of Winton at his departure hence [SGC XI.D.29].

The Chapter Acts (minutes of the Governing Body) are missing from his time. But Dean Day also seems to have created a small catalogue of the records of the College, the earliest catalogue we hold. It is titled ‘An inventory of the particular evidences left with the college by my Lord elect of Winton [William Day] at his departure hence’. The items recorded within it are not Day’s own private records but those of the College as a whole. Nor do they just cover his time as Dean but they go back as far as the reign of Edward III. Many of these items are still identifiable in our collection. Some of the descriptions and titles have barely changed and they are easily comparable with their modern equivalents:

  • A courte Rowle of Estbourne in paper 1581 compared to East Enborne, Berkshire. Court roll. 1581.
  • Compotus Edmundi Clovell thesaur Edw 3i 42 compared to Compotus. Account roll of Edmund Clouille, Canon Steward of Windsor. 29 September 1369 – 29 September 1370 [the 42nd year of Edward III’s reign].

Some of them have less clear descriptions:

  • The Queen’s booke with the greate seale for the poore knights
  • This booke Mr Browne hath, to be kept for the rest of the Canons to write out

And some of them have an air of haste about their description:

  • Certaine breifs of accompte of Treasurer & Steward & chaunter being 33 parcells
  • Certaine debt bills tied together in one bundell

Occasionally there is also some reference to how they were stored. Several of them are grouped together with a note ‘all these are in one canvas bagg’.

The main question is why this catalogue was created. These were College records, not personal ones, and so we would expect Day to have left them intact and not to have taken any of them away with him. Perhaps the canons were already suspicious about the lack of Chapter Acts or Day wanted to counter his reputation as a dubious pair of hands.

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.