The 500th anniversary of Canon John Oxenbridge’s death is on 25 July 2022. He is a man who is best remembered at St George’s for the chantry chapel which bears his name, and the dramatic discovery of his will. But what was his role when he was alive?
He was a clerk, and possibly studied Canon Law at the University of Valencia before taking up minor roles within the Church. He was also appointed a King’s Clerk by 1505 and a Royal chaplain by the time he became a canon at Windsor in May 1509.
There are very few records relating to Oxenbridge during his time as a canon. However, he was Canon Steward for a time, with responsibility for overseeing the management of the Dean and Canons’ properties around England and Wales. This involved a certain amount of travel, for which he was paid expenses.
There are three receipts from his time as steward, [SGC XV.57.30] all for costs Oxenbridge incurred while holding courts at manors which the Dean and Canons owned. The amounts expended are very similar, all around 16 shillings. All three courts were held on Thursdays and two were held at Leighton Buzzard. This bill, in English (the other two are in Latin), is dated 15 April in the 4th year of Henry VIII’s reign (1513), and specifies that the court was held the Thursday after ‘Hocke Monday’, an old term for the Monday in the second week after Easter.
The Dean and Canons were granted Leighton Buzzard in 1479 and hold many records concerning it. Oxenbridge appears again in connection with the manor in 1516 [SGC XV.25.89] when he leases land from the manor in his role as a canon, acting on behalf of the College. This was one of the functions of the Canon Steward. The Steward’s main role was to receive revenues from College property, which included finding lessees who would rent properties for a sum which had to be approved by the rest of the College. In the century before Oxenbridge, the Steward had occasionally been unable to secure a sufficiently high rent for some properties and he had therefore been forced to pay the remaining money due to the College out of his own pocket.
Oxenbridge was not always described as a canon in property grants. One document from March 1520 shows land being granted in Binfield [XV.10.15] to Oxenbridge, Canon James Denton (who built the hall that once stood on the site of Denton’s Commons) and William Duffield. Unlike the Leighton Buzzard grant, Oxenbridge is described in this document as a clerk. Canon Steward was a natural office for the man who had been appointed a King’s Clerk by Henry VII, who was known for choosing efficient ministers.