Trouble in Canons’ Cloister

The College of St George was founded by Edward III in 1348. The College statutes of 1352 established a chapter of thirteen Canons, one of whom was to be Dean. These men were to be responsible for the government of the College, making decisions over expenditure, appointments of staff, management of the estates and all other affairs relative to the business of the College. The Chapter Acts form a record of the issues discussed and the decisions reached, and as such shed light on the weird and wonderful goings on in the College.

On the 7 April 1674, one of the Canons, Dr Hascard, informed the Chapter that all the glass windows on one side of his house were all broken. He enquired what he should do about it, and requested that Chapter seek out the person responsible. Two other Canons, Dr Butler and Dr Scott, duly set about investigating the problem, and confirmed that his windows were indeed largely broken. It was their opinion that whoever had done this had done something “which was very scandalous”.

Hascard’s neighbour, Dr Brideoake, Canon of Windsor from 1660 to 1678 and Dean of Salisbury from 1667, was accused of having broken the windows in a dispute regarding privacy, since the windows in question overlooked Brideoake’s yard. Gregory Hascard had recently spent a large sum of money improving his accommodation, and it seems that many of his changes were very unpopular with his neighbour who had written to the Lord Keeper to complain “that his lodgings at Windsor were offended with a light newly enlarged and which over-looked all the privacies of his house”. He was given permission by the Lord Keeper to erect blinds to preserve his privacy.

Rather than resolving the issue, these blinds had “occasioned much discontent and trouble”. The problems between the two families escalated until eventually Hascard’s windows were deliberately broken, with Brideoake the key suspect.

However, during the year 1674, Brideoake had permission from the King to be absent from the College on business in Salisbury, and had been away from the College for some time so how could he have been the one responsible? It was noted in the Acts that the Canons believed that “Dr Brideoake was no way privy to this action” and that “the Act of Chapter ought to be to reconcile and pacify the parties to prevent further scandal”.

A few weeks later, Chapter ordered that the blinds were not to be re-erected without permission, and significantly a copy of this Act was to be delivered to Mrs Brideoake.

It would therefore seem that it was Brideoake’s wife Mary who had engaged in the act of vandalism! Hascard was given permission to mend his windows, with the money to be repaid to him by the one responsible.

The Chapter Acts do not record whether the dispute was resolved, but no more breakages were reported. On 5 October 1678 Ralph Brideoake passed away, bringing an end to any remaining hostility. His impressive monument can be seen in the Bray Chantry.

Eleanor Cracknell (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.