Trouble in the Chancel

The Dean and Canons have been the patrons of Wantage Parish Church since 1421 and have overseen several disputes in that time. In the fifteenth century, the chancel was extended, and aisles were added, which led to a series of complaints in the seventeenth century by the Dean and Canons’ tenant against the Earl of Bath and ‘Mr Barnabe’.The complaints are various:

  • The Earl of Bath is sitting in the Parson’s seat at the side of the chancel, and claiming it to be his own.
  • The complainant wanted to bury his sister in the chancel, but the Earl and Mr Barnabe would not allow it, even though our author had paid for the burial and for chancel repairs costing over £10.
  • Mr Barnabe is sitting in the Patron’s seat, which the complainant takes to be his own, as he is a tenant of the College, who is the patron.
  • One of the aisles has always been counted as the College’s, with the College arms in the stained glass, and the Earl’s arms are in the windows of the other aisle. However, the Earl is now claiming both aisles as his, and will not allow anyone to be buried there except those who please him.
  • And finally, there is such ‘piping singing ringing’ in the church that there is a great deal of difficulty in preaching the sermons.
Secretary hand writing in black ink on rough white paper reading 'of abusses in the Church there/of them that is maynteyind by my/have such pyping singing & rynging/ a sermon it must staye there/quit they abyses
Image of SGC XV.29.31 reading ‘such pyping singing & rynging’

The complainant believes that the Dean and Canons are in a position to correct the Earl and Mr Barnabe and so he is writing to them in the hope that they will appoint an official to put a stop to this behaviour. There is no recorded response from Windsor.

Wantage Parish Church was restored by the Victorians in 1857 and any stained glass was replaced then. Although the Dean and Canons’ involvement today is limited to the church, their interests used to be more wide-ranging. The archive covers accounts of rents paid to the College for glebe lands (lands owned by the church), and St George’s also owned the manor of Wantage, necessitating payments for repairs to the mill in 1487-1488, leases of the manor, and documents connected with holding manor courts.

The Earl of Bath was clearly an ongoing problem, as there is an earlier letter (c. 1596-1603) entitled Unreasonable wronnges offred by my Lord of Bathes officers to your lands and libertye from Robert Wyrdnam, tenant of the Dean and Canons, whose chief complaint is that the Earl keeps the letters from St George’s which are meant for Wyrdnam and does not pass them on. The letter is signed on the outside by Alban Henwood and John Palmer described as ‘old men of Charleton who know much concerning the College manor and lands in Wanting [Wantage]’.

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.