The earliest known Chantry in the Parish Church of St Lawrence was the Chantry of St Mary, available for anyone who paid a small obit "for the celebration of the mass in the chapel of St Anne in Hungerford church."
Norman Hidden states, in Aspects of the Early History of Hungerford, that "The original chantry of St Mary was of ancient foundation, and as no licence for it exists, neither the date nor the details of its foundation are known. Certainly it must have been founded before Edward I’s Statute of Mortmain came into effect in 1279 which required a royal licence for lands to be alienated to religious uses. The Victoria County History of Berkshire gives as its earliest refe rence a date ‘early in the 14th century’ when John Barfot made a grant for celebration of mass in the chapel of St Mary. In fact, there is an even earlier reference in an ancient deed dated 1273 which mentions John Blundel, chaplain of the Blessed Mary of Hungerford (3).
That the chantry was well supported in this early period is attested by two grants in frankalmoign which may be approximately dated late 13th century(4). In one John Barefot granted to the chantry of St Mary one half burgage in Hungerford; in the other Ralph de Waleton granted to Sir Peter, the perpetual curate of St Mary’s, and his successors, one croft of land in Stocken Street in Hungerford. In 1329 a grant was made by Philip, ‘chaplain of the Blessed Mary of Hungerford’ in which he released to Peter Molton all his right in a messuage in Hungerford, presumably one of the chantry’s earlier holdings(5).
In 1405 the chaplain was William Golding and during Golding’s term of office it becomes apparent that a serious decline of standards had set in. Golding had been appointed chaplain of North Standen chapel in 1372 by John of Gaunt; he was also prior of St John’s hospital in Hungerford, another appointment in the gift of the Duke of Lancaster; and in 1406 the manor of Hungerford which belonged to the Crown was leased to him by King Henry IV. Golding was a figure of much controversy within the parish. He was repeatedly accused of adultery or fornication and clearly clashed with the local
vicar, Robert Nappe(6). A new chaplain was appointed to replace him in 1409; this was John Botiler who had previously (1406) been chaplain of the chapel in South Standen; and he was still chaplain on Dean Chandler’s Visitation in 1412. A survey at that time of the chapel’s ‘ornaments’ recorded in the Register shows that it possessed a bare minimum, viz. a silver chalice, one missal, one pair of vestments coloured red and impressed with gilt whirls, which was in a ‘worn’ condition(7).
At some date after this, local townsmen seem to have intervened, for the chantry of St. Mary is known to have been functioning as late as
1438 with John Farthingale, ‘called St. Mary priest as chaplain and - most importantly - with three named stewards to oversee the chantry’s rents(8). These stewards - Thomas Dyne, William Horshill, and Richard Boucher - were neither gentry nor clerics, but prominent and influential men of the tradesman class. The continuing state of instability and social decadence experienced by such men during these years could only have given impetus to the idea of a local organisation controlled more by townsmen and less by either manorial lord (the Duke of Lancaster) or by bishop. What was
needed for this re-formation in particular was a source of substantial funding. The occasion which made it possible was a gift of lands, messuages and tenements made by Thomas Dyne.
Dyne had inherited lands from his father in the town and fields of Hungerford, as well as in neighbouring areas such as Sandon, Inkpen and le Hulle. In one document of the period he is described as ‘draper’ and in a later one as ‘gentleman’. Dyne’s father was also named Thomas, and it is probable that the earlier reference to Thomas Dyne draper may have been to the father; and the later reference to the son, who inherited the business as well as the lands. In those days a role as draper was considerably greater than owning a small retail shop. Any and almost every activity of the cloth
industry, retail and wholesale and entrepreneurial, might be involved. In addition, in small towns especially, the only source of loans for the small man tended to be the larger local business men; substantial townsmen therefore tended to become mortgagors and financiers to those whose characters and circumstances they knew well, on the security of land and property which they also knew well.
The Chantry of St Mary is re-founded:
In January 1454/5, a few months before his death, Thomas Dyne with two of his fellow stewards of the original chantry of St. Mary made a grant of enfeoffment of all the lands, messuages and tenements which the grantors held in Hungerford, Sandon and CharIton to a new set of feoffees, with an impressive list of local dignitaries as witnesses. All this suggests that a new foundation was being prepared in which the objects of the chantry were to be differently defined and in which the burgesses of Hungerford were to play a leading role, in particular the town’s officials superceding the
older chantry’s stewards. In this way it may have been hoped that greater continuity of control might be exercised and greater certainty as to ownership of the chantry lands maintained. There is no doubt that the foundation of a ‘chantry of the burgesses’ was part of a growing municipal spirit, itself the reflection of a growing prosperity.
Although the 1454/5 grant of enfeoffment did not specify details of the lands, messuages and tenements thus transferred it is possible to piece together the chantry possessions in the town of Hungerford and the fee of Sandon from a rental which was taken circa 14709. In the town these were one burgage, five separate half burgages, three separate part-burgages, and certain other part-burgages which seem to have been grouped together to make about 1 1/4burgages; and in Sandon Fee an indeterminate but probably extensive area of land. Of these, one burgage, two separate half burgages, and that group of part-burgages which totalled approximately 1 1/4burgages, together with the land in Sandon Fee were described as lately Thomas Dyne’s’. It may be presumed that the remainder of the chantry holdings detailed in the rental derived from the original foundation. The list of chantry holdings is not complete because the rental does not cover lands or dwellings outside Hungerford and Sandon Fee; and Dyne is known to have had two messuages in Newbury, which accrued to the chantry10, as well as lands in Inkpen and la Hulle.
Since the name Dyne died out in Hungerford and district after the death of Thomas, it seems clear that he and his wife Cecily had no children. All the property he had inherited or acquired he made over to the chantry. It is a substantial list and inclines one to reflect on the fact that this foundation, like that of the Holy Trinity chantry in Hungerford, owed its existence to a childless couple. The fact is that those who had children were rarely in a position to make such benefactions; the sense of family was very strong and there was little enough property to spare for other than offspring.
Dyne’s gifts which enriched the chantry, probably trebling its income, necessitated a licence for the alienation of the new lands. At the same time leading townsmen who were also feoffees of the chantry took the opportunity to re-define, in what they would have considered more modern terms, the status and function of the chantry as the ‘chantry of the burgesses’. They also needed to obtain for the chaplain and themselves as stewards of the chantry the right to represent the chantry at law and in the acquisition of possessions. The incorporation of a chantry in this way was a development or deviation from the practice of earlier centuries when chantries were being founded. By 1454, however, the burgesses of Hungerford clearly saw it as a matter of asserting their growing influence. It is interesting to note that they presumably asked for, certainly obtained, a licence for an income of up to £8 p.a. In those days an annual income of £5 was considered a good ‘average’ sum for a chaplain; £8 would have been extremely generous. Presumably, however, where building repair and dilapidation clauses were not part of a property’s lease some chantry income might be needed for this purpose. Also, a sum might be put aside for the furnishings of the chantry itself. The licence cost the burgesses £30, a not insignificant sum in those days(11)."
3 Hastings Ms. 1176
4 Berkshire R.O. HIRTa 32 & 33
5 Hastings Ms. 1181
6 Register of John Chandler, Dean of Salisbury 1406-17, ed. T.C.B.Timmins, 1984
8 Berks R.O. H/RTa 40
9 P.R.O. DL43/1/4
10 Berks R.O. H/RTa 29 & 39
11 Cal. Pat. Rolls 1452-61 p.366