See the article under Chantries for more about chantries in general.
Many chantries were set up between the 13th and 15th centuries.
In Hungerford there were three chantries:
- The Chantry of St Mary (pre-1279 - 1454), re-established as a new foundation in 1457 as The Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
- The Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1457 - 1548).
The following text is based on "The Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary" in "Aspects of the Early History of Hungerford", by Norman Hidden, 2009:
The Founding of the Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
In 1457 a licence was granted for the foundation in the parish church at Hungerford of the chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The licence reveals that the new chantry had very different origins and objectives from those of the Chantry of the Holy Trinity. An abstract of the grant is as follows:-
'1457 March 18 Westminster. Licence to John Norrys esquire, Cecily, late the wife of Thomas Dyne, John Tukhill and William Horshill burgesses of Hungerford, County Berks, to found in honour of the Virgin Mary & St. Lawrence a chantry of one chaplain to celebrate divine service daily at the altar of St Mary the Virgin in the Church of St Lawrence, Hungerford, for the good estate of the king & queen Margaret and the founders and other burgesses of Hungerford and for their souls after death and the soul of the said Thomas, to be called the chantry of the burgesses of Hungerford and the Chaplain to be capable of pleading and of being impleaded in any court and of acquiring possessions'. Licence also for the chaplain to acquire in mortmain lands, rents and other possessions not held in chief to the value of 12 marks a year.
The king is Henry VI and 'the said Thomas' is Thomas Dyne.
The Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a re-foundation of the Chantry of St Mary:
There is one further point which also needs explanation. The Victoria County History of Berkshire suggests that this chantry may have been a re-foundation of a former chantry of St Mary, 'as only one chantry of that dedication appears afterwards'. This is indeed the case, and more solid evidence for its being a re-foundation exists than the Victoria County History was at that time able to adduce.
The Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary was indeed a re-foundation of the former Chantry of St Mary. No licence exists for the original Chantry of St Mary, and 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 reference 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.
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 Charlton 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 1470. 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 1¼ burgages; 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 1¼ burgages, together with the land in Sandon Fee were described as lately Thomas Dyne's'.
The early Chaplains and Priests:
John Phillips was the first chaplain of the new chantry. We know this from a deed of April 1458 granting to him, and to his successors in the chaplaincy, 6 acres of arable land in CharIton. The 'municipal' character of the chantry is stressed by the fact that this deed is witnessed by John Tukhill, Constable, and by Richard Lange, bailiff. It is also the first recorded use of the title Constable in relation to the town of Hungerford.
The Dissolution of the Chantry:
The Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII began in 1536, and was virtually complete by 1541. The Dissolution of the Chantries and Guild Chapels (2,374 of them in all) did not take place until 1547-48, largely under Henry VIII's young son, king Edward VI.
At the dissolution in 1548 the chantry priest was Edward Ransford (Rainsford), about whom nothing further is known except that he appears in the 1552 draft lease of the chantry's possessions as 'late chaplain' and resident of the 'Chantry House'. Care was taken, it would seem, not to turn the former chaplain out onto the streets, but to pension him off, and it seems clear that Raynsford was provided with some local function to perform which justified his remaining at the Chantry House.
The survey was made by Edmund Twynho and to it was added an instruction by William Paget (later Baron Paget of Beaumont), a principal adviser of the late King Henry VIII and Comptroller of the Royal Household on the accession of Edward VI : 'Make a lease of the premises to Roger Chaloner for 21 years beginning at Easter 1548, paying yearly at terms usual £9. 9s. 10d'. Chaloner's interest in the B.V.M. chantry was acquired by Robert Brabant, keeper of the Bear Inn in Charnham Street, an inn already ancient in 1548 and still in existence today. Brabant also acquired the lease of the chantry of the Holy Trinity.