Our Church during the Middle Ages


No 17: Some Medieval Rectors and Vicars

The early, well-born Clerks of Penn, such as ‘Hugh’ and ‘Walter de la Penne’ who we met in Part 16, would have been Rectors, holding the church land in the parish, presumably farmed from Parsonage Farm, as their own property. They would have had humble and probably poorly paid curates, of whom we have almost no record, to actually look after the parishioners.

These priests, both high and low born, may well have been married since clerical celibacy had not yet been enforced in the 12th and 13th centuries.

In 1344, Chalcombe Priory took over as proprietors of the church and enjoyed the rent from the rectory lands, which were let to lay tenants, as well as the rectoral tithes. The Prior started to appoint priests and Canons of his Order as Vicars of Penn but his first appointment, Henry de Rokeby, was not a success. His arrest was ordered, in about 1348, for stealing rabbits.

Together with a party of local worthies, (including Williame Tylere and John le Potterne whose names remind us of that the Penn tile industry was in full swing at the time), the Vicar broke into the close of the neighbouring Vicar of Wooburn and took away 100 rabbits. Presumably they did it for fun but didn’t wait to share the joke with the Sheriff who reported that none of them was to be found. Henry de Rokeby was replaced soon after.

Twenty years later, another Vicar was murdered in the Vicarage. More about him in the next instalment.

© Miles Green, December 1998

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