ID: SAL_CTY / Elaine Barker

TitleSalcott Wigborough Chantry

What we now generally know as Salcott was formerly a hamlet of Great Wigborough, and, separated by a creek, a chapel-of-ease was built at Salcott Wigborough for the people there, but served by the rector of Great Wigborough Tom Millatt The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin: Salcott

Although St Mary's Church, Salcott Wigborough was appendant to St. Stephen's Church in Great Wigborough and did not have its own rector, it did, however, have a chantry priest in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, expressly to pray for the souls of those who had left endowments for that purpose.

In 1480, a chantry was founded at St Mary's with an endowment from wealthy landowner, John Baron (also spelt Bajon where it appears in Latin). He owned The Hyde in Great Wigborough and may even have been responsible for having the house built in the mid 1400s. He died in 1480 and willed that the profits from some of his lands be used to fund a chantry priest to sing Mass and administer the sacraments in perpetuity, to commend his soul to God and ensure salvation.

Baron's endowment, however, was only to last until the Reformation.

Having started with the monasteries, Henry VIII began the dissolution of chantries.

In 1545, an Act was passed to rule that chantries were, in fact, misapplied funds and misappropriated lands. Henry's purpose was to confiscate chantry lands and possessions to fund the war with France. It wasn't until his son, Edward VI, came to the throne and passed an act in 1547, suppressing the 2,374 chantries and guild chapels, that what Henry had begun was completed.

Many chantries had been set up between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. Sometimes it was a dedicated building but, in the case of Salcott Wigborough, the Masses were sung in the parish church, St Mary's. Often the chantry priests were older men and they would assist the parish priest serving as curates and sometimes as local schoolmasters. By 1535 there were 65 chantries in Essex including Salcott Wigborough.

From Easter 1548, chantries were dissolved and possessions, along with the endowments, became Crown property. The chantry priests were pensioned off and it is recorded that the priest at Salcott Wigborough was awarded a pension of £6 per annum.

According to the mid-seventeenth century antiquarian, Symonds, it would seem that there was a brass memorial to John Bajon and his wife, Margaret, in St Stephens, Great Wigborough or in the appendant church of Salcott Wigborough's church, it is not quite clear.

Upon a flat stone inlaid with brass the picture of a man and woman in brass. At their feet a plate of brass in old letters with this inscription


Here lies John Bajon and Margaret his wife which same John died 10th September 1480. On whose souls God have mercy.

From the Certificate of Chantry Lands, temp Edward VI 1547 quoted in Holman's History of Essex we learn a wealth of detail about the chantry

Lands and tenements then put in feoffment [grant of ownership] by John Baron and John Marchant*, clerke, to find a priest to sing in the said Towne of Salcott Wigborow and to minister sacraments and sacramentalls within the said towne. And one, Sir William Tewys, clerke, of the age of fifty years and more having none other promotion and of good usage and conversation and learning is now the incumbent thereof. The said towne of Salcote is very great having in it about the number of 140 houseling people [communicants]. And have no other priest but him the said incumbent celebrateth in the said church of Salcott. The yerely value of the same doth amount to the sum of £8 12s 8d.

* John Marchant (spelt Marchaunt in his will) was the rector of Salcott Virley in the mid 15th century and it is from his will written in Latin in 1483, during the reign of Richard III, that we discover not only was John Baron's endowment of a chantry in place but there was also a local guild.

Endowing a private chantry was generally much too expensive for most people but there was a strong desire in most people to have mass said for their souls after death. This was a time when Purgatory, half-way between heaven and hell, was a fearful prospect and people 'clubbed' together in guilds to pay for prayer or lights for the souls of the deceased. Not to be confused with the trade and craft guilds these religious guilds have been described as a cross between a social club and a friendly society. Members paid a fee and often gave gifts of property to the guild which would then pay a chantry to have masses said for its members. Guilds also supported the burning of a light perpetually or on special saints' days. This 'intercession' would ensure the soul's stay in purgatory was as brief as possible.

John Marchaunt's will is worth reproducing in its entirety for the fascinating information it gives. It also reveals his obligation to John Baron who had only endowed the Chantry some three years before.

REF: Essex Record Office D/ABW 25/2 Will of John Marchaunt

In the name of God amen, Friday after the feast of saint Michael
the Archangel in the year of the Lord one thousand[th] four hundred[th] and third*and in the year
of the reign of king Richard after the conquest of England first I John
Marchaunt of Salcot Wigborough, chaplain, of sound mind and
good memory though sick in body now make my Will in
this manner. First, I leave to the chapel of Salcot 20s to provide
two candles thus, one before the image of the Holy Trinity
and the other before the image of the blessed Mary in the nave at the altar of the same
chapel, there to burn in perpetuity in future years following the custom
of other lights in the same chapel. Item, I bequeath to the chapel aforesaid
20s in respect of two cows so that the anniversary of my death each year there
be observed with land/rent for the same. Concerning which land/rent I wish that a curate there
shall order, on the anniversary day of death aforesaid, a dirge and mass to be celebrated for the souls
of my parents and of all their dead friends 4d. The guild priest
if he shall be present 2d. The sacristan for his labour and bellringing 4d. Item
to the poor 5d for light 2d for bread and ale 2d. The residue of the rent
before said to be disposed following the directions of the wardens. Item I wish that the aforesaid
guild priest and his successors, in whatever week, on which day is convenient
and agreeable he will wish to say a placebo and dirge, praises and commendations
with a requiem mass spoken for the soul of my master John Baron, on the above dates
of the services of the guild priest aforesaid ,and for the souls of Margery his wife, parents,
their friends and also for my soul and for the souls of Robert and Alice parents
of me, John Marchaunt my grandfather, Joan his wife, Isabelle
Clarke my sister, Robert Smyth of Mersea, Agnes his wife
and all my dead relatives by blood and friends and for the souls
of brothers and sisters of the guild aforesaid. Item I wish that it shall have for its work
a certain piece of land lying in Little Badowe containing four
acres of land by estimation bought by my executors for the intention aforesaid .

* the date is not clear but Richard III came to the throne in 1483 and reigned for two years.

Sixty four years later, the Certificate of Chantry Lands in 1547 reveals those lands which were held then.

John Corell holdeth a piece of land called Paris given to find a light for ever; by the yere 12d

One piece of land conteyning 3 roodes in the tenure of the Churchwardens there to find an obit [church service for the deceased] for ever; by the year 3s 4d. Whereof to the poore 20d; remaining cleere 20d

One tenement with a piece of land called Songar given to find a obit for over 11s. In the tenure of John Sugeworth yerely ...whereof to the poore 6/8; for the reparations of the Church 3/8; remaining cleere 8d

The Chantry of Salcote Wigborough is lately dissolved and all messuages, lands, and tenements, meadows and pastures, marshes and hereditaments whatsoever with the appurtenances in the tenure of William Pore lying in Langenhoe, belonging to the said Chantry; and also a croft of land called Bardfields conteyning 5 acres with the appurtenances lying in Salcot Wigborough, Peldon and Mersey, belonging to the said Chantry; and also that piece of land in the tenure of John Bossewell lying in little Badewe [Baddow]belonging to the said chantry was granted by Edward VI 2 Sept 4 reg [1551]to John Raynforth

As we discover from the survey done at the time, the chantry lands, previously used for the endowment, went to the Crown and were then in 1551 granted by King Edward VI to John Raynforth (sometimes spelt Raynsford), Sheriff of Essex. The silver plate was confiscated and Raynforth also took the church bells.

In the unpublished notes from the late Tom Millatt, he traces John Baron's descendants to Layer Breton and Layer Marney where they were wealthy landowners (one marrying into the Tuke family of Layer Marney Tower).

With the Reformation, John Bajon's endowment came to an end after about 68 years - sadly not as intended in perpetuity.

Elaine Barker

Thanks to Wendy Smedley for the translation of John Marchaunt's will

Read More
A History of the Parish Church of St Mary Salcott

AuthorElaine Barker
SourceMersea Museum