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Durham Cathedral Treasurers Books

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Jurisdiction 1: DiocesanDocument category 1: Cathedral dean and chapter accounts
From region: County DurhamFrom place:
Relevant material from 1597 to 1634
After the death of the first dean (and last prior), Hugh Whitehead, in 1548, Durham had a succession of strongly protestant deans, one of whom, William Whittingham, dean 1563-79, had even spent some years in Geneva and was married to John Calvin’s sister. It is therefore not surprising that most Treasurer’s Books from this period yield no evidence of performance, and the solitary payment to the Earl of Leicester’s players on 28th July 1580 probably reflects the unique privileges enjoyed by that company as a result of its royal patent rather than any appreciation of drama by the dean and chapter (see End Note). But a more relaxed attitude began to appear in the affairs of the cathedral after the arrival of William James (as dean 1596-1606, then as bishop until 1617), for he was famous for the quality of his entertainment. This trend was maintained under Bishop Richard Neile (1617-28) and Dean Richard Hunt (1620-38), when the Cathedral came under increasing Laudian, high-church influence.

The statutes of the Dean and Chapter also required continued annual accounts in roll form, but these continue the trend towards mere formality which is already apparent in the late rolls of the Bursar. Treasurer’s rolls survive between 1547 and 1607 and have all been searched, but they present the finances of the Cathedral in such a summarised form that they contain no material relevant to performance.

These records are offered in a pre-pub format, meaning they have not yet been through the vigorous editorial procedures for full REED publication (which will take place over the next year). Permission to use, share or quote the records must be sought from the REED: Durham editors John McKinnell and Mark Chambers.

Boroughbridge Record

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Jurisdiction 1: DiocesanDocument category 1: Metropolitical and diocesan visitation articles and injunctions
Jurisdiction 2: ParishDocument category 2: Churchwardens' accounts
From region: Yorkshire, WestFrom place: Boroughbridge
Relevant material from 1589 to 0
The Diocesan Visitation of 1589 provides evidence of the celebration of a traditional local custom at Boroughbridge, the election of a \'summer lord\'. The injunction to the churchwardens of the parish suggests that the ecclesiastical authorities aimed to control, but not to suppress apparently, the festivities associated with the parish event.

Durham Priory Locelli

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Jurisdiction 1: DiocesanDocument category 1: Cathedral memoranda and correspondence
From region: County DurhamFrom place: Durham Priory
Relevant material from 1237 to 1507
The designation locelli (from Latin locellus, lit. ‘a little place’) originally referred to boxes or chests in which important documents were stored. Now referring to a category of important Priory documents, the Durham locelli contain several fascinating records for ‘performance’ from pre-Reformation Durham. For example, there is a very early record of the presumed death of a tight-rope walker who apparently fell from the towers of Durham Cathedral! This appears in Durham Priory Locelli VI:20, under the 1237 ‘Objections of King Henry III to the Election of Prior Thomas Melsonby as Bishop’ (DUL Loc.VI:20). Among other accusations, the king was accusing the prior of manslaughter by (apparently) having let the performer attempt such a dangerous act on his cathedral church.

Other valuable records include:

• a letter of King Edward III of 1372, written to the Prior and convent of Durham, requesting prayers and processions to assure success in his proposed campaign against the King of France (Loc.I:55);

• a record of a complaint made by the priory following a Benedictine visitation in the last decades of the fourteenth century (Loc:XXVII). In it, the monks complain that minstrels and others (who were presumably performing in the Prior’s Hall) are being allowed to use the privies in the building where the brothers are eating;

• from 1394, there is a letter from Bishop Walter Skirlaw to the Prior, giving instructions for religious processions during a time of war (Loc.XVII:5); in this case, King Richard II had embarked for Ireland towards the end of September of 1394 in order to quell rebellion;

• sometime around 1435, the Archbishop of York, John Kempe, wrote a very disconsolate letter to Thomas Langley, Bishop of Durham, commanding processions and other penitential acts (Loc.:XVII.21); in this document, reference England’s recent troubles may be an allusion to the Burgundians’ desertion of their alliance with England in September 1435, when the Archbishop had himself presided over the unsuccessful English negotiating team;

• Loc.XVII:15 contains a comperta (a list of findings) made by the Bishop after his visitation of Durham Priory. Here the monks complain that visiting lords should help provide for their own performers (minstrels, acting troupes, etc.), rather than relying on the meagre provisions of the priory;

• Loc.XIII:22 contains a payment to ‘minstrels’ by the priory;

• Loc.XX:21 is a letter dated 20th October, 1452, from the Bishop of Durham to the Prior, written in time of plague and commanding processions and other penitential acts;

• Loc.XXVII:29 tells us a bit more about church drama in Durham in the period: it contains a list of petitions dating from May, 1464, and notes, among other things, that the Sub-Prior should ‘be the keeper of the chalices and missals pertaining to liturgical plays’;

• an inventory of the Prior’s of 1464-5 lists payment to ‘minstrels’ and other servants (Loc. XVIII:110):

• Loc.XVII:38 contains yet another letter from the Bishop of Durham (in this case Lawrence Booth; 1457-76) to the Prior, requesting processions in time of trouble; in this case, the Bishop relays a papal request for processions in support of a proposed crusade to the Holy Land (1465);

• finally, an inventory of 17th September, 1507 (Loc.XXXVII:10) containing record of a payment to a minstrel named ‘Craykke’.

The locelli represent a category of document of medieval origin, though somewhat modified in modern times. It consists of a variety of papers that are grouped roughly according to subject matter, though with occasional deviations; thus most of the requests for processions are in Loc.XVII, some documents connected with visitations appear under Loc.XXVII, and wills of secular people are in Loc.XXXVII. A brief calendar, available in the Search Room of the Palace Green Library in Durham, was searched for any document that might contain anything relating to performance. All documents that might possibly contain any relevant were then read in detail.

These pre-pub records have been made available by the REED: Durham editors John McKinnell and Mark Chambers. We are grateful to Durham Cathedral and Durham University Libraries for making these documents available to us.

Fewston Records

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Jurisdiction 1: Star ChamberDocument category 1: N/A
Jurisdiction 2: DiocesanDocument category 2: Metropolitical and diocesan visitation articles and injunctions
From region: Yorkshire, WestFrom place: Fewston
Relevant material from 1596 to 1622
Fewston Records

The records of performance activity in the small village of Fewston arose from conflicts occasioned by rushbearings in 1596 and 1619 brought to the Church of St. Matthew and St. Lawrence. The conflicts led to charges heard in the Archdiocesan Court of York and the Court of Star Chamber. At the time of the first case, Nicholas Smithson was the vicar of Fewston, though he was not directly involved. In the second case, Smithson and three of his sons were the principal defendants, arguing against the complaint of Thomas Herryson, a local husbandman, that they had violently resisted the performance of the local custom and openly criticized King James\' Book of Sports as contrary to the law of God.

In the transcriptions, italics indicate the extension of an abbreviation in the manuscript; an asterisk (*) precedes an item in the left margin; and caret brackets (<…>) set off material that is illegible or lost because of damage.

Leeds Records

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Jurisdiction 1: Star ChamberDocument category 1: N/A
Jurisdiction 2: DiocesanDocument category 2: Metropolitical and diocesan visitation articles and injunctions
From region: Yorkshire, WestFrom place: Leeds
Relevant material from 1594 to 1621
Although we have not civic records that document performances in Leeds, the diocesan court of York and the Court of Star Chamber provide evidence of music during the time of divine service, two rushbearings, and two defamatory songs. All the records involve influential civic leaders, such as John Harrison, the \'benefactor of Leeds\'; John Metcalfe, deputy bailiff; Robert Cooke, vicar; and his successor in that office, his brother and curate, Alexander Cooke. The records provide evidence of the conflicts arising from the efforts to strengthen and develop the religious, economic, and political institutions of the borough.

The format of the allegedly libellous songs in both the Star Chamber cases is editorial: we have set the songs as verse to facilitate the reading of them and to break up the single block of text produced by the court scribe.