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Durham Priory Chamberlain's Accounts

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Jurisdiction 1: MonasticDocument category 1: Obedientiaries' accounts
From region: County DurhamFrom place: Durham
Refers to location(s): County Durham, Durham Priory
Relevant material from 1350 to 1528
[NOTE: The PDF of these records – including the introduction, transcription, translation and notes – have been provided by the REED: Durham editors John McKinnell and Mark Chambers, with the permission and assistance of Durham University Library\'s Special Collections staff. These records are offered here in a ‘pre-pub’ format, meaning that have not yet received REED’s full and official editorial checking and formatting. Permission to use or cite this material must be sought from the editors in any instance.]

The chief responsibility of the Chamberlain was for the provision of clothing. The existing priory Chamberlains\' accounts for Durham Priory survive from the years 1334-1533, but relevant REED material appears only between 1350 and 1528. Most of the Chamberlains\' accounts record gifts (dona) made to the Priory Almonry Bishop, also known as the \'Boy\' Bishop (Episcopus puerili).

Boy Bishop ceremonies featured in Durham, York, Beverley and other places with important churches or cathedrals. On feast days appropriate to children – such as the feast of St Nicholas (who became our familiar modern Santa Claus) or the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the children killed by King Herod – churches would appoint a Boy Bishop from among their choristers, to dress in rich robes like those of a real bishop, go in procession through ‘his’ parish, lead the congregation in prayer and preach a sermon. Durham in fact had two, unusually appointed in the summer; one chosen by the Cathedral, the other – the ‘bishop of Elvet’ – in St Oswald’s parish.

The ceremony of the Almonry or Boy Bishop at Durham provides a good example of how a widespread custom could be adapted to local circumstances. The Almonry School probably opened around 1340, and its classroom was the room above the Abbey Gate. The earliest record of the existence of an annual Almonry \'Boy Bishop\' ceremony is in the 1346-7 account of the Prior of Lytham, a cell of Durham Cathedral Priory. In most other places the ceremony took place either on St. Nicholas’ Day (6th December) or on Holy Innocents’ Day (28th December), but in Durham, the ceremony seems to have taken place either in the week of Ascension Day or around Pentecost.

A note on the manuscripts:
One membrane, length between 474 and 1001 mm., width 199-355 mm. Single column; until 1352 expenses are undivided, but thereafter they are in subsections grouped according to subject matter, at first with a separate line for each item. From 1403-14 there is a tendency to group more than one item into a single line, and in the 1440’s some accounts have continuous subsection paragraphs. From 1448 until 1499 there is gain a separate line for each item, after which continuous paragraphs return until the end of the series.

Terminal dates are usually on the Monday after Ascension, with the following exceptions:

1414 – Monday after Ascension to St. Cuthbert in September (4th September)
1440-1 – Friday before Pentecost to Friday after Ascension
1441-2 – Friday after Ascension
1442-3 – Martinmas to Monday after Ascension
1527-8 – Pentecost.