Thomas Barowe – Richard III’s Master of the Rolls

Thomas Barowe – 

Richard III’s Master of the Rolls,

churchman, administrator,

and bound by loyalty[1]

Thomas Barowe was Richard III’s master of the rolls. It is a great pity that to most historians of the late middle ages that is all there is to be said about him, not warranting any further details.[2]

Richard III chose as his motto ‘Loyalty Binds Me’.  Obviously, he felt bound by loyalty to those around him, but it would also be fair to say that he appreciated the loyalty of others in return.  One man who remained loyal to Richard until his own death – 14 years after the Battle of Bosworth – was Master Thomas Barowe.  The following is an attempt to find out more about this man and to show him as an integral part of Richard’s closely interconnected affinity.

I.  Background and education

We do not know exactly when Thomas Barowe was born[3], but to judge from his later career it probably was in the 1430s.  He came from Winthorpe in Lincolnshire, just north of Skegness, where his family can be traced from the 14th century onwards.  Both his brother Richard and nephew Thomas, Richard’s son, were merchants of the staple of Calais, which might give us some indication to his family background.  There was another branch of the family in Wiltshire.

The first extant record of Thomas Barowe is that in approx. 1451 he became a king’s scholar of Eton College, founded 11 years previously by Henry VI.

In 1456, the provost of Eton, William Westbury, nominated him to King’s Hall, Cambridge.  The college had been founded by Edward III to train administrators for the royal court[4] – considering Barowe’s future career, he was at the right place.

Thomas Barowe – Richard III's Master of the Rolls

The Great Gate of what used to be King’s Hall (now Trinity College), Cambridge

Though originally the crown had the exclusive right to nominate students, Henry VI had transferred his right to the provosts of his two recent foundations, Eton and King’s College, in effect making King’s Hall subordinate to the other two.[5]  That is why Thomas Barowe was nominated by Westbury.  He became a fellow of King’s Hall a year after joining the college (1457-8).

King’s Hall does not exist anymore.  In 1546, Henry VIII wanted to found his own college.  Instead of buying new land, he amalgamated King’s Hall and Michaelhouse and seven former hostels into Trinity College.[6]

During the early 1460s, one of his contemporaries at Cambridge was Thomas Langton, a fellow of Pembroke Hall from 1461 to 1464.  Langton later became bishop of St David’s and later Salisbury.

Barowe was admitted as a bachelor of civil law on 18 May 1460, obtained a master’s degree in civil law in 1469–70, and became a licentiate in 1475.  In 1477-78 he was granted a dispensation that qualified him for inception in canon law.

II.  Thomas Barowe’s first appointment

His first appointment was to the vicarage in Chesterton, Cambridgeshire, in September 1468.  He was presented by his college, King’s Hall, which had held the advowson of Chesterton since 1440.  They invariably nominated their own fellows to this living.

During the time of Barowe’s appointment, the warden of King’s Hall was John Gunthorpe (30 September 1467 to December 1473), known as an eminent humanist, who had spent a long time in Italy.  He had close connections to the court of Edward IV, was on the council, and the king’s chaplain, as well as secretary and chaplain to the queen, Elizabeth Woodville.  It is worthwhile keeping this early connection between Thomas Barowe and John Gunthorpe in mind, as the further paths of the two will meet again and again.

III.  How did Thomas Barowe come to the attention of Richard, duke of Gloucester – a mystery

The earliest record for an association between Barowe and Richard of Gloucester is in October 1471. This was only six months after Edward IV’s and Richard’s return from exile in Burgundy during the readeption of Henry VI.  On 28 October 1471, Thomas Barowe received his first presentation from Richard:  he was appointed rector of the church of Castle Camps in Cambridgeshire.   Castle Camps[7] was on de Vere land, which Richard was to receive by formal grant only in December 1471, but as this appointment shows, he seems to have exerted influence there before this date.[8]

At this stage Barowe was still rector of Chesterton, but the Papal Register shows that on 24 October 1469, “Thomas Barowe, perpetual vicar of the parish church of Chestyrton in the diocese of Ely, B.C.L. [was granted] Dispensation to receive and retain for life, together with the said vicarage (value not expressed) any one other benefice, or if he resign the said vicarage any two other benefices”.[9]

It is interesting that the papal dispensation was granted as early as 1469.  Could this mean that there had been earlier hopes for advancement, whether by Richard or others, which were dashed by the political situation?

Richard and Thomas Barowe must have met prior to this presentation.  As there is only a six months’ window between Richard’s return and this appointment, it might be likely that they got to know each other before Richard’s departure in October 1470.  This led Sutton and Visser-Fuchs to speculate whether Barowe might even have shared Richard’s exile.

Various secondary sources state that Barowe had been associated with George Neville, archbishop of York (since 1465), and that it was through this association that he came to the attention of Richard.[10]  Some of these sources suggest that he was one of George Neville’s principal officials, perhaps one of his chaplains, along with Edmund Chaderton and John Shirwood, who also would continue later in Richard III’s service.  However, most of Neville’s protégés, like Shirwood, had an Oxford background, [11] which explains their association.  Neville was Chancellor of Oxford University 1453 to 1457, and again 1461 to 1472, though was then no longer expected to be resident.

Where would Barowe fit into this?  He had no connection to Oxford.  How would someone with a Cambridge degree and an early career in Cambridgeshire have come to Neville’s attention?

At that stage, Barowe did not have any connection to the York diocese either.  He only received his first benefice there in 1472 – more than a year after receiving Castle Camps in 1471.

Actually, it might have been the other way round that it was Richard’s influence rather than Neville’s which secured any position for Barowe in Yorkshire.  Neville’s power of patronage in his see had diminished by 1472, due to his involvement in the readeption of Henry VI (1470-71).  This left a void which seems to have been increasingly filled by Richard of Gloucester.[12]

Of course, Barowe could have been the odd one out among Neville’s Oxford connections, there is, however, an alternative.  I would like to suggest that Barowe came to Richard’s attention through someone much closer to home.  Few would have been in a better position to recognise the young cleric’s abilities than the warden of his college, King’s Hall – John Gunthorpe.  There can be little doubt that with his close connections to the court, he would have been known to Richard.  He would later become keeper of the privy seal for Richard III.

Incidentally, Gunthorpe spent the period of the readeption of Henry VI on a diplomatic mission in Castile.  After Edward’s return, Gunthorpe was made clerk of parliament on 21 June 1471.

IV.  Thomas Barowe and the York diocese

Barowe received several valuable benefices in the York diocese in the early 1470s, at a time when Richard’s influence in the former Neville heartland was rising. The first benefice was Cottingham, where he was instituted as rector on 29 December 1472.  He now resigned from Chesterton, as the papal dispensation only allowed him two benefices.

At the time of obtaining the parish of Cottingham, he also vacated the fellowship of King’s Hall.  Possibly this had to do with the Statutes of King’s Hall of 1380, which stipulated that a member could not hold a benefice worth more than 10 marks per year.[13]

Barowe received this benefice on the king’s presentation, who at that stage held the manor of Cottingham. It is not possible to say, whether Edward IV knew Barowe personally or who might have influenced his decision.  His younger brother comes to mind, though Gunthorpe’s patronage would not have done any damage to Edward’s opinion of Barowe either.

Richard would obtain the manor of Cottingham two years later by exchanging some land with his brother Edward.  In 1484, Richard granted the advowson of Cottingham to the vicars choral of York Minster[14], obviously aided by the rector of Cottingham, Thomas Barowe.  At the same time, Thomas Lynom, later Richard’s solicitor general, was made receiver of Cottingham.   Unfortunately, with Richard’s death, York Minster lost this source of income, as Cottingham went to Margaret Beaufort, who gave it to her husband[15].  However, Barowe retained his position till his death in 1499, no doubt helped by the fact that he would later build a relationship with this indomitable lady.

From here on, Barowe’s career took off.   There is a curious interlude in January 1475: Barowe received two positions:  the sacrist’s prebend at Southwell Minster, which was not endowed with any land, and a stall in St Sepulchre chapel in York, which seems to have been a rather lucrative position.  He resigned from both just two months later, in March.[16]   Why, is not clear, though the reason might simply have been that a better offer came along:  He was appointed canon of Beverley as prebendary of St Stephen’s altar[17] on 4 March 1475.

V.  Richard, duke of Gloucester’s man

Gloucester’s patronage was not limited to Yorkshire.  On 15 March 1475, Barowe received the rectory of Olney in Buckinghamshire.  Olney was a Beauchamp property which belonged to Richard’s mother-in-law, Anne Beauchamp, duchess of Warwick.  In the division of her property after her husband’s death between her two sons-in-law in 1474, Olney went to Gloucester.  At the time, the advowson followed the descent of the manor, but in the spring of 1483, Richard and Anne conveyed it to the dean and canons of the chapel of St. George, Windsor, though this arrangement never seems to have become reality.[18]

On 6 January 1477, Thomas Barowe and his heirs were granted arms for his many years of service to Richard, duke of Gloucester[19].  This marks a turning point in the type of references we find for Barowe.  In the early years, we could follow his association with Gloucester virtually exclusively through records of grants of benifices.  However, from 1477 onwards, we also find records of Barowe in administrative services, though as the text of the grant of arms indicates, he had probably been fulfilling this function before.  This is a by no means an unusual career, as “the class of ecclesiastics might well be considered for the greater part as a class of officials”[20].

Thomas Barowe – Richard III's Master of the Rolls

Queens’ College, Cambridge

The earliest example is Richard’s patronage of Queens’ College, Cambridge.  In 1477, Richard granted the manor of Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire, and its church to Queens’ College, his first gift to that college.  In this transaction, Barowe was one of the feoffees.  Barowe has been credited with persuading Richard to become a benefactor to Cambridge University.[21]

Like Castle Camps, Fowlmere had belonged to the Countess of Oxford.  In return for this gift, Queens’ was to admit four priests, the “four priests of the Duke of Gloucester’s Foundation”.  They were to pray for the souls of Richard and his family, the duke’s friends who had been killed at Barnet and Tewkesbury, as well as John, 12th earl of Oxford, and his wife Elizabeth (the former owner of the property, who herself had died in December 1473).   They were also to pray for “special benefactors of the said college”,[22] among them Thomas Barowe.  Unfortunately for the college, Henry VII restored the manor to John de Vere, 13th earl of Oxford, son of the 12th earl and his wife.[23]

This grant has to be seen in connection with Richard’s college at Middleham.  The statutes for that church state that the dean should be either one of the six chaplains, but should none of them be suitable, it was to be one of these four priests of Queens’ College, Cambridge.

Thomas Barowe – Richard III's Master of the Rolls

Collegiate Church of St Mary and St Alkelda, Middleham

It would be fair to assume that Barowe continued to be used by Gloucester as his contact to the University of Cambridge.  In June 1483, the university wrote a letter to Richard as protector to ask him to show mercy to the university’s chancellor, Thomas Rotherham, archbishop of York and former chancellor of England. In this letter, they thank him for his “bountefull and gracious charite” brought to the university by Thomas Barowe, who was “to his moder the universite a gret and ffathfull lover”[24].

VI.  Further career in church and state

In 1478, Barowe received two more important church appointments:  on 7 March as canon of York with the prebend of Langtoft and, on 22 May, canon of Lichfield with the prebend of Curborough.

His contact to Edward IV, which we first saw in his appointment to Cottingham, continued.  On the occasion of the funeral of George, the eighth child and third son of Edward and Elizabeth Woodville, on 22 March 1479, he was granted a yard of black cloth[25].  And in May 1482 he was on the king’s council.[26]

When on 10 February 1480, Elizabeth Beauchamp, widow of first George Neville, Lord Latimer, and second of Thomas Wake of Blisworth, released her rights to a long list of properties in a quitclaim to Richard, the document also mentions “Thomas Barrow, clerk”.[27]

In February 1482, Barowe was appointed by archbishop Thomas Rotherham to serve as examiner of witnesses in the archdiocesan court of York, which was presided over by William Poteman, the most influential of the three residentiary canons of York.  Also in 1482, he was made a canon of Lincoln as prebendary of Louth.

VII.  The king’s man

Shortly after Richard’s coronation, on 16 July 1483, Barowe received the prebend and canonry of St Stephen’s in the old palace of Westminster.  He seems to have been particularly attached to St Stephen’s, as he would request to be buried there.[28]  Incidentally one of the other canons of St Stephen’s was John Gunthorpe.

On 18 July 1483, Barowe was elevated to become archdeacon of Colchester, which was then one of four archdeacons in the Diocese of London.

He was also made warden of the House of Converts in 1483, a position which had earlier been held by John Morton and then Robert Morton, John’s nephew.[29]  Here Barowe might have met another man who played a role during the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III:  Sir Edward Brampton, a converted Jew, who might possibly have been an inmate of the place in 1468-1472.[30]

Barowe also got more administrative responsibilities once Richard assumed the crown in the summer of 1483.  Barowe had already been recorded as his chancellor previously.  On 22 September 1483, Richard also replaced Robert Morton with Barowe as master of the rolls.[31]   The master of the rolls was responsible for the safe-keeping of charters, patents, and records of important court judgments.  These were written on parchment rolls, which is where the title comes from.[32]  This was the only change Richard made to the judiciary after becoming king.  On 6 December that year, the holder of this position was granted a tun or two pipes of wine per year for the first time.  This grant existed at least to the 1870s.[33]  One tun was 950 to 960 litres, a pipe was 1/2 tun.

As master of the rolls, Barowe was a member of the king’s council.  Quite a few of the councillors had been – like Barowe – in Richard’s affinity before he became king.  This seems to have been a rather close knit group and Barowe was to keep his links to them in the future.  One was his old friend John Gunthorpe (keeper of the privy seal).  Another councillor was Thomas Langton (bishop of St David’s and then of Salisbury), who had been Barowe’s contemporary at Cambridge.

Then there was John Kendall, who had been Richard’s secretary at least since 1474 and would probably have been known to Barowe as well.  Others were the lawyers Morgan Kidwelly and Thomas Lynom.  Kidwelly had, like Barowe, been in Richard’s service since 1471.  He came from a family of professional administrators and was first the duke of Gloucester’s attorney and then the king’s attorney general. Lynom had worked for Richard in 1480 and acted as his secretary in 1481.  As we have seen, he was also Richard’s receiver for Cottingham, a living Barowe had held since 1471. From 26 June 1483, he was the king’s solicitor general.[34]  Others who had continued in the new king’s affinity were Sir James Tyrell and Sir Robert Brackenbury.[35]

Soon after Richard’s accession, Richard Pottyer became his attorney of the duchy of Lancaster in chancery, a role which he might have held already for Richard as duke of Gloucester.  Richard, Pottyer and Thomas Lynom had been gifted the goods and chattels of Sir Thomas Greenfield in 1482, which confirms that he was in Richard’s affinity before the accession.  Pottyer features in Thomas More’s tale as the man, who, on hearing of Edward IV’s death, has the foresight to say that then his “master …  will be king”.[36]

An example of the interaction between the councillors is a document from 1 July 1484 concerning the transfer of the manor of Mawedelyne, Herts, from John and Joan Forster and Thomas and Edith Holbache to Robert Brackenbury, Thomas Barowe, and Morgan Kidwelly.[37]  This property was probably Maudeleyns in Northchurch near Berkhamsted.

In January 1484, Barowe attended Richard’s first parliament, where he was appointed receiver of petitions of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland.  This means he was right there at the forefront of the judicial innovations which occurred during Richard’s reign.  The statutes of the 1484 parliament were the first to be printed and the first to be published in English.  It was probably Barowe and the clerk of parliament, Thomas Hutton[38], who made up the statutes from the public acts.  Copies of these statutes were then distributed so that the population would be informed of the king’s laws.  Another innovation during Richard’s reign was that the Year Books were written in Latin instead of the law French dialect – and Latin was definitely more widely understood.[39]

Richard used Barowe as envoy for peace negotiations with Scotland in September 1484 – another envoy was John Gunthorpe.

At approx. the same time, Richard granted Thomas and his brother Richard Barowe an annuity of 70 shilling from “the ferme of Meles in Skignes in the Countie of Lincoln”.[40]  The word “farm” at this time referred to a fixed annual amount (not a piece of land like today), while “Meles” is a local term for the sand dunes along the coast, which were used as pasture and there were also rabbit warrens.[41]

Thomas Barowe – Richard III's Master of the Rolls

A replica of Richard III’s great seal

When Richard learned that Henry Tudor was set to invade England, he sent Barowe to Bishop Russell to fetch the great seal from him.  Barowe handed it to Richard on 1 August 1485 at seven in the evening in the chapel of Nottingham Castle in the presence of various dignitaries.  Richard gave it back to Barowe appointing him keeper “then and there”[42] until the battle of Bosworth.   This was to be the rather short-lived pinnacle of his administrative career.

VIII.  The new regime

What changed for Thomas Barowe with the new regime?   While during Richard’s reign, his career followed a very clear upward trend, which might one day have led to a bishopric, under Henry Tudor the rise flattened considerably, though it certainly did not plummet either.

One month after Bosworth, on 21 September 1485, he received a general pardon (much sooner than for instance John Gunthorpe, who had to wait till 12 February 1486) and was appointed as one of the masters in chancery.  The top job of master of the rolls, which he had held under Richard III, was returned to John Morton’s nephew Robert.[43].  Barowe would continue in his parliamentary position of receiver of petitions until 1497.[44]

In November of 1485, he and his brother Richard also received a seven-year lease of the “herbage of Meles and Skeques, with the profits of a coney warren”.[45].  This sounds like a confirmation of Richard’s earlier grant of an income 70 shillings from land in Skegness, Lincs. (see above).

He retained most of his church positions:  the rectory of Cottingham, canon of Beverley, York, Lichfield, Lincoln, St Stephen and the archdeaconry of Colchester.  All these he was to keep until his death in 1499.

The only exception is the rectory of Olney.  After Richard’s death, Anne Beauchamp regained Olney and quitclaimed it to the king in 1487-88.[46]  Probably, as a result, Thomas lost this position in August 1488.[47]

However, he managed to add three further benefices to his already impressive list.  Somehow he came to the attention of Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII’s mother, who had close connections to Wimborne in Dorset, where her parents were buried in the Minster.  She also set up a school with a Latin teacher there.[48].  In 1492, William Smith, who had been dean of Wimborne since 24 September 1485, became bishop of Coventry and Lichfield.  Margaret Beaufort chose Thomas Barowe as his successor.  He was appointed on 27 April 1492.[49].  Smith had also received a prebend at St Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster, on 20 October 1485.  Five years later, he was made dean there.  It is possible that Smith and Barowe knew each other from St Stephen’s Chapel and that it was Smith, who had suggested Barowe for the vacancy at Wimborne to Margaret Beaufort.

On 31 March 1493, Barowe’s second post-Bosworth appointment was as canon and provost of Bath and Wells with the prebend of Combe Duodecima.[50].  There were approx. 40 canons in the diocese.  The prebends had the name Combe (from Combe St Nicholas) and a number, so Barowe got the prebend no.12, which traditionally means the provost.

He was appointed by the bishop[51], who by then was Henry Tudor’s supporter Richard Fox. The previous bishop, Robert Stillington, had died in 1491.  However, Bishop Fox was very much in demand with administrative tasks elsewhere, which meant that the chapter under the leadership of the dean more or less ran their own affairs.[52].  The dean at that time was Thomas Barowe’s old friend John Gunthorpe.  Could it have been his influence that secured this post for Barowe, a case of “jobs for the boys”?  Incidentally, Barowe’s other friend dating back to his student days, Thomas Langton, was another canon of Wells.

The close network of Richard’s affinity survived the king’s death and into the new reign.  For instance, Wells Cathedral’s chapter acts of 10 April 1494 include a record, where the provost, Thomas Barowe, was represented by his proctor, Richard Pottyer[53], who had been Richard’s attorney of the duchy of Lancaster in chancery.

Barowe features in the will of Dame Marjory Salvayn, where he and Richard Pottyer are referred to as her “gossips”.   The relationship came probably through Marjorie’s father, Sir Robert Danby.[54]  Danby was a lawyer, who had been promoted to chief justice of the common pleas by Edward IV in 1461. Soon after 1471, he had been retained by Richard, duke of Gloucester, until his death in 1474.  Barowe also seems to have been a friend of Marjory’s husband, Sir John Salvayn (who had died in 1481), as she thanked him “for charite and for the tendir love that he hath ought to my husbond”.

Marjory left Barowe a purse of cloth of gold.  She named Barowe one of her executors and asks that her “sone be ordered and gyded by thavice of my said gossip Master Barrow”.  She clearly had a very high opinion of Barowe. [55] Her will is interesting as it allows us a glimpse of Thomas Barowe the man, which we don’t get from the list of his positions.

Both Barowe and Pottyer again feature in a case concerning the manor of Asshe of 20 January 1497, together with among others Morgan Kidwelly.  Here Barowe is referred to as “dean of the church of Wymburne“.[56]

Kidwelly had done his own bit for keeping Richard’s memory alive, though presumably still during Richard’s reign.  When designing the inscription for a brass for his uncle, Geoffrey Kidwelly, who died on 13 March 1484, he stressed that Geoffrey had died in the first year of the reign of Richard III.  In 1484, Kidwelly was doubtlessly looking forward to a long reign of his king.[57]

IX.  Barowe, Cambridge, and Richard III – again

As we have seen, Barowe was still very much part of the network that had developed during their service to Richard as duke of Gloucester and then as king.  As we will see from his will, his sense of loyalty to this network remained right up to the end of his life.  However, he also retained his loyalty to his former benefactor.  This is clearly shown by an extraordinarily lavish gesture he made in King Richard’s memory.  There is no doubt that Thomas Barowe remained a very wealthy man, also under the new regime, which allowed him to make this gesture.

On 21 January 1495, he gave the substantial amount of £240 to Cambridge University in an indenture between himself and the university’s chancellor John Blyth, at that stage warden of King’s Hall, Barowe’s old college. The money was to restore the university’s finances and continue the rebuilding of Great St Mary.  This church had a long-standing relationship with Barowe’s old college King’s Hall, since Edward III had granted the advowson of the church to the college in 1342.  Cambridge University had been involved in a fund-raising drive for the university church since the 1470s, so this was a very welcome boost to their efforts.

Thomas Barowe – Richard III's Master of the Rolls

Great St Mary, Cambridge

Part of the gift was to provide for an elaborate obit, masses, prayers and ceremonies in honour of King Richard III and Dr Thomas Barowe, including vespers for the dead on the eve and day of the Battle of Bosworth for the “souls of King Richard III and Anne his consort, his parents, his brothers and all his deceased servants”.   After the servants and quite a few others, Henry VII and his mother were also tagged on, sort of as an afterthought.  In addition, the parish priest of Great St Mary was every Sunday to “recommend publicly to the devout prayers of the parishioners there, as is the custom, the souls of King Richard III and of Thomas Barowe”.[58]. Both Richard and Barowe were also to be enrolled in the list of the university’s benefactors.

This is a significant statement at its time, ten years after Bosworth.  The chancellor, John Blyth, had ties to the Tudor court.  The university’s senior proctor, John Fisher, was at that time busy canvassing Margaret Beaufort to support Cambridge.  Considering that Barowe had received his position at Wimborne from Margaret Beaufort, he probably felt it was wise to mention the woman, to whom he owed part of his wealth, as well as the current king.  However, clearly, his primary loyalty was still directed to his old master, Richard.  It is him, whom he wanted to see remembered, particularly on the eve and day of the battle of Bosworth.  Unfortunately, Richard III was for a while politely forgotten in the official Cambridge narrative but has more recently been restored.

Barowe’s generous gift can be associated with earlier donations by Richard himself.  In 1475-76 he had given 20 marks to the university, which might have been for the benefit of Great St Mary.  In 1478-79 he gave £20 explicitly for the rebuilding of this church and building work began on 16 May 1478 at 6.45 pm.  Except for the tower, it was finished in 1519.  It cost altogether £795. 2s. Id, so Barowe’s £240 alone represents nearly one-third of the overall construction costs.

If you look up in the nave, you will notice the timber roof.  Some of the oak trees for the roof were donated by Henry VII from Great Chesterford.  Unfortunately, they were not Henry’s to donate, as Great Chesterford belonged to the abbot of Westminster.  Like the ceiling, the draft of a “tear-stained letter of apology” has survived.[59]

While the rebuilding process had started with Richard, Barowe’s gift would have secured its progress.  He probably had intended the church as a monument to Richard.  To a certain extent he was successful.  Just compare King’s College Chapel, which had also been handsomely supported by Richard, but where every bit of wall is covered with Tudor emblems, to the restrained elegance of Great St Mary’s.  Although the Tudors didn’t leave it completely untouched either.  There are roof bosses with Tudor roses and a figure of Henry VII.

Thomas Barowe – Richard III's Master of the Rolls

The nave of Great St Mary, Cambridge

Incidentally, the same master mason worked on both churches: John Wastell.  There was a significant overlap in the workmen being used between the two churches.  Wastell had in the early 1490s also been involved in a new building at King’s Hall. This building now forms part of the east range of the Great Court of Trinity College and the lower part of the Great Gate Tower. The lofty nave of Great St Mary as well as the fan vault of King’s College Chapel are his work.  This is the same mason, who might have been employed by bishop John Morton for his palace at Hatfield.[60]

X.  The last years

Thomas and his brother Richard re-applied for arms, which were granted on 22 October 1495.[61]

At some stage after 5 November 1495, Thomas also received his third living after Richard’s death, the rectory of Coningsby in Lincolnshire.[62]  This is an interesting appointment.  By this time William Smith had moved on from bishop of Coventry and Lichfield to bishop of Lincoln.  As we have seen, there was a connection between Smith and Barowe.  However, there is also another possible connection.  The dean of Lincoln was George Fitzhugh.  Fitzhugh was the cousin of Richard III’s wife Anne, as his mother was a sister of Richard Neville, Anne’s father.  Barowe might have got to know him during his time in Richard’s service.  Fitzhugh had had a very early stellar career, which saw him elevated to dean of Lincoln at the age of 21, in 1483, no doubt assisted by his family connections.  However, after Bosworth these same connections meant that he never achieved any other positions.[63]

Barowe made his will on 23 June 1499.  To his brother Richard and his male heirs, he leaves his best covered gilt cup adorned with a white rose finial and his arms.  Interestingly for a man with such a strong connection to Cambridge, should no male heirs be available, the cup was to go to Magdalen College, Oxford.  It is possible that he had been with Richard III on his progress, when Richard stayed at Magdalen College, and had been very impressed with their hospitality.[64]  However, there is also a possible previous connection to William Waynflete, the founder of Magdalen College.  As the name indicates, Waynflete came from Wainfleet, just south of Skegness.  He also owned land in Winthorpe, where Barowe came from.  Waynflete granted this land to Magdalen in 1479.[65]  Barowe also left £10 to his college, King’s Hall, as well as £20 each to the universities of Cambridge and Oxford for the fabric of the churches of Saint Mary in both.

Apart from his family, Barowe remembered his associates who had also been in Richard’s service, among them Sir James Tyrell, Richard Pottyer and Morgan Kidwelly.    Others, who might have fallen on hard times after Richard’s death, he remembers even more generously.  Thomas Lynom was to receive 5 nobles and 40s.  Robert Brackenbury and John Kendall had both died at Bosworth.  Brackenbury’s son was to get £50, Kendall’s son £40.   This shows the close connection Barowe must have felt to other former members of Richard’s household.  Richard himself is also mentioned when Barowe wants to clear the king’s soul and his own of any possible taint of debt.

Richard Pottyer survived Barowe for several years as he is still mentioned in a document of 1501[66].  Morgan Kidwelly was a member of Henry VII’s council when he died in 1505. James Tyrell was executed on 6 May 1502 and Thomas Lynom had died by 29 July 1518.  Nothing much is known about the sons of Brackenbury and Kendall.

There is no mention in Barowe’s will of any of the churchmen who had helped his career, John Gunthorpe, Thomas Langton and possibly William Smith.  John Gunthorpe, to whom he owed so much, had predeceased Barowe and had died exactly a year previously, on 25 June 1498.  Thomas Langton died on 27 January 1501 of the plague, just days after having been elected archbishop of Canterbury.  William Smith died on 2 January 1514, after a long career in the service of the Tudors and is also remembered as the founder of Brasenose College, Oxford.

Barowe’s will was proved two and a half weeks after it had been written, on 10 July 1499.  This means that he died between 23 June and 10 July 1499.  His brother Richard survived him for a few years.  His will is dated 3 March 1502, leaving land to his three sons (Thomas, John, and Richard), and money to his three daughters (Janett, Agnes, and Katherine).  He also requested masses to be said for his parents, wife, children and his brother Thomas. He died on 20 April 1505 and is buried in St Mary’s, Winthorpe, together with his wife Batarick.[67]

Thomas Barowe was clearly ambitious and a pragmatist.  He was good at building relationships with the powers that be, first Richard as duke of Gloucester and then as king, and later with the Tudor regime.  His continuing public service and further ecclesiastical positions after 1485 show his success in coming to terms with a changed environment.  It seems clear, however, that he stayed loyal to the man to whom he owed his career. He equally remained loyal to those he had met along the way, especially those who might have been less successful in adapting to the changed circumstances.


[1] I would like to thank John Saunders and Anne Crawford for their generous advice and Judy Howard for all her assistance.

[2] An exception is the article by Sutton, A.F. and Visser-Fuchs, L., ‘”As dear to him as the Trojans were to Hector:” Richard III and the University of Cambridge’, in:  L. Visser-Fuchs, ed, Richard III and East Anglia:  Magnates, Gilds and Learned Men.  Richard III Society, 2010, pp.105-142

[3] All biographical information for Thomas Barowe and others is based on:
Emden, A.B., A Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge to 1500.  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1963 (various entries)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press (various entries) – [accessed online]
Ian Rogers’ directory at
Foss, E., ‘Barowe, Thomas’, in:  Biographia Juridica:  A Biographical Dictionary of the Judges of England from the Conquest to the Present Time, 1066-1870.  The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., 1999 (originally published 1870), p.56
Sutton, A.F. and Visser-Fuchs, L., ‘”As dear to him as the Trojans were to Hector:”…’
Testamenta Eboracensia:  A Selection of Wills at the Registry of York, Vol. IV.  Andrews and Co., Durham, 1869, p.117 n
Trollope, E., ‘Places visited from Spilsby on the 5th and 6th of July, 1865:  Winthorpe’, Reports and Papers Read at the Meetings of the Architectural Society of the Diocese of Lincoln, Vol. VIII. Part 1. Brookes & Vibert, Lincoln, 1865, pp.72-76.  Available at URL: [last accessed 7 Nov. 2016

[4] Hicks, C. The King’s Glass:  A Story of Tudor Power and Secret Art. Chatto & Windus, London, 2007, p.15

[5] This situation lasted from 1447 to 1462, when Edward IV restored King’s Hall’s independence, ‘The colleges and halls: King’s’, in: A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, ed. J P C Roach (London, 1959), pp. 376-408.  URL: [last accessed 12 November 2016]

[6] ‘The colleges and halls: Trinity College’, in: A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge, ed. J.P.C. Roach (London, 1959), pp. 456-473. URL: [last accessed 7 Nov. 2016]

[7] The advowson of that parish had descended with the manor since 1263.  Actually, the manor had belonged to Richard for a short while at an earlier stage, between 1462 and 1463, but as he was then only 10 years old, it would be safe to say that he did not exert any personal influence during this time. Rosen, A.B.,  Keeling, S.M. and Meekings, C.A.F., ‘Parishes: Castle Camps’, in: A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, Volume 6, ed. A.P.M. Wright (London, 1978), pp. 36-48. URL: [last accessed 7 November 2016]

[8] Horrox, R., Richard III: A Study of Service, Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp.72-73 + note p.163

[9] ‘Lateran Regesta 697: 1470’, in: Calendar of Papal Registers Relating To Great Britain and Ireland: Volume 12, 1458-1471, ed. J.A. Twemlow (London, 1933), pp. 759-763. URL:  [last accessed 7 Nov. 2016

[10] Secondary sources assuming a connection between Barowe and George Neville are e.g. Keir, G.I., The ecclesiastical career of George Neville 1432 – 1476, B.Litt. Thesis, Oxford (1970), p.180, who states that Barowe was an associate of George Neville, but does not give a source.
Hughes in his entry on Barowe in the ODNB, and Ross, C., Richard III, Yale English Monarchs, Yale University Press, 1999, Reprinted 2005, p.134, think it possible as Barowe held benefices in the York diocese in the 1470s.  However, Barowe’s association with Gloucester predates his appointments in the York diocese.  Therefore, this is not convincing.
Sutton, A.F. and Visser-Fuchs, L., ‘‘’As dear to him as the Trojans were to Hector”…’, p.130, quote Keir and Emden, who gives Neville’s Register as the source for his 1472 appointment.  They also cite Dobson, R.B., ‘Richard III and the Church of York’, in: Kings and Nobles in the Later Middle Ages, ed. by R. A. Griffiths and J. Sherborne.  Sutton, Gloucester, 1986, and Cobban, A.B., The King’s Hall within the University of Cambridge in the Later Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press, 1969, but neither author says anything about an association between Barowe and Neville.

[11] Keir, G.I., p.176-179, with Cambridge graduates showing mainly after December 1474 up to June 1476

[12] Dobson, R.B., pp.133-134

[13] ‘The colleges and halls: Trinity College’

[14] Horrox, R. and Hammond, P.W., eds, British Library Harleian Manuscript 433, 4 vols, Richard III Society & Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd., Gloucester, 1979, Vol.1, p.202 + 245

[15] Sutton, A.F. and Visser-Fuchs, L., with Kleineke, H., ‘The Children in the Care of Richard III:  New References. A Lawsuit between Peter Courteys, Keeper of Richard III’s Great Wardrobe, and Thomas Lynom, Solicitor of Richard III, 1495-1501’, The Ricardian, Vol. XXIV (2014), p.56;
Oliver, G., The History and Antiquities of the Town and Minster of Beverley in the County of York.  M. Turner, 1829, pp. 462-463 n.32

[16] ‘Colleges: The collegiate church of Southwell’, in: A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1910), pp. 152-161. URL: [last accessed 11 Nov. 2016]
‘Collegiate churches: York (including York Minster)’, in:  A History of the County of York: Volume 3, ed. William Page (1974), pp. 375-386URL: [last accessed 7 Nov. 2016]

[17] Each of the canons was known by one of the altars in the church:  ‘Collegiate churches: St John the Evangelist, Beverley’, in:  A History of the County of York: Volume 3, ed. William Page (1974), pp. 353-359. URL: [last accessed 7 Nov. 2016]

[18] ‘Parishes: Olney with Warrington’, in:  A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4, ed, William Page (London, 1927), pp. 429-439. URL: [last accessed 7 Nov. 2016]

[19] An illustration of the grant can be seen at: ‘Fifteenth Century English Patents of Arms’.  URL:  [last accessed 7 Nov 2016]

[20] Lander, J.R., ‘Council, Administration and Councillors, 1461 to 1485’, Historical Research, Volume 32, Issue 86 (November 1959), p.158

[21] Dobson, R.B., Church and Society in the Medieval North of England.  The Hambledon Press, 1996, p.240

[22] Hammond, P.W. and Sutton, A.F., Richard III:  The road to Bosworth Field.  Guild Publishing, London, 1985, pp.67-68

[23] Baggs, A.P., Keeling, S.M. and Meekings, C.A.F., ‘Parishes: Fowlmere’, in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 8, ed. A P M Wright (London, 1982), pp. 155-164. URL: [last accessed 8 Nov. 2016]

[24] Letter quoted in: Sutton, A.F. and Visser-Fuchs, L., ‘Richard III, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and Two Turbulent Priests’, The Ricardian, Vol. XIX (2009), p.98

[25] Extracts from the Great Wardrobe Accounts, from 12 April 1478 to 12 April 1479.  Princeton MS 101, quoted in:  Griffiths, R.A., ‘The Funeral of Prince George, 22 March 1479’, in:  The Royal Funerals of the House of York at Windsor, ed. by A.F. Sutton and L. Visser-Fuchs with R.A. Griffiths, The Richard III Society, 2005, p.56

[26] Baldwin, J.F., The King’s Council in England during the Middle Ages. Oxford, 1913, pp.434-435

[27] Hampton, W.E., ‘Roger Wake of Blisworth’, in:  Richard III:  Crown and People, ed. by J Petre, Richard III Society, 1985, p.156

[28] ‘Colleges: Royal Free Chapel of St Stephen, Westminster’, in: A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, ed. William Page (London, 1909), pp. 566-571. URL: [last accessed 13 Nov. 2016].
The medieval heart of the chapel would be ripped out during restorations in 1707.  It eventually became a victim of the fire of 16 October 1834.  Riding, J., ‘St Stephen’s Chapel: From the Crown to the People’, BBC (2 April 2005).  URL: [last accessed 9 Nov. 2016]

[29] ‘Hospitals: Domus conversorum’, in: A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, ed. William Page (London, 1909), pp. 551-554.  URL: [last accessed 9 Nov. 2016]

[30] Roth, C., ‘Sir Edward Brampton:  An Ango-Jewish Adventurer During the Wars of the Roses’, Transactions (Jewish Historical Society of England), Vol. 16 (1945-1951), pp. 121-127

[31] John Morton himself had held that position from 1472 to 1479, then his nephew succeeded him.  ‘Masters of the rolls (1286–2012)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press [last accessed online 9 Nov. 2016]

[32] ‘Judicial Profiles – Master of the Rolls’, Judiciary of England and Wales.  URL: [last accessed 9 Nov. 2016]

[33] Foss, E.

[34] Horrox, R., Richard III: A Study of Service, p.86; Sutton, A.F. & Visser-Fuchs, L. with Kleineke, ‘The Children in the Care of Richard III…’, pp.51-58, though they are incorrect when stating that Barowe came from Wiltshire, ibid., p.66 n.71

[35] Kendall, P.M., Richard III. W.W.Norton & Company, 2002 (originally published 1955), pp.375-376

[36] Horrox, R., ‘Richard Pottyer’, The Ricardian, Vol.V, No.71 (Dec. 1980), pp.284-285.  For quote:  Thomas More, The History of King Richard III. Hesperus Classics, 2005, p.8

[37] ‘Feet of Fines: CP 25/1/91/121, number 7’, Some Notes on Medieval English Genealogy.  URL: [last accessed 9 Nov. 2016]

[38] For more on Hutton’s career see Kleineke, H., ‘Thomas Hutton, Clerk to the Parliaments to Richard III’, The Ricardian, Vol. XXVI (2016), pp.19-30

[39] Sutton, A.F., ‘The Administration of Justice Whereunto We Be Professed’, in:  Richard III:  Crown and People, ed. by J Petre, Richard III Society, 1985, pp.364-365

[40] British Library Harleian Manuscript 433, p.220

[41] Gardner, R. and Masters, P., ‘Archaeological Desk Based Assessment and Geophysical Survey:  St Clements College, Skegness, Lincolnshire’ (June 2005), p.6.  Available from URL:  [last accessed 9 Nov. 2016]

[42] Hammond, P.W., & Sutton, A.F., Richard III:  The road to Bosworth Field, pp.211-212

[43] Campbell, W., Materials for a History of the Reign of Henry VII:  From Original Documents Preserved in the Public Record Office.  Cambridge University Press, 2012, pp.24-25
ODNB, ‘Masters of the rolls (1286–2009’

[44] Foss, E.

[45] Campbell, W., p.587

[46] ‘Parishes : Olney with Warrington’

[47] According to Venn, J.A., p.98, he retains Olney until 1494, though the date of 1488 seems more likely.
Lipscomb, G., The history and antiquities of the county of Buckingham, Volume 4. J. & W. Robins, 1847, p.306, states he retained it until his death in 1494, however, Barowe only died in 1499. He also says that Barowe was installed in 1574, so we can safely assume that this author has a problem with figures.

[48] Coulstock, P.H., The Collegiate Church of Wimborne Minster. Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 1993, p.167

[49] Barowe’s appointment is mentioned in: Fletcher, J.M.J., ‘Some Unrecorded Deans of Wimborne Minster’, Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club (from May, 1917, to May, 1918), Vol. XXXIX (1918), p.43, who gives as his source “P.R.O. Duchy of Lancaster, Misc. Books 21 fol. 194”; as well as: Pickerill, J.B., ‘The Portcullis and the Owl:  An account of the times of Hugh Oldham and his Patroness’, Old Mancunians (January 2001), p.40.  He is referred to as dean of Wimborne in: ‘Feet of Fines: CP 25/1/207/36, number 17’, Some Notes on Medieval English Genealogy.  URL:  [last accessed 9 Nov. 2016]

[50] ‘Prebendaries: Combe Duodecima’, in: Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1300-1541: Volume 8, Bath and Wells Diocese, ed. B Jones (London, 1964), pp. 34-35.  URL: [last accessed 9 Nov. 2016

[51] ‘Chapter acts: 1493-5’, in: Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Dean & Chapter of Wells: volume 2 (1914), pp. 133-141. URL: [last accessed 9 Nov. 2016]

[52] Private email by Anne Crawford, Archivist of Wells Cathedral, of 3 July 2013.

[53] ‘Chapter acts: 1493-5’

[54] Doe, N., ‘Danby, Sir Robert (d. 1474)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [last accessed online 13 Nov. 2016]

[55] ‘Salvayn, Dame Marjorie of York’, in:  English Wills Proved in the Prerogative Court of York, 1477-1499, ed. by Heather Falvey, Lesley Boatwright & Peter Hammond. Richard III Society, 2015, pp.124-126

[56] ‘Feet of Fines: CP 25/1/207/36, number 17’

[57] Moor, J., ‘Dead Men Do Tell Tales – Enlisting support for Richard III from beyond the grave:  Geoffrey Kidwelly of Little Wittenham’, Monumental Brass Society Bulletin, No.113 (January 2010), pp. 256-258; ‘Matters Arising’, Monumental Brass Society Bulletin, No.114 (May 2010), p.262

[58] Brooke, C., ‘Urban church and university church:  Great St Mary’s from its origins to 1523′, in:  J. Binns and P. Meadows, eds, Great St Mary’s, Cambridge University’s Church, Cambridge, 2000, pp.7-24
Venables, E., ‘The Church of St Mary the Great, Cambridge’, The Archaeological Journal, Vol. XII (Sept. 1855), pp.245-255
Translation of the full text of ‘The Indenture between Thomas Barowe and the University of Cambridge’ in Sutton, A.F. and Visser-Fuchs, L., ‘‘’As dear to him as the Trojans were to Hector:”…’, p.139

[59] Brooke, C., p.20

[60] Harvey, J., English Mediaeval Architects. A Biographical Dictionary down to 1550. B.T.Batsford Ltd, London, 1954, pp.279-287

[61] Trollope, E., pp.73-74

[62] Emden, A.B. does not give a date.  However, as the information is based on the register of William Smith as bishop of Lincoln, it has to have been after Smith’s appointment.

[63] Pollard, A.J., North-Eastern England during the Wars of the Roses. Clarendon Press, 1990, p.105

[64] Hairsine, R.C., “Oxford University and the Life and Legend of Richard III”, in:  J Petre (ed.), Richard III:  Crown and People, Richard III Society, 1985, pp. 307-332

[65] Trollope, E., p.73

[66] ‘Deeds: C.5301 – C.5400’, A Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds: Volume 6 (1915), pp. 204-217. URL:  [last accessed 9 Nov. 2016]

[67] Trollope, E., p.74


2 thoughts on “Thomas Barowe – Richard III’s Master of the Rolls

  1. Pingback: The Manor of Mawedelyne | Dottie Tales

  2. Pingback: Richard Pottyer | Dottie Tales

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s