Thomas Barowe – Richard III’s Master of the Rolls: Part III

Thomas Barowe – 

Richard III’s Master of the Rolls,

churchman, administrator,

and bound by loyalty

Part III:  the Later Years

How the young man from Winthorpe in Lincolnshire became very successful as the man of Richard of Gloucester, later Richard III, was dealt with in Part I and Part II.  Part III will look at his later years under Henry Tudor.

1. 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[1].  Barowe would continue in his parliamentary position of receiver of petitions until 1497.[2]

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”[3].  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.[4]  Probably, as a result, Thomas lost this position in August 1488.[5]

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[6].  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[7].  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[8].  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[9], 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[10].  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[11], 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.[12]  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. [13] 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“.[14]

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.[15]

2. 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 also 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: Part III

Great St Mary’s, 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”[16]. 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 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 Chesterton belonged to the Abbot of Westminster.  Like the ceiling, the draft of a “tear-stained letter of apology” has survived.[17]

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: Part III

The interior of Great St Mary, Cambridge

Incidentally, the same master mason worked on both churches: John Wastell.  Though 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, which 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.[18]

3. The last years

Both Thomas and his brother Richard re-applied for arms, which were granted on 22 October 1495.[19]

At some stage after 5 November 1495, Thomas also received his third living after Richard’s death, the rectory of Coningsby in Lincolnshire.[20]  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.[21]

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.[22]  However, there is also a possible previous connection to William Waynflete, the founder of Magdalen College.  As the name indicates, Waynflete came from Wainflete just south of Skegness.  He also owned land in Winthorpe, where Barowe came from.  Waynflete granted this land to Magdalen in 1479.[23]  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 Lynham 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[24].  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.[25]

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] 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’

[2] Foss

[3] Campbell, p. 587

[4] ‘Parishes : Olney with Warrington’

[5] According to Venn, 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, vol. 4. J. & W. Robins, 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 is a bit confused about dates.

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

[7] 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 (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]

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

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

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

[11] ‘Chapter acts: 1493-5’

[12] Doe, N., ‘Danby, Sir Robert (d. 1474)’, Oxford DNB (online 23 Sept. 2004) [last accessed online 13 Nov. 2016]

[13] ‘Salvayn, Dame Marjorie of York’, in:  English Wills Proved in the Prerogative Court of York, 1477-1499, ed. H. Falvey, L. Boatwright & P. Hammond. Richard III Society, 2015, pp. 124-126

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

[15] 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 (2010), pp. 256-258; ‘Matters Arising’, Monumental Brass Society Bulletin, no. 114 (2011), p. 262

[16] Brooke, C., ‘Urban church and university church:  Great St Mary’s from its origins to 1523′, in:  Great St Mary’s, Cambridge University’s Church, ed. Binns, J. & P. Meadows. Cambridge, 2000, pp. 7-24

Venables, E., ‘The Church of St Mary the Great, Cambridge’, The Archaeological Journal, vol. XII (1855), pp. 245-255

Translation of the full text of ‘The Indenture between Thomas Barowe and the University of Cambridge’ in Sutton & Visser-Fuchs, ‘‘’As dear to him as the Trojans were to Hector:”…’, p. 139

[17] Brooke, p.20

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

[19] Trollope, pp. 73-74

[20] Emden 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.

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

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

[23] Trollope, p.73

[24] ‘Deeds: C.5301 – C.5400’, A Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds: vol. 6 (1915), pp. 204-217. URL:  [last 1 October 2012]

[25] Trollope, p.74

Read more on Thomas Barowe – Richard III’s Master of the Rolls, churchman, administrator, and bound by loyalty:

Part I:  Early Years

Part II:  Richard’s Man

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

  1. Pingback: Thomas Barowe – Richard III’s Master of the Rolls: Part I | Dottie Tales

  2. Pingback: Thomas Barowe – Richard III’s Master of the Rolls: Part II | 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 )

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