This is a case about the complex arrangements regarding the incomes for the support of parish clergy, known as benefices. Benefices were, on the one hand, pieces of property that ecclesiastical authorities, lay institutions such as guilds, and individual laypeople held, bought, and sold. On the other hand, benefices were not simply ordinary economic investments, but were imbued with a certain spiritual value and subject to church law that at least in principle guarded their original purpose (to provide a living for priests that then allowed them to provide the “care of souls” in the parish in question). The testimony below shows various kinds of negotiation for the benefice associated with the parish church of Tottenham: a priest allegedly made a deal with another priest to take over his position and income, and various financial failures followed. Others were involved as witnesses, intermediaries, ecclesiastical supervisor (the bishop), and patron (a London draper’s widow evidently tried to purchase the living for one of her apprentices who wished to become a priest). Peter Heath in The English Parish Clergy on the Eve of the Reformation, 39, untangled the basics of the case.
LMA, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fol.s 104v-105r, 107r-108r, 109rv
Response of Sir Thomas Kyrkeham, 15 Mar. 1492
Responses personally made by Sir Thomas Kyrkeham, vicar of Totten[ham]. To the first article, he admits its contents. To the second article, he denies its contents.
Testimony of Thomas Cape, 22 Mar. 1492
22 March, by Master Blodwell, in my, Richard Spencer’s, house and presence.
Thomas Cape of the parish of St. Michael Whittington College, [London,] where he has lived for two and a half years, and before that time in the parish of St. Dunstan in the East for twelve years, literate, of free condition, forty years old, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc. to prove the things denied by Sir Thomas Kyrkeham etc. To the second article, he says that its contents are true, and he says that on a certain Friday in August around the last feast of St. Bartholomew, which day for certain he cannot specify, Sir Thomas Kyrkeham and Sir John Lyall, in the inn in which this witness lives at the sign of the Tabard in le Riall, spoke together about the resignation of the said vicarage by Sir Thomas in favour of John. And at last they agreed between them that Sir John would pay for the resignation and that Sir Thomas would make him secure of the said vicarage for twenty-five pounds sterling. Present there and hearing the aforesaid was a certain Catcher from Tottenham, the holy water clerk there, Sir Thomas’s brother, and others. And then this witness, at Sir John’s request, counted out 6s. 8d. in pennies and handed them over to Sir Thomas in the name of [….] for the vicarage, saying, “I give you this money in partial payment of the twenty-five pounds, on the condition that you will resign all your right in and of the vicarage of Tottenham to Sir John here, and that, as far as you can, you will make him secure in this benefice.” He accepted the money from this witness in this form and gave his faith in the hands of this witness that he would resign his benefice. And then the said vicar said, “How shall I stand sure of the residue?” And Sir John responded that [on the days?] assigned above, it would finish with him truly satisfied, which this witness testifies from his own sight and hearing. To the third article, he says as he said above, and otherwise he has nothing to testify except from what Sir John and others have told him. To the fourth article, he says that its contents are true as far as he has heard from William Jamys and others. To the fifth article, he says that what he said above is true and that public voice and fame circulated and circulate about it in the parish of Tottenham and other places.
Testimony of William Catcher, 28 Mar. 1492
Further against Sir Thomas Kyrkeham, 28 March, A.D. 1492, by Master Blodewell, in the Cathedral church of St. Paul, London, in my, Richard Spencer’s, presence.
William Catcher of the parish of Tottenham, London diocese, where he has lived for almost three years, and before that time in the parish of Edmonton of the said diocese for seven years, literate, of free condition, forty years old, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc. to prove the things denied by Sir Thomas Kyrkeham etc., he says that he has known Sir Thomas Kyrkeham for five years. To the second article denied by the said priest, he says that he has nothing to testify concerning its contents, but he says that in the previous autumn, which day or month he does not recall, he was present in the dwelling house of Thomas Cape near Whittington College, together with Thomas Cape, Sir Thomas Kyrkeham, vicar, John Clerk of Tottenham, a certain tailor of the city of London who was the said vicar’s brother, whose name this witness does not know, and Sir John Lyall and no others. There and then Thomas Cape urged the vicar to resign his vicarage of Tottenham into the hands of the lord bishop of London for a certain yearly pension to […] him, [and] that a certain friend of Thomas Cape as he then asserted would accept the vicarage. Sir Thomas Kyrkeham, vicar, said these words or others similar in effect, “I am out of raiment, if you will lend me some money to buy me some better gear I will resign to your kinsman, and I will go to my lord of London to speak with him for a license.” And Thomas Cape then gave the vicar 6 s. 8 d. in coins, which the vicar accepted and promised Thomas Cape to pay back the same amount. Further he says that it was agreed between the vicar and Thomas Cape that after a pension had been assigned by the lord bishop of London to be paid annually by [….] the vicarage, that Thomas Cape would pay in total forty pounds sterling for the […] of this annual pension. And otherwise he has nothing to testify concerning its contents. To the third article, he says that he has nothing to testify concerning its contents. To the [fourth] article, he says that he has nothing to testify concerning its contents, but he says that a certain document was affixed to the door of the parish church of Tottenham, what or of what sort this document was he did not then know and does not at present know, or about what time of year this document was affixed to the doors of the church he does not recall. To the fifth, he says that what he testified above is true and that public voice and fame circulated and circulate in the town of Tottenham and other neighbouring places, and that the fame had its origin from the words and deeds of Sir John Lyall.
Testimony of John Clerk, 28 Mar. 1492
John Clerk, scrivener of the parish of Tottenham, London diocese, where he has lived for four and a half years, and before that time in the town called Bury St. Edmunds for sixteen years, literate, of free condition, thirty-seven years old as he says. Inducted as a witness to refute Sir Thomas Kyrkeham on the articles denied by him, he says that he has known Sir Thomas Kyrkeham, the vicar of Tottenham, for seven years. To the second article, he says that he has nothing to testify regarding its contents, but that on a certain day six weeks before the day of the communication in the house of Thomas Cape, which day he cannot further specify, this witness was present in the dwelling house of William Catcher of Tottenham, where and when Sir Thomas Kyrkeham and Sir John Lyall spoke together about the exchange of their benefices. After many things were discussed between them, Sir Thomas said these words or others similar in effect, “It were but a simple thing for me to give a benefice worth twenty pounds for a benefice but worth fifteen pounds,” to whom Sir John said, “Well, I will deal with you other ways; I will give you a competent pension if ye will resign to me, with the which ye shall hold you pleased.” And Sir Thomas said, “We will go to the lord bishop of London to obtain from him a license to negotiate concerning a yearly pension in this matter, and if afterwards we can agree you will have my benefice.” And further he says that on a certain day last autumn, in the dwelling house of a certain Cape at the sign of the Tabard in le Riall in the city of London, that is in the hall of the house, this witness was present together with William Kyrkeham, the brother of Sir Thomas, Sir Thomas and Sir John themselves, the said Cape, and another gentleman whose name and surname does not come to this witness’s mind at present, that is, that at that time the others were in a certain lower parlour of the said house, sitting, and then first this witness and then William Kyrkeham were called from the hall into the parlour, entering one after another, and he saw then when Cape gave to Sir Thomas Kyrkeham 6s. 8d. in coins. And otherwise he knows nothing to testify of his own knowledge, although he says that he heard it said that Sir Thomas borrowed the money from Cape in order to buy himself bodily necessities. To the third article, he says that he has nothing to testify regarding its contents other than he has testified above. To the fourth article, he says that he has nothing to testify regarding its contents, but he says that he heard it said at Westminster from Sir John Lyall that the said vicar [was?] suspended, so that the lord bishop of London said that he did not want to […] with the said vicar unless he was absolved of this sentence of suspension. To the fifth article, he says that what he said above was true, and concerning fame he has nothing to testify except that Sir John has called himself the vicar of Tottenham.
Testimony of Sir Thomas Everard, 28 Mar. 1492
Further against Sir Thomas Kyrkeham, by Master Blodwell in my, Richard Spencer’s, house and presence, sworn there to say the truth and then immediately examined, says as follows.
Sir Thomas Everard, parish chaplain of Isleworth, where he has lived for a year and a half, of free condition, thirty years old or thereabouts, as he says. Inducted as a witness etc., he says that he has known Sir Thomas Kyrkeham as long as he was vicar there, and for three months before his admission to it. Questioned further, he says that in the year of the lord 1484, at which time he was apprentice to Alice Hungerford, the widow of John Hungerford, citizen while he lived and draper of the City of London, this witness told Alice about his desire and intention to become a priest. Alice, replying, promised this witness that if he wanted to become a priest she would provide him with an ecclesiastical benefice because of the favour and affection that Alice’s husband bore towards this witness. And in that same year this witness rode with Alice to the Stourbridge Fair,  where and when Sir Robert Gryme, then rector of the parish church of St. Olave in Southwark, city of London, told Alice in this witness’s presence that he had provided a benefice for this witness at Alice’s request, that is, the vicarage of Tottenham, worth twenty pounds, and that he had paid a certain Wygmor, at that time vicar of Tottenham, twenty marks for the benefice and other expenses. And Alice said to this witness, “this benefice I give to you so that you will pray for the souls of my husband and of your benefactors.” And then this witness, wishing to consult […] concerning this deed, consulted Master Bretayn whether without offence to his conscience he could accept the said benefice, who wholly advised against it and said that if he took it, he would gravely offend against the canons; as a result this witness told his mistress that by no means did he wish to accept this benefice. And after the foregoing, on one of the feasts in the week of the following Christmas, this witness at the command of his mistress went for Sir Thomas, then serving at Tottenham, to come speak with her. So he afterwards within the next week or thereabouts came, and agreed with her, in the presence of Gryme, the rector of St. Olave’s, that he would pay Alice Hungerford for the vicarage twenty marks or fourteen pounds. They also [discussed] how he would pay and because the vicar could not fulfill the first agreement they made that he would make a […] with plate, it was agreed between them that Sir Thomas, immediately after his institution and induction, would seal obligations to Alice for the aforesaid sum at certain terms to be assigned between them. And then after his institution and induction, Sir Thomas returned and sealed the obligation for the aforesaid sum in the presence of Hugh Standissh, the scrivener who wrote up the obligation, and this witness wrote the said sum among the other debts in Alice’s book of accounts and debts at her command. Because afterwards Sir Thomas defaulted in the payment of one term of the aforesaid terms, this witness, still then in Alice’s service, in Alice’s name and at her command arrested him, and afterwards because he again defaulted at another term, Thomas Carter in Alice’s name and at her command again arrested him, and convicted him and had him committed to prison at Ludgate [……..] recuperated the said sum from him, as Thomas Carter told this witness.
 Tottenham, Middlesex.
 St. Michael Paternoster Royal, rebuilt by Richard Whittington’s bequest earlier in the fifteenth century and adjoining Whittington College. Mary Lobel, British Atlas of Historic Towns: The City of London, 90. As Cape says below that he lived in an Inn called the Tabard, he was not apparently a resident of the College.
 24 Aug.
 Le Riall was a street, now called College Hill, on which the church of St Michael Paternoster Royal was situated.
 A layman who acted as parish clerk, assisting the parish priest in various duties.
 Edmonton, Middlesex.
 Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
 Isleworth, Middlesex.
 I.e. at Tottenham (Middlesex).
 Alice Hungerford left two wills dated 1491, one in the London Hustings court which names Thomas Carter (named below): Calendar of wills proved and enrolled in the Court of Husting, London: Part 2: 1358-1688 (1890), p. 608; the other in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, TNA, PROB 11/9/52.
 Stourbridge Fair was one of the major fairs of fifteenth-century England, held from 14 Sept. each year on the outskirts of Cambridge (Cornelius Walford, Fairs, Past and Present: A Chapter in the History of Commerce [London: Elliot Stock, 1883, 54-67).
 Southwark was not, in fact, then part of the City of London.
 Possibly John Breton, M.A. from Cambridge, who was the rector of St. Peter’s, Cornhill, from 1478 until his death in 1500. Emden, Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge to 1500, 91.
 A mark was worth 13s 4d, or two-thirds of a pound; twenty marks was thus worth thirteen pounds, four shillings.
 That is, as vicar of Totteham, by the bishop of London.
 Ludgate prison was primarily for debtors who were citizens of London; the conditions there were generally better than the other London prisons. See Barron, London, 166.