In this guest blog historian Richard Till explains how the discovery of a small document in the Thaxted community archive and recently deposited at the ERO, has provided the missing piece of the puzzle relating to chantry land in Thaxted.
Getting on for a hundred years ago, its origins lost in the mists of time, an archive was established in Thaxted. It was thought to be important, but no-one quite knew why. A committee was established, but little ensued other than a decision to lodge it in the roof of the chantry, its boxes unread and unopened.
The 1980s proved to be a turning point. Thaxted’s charities, Yardleys and Hunts handed over their material to the Essex Record Office. Some of the archive may have been handed over at the same time, but no-one knows for sure.
Come the spring of 2023 and everything changed. The archive was removed to Thaxted’s Guildhall and a very competent local historian asked to index its contents. Shortly afterwards he contacted me. In a foolscap envelope initialled by Thaxted’s “Red Vicar”, Conrad Noel, there was a parchment document replete with seal. I had it transcribed and handed a copy to the archive.
The document was an indenture from 1551 and it solved a minor mystery. In 1548 commissioners had visited Thaxted to implement the reformation. They had dismissed the chantry priest and sold the chantry with its 20 acres of land to two freemen of the City of London. (ERO, D/DHT T534).
In the early 17th Century, Yardleys Charity’s accounts (ERO, T/P 99/2) showed that at some stage, the chantry, with its land, had been repatriated and bought for the town by the then vicar, Thomas Crosby. It had been used thereafter as an alms house and by 1615 had been handed over to a charity headed by the mayor.
The newly found indenture solved the problem. In 1551, the chantry had been sold back to a local landowner, William Gace, thence, after a further sale, to Thomas Crosby.
The indenture along with its transcript is now in the possession of the Essex Record Office and they have kindly provided a photo of the original for the archive. I’m not holding my breath, but more may follow!
As mentioned above, a transcription translated from the original Latin was kindly deposited with the document and can be read below:
May all men now and in the future know that we Thomas Moore of the City of London, mercer, and Elizabeth, my wife, have demised and enfeoffed, and by this our present charter, have confirmed to William Gace of Thaxted in the county of Essex, yeoman, one messuage, two gardens and other lands and pastures called Buckynghams, and all the lands and pastures with their appurtenances, containing by estimation twenty acres of land, more or less, whereby they shall be now or in the future in farm or in the occupation of William Gace, situate and lying in Thaxted aforesaid, formerly belonging to the chantry called Thaxted Chantry, not long ago part or belonging or parcel of the possessions of the said late chantry, formerly being reputed or known as such. To have and to hold the aforesaid messuage, lands, pastures and the rest of the premises with their appurtenances to the aforesaid William Gace, his heirs and assigns, to the proper use of the said Gace, his heirs and assigns forever. To be held of our now king, his heirs and successors, as of his manor of East Greenwich in the county of Kent by fealty as in free socage and not in chief, for all other rents and services and demands whatsoever. And assuredly we the aforesaid Thomas Moore and Elizabeth and our heirs will guarantee and defend forever by these presents the aforesaid messuage, lands, pastures and the rest of the premises with their appurtenances to the aforesaid William Gace, his heirs and assigns, to the use aforesaid, against us the said Thomas Moore and Elizabeth and our heirs and against a certain Thomas Hayelbarne and a certain Thomas Grande and their heirs. And may those above know that we the said Thomas More and Elizabeth have assigned, appointed and established in our place our well beloved in Christ William Spyman and John Gace the elder as our true and faithful attorneys, together and separately for the entering on our behalf and in our names into the aforesaid messuage, lands, pastures and the rest of the premises with their appurtenances, and full and peaceful possession and seisin to be taken therein. And after this possession and seisin therein so taken and had, to deliver full and peaceful possession of and in the aforesaid messuage, lands and the rest of the premises with their appurtenances to the aforesaid William Gace on our behalf in our names, according to the force, form and effect of this our present charter. All whichever of our attorneys or any one of them will do, in our name, in the premises or any part of them, is approved and will be approved. In witness of which we have attached our seals to this present charter, given on the eighth day of May in the fifth year of the reign of Edward the sixth , by the grace of God, King of England, France and Ireland, defender of the faith, and supreme head of the Church of England and Ireland
Below: by me Thomas More
(Back) (presumably endorsed on the above)
Seisin and possession of this charter has been well, publicly and peacefully taken on the day and in the year within written and was delivered by the within named William Spilman and John Gace the elder in the presence of Richard Fanne, John Gawber, Thomas Savedge, William Fanne, the elder and John Pledger with others.
Tho. More his deede to Gace of Buckinghams and 20 Acares of Land to it belonginge More & wife to Gace: Feoffment of Buckinghams
This newly deposited document can be found on Essex Archives Online under the reference A16028.