Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Keynesham, Bath and Burford with Chaunceler

Keynesham, Bath and Burford with Chaunceler  

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien


On 17th June 1489 John Chaunceler of Keynesham made his last will and testament. With this document we can journey through medieval England with the Chaunceler family.

Chaunceler at Keynesham

In his will John Chaunceler of Keynesham asked to be buried in the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Keynesham. John Chaunceler made a number of bequests in his will such as 5s to the cathedral church at Wells, one blue gown to Thomas Nele, one doublet of worsted to John Snelgar and 3s 4d towards the bells of the parish church at Keynesham.[1] It seems that John Chaunceler had moved to Keynesham and that he originally came from Colerne in Wiltshire.[2] This would explain why one of his daughters joined Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire.[3]

Artist impression of Keynesham Abbey

John Chaunceler gave the residue of his goods to his wife, Edith and his son, Thomas Chaunceler of Bath. He also made both the executors of his will. Sir John Batte and Sir John Fox were the witnesses to the will which was proven on 16th July 1489 and administration was granted to the executors.[4]
Other records provide some details on the life of John Chaunceler. In 1466 John Chaunceler of Keynesham gave 100 marks towards the rebuilding of the House of the Kalendaries in Bristol. The library of the House was damaged by fire early in 1466.[5]

In the court case between the prior of Bath and the abbot of St. Augustine’s at Canterbury it is recorded that John Chaunceler gave Prior John Cauntlowe (prior 1483-1499) 100 marks in return for an annual pension. This gift would seem to be a loan to the priory. It was said that Prior John Cauntlowe was a poor manager of the priory and that the priory was burdened with the associated pension. In consequence the priory made a deal with John Chaunceler to give his son (un-named) a pension of four marks per year until the prior promoted him to a benefice worth over twenty marks.[6]

Chaunceler at Bath

One of the executors of John Chaunceler was his son, Thomas Chaunceler of Bath in which town Thomas did very well for himself. On the 15th January 1496 Thomas Chaunceler, citizen of Bath, made his will. By his death in 1497 (his will was proved on 9th March 1497) Thomas Chaunceler had become a very prosperous citizen of Bath and this is reflected in his many bequests to very parish churches and abbeys along with gifts to many friends and servants.[7] He asked to be buried by the grave of John Midwinter in the Chapel of Our Lady in cathedral church at Bath.[8]

Bath cathedral 

Thomas Chaunceler further asked for a “convenable secular priest” to sing and say masses in the Lady Chapel for the soul of Joan and Margaret, the two wives of Thomas Chaunceler. The priest was also to sing for the soul of Thomas’s parents, John Chaunceler and his wife Edith. Thomas Chaunceler gave 100 marks to Prior John Cauntlowe, the same prior accused of mismanagement in the Star Chamber of Henry VII, in return for a ten mark pension to the secular priest for twenty years.[9]

Other members of the Chaunceler family mentioned by Thomas Chaunceler in his will include his wife Isabella who was to have 40 marks and household goods along with the income from a shop. William Hostiler is mention as the brother-in-law of Thomas Chaunceler and he got a weaving loom for life.[10] Thomas and Isabella Chaunceler had a number of children including Joan Chaunceler, Isabella Short, and Margery Chaunceler along with three sons, namely; Robert, William and John Chaunceler.[11] There was at least one deceased adult child of Thomas Chaunceler as he mentioned “Joan Fox, some-time daughter” in a gift of £20 to her husband, William Fox.

Among the brothers and sisters mentioned by Thomas Chaunceler of Bath, and thus children of John Chaunceler of Keynesham, include Master Richard Chaunceler who was vicar of Burford in Oxfordshire, Dame Isabella Chaunceler who was prioress of Lacock priory in Wiltshire and Joan Dale.[12]

One of the legatees of the will of Thomas Chaunceler was William Champeneys of Wilmington, a hamlet in Priston. The father of William Champeneys also gave a loan of 100 marks to Bath priory in return for an annual pension of 26s 8d for the lives of John and his son William Champeneys. Bath priory mortgaged the manor of Chelworth to pay this pension.[13]

Chaunceler at Burford

In his will Thomas Chaunceler of Bath remembered his home town of Keynesham and gave £10 to Keynesham Abbey in return for prayers for his soul. As noted above Master Richard Chaunceler, brother of Thomas Chaunceler was vicar of Burford in Oxfordshire.[14] Richard Chaunceler held Burford from 1480 to his death in 1515 along with holding other benefices at the same time.[15] The vicarage of Burford was worth between £20 and £30.[16] As such the vicarage was coveted by many clerics who took the parish income and lived elsewhere.[17] When Time Team, the television archaeological programme, visited Burford in 2010, the presenter, Sir Tony Robinson described Burford “as one of the finest medieval towns in England”. The Time Team unit investigated the Priory of the Hospital of St. John the Evangelist and discovered Anglo-Saxon settlement nearby following the suggestion of Professor Mike Aston.[18]

The Lamb Inn in Burford by The Guardian 

Elsewhere in the town of Burford is the parish church of St. John the Baptist where Master Richard Chaunceler sang masses in 1497. Richard Chaunceler first appears in 1461 as a scholar of Winchester College.[19] The vicarage of Burford takes our story back to Keynesham where the Chaunceler family of John Chaunceler once lived. This is because in the first summary of endowments of Keynesham Abbey, taken from the Taxation of 1291, the spiritualia consisted of the churches of Keynsham, and its dependent chapels of Backwell, Burford and a portion of the church of St. Lawrence, Bristol.[20]

With this circle we conclude our journey through Keynesham to Bath and onto to Burford, and back to Keynesham again with the Chaunceler family which journey started on this day, 17th June 1489 with the will of John Chaunceler of Bath.


End of post


[1] Rev. F.W. Weaver (ed.), Somerset medieval wills (Somerset Record Society, Vol. XVI, 1901), p. 282
[2] A.B. Emden, A biographical register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500 (Oxford University Pres, 1989), Vol. 1, p. 397
[3] Rev. F.W. Weaver (ed.), Somerset medieval wills, p. 344
[4] Rev. F.W. Weaver (ed.), Somerset medieval wills, p. 282
[5] John Evans, A Chronological outline of the House of Bristol (London, 1824), p. 109
[6] Miss G. Bradford (ed.), Proceedings in the Court of the Star Chamber in the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII (Somerset Record Society, Vol. XXVII, 1911), p. 46
[7] Rev. F.W. Weaver (ed.), Somerset medieval wills, pp. 342, 343, 344
[8] Rev. F.W. Weaver (ed.), Somerset medieval wills, p. 341
[9] Rev. F.W. Weaver (ed.), Somerset medieval wills, p. 342
[10] Rev. F.W. Weaver (ed.), Somerset medieval wills, p. 343
[11] Rev. F.W. Weaver (ed.), Somerset medieval wills, p. 343
[12] Rev. F.W. Weaver (ed.), Somerset medieval wills, p. 344
[13] Miss G. Bradford (ed.), Proceedings in the Star Chamber in the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII, pp. 45, 46
[14] Rev. F.W. Weaver (ed.), Somerset medieval wills, p. 344
[15] A.B. Emden, A biographical register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500, Vol. 1, p. 397
[16] J.A. Twemlow (ed.), Calendar of Papal Registers Relating To Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 8, 1427-1447 (London, 1909), p. 583
[17] Margaret Bowker, The Henrician Reformation: The Diocese of Lincoln under John Longland, 1521-1547 (Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 119
[18] see 1.15 minutes – accessed on 17 June 2015
[19] A.B. Emden, A biographical register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500, Vol. 1, p. 397


  1. Niall - greetings from New England's western Massachusetts. I descend from Michael Ryan Sr. from Limerick. Could you please put a search box on your blog (widget) so I can search your posts. I am new to genealogy and quite interested in Ó Riain and Cathaoir
    Mór. email: larahentz at yahoo (dot) com.

    1. Thanks for your good comments. My knowledge of computers and websites is basic. How do I go about installing a search box?

  2. Keep up the good book hope you have another book out by next year it lovely to read about pass life of people

    1. Thank you for your comment and looking forward to the next book. Thanks