Lot 8
  • 8

Papal Bull issued for John Leyot, founder of a chantry in the chapel of Hale, Lancashire, manuscript in Latin on vellum

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Description

a document, 546mm. by 320mm., addressing the abbots of the monasteries in Vale Royal, the Church of the Blessed Virgin in Combermere, and the Archdeacon of Nottingham, requesting that John Leyot be given ecclesiastical benefices in repayment for his having founded a chantry in the church at Hale, Lancashire, 28 lines, written in light brown ink in a fine papal documentary script, with signature of the scribe "Jo.[hannis] de Nursia", some minor folding and cockling and two small holes in text, some erasures (see below), with attached lead seal, mounted on paper in a large glass frame 

Catalogue Note

John Leyot lived a remarkable life. He was born and baptised at Hale, a township on the banks of the Mersey. While a young man, he went on pilgrimage to Rome and secured privileges from Pope Urban VI (1378-89), returning to found a chantry within the Chapel of Hale, as the present document states "for the benefit of his own soul and of the souls of his ancestors" endowing it with two permanent chaplains (Victoria County History of Lancashire, iii, p. 149). He held office as deacon of Huyton in 1382, as rector of Denford in Northants in 1389, as rector of Coddington near Chester in 1393, as dean of St. John's, Chester in 1394, and as rector of Malpas and Bangor in 1405. In 1411 he resigned his offices and again went to Rome and met the controversial Anti-Pope John XXIII (c.1370–November 22, 1419), who himself held office during the Western Schism. John Leyot procured the present document, a dispensation from residence for the purposes of academic study, from John XXIII, and evidently impressed him; the Pope comments at length on his "literary knowledge, as well as moral rectitude, and other praiseworthy endowments of probity and virtues", and goes on to grant an indulgence to the benefactors of Hale Church. Around 1413 John Leyot was studying at Oxford, and appears in the accounts of Durham College (A. B. Emden, Biographical Register of the University of Oxford, 1958, p.1143). After completing his education he returned to ecclesiastical office in Heyworth and then Bangor Iscoed. He had died by February 1428, and was buried in the centre of the Chapel at Hale.

 

It is uncertain how binding this grant may have been in the eyes of English ecclesiastics, as John XXIII abdicated three years after it was granted and was briefly imprisoned in Germany, and the reformation was a little over a century away, but it is clear that the present item continued in use in the local community of Hale throughout the following centuries. This item along with the lands of the Leyot family were forfeited to William Ireland, the lord of Hale, in 1481, and the two lengthy erasures on the document were probably made by a member of his family in the seventeenth century, as the erased text appears to have concerned prayers for the dead, and Sir Gilbert Ireland (d.1626), high-sheriff of Lancashire was both a zealous puritan and personal friend of Oliver Cromwell. The document is recorded in the modern period as hanging in Hale Hall (Hale Hall: with note of the family of Ireland Blackburne, privately printed 1881), which became dilapidated in the last century and was demolished in 1981. The document has passed by decent to the present owner.  The chapel of Hale still survives as Hale Church, rebuilt in 1758, renovated and refitted in 1874, and restored and reconsecrated in 1980 after a fire. Papal documents from medieval England are relatively rare; cf. P. N. R. Zutshi, Original Papal Letters in England, 1305-1415, 1990.

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