Home Local History Titles Museum Home Page Site Search



Whilst browsing some old editions of the Tring Parish Magazine, three articles (dating from June and September 1939, and August 1941) caught my eye.  They related to the ornately carved wooden frame that hangs from a column beside the book table in the Parish Church, and each drew attention to some interesting aspect of local history.  The frame in question contains a list of the previous Incumbents dating back to the year 1214, when Nicholas de Evesham was appointed Rector of Tring.  His name is followed by a further 54 clergyman down to the year 1966, when space became exhausted – later incumbents are recorded in a less impressive frame suspended on the opposite side of the column.

The first two articles told of the incumbent who had held the post of Rector for the greatest length of time, this being Anthony Molyneaux who was Rector between 1545 and 1605.  Whether he spent much of that time if, indeed, any, at Tring, is open to question, for Rectors often hired a substitute to perform their pastoral functions in the parish.  The third article identified the (perhaps) most prominent incumbent, for William Lyndwood, besides being Rector of Tring, served as a diplomat, was an authoritative writer on canon law, and ended his days as Bishop of Saint David’s.  Less impressive, to modern eyes at least, was Lyndwood’s heavy involvement in proceedings against the heretical Lollards (forerunners of Protestantism); in that age it seems that even a man of learning did not shrink from burning those of his fellow-men who publically espoused unorthodox views on religion.

The author of the article on Lyndwood was, I suspect, Sir Harry Bevir Vaisey (1877–1965), a senior judge in the Chancery Division of the High Court and a member of the distinguished Vaisey family of Tring.  This from the Tring Parish Magazine for February 1939:

Mr. H. B. Vaisey, K.C., D.C.L.

We would like to congratulate Mr. Vaisey upon the Degree of Doctor of Civil Law which was conferred upon him by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace on the 31st January for his services to the Church.

The privilege of conferring this Degree was formerly a prerogative of the Pope, but in the reign of King Henry VIII this was transferred to the Archbishop of Canterbury, under an Act of Parliament.  The recipient is entitled to wear the hood and gown of the corresponding degree in the University of which the Archbishop is himself a member.  Very few D.C.L. Degrees are conferred by the Archbishop, and we believe that there are only two other living persons who now hold it, and it ranks in precedence of all other Degrees of Doctor “in the faculty of Laws.”

Mr Vaisey is Vicar General of the Province of York, Chancellor of the Dioceses of York, Carlisle, Derby and Wakefield. He was a Member of the Archbishop’s Commission on Church and State, and is at present serving upon the new Church House Building Committee and other Church Committees, and he is a Member of the Council of Keble College, Oxford.


Below, I have reproduced the Parish Magazine articles I refer to together with other information that expands on Lyndwood’s life and work.

Ian Petticrew

February 2018




Arriving early for service at mattins recently and occupying the last pew on the inner south aisle just under the list of Rectors, Perpetual Curates and Vicars of Tring, which hangs from the pillar near the church table, I was struck with a feeling of curiosity as to what might be the average stay of our spiritual pastors, and as to who might have stayed longest at the head of the Parish.  In a few moments I had gleaned some interesting facts.  Over a period of 664 years from 1266 to 1930, the year of our present Vicar's induction, there have been 51 ministers.  At first they were called Rectors, then Perpetual Curates, and then towards the end of last century they were given the title of Vicar.  The average length of ministry is the unfortunate one of thirteen years, but only one minister stayed exactly thirteen.  Five ministers stayed only one year, and five stayed eleven years.  Three stayed over forty years, and one, Anthony Molyneaux – 1545 to 1605 – stayed the record period of 60 years.  I should think the Parish must have celebrated his Diamond Jubilee in great style, if they had such things as Jubilees in those days.

From the June 1939 edition of the Tring Parish Magazine.

And this is law that I’ll maintain,
Until my dying day, sir

The reference in our June Magazine to the long ministry of Anthony Molineux, rector of Tring for 60 years, invites a comparison between his incumbency and that of the famous Vicar of Bray, who “got preferment” as the song says in “Good King Charles’s golden days“ and held it through the the reigns of Charles II, James II, William and Mary, Anne, until his dying day which must have taken place, judging from the last verse of the song, some little time after the accession of George l, probably between 60 and 70 years in all.

Our old rector, Anthony Molineux, began his incumbency towards the end of Henry VIII’s reign and retained it, presumably until death, during the many changes that followed the accessions of Edward Vl, Mary, Good Queen Bess’s golden days and into the reign of James l.  These years included the introduction of the two Prayer Books of Edward Vl, the Marian persecution, the Prayer Book of Queen Elizabeth, the changes introduced therein in the reign of James I, and all that these events involved.  Mr. Molineux, like the Vicar of Bray, must have passed through stormy times and to have retained his position through them all may have been due primarily to concern for the cure of the souls committed to his charge rather than to complacency in his attitude towards the Authorities, and possibly this might be said also for the Vicar of Bray a century later.

(Unsigned) from the September 1939 edition of the Tring Parish Magazine.


Previous Incumbents of Tring Parish Church, 1214-1966.


Fastened to a pillar near the South door of the Church is a carved frame containing a list of the “Incumbents” of Tring from the year 1214 to the present time.  This frame was made by the men and boys of a wood-work class at Wigginton, organised by the late Mr. Burrell when he was Vicar there; it was presented to the Church by the writer of these notes more than 30 years ago.

The list is interesting, and there are many points in it to which attention might be drawn.  Here is one.  The name of “William Lyndwood“ who appears as Rector of Tring between the years 1424 and 1442 is almost certainly that of one of the greatest statesmen of the 15th Century; William Lyndwode, or Lyndewode, or Lindwood, — for, of course, the spelling of surnames in those days was much more a matter of taste and fancy than it is today! — who became Bishop of St. David’s, and died on the 21st October, 1446.

Lindwood was born at a village called Linwood in Lincolnshire; educated at Cambridge, where he became a Fellow of Pembroke College (then Pembroke Hall), and later went to Oxford, where he obtained the degree of Doctor of Laws.  It was to the study of the law that he devoted his life, and the public employments to which that study led.  He held a great many ecclesiastical preferments, but it must not be supposed that he was personally much engaged in performing the duties of them.  Tring, for example, was probably in charge of a Vicar or curate, to whom some portion of the emoluments of the benefice would be assigned.  But we may safely assume that the great man visited, on occasions, this and every other place from which his revenues were drawn, and that the people of Tring were proud that their Rector should be one whose name was so highly honoured throughout the whole Christian world.

In 1414 he was appointed Official, that is, Chief Judge or Chancellor, of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and in 1417 he was licensed to preach “both in Latin and English.”  In the same year he was twice sent to France to negotiate treaties for the King, Henry V, and he afterwards went to Portugal on a similar mission.

Between the years 1423 and 1430 Lindwood was engaged in the writing of the monumental work upon which his fame chiefly rests, his “Provinciale”, a book which is the foundation of the English system of Ecclesiastical Law [Ed. – which I take to be synonymous with Canon Law], and is still referred to as an authority in our law courts.  It evidently attracted the interest and admiration of his contemporaries, for from the date of its completion down to the time of his death we find that he was constantly employed in the highest affairs of State.  Thus, he was sent to conclude a treaty with Spain (1430); was the King’s representative at the Council of Basil (1433); and became Lord Privy Seal, and in effect a Cabinet Minister.  He was concerned as an Ambassador in almost all the dealings between England and continental countries, while his eminence at home was shown by many appointments of dignity and and importance, such, for example, as being chosen to open Parliament in place of a Lord Chancellor who was ill.  Blameless in life, sound in judgment, a loyal Englishman no less than a loyal Churchman, he was without doubt one of the most outstanding figures of his generation.

Rectories, Prebendaries, Archdeaconries, and other lucrative offices were showered upon him, and ultimately he was given the Bishopric of St. David’s, to which he was consecrated in St. Stephen’s Chapel at Westminster, where also, in accordance with his Will, he was buried.  There, too, in 1852, his embalmed body was found, with his episcopal crozier beside it, in a tomb constructed in the wall of the chapel.  In Volume XXXIV. of “Archaeologia” at pages 406 to 430 a somewhat gruesome description of the discovery, with illustrations to show the condition of the remains, will be found, together with a considerable amount of information about Lindwood’s career, the contents of his Will, etc.  There is no mention of Tring, but Cussans’ History of Hertfordshire states that his successor here, John Stokys (or Stokes), was instituted to the Rectory of Tring in 1435, “on the promotion of William Lindwood to the See of St. David’s
, though there is something wrong there, for such promotion did not take place until 1442.  Well, it was a long time ago, and we must on no account relinquish our claim to have the honour of William Lindwood’s association with our parish.  The best Edition of the “Provinciale” is the one published at Oxford in 1679, and the writer of these notes will be glad to hear of any copy for sale at a reasonable price!

(From the August 1941 edition of the Tring Parish Magazine.)



From an article by Lawrence Hibbs first published in the 1998 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise


This body of law grew up very gradually.  Its beginnings are to be traced to the practice in the early and universal church (before the great Schism of 1054, the final separation of the Western and Eastern Churches) of convening general councils to settle matters of uncertainty or dispute regarding the practice and discipline of the church, and to the issuing from time to time of ad hoc pronouncements for the guidance of the faithful.  Side by side with councils, the decrees of influential bishops were another source of ecclesiastical legislation and special attention was paid to Papal decrees.  In the middle ages a decisive stage was reached when Gratian issued his Decretum in 1140.  This collection of decrees became the basis of Roman Catholic Canon Law and, with supplementary legislation, enjoyed authority in that church until the present century.


As far as the Church of England was concerned, generally speaking, until the reform of the 16th century, Roman Canon Law was as binding in England as it was on the Continent, and it was supplemented by the local provincial decrees of Canterbury.  These were issued in 1433 as the synodical constitutions of the province in William Lyndwood’s “Provinciale”.

Following upon the Reformation and the break from Rome, a book of Canons for the Church of England was passed by the Convocation of Canterbury in 1604, and by the Convocation of York in 1606.  This is the principal body of canonical legislation enacted by the Church of England since the Reformation until the present century.  Among the many subjects with which they deal are the conduct of divine service, the administration of the sacraments, the duties of the clergy and the care of the churches.

In 1939 the Archbishops, of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, and of York, William Temple, appointed a Canon Law Commission under the chairmanship of the Bishop of Winchester, Cyril Garbett, to “consider the present status of Canon Law in England”.  This was undertaken, one suspects, because the Canons were more honoured in the breach than in the observance; or were simply ignored.  This work of revision, initially delayed by the outbreak of war, continued through the middle years of the present century and was largely carried through due to the drive and energy of Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1945-61.

Eventually, the Canons of the Church of England were promulgated (authorised for use) by the Convocations of Canterbury and York in 1964 and 1969, respectively, (at which time I was a member of the Convocation of Canterbury representing the clergy of the diocese of Winchester).  Responsibility for the Canons thereafter fell upon the General Synod which was formed in 1970.  These are the Canons in force in the Church of England at the present time and are amended or added to as circumstances demand.


from Wikipedia

William Lyndwood (c. 1375 – 21/22 October 1446) was an English bishop of St. David’s, diplomat and canonist, most notable for the publication of the Provinciale.


1. Early life
2. Career
3. The Provinciale
4. Notes
5. Bibliography


Lyndwood was born in Linwood, Lincolnshire, one of seven children.  His parents were John Lyndwood (died 1419), a prosperous wool merchant, and his wife Alice.  There is a monumental brass to John Lyndwood in the local parish church in which an infant William is portrayed decked in the robes of a doctor of laws. [1]

Lyndwood was educated at Gonville Hall, Cambridge though few details are known. [2]  He is thought to have become a fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge though later he moved to Oxford where he became DCL “probably rather by incorporation than constant education”.  He took Holy Orders and was ordained deacon in 1404 and priest in 1407. [1]

Lyndwood had a distinguished ecclesiastical career.  In 1408, Robert Hallum, Bishop of Salisbury appointed Lyndwood to his consistory court. [1]  Then, in 1414, Lyndwood was appointed “Official” of the Archbishop of Canterbury (i.e. his principal adviser and representative in matters of ecclesiastical law) in 1414, and Dean of the Arches in 1426, while holding at the same time several important benefices and prebends.  In 1433 he was collated Archdeacon of Stow in the Diocese of Lincoln, and in 1442, after an earnest recommendation from King Henry VI, he was promoted by Pope Eugene IV to the vacant See of St. David’s.  During these years Lyndwood’s attention was occupied by many other matters besides the study of canon law.  He had been closely associated with Archbishop Henry Chichele in his proceedings against the Lollards.  He had also acted several times as the chosen representative of the English clergy in their discussions with the Crown over subsidies, but more especially he had repeatedly been sent abroad on diplomatic missions, for example to Portugal, France and the Netherlands, besides acting as the King’s Proctor at the Council of Basle in 1433 and taking a prominent part as negotiator in arranging political and commercial treaties. [3]

He was also Keeper of the Privy Seal from 1432 to 1443. [4]  Despite the fact that so much of Lyndwood’s energies were spent upon purely secular concerns nothing seems ever to have been said against his moral or religious character. [3]  He was buried in St Mary Undercroft, the crypt of St Stephen’s Chapel, where his body was found in 1852, wrapped in a ceremonial cloth and allegedly “almost without signs of corruption”. [3]

Lyndwood, however, is chiefly remembered for his great commentary upon the ecclesiastical decrees enacted in English provincial councils under the presidency of the Archbishops of Canterbury.  This elaborate work, commonly known as the Provinciale, follows the arrangement of the titles of the Decretals of Gregory IX in the Corpus Juris, and copies of much of the medieval English legislation enacted, in view of special needs and local conditions, to supplement the jus commune.  Lyndwood’s gloss gives an account of the views accepted among the English clergy of his day upon all sorts of subjects. [3]  It should be read together with John of Acton’s gloss, composed circa 1333-1335, on the Legatine Constitutions of the thirteenth century papal legates, Cardinals Otto and Ottobuono for England, which was published with the Provinciale by Wynkyn de Worde.

The Provinciale was published as Constituciones prouinciales ecclesie anglica[n]e by Wynkyn de Worde in London in 1496).  The work was frequently reprinted in the early years of the sixteenth century, but the edition produced at Oxford in 1679 is sometimes seen as the best. [3]

The Catholic Encyclopaedia [3] saw the work as important in the controversy over the attitude of the Ecclesia Anglicana towards the jurisdiction of the pope.  Frederic William Maitland controversially appealed to Lyndwood’s authority against the view that the “Canon Law of Rome, though always regarded as of great authority in England, was not held to be binding on the English ecclesiastical courts”. [5]  The Catholic Encyclopaedia also contends that Maitland’s arguments had found broader acceptance in English law:

In pre-Reformation times no dignitary of the Church, no archbishop, or bishop could repeal or vary the Papal decrees [and, after quoting Lyndwood’s explicit statement to this effect, the account continues] Much of the Canon Law set forth in archiepiscopal constitutions is merely a repetition of the Papal canons, and passed for the purpose of making them better known in remote localities; part was ultra vires, and the rest consisted of local regulations which were only valid in so far as they did not contravene the jus commune, i.e. the Roman Canon Law.

— Halsbury’s Laws of England (1910) vol. 11, p. 377.

However, Maitland’s view of Lyndwood’s authority was attacked by Ogle. [6]



1. Helmholz (2006)
2. “Lyndwood, William (LNDT375W)”.  A Cambridge Alumni Database.  University of Cambridge.
3. Thurston (1913)
4. Powicke Handbook of British Chronology p. 92
5. English Historical Review 1896, p. 446.
6. Ogle [1912]



This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.

Baker, J. H. (1992). “Famous English canon lawyers: IV William Lyndwood, LL.D. (†1446) bishop of St David’s”. Ecclesiastical Law Journal. 2: 268–72.

— (1998). Monuments of Endlesse Labours: English Canonists and Their Work, 1300–1900. London and Rio Grande: The Hambledon Press with the Ecclesiastical Law Society. ISBN 1-85285-167-8.

Cheney, C. R. (1973). “William Lyndwood’s Provinciale”. Medieval Texts and Studies: 158–84.

Ferme, B.E. (1996). Canon Law in Late Medieval England: A Study of William Lyndwood’s ‘Provinciale’ with Particular Reference to Testamentary Law. Rome: LAS. ISBN 88-213-0329-2.

Helmholz, R. H. (2006) “Lyndwood, William (c.1375–1446)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, online edn, accessed 8 Sept 2007 (subscription or UK public library membership required)

Hunter, J. (1852). “A few notices respecting William Lynwode, judge of the arches, keeper of the privy seal, and bishop of St. David’s”. Archaeologia. 34: 403–5. doi:10.1017/s0261340900001193.

Maitland, F. W. (1898). Roman Canon Law in the Church of England. London: Methuen & Co.

Ogle, A. (2000) [1912]. The Canon Law in Mediaeval England: An Examination of William Lyndwood’s Provinciale, in Reply to the Late Professor F. W. Maitland. Lawbook Exchange Ltd. ISBN 1-58477-026-0.

Powicke, F. Maurice and E. B. Fryde Handbook of British Chronology 2nd. ed. London: Royal Historical Society 1961

Reeves, A. C. (1989) “The careers of William Lyndwood”, in J. S. Hamilton and P. J. Bradley (eds) Documenting the Past: Essays in Medieval History Presented to George Peddy Cuttino, pp197–216, Woodbridge: Boydell Press, ISBN 0-85115-515-4

Thurston, H. (1913) “William Lyndwood”, Catholic Encyclopaedia

Lyndwood’s Provinciale: The Text of the Canons Therein Contained, Reprinted from the Translation Made in 1534, ed. J. V. Bullard and H. Chalmer Bell (London: Faith Press, 1929).


Previous Incumbents of Tring Parish Church


Nicholas de Evesham 1214
Peter Chacesport 1249
Hugh le Moyne 1258
Gilbert de Ivinghoe 1294
Peter de Aboynton 1295
Isambard de Longa Villa 1316
John de Oxendon or Elton 1327
Walter de Wetwang 1336
Edmund de Haukestarch 1344
Robert Person 1346
Peter de Gildsburgh 1349
Robert de Stratforde 1350
Richard Deperdale 1376
John Ludham 1380
John Onyng or Lith 1382
Peter Pykering 1399
Thomas Martin 1401
Henry Ware 1407
John Luk 1408
William Chicheley 1418
William Lyndewode 1424
William Beconyll 1442
John Stokys 1444
Thomas Wynterbourne 1466
Edmund Lychefeld 1479
William Harrington 1502
Richard Wareham 1523
Anthony Molyneux 1545
Tim Fisher 1605
Andrew Harwood 1640
John Goodman 1650
Francis Duncombe 1667
Benjamin Lovell 1668
Abraham Watson 1672
Lewis Evans 1676
William Duke 1684
Robert Creed 1692

Perpetual Curates

Mathew Randolph 1713
Samuel Judd Collins 1760
Ralph Ord 1800
Marmaduke Bannister 1802
William Cleaver 1818
Charles Lacy 1819
Edward John Randolph 1841
John Yelloly 1845
Henry Auber Harvey 1856


Arthur Frederick Pope 1872
William Quennell 1881
Samuel Waite Tidswell 1892
Henry Francis 1903
Thomas Vernon Garnier 1919
Claude Thomas Thellusson Wood 1930
William Thomas Rees 1942
Thorold Kenneth Lowdell 1947
Donald Lockwood Howells 1966



[Home] [Local History Titles] [Museum Home Page] [Site Search]