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
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 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
Below, I have reproduced the Parish Magazine articles
I refer to
together with other information that expands on Lyndwood’s life and
SIXTY YEARS THE RECTOR OF TRING
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
IN re ANTHONY MOLINEUX
“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
(Unsigned) from the September 1939 edition of the Tring Parish
Previous Incumbents of Tring Parish Church,
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
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
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.
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
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. 
Lyndwood was educated at Gonville Hall, Cambridge though few details
are known.  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. 
Lyndwood had a distinguished ecclesiastical career. In 1408,
Robert Hallum, Bishop of Salisbury appointed Lyndwood to his
consistory court.  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
He was also Keeper of the Privy Seal from 1432 to 1443. 
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.  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”. 
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. 
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. 
Catholic Encyclopaedia  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”.  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
William (LNDT375W)”. A Cambridge Alumni Database.
University of Cambridge.
Powicke Handbook of British Chronology p. 92
5. English Historical Review 1896, p. 446.
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) . 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.
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’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).