Sunday, June 7, 2015

Appointment to the Carlingford vicarage in 1361

Appointment to the Carlingford vicarage in 1361

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien


When you read the papal appointments to medieval parishes as appears in the Calendar of Papal Registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland (20 vols. +) one could get the misleading impression that to be appointed all that was needed was a letter of recommendation from the Pope or the local bishop. Yet there was a longer procedure for parish appointments that was implemented a local level in Great Britain and Ireland. Due to the absence of episcopal registers for most dioceses in Ireland it is not possible to see this longer procedure in action. English episcopal registers often show this longer procedure.  

Yet all is not lost in Ireland as the Armagh registers of the Archbishops of Armagh provide us with a few examples. In 1361 there was a vacancy in the vicarage St. Mary at Carlingford, County Louth and in the Diocese of Armagh. The Register of Archbishop Milo Sweteman provides us with a series of documents which show the procedure of appointment and induction of a new vicar to a parish.[1]

First stage of appointment: presentation

The first act in filling the vacancy was the presentation before the 6th April 1361 by Thomas de Burley, prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in Ireland, of Sir Thomas Waleys, priest, to the dean and chapter of Armagh.[2] The Archbishopric was vacant since the death of Richard FitzRalph in November 1360 and the consecration of the new archbishop, Milo Sweteman in November 1361.[3]  

Second stage of appointment: customary inquiries

On 6th April 1361 Master Isaac O Culean, canon of Armagh and commissary for the dean and chapter, instructed the archdeacon, or his commissary, to make the customary inquiries when a new vicar was presented.[4] On 26th April 1361 Hugh Germey, vicar of Drummeskyn, commissary of the archdeacon, reported to Isaac O Culean that having made the customary inquiries he found the vicarage to be vacant by the death of Sir Henry Mowir; that Prior Thomas Waleys was the true patron and that the new prospective vicar was a fit person to hold the position.[5]

It was an important job to make inquiries as to who the right patron of a parish was, especially in the case of Carlingford where the patronage was divided between the Knights Hospitallers and the Archbishop of Armagh. In 1457 Master Nicholas Sutton entered a bond of £40 with the Bishop of Bath and Wells in the event of any trouble arising on account of he having admitted a new rector to Purlock church without making the proper inquisition as to the right of patronage.[6]

Patronage of Carlingford

The patronage of the church of Carlingford in 1361 was divided between the Knights Hospitallers and the Archbishop of Armagh. Within the Knights Hospitallers the patronage of Carlingford was sometimes in dispute between the prior of Kilmainham, the chief house of the Hospitallers, and the prior of Kilsaran in County Louth. In July 1471 Philip Bermingham, prior of Kilsaran, presented John Karny to the vicarage. The previous vicar, William Water, had been presented by the Archbishop of Armagh.

An inquisition into the vacancy of the vicarage of Carlingford, taken in October 1471, found that the patron was the priory of Kilmainham, near Dublin. Thus the July 1471 claim by the prior of Kilsaran to be the patron was dismissed. The enquiry further found that Kilmainham was the patron of Carlingford for one hundred and fifty years or more, i.e. pre 1320. The evidence for these findings was based on ancient documents of Steven Sedgrave, Archbishop of Armagh and the cathedral chapter of Armagh.[7]

Carlingford patronage before the Hospitallers

With the patronage of Carlingford in the hands of the Knights Hospitallers one would expect to see a reference to Carlingford in the records of the Hospitallers. Yet the Register of Chapter Acts of the Hospitallers, covering the years 1321 to 1349 does not mention Carlingford.[8] This absence may be because the parish was not fully integrated into the property of the Hospitallers or that it was at such a low level of priority that it didn't reach the records of the chief Hospitaller house at Kilmainham.

The above 1471 document said that the Hospitallers had the patronage of Carlingford since before 1320. This is confirmed by a royal pardon in 1327 given to Roger Outlaw, prior of the Knights Hospitallers in Ireland, for appropriating in mortmain, without licence, three churches including that of Carlingford, worth 5 marks.[9] Yet this patronage was recent. Before 1314, when the Knights Hospitallers acquired the property of the dissolved Knights Templar, the patronage of Carlingford and the preceptory of Kilsaran were in the hands of the Templars. In 1311 King Edward II presented Master John de Coleworthe, upon the resignation of Richard de Estdene, to the church of Carlingford, in the diocese of Armagh, which was in the king's gift by reason of the lands of the Templars being in the king’s hands.[10]

Kilsaran, Co. Louth was originally founded for the Knights Templar by Matilda de Lacy.[11] It is possible that before the suppression of the Templars in 1307, Kilsaran may have managed the patronage of Carlingford. If so, the claim of patronage by the preceptor of Kilsaran in 1471 may not be so out of order.

A view of Carlingford from the Lough

Carlingford in 1540

The dissolution of the monasteries in 1540 provide us with further information relating to Carlingford church and the patronage of the parish. The tithes of Carlingford were worth £4 10s of which two thirds of the tithes and altarages belonged to the rector. The tithes of the fish caught in the Carlingford River were worth £6 and were leased to Richard Rawson of Bristol for 40s per annum.[12] On 9th July 1539 the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem at Kilmainham leased the tithes of the rectory of Carlingford to Richard Rawson for 81 years. The same Richard Rawson of Bristol got other property from the Hospitallers on the same date and a year earlier in June 1538. He may have been a relation of the last prior of Kilmainham, Sir John Rawson.[13]

One third of these tithes belonged to the Archbishop of Armagh. The rest of the tithes and altarages belonged to the vicar. The advowson belonged two thirds to the King and one third to the Archbishop.[14] A later undated document, citing the property of Kilmainham priory at the dissolution, said that the rectory of Carlingford with the tithes of fish and the advowson belonged to Kilmainham priory while the presentation to the vicarage was divided three ways with twice to Kilmainham and the third presentation to the Archbishop of Armagh.[15]

It is not clear when the patronage of Church of St. Mary at Carlingford was divided between the two parties. It is also unknown where the Church of St. Mary was located in the town of Carlingford.[16] The Dominican priory of St. Malachy at Carlingford was founded it is said, by Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster and lord of Carlingford, in 1305. But the Dominican Archbishops of Armagh, Walter and Richard Jorz, are also accredited with the foundation. The patron of the priory was the Earl of Ulster but the priory history shows that the Archbishop of Armagh had interests in Carlingford.[17]

Third stage of appointment: admission

We now return to the procedure for the appointment of a new vicar to Carlingford in 1361. Following the report of Hugh Germey on the 26th April 1361, Isaac O Culean admitted the candidate for vicar, Thomas Waleys on that day or early next morning. On 27th April 1361 Isaac O Culean issued at Drogheda a certificate of admission for Thomas Waleys who he styled ‘chaplain’. In return Thomas Waleys gave Isaac O Culean gloves as a token of acceptance and submission.[18]

Fourth stage of appointment: induction

On the same day of 27th April 1361 Isaac O Culean wrote to Hugh Germey informing him that he had admitted Thomas Waleys to the vicarage and ordering the official or commissary of the archdeacon to cause Thomas Waleys to be inducted to Carlingford.[19] On 28th April 1361, at Drummeskyn, Hugh Germey issued an order to Sir Adam, rector of Mar … [the document is faded here and the parish of Adam is difficult to identify] to induct Waleys.[20]

Soon after Sir Thomas Waleys was inducted to the vicarage of Carlingford (the rector of the parish was the prior of Kilmainham). It appears that Thomas Waleys served as vicar for many years. On 3rd May 1375 Archbishop Sweteman sold the tithes, greater and less, of Carlingford and Coly for a year, to Thomas Waleys, styled perpetual vicar of Carlingford, for £20.[21]

It is not known for how long after 1375 Thomas Waleys held Carlingford. The next vicar that we have record of was Sir Richard Waspall, who was vicar of St. Mary’s, Carlingford, in about May 1407.[22]


End of post


[1] Brendan Smith (ed.), The register of Milo Sweteman Archbishop of Armagh 1361-1380 (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 1996), nos. 2, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5
[2] Brendan Smith (ed.), The register of Milo Sweteman Archbishop of Armagh 1361-1380, nos. 2, 2.1
[3] Brendan Smith (ed.), The register of Milo Sweteman Archbishop of Armagh 1361-1380, p. xiv
[4] Brendan Smith (ed.), The register of Milo Sweteman Archbishop of Armagh 1361-1380, no. 2.1
[5] Brendan Smith (ed.), The register of Milo Sweteman Archbishop of Armagh 1361-1380, no. 2.2
[6] Sir H.C. Maxwell-Lyte & M.C.B. Davis (ed.), The register of Thomas Bekynton, Bishop of Bath & Wells 1443-1465, part 1 (Somerset Record Society, Vol. XLIX, 1934), p. 279
[7] Mario Alberto Sughi (ed.), Registrum Octaviani Alias Liber Niger: The Register of Octavian de Palatio, Archbishop of Armagh 1478-1513 (2 vols. Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 1999), vol. 1, no. 279
[8] Charles McNeill (ed.), Registrum de Kilmainham: Register of Chapter Acts of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem in Ireland, 1326-1339 under the Grand Prior, Sir Roger Outlawe (Stationery Office, Dublin, 1932), pp. xiv, 159
[9] Calendar Patent Rolls, Edward III, 1327-1330, p. 171
[10] Calendar Patent Rolls, Edward II, 1307-1313, p. 394
[11] Charles McNeill (ed.), Registrum de Kilmainham, p. 166
[12] Newport White (ed.), Extent of Irish monastic possessions 1540-41 (Stationery Office, Dublin, 1943), pp. 109, 110
[13] Margaret C. Griffith (ed.), Calendar of inquisitions formerly in the Office of the Chief Remembrancer of the Exchequer prepared from the MSS of the Irish Record Commission (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 1991), No. H VIII 143/43 (11), (12), (13)
[14] Newport White (ed.), Extent of Irish monastic possessions 1540-41, pp. 109, 110
[15] Margaret C. Griffith (ed.), Calendar of inquisitions in the Office of the Chief Remembrancer, No. H VIII 195/57
[17] Aubrey Gwynn & R. Neville Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses, Ireland (Irish Academic Press, Blackrock, 1988), pp. 222, 223
[18] Brendan Smith (ed.), The register of Milo Sweteman Archbishop of Armagh 1361-1380, no. 2.4
[19] Brendan Smith (ed.), The register of Milo Sweteman Archbishop of Armagh 1361-1380, no. 2.3
[20] Brendan Smith (ed.), The register of Milo Sweteman Archbishop of Armagh 1361-1380, no. 2.5
[21] Brendan Smith (ed.), The register of Milo Sweteman Archbishop of Armagh 1361-1380, no. 140
[22] Brendan Smith (ed.), The register of Nicholas Fleming Archbishop of Armagh 1404-1416 (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 2003), no. 55


  1. Lovely story good to learn about how people lives on water

    1. Thank you for your good words - glad you enjoyed it