Archive:The Antiquary

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From Google books.

The Antiquary, 2 Dec 1871, p. 187.


In the year 1449, when William Canynges was Mayor, whom the King of England styled "his beloved eminent Merchant of Bristol ; " when William de la Pole, Lord Suffolk, Lord Say, and Jack Cade, each lost their heads, and found a bloody tomb, a grave was opened in All Saints' Church, Bristol, for which the sum of 6s. 8rf. was charged, and in this snug resting-place one William Witteney was laid. Whether, like his predecessor, Blanket, he derived his name from his manufacture, which was even then carried on with peculiar excellence in the little town on the Windrush; or whether, as was customary, he was named from the town which he left to become a free burgess of Bristol, we know cot ; all that can be told is, that he is numbered amongst the good doers of All Saints', and that he left two remarkable presents to the church, in order that the priests, twice a year, on Ash Wednesday and Allhallows, might pray for his soul. The first of these gifts Rogers calls the dance of Sullys (Souls), an unaccountable blunder, inasmuch as the annual entry is repeated some thirty times, and in every case it is unmistakably Powllys. Lucas, in his Secularia, thinks this dance must have been a picture, or piece of elaborate tapestry, exhibited on poles twice a year in the Church. I am strongly inclined to think that in an age when every one was notoriously acquainted with a poll-tax, or a tax on persons, this "memorial that every one should remember his own 'death, that is to say, the dance of Polls," was a dance of heads, or marionettes. Strongly corroborative of this view, is the inventory of the goods of the church, wherein we find — "Item, a Stcyned Cloth with Popingays and Scrypturys. " Item, a cloth of Reclde Damaske worke wt a crucyfcxe wt Maty and John. " Item, a Foote for ye clothe peynted for Mary and John. "Item, a feote peynted for ye mownstrons." But whatever it was, it cost Witteney 18/. This was not the only gift of William Witteney to his fellow-citizens, for he also gave them a "Primar with Seven Psalmys, Letanye, Dirige, and Commendacyons. Psalmys of ye Passyon wt mcny othr Dcvocyons, ye which bokys stode in ye grate undyr St. Xpofer hys fote. And yc seyd boke was stole, and found at St. Jamys in Galeys (Galicia) and broght home and ncwe ygrated. And sethc stole azen." I have looked in fain for the disbursements of the messengers sent to search for and bring the treasure home ; I find in 1434, a receipt of 81/. from pilgrims going to St. James's, who, on the principle of giving "a sprat to catch a mackerel," may possibly have been the thieves, but nowhere can I find any outlay for a journey into Spain and back ; possibly the careless custodian had to beg his way until he found the lost treasure. Rich and rare as were the vestments and jewels of this fine old church [one suit cost 100/. in the days when William Poynter and Robert Walshe, coke (cook), were churchwardens] it seems slrange to meet with such entries as the following :—" Recept of Segys (sedges for covering the floor) ; John Olde, xiid. ; Roger Osteler, xd. ; Gycas Goldsmith, viiid. ; Richard Hosyer, viii. ; Jamys Chambyrlayn, us. iiijd., and ye Cordener (cordwainers) ys wyfe, viiid. For strawe yt Xms., ¡xd. Rusthes at Wytsontyde, iid. Raker ys yerly wage, iiijd., and for berying owte and awey ye church dowste, viiid." Nearly the whole of the above names, it will be observed, are taken from the calling or business of the party. Need I say that the narrow entry leading from High Street past the South Western Bank door into All Saints' Lane was "Cook's Row," the chosen abode of the Soyers of the age--though perhaps it is not so well known that both John and Roger Turtle, who in all human probability got their names also from their dealings in calipash and calipee, and are supposed to have been the introducers of the far-famed Bristol dainty dish, living in the corner, where Hayward's book-shop now stands.

J. F. N.

Copyright © 2008, Tim Doyle and the Whitney Research Group.

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