chantries of St John's church


Of the Church of St John the Baptist


A Chantry, also known as an Obiit (from the Latin verb ob-eo, to go away, meaning "he has gone away"), is a monetary trust fund established for the purpose of employing one or more Priests to sing a stipulated number of Masses during a stipulated period of time for the spiritual benefit of a deceased person, generally the donor, hoped to be in the state of Purgatory.

Chantries were commonly established in England before the Reformation and were endowed with lands, rents and other assets given by donors, often in their wills, the income from which maintained the chantry priest.

A chantry chapel is a building on private land or a dedicated area within a parish church or cathedral, set aside or built especially for and dedicated to the performance of the chantry duties by the priest. A chantry may occupy as premises only an altar, for example in the side aisle of a church, rather than an enclosed chapel within a larger church, generally dedicated to the donor's favourite saint. Many such chantry altars became richly endowed.

Over the centuries chantries increased their wealth, often by attracting new donors, and chantry priests were in many cases able to enjoy great wealth and in some instances this led to the corruption of the consecrated life expected of clerics. This evident corruption was one of the factors which led to the Dissolution of the Monasteries upon which chantries were abolished and their assets were sold or granted to persons at the discretion of King Henry VIII and his son King Edward VI, via the Court of Augmentations.

Collinson, writing in 1791 of Yeovil said of St John's church  "The paroche chirche is faire and lyghtesom. In it be 4 or 5 cantuaries endwydr with lands".

The chantries of the Church of St John the Baptist were -


On 25 December 1547, the final day of Edward VI's first parliament, a bill to dissolve the chantries became a law. While it cannot be denied that the government was in urgent need of finances and that the chantries offered easy pickings, the Chantry Act was ostensibly an act of religious reform. According to the Protestant members of the Council, chantries were "superstitious practices", a remnant of the papal apparatus which was both obsolete and irrelevant to the new religion.

The Act dissolved "all manner of colleges, free chapels and chantries" that had been in existence during the last five years prior to 4 November 1547 and which had not already been seized by the King. Endowments that maintained "any anniversary or obit or other like thing, intent or purpose, or of any light or lamp in any church or chapel" were to be confiscated, as were the endowments of all corporations, guilds, fraternities, companies, fellowships, misteries or crafts that had been used to maintain a priest, anniversary, obit, light or lamp. Further, all goods, cattle, jewels, plate, ornaments and novelties went to the King. Commissioners were to be appointed to survey all chantry lands, property, goods and incumbents, and their certificates recorded within one year.

The Act exempted all hospitals, almshouses, schools, specified chapels and university colleges, as well as chapels of ease, which meant that those institutions retained their land endowments but ceased all celebrations of obits, lights and prayers for the dead.

By February 1548 commissions had been issued to survey all chantry property and by the end of March prospective purchasers were preparing for the sales. In all, slightly less than 2% of Somerset chantry property was sold in the period 1553 to 1558.


List of known Yeovil Chantry Priests






Philip Bouter

John Bere

William Stoke

John Skynner


John Onewyne

Archpriest, Holy Trinity

John Muleward

William Smythe

John Halleyn


Thomas Redman



William Spycer

Holy Trinity


John Onewyn alias Peny



William Ammersham

Holy Trinity


John Wynyngham

Holy Trinity

John Martyn

John Girdeler

John Bellman

Blessed Virgin Mary

John Shopper

Henry Shepehurd or Shepsmed

John Repe (also 1463)

William Taylour

John Parker

Walter Bath or Bache

Holy Cross (perpetual chaplain)

William Wever


Sir John Bushe

Name of Jesus


Sir John Whyte

Name of Jesus


Sir William Tylly

Name of Jesus


William Maunwyld or Maunfeld

Name of Jesus

John Hall

Holy Trinity


John Holmys

Name of Jesus


William Harvey

Name of Jesus

Henry Lyrbeck

Holy Trinity

John Whitewell

Blessed Virgin Mary

William Trevylyan

Holy Cross


Sir John Hall

Holy Cross