"He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave,
By laboursome petition; and, at last,
Upon his will I sealed my hard consent."
- Shakespeare, Hamlet
The Collegiate Church, now the Cathedral of Manchester, was founded about 1420 in this already ancient town by Thomas de la Warre, baron and priest, rector or parson of St. Mary's, Manchester, and lord of the manor. The flourishing town of woollen industries, introduced by the Flemings a hundred or more years earlier, demanded a new and more capacious church; and De la Warre, the last of his noble house, determined to provide buildings in which a Warden, priests or Fellows, and choristers, should be continually resident, as well as to found a new church. He gained the consent of his parishioners to the appropriation of estates belonging to the existing rectory, as an income for the college, and supplemented it from his own lands in the district. He also obtained a charter of foundation from Henry V., dated May 9. The college was dissolved by Edward VI. and refounded by Henry VIII.; but by the time of Elizabeth its lands had been plundered, sold or leased, she herself becoming a sharer in the profits of spoliation until there was hardly any clear property left. At the instance of Dean Nowell, an inquiry was instituted, with the result that the college was granted a new charter in 1578, as Christ's College, to consist of a Warden, four Fellows, and two chaplains, with choristers. Nowell and Oliver Carter were two of the first Fellows. The second Warden was Dr. Chadderton, who had been Leicester's chaplain, and was Bishop of Chester. Under him the Catholics were relentlessly persecuted, Manchester prisons were filled, and the famous Marprelate printing press was discovered and seized. Chadderton's promotion to the see of Lincoln in 1595 made an opening for our persistent place-beggar to be disposed of at last.
Dee arrived in Manchester on Monday afternoon, February 15, 1596, and took up his abode in the college. On the following Saturday he was installed inthe Wardenship, between nine and eleven o'clock, as he tells us. He has unfortunately left no account of the ceremony. His first business was to become acquainted with the tenants fo the college lands, and the owners of tithes which constituted its revenue. On April 2, he says Sir John Byron and his son, Mr. John Byron, dined with him at the college. This family, although Newstead had been acquired some forty or fifty years previously, were still often resident on their Lancashire estates. Clayton, near Manchester, was in fact then their chief residence. A little later in the month, Dee records the courts kept for the manor of Newton, in Manchester parish, of which the Warden and Fellows were lords. The Dean and Canons, the present representatives of Warden and Fellows, still hold a court leet twice a year for this manor.
There is an interesting letter from Dee to Robert Bruce Cotton, the antiquary, dated in May this year, throwing light on his relations with the people in his employ - copyists, assistants or apprentices. He had brought with him from Mortlake Antony Cowley, who had formerly been in Cotton's service. Dee was anxious to know if he had departed from the employ of his late master withhis good will.
"Truely, for my part, I will receyve none to my simple service (man or woman) unleast they come from theyr Masters or Mistresses with theyr well liking of suche their departure from them. Therfore, I wold, by this bearer, gladly receyve your answer herein, by word of mouth or by your letter. And so shall I be free from all offence giving to your worship, or any els inthis cause: as I am most free from coveting, desyring or longing after my neighbour's wife or any servant of his. If I might have a thousand pounds to sollicite or procure any mans servant to forsake his master or mistress, and to come to me or any other, I wold not do it, God knowes."
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