Two laws, passed in the interests of the College before Henry VI.'s death, concerned the inhabitants of the town. In the twenty-second year of his reign (1444), it was enacted that no persons should take lodgings in the town or parish, without the consent of the Provost or his deputy, and two years later an Act was passed prohibiting soldiers or officers from being quartered in the town.
The parishioners must have naturally taken great interest in the foundation of the Royal College, and especially in the building of the splendid Church, which was to take the place of that in which they had worshipped for many years ; and so no doubt they shared the consternation caused by the news that King Henry's successor, Edward IV., had determined to upset the late King's plans, and to put an end to the College, and hand over the revenues to St. George's Chapel, Windsor.
No great progress had hitherto been made with the college buildings, and the Collegiate Church was still hardly above the ground. This the King represented to the Pope and asked him to issue a bull to enable him to carry out his purpose. The bull was issued in 1463, condition that the site of the College was not to be profane uses. King Edward had already seized of the College estates, and things went so far that the bells, the vestments, the altar furniture, and plate were in Windsor.
Meantime, from lack of funds, the School had sunk to a low ebb. All salaries had to be cut down, and the thirteen almsmen or bedesmen, who had formed part of King Henry's Foundation, were disbanded. The cloud however proved a passing one, and there must have been a general feeling of relief in Eton, when in 1469 the King changed his mind, and the Church property which had been removed to Windsor was restored, and the bells were rehung in the belfry of the old Church.
In 1470, the building of the new Church was resumed, under the vigorous supervision of Bishop Waynflete, but on a smaller scale than that planned by Henry VI. Instead of a grand nave, stretching across the road, and measuring 168 feet long and 8o feet wide, this part of the Church was cut down to the dimensions of what is now known as the Ante-Chapel. This was considered sufficient for the accommodation of the townspeople and parishioners, without any thought for the future growth of the place.
This nave was far more open than at present to the choir of the Church, being only separated by an open wooden screen or rood-loft, the materials for which were taken from the rood-loft and stalls in the old Church.
The rood-loft was approached by a stair behind the Provost's stall, which stood six feet away from it, and was much lower than the present one. The rood-loft was used for the reading of the Gospel and for choral singing, the latter being supported by a small kind of organ.
In this nave stood four altars. In the north-east corner behind the present font, the Altar of the Blessed Virgin—in the south-east corner, an altar, known as the Altar of Thomas Jourdelay,1 an inhabitant of Eton who died about this time and was buried near it. His name survives in the house known as Jordley Place.
The old Church was probably pulled down about 1487, as soon as the new Church was finished, but no particulars about this have been preserved. The vestry however remained in use as late as 1516, the roof being repaired in 1501.
The Provost and Rector of Eton at this time was Dr. Henry Bost, who on his death in 1504 left a legacy of 13s. 4d. a year for the benefit of the poor.
Two other benefactions to the parish may be here mentioned, as coming from men of the same generation.
One which amounts to 10s. a year was left by a certain Robert Brede of Burnham, who died in 1515 and was buried in the Church at Eton at the expense of the College. The anniversary of his death, which took place at the end of July, was in accordance with his will observed for some time after with solemn services, which were attended by the Provost and Posers of King's College, Cambridge.
Dating from the same time, and apparently connected with the same bequest, is a sum of £1 8s. known as Breakfast Money. This was originally spent in bread and beer given to the poor of Eton at Election time. To this has since been added 5s., which was assigned to the Provost and Posers of King's for the same occasion. Another legacy producing 10s. a year was the bequest of Dr. Roger Lupton who succeeded Dr. Bost as Provost and Rector. The small chapel on the north side of the College Chapel bears his name, as also the clock tower in the School yard.
The above benefactions amounting in all to 13 6s. 4d. are paid by the College yearly to the Vicar and Church-wardens and are used towards the weekly pension of some aged parishioner.
1 Among other items in Thomas Jourdelay's will, proved before William Westbury, Provost of Eton, October 22, 1468, is a bequest of " xx shillings for the repair of the footpath in Eton between Baldwynes Brygge and Bowyer's Elm."
OLD DAYS OF ETON PARISH by The Rev. John Shephard, M.A. was published in 1908 by Spottiswoode and Co Ltd. The text is has been copied from the original book that is now out of copyright.