The Stratfords
By Gerald H. Stratford.

Chapter 3. Three Bishops and an Archbishop.

John De Stratford.

John De Stratford, Archbishop of Canterbury was educated at Merton College Oxford, and had graduated as a Doctor of Civil and Canon Law by 1311. This may give some indication as to the year of his birth, which was probably in the region of 1270 to 1290, when he was Proctor of the University in a Suit against the Dominicans at the Court of Rome. He must, after this time, have been employed as a Clerk in the Chancery giving Royal Service, as in the year 1317, and for some years after, he gave advice and evidence in different Parliaments.

John De Stratford, before the 20th of December 1317, was assisting the Bishop of Lincoln, when he received the Prebend of Castor, and the Rectorship of the Church of Stratford Upon Avon, his home Town, the Living of which he exchanged on the 13th of September 1319 for the Archdeanery of Lincoln. He was appointed a Canon at York, and granted the Prebend of Bere and Charminster at Salisbury by King Edward the Second, although he never took up the position.

John was appointed the Dean of the Court of Arches by Archbishop Reynolds and held the Office from December 1321 until 1323, and was employed at the Papal Curia, on the business relating to Scotland.

When Reginald De Asser, the Bishop of Winchester died at Avignon on the 12th of April 1323, John was directed by the King to assist in the appointment of Ralph Baldock, but instead he influenced the Cardinal and Bishop of Albano to appoint himself, and was, in fact consecrated Bishop of Winchester on the 22nd of June 1323. This naturally annoyed the King, who immediately, on his return from France, dismissed him from the office, and it wasn't until the 28th of June 1324, that he received the temporalities of his Seal. This was because he had purchased favour by presenting, or suggested presenting, a Bond of £10,000, which he actually never submitted.

This quarrel with the King, could not have lasted very long, for on the 15th of November 1324, and the 5th of My 1325. John was commissioned to Treat with France, and on the 30th of September 1326, after being appointed Lieutenant of the Treasury, he joined the Archbishop in publishing an Old Bull, against invaders of the realm.

Parliament met in 1327, and John De Stratford acquiesced in the election of Edward the Third to the Throne, and drew up six Articles giving reasons as to why the King should be deposed, being one of the three Bishops sent to the King to obtain Final Abdication.

After Edward the Third was Crowned King, John De Stratford was appointed as a Member of the Council to advise and guide him, and on the 22nd of February was appointed to go to France on a mission. he was not in accordance with the new Parliament, and withdrew from the Salisbury Parliament in October 1328, without permission, and attended a conference with Henry of Lancaster at Christmas of the same year. This of course angered Mortimer and Burchington, at at the Salisbury Parliament their supporters agreed that John De Stratford should be put to death, but he was forewarned of the conspiracy and had time to get away into hiding.

Mortimer and his followers were eventually overthrown, arid John De Stratford was appointed Chancellor on the 30th of November 1330, and for the next decade became the King's principal adviser. In April 1331 King Edward was accompanied abroad by Stratford, both acting as merchants, so as to disguise their identities. In the September of that year, Stratford was in attendance at the sitting of Parliament, but in November he was again on the Continent, with the duty of formulating a Treaty with King Phillip of France, relating to a proposed Crusade, and also to negotiate a Marriage between Eleanor, the King's sister, with the Count of Guildres. he was again back in England for the Parliament of March 1332, but again was sent to Treat with France. During the Autumn of 1333, the position of Archbishop of Canterbury fell vacant, and because of the influence which John De Stratford had with the King and the Pope, he was postulated by the Prior and Chapter, on the 3rd of November. On the 18th of November the Royal Assent was given, and on the 26th of November the Pope, disregarding the postulation by the Chapter, offered John De Stratford the position. He received the Bull at Chartsey on the 1st of February 1334, and the Temporalities were restored to him on the 5th of February 1334.

John De Stratford was in Ponthieu on the 23rd of April, when Bishop Heath of Rochester, at Rue, delivered the Pall and then returned back to England, resigning the position of Chancellor on the 28th of September 1334, holding a convocation at St. Pauls, and being enthroned at Canterbury on the 9th of October of the same year.

Stratford again visited France to Treat with Phillip concerning Auitane, and the proposed Crusades, returning back to England in the January of 1335, and visiting the Diocese in the February. He was foe a second time, made Chancellor on the 6th of June 1335, and became constantly engaged with the King in Scotland, and the North, returning for the funeral of John of Eltham on the 13th of January 1337. he once again resigned the Great Seal on the 24th of March 1337.

On the 16th of July 1338, Stratford went with the King to Flanders, remaining there until the September of 1339, assisting in negotiations with France.

For a third time John De Stratford was made Chancellor on the 28th of April 1340, but a dispute arose with the king, when Stratford could not persuade King Edward not to participate in a Naval Expedition, and he again resigned the Great Seal on the 26th of June of the same year.

Stratford was still King Edward's right hand man, and was still President of the Council during the King's absence, but he had a lot of enemies. His opposition to the French Wars, plus the ill success of the operation in France, gave his enemies their opportunity. The Council advised Edward to return from France, which he did on the 30th of November 1340, immediately removing Robert De Stratford, the Archbishop's brother from the Chancellorship, at the same time arresting some prominent Merchants and Judges. John, was at this time at Charing, and being informed of the King's wrath, took refuge at Canterbury, with the Monks at Christ Church. He was summoned to attend Court, but refused to attend, preaching on the 29th of December, comparing himself with his idol, Thomas O'Beckett. He wrote Edward on the 1st of January 1341, and also to the Chancellor on the 28th of January, requesting that a tax imposed on the priesthood should be withheld, and instructed all the Bishops to refuse the collection of such taxes.

Stratford received as reply on the 10th of February, holding him responsible for the King's failure in his expeditions, and the rash Policies of the last eight years. He was again summoned to go to Flanders on the 18th of February 1341, to stand security for the King's debts, and replied with a further letter to Edward, claiming the right to be tried by God and his Peers. John was ordered to appear at the Court of the Exchequer to hear the Charges, and the King refused even to meet him. John De Stratford insisted on taking his place in Parliament, but on the 22nd of April the Chamberlain refused his entry to the Painted Chamber, but John ignored the refusal and forced entry.

On the 3rd of May 1341, a Committee was appointed as advisors to the king, for a decision as to whether Peers were liable to be tried by Parliament. The decision went adversely for Edward, who, therefore, had to yield, and eventually, on the 7th of May, a reconciliation took place and a friendly relationship was restored. In the Parliament of April 1343 and annulment of the Charges took place and they were withdrawn.

After these incidents Stratford appears to have withdrawn from the active Political life and concentrated more of his Church duties. He did in fact visit Norwich in October 1343, where the resident Bishop and Clergy refused to receive him. They were excommunicated. John continued to advise the King on Church matters, and did so in 1344 and 1345, regarding the Pope and the Papal Privileges in England, and the Pope's representatives resided with John De Stratford.

John De Stratford was head of the Council in July 1345 in the King's absence, and also in 1346, whilst Edward was away conducting his campaign at Crecy. It is not recorded that Stratford died of the Plague, but he was taken ill at Maidstone in 1348, and died. He was buried in Canterbury Cathedral, near the High Altar with a fine Gold Effigy.

Much of John De Stratford's income was spent on the Parish Church of his birth, Stratford Upon Avon, where he widened the north aisle and established a Chantry in the Honour of O'Beckett, endowed a College of Priests, and purchased the advowsonship for them. He was also benefactor of St. Thomas the Martyr's Hospital at Southwark and Eastbridge, London.

Robert De Stratford.

Robert De Stratford, Bishop of Chichester, was the brother of John De Stratford, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and like his brother, Robert appears to have been educated at Merton College, Oxford. He held the Living of Overbury in 1319, and exchanged it for the Rectory of Stratford Upon Avon on the 27th of October 1319, resigning the same on the 11th of March 1333.

He initially, maybe through his brother's influence, became a Clerk in the Royal Service, and was a Canon at Wells before 1338, including being in possession of the Prebend of Wrottesley and Middleton Wherwell. He added the Prebends of Aylesbury on the 11th of October 1328, Bore and Charminster on the 8th of December 1330, and Edynden Romsey on the 18th of January 1331.

During April and November of 1331, he was Keeper of the Great Seal, and on the 16th of October of the same year he was made Chancellor of the Exchequer and Papal Chaplain, on the 26th of January 1332. he was appointed as the Archbishop's Lieutenant in the Chancery in June 1332, and in December was a Commissioner at the opening of Parliament at York.

In April 1334, Robert De Stratford was again Keeper of the Great Seal, and on the 27th of June he had reservation of the Deanery of Wells. During the year of 1335, he became Chancellor of Oxford University and retained his Office until 1340. Robert was elected Bishop of Chichester in August 1337, the Royal Assent being given on the 24th of September, and he was consecrated by his brother John at Canterbury on the 30th of November 1337. He accompanied the King to Flanders in the September of 1340, and was with him at the Camp before Tourney. He actually returned to England before the King, and when Edward returned he was one of the officers dismissed from Office on the 1st of December. He escaped imprisonment and did not seem to be involved with the proceedings against his brother John, the Archbishop.

Robert De Stratford was present at the Parliament during the sessions of April and May of 1341, when John De Stratford asserted his position, and appears to have recovered Edward's favour, at the same time as John, as in May 1343, he was sent on a mission to the Pope, and in the July of 1345, was one of the Council during the King's absence. Robert De Stratford, died at his Manor House at Aldingbourne on the 9th of April 1362, being buried at Chichester Cathedral. He was described in a like manner as his brother John De Stratford, the Archbishop, as honest, brilliant administrator. he was responsible for the Grant of a Toll for the paving of the streets of Stratford Upon Avon, in 1335, which included Henley Street, Greenhill Street, and Old Town. Until the mid 18th Century the Seal of the Stratford Peculiar bore the Effigy and Coat of Arms of John De Stratford.

Ralph ( Hatton ) De Stratford.

Ralph De Stratford was a Kinsman of John De Stratford and Robert, and his probable relationship to them has already been discussed. He again was educated at Oxford, and graduated as an A.M. and B.C. I., and again was appointed as a Clerk in the Royal Service.

On the 2nd of April 1332, he received the Prebend of Banbury, and the Prebend of Erchesfont on the 15th of December 1333, which he exchanged for Bibbury on the 23rd of September 1335.

He was Canon at St. Pauls before the 26th of January 1340, when he was elected as Bishop of London, three days after which came the Royal Assent, being consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the 12th of march. He supported John De Stratford at the Parliament in April 1341, being one of the twelve Lords selected to advise the King as to whether Peers were liable to be tried by Parliament.

Ralph De Stratford was one of the two candidates whom King Edward recommended to the Pope for promotion to the Cardinate in 1350. He died at Stepney on the 7th of April 1354. During the prevalence of the Plague of 1348, he was responsible for purchasing a piece of land known as ' No Man's Land ' as a Cemetery which later became known as Pardon Churchyard.

He joined his Kinsmen, John and Robert De Stratford, in the benefactions of Stratford Upon Avon, and built a residence for the Priests of the John DE Stratford Chantry in 1333, which was demolished in 1790, and also owned property in Bridge Street.

Nicholas Stratford.

Became the Bishop of Chester, and was born at Hemel Hemstead, Hertfordshire, being baptised there on the 8th of September 1633. His father another Nicholas, was described as a shoemaker and tailor.

Nicholas Stratford, the same as the previous Bishops and Archbishop, attended Oxford and Matriculated from there on the 29th of July 1651 as a Commoner at Trinity College. He became a scholar on the 17th of June 1652, and graduated as a B.A. on the 25th of January 1653/4 and attained his M.A. on the 20th of June 1656. On the 4th of June 1657, he became a Probationer Fellow of the College.

He took Holy Orders, and soon made a reputation for himself as a Preacher, and through the influence of the Bishop of Rochester, John Dolben who was the Warden of Collegiate Church at Manchester, and also the Manchester Parish Church, Stratford was granted the Advowson. Life was difficult for Stratford, as he had followed a Puritan Minister Richard Herrick, and he was trying desperately to restore the former Anglican way of worship. He eventually achieved his objective by prudence and his conduct, without offending the Chapter and Parishioners. He revised the Statutes, vindicating the rights and increasing the finance of the College, whilst during this time his influence and his own example resulted in several rich Parishioners bequeathing large amounts of money to the poor of Manchester.

Whilst still Warden, Nicholas Stratford was made, in 1670, a Prebendary of Lincoln, and in 1672 Rector of Llansastiffraid Yn Machain, and in 1673, Chaplain in Ordinary to the King, and the Dean of St. Asaph in 1674.

He Graduated as a Bachelor of Divinity in 1664, and whilst religious feelings and political unrest was a stir in Manchester, Stratford, although a Tory and High Churchman, found that he could not support some of the Policies, and, because he had a forbearing approach towards Dissenters, this caused him some embarrassment. He resigned his Wardship in 1684, and returned to London taking the Advowmanship and Vicarage of St. Mary's Aldermanbury. He remained in this position until being appointed Bishop of Chester, when he was consecrated at Fulham on the 15th of September 1689, at the same time holding the Rectory of Wigan.

In 1689, Nicholas Stratford was commissioned the task of revising the Prayer Book, along with other Prelates, and in 1700, he founded a Hospital in Chester for 35 boys, for apprenticeships, instruction and maintenance. He was a Governor for the distribution of Queen Anne's Bounty in the Charter of the 3rd of November 1704. His reputation was of the highest calibre, and, being constantly in attendance in his Diocese, he ruled with a gentle and firm fairness, and certainly looked after his Clergy and his Cathedral. Nicholas Stratford, died at Westminster on the 12th of February 1707, being buried at Chester on the 20th of the same month. He had married the daughter of the Archdeacon of Stowe, Dr. Stephen Luddington, and had issue of two sons and two daughters, One son died and William the survivor, was Archdeacon of Richmond from 1703 to 1729, and Canon of Christ Church Oxford. William never married and when he died on the 7th of May 1792, he left large Estates and Money foe augmenting poor livings in the North of England. On visiting the Lake District you will find in most Parish Churches notices to this effect.

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Data transcribed by Colin Hinson from:
A document written by
Gerald H. Stratford in 1988.
Reproduced here by permission
© Gerald H. Stratford.