Extract from Sarum Close

The following is an extract from Sarum Close - A History of the Life and Education of the cathedral Choristers for 700 years written by Dora H. Robertson

The extract is from pages 172-175 in a chapter entitled 'The Gathering Storm'

NOTE: These extracts are especially interesting to the "Bartlett History" because not only do they:

(a) evidence the spelling of our name at the Cathedral as 'BARTLETT' thereby disproving the incorrect pedigree filed by Rev. Grosvenor Bartlett (Bartelot), but

(b) show John Bartlett, the choirmaster living in the Sarum Close House (1602-1622) purchased by John Bartelot alias Bartlett alias Hancock in 1543.

Cover page of the Sarum Close

.................The Office of teaching the Choristers was given to John Bartlett and it was this appointment which had such disastrous results.

There is a gap in the Chapter Registers from 1606 until 1622, and the only sources of information for the period are the Clerk of the Works' accounts and various documents in the Muniment Room. Among these is an undated document headed 'Articles objected by the Deane and Chapter of the Cathedrall against John Bartlett, teacher and keep of the Choristers . . . touching his ill carriadye towards them and ill usuage of the Choristers'.

Bartlett had taken over the charge of the Choristers from Richard Fuller four years before this document was written We have seen that the younger Farrant succeeded Fuller as Organist in 1589. If Bartlett took over at the same time, the Articles are placed in the year 1602. The earliest mention of Bartlett elsewhere is when he fetched boys from Windsor for James I's visit in 1611.

He had broken all the fair promises he had made at his appointment, and had failed in every part of his duty. Taking over an unsatisfactory Choir, he had undertaken to train them in two years, but the boys were still unable '(by reason of theire want of knowledge and practise in the church songes and musicke) to singe surely and perfectly but (did) often misse and faile and (were) out in their singing'. Bartlett himself had put in an appearance to 'overview' the boys in the Cathedral for six months, so that their behaviour was disorderly; he frequently went out of town without leave of absence; he went about saying that it was no part of his duty to teach the boys but only to board them. So far from performing his 'canonical obedience' to the Dean and Chapter, he had let loose his tongue to liberty of speech (to paraphrase the 10th article) and openly said that they had detained his living, or some part of it; he had bragged and boasted that he would complaine of them to the Counsell and it pitied him to consider how they would look when they should appear before the Counsell. But the most serious charge of all was his neglect of the boys. In spite of saying that his only duty was to board the boys, he had failed to provide them either with wholesome meat and drink, or cleanly and decent lodging and apparel, 'insomuch', the charge continues, 'that they have byn verie lowsey and taken home by theire friendes with griefe to see them in such a case who have clensed them and new clothed them sending them backe with complaintes of these joys defectes, and they have long tyme gone to the church in ragged sluggish and uncleanly surplices and ragged clothes to the greate disgrace of such a churche the discontent of the beholders the discredite of us the church governours and yor owne shame'. Things had come to such a pass that not a single boy was lodging at that time in the Choristers' House, and as a crowning infamy, John Bartlett had even let off part of the house to a tenant.

We do not know the result of this indictment, nor what defence Bartlett was able to make. The utter inadequacy of the money provided was obviously the root of the matter. The Choristers had been reduced from fourteen to six, a ridiculously small number for the size of the Cathedral, but we must remember that the Organist's salary was no longer ekeing out the living of the Choristers. No attempt seems to have been made by the Dean and Chapter to increase the available funds, so that the blame for the wretched state of the boys must rest equally on them. Bartlett survived this attack and remained in office until 1621, when he was removed. Perhaps there had been a temporary improvement in his behaviour. At any rate it seems certain that he was relieved of having to provide for the boys. In April 1622 he put in a pathetic plea against the Chapter's decision. Gone is the truculent tone of former times, and he implores for mercy as 'a poore man wantinge comfort and meanes'. He looks upon the Vicars as his enemies, and says that 'he would very willingly wash his hands of havinge anythinge to Doe wth the Vicors, whoe as he knoweth hathe beene the Chiefest instrumts of this his utter undoeing'. The Chapter out of pity granted him £30 out of their purses in addition to the other monies due to him. In return he promised 'to carry himself with all respect and duty unto them as a poore neighbor in the Close of Sarum'. Exit John Bartlett. Under him the scandalous neglect of the Choristers had come to a head, and the last picture we have of the boys when living under the care of their guardians, the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral, is one of dirt, hunger and vermin. For the next 250 years they lived in their own homes. Shades of Simon of Ghent and Roger de Mortival! All their anxious provision for the boys' welfare had been reduced to this repudiation of responsibility.

Conscience was evidently uneasy concerning the Choristers, and Dean Gordon, dying in 1618, left them a bequest. This is worthy of note as being the first post-Reformation gift to the boys. The money was to be used as an Exhibition. The Dean, in his will, left

£40 to be layed in a stocke and that the use of the said stocke shalbe kept for the mayntenence of poore boyes of the Choristers for the space of three yeres during the which they may be provided other graves. And that, after they goe from the quyer (not comprehending in the guifte those boyes whoe have parents to maynteyne them). To whom at theire goying fourth shalbe given everyone fortie shillinges and this stocke be pute either in Chamber of the Citie, which shalbe founde to paye yerelie the use thereof to suche one that shalbe appoynted by the Deane and Chapter of Sarum, to whome he shall render accounte.

It is doubtful if this money was ever paid over. In 1622 there is a note to the effect that a copy of the will of Dr. Gordon, late Dean of Salisbury, was to be procured at the common expenses of the Chapter and a lawsuit set on foot for the legacies left to the Choristers. This suit evidently did not materialize and it is amazing to read that twenty years later, on October 8th, 1640, a resolution was again passed in Chapter that 'a copie of so much of Deane Gordon's will to be had as concerneth the Choristers. At the charge of the Chapter'. No other entry occurs. Probably the war destroyed all hope of ever getting the money.

And here it is significant to notice that in 1630 Bishop Davenant passed a statute implying that there had been dis-honesty in the letting of the Choristers' lands. Misliking with his whole heart 'this greed of filthy lucre', the Bishop decreed that if anyone should have pocketed any fine, or, by implication, bribe, over the letting of their lands to farm, he was to 'restore double that which he had received'.

John Farrant the Younger, who died in 1618, was succeeded as Organist by Edward Tucker or Tooker. He held the post, except during 1625, when Richard Chappington was 'custos organorum', until 1631. We know little of Tucker, except that he was reprimanded in 1624, for being involved in a slanging match in the Cathedral with his fellow Vicars. 'Fools and asses'; 'damned slaves'; 'asses and dunces', were some of the epithets that were bandied about. There is another undated petition in the Muniment Room in which Tucker asks for an increase of £4 in his salary, in return for which he is willing to give up the Organist's place to Mr. Holmes 'who is fitt for it because of his boyes'. Mr. Holmes was never paid as Organist, so the petition evidently was ignored.

John Holmes had succeeded Bartlett as Tutor of the Choristers in 1621, being admitted then as a Lay Vicar on a year's probation. He was a distinguished musician and composer of Church music. He came to Salisbury from Winchester, bring-ing his family with him. His family is of more interest to this history than he, for around it raged the cause célèbre which had such far-ranging repercussions...................

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