Eagle+Child crest James Stanley, Bishop of Ely

[This is extracted from Vol VI Transactions Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society 1888]




The Stanley or Ely Chapel.

Tomb James Stanley
Brass - John Stanley

TO the north-east of the nave of Manchester Cathedral lies a chapel, entered by a door in a rich parclose screen. At the north-west corner of the north choir aisle, ascending three steps, you enter under a quaint piece of heraldic oak carving into an ante-chapel, in which are two doors, one leading to the yard, the other to the chapel proper.1 This is called the Derby Chapel; it is dedicated to St. John Baptist, and was built by Bishop Stanley and Sir John Stanley, who, some people think, was his natural son. This chapel of five bays is co-extensive with the choir, being twenty-eight yards long, and about twenty-one feet broad; at its east end is a very wide perpendicular window of seven lights, under which is an altar. To the north again of this chapel is a small four-square chapel, occupying the second bay from the east. A massive parclose screen and door, which were once parts of the St. James's Chapel, in the nave, now separate these two chapels., and clumsily cover an altar tomb of grey York flags. The tomb is very plain, very long, and has screwed to its top the mutilated remains of a fine brass. Within living memory its top was of Purbeck marble,2 its sides were of rosy-pink Runcorn stone, and it was adorned with many coats of arms and the figure of a priest with label issuing room his mouth. William Cole, the Cambridge antiquary, who died in 1782, described it thus: " In the third north Isle of the Choir of the Collegiate Church in the Division of the Small Chapel and said Isle lieth an altar tomb of stone or marble rather on the south side of which is the figure carved of a priest with a sercle from his mouth, very small, and 2 coats of arms. On the top, is the figure in brass of a bishop in Pontificalibus, with a fine mitre richly adorned on his head, a crosier in his left hand, and giving his benediction with his right, which is adorned with ring, the four escocheons at ye corners are reaved, but the inscription at his feet is perfect, the last line or two of the Latin with which it concludes I did not take for want of time and light. This was preserved no doubt by the Earl of Derby, whose chapel it is, and that on the south side by it I was told by one of the Chaplains, the Rev. Mr Clayton, yields to the Earl an hundred pounds a year only for burials, to which use it is wholly applied, being a large Chapel and contiguous to ye north Isle by the Choir and too near to be used for separate Service, which the town wanted and desired to divide by a wall to prevent being heard in the Choir, and too far from the Choir to assist at the service going forward there; the figure is not very large and seems full faced and fat." (Cole MS. Brit. Mus. 5,836, p. 66.) The inscription now on the tomb is as follows:

Inscription on tomb of James Stanley


The latter portion of the epitaph may be translated as follows: " Live thankful to God, buried from the whole world, cleansed from sin, always prepared to change. O sons of men how long will ye be stubborn hearted? To what end do ye love vanity and seek after deceit ?"-(Psalm iv. 3. Vulgate).

Above this epitaph is the brass effigy of a bishop. Part of the mitre and all below the knees is gone, as also the four shields at the corners of the stone and two shields at each side and one at the end of the tomb. From a copy by Cole of a mantelpiece at Somersham, we can restore these shields with the arms of Stanley, See of Ely, Man, Lathom, Nevill, Beaufort, &c. ; we can restore the figure of the rived priest even to the motto in his mouth-but we pass on to describe the brass effigy.

Joseph Aston, in his history and description of the Collegiate Church, about 1823, says, "formerly the arms of Stanley and those of the bishopric of Ely were upon the tomb; on the sides were also brass effigies of kneeling figures, from whose mouths labels issued, on which were engraved pious ejaculations."


The bishop is represented in full Pontifical vestments, in the act of giving the benediction with his right hand, while he holds an elaborately chased and crocketed pastoral staff in his left. The vestments which are depicted in this brass are, I consider, unique for their beauty and clearness of representation, while the delicacy, of the features and hands could not be surpassed by any modern artist. The bishop wears a mitre called the pretiosa, the upper part of which is lost ; on either side of its orphrey (border) are two large oval precious stones, above which are roses of pearls. The orphrey is treated in a like manner, precious stones between roses of pearl,, while the ground work of the mitre appears to be sewn with seed pearls, the labels can be seen behind the bishop's head. He wears his hair cut long. The features are rather elongated, and the wrinkles on the face show him to have been an old man. In proportion to his height his head and hands are remarkably small. He was six feet seven inches in height. (A surgeon who saw his bones when they were exhumed some fifty years ago verified the fact of his great stature). His right hand has rings on the middle finger and thumb over the episcopal glove. The apparel of the alb is just discernible at the wrist. The left hand, which is also gloved, grasps the sudarium, or sweat cloth, which covers the stem of the pastoral staff. The head of the staff is an octagon turret from which issues the crocketed volute, having within its foliation a Tudor rose. The principal vestment of the bishop is a chasuble of short dimensions, decorated down the front with a pillar orphrey instead of the Y cross usual in most old English brasses. The vestment is, however, quite different in shape from the modern Roman chasuble. This orphrey is covered with a fine diaper of needlework, and finishes at the neck with the collar and folds of the amice, which is also richly embroidered.

The border of the chasuble is encrusted with jewels. Depending from the left arm may be seen the double ends of the maniple or fanon, as it was sometimes called, which is fringed or otherwise ornamented. The chasuble, which terminates in a circular sweep above the knee, reveals beneath it the square or fringed skirts of the dalmatic, on the left side of which the long gusset can be seen. The front of this vestment is adorned with acanthus leaves. Unfortunately the rest of this exquisite brass, which must have displayed the tunicle, the ends of the crossed stole, the alb with its apparel of needlework at the feet, the episcopal sandals which were often most elaborately decorated, and the spiked end of the staff, have been lost.

Under this tomb the ashes of a great man rested in peace from 1515 to 1812, nearly three hundred years, when, says Barritt (MS. 8,026, Chetham Library) : ." June 15th, 1812. The tomb in the Old Church, Manchester, of James Stanley, Bishop of Ely and Warden of Manchester, was slightly opened; his bones not being found within, search was made under it, where they were discovered, the back-bone, shoulder blades, collar-bones, and ribs, mouldered away; no part of a coffin, shroud, or trinket being found with them. The search was at the desire of Mr. Wray, none being present but he and myself, except the sextons. This settles the point which has been discussed whether he was buried in the Old Church or at Ely where is a monument to his memory. From the appearance of his bones he must have been a stout man six feet high or more." Barritt is in error in stating that there is a monument at Ely.

Palmer, in the Manchester Foundations (vol. ii., p. 328), states that in 1812 the body was exhumed from four and a half feet below the surface, head to west, arms crossed over the breast. The skeleton measured six feet four inches, and the thigh bone was twenty inches long.

Two curious corbels on the walls at each side of a window in the Ely Chapel mark the place where probably an altar stood. One is an angel bearing the Arms of the See of Ely. Another a curious sort of rebus, a ducally crowned S, an eagle's claw, and a couchant buck. Of course the iconoclasm which has distinguished the restorer's march through Manchester cathedral has obliterated all trace of credence or piscina, altar slab or foot pace, and it has also put a new roof on the chapel with plaster decoration.

Dr. James Stanley.

It seems impossible to fix the exact date of James Stanley's birth, but it must have been about 1450. He was probably reared at Lathom Castle, where his mother, Eleanor Nevill, daughter of Richard Nevill, and sister of the king-making Earl of Warwick, loved to have a company of well-read and scholarly men about her. His tutor was Thomas Westbury, a learned Oxonian, 3 and James became afterwards a scholar of that university.

That he was a poor scholar would appear from the difficulty experienced in taking his degree, and from Prior Robert Stuart's remark, Armis quam libris peritior, more skilled in wielding the sword than the paper-knife. When the University of Oxford came to grant his degree of doctor in decretis, the grant was withheld for a year, and then it was to be conferred by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London placing a cap upon his head; for this honour, tardy though it was, he sent a very ample letter of thanks to the faculty. Godwin tells us that the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him, in 1506, by the University of Cambridge, when the culminating moment of his life was reached and he was consecrated Bishop of Ely.

Having been early designed for the church we find him soon in orders. In 1479, being then somewhere about twenty-nine, he was appointed prebendary of Dunham in Southwell Minster. Five years afterwards he was nominated precentor of Salisbury, but was not collated till 1505. He resigned this office in 1506 upon his consecration to Ely. In 1485 he became warden of Manchester, to which he was presented by Thomas West, Lord De la Warr, Lord of Manchester, the then patron. The record at Lichfield is dated 22nd July, 1485. In 1491 he became prebendary of Yetminster in Salisbury, and in 1492 exchanged this stall for Bedminster in the same cathedral. In the next year we find him Dean of St. Martin's le Grand, London, and on the 19th of November, 1500, he was appointed archdeacon of Richmond. Besides all these honours it would appear that he was rector of Walton-on-the-Hill, rector of Rostherne, rector of Winwick, and prebendary of Ripon; but as if these preferments were all too little for the stepson of the king's mother, we meet him in 1496 in Paris, endeavouring to acquire sufficient learning to make him worthy of a bishopric. Erasmus says that he came there to him and offered to pay a large sum for instruction, but was refused because Erasmus wanted to study and could not be bothered with rich dolts. Knight records this in his Life of Erasmus, 4 but as we find Stanley busily engaged at his rectory of Winwick in 1495 entertaining his royal connection, Henry VII., and as we know he was also engaged in other home matters about that time, I am again doubtful of this testimony.

Mr. J. Stanley is mentioned in a deed: "Indt yt Jas Hulme one of ye Charterers belonging unto Sir John Bothe Knt within ye townshipp of Bar" did his homage unto ye sd Sir John B. Knt at Werrynyton in ye month of July in ye 15th yere of ye reigne of King H. 7. (1499). In ye p'sence of George Stanley L'd Strange Mr Jas. S. Clerk, Warden of ye Ch of Mancestr Sir Thos Assheton Sir Henry Kighley Knts Rich Assheton of Midleton Squier W- Chrantrell Hugh Halsall lernet men among other." [Dodgson MS., v. 10, 86; c. 212, fo. 38.]

"In 1501, Robert Chetham enfeoffed him and others with houses and lands for the endowment of a Chantry within the Collegiate Church, the Warden and one of the Vicars to be perpetual feoffees, this was the Second Chantry at the Altar of S. George."-Lanc. Chantries, vol. i., p. 46, note.

In 1504, Thomas, first Earl of Derby, in his will commended his son James Stanley to his stepson, the king, " that he would be to him his very good lord," but he inherited nothing by this will.

In 1505, he was instrumental in having the bridge between Manchester and Salford thoroughly repaired and the little chapel on one of its piers put into due and proper order.

" On 21 June 1506 James 'Bishop of Ely' released to Ralph Hulme all his rights in property once belonging to John Huntyngdon the 1st Warden signed Ja Elien, the seal small and broken." (Raines' Wardens of Manchester, vol. i., p. 36.)

seal etc of John Stanley

The seal which I am able to give by the kindness of my friend, Mr. A. Moore, of 89, Southampton Row, is not the one mentioned here nor is the signature, neither of which I could trace by the preceding reference. His episcopal seal is a beautiful representation of one of our Manchester Cathedral stall canopies, under which stands the virgin Etheldreda with pastoral staff in right hand and a book in her left. She is crowned, being daughter of Anna, King of the East Angles, and she wears the robes of an Abbess, being the foundress of the Abbey of Ely. She was niece of St. Hilda, of Whitby. Above her head is a seated figure of the Virgin and child; below her feet is, on a shield, an eagle displayed; round the rim of the vesica are the words: [Sigill]um Jacobi Stan[ley] [Divina per]missione [Eliensis Eptscopt.] (See Birch's Seals, vol. i., No. 1,5 r4).

" Before resigning the Wardenship of Manchester he caused a careful survey of the parish to be made and the boundaries fixed, for in 1519 John Thorpe aet. 85 deposed that he was present when James Stanley did, meet upon Theile Moor and there did tend the Meres between that Parish of Manchester and Oldham parish and did take an order at that time that none should drive but with a little dog and a wand of one year's growing." (Chetham Evid. MS.; Raines' Wardens of Manchester, vol. i., p. 38.)

These boundaries were also established as having been settled by James Stanley, in a suit instituted in May, 1601, about the tithes of Manchester and the parish boundaries, wherein it was proved that an inquisition and certificate was made under order of Henry, Earl of Derby, 8th January, 1592, by the justices of the peace for regulating the boundaries.

On his election to the bishopric of Ely in 1506, he would appear to have resigned his other preferments except the wardenship of Manchester, which he held for three years in coannendam; but his interest in the choir-which doubtless owed much of its splendour to him, and certainly its roof, which is supported by the Stanley eagle at every principalneverceased. He had already interested himself in a chantry, on the north side of the nave, dedicated to S. James his patron saint, though which S. James is doubtful. On the mantelpiece given in the illustration, the scallop shell, the emblem of S. James the Great, called of Compostella, from a celebrated shrine in Spain, may indicate which was the patron of this chantry or chapel. In this year, 1506, we find him with Sir John Bamford and other fellows of the college hallowing a new altar in the Jesus Chapel of Manchester Church, ,and appointing Dom Oliver Thorneleye the chaplain of it and of a guild recently started by Richard Bexwyk the elder and younger. That charter is now in the Chetham College, and is sealed with the college seal. On resigning the wardenship of Manchester he was succeeded by Master Robert Cliff, D.D. The Lichfield registers give Cliff's appointment to Manchester College as 29th October, i 506; and he certainly was one of the four awarders of the estate of John Huntyngdon, 19th July, 1507. About this time Bishop Stanley gave up his livings of Walton on the Hill and Rostherne. (Raines' Wardens of Manchester, vol. i., p. 36.)

Bishop Stanley most likely possessed a house in Old Millgate, but besides this and the warden's lodging (the reading room of Chetham Library with the room below it) he had a sumptuous abode in the house and estate of his brother, at Alport Park, a mile from the college, on the Chester Road; this is mentioned by Camden about 1600. "In a park of the Earl of Derby, in this neighbourhood, called Alparc (Alport), I saw the foundations of an old square tower called Mancastle;" this was on or about the site of Mancunium. Here, says Fuller, the bishop resided all the summer with his brother, the Earl of Derby ; here, says Godwin, he stayed all the winter; and both add that he never went near his cathedral. I now enter into a painful era of the bishop's history. Godwin, Fuller, Bishop Stanley of Sodor and Man, Baker, and almost all subsequent writers charge the bishop with immorality, with being the father of young John Stanley, of Flodden fame, with building a house at Somersham "ubi alebat mulierculam suauz," and with dying in a state of excommunication, whereby his cathedral would not receive his bones, nor would Manchester, and that he had therefore to be buried in the wall of the latter church, a chantry being subsequently built around his remains. My investigations lead me to doubt all these accusations. Godwin and Fuller lived at a time when it was the fashion to revile all pre-reformation bishops; none give references, and their dates do not fit.

The bishop's will is pious, his mottoes are pious; he put up over his mantelpiece, "O Lord, direct my steps;" and it was not until Elizabeth's reign that his character was traduced. This is how his fame is blackened by Godwin in his Cat. Eng. Eps., p. 223 :

"ELY. 30(th Bishop) James Stanley Doctor of Divinity Other good I find none reported of him but rather much evill: he was made bishop the yere 1506 and enjoyed that preferment eight yeres and a halfe of which time he spent very little or none at Ely but lived all the sommer time at Somersham keeping company much there with a certaine woman in very offensive manners and all the winter he would be with his brother in Darbyshire. So drowned in pleasures he passed his time without doing any one thing woorthy commendation or remembrance."

In Fuller's Worthies, 1840, vol. ii., p. 195, we read: "James Stanley D.D. brother of Thomas Earl of Derby was a man more memorable than commendable, who never resided at his own cathedral; I can partly excuse his living all the summer with the Earl his brother in Lancashire; but must condemn his living all the winter at his manor at Somersham in Huntingdonshire with one who was not his sister, and wanted nothing to make her his wife save marriage."

Palmer (Foundations, vol. ii., p. 322) relates an absurd story that he died excommunicate, and that to avoid the fulminations of the Vatican, his corpse was interred on the outside of a consecrated building, a chapel being afterwards erected to enclose his remains. This is proved to be false by the architecture of the chapel and the through-stones at the angles; and also by the foundation for a priest to say mass, which might not be done for one dying excommunicate.

Now the bishop must have been born somewhere about 1450. He is represented as an old, wrinkled man on his brass, and he died in 1515; this would make him about fifty-six when he was consecrated bishop in 1506. 5 Is it likely that John Stanley, his reputed son, was born when his father was fifty-seven ? But this young John was the boy hero of Flodden, aged eighteen. If he was the result of a liaison at Somersham he could only have been between seven and eight years old, since Flodden was fought in 1513. Somersham was the principal manor of the bishops of Ely; this is what Camden says of it: " Turning aside from S. Ives scarce III miles wee saw Somersham a faire dwelling house of late dayes belonging to the Bishopes of Ely, which Earle Brithnot in the yeare 991 gave to Ely Church, and James Stanley, the lavish Bishop enlarged with new buildings."

Mantle-piece erected by Bishop Stanley at Somersham
Mantle-piece erected by Bishop Stanley at Somersham. From a drawing by Cole

The rector of Somersham, the Rev. A. V. Smith, very kindly informs me that no trace whatever of the bishop remains at Somersham in church or elsewhere; the palace has long since been destroyed, and only the garden wall remains to mark the spot, and a farmhouse now occupies the site of the building. Certainly our bishop built the house at Somersham, for here is the account given by Cole of the beautiful mantelpiece he had carved for it, and which Cole (MS. Vol. xxix. 78B) gives a careful drawing of and the following description

"Passing thro Wilberton in the Isle of Ely Nov 19 1759 I stopped at the Berry Sted, as it is called, being the Manor House belonging to the late Mr. Barlee of Clavering in Essex to see a curious old piece of carving on wood designed as I guess for the ornament of a mantel piece put up probably by Bp James Stanley at Somersham or some other of the Palaces of the Bps of Ely It came out of a very good brick house near the church in Wilberton which Mr. Barlee pulled down and I asked him for the carving which he gave to me but his tenant one Fanan a schoolmaster of Hadenham getting it into his custody for me by my desire and he removing to the Berry sted at Wilberton carried it with him and put it up there where it now remains, I not thinking it worth while to demand it." He goes on to describe it. " Stanley in gilt letters on a chimney piece at Somersham Domine gressus meos dirige (Lord, direct my steps). In the centre the arms of Thos. Stanley Earl of Derby, his father, enriched with garter-Quarterly with a crescent sable for difference, he being 3rd son of the Earl 6 1 and 4 Stanley 2 and 3 Lathom 7 2 and 3 Arms of Man and on a scocheon of pretence a Lion Rampant 8 -In the four corners, Arms of Ely (3 crowns)-Arms of Man (triple leg)-Eagle and Child (crest of Stanley)-Buck Couchant (a Stanley badge). Filling up the remaining spaces-Eagles Claws erased (Stanley and Mounteagle badge)-Several initials of the Bishop's name I S-and on two Escallop Shells S. I., probably for St. James. The mantelpiece is well carved, painted, and gilt, and in tolerable preservation considering its antiquity. It was sent to me at Milton near Cambridge by the Ely Boat this 20 April 1774 by Mr. Gotobed of Ely, steward of Mrs. Buckley, of or near Bungay, now Lady of the Manor, by her permission, and is now in an hermitage in my garden at Milton little Sumer house."

Sir John Stanley.

Let us next enquire who this young John Stanley, the reputed son of the bishop, was. There were living about this time six Sir John Stanleys who were certainly not sons of the bishop; these were (1) Sir John Stanley, who married Douce, daughter of Leigh, of Baggaley, first cousin to the bishop's grandfather. (2) Sir John Stanley, who died in 1509. (3) Sir John Stanley, called of Pipe. (4) Sir John Stanley, son of Sir Thomas Stanley, of Elford. (5) Sir John Stanley, third son of Thomas, first Baron Stanley, uncle to the bishop; He married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thos. Wever. (6) Sir John Stanley, the son of the foregoing, is said to have married Elizabeth Harrington (I think possibly another generation comes in here) and afterwards Margaret Honfort. Whoever our man was, and we have no good evidence to show his descent, he was a married man before 1515, the date of the bishop's death; he married Margaret Honfort, the heiress of an illustrious race, whose mother was one of the Praers family. The Honfort arms were argent an estoile sable pierced of the field, and in the corners of the bishop's mantelpiece at Somersham you will see this charge. His arms are fully emblazoned both over the door of the Derby Chapel, and also in a stained glass panel in Cheadle Church, of which parish Honfort or Handforth is a hamlet. I give the carving in my illustration, wherein it will be seen that the shield which is empaled is, on the dexter side, very similar to Stanley. We have the same charge, three bucks' heads cabossed or, but on a chief azure instead of a bend, and instead of the field argent of Stanley we have the field or of Lathom, on which are now charged the three eagle's claws gules. On the glass at Cheadle which gives the tinctures, the chief is indented as in the Lathom coat, but the carver of the coat over the Derby Chapel door does not show this, the female side is in both the same, viz., quarterly, 11 and 4 Honfort old, argent a chevron between three mascles gules and 2 and 3 Honfort new, argent an estoile of 6 or 8 points sable. In addition to this coat of arms on the Derby Chapel door there is also the legend, Vanitas vanitatum ű'ia (omnia) vanitas (Vanity of vanities, all is vanity). This is also found at Cheadle. Besides these pious words, possibly the dying lament of a race-proud, yet not immoral, bishop, these touching words are to be seen in the Derby Chapel

Latin text

Translation.-We beseech you that you help us James Stanley Bishop of Ely John Stanley knight and Margaret his wife and their parents in your prayers before the Lord Jesus Christ, who have built this chapel in his name and in honour of Saint John Baptist in the year of his incarnation 1516.

Now, would Sir John Stanley, knight, call attention to his parents in this inscription if one of them was unnameable and the other (the bishop) had been already named ? But in the bishop's will the name of Sir John Stanley, knight, is coupled with Thomas Stanley, his brother, as the bishop's executors, but no mention is made there of their being his sons. This helps us, however, to put together the following

Suggested Pedigree of Stanley of Honfort.

                 Sir Thos. Stanley, = Joan, d. of Robt. Gousell.
                              of Lathom, |
                              1st Baron. |
      |              |                 |                                |
 Thomas Stanley,       William,       John = Elizabeth,                James,
1st Earl of Derby,    of Holt,             | d. of Sir                 Archdeacon
2nd Baron.                                 | Thos. Wever, of Chester.  of Alderley.
     |                       |                       |       |       |      |   |  |
 John Stanley = Elizabeth,  Thomas = d . of Thomas Ralph. William. Ellen. Anne  d. d.
              | d. of Sir          | Leversedge,
              | John               | of Wheelock.
              | Harrington.        +-------------+
     +--------+-------------------------+        |
     |                                  |        |
  John Stanley,= Margaret=Sir Urian   Thomas. Thomas= Davenport.  
  of Honfort,  | of       Brereton.                 |
 died a monk   | Honfort.                           |  
 of Westmr.,   |                                    |
  1528.        |                                    |
     +---------+-------------------+           +----+--------+
     |                             |           |        |    |
  John Stanley = Ellen or Alice   Anne.       Thomas. John. Ralph.  
                Fytton, of

All the authorities, in endeavouring to prove that this Sir John Stanley was the illegitimate son of Bishop Stanley, run into contradictory statements. One says Sir John Ireland, knight, married a daughter of Bishop Stanley; 9 another, Margaret, wife of Sir Henry Halsall, was daughter of Bishop Stanley; 10 while a third says Sir John Stanley, of Honfort, was base son and heir of John Stanley, brother of Thomas first Earl of Derby. 11 That he was base son of nobody is, I think, demonstrated by there being no bar or bend sinister charged with roses on his shield, the only suspicion to the contrary being a buck lodged reversŽe with a rose above it on the bishop's mantelpiece. The reversŽe may be purely a carver's mistake; the rose was a favourite badge at the time, both with Lancastrians and Yorkists.

Having mentioned Sir John Stanley as having been most likely the son or grandson of our bishop's uncle, let us continue his history before resuming that of the bishop. We are confronted with another difficulty, for this Sir John Stanley is said to have married twice-first, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Harrington, of Hornby Castle, 12 by whom he had three daughters; secondly, Margaret Honfort; but Sir John Stanley, who built the Derby Chapel and married Margery Honfort, was eighteen in 1513, and his wife was a minor in 1516 ; 13 he could not, therefore, be a widower with three daughters. The probable explanation is, therefore, and one which will make the dates agree, that the father, John Stanley, married Elizabeth Harrington, and the son married Margaret Honfort; Margery had one son, John, who married Ellen Fytton, of Gawsworth, but they had no children and he died young, after being swindled out of the Honfort property by his mother's second husband, Sir Urian Brereton.

Next comes a curious story. We read in Lord Herbert's History of King Henry VIII., p. 300: "The said Cardinal Wolsey did call before him Sir John Stanley which had taken a farm by convent seal of the Abbot and Convent of Chester for which he committed him for a year to the fleet until such time as he gave up the farm to one Leghe of Adlington which married one Lark's dau'r which woman the said Lord Cardinal kept and had with her two children. Whereupon the said Sir John Stanley upon displeasure taken in his heart made himself Monk in Westmr, and there died." This appears true, for in 1527, on the 30th of June, Sir John Stanley made his will at Westminster; wherein he gives £4 to a priest to say daily mass at the altar of S. John, at Manchester, for the souls of James, sometime Bishop of Ely, Sir John Stanley, Dame Margery, his wife, and for William (of) Honfort, Ellen, and Anne. 14 William (Stanley ?), Ellen, and Anne were brother and sisters, also Ellen was his son's wife, and Anne was his daughter. He died shortly after a monk of Westminster, 1528, and his wife afterwards married Sir Urian Brereton, who swindled his stepson, young John Stanley, out of most of his inheritance at Honfort. He died young and childless before his mother.

By an indenture with the abbot of Westminster, the names of all the family were enrolled in the Dyptichs to be prayed for perpetually, and an obit and chantry were endowed at Westminster.

To return to the bishop. Soon after he became Diocesan of Ely, he began to take great interest in Jesus College, Cambridge. He compiled statutes for it, endowed it with the rectory of Great Shelford, and added a grammar school, with master and usher, to the foundation; all this he got confirmed by a papal bull of prevision. 15 Moreover, he added a professorship to the University of Cambridge, which still exists, and in the second year of King Henry VIII., 1510, by an indenture between James Stanley and the executors of the Countess of Richmond (his stepmother), he agreed to give them the house or priory of S. John, in Cambridge, in order to found the present college of that name, of which he became second founder. To found two colleges and a professorship and build an episcopal palace in four years does not seem like an idle sensualist. Nor was he less mindful of hospitality, as the metrical account of him shows; and when his loyalty and patriotism were called in question, he responded at once. The Earl of Surrey, at Pontefract, sent to the bishop, in 1513, to raise Lancashire for the king. Being at Lathom or Manchester at the time, and known to be a capable man, he soon had fourteen thousand men equipped for battle, led by his brother Edward, afterwards first Lord Monteagle - a name given him for charging up Cheviot side, his men shouting "Mount Eagle," in allusion to his crest - and with his nephew, or cousin (as I think him), young John Stanley, who was knighted on Flodden Field, by his side.

We can well understand that the Derby Chapel should be built as a special thank-offering for this victory, and we can believe that the bishop and the youthful knight, with his child wife and their parents, brothers, and sisters, would all join in this scheme. I believe that they began at the west and worked towards the east, taking out the choir aisle windows as they made the arches, and inserting them in the new wall. This occupied about two years, and meanwhile the great bishop died; they then built out a little chantry, which we now call the Ely Chapel, and buried him in its entrance. But besides the Derby Chapel, in 1513 the bishop commenced another great and glorious work for the cathedral; he built the entire stalls on the south side of the choir, fifteen in number, and enriched them with countless niches, brackets, finials, and buttresses; most lavishly are the misereres, bench ends, poppy heads, and arms of the seats carved. The Lathom legend is found repeated three times, the legs of Man find a place, and most curious is the carving on the stall arm next his own of a very clever jester's face in the motley, because of the following. In 1495, just eighteen years before, Henry VII. chopped off our bishop's uncle William's head for no other reason than that he was a very rich man and had been said to favour Perkin Warbeck. In the same year the avaricious old king came down into Lancashire to visit his mother and stepfather, Thomas Stanley first Earl of Derby, brother of the murdered William; and having passed through Manchester and Winwick, where he was entertained by his stepbrother, James Stanley, our warden; the king passed over the new bridge at Warrington, which the earl had built in his honour, and came to Lathom. Here he so admired the prospect that he asked Thomas, the earl, to let him view the estuary of the Mersey from the leads. They were standing by the parapet, talking, when the family jester, or fool, slipped up to the earl and whispered, pointing downwards, "Tom, remember Will;" but the king heard, and beat a rapid retreat. Is it too much to believe that our illustrious warden immortalised that jester upon fhe arm of his stall ?

But the sands of life were running low; the bishop never saw his stalls finished, for, begun after Flodden, in 1513, they were not finished till 1520, five years after the bishop had been laid to rest. In the chapel of his foundation were these words, which he had graven on the glass of the windows:

"Parati novissima"

("Prepare for your latter end"); here also were the words, over the door of his chapel, "All is vanity." The words of his epitaph, than which few are more solemn, occur in the description of his tomb and brass. These are the terms of his will, proved at Canterbury, 23rd May, 1515, two months after his death :

"James Stanley, by the sufferance of our Lord God Bishop of Ely 20th March 1514 (? 5.) My body to be buried in a new chapel in my Cathedral Church of Ely, or else in my new Chapel now in building at Manchester. I will that the Chapel be made for me to be buried and rest my bones in at the East end of my Cathedral Church, for the which I will loo marks to be bestowed upon walls, iron work, glass, and covering, besides my tomb, on which tomb I will 40 marks be bestowed by the advice of Master Alday, Sir Ranulph Pole, and Sir John Claydon, my receiver: I give and bequeath to remain in the said Chapel a chalice gilt &c. I will that another chapel be builded and made at Manchester on the north side of the Church, betwixt S. James' Chapel and the east end of the same Church with a tomb therein for me, by advice of Master Alday, Master Warden of Manchester with £20 a year for finding two priests to sing in my said chapel: to Dr. Standishe x1s : I will that Sir John Stanley knight, Thomas Stanley his brother, William Serjaunt and Alexander Tyldesley be my executors." (Vide Vetusta Monumenta, p. 535 ; and Lansdowne MS.)

As I have said, the Elizabethan divines blackened his memory. That he was a proud prelate there is little doubt; he was proud of his race, his office, and his power. He was "the tallest man in broad England," we are told, some six feet seven inches, and, indeed, his chasuble looks far too short for him. He died on the 22nd day of March, 1515, and this is how Thomas, Bishop of Sodor and Man, son of Lord Monteale, wrote of him:

His third [should be sixth] sonne was James a goodlye man, a priest
Yet little priests mettle was in him, by Christ
A goodlie tall. man as was in all England
And sped well all matters that he took in hand
King Harrye the VIIth a prynce noble and sage
Made him Bishop for wisdom and Parentage
Of Ely. Many a day was he bishopp there
He builded Sommersome the byshoppe's chief manner
A great vyander as any in his days
For Byshoppes that then was, this is no dispraise.
Because he was a priest I dare do no lesse
But telle, as I know not, of his hardiness
What proud priest hath a blowe on the ear sodenlye
Turneth the other ear likewise for humilitye
He could not so do by the crosse in my purse
Yet I trust his soule fareth never the worse.
He did end his life in merry Manchester
And right honorablye lieth he buried there
In his chapel, which he began of freestone
Sir John Stanley built it out when he was gone
God send his soule to the heavenlye companye
Farewell godlye James Byshopp of Elye.

"Ancient Metrical History of the House of Stanley," see Halliwell's Palatine Anthology,

The following was written by an unknown author about the time of his death :

That was a bishop full bolde
that borne was at Lathum
Of Eley that ilke Lorde
that epe was of deedes !
An egg of that bolde erle
that named was Standley
Nere of nature to the duke
that noble have bene ever
But now death with his dart
hath driven him awaye
It is a losse to the lande,
Our Lord have his soule !
Fir his witte and his wisdome
and his wale deedes
He was a piller of peace
the people amonge ;
His servauntes they maie syke
and sorowe for his sake
What for pitie & for paine
my pen dothe me fayle

The Scottish Field; written about 1515, see Chetham Miscellanies, vol. ii.


1 The western wall of this chapel has now been pulled down.

2 Mr John Owen of Stockport disputes this and sends me the following note made in "1859 Jany 20: This afternoon the slab belongong to the tomb of Bishop Stanley was taken off, and broken up, a new slab is preparing but of Yorkshire stone, the old one is evidently from Collyhurst; the moulding of edges , having been worn and disfigured, had at some time been repaired with plaster or cement. The moulded edges of the new stone are copied from the original, the shields around the sides of the old Tomb are not reproduced in the new one. 1859 Jany. 24: The new slab for the Bishop was brought in and laid on the new tomb"

3 Croston's Lancashire and Cheshire Families, p. 43.

4 *"He mentions also a young priest who lived in the house with him in Paris (the year before he came to England) who had refus'd a Bishopprick in England knowing his insufficiency, but was to be recalled to it by the King when he had got a little more learning abroad : and who therefore offered Erasmus an hundred crowns to teach him for that one year: and promised him a benefice in a few months, and to lend him three hundred crowns till he was put in possession of it. This youth seems to have been James Stanley son of Thomas earl of Derby . . . afterwards Bishop of Ely." (Knght's Erasmus, p. 18.)

5 * It is possible, but most improbable, that James Stanley was married; for about this time clerical wedlock was no very uncommon thing. Archbishop Warham, his contemporary, was said to have been married, and speaks about "mea conjux."

6 Note there is no sable crescent on the drawing. James Stanley was sixth son of the earl.

7 The whole description is wrong. It should be, Quarterly 1 and 4 Stanley family Coat (i.e. Quarterly 1 and 4 Stanley 2 Lathom 3 Warren ?) 2 and 3 Isle of Man.

8 For his mother Nevill or stepmother Beaufort.

9 Stanley Papers, p. 151. .

10 Baines, vol. iv., p. 262.

11 Stanley Papers, p. 1430

12 Ormerod's Cheshire, 2nd edit., iii. 641.

13. Ibid.

14 From a paper read by William Beamont, before the Royal Archaeological Institute, at Lancaster, July, 1868.

15 Memorials of Cambridge, Wright and Jones, i. 6; Cooper's Athen. Cantab.; and Raines' Wardens of Manchester, i. 37,

 [Lords of Man]   [Stanleys]

see also later discussion on Stanley Arms on stalls

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
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