Reference > Cambridge History > The Drama to 1642, Part Two > The Children of the Chapel Royal and their Masters > Early Masters: John Plummer, Henry Abyndon, William Newark, William Cornish and others
  Early history of the Chapel Children Histrionic activity of the Children; Dramatic work of the Masters  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

XI. The Children of the Chapel Royal and their Masters.

§ 2. Early Masters: John Plummer, Henry Abyndon, William Newark, William Cornish and others.

From 1465, the series of masters can be made out with tolerable completeness and certainty. On 2 July, 1465, there was a
grant to the king’s servitor Henry Abyndon of 40 marks yearly from Michaelmas last from the issues of the country of Wilts for the provision of clothing and other necessary apparel of the boys of the Chapel of the king’s household and for their instruction and governance, so long as he shall have the said provision, instruction and governance;
and this grant was renewed 14 February, 1471. It is not yet ascertained when Henry Abyndon (or Abingdon) ceased to be master; but, on 6 February, 1479, a
grant was made to Gilbert Banaster of 40 marks yearly from the petty custom in the port of London and ports and places adjacent for the maintenance, instruction and governance of the boys of the Chapel of the household from Michaelmas last, on which day he undertook these, so long as he shall have the same.
When Banaster’s successor was appointed does not appear; but this successor was almost certainly not William Cornish, as is commonly supposed. Cornish, as we shall see, was the successor of William Newark. 2  Newark was granted a corrody from the priory of St. Mary, Thetford, at some date prior to 23 November, 1480; nevertheless, in the document of this date he is not called master of the children but “one of the gentlemen of the King’s Chapel,” and in the grant (6 April, 485) of a yearly rent of £20 from the king’s manor of Bletchingley, county Surrey, he is spoken of only as “the King’s servant.” It is, however, clear that he was the predecessor of Cornish as master of the children. On 23 May, 1509, he was appointed “gentleman of the Chapel in the royal household and master of the boys of the Chapel, during pleasure.” As this was scarcely more than a month after the king’s accession, and as he was already a gentleman of the chapel in 1480, the appointment, doubtless, was only a renewal of one made in the preceding reign. On 12 November, 1509, he is mentioned as lately deceased; but the appointment of his successor seems, for some reason, to have been delayed for several years, for among the “Fees and Annuities Paid by the King in 1516” occurs a record of £26. 13s. 4d. to “W. Cornyshe, Master of the Children of the Chapel, Vice W. Newark, during pleasure,” and it seems improbable that Newark would have been mentioned if any master had come between him and Cornish, or if Cornish had held the appointment since Newark’s death. 3  Cornish is mentioned as late deceased on 7 November, 1524, and he seems to have been succeeded, though not immediately, by William Crane, who had long been one of the gentlemen of the chapel. Crane’s appointment as master of the children is dated 12 May, 1526. His immediate successor was Richard Bower. The official appointment was made 31 October, 1545, but it was to date from 30 June, 1545, “since which time he has by the king’s command exercised the office.” Whether Crane was then dead or not, is not certain. In the “Augmentations,” a William Crane, apparently the person here in question, is recorded as receiving his annuity on 8 May and 16 October, 1545, and there is a later record of payment of an annuity out of St. Edmondesburye to a William Crane in 1546. It seems, however, probable that there were two William Cranes, whose names appear in the records of these years, as there seems also to have been a Richard Bowyer (alias Styrley, or Strylly, or Strelley) who has sometimes been confused with Richard Bower, gentleman of the chapel and master of the children. According to the entry in The Old Cheque Book of the Chapel Royal, Bower died 26 July, 1563; but Stow gives 1561 as the year, and this seems supported by the fact that, on 4 December, 1561, a commission to take up children for the chapel was issued to Richard Edwards, who is expressly called master of the children. Edwards, perhaps the most famous of the masters, did not long enjoy his office, as he died 31 October, 1566. He was succeeded by William Hunnis (erroneously called Thomas and John in contemporary documents), who served until his death, 6 June, 1597. With Nathaniel Giles, who was appointed master three days later, our interest in the masters of the children ceases, for he was the last under whom the boys were permitted to act. Not only did the boys who acted cease, at the accession of James, to be called children of the chapel and become children of the queen’s revels; but, when in 1626, Giles was commissioned to take up boys for the king’s chapel, it was expressly provided
that none of the said Choristers or Children of the Chappell, soe to be taken by force of this commission, shal be used or imployed as Comedians, or Stage Players, … for that it is not fitt or desent that such as should sing the praises of God Almighty should be trained or imployed in such lascivious and prophane exercises.

Note 2. It is, of course, very unlikely that Cornish preceded Newark, was replaced by him and then succeeded him. That Cornish was master in 1493 seems to be one of Collier’s unjustified inferences. [ back ]
Note 3. Of Clement Adams, who is said (Babees Boke, p. 1xxvi) to have been master of the children in 1516, no such record can be found. John Melyonek and Philip Van Wilder are also sometimes given as masters, in 1484 and 1550 respectively; but they were merely commissioned to take up singers for the chapel. [ back ]

  Early history of the Chapel Children Histrionic activity of the Children; Dramatic work of the Masters  

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