Cocking’s Priests in the Middle Ages

The first vicar of Cocking recorded on the Chichester Diocese Clergy List is Robert de Putteworth with the date 1311. His name indicates that he was from Petworth and of Norman origin.

In the Calendar of Papal Registers, Robert de Putteworth is mentioned in August 1311, during the papacy of Clement V. His entry says: “He is already dispensed on account of illegitimacy, so as to be ordained and hold a benefice, and successively perpetual vicar of Brithelmeston (now Brighton), and of Cokling, which last he resigned, and of St. George’s, Duneghton (Donnington), in the diocese of Chichester, value £20. Dispensation to retain the same”.Note 1

The records do not tell us who succeeded Robert de Putteworth in 1311 and there is a gap of over three-quarters of a century until 1388, when the Chichester Diocese Clergy List records that Thomas Longe was appointed as vicar of Cocking.

The Episcopal Register of Bishop Robert Reed, 1397–1415, records that, on 30 July 1401, Thomas Longe exchanged parishes with John Cresse (or Cressy). John Cresse had been appointed as vicar of St. Peter’s at Sele Priory near Upper Beeding in about 1398.Note 2 Longe remained at the priory until about 1407.

John Cresse was only vicar at Cocking for little over a year until December 1402, when he again exchanged parishes. On 12 December, Bishop Reed commissioned his counterpart at Lincoln, Henry Beaufort,Note 3 to approve the exchange between John Cresse and Thomas Bakere, vicar of Weston, near Lincoln. The Bishop of Lincoln replied on 20 December that he had expedited the exchange, following which Thomas Bakere took his oath of allegiance and was inducted as vicar at Cocking.

Following the appointment of Thomas Bakere in 1402, there is another gap in the records until 1439, when the Chichester Diocese Clergy List records William Deye as vicar of Cocking.

The Episcopal Register of Bishop Richard Praty, 1438–1445, records that William Deye was appointed as vicar of Felpham in January 1439. It is not clear when Deye became vicar at Cocking, but in February 1440, the appointment of Richard Thomas as vicar of Cocking is recorded following Deye’s resignation.

The next entry on the Clergy List records Robert Mouter as vicar of Cocking in 1442. Mouter had been installed as rector of All Saints, Hastings in September 1440. It is again unclear when he came to Cocking, but he had resigned by February 1443, when his successor, William Skynnere was appointed.

On leaving Cocking, Mouter was appointed vicar of Sidlesham. Intriguingly, in his history of Cocking Church published in 1975, Peter Leicester claimed that Robert Mouter was a “part-time highwayman”; sadly, I can find no evidence to back up this assertion.

William Skynnere had been appointed vicar of Racton in 1427. In January 1439, he was appointed as vicar of West Dean but possibly never took up that position as his successor was installed in March of that year with Skynnere being appointed as vicar of Easebourne. Skynnere presumably resigned the latter post when he came to Cocking, as his successor was installed at Easebourne in October 1443.

The Chichester Diocese Clergy List records seven further vicars over the next 100 years, but little is known about them. Unfortunately, the Episcopal registers covering this period are either lost or unavailable.


Note 1      In the early-14th century, the average annual earnings in England was under £2. Thus, the combined livings were worth more than ten times the average. The modern day equivalent salary is about £10,000, although the “economic status” is equivalent to a salary of £500,000.

Note 2      Sele Priory was a Benedictine priory founded before 1126; as a dependent priory of the abbey of St Florent in Saumur, France it was considered an “alien priory” and was absorbed into Magdalen College, Oxford in 1459 and dissolved in 1480. The living at Upper Beeding was worth £5 a year.

Note 3      Henry Beaufort was the son of John of Gaunt, and was appointed Lord Chancellor in 1403 and Bishop of Winchester in 1404, until his death in 1447.