The see of Worcester has the unique distinction of being the only one to survive the Conquest without losing its diocesan. Wulstan, who had been prior of St Mary's cathedral priory before his election as bishop in 1962, remained in his episcopal office for more than thirty years and guided both his monastic chapter and hisclergy and people through the difficult years of transition to Norman rule. Worcester was one of the tenth-century monastic foundations that came under the influence of the reforms led by archbishop Dunstan and implemented there by his episcopal colleague Oswald; and it was the latter who began to build a new cathedral. Bishop Wulstan also continued the building programme in his day, the results of which in the crypt, with its forest of slender columns, remain to inspire the beholder a millennium later.1
We are fortunate in the survival of a list of some sixty Worcester monks, dated c. 1104 and preserved in the Durham Liber Vitae because the two monasteries were linked together in confraternity.2 One of the interesting featuresof this unusually early, and presumably complete, record is the blend of Anglo-Saxon English and Norman French names, about thirty including Wulstan belonging to the former group, eight, including prior Thomas , q.v., clearly to the latter, and over twenty names with scriptural, patristic, and classical connotations that could pertain to either group.3 Numbers must have fallen by or before 1312 when the prior and convent lamented that their income was no longer sufficient to support fifty monks and provide hospitality for guests and pilgrims.4 The accuracy of this statement is verified only five years later when, in the earliest record of the proceedings of the election of a prior, fortyseven were named.5 In the wake of the Black Death the chamberlain accounted for only thirty-four monks in his annual contribution to pittances, and numbers were still below forty in 1381/2; however, by the end of the century the total had risen to its earlier height of just under fifty.6 Despite the loss of eleven monks in what must have been an epidemic, probably a recurrence of the plague, in 1419/20,the community had again recovered and increased in size to forty-five by the mid-1440s.7 This seems to have remained a fairly stable optimum for almost a century since forty-one monks subscribed to the Act of Supremacy in 1534.8
Although Worcester was not ranked among the major episcopal sees,royal influence seems to have been dominant before 1300 as most of the incumbents were royal clerks. Only two priors, Randulph de Evesham and Silvester, also de Evesham, q.v.,____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Biographical Register of the English Cathedral Priories of the Province of Canterbury, C. 1066-1540. Contributors: Joan Greatrex - Author. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 754.
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