Thomas STANLEY

(Bishop of Man)

Died: 1568

Father: Thomas STANLEY (2 B. Mounteagle)

Mother: ?


Son of Thomas Stanley Lord Mounteagle, of Hornby-Castle, co. Lancaster, was made Bishop, and, on account of his bastardy, obtained leave from the Pope to hold his preferments, especially the rectory of Wigan. He was also Parson of North-Meales, and at length of Berwick-in-Elvet, and Badsworth, co. York.

Presented to the living of Winwick by Edward, third Earl of Derby, on the 10 Apr 1552, and paid his first fruits the same year. There had been four archdeacons and one Bishop before him occupants of the living since the advowson became the property of Sir John Stanley. The Bishop who now held the living had been consecrated to his see on the death of Hesketh, or Black-leach, in 1542; but in 1545 he was displaced from the see for refusing to comply with the Act of 33 Hen. VIII, disconnecting the bishopric of Man from the province of Canterbury and attaching it to that of York.

In 1556, however, the Bishop was restored to his see, and on 5 Aug 5 and 6 Felipe and Mary, 1558, when he occurs in a deed with Thomas Stanley, Lord Mounteagle, he is expressly described as Thomas Lord Bishop of Man. In 1557, and on the 9 Aug 1558, he was first made Rector of Wigan, and then Rector of North Meols. And as if this heap of preferments was not enough for one pluralist, he became also Rector of Badsworth and of Berwick-uponTweed, for all which it is said that he obtained the Pope's bull to hold them with the bishopric. If this were so, however, we see in it the last expiring glimmer of this once profitable part of the Pope's power in England. The Bishop was Rector of Winwick when the fall of the chantries took place in 1553, and William Stanley was returned as being the priest then serving the rector's, or perhaps more properly Lord Derby's chantry, as being founded under his will with an endowment of 3 0s. 9d.4 In 1557 "dominus Ricardus Smith" is returned as the Bishop's curate at Winwick. In 1559 Sir John Holcroft, the elder, by his will of 2 Dec, declared that if the tenants in Culcheth would purchase and make sure for ever lands of the value of 6 13s. 4d., and thereat to hire a priest at 5 13s. 4d. and a clerk at 20s. his best chain should be given towards the same-and this is believed to be the origin of the church at Newchurch. The testator had probably the founding of this chapel in his mind when he purchased the Culcheth tithes. By his same will he left xx-s. towards the glassinge of Winwick Church. In 1563 the parish registers commence, and the name of Andrew Rider, the curate, appears in them as having made the first, and a little later the Bishop's monogram and autograph may be seen in some of them. Not satisfied with the injury his absenteeism inflicted upon the parish and with living in forgetfulness of his responsibilities, of which we have a glimpse in a letter written by James Pilkington, Bishop of Durham, to Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, in which he says, "The Bishop of Man, Thomas Stanley, liveth here at his ease as merry as Pope Joan" It would almost seem from this that to his other preferments he had added a stall at Durham, if not he was only imitating a number of the beneficed clergy of his time who absented themselves from their livings that they might be more free to enjoy themselves. But pluralist as he was, the Bishop was far eclipsed by Sir John Mansel, once Rector of Wigan, the next adjoining parish to Winwick, on the north, in the reign of Hen. III., who, besides being Lord Chancellor and occupying other offices in the State, presented himself to every living in his patronage which fell vacant while he was Chancellor. But his absenteeism was not the worst evil which Bishop Stanley inflicted upon the living of Winwick; for on the 5 Oct, 1563, by an indenture in which he calls himself Thomas Stanley, Bishop of Man and rector of Winwick, he granted to Sir Thomas Stanley, knight, a lease of the rectory parish church and benefice, with the manor park and glebe lands for the term of 99 years, at the yearly rent of 120; which lease was confirmed by Edward, Earl of Derby and William Downham, Bishop of Chester.

Hitherto we have seen no rector of Winwick appear as an author. Now, however, Bishop Stanley appears in that character among the first of the rectors of Winwick as the writer of the "Rhyming Chronicle", a sort of history in verse of the Stanley family continued to the year 1562. He is said to have had in his possession a very ancient painting of the face of our Blessed Lord, which was taken by him to Douglas in the Isle of Man, where it is still preserved.

The Bishop died in 1568, but neither the place of his burial nor the exact nature of his origin has been ascertained. His name does not appear in the Knowsley pedigrees. It has been said that he was the son of the second Lord Monteagle, but if so he is unnoticed in the pedigree of that family, and was probably illegitimate.

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