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Celebrating Hampshire's Historians

Chase, John

Unknown, fl. 1642-1646, probably died 1649-1660

Apart from the fact that he was the Clerk to the Chapter of Winchester Cathedral during the Civil War, and his wife is buried in the chancel of St John’s church in the Soke, virtually nothing is known of John Chase. Yet he is one of the heroes of the world of archives, for minimising the damage inflicted on the muniments of the cathedral by Parliamentary soldiers.  Waller’s soldiers, fired up by an order in the House of Commons in September 1641 to ‘cleanse’ churches, after taking the city in December of the next year, sacked the cathedral and close. One of them later explained that they were essentially searching for ‘Popish books, pictures and crucifixes’.

After this first incursion, when many documents in the muniment house were ‘spoyled and divers writings taken away’, Chase calendared and put in order the cathedral muniments and entered them in ‘The Book of John Chase’. A few years later, in September 1646, Cromwell took Winchester again and held it. This was accompanied by a second incursion ‘by the Army and Soldiery’. In a memorandum Chase wrote that ‘the Muniment houses [had been] broken up, and all my lidger register books taken away…the common seale taken away, and divers of the writings and charters burnt, divers throwen into the River, divers large parchments being made kytes withal to flie in the aire…’.  Despite the hazards of a city with adrenaline-charged soldiers, he personally recovered many of the muniments from around the city.

John Vaughan lamented that there is no memorial in the cathedral to ‘this good man’, who presumably lost his position during the fifteen years of the Commonwealth, when the Chapter was suspended.


  • John Crook, Early historians of Winchester Cathedral, PHFC (Hampshire Studies), 2003, 58:227-8.

  • John Vaughan, Winchester Cathedral: Its Monuments and Memorials, 1919, London

  • W.R.W. Stephens and F.T. Madge, Documents Relating to the Cathedral Church of Winchester in the Seventeenth Century, Hampshire Record Society, 1897, p. 57.

  • A.R. Rumble, The structure and reliability of the Codex Wintoniensis, unpublished PhD thesis, University College London , 1979

  • G.W. Kitchin, Compotus rolls of the obedientaries of St Swithun’s Priory, Winchester [etc], Hampshire Record Society, 1892.


None known.

Contribution to county’s history

A pioneering rescue archivist, much cited by scholars.

Relevant published works

  • None, but ‘The Book of John Chase’ is a valuable manuscript much quoted by scholars (the original, rebound 1881, HRO, DC/F6/1/1, transcription in 1928 by A.W. Goodman, DC/K6/10).

Critical Comments

Other Comments

Together with the threat of demolishing the cathedral and the narrow miss from suppression of Winchester College, the troubles of John Chase are an essential part of the story of the Civil War in Hampshire. Kitchin relates in his Compotos rolls (1892) that even in the late 1800s the archives of the cathedral were not universally respected and a cathedral canon who wanted to burn manuscripts as ‘useless rubbish’ had to be restrained (by F.J. Baigent).


Barry Shurlock, 17 02 24


Winchester Cathedral archives, Civil War, Baigent

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