The Dean

St Paul’s Cathedral, the Choir. Model by Grey Isley, Rendering by Austin Corriher.

John Donne — whom we think of primarily as a writer of poems, sermons, and devotional works — was while Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral an administrator of a medium-sized organization.

The chief responsibility of the Cathedral was to maintain the daily round of worship services in the Cathedral’s Choir, as scripted by the Book of Common Prayer. This meant that the largest staff at the Cathedral consisted of the people directly responsible for the conduct of worship services. Each of these groups had assigned seating in the stalls or other seats in the Choir.

Donne’s responsibility as Dean was to make sure the entire operation of the Cathedral functioned as it should. Donne’s assigned seat in the Choir of St Paul’s was the first stall on the right as one passed through the Choir Screen, moving eastward. Donne, as Dean, lived in the Deanery, on the southwest side of Paul’s Churchyard.

In addition to the Dean, St Paul’s had three chief Officers of the Cathedral — the Chancellor, the Treasurer, and the Precentor. Each held the title Canon Residentiary, since all three lodged inside Paul’s Churchyard, in houses located on the southeast side of the Cathedral, between the South Transept and the East Front.

Chancellor

The Chancellor was Secretary to the Dean and the Cathedral Chapter. He was also responsible the administration of St Paul’s School, located across the Churchyard from the east end of the Cathedral.

When Donne became Dean in 1621, the Chancellor was John Bowman, who was Chancellor from 1615 until his death in 1629. He was succeeded by Thomas Turner, who died in 1672. The Chancellor’s seat in the Choir was the third stall on the left side of the Choir.

In Donne’s time as Dean, the Headmaster of St Paul’s School was Alexander Gill, who served as Headmaster from 1608 until his death in 1635. Gill also had a house inside the Churchyard.

During Donne’s tenure, the most prominent student at St Paul’s was John Milton, who was a student at St Paul’s from 1620 until 1625. Milton would have walked to St Paul’s School every day from his family’s house five blocks to the east in Bread Street.

Milton would describe the experience of choral worship at “Even-Song” (Il Pen, l. 64) in St Paul’s in his poem Il Penseroso, thus:

But let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloister’s pale,
And love the high embowed roof,
With antique pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light.
There let the pealing organ blow,
To the full-voic’d quire below,
In service high, and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all Heav’n before mine eyes. (Il Penseroso, ll. 155-166)

Treasurer

St Paul’s Cathedral, The Treasury. Model by Grey Isley

The Treasurer was responsible for the finances of the Cathedral, working from his office in the Treasury, a structure adjacent to the southeast side of the Cathedral.

The Treasurer of St Paul’s in Donne’s day was Patrick Young, who held the office from 1621 until his death in 1652. The Treasurer’s seat in the Choir was probably the third Stall on the right side of the Choir.

The Lord Mayor of London was a frequent guests at St Paul’s Cathedral, especially on days of formal visitation for the Lord Mayor and his entourage. When the Lord Mayor of London was present for services at St Paul’s Cathedral, he sat next to the Dean, in the second stall on the right side of the Choir.

Lord Mayors of London were elected for one-year terms from among members of the city’s livery companies, or associations of tradesmen.

People serving as Lord Mayor of London, along with their trade association, during Donne’s tenure as Dean of St Paul’s included Sir Edward Barkam, Draper (1621), Sir Peter Proby, Grocer (1622), Sir Martin Lumley, Draper (1623), Sir John Gore, Merchant Taylor (1624), Sir Allen Cotton, Draper (1625), Sir Cuthbert Hacket, Draper (1626), Sir Hugh Hamersley, Haberdasher (1627), Sir Richard Deane, Skinner (1628), Sir James Cambell, Ironmonger (1629, Sir Robert Ducie, Merchant Taylor (1630), and Sir George Whitmore, Haberdasher (1631).

Precentor

The Precentor was responsible for maintaining the Cathedral Choir. He was assisted by a Succentor, who made sure the Choir met its responsibilities when the Precentor was absent.

In Donne’s day, the Precentor of St Paul’s was Thomas Goad, who held the post from 1618 – 1638. The Precentor’s seat in the Choir was the second stall on the left of the Choir.

The Chapter

The Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral consisted of thirty members of the Clergy, each of whom had his own seat in the Cathedral’s Choir. Members of the Chapter were known as Canons or Prebends of the Cathedral. Each Prebend was funded by income from lands owned by the Cathedral.

Each Prebend was assigned a portion of the Book of Psalms to recite each day, so that, cumulatively, the Chapter of the Cathedral recited the entire Book of Psalms every day. The names of the Prebends and their assigned portions of the Psalter during Donne’s Deanship are listet below.

John Donne, of course, was both Dean and Prebend; during his time as Dean, Donne preached a series of sermons based on his assigned Prebendiary Psalms. preached a series of sermons on the Psalms assigned to him as the Prebend of Chiswick.

The Prebendaries during Donne’s Tenure as Dean


1. Prebendary of Broomesbury

Incumbent — Isaac Singleton (1614 – 1642)
Psalms: 112 – 117
Stall — 14th Stall on the left of Choir


2. Prebendary of Brownswood

Incumbent — John Barkham (1610-1642)
Psalms: 72 – 76
Stall — 16th Stall on the right side of the Choir


3. Prebendary of Caddington Major

Incumbent — Thomas Wentfield (1615 – 642)
Psalms: 47 – 51
Stall — 17th Stall on the left side of the Choir

4. Prebendary of Caddington Minor

Incumbent — Thomas Soame (1616-1642)
Psalms: 56 – 61
Stall — 5th Stall on the left side of the Choir

5. Prebendary of Cantlers ( aka Kentish Town)

Incumbent — John King (1616-1639)
Psalms: 27 – 31
Stall — 10th Stall on the right side of the Choir

6. Prebendary of Chamberlainwood

Incumbents — Thomas Oates (1618-1623), Thomas Raymond (1623-1631), William Haywood (1631 – 1633)
Psalm: 92
Stall — 5th Stall on the right side of the Choir

7. Prebendary of Chiswick

Incumbent — John Donne (1621-1631)
Psalms: 62 – 66
Stall — 18th Stall on the left side of the Choir

8. Prebendary of Consumpta-Per-Mare

Incumbent — Richard Franklin (1614-1637)
Psalms: 105 – 106
Stall — 13th Stall on the left side of the Choir

9. Prebendary of Ealdland

Incumbent — John Barkham (1610-1642)
Psalms: 82 – 86
Stall — 10th Stall on the left side of the Choir

10. Prebendary of Ealdstreet

Incumbents — John Whiting (1615-1625), Richard Taylour (1625 – 1642)
Psalms: 93 – 101
Stall — 18th Stall on the right side of the Choir

11. Prebendary of Harleston

Incumbent — Thomas Montford (1597 – 1632)
Psalms: 87 – 91
Stall — 7th Stall on the right side of the Choir

12. Prebendary of Holbourn

Incumbents — Thomas Puckeringe (1596 – 1627), Thomas Worral (1627 – 1639)
Psalms: 12 – 16
Stall — 16th Stall on the right side of the Choir

13. Prebendary of Holywell ( alias Finsbury)

Incumbents — Theophilus Aylmer (1583-1626), George Coke (1626-1636). 
Psalms: 144 – 150
Stall — 4th Stall on the right side of the Choir

14. Prebendary of Hoxton

Incumbent — John Simpson (1610-1642)
Psalms: 119, verses 83 – 176
Stall — 16th Stall on the right side of the Choir

15. Prebendary of Islington

Incumbent — William Rogerson (1604-1638)
Psalms: 126 – 131
Stall — 11th Stall on the left side of the Choir

16. Prebendary of Mapesbury

Incumbent — John Bancroft (1609-1632)
Psalms: 132 – 137
Stall — 12th Stall on the right side of the Choir

17. Prebendary of Mora

Incumbents — Thomas Whyte (1588 – 1624), Thomas Winniffe (1624 – 1642)
Psalms: 138 – 143
Stall — 9th Stall on the right side of the Choir

18. Prebendary of Neasdon

Incumbents — John Foxe (1591 – 1623), Thomas Wilson (1623 – 1642)
Psalms: 6 – 11
Stall — 15th Stall on the left side of the Choir

19. Prebendary of Newington     

Incumbents — William Prichard (1620 – 1629), Thomas Turner (1629 – 1642)
Psalms: 118, 119, verses 1 – 82
Stall — 16th Stall on the left side of the Choir

20. Prebendary of Oxgate

Incumbent — William Paske (1618-1639)
Psalms: 102 – 104
Stall — 13th Stall on the right side of the Choir

21. Prebendary of Pancratius

Incumbent — Henry King (1616-1642)
Psalms: 77 – 81
Stall — 6th Stall on the left side of the Choir

22. Prebendary of Portpool

Incumbents — Gregory Dunkett (1614-1624), Thomas Worrall (1624-1627), John Harris (1628 – 1642)
Psalms: 52 – 55
Stall — 8th Stall on the right side of the Choir

23. Prebendary of Reculversland (aka Tillingham)

Incumbent — Leonard Hutton (1609-1632)
Psalms: 32 – 36
Stall — 7th Stall on the left side of the Choir

24. Prebendary of Rugmere

Incumbent — Zachariah Goddell (1590-1642)
Psalms: 120 – 125
Stall — 17th Stall on the right side of the Choir

25. Prebendary of Sneating

Incumbent — John Mountford (1618-1642)
Psalms: 22 – 26
Stall — 14th Stall on the right side of the Choir

26. Prebendary of Totenhall (aka Tottenham)

Incumbent — William Shaw (1614 -1642)
Psalms: 1 – 5
Stall — 4th Stall on the left side of the Choir

27. Prebendary of Twyford

Incumbent — Robert Kerchier (1614-1642)
Psalms: 67 – 71
Stall — 11th Stall on the right side of the Choir

28. Prebendary of Wenlacksbarn

Incumbent — Samuel Fell (1613-1642)
Psalms: 42 – 46
Stall — 15th Stall on the right side of the Choir

29. Prebendary of Wildland

Incumbent — William Pierse (1618-1630), Robert Thompson (1630-1642)
Psalms: 17 – 21
Stall — 8th Stall on the left side of the Choir

30. Prebendary of Willesden

Incumbent — John Barkham (1610-1642)
Psalms: 37 – 41
Stall — 12th Stall on the left side of the Choir

Bishop of London’s Staff

Others with seats in the Choir were members of the staff of the Bishop of London, including:

The Archdeacon of London, who sat in the first stall on the left side of the Choir, the stall opposite to that of the Dean. The Archdeacon of London when Donne became Dean of the Cathedral was Theophilus Aylmer, who had been appointed in 1591 and continued as Archdeacon until his death in 1626. Aylmer was then replaced by Thomas Parke, who died in 1662.

The Archdeacon of Middlesex, who was Richard Cluett, appointed in 1620 and remained in this post throughout Donne’s tenure.

The Archdeacon of Essex, who was George Goodman, appointed in 1609 and remained in this post throughout Donne’s tenure.

The Archdeacon of Colchester, who was Henry King, appointed in 1617 and remained in this post throughout Donne’s tenure.

The Archdeacon of St Alban’s, who was William Hutchinson in 1621, having been appointed in 1581, and who served until 1626, when he was replaced by Thomas Raymond, who served until 1631.