The College of Minor Canons


Membership of the College of Minor Canons, also known as Petty Canons, consisted of 12 priests who served as singers and musicians. They shared with the Vicars Choral and the Choir Boys the work of preparing and performing the choral parts of the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, as well as other services of the week and Church Year.

In their sole as musicians, the members of the College of Minor Canons and the Vicars Choral sang the bass, tenor, and counter-tenor (alto) parts, while the Choirsters sang the treble (or soprano) parts.

Members of the College of Minor Canons lived on the north side of St Paul’s and dined communally in the Hall of Minor Canons also located in Paul’s Churchyard north of the Cathedral’s Nave.

These twelve men were called Minor Canons or Petty Canons to distinguish them from the official Canons of the Cathedral. The Cathedral’s Canons were priests who constituted the Cathedral’s Chapter. Unlike the Canons, the Minor Canons were not supported by income from specific tracts of land owned by the Cathedral.

The Vicars Choral


The Vicars Choral were professional musicians who were laymen, not clergy. There wereplaces for six Vicars Choral on the staff of the Cathedral in Donne’s day, although the actual number varied from time, as teh information presented below will show. The Vicars Choral shared with the Minor Canons and the Choir Boys the work of preparing and performing the choral parts of the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, as well as other services of the week and Church Year.

The Vicars Choral lived communally on the west side of Paul’s Churchyard, north of Ludgate Street.

Members of the College of Minor Canons during Donne’s tenure as Dean included the following:


The Sub-Dean — Matthew Roydon (until 1625), then Luke Jones (1626 – 1627), then Rowland Jennings (from 1628 until after Donne’s death)
The Senior Cardinal, or Second Minor Canon — Thomas Langley (until 1630), then John Thurgood (1631 until after Donne’s death)
The Junior Cardinal, or Third Minor Canon — John Thurgood (served throughout Donne’s tenure, promoted to Senior Cardinal position in 1631), then Thomas Maycock (appointed 1631)
Minor Canon #4 — William Fry (until 1623), then John Barnard (from 1623). Barnard would later assemble musical scores from the Cathedral’s library, from which he would publish the First Book of Selected Church Musick (London, 1641).
Minor Canon #5 — Roger Nighingale (throughout Donne’s tenure)
Minor Canon #6 — John Wyborough (throughout Donne’s tenure)
Minor Canon #7 — Thomas Lugg (until 1626), then Enos Williams (until 1627), then Zacharias Griffin (from 1627)
Minor Canon # 8 — Luke Jones (until 1627), then Nicholas Pownell (from 1628)
Minor Canon # 9 — Simon Stubbs (until 1622; also served as Rector of St Gregory’s Parish Church), then John Farnaby (from 1626 until 1629), then Zacharias Griffin (from 1629)
Minor Canon # 10 — Thomas Maycock (throughout Donne’s tenure)
Minor Canon # 11 — Robert Huggins (until 1627), then Ralph Mansbridge (from 1627)
Minor Canon # 12 — Rowland Jennings (until 1629), then Giles Barrowes (from 1629)

In his will, Donne bequeathed forty shillings to each of the Minor Canons and Vicars Choral.

Vicars Choral at St Paul’s Cathedral during Donne’s tenure included the following:


William Wyles (until 1625 or 1626)
Peter Hopkins (until 1625 or 1626)
William Cranford (throughout Donne’s tenure)
John Tomkins (throughout Donne’s tenure)
Edward Colbrand (until 1624 or 1625)
John Woodington (from 1622)
Richard Sandy (from 1624 or 1625)
Adrian Batten (from 1626)
William Morgan ( from 1624 or 1625)
Martin Peerson (from 1626)

According to the Cathedral’s Account Books (which recorded the full roster of Vicars Choral each time a property belonging to the College of Vicars Choral was leased), the line-up of Vicars Choral during Donne’s tenure was as follows:

As of June 14th, 1621 — Wiles, Hopkins, Cranford, Tompkins, Colbrand
As of April 30th, 1624 — Wiles, Hopkins, Cranford, Tompkins, Colbrand, Woodington
As of June 23rd, 1624 — Wiles, Hopkins, Cranford, Tompkins, Colbrand, Woodington
As of December 19th, 1626 — Cranford, Tompkins, Woodington
As of December 22nd, 1628 — Cranford, Tompkins, Woodington, Sandy, Batten, Morgan
As of July 2nd, 1629 — Cranford, Tompkins, Woodington, Sandy, Batten, Morgan
As of December 7th, 1632 — Cranford, Tompkins, Woodington, Sandy, Batten, Morgan

The Master of the Choristers


The Master of the Choristers was responsible for assembling and rehearsing the group of ten boys who sang the treble (soprano) parts in choral services. Masters of the Choristers during Donne’s tenure as Dean of the Cathedral included John Gibbs (until 1624) and Martin Peerson (from 1624).

The Master of the Choristers at St Paul’s shared with his colleagues at Westminster Abbey, the Chapel Royal at the Palace of Westminster, and St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle the authority to “take up” (recruit) Choristers from the choirs of collegiate churches and provincial cathedrals across England to join the Choirs at their respective institutions.

The Choristers were all boys who sang the high (treble or soprano) parts in choral works performed in worship services at the Cathedral. In Donne’s day, boys did not go through puberty as early as they do today, so most of the Choristers could have been as old as 16 or 17.

At St Paul’s the role of the Almoner (a member of the Cathedral staff who distributed alms to the needy) was joined to the role of Master of Choristers. The Choristers lived with the Master of the Choristers in the Almoner’s House on the south side of the Cathedral, along the alley that ran between the Chapter House and the rear of St Gregory’s Church.

In his will, Donne bequeathed forty shillings to the Master of the Choristers and an additional forty shillings to be distributes to the Choristers.

John Gipkyn, St Paul’s Verger (Detail of Dr King preaching at Old St Paul’s before James I) Society of Antiquaries of London, UK



Organists at St Paul’s Cathedral during Donne’s tenure included John Tomkins (throughout Donne’s tenure), Adrian Batten (from 1626), and Martin Peerson (from 1626).




Vergers were traditionally responsible for the care of church buildings as well as preparations for , its furnishings, and sacred relics, preparations for liturgy, conduct of the laity, and grave-digging responsibilities.During the service itself, a verger’s main duty is ceremonially to precede the religious participants as they move about the church; he or she does not typically take any speaking part in the service itself. It could be argued that a verger’s main pride during a service lies in his or her inconspicuousness; vergers often play a very prominent role “behind the scenes” — helping to plan the logistical details of service and discreetly shepherding the clergy through it (in some churches these latter duties are handled by a Master of Ceremonies, while the verger functions as a sort of marshal in the procession).

In his will, Donne bequeathed thirty shillings to each of the Vergers.

Bell Ringers


In his will, Donne bequeathed twenty shillings to each of the Bell Ringers.

Grave Diggers

Personal Staff


The various households of the Bishop of London and the resident officials of the Cathedral all had staffs of servants who cooked, cleaned, dressed, washed, and maintained the stables of horses and carriages. The size of these staffs is difficult to estimate, but the evidence of Donne’s will provides us with some clues.

In his will, Donne left £10 to Vincent his coachman and to John Christmast, his servant. He left an additional £5 to his “faithful” servants Robert Christmast and Thomas Roper, designted as “officers of the Churche of St Paule.” He left to £20 to Elizabeth, a maid who attended to Donne’s daughters. He left £5 to Thomas Moore, described as a “younge boye whome [he] tooke lately . . . in my service.” He also left to “other” maidservants and manservants ‘a yeares wages over & above that which shalbe due to them.”

All this adds up to a staff of at least 6 people sufficiently important to be named, plus a number of “other” manservants and maidservants large enough to be listed in the plural.