Veysey, John (DNB00)


VEYSEY or VOYSEY, JOHN, alias HARMAN (1465?–1554), bishop of Exeter, was the eldest child of William Harman of Sutton-Coldfield, Warwickshire (d. 31 May 1470), who married Joan, daughter of Henry Squier of Handsworth, Staffordshire. She survived until 8 March 1523–4. Both of them were buried in the north aisle of Sutton-Coldfield church. The father lived in the old house of Moor or More Hall, and the son was probably born there about 1465. Oxford, he was entered at Magdalen College. In 1482 was elected probationary fellow on 27 July 1486, and actual fellow on 26 July 1487. He took the degree of doctor of laws in 1494.

After leaving Oxford he adopted the patronymic of Veysey or Voysey. Anthony à Wood asserts that he had been educated in infancy by one of that name, probably a member of the family dwelling in Oxfordshire. In 1489 he had a place in the household of Elizabeth of York, consort of Henry VII. He received from Henry VII in 1495, as John Harman, a grant of the free chapel of St. Blaize, standing within the walls of the manor-house at Sutton-Coldfield, which a previous John Harman, perhaps an uncle, had obtained from Henry VI in 1441 or 1442. He was next appointed to the rectory of Clifton Reynes, Buckinghamshire, which he held from 3 March 1495–6 to 1498–9. Afterwards he was, on the presentation of the abbot of St. Werburgh's, instituted to the rectory of St. Mary, Chester, he was archdeacon of Chester from 27 Aug. 1499 to 1515, and he acted from 1498 to 1502 as vicar-general for John Arundel, bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, and as his chancellor.

Veysey was appointed on 5 Aug. 1503 by Bishop Arundel, when translated to Exeter, to a canonry in that cathedral, and on 19 Nov. 1509 he was confirmed as dean of Exeter, a position which he retained until he was appointed, in 1519, bishop of the diocese. With these posts he held many other preferments, possibly through the patronage of Wolsey, and he read the pope's bull in Westminster Abbey when Wolsey received the cardinal's hat. From 26 April 1507 to 1520 he was vicar of St. Michael's, Coventry, and his name appears as a brother of the Corpus Christi guild in that city until 1518. He was dean of the chapel royal in 1514, and by patent dated 22 Nov. in that year was made canon and prebendary of St. Stephen's, Westminster, holding it until 1518. He was created dean of Windsor by patent on 28 Sept. 1515, holding it until 1519; and from 1516 to 1521 he possessed the deanery of Wolverhampton. He was made registrar of the order of the Garter in 1515, was appointed commissioner in the ‘inquisition of 1517’ on inclosures in Berkshire and six other counties (Trans. Royal Hist. Soc. 1894, viii. 257, 278). He was presented by the king, on 10 July 1518, to the rectory of Meifod in Montgomeryshire.

Through the provision of Leo X, dated 31 Aug. 1519, Veysey was raised to the bishopric of Exeter. The temporalities of the see were restored to him by Henry VIII on 4 Nov. 1519, and he was consecrated by Archbishop Warham at Otford in Kent on 6 Nov. Through his ‘accomplished manners and business talents’ he quickly rose into the monarch's favour. He was accounted the best courtier among the bishops, and in 1515 after the mysterious death of Hunne in the Lollards' Tower, he zealously supported the king in forcing criminous ecclesiastics to submit to the civil law (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vol. ii. pt. i. p. 352). The Earl of Derby in 1520 left him one of the executors of his will, and Henry VIII, in the seventeenth year of his reign, appointed him president of the court of marches of Wales. In 1519 and 1520 Veysey made a visitation of his diocese, and at first spent a part of every year within its borders; but then his periods of absence became more frequent, and it was usually left to the care of coadjutors. He accompanied Henry VIII to the Field of the Cloth of Gold at Guisnes, on his visit to the French king in 1520, was one of the ecclesiastics to meet the Emperor Charles V at Dover in 1522, sent twenty able men, with 100l., to attend Henry at the siege of Boulogne in 1544, and twice as many to suppress the insurrection in Norfolk in 1549. His household expenses at Moor Hall in Sutton-Coldfield, where he lived in great splendour, are stated to have amounted to 1,500l. per annum.

Veysey, with the bishops of Lincoln and St. Asaph, consecrated Cranmer as archbishop of Canterbury; but he received numerous letters from the crown compelling him to alienate to those about the court the choicest possessions of the see. Through this action, and through his lavish expenditure on his kindred, the bishopric during his tenure passed from being one of the wealthiest to one of the poorest in England. Miles Coverdale [q. v.] acted as his coadjutor in 1550 (Latimer, Sermons, Parker Soc. p. 272), and at the command of the privy council he surrendered his see, being then a very old man, on 14 Aug. 1551, to Edward VI, and Coverdale was appointed in his place, the income of the bishopric being further reduced by the grant of a handsome pension to Veysey. He retired to Sutton-Coldfield, where he was surrounded by relatives, but after the accession of Mary was restored to his see on 28 Sept. 1553. In November and December of that year he was at Exeter, arranging the affairs of the diocese, and in January 1553–4 he returned to Sutton Coldfield. He died there, at his house of Moor Hall, on 23 Oct. 1554, aged about eighty-nine—the inscription on his monument says 23 Oct. 1555, in his hundred-and-third year—and was buried in the north aisle of the church. A very handsome monument was erected to his memory. The bishop is represented as a recumbent figure with hands uplifted, and in the pre-Reformation episcopal vestments, with mitre and pastoral crook. His arms are over the monument and against the wall over his feet. Above are the arms of Henry VII. The effigy was restored at the expense of his grand-nephew, Sir John Wyrley of Handsworth. It was renewed in 1748, when the corporation placed it in a niche in the wall and opened the tomb, so that the bishop's remains crumbled away. In 1875 the effigy was brought out and laid upon a renewed base, and on 25 Aug. the tomb was reopened and the skull exposed to view (Dugdale, Warwickshire, p. 669). When Dugdale wrote, in 1656, the bishop was depicted, kneeling and with crozier and mitre, in a window of the north side of the chancel. His arms were formerly in one of the windows in the founder's chamber in Magdalen College. His initials are on a shield on the façade at Ford Abbey, Devonshire.

Veysey expended much of his wealth on the inhabitants of his native town. In 1527 he obtained from the king certain parcels of inclosure called Moor Crofts and Heath Yards, and more than forty acres of waste, with license to inclose, and erected the mansion of Moor Hall. He procured on 16 Dec. 1528 the incorporation of the village by the name of a warden and society of the king's town of Sutton-Coldfield, with a yearly fair and a weekly market, and he granted to them and their successors for ever the chase, park, and manor, extending over many hundreds of acres, so that the occupiers might feed their cattle on the common lands at trivial sums. He erected the moot hall, with a prison beneath it, and constructed a market-place; he paved the whole town and inclosed the coppices, paying for the ditching, hedging, and the gates. The aisles of the parish church were rebuilt at his cost, and he provided an organ for it. He built a free grammar school (probably the building called St. Mary's Hall, opposite the southeast corner of the churchyard), and endowed it with money, as well as with the dwelling-house for the master, which was demolished in 1832. To promote the prosperity of the town, he endeavoured to introduce the manufacture of ‘Devonshire kersies,’ one of his looms remaining until 1835; and for the workers of this new industry he erected fifty-one houses in stone, a few of which still stand. Other houses were built by him in the wilder parts of the waste land for the protection of travellers. His other benefactions included two stone bridges at Curdworth and at Water Orton, and the gift of lands for poor widows and portions for poor maidens.

Veysey's synopsis of the statutes of Exeter Cathedral is printed in Oliver's ‘Bishops of Exeter’ (pp. 471–6). Alexander Barclay prefaced his translation of Sallust's ‘Jugurthine War’ with a Latin letter to him.

[Macray's Reg. of Members of Magdalen Coll. Oxford (Fellows to 1520), i. 110–13; Oliver's Bishops of Exeter, pp. 120–32, 272, 275, 279, 294; Colvile's Warwickshire Worthies, pp. 774–7; Le Neve's Fasti, i. 377, 386, 407, 411, 567, iii. 373; Dugdale's Warwickshire, pp. 667–670; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 761–3; Gent. Mag. 1762 pp. 515–16, 1801 ii. 798; [Miss Bracken's] Hist. of Sutton-Coldfield (1860), pp. 56 to end; Lansd. MS. 980; Rogers's Effigies of Devon, pp. 178–183; Leadam's Domesday of Inclosures, passim; Vescy Club Papers; ‘The Real Vesey,’ Two papers by Rev. W. K. R. Bedford (Birmingham, n.d. 8vo, with reproduction of the bishop's arms and effigy).]

W. P. C.