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John Lax - a colourful Rector

He was a Doctor of Laws, and Pope Nicholas V (picture, left) gave him leave to be absent from his parish to study for seven years at university, but he, like many students today, got distracted by other matters and did not make progress with his studies.

He claimed to be too busy because of work that King Henry VI, (picture, right) the extremely pious but politically ineffective young ruler, and 'certain other Lords of the Realm' required him to do for them. The Pope in 1453 granted him three more years away from his parish. It was a tense time in English history. Henry VI was going through a period of insanity, and his wife Margaret of Anjou had a son, Edward, on 13th October that year.

Perhaps it was the looming war between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians that While still officially Rector of Street and Walton Lax went to Rome, where he had the post of abbreviator of papal letters, and he obtained permission to hold two other benefices as well as Street. He collected yet more parishes while he travelled on the Pope's business, including the Rectory of Beccles in Suffolk.

But in 1459 he fell out with a powerful Roman cleric, and in the legal disputes that followed it emerged that Lax had never been priested - indeed, he had never even been admitted into one of the lower orders of clergy. He lost most of his money and had to sell his house in Rome to pay his debts. He was thrown out of the rectory of Walton and Street.

In 1461 Edward IV became King.

Lax died in 1466 as Master of the Collegiate Church of St Edmund, Salisbury.