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1382 John Wells

John Wells was a monk of Ramsey Abbey in Huntingdonshire, a Benedictine monk and one of the men who worked with Adam on the condemnation of John Wyclif. Wells had succeeded Prior Easton as Prior of Students at Oxford University and probably kept in touch with him until his death in Perugia in 1388. Wells as a member of the Oxford establishment had good reason to resent Wyclif, not only for his apparently heretical beliefs, but also for being a prominent critic of the presence of monk scholars at the university. When Wyclif was brought before a clerical tribunal at Blackfriars in 1382 and together with Nicholas Hereford (a prominent supporter of his), ordered to account for his beliefs and his pronouncements on matters of religious dogma, Wells sat on the panel of his accusers. Unfortunately, if the words of this contemporary song are anything to go by, Wells was not entirely successful.......

Tunc primus determinans est Johannes Welles

Istos viros reprobans cum verbis tenellis

Multum coversatus est ventis et procellis

Hinc in euis facie patet color fellis

With an O and an I, in scholis non prodest

Imago faciei monstrat qualis hic est


His promisit in scholis quod vellet probare

Wyclif et Hereford simul dictis repugnare

Sed cum hic nescierat plus argumentare

Nicholas solvens omnia iussit Bayard stare

With an O and an I, Wellis replicabat

Sed postquam Nicholas solverat, tunc Johannes stabat


Rough English translation:

The first to start the debate was John Wells

Reproving these men with gentle words

He spoke much with the wind and the storms

And here was the colour of his bile revealed

With an O and an I he cannot benefit from school

His face reveals what sort of man he is.


Here he set out in the schools what he wanted to show

To rebuff Wyclif and Hereford with words

But when he didn't know how to argue further

Nicholas (Hereford) resolved everything and ordered Bayard to stand

With an O and an I Wells replied

But after Nicholas had resolved (the issues), then John (Wyclif) stood firm.

(Taken from Political Poems and Songs of English History - ed T. Wright). Thanks to David Oliver for help and advice on the above.