John Feckenham (alias Howman)

John Feckenham was the last Abbot of Westminster, from 1556-1559, but is not buried in the Abbey and he has no memorial. Queen Mary I re-established the Benedictine monastery at Westminster and the Dean and Chapter handed over to John and the monks on 20th November 1556. On the 29th he preached on the occasion of his consecration as Abbot. About fifty monks became members of the community.

His Life

He was born about 1510, the son of Humphrey Howman (or Homan), from Feckenham in Worcestershire, and his wife Florence. On entering the monastery at Evesham he took the surname of his birth place as was often the case . Educated at Oxford he became vicar in his home town after the dissolution of that monastery. Later he was rector of Solihull. During Edward VI's Protestant reign he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for his part in various disorders and for his religious views. Once Mary Tudor came to the throne he was released and became her private chaplain and confessor. In 1554 he was installed as Dean at St Paul's Cathedral. Tradition records that he was of "mean stature, somewhat fat, round faced...affable and lovely in conversation".

During his time at the Abbey he re-assembled the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor and defended the right of Sanctuary. He arranged for painted inscriptions to be put on the tomb of Edward I (which had no inscription) and, probably, that on the base of Henry III's tomb. But when Catholic Queen Mary died the monastery at Westminster did not survive for very much longer and was dissolved on 10th July 1559. The monks were scattered and some fled abroad. One, William Feckenham, perhaps a relative of the Abbot, was in Newgate prison in 1586.

In 1560 John Feckenham was again imprisoned but was out on parole in custody of various people, including at one time Dean Goodman at Westminster. In 1580 he was taken to Wisbech Castle and died there, being buried in the churchyard on 16th October 1584.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

Westminster Abbey Reformed 1540-1640 edited by C.S. Knighton and R. Mortimer, 2003

John Feckenham and Tudor religious controversies by P. Tudor in "The cloister and the world" edited by J. Blair and B. Golding, 1996

The Religious Orders in England, vol.III The Tudor Age, Part 4, by Dom David Knowles, 1959


16th October 1584


Abbot; priest/minister

John Feckenham (alias Howman)
Coat of arms of the monastery at Westminster

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