Not all parish clergy were in fact seculars. Apart from the monks and friars who were sometimes to be found serving chantries, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they also came into possession of parish livings. Between 1447 and 1492 413 religious were papally dispensed to hold secular benefices. 1 This stark figure needs some qualification. First of all, the average number of these licences each year was nine, and this average was fairly consistently maintained over the whole period, so that a sensational, even a detectable, increase is sought in vain. Secondly, secular benefices included some of the administrative offices about the monastery. 2 Then again a third of the licences, 144, were to Austin canons whose raison d'être was pastoral rather than meditative; with them too should be considered the seventy-five friars whose work lay rather in the parishes, if not canonically in benefices. Little can be said in mitigation for the 177 Black Monks who constituted most of the remainder, but the reasons which prompted the majority of the 413 licences were generally far from scandalous. Some of these religious were either heads of houses too poor to support the usual burdens of office or were about to retire and were seeking some form of pension which the house could not afford; there were fifty-three of these, and William Burton, who resigned from the abbacy of Alcester and sought dispensation for a secular benefice to maintain his dignity in retirement, is typical. 3 If this concern 176for dignity seems inappropriate in a monk and an abbot, it was not remarkable in an age when monastic superiors increasingly lived apart from the community in their own houses. 1 Then there were religious, mainly friars, who were chaplains and confessors to the royal family, to the nobles or to prelates. 2 Others were scholars, who after laudable service to the Church, required help: Thomas Derby, O.F.M., in 1452, was broken with age; he had taught theology for two years and preached for thirty, and he sought dispensation for a secular benefice to enable him more conveniently to devote himself to study and preaching. 3 For some a secular benefice was a concealment of apostasy, a remedy for the inmate who found the Rule too demanding or too lax: Thomas Cowper, an Austin canon of Ashridge, in 1462 was suffering from a disease which made it impossible for him to observe the usual religious austerities and he was dispensed to receive a secular benefice; 4 William Strod, a Cistercian of Lettley, sought a secular benefice that he might more readily preach to the people as he desired to. 5 The reasons, therefore, were not all unworthy, even if we assume, as we should, that petitions for dispensations were thoughtfully composed. 6