Records : The Dissolution

Pages 153-163

Register and Records of Holm Cultram. Originally published by T Wilson & Son, Kendal, 1929.

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XI. The Dissolution of the Abbey.

A paper found in the parish chest, and already mentioned as giving a statement about Robert Chamber's abbacy, continues thus:—"After him rygned John Nekalson 5 years, and after him rygned Thomas Jerbie fower yeares and moor, and after him rygned on[e] Gaven Borradell tow years and moor wch waes the last of all the lords [abbits" cancelled]. The statement, if true, is incomplete for it omits one known abbot; and if Chamber died in 1519, as this paper indicates, we have difficulty in bridging the gap between him and Deveys, elected in 1531, with an abbot who reigned only 5 years. There may, however, have been considerable spaces of interregnum.

John Nicholson (Nekalson) is mentioned also, according to Canon Wilson (V.C.H. Cumb. ii, 173) in the Nicolson MS. iii, 100; and the following notices may possibly refer to him:—

1525, Nov. 14. Henry, earl of Cumberland, writes to Sir Thomas Clifford to command the abbot of Holm and others to be ready with their tenants and servants to serve the king at the command of the Earl or his deputies (L. and P. Hen. VIII, s.d.)

1527, April 17. Thomas Cromwell notes 'concerning a bill of the abbot, etc … often in great danger from the Scots, praying that they may be discharged' from collecting and paying tenths, etc. (Ibid.).

Matthew Deveys (Devis or Dyves), 1531–32, a monk of the abbey, was elected through the instrumentality of his relative, Robert Cokett of Bolton Percy in Yorkshire, and paid a fine of £100 to the Crown. Next year he died, and on Sept. 16, 1532, Sir John Lamplugh wrote to Cromwell—" One of the brethren named Gawen Borrodaile is suspected of the death of the late abbot Devis." Borrodaile was imprisoned at Furness abbey for nearly half a year, and a new abbot was elected:—

Thomas Ireby (Jerbye or Yerbye), 1532 to his death on Aug. 10, 1536. His rule is mentioned by John lord Husey to Cromwell, Nov. 19, 1532, as promising a restoration of order at Holm Cultram. He had restitution of the temporalities on March 11, 1533, paying a fine of £50. He ordered an enquiry into the death of Deveys, although the abbots of Fountains and Byland, considering it their business rather than his, begged Cromwell to summon Ireby before the Council to explain his action—a summons he evaded. At the enquiry in the summer of 1533, opinion was strongly against Borrodaile. Dan (i.e. Dominus or Sir) William Watson could only report at second-hand, quoting dan Richard Godfraye, that if Deveys were elected he would not continue one year; and if Borrodaile were not chosen "the youngest monk in the house within seven years should not covet to be abbot." Anthony Ryson said that Deveys knew of the threat before his election. Arthur Nicolson, that when Deveys was sick John Ydille had said, "He would be past sickness before they returned" from their journey to Penrith; and this was confirmed by Ydyll himself. John Alanbye reported Borrodaile as saying, "Rather than Matthew were abbot, he would kill him with his own hand." Robert Chamber the younger and Thomas Cokett, uncle to Deveys, fell sick in the same way when Deveys was dead; they had been with him night and day, and ate and drank with him. William Deveys, the abbot's brother, also gave evidence that Borrodaile was at the dresser (sideboard) and standing by the cook on the night before the abbot sickened. Richard Stanelaye [in 1538 hermit at St. Cuthbert's chapel] swore that Borrodaile "had grete desdeyn to the sd dane Mathew for his promocion." The abbot's mother and another woman who nursed him said he was "plain poisoned." And the abbot of Furness, in whose custody Borrodaile had been for twenty weeks, told Cromwell that he was "a masterful man, and one who hath secret bearers" (i.e. supporters). Among them was Dr. Thomas Leigh, who compiled the accusations against the monks; he wrote to Cromwell about Borrodaile as one "who has done the king good service, but is now kept out of his house by malice and wrong information sent to you." Shortly afterwards, Borrodaile was appointed abbot of Holm Cultram, and after surrendering the abbey he was kept there as rector of the parish; and from all we gather, he turned out to be a quiet and kindly man through many later years. The real facts about the death of Deveys are not easy to determine.

Thomas Ireby had other difficulties. Thomas Graham or Grame held a proctorship in Wigton church and was deposed for neglect of duty. He also had supporters; the pope pronounced on his behalf (V.C.H. Cumb. ii, 48) and he regained his position in the abbey, ultimately to become the chief accuser of his brethren. But on August 10, 1536 "it pleased Gode almyghtt to call unto his mercy Thomas Irebye, our discreitt father and lait abbot." Christopher Nevinson, sub-prior, and 21 monks of the convent begged leave from Cromwell to elect a new abbot without delay, on the ground that they were continually exposed to danger from the Scots and "lest the ravyschyng wolffe doo enter into the floke." Sir Thomas Wharton recommended Graham, who offered the king 400 marks over and above the first-fruits; but the election fell upon one who was not a member of the chapter of Holm Cultram.

Thomas Carter, 1536–37. In 1536 the act of parliament for the suppression of the lesser monasteries was passed, affecting all houses with an income up to £200 a year. This did not touch Holm Cultram, but in Cromwell's notes is the entry—"To remember the abbey of Holme on the border of Scotland." The action of the government stirred up the north of England into rebellion, and the abbot of Holm Cultram was drawn into the movement, which spread gradually westward from Yorkshire through Westmorland to Cumberland in October 1536 (V.C.H. Cumb., ii, 271). Thomas Graham, then an inmate of the abbey, acted as spy, and reported that the abbot incited his tenants to join the insurgents, that he rode in person to meet them and sold the plate and jewels of the abbey to provide for the rebels' expenses, saying, "All myghty god prossper them, for yffe they sped not this abbe[y] ys lost" (ibid. ii, 171).

The first attempt at a rising failed and was forgiven; but in February 1537 the flame broke out again. On the 16th several thousand country-folk made an assault upon Carlisle; Sir Christopher Dacre and Sir Thomas Clifford sallied out and took seven or eight hundred prisoners, who appear to have been massacred; the rest dispersed. But Henry VIII was not satisfied. He wrote to the Duke of Norfolk, who had gone to the relief of Carlisle, to "cause such dredfull execution to be doon upon a good nombre of th' inhabitauntes of every towne, village and hamlet, that have offended in this rebellion, as well by the hanging of them uppe in trees, as by the quartering of them, and the setting of their heddes and quarters in every towne, great and smalle … as they may be a ferefull spectacle to all other hereafter, that would practise any like mater." Six thousand persons were arrested; seventy-four were hanged. What became of Abbot Carter is not known. He was reported by Graham to have joined in this second rising and even to have acted as the rebels' commissioner to demand the surrender of Carlisle, but he is not named with the abbots of Fountains, Rievaulx and Melrose, who were executed.

Gawen Borrodaile (or Borradell, Borudale, etc., i.e. Borrowdale) 1537–38, the monk suspected of poisoning his superior, was appointed abbot practically for the purpose of surrendering the abbey. Sir Thomas Wharton considered him a good tool and wrote to Cromwell, January 23, 1538, that he had seen in him "ryght honest procedynges and a good borderer in ye kynges graces affayres." The surrender was made in the following terms (abstract from the Rev. G. E. Gilbanks, op. cit., 106–110):—

"To all the faithful in Christ (etc.) Gawin Borrodaile, abbot of … Holm Cultram … eternal salvation in our Lord. Know that we … with unanimous consent and assent, … for reasonable causes, our minds and consciences specially moving us thereto … do give, grant, render, deliver and confirm to our most illustrious prince and lord in Christ, Henry VIII, by the grace of God king of England and France, defender of the Faith, lord of Ireland and on earth supreme head of the English Church, all that the monastery of Holm Cultram aforesaid together with the whole site, foundation, circuit and precincts … also all and singular our manors (etc.) meadows (etc.) reversions (etc.), wardships, marriages, bondmen, villeins with all that pertains to them (etc.) jurisdictions, offices, courts leet (etc.) fairs, markets, parks, warrens (etc.) advowsons, nominations, presentations and donations of churches (etc.) and all and singular our emoluments, profits, possessions, hereditaments and rights whatsoever … also all manner of charters, evidences, writings and muniments … To Have, Hold and Enjoy … unto our aforesaid prince and lord the king, his heirs and assigns for ever (and so forth in common form, renouncing all complaints, appeals and remedies, warranting possession, and affixing the common seal in the chapter-house) … Sealed … the 6th day of March [1538] before Thomas Leigh, doctor of Laws, chancellor of our lord the king, and other commissioners appointed and deputed for this purpose; in presence of John Leigh, William Blithman, James Rookesby, William Leigh, Thomas Dalston and others: by me, Gawin Borrodaile, abbot; William Marshall; John (Thomas?) Jackson; Christopher [Nevinson], prior; Robert Langton, buriar [bursar?]; Richard Godfrey; Thomas Graym, sellar. [cellarer]; Thomas Browne, rent[er]; John Allanby sexta[n]; Arthur Richardson, coquinar. [cook]; John Idle; John Wise; Richard Wittye; William Simpson, garnar. [granger or farmbailiff]; Richard Adamson; Richard Pattinson; Robert Bancke; Thomas Ierbie; William Martin; John Ritson; Robert Clement; Richard Pingney; Thomas Loudon; Richard Robinson; Arthur Nicholson."

The seal, in red wax, bears the Virgin Mary at full length with the Infant Jesus on her left arm. Beneath is a shield with three lions passant gardant, held up by two monks, under whom is a lion couchant. On the right of the Virgin stands a king crowned; on the left an abbot fully robed and holding his crozier. The inscription is—SI : COMVMVNE : ABBATIS : ET : CONVENTVS : DE : HOLM : COLTRAM.

On March 18, 1538, Dr. Lee or Leigh wrote, "The monckis in secular apparell, having honest rewardis in their purses, be disparsyd abrode." Gawen Borrodaile remained as rector of the parish. Most if not all of the rest received pensions; the sums per annum were:—£6 to Langton; £5 6s. 8d. to Jackson; 100s. each to Allanby, Richardson, Wittye and Symondson or Simpson; £4 13s. 4d. each to Marshall and Browne; £4 each to Godfrey, Idle, Pingney and Nicholson; £3 6s. 8d. to Robinson; 66s. 8d. each to Wise, Pattinson and Banke or Bankes; 50s. to Clement; 40s. each to Adamson, Ireby and Moreton or Martin. Thomas Graham, to whom the chapel of St. Thomas was given (V.C.H. Cumb. ii, 53), John Ritson and Thomas Loudon do not appear; and the list of pensioners in 1555 omits Godfrey, Nevinson, Robinson and Jackson, who were probably dead by that time. Dr. Leigh's "Cleane Booke of Compertes," the black list he compiled, probably from scandal-mongers, charges thirteen out of the twenty-four with very vicious conduct. His final accusation against the convent is:—

"They hold in superstition a certain jewel called an A gnus Dei, which is of great succour (as it is thought) to women in labour."

Borrodaile's later circumstances are described in the king's grant to him, June 1, 1538:—" Whereas the late monastery … is now dissolved … we give a reasonable and annual fee … worthy of the said Gawen for his relief and sustentation; … that vault or loft where William Marchel late monk did … dwell, and one other vault or loft called le Sekeman House [infirmary] … and all the orchard and garden … containing by estimation one rood lying on the south parts of the said vaultes … and also one stable called le Cellarer's stable … within the precincts … to wit, nigh the stable called le Abbot's stable … and all tithes, oblations [etc.] appertaining to the rectory of Holm Cultram and Newton Arlosh … Provided that if the said Gawen should accept … any other promotion of the yearly value of £100 or above that, then these letters patents shall be void …" The tithes were estimated at £100 13s. 4d., but from later references to him he appears as an indulgent owner, not exacting his full dues; and under him two of his old accusers, Allanby and Stanley, still lived on in the Holm. He died in 1553, and the tithes were then granted by the Crown to the University of Oxford.

The commission for the survey of church goods in 1553 (C. & W. Trans. o.s. viii, 201) reported that Holm Cultram church then possessed "One chales of silvr; one [—]; iij vestements; iij copis; ij tunycles; [—] altar clothes; iiij towells; iij surpclothes; iij belles, iij hand belles; one holy watter ffat of brasse; iij latten candilstiks." The chapel of Newton Arlosh had "one chales of silvr; ij vestements; a small bell; a sacrying bell." The chapel of St. Cuthbert had "One vestement; one gret bell; one litill bell." We have seen that abbot Carter disposed of many valuables; no doubt others got their pickings; but there were these three places of worship in the parish in working order after the Dissolution.

The abbey buildings were not immediately pulled down; the church itself was left standing, on the petition of the inhabitants to Cromwell, 1538:—" … Your poor Orators and Beedesmen, beynge eighteen hundred houselyng people [i.e. communicants] . . that it might please your Lordship to be a meane for us to our Sovereign Lord … for the preservation and standynge of the church of Holme Coltrane … which is not onlye unto us our parish churche, and little ynoughe to receyve all us … but also a grete ayde, socor and defence for us ayenst our neighbors the Scots, withoute the whiche few or none of your Lordshipp's supplyants are able to paye the King his saide Highness our bounden dutye and service …"

A memorandum of 1561 states— "There is not remayning within the precinct of the late monastery neyther belles, yron, glasse [etc.] upon anye house but one Chamber [i.e. the one granted to Borrodaile] sythens the Dissolution of the same for the use of the steward and other the Queen's officers for the tyme being, but theyr are certaine old walles yet standinge as well of the Churche as of other houses about the same wchch we have appoynted to the order of [16] men to sell to the Queen's Majesty's use after viijd. everie load of stone." In 1557 it was ordered that the officer in charge of the domains may 'lie' there, and in 1593 John Synhous (Senhouse of Netherhall) as steward was commanded to be resident. The building so left was the Infirmary (le Sekeman House,) probably rebuilt in 1472 (p. 150) and still existing; the church, preserved for the parish, was ultimately only part of the original nave. "It would be quite impossible," said the Rev. G. E. Gilbanks (Some Records, 125), "to mention all the places in the district to which stones from the ancient abbey have been carried, but there are fragments almost everywhere. Above the porches at the school may be seen some of these; at Swinsty some; at Cunningarth several, including a statue of the Virgin and Child with the heads gone; at Southerfield others; at Highlaws and the Gale and Abbey Cowper many more; at Kingside Hill, over the archway, a shield of the Abbot Thomas York; at Sanden House a nice bit or carved work; at Brownrigg in the top of a barn, another fine piece; of Abbey House Farm over the archway, a well-carved specimen of the arms of the Abbey; while in the yard there, built into one of the cow-byres, is the only gargoyle that has been so far discovered … In the buildings at St. Paul's Vicarage, Causeway Head, are many more carved stones, and others may be traced as far away as Beckfoot on the west and High House on the east." The Lysons, in a note to p. cxci of their Cumberland, remark upon an ancient bench from the abbey at Netherhall, the seat of the Senhouses, and Bishop Nicolson (Misc. Accounts, 101) noticed another at St. Cuthbert's, Carlisle, with Robert Chamber's name and rebus upon it.

As to the possessions and income of the abbey we have parts of a survey of about 1535, dealing with the demesne lands and Holm St. Cuthbert's. This is practically identical with the Valor Ecclesiasticus made under Henry VIII when the sequestration of the property was contemplated. A survey of 1538 gives the acreage and the rents, though certain fields are omitted. No surveys are extant from the accessions of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, but we have those dealing with the Holm temp. James I, Charles I, the Commonwealth, Charles II and James II. Further details will be found later; here we give the valuation of 1535 as printed by Hutchinson (Cumberland ii, 343), with some obvious misprints corrected:—

Spiritualities: £ s. d,
Rectory of Holm with Newton Arlosh and tithes 57 12 10½
Small tithes, yearly average 28 0
Rectory of Wigton, great and small tithes 61 1 0
Rectory of Burgh, do. 16 18 8
Pension of Camerton 0 13 4
164 6 7
Selay the grange, average yearly value 10 0 0
Calfehow grange 10 0 0
Sandenhouse grange 2 19 0
Ray by grange 4 19 0
Wolstye Cowbyer 25s., Hartlawe Cowbyer 24s. Seville Cowbyer (20 acres) 20s. 3 9 0
Demesne; Newpark 20s., Swaby 20s., Ellerker 26s. 8d., Soyes 13s. 4d. 4 0 0
Abbey corn-mill, £8; water-mill 13s. 4d.; windmill, 20s.; water-mill called Dubmylne [£5 18s. ?]; lease of salt works, £7 15s. 4d., of wool, £3 12s. and of the Derwent fishery £5 9s. 32 7 8
Demesne lands, with 40s. court fees 244 11
External to the Holm:—in Flemyngby, £14 10s. 8d.; Waytcroft, 26s. 1d.; Waverton, £4 7s. 4d.; Blencogo, 47s.; Bromefield, 13s. 4d.; Skaills, 6d.; Langrige, 28s. 6d.; Newton, 21s.; Aspatryk, 3s. 6d.; Alanby, 6s.; Alneburgh, 2s. 6d.; Gylecrosse, 6s. 8d.; Ulton, 4s.; Graysouthen, 5s.; Gylgaren, 3s.; Blenkrayke, 1s. 6d.; Harrays, 3s. 4d.; Ughtersyde, 18d.; Lycklay [Lekeley], 20s.; Hyldekyrk, £7 11s. 4d.; Caldebek £6 3s. 8d.; Harterigge, 33s. 4d.; Crofton, 10s.; Mekylthuat [Micklethwaite], 3d.; Burghe, 42s. 2d.; Brawmerey [Bramwray] and Edynhall, 13s. 4d.; Leysingby, 20s; Bowness, 2s.; Ayket, 12d.; Waverbryg, 12s.; Karleile, £4 4s. 10d.; Flemyngbye payrke, 26s. 8d.; Hayle (Westmorland), £4 3s. 4d.; Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 6s. 8d. 58 10 8
Total of Temporalities 370 17
Spiritualities 164 6 7
Gross revenue 535 3
(Liabilities.) Payments per annum:—
To the Exchequer 0 6 0
Rector of Caldbeck 0 3 4
Carlisle priory for salt 0 4 0
Lanercost priory for salt 0 4 0
Vicar of Newton Arlosh 6 13 0
Bishop of Carlisle 0 7 0
[Chantry of the Holy Saviour at Holm, founded by abbot Chamber and discontinued 6 1 4]
Vicar of Wigton 17 6 8
Carlisle priory for Wigton church 6 0 0
Two chantry priests at Wigton 10 13 4
Senage [payment for Synodals] for Wigton church 0 6 8
Henry, earl of Cumberland, seneschal of the monastery 2 0 0
[Master Thomas Crumwelle, master of the Rolls, now discontinued 6 13 4]
Richard Barwys, seneschal in charge 1 6 8
Gilbert Fissher, bailiff of Flemingbye 1 13 4
The poor, on Good Friday in the cloister and at the gate 3 0 0
Five bedesmen to pray for the king 7 0 0
[Repairs of the watercourse, sluices and weirs in the Seadykes: discontinued 5 6 2]
Total [omitting payments discontinued] 57 4 4 [sic.]
which deducted from receipts leaves income £477 19 3¼[sic.]

At the Dissolution the possessions of the abbey, temporal and spiritual, outside the Holm, are stated as follows:—

Flimby park, value 40s. Fishery at Derwent foot, £6. Wigton tithe, £8 2s. Oulton tithe, £8 2s., and tenement, 4s. Waverton tithe, £9 18s.; small tithes £2 16s. Burgh parsonage, £20; five tenements £2 2s. 2d; tithes of fish, 5s. 4d., and of wool and lambs, £4. Camerton tithes, £8 13s. 4d. Kirkby Thore land, £4 7s. 4d. Tenements at Caldbeck (9), £7 17s.; Lazonby (1), £1; Flimby (9), £13 13s.; Blencogo (2), £1 3s.; Scales (3), 12s. 10d.; Bromfield (2), £1 7s. 10s.; Newton (3), £1 1s.; Aspatria (1), 3s. 6d.; Allonby (1) 6s.; Ellenborough (1), 2s. 6d.; Gilcrux (1), 6d. 8d.; Lowther (1), 5s.; Gilgarron (1), 3s.; Blindcrake (1), 1s. 6d.; Harreys (1), 3s. 4d.; Oughterside (1), 1s. 6d.; Leeklay (1), £1; Islekirk (5), £7 11s. 4d.; Hartrigg (2), £1 13s. 4d.; Crofton (3), 10s.; Newcastle (1), 6s. 8d.; Bowness (1), 2s.; Akehead and Waverton (2), 2s.; Carlisle (10), £1 16s. 10d.; Langrigg (4), £1 4s. 1d. Total value £117 3s. 9d.

The lands within the Holm, in the hands of the abbey, were:— The Old Grange (i.e. Sandenhouse Grange); "a house with a Byar and a great Barn, worth yearly [in 1538] 1s." held in demesne, with 80 acres and 16 tenements worth £6 16s. 3d. The rent of these in 1604 was £6 8s. 3d.; still in the hands of the Lord of the Manor.

The Grange de Ternis or Tarns, now freehold fields, part of Tarns farm, north of the road from Abbeytown to Mawbray; in 1538 held by James Hunter, a relative of Abbot Chamber, and reckoned at 32½ acres.

Mayburgh, Mawbray Cote; now copyhold except two freehold fields. The five Cotes—Mawbray, West Cote, East cote, Seville and Raby—are all now copyhold, but they have freehold portions of marsh.

Skinburgh or Silloth Grange, "with the Ox Byar and Barn, worth 1s. yearly," and 24 flatts or closes, totalling 198½ acres, rented at £10 5s. 6d. In 1572 these were reckoned as 200½ acres and were held by Mr Dalston for 21 years at £12 14s.; in 1604 by Mr. Dudley.

Seville in 1538 was of no value.

Newton Arlosh Grange was probably Raby Grange; in 1538 "one Byar with a barn yearly worth 1s."; and "a Dove Coat with a Barngarth, 1s. 8d." and nine closes, making 131 acres, worth yearly £7 10s. 4d. In 1604 these were held by Mr. Musgrave. At present the building known as Raby Grange is of copyhold tenure but the grange land, early in the 17th century known as Raby Rigg, together with two fields on the south of the highway, also of freehold tenure, and another field just south of Raby Grange, together total 134.882 acres, and no doubt represent the ancient grange.

Calvo, Calfhow (or Culshaw) Grange, in 1538 the tenement of John Johnson, about 18 acres, rent 21s. 4d. with ten other tenements, total acreage 50 acres; also Calvo Infields and Outfields, in the king's hands, containing 143 acres, rent £6 14s. 8d.

Besides the granges proper, the Abbey held in its own hands:—

Wolsty Cowbyer, sometimes called a grange; in 1538 comprising a tenement, cowbyer and barn, 57½ acres, and pasture called the Banks, of 30 acres, rent 6s. 8d. Surrounding the castle and as far south as the middle of Beckfoot village is freehold land, now about 115 acres.

Hartlaw Cowbyer; the rent in 1538 was 26s. 8d. and is still paid.

New or Deer Park was in 1538 enclosed with oaken palings, and let to Stephen Skelton for 21 years at 10s. In 1649 the area was 24 acres and the yearly value £6. It was bounded by the Coneygarth, Highmore, Abbey Cowper and Brackenrigg, and perhaps was made by the abbot to prevent the deer of the forest from straying further into the Holm from Swaby mire (see the entry of A.D. 1292, p. 130). Since 1604 it has been held with Southerfield Hall. The present area is 53.870 acres and the fee-farm rent is still 10s.

Swaby mire is also freehold. In 1538 Swaby pasture contained 15 acres, rent 5s. There was a ground called called the Manure, 20 acres of pasture, 20s. with meadow adjoining, 7 acres, 13s. 4d.; these closes now contain 69.727 acres. And at Southerfield, the Heads Close meadow, in 1538 estimated at 4 acres worth 8s., has now an acreage of 13.631.

Common Moss, 'where the monastery did grave peats,' was worth to let at 23s. 4d. a year. It is now 162 acres; fee-farm rent 4s.

Abbey House farm and meadows adjoining the Waver, also freehold, were probably occupied by the Abbey, amounting altogether to over 260 acres.

We thus get a total acreage in the hands of the Abbey of over 1600 statute acres. The whole of this land, originally let on lease, is now of freehold tenure and pays a fee-farm rent to the Lord of the Manor. The rest of the Holm was let to tenants; the list is given later (Chapter xv) in connexion with the tithes.