Houses of Augustinian canons
The priory of Bicester

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Victoria County History

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William Page (editor)

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1907

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93-95

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'Houses of Augustinian canons: The priory of Bicester', A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 2 (1907), pp. 93-95. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=40187 Date accessed: 23 August 2014.


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15. THE PRIORY OF BICESTER

Although there is no chartulary of the Austin priory of Bicester, yet more than fifty of the original charters are preserved at the British Museum and the Record Office, of which Bishop Kennett has printed the most important. Among them is what appears to be the foundation charter, in which Gilbert Basset grants to John, prior of Bicester, various messuages and crofts in Bicester (no doubt for the monastic buildings), land also in the open fields, the church of Bicester with the chapel of Stratton Audley, and the churches of Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire, Compton Bassett, Wiltshire, and Ardington, Berkshire. (fn. 1) The convent had the same patron saint as the parish church, which immediately adjoined, namely St. Edburga; and from it must have obtained her bones, which in later days were shown in the conventual church. The date of the foundation is between 1182 and 1185; Gilbert Basset had succeeded his father Thomas in 1180, and himself had no children except one daughter. It is stated, and no doubt correctly, that the number of inmates was to be a prior and eleven canons. (fn. 2)

Of the churches given by the founder, Bicester was appropriated before 1220; and Little Missenden about 1267. (fn. 3) In 1220-8 Bicester agreed to be content with a portion of the tithes of Compton; (fn. 4) and the church of Ardington had been appropriated before 1425. (fn. 5) The canons also had the church of Newton Purcell, granted them about 1200 by Ralf Purcell, (fn. 6) but it was so poor that it could have been of no advantage to them. Their temporal possessions lay in the parishes around Bicester, and were almost without exception given by relations of the founder. (fn. 7) One peculiar possession may be mentioned, namely a knight's fee at Betterton, Berkshire, but without land or rent. The only value of this was that when the holder of the property died (in this case the prior of Poughley), Bicester received the due relief of £5 for the knight's fee. (fn. 8) At the Taxation of 1291 the income was over £80, and early in the next century the priory, having obtained leave to acquire lands in mortmain to the value of £10 a year, obtained property at Letcombe Bassett, Berkshire. (fn. 9)

About the condition of the monastery in early times we only know that Robert, prior in 1212, must have been a man of importance, for we find that he was chosen more than once as a judge-delegate. In March, 1292, the high altar in the conventual church of Bicester was consecrated, (fn. 10) and twelve years later there must have been building operations, as an indulgence was granted to all those who should contribute to the fabric. (fn. 11) When the bishop visited the priory in 1300, there seems to have been a complaint of the severity of the prior; (fn. 12) but it may have been necessary, for in 1306 two canons fled, 'having proved themselves irreligious all our time' as the bishop says. (fn. 13)

At the visitation of Bishop Alnwick in 1445, (fn. 14) the inmates were the prior, seven canons, and two or more boys not yet professed. The income of the house was stated to be £140; but the jewels were pawned and the allowance of the canons for clothing had not been paid. There does not seem to have been much amiss, for the complaints answer each other, one complaining that discipline is lax and silence not duly observed; while the younger members complain of the strictness with which they were made to study, and not allowed exercise.

At the visitation of 1520, (fn. 15) the house consisted of the prior and eight canons, two of whom lived outside the monastery, serving the cures of Bicester and Stratton Audley; the bishop, however, ordered that they should reside in the monastery, unless a grant could be produced authorizing the arrangement. The income was stated to be £210. The bishop ordered that the younger canons should be instructed in grammar and in the rule of St. Augustine, about which they were somewhat ignorant, and named one of the elder canons as teacher.

There is also a short record of a visitation in 1530. Complaint was made that the number of canons was diminished through the sweating sickness, that whereas there used to be ten canons besides the prior, there were now only eight inmates, of whom two were novices. A novice asserted that one of the canons had counselled him to renounce the habit; that in consequence he had fled, but afterwards repented and returned; the canon denied that he gave such counsel. (fn. 16) When Dr. Tregonwell visited Bicester in 1535 he reported that the prior looked well after his house and his brethren and all were in good order except one, who being punished for incontinence had run away and was still apostate. (fn. 17)

In 1526 the income was £173 gross, £113 net; in 1534, the acknowledgement of the royal supremacy was signed by nine inmates; (fn. 18) and in 1535 the number (including no doubt novices) was twelve. The income was returned at £176 gross, £146 net. The house was suppressed in 1536, but the deed of surrender is not extant; (fn. 19) the prior received a pension of £24. (fn. 20)

Priors of Bicester

John, occurs 1182 (fn. 21)

R[obert], occurs 1212 and 1217 (fn. 22)

William, occurs 1227 and 1236 (fn. 23)

Robert, died 1240 (fn. 24)

Hervey, elected 1240, (fn. 24) occurs 1254 (fn. 25)

Reginald, occurs 1261, (fn. 26) resigned 1269

Walter de Quenton, elected 1269, (fn. 27) occurs 1281 (fn. 28)

William de Thornberg, elected 1289 or 1290, (fn. 29) resigned 1300

Roger de Cotesford, elected 1300, (fn. 30) died 1331

Robert de Curtlington, elected 1331, (fn. 31) resigned 1348

Roger Warde, appointed 1348, (fn. 32) died 1349

Nicholas de Shobyngdon, elected June, 1349, (fn. 32) died same year

Peter de Grete, elected 1350, (fn. 32) resigned 1354

Robert Blaket, elected 1354, (fn. 33) died 1383

Robert de Islep, elected 1383 (fn. 34)

Geoffrey Chamburlayn, occurs 1392 (fn. 35)

Richard Parentyn, elected 1397, (fn. 36) died 1434

John Wantyng, elected 1434, (fn. 37) resigned 1454

Edmund Wycombe, appointed 1454, (fn. 38) died between 1460 and 1467 (fn. 39)

Robert Lawton, occurs 1460-7, and 1475 (fn. 40)

Richard Hynbest, occurs 1481, (fn. 41) died 1483

John Tooker, admitted 1483 (fn. 42)

Thomas Banbury, elected 1485, (fn. 43) resigned 1499

Richard Petyrton, elected 1499 (fn. 44) resigned 1503

William Dadington, elected 1503, (fn. 45) died 1510

John Coventre, elected 1510, (fn. 46) died 1524

Robert Brice, appointed 1524, (fn. 47) resigned 1528

William Brown, appointed 1528, (fn. 48) surrendered 1536

An early thirteenth-century seal is pointed oval; a conventional design of interlaced stems and leaves. (fn. 49) Legend:—

[+ SI]GILLVM CAPITVLI ECCLESIE DE BERNECESTR[IA]

A later seal of this priory is a pointed oval; in two canopied niches, on the left the Virgin, with crown, holding on the left arm the Child, in the right hand a sceptre; on the right St. Edburga the queen, with crown, holding in the right hand a cup, in the left hand a book. In base, between two sprigs of foliage, a shield of arms; Barry nebuly (or vair?) (fn. 50) Legend:—

S' . CO MUNE: PRIORIS: ET CONVENT': PRIORATUS: DE: BURENCESTRE

A fourteenth-century seal doubtfully attributed to this house in the British Museum Catalogue is a pointed oval; the Virgin crowned, in a carved niche with triple-arched canopy, suckling the Child, between two angels, kneeling, and swinging censers aloft. In base under a trefoiled arch a bishop with mitre, kneeling to the right before an altar on which is a chalice. On the left a hand of blessing and vested arm issuing. The arch is inscribed: SAL . . . . . DE . . . . (fn. 51) Legend:—

VIRGO: TVVM: NATVM: LACTANS: FAC: ME: SIBI: GRATE

Footnotes

1 Printed in Kennett, Par. Antiq.
2 Blomfield, Hist. of Bicester, 105.
3 Lipscombe, Bucks, ii, 393.
4 Sarum Chart. (Rolls Ser.), 105.
5 Dunkin, Hist. of Bicester, 235.
6 Cal. Anct. D. ii, 511.
7 Blomfield, Hist. of Bicester, 125, gives a list of grants, but it is not complete.
8 Ibid. 161; also Kennett, Par. Antiq. sub anno 1244.
9 Pat. R. for 1317 and 1332.
10 Linc. Epis. Reg. Sutton, Mem. fol. 97.
11 Ibid. Dalderby, Mem. fol. 71.
12 Blomfield, Hist. of Bicester, 123.
13 Linc. Epis. Reg. Dalderby, Mem. fol. 94.
14 MS. at Lincoln.
15 Ibid.
16 Ibid.
17 L. and P. Hen. VIII, ix, 457.
18 Ibid. vii, 1121.
19 Blomfield, Hist. of Bicester, 211.
20 L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), 1520 (40).
21 Kennett, Par. Antiq. sub anno 1182.
22 Cartul. St. Frid. ii, 50; Oseney Chartul. No. 415c. His name was Robert, according to Kennett, loc. cit. sub anno 1211.
23 Oxon. Fines, File 4, No. 15; Cal. Anct. D. iii, 537.
24 Linc. Epis. Reg. Grosteste's R.: Kennett and Dunkin have turned Hervicus into Henricus.
25 Dunkin, Hist. of Bicester, 65.
26 Bucks. Fines, 46 Hen. III.
27 Linc. Epis. Reg. Gravesend's R.
28 Oseney Chartul. No. 960.
29 Dodsw. MSS. cvii, fol. 146.
30 Linc. Epis. Reg. Dalderby, Inst. fol. 141.
31 Ibid. Burghersh, Inst. fol. 264.
32 Ibid. Gynwell, Inst. fol. 195.
33 Ibid. fol. 212.
34 Ibid. Buckingham, Inst. fol. 296.
35 Blomfield, Hist. of Bicester, 115.
36 Linc. Epis. Reg. Buckingham, Inst. fol. 338.
37 Blomfield, 173.
38 Linc. Epis. Reg. Chedworth, Mem. fol. 10.
39 Blomfield, 191.
40 Blomfield, 191; and Cal. Anct. D. i, 384.
41 Ibid. 191.
42 Willis, Abbeys, ii, App. 23; Madox, Formulare, 107, shows that Richard was alive 9 Oct. 1483.
43 Leland, Collectanea, ii, 332.
44 Willis, Abbeys, ii, 173; and Cal. Anct. D. iii, 465.
45 Linc. Epis. Reg. Smith, Inst. fol. 325; Richard Petyrton had been promoted to the abbacy of Notley.
46 Ibid. 338.
47 Ibid. Longlands, Inst. fol. 161.
48 Ibid. fol. 167; Blomfield, op. cit. 116; Robert Brice had been promoted to the abbacy of Notley.
49 B.M. lxx, 68.
50 Ibid. 67. Also on a charter of Feb. 1487 (Heyford No. 5) among the muniments of New Coll., Oxford.
51 B.M. lxx, 70.