Survey of London: Volume 8, Shoreditch. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1922.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
XLV.—THE AUGUSTINIAN PRIORY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, HOLYWELL.
General History of the Priory.
Dugdale, (fn. 1) Tanner (fn. 2)and Newcourt, (fn. 3) followed by Ellis (fn. 4) and all other writers, date the foundation of Holywell Priory before the year 1127. This unanimous opinion is based on the identification of Richard, formerly bishop of London, mentioned as a benefactor of the priory in the charter of 1 Ric. I., with Richard de Belmeis, bishop of London, who died in January, 1128. If this identification be correct, it is obvious that the date of the foundation of the priory must be before that year. There does not, however, appear to be any compelling reason for the identification, for there was another Richard de Belmeis, who was bishop of London from 1152 to 1162, and who appears prima facie to have as good a claim to the honour as the elder Richard.
The charter of 1 Ric. I. states that the site of the priory was granted by Robert, son of "Gelran," canon of St. Paul's. Robert, son of "Generan," was prebendary of Holywell for a period which covered the years 1133 and 1162. (fn. 5) Unfortunately, there is no evidence whether he held the prebend as early as 1127. That is, of course, quite possible. It must, therefore, be admitted that Robert may have given a site for the priory before the death of Richard de Belmeis, the elder, in January, 1128. The fact, however, that the grant was confirmed by Richard, the younger, at some time between 1152 and 1161, (fn. 6) makes it practically certain that the foundation of the priory is also to be dated within that period. In any case, however, it was before Michaelmas, 1158, (fn. 7) as a grant to the priory by Robert, son of Herbert, the King's chamberlain, bears that date.
By whom, and in what circumstances, the priory was founded, are matters quite unknown (fn. 8) It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist, (fn. 9) and, according to the invariable statement of historians, was for nuns of the Benedictine Order.
No authority is quoted for the statement, which is certainly incorrect. The Obituary Roll of the Priors of Ebchester and Burnaby of Durham distinctly refers to Holywell as of the Order of Augustine. (fn. 10) Again, a mandate (fn. 11) of Pope Gregory IX. (1240) refers to the petition of "the prioress and Augustinian convent of Halliwell in the diocese of London." Reference to "the Augustinian prioress and convent of Halywell in the diocese of London" occurs in a papal mandate of 1400, (fn. 12) while the fact that in October, 1397, an indult was granted (fn. 13) to Agnes Grene, an Augustinian nun of Rothewell, to transfer herself to the priory of "Halywell" of the same order, or to the Benedictine monasteries of "Berkyng" or "Elenstowe," rather emphasises the point.
According to Stow, (fn. 14) Stephen de Gravesend, bishop of London (d. 1338), was a benefactor of the priory, but no details can be ascertained. The same author states that the priory was "reedified by Sir Thomas Louell, knight of the Garter, who builded much there, in the raignes of H. the 7. and of H. the 8. Hee endowed this house with fayre lands, and was there buried in a large chappel by him builded for that purpose."
That Lovell built a chapel in connection with the priory is quite certain, (fn. 15) and it is on record (fn. 16) that in 1511 he transferred to the priory lands, tenements, rents, etc., to the clear value of £40 a year. As regards the further statement that he rebuilt the priory, there is no direct evidence. The fact, however, that on almost every window of the church was painted an exhortation to pray for his soul, (fn. 17) suggests that his work at Holywell was not confined to the chapel. (fn. 18)
According to Weever, "Sir Geo. Mannors, knight, Lord Ros of Hamlake, being with King Henry the eight, at the seage of Turney and Turwine, there took a grievous sicknesse, whereupon he languished, in the same year of this their expedition into France, which was Ann. Dom. 1513. And according to his will was here entombed in the chapell, and neare to the high altar of this Priory." (fn. 19) In view of the fact that Lovell had shown practical interest in the priory at least as early as 1511, it is quite possible that he had already built his chapel in 1513 and that this is the building referred to. There may, however, have been, and probably was, another chapel in the priory church.
Property of the Priory.
Four royal charters confirming the priory in its possessions are extant, either in the original or in "inspeximus" copies. The first was issued on 7th October, 1 Ric. I. (1189), the second on 11th April, 6 Ric. I. (1195), and the other two on 30th April, 19 Henry III. (1235). Inasmuch as they are wholly concerned with the property of the priory (including its site) it seems unnecessary to set them out at length. A transcription, more or less complete, of the priory Register, which seems to be no longer in existence, is contained in the British Museum. (fn. 20)
The Act, 26 Henry VIII., c. 3, provided for a tenth part of the revenues and profits of all monasteries, etc., to be paid annually to the King, and in connection therewith a return (fn. 21) was made in the same year (1534) of the income of Holywell Priory, giving an account of its property, parish by parish, as existing at Michaelmas of that year. The information contained in the return may be exhibited as follows (fn. 22):—
|All Hallows, the Great.||Assize rents.||1||0||0|
|All Hallows, the Less.||Assize rents.||2||13||4|
|All Hallows, Honey Lane.||Farm of tenements.||4||0||0|
|All Hallows, Lombard Street.||Assize rents.||1||6||8|
|All Hallows on the Wall.||Assize rents.||3s.|
|Farm of tenements, cottages, etc.||65s.||3||8||0|
|St. Alphage.||Assize rents.||2||10||8|
|St. Andrew Undershaft.||Farm of tenements.||3||6||8|
|St. Antholin. (fn. 23)||Assize rents.||4||0||0|
|St. Bartholomew by the Exchange ("the Little").||Farm of tenements, cottages, etc.||11||15||4|
|St. Benet Fink.||Assize rents.||13||4|
|St. Botolph, Bishopsgate.||Assize rents.||10s.|
|Farm of tenements, cottages, and gardens.||£6||4s.||4d.||6||4||4|
|St. Edmund, Lombard Street.||Assize rents.||3||12||0|
|St. Gabriel ("Mary"), Fenchurch.||Assize rents.||30s.|
|Farm of tenements.||53s.||4d.||4||3||4|
|St. Giles, Cripplegate.||Farm of cottages, etc.||34||3||0|
|St. Lawrence, Jewry.||Assize rents.||1||0||0|
|St. Leonard, Eastcheap.||Farm of tenements.||4||13||4|
|St. Magnus.||Assize rents.||4||0|
|St. Margaret, Fish Street Hill ("in the new Fish Market"). (fn. 24)||Assize rents.||1||0||0|
|St. Mary Aldermanbury.||Assize rents,||2s.|
|Farm of tenements, etc.||£8||11s.||8||13||0|
|St. Mary-le-Bow.||Assize rents,||13s.||4d.|
|Farm of tenements,||53s.||4d.||3||6||8|
|St. Mary Colechurch. (fn. 24)||Assize rents,||40s.|
|Farm of tenements, etc.||77s.||5||17||0|
|St. Mary Woolnoth.||Assize rents,||2s.|
|Farm of tenements, and cottages,||75s.||3||17||0|
|St. Mary Magdalen, Old Fish Street ("in the old Fish Market").||Assize rents,||9s.||1d.|
|Farm of tenements,||£6||13s.||4d.||7||2||5|
|St. Matthew, Friday Street.||Assize rents.||13||4|
|St. Michael, Bassishaw.||Farm of tenements, cottages, etc.||6||9||0|
|St. Michael, Cornhill.||Assize rents.||1||6||8|
|St. Michael, Crooked Lane||Assize rents.||2||8||0|
|St. Michael, Queenhithe.||Assize rents.||5||0|
|St. Michael, Wood Street.||Assize rents.||1||6||5|
|St. Nicholas Acon.||Assize rents.||1||4||6|
|St. Olave, Hart Street ("in Marke lane").||Assize rents.||6||8|
|St. Pancras. (fn. 25)||Assize rents.||66s.||8d.|
|Farm of tenements.||£4||7||6||8|
|St. Peter le Poor.||Assize rents.||18||0|
|St. Peter, Westcheap.||Farm of tenements.||5||0||0|
|St. Sepulchre.||Assize rents.||40s.|
|Farm of one tenement.||16s.||2||16||0|
|St. Stephen, Coleman Street.||Assize rents.||2||0||0|
|St. Stephen, Walbrook.||Farm of tenements and cottages.||15||13||4|
|St. Vedast.||Assize rents.||1||16||8|
|St. Leonard, Shoreditch. (fn. 26)||Assize rents.||13s.||4d.|
|Farm of tenements, etc.||£34||2s.||4d.|
|Farm of lands and pastures.||28s.||4d.||36||4||0|
|"Campus de Fynesbury."||Farm of lands and pastures.||3||10||0|
|"Parochia de Halywell." (fn. 27).||Farm of tenements and chambers within the Precinct of the Priory.||£10||14s.|
|Farm of lands, meadows and pastures in the hands of the Prioress.||40s.||12||14||0|
|Hoxton.||Farm of lands and pastures in the hands of the Prioress.||2||6||0|
|Hackney.||Farm of lands and pastures in the hands of the Prioress.||1||6||8|
|Edmonton.||Farm of meadows.||1||4||0|
|Camberwell.||Rent of customary tenants and farm of tenants at will of the lord, demised to Robert Draper.||£5||6s.||8d.|
|Farm of manor, demised to Jas. Pyke.||£8||13||6||8|
|Burnham ("Burneholme").||Farm of marshes, called 'Holywell Marsh, Twisclford, Turnecole and Lanesende," demised to Wm. Harris||30||0||0|
|Leyton.||Manor of "Rokcolte" let to farm to . . . Chalenor.||3||6||8|
|Stratford, Bow.||Farm of watermill demised to Wm. Knyght.||8||0||0|
|Roydon.||Farm of a parcel of meadow called "Nunneholme" demised to John Feynle.||7||0|
|Farnham and Albury ("Alderbury").||Farm of divers lands, meadows and pastures, demised to John Newman.||1||0||0|
|Braughing.||Farm of divers lands, tenements, meadows and pastures called Gatesbury, demised to Thos. Hedge.||4||0||0|
|Layston ("Leystonchurch") and Wyddial ("Widyhale").||Farm of lands, meadows and pastures called "Gyberuke" and "Halywell" demised to John Bramfeld.||5||6||8|
|Welwyn.||Farm of divers lands, meadows and pastures demised to Wm. Witeshyre.||3||0||0|
|Manor of Ash ("Aish").||Farmed to Robt. Stucis.||5||6||8|
|Marshes called "Freren," alias Old Marsh, in Tunstall.||Farmed to Sir John Cromer.||4||0||0|
|Rectory of Dunton ("Downton") with manor.||Farmed to John Burgoyn.||16||15||10|
|Ashwell.||Portion of the tithes demised to Westminster Abbey.||2||0||0|
|Welwyn.||Payment received from John Thomson, rector.||3||0||0|
|Trumpington.||Farmed to Rich. Deye.||23||10||0|
|Total income.||(fn. 28)348||14||6|
|St. Andrew Undershaft.||Master of St. Giles in the Fields.||4||6|
|St. Antholin.||Westminster Abbey.||3||0|
|St. Gabriel ("Mary"), Fenchurch||Priory of Blakemore.||5||0|
|St. Giles, Cripplegate.||Bailiff of the Manor of Finsbury.||2||4||2|
|St. Lconard, Shoreditch.||Bishop of London.||1||10|
|St. Margaret, Fish Street Hill.||Westminster Abbey.||4||6|
|St. Mary-le-Bow.||Bermondsey Abbey.||6||8|
|St. Mary Colechurch.||Priory of Torkington.||4||0|
|St. Mary Magdalen, Old Fish Street.||Archbishop of Canterbury.||3s.||9||8|
|St. Pancras.||Whittington's College.||12||0|
|St. Stephen, Walbrook.||Westminster Abbey.||3||4|
|Braughing.||Humphrey FitzHerbert, Esq.,||1||2||6|
|"Parochia de Halywell.'||Alms (fn. 29) given to the poor every day to the value of 3d. a day for the souls of "Astatim" Daicy and Olive his wife.||4||11||3|
|Burnham.||Payment to the Priory of St. Helen's.||5||0||0|
|Dunton.||Payment to Wallingford Priory.||2||6||8|
|Procuration and Visitation fee (fn. 30) paid to bishop of Lincoln.||10||6|
|Alms given to poor for souls of former bishop of Lincoln (fn. 31) and his parents, viz. in bread, drink and cheese at Christmas.||12||8|
|Trumpington||Payment to Abbey of St. Alban's||3||6||8|
|Payment to Priory of Lewes.||3||0||0|
|Payment to Priory of Barnewell.||1||6||8|
|Procuration and Visitation fee (fn. 31) paid to archdeacon of Ely.||6||8|
|Alms given to the poor for the souls of former bishop of Ely and his parents (fn. 32) in bread, drink, and meat at Christmas.||1||0||0|
|Thomas, earl of Rutland, chief steward.||3||6||8|
|John Nudegate, Esq., understeward.||2||0||0|
|William Berners, auditor.||2||0||0|
|Alexander Harington, receiver.||10||13||4|
The clear profit thus amounted to £302 12s. 3d., (fn. 33) although, owing to the error made in the original return in casting up the income, that document gives the amount as £297 12s. 3d.
Among other returns purporting to give the value of the Priory's property are two prepared in the following year (1535). One is endorsed "The originall Return signed by Sybell Newdygate, Prioress, of all the spiritual and temporal possessions belonging to the Priory of Nuns of Hallewell near London, (fn. 34) etc."; and the other, which is practically identical therewith, is contained in the Valor Ecclesiasticus. (fn. 35) The amounts given in these vary as follows from those contained in the return printed above:—
|Two later Returns.||Return printed above.|
|London (fn. 36) and Middlesex.||228||11||4||225||15||0|
|Welwyn. (fn. 37)||2||0||0||3||0||0|
|Dunton. (fn. 38)||13||6||8||16||15||10|
Ellis (fn. 39) gave a list of 11 names of Holywell prioresses, one of which is certainly an error, (fn. 40) and the latest list (fn. 41) repeats the 11 names with two additions. The time has not yet arrived when a complete list can be given, but the following attempt is at any rate an advance on its predecessors:—
The British Museum transcript of the register of the priory (fn. 42) contains a record of a plea between Roger de Bray, Margaret his wife and Milo his son, and Magdalena, the prioress, and the convent of "Haliwell," concerning land in Dunton. Roger's charter concerning the land can be approximately dated 1185. If this is the date of the plea, Magdalena is the earliest known prioress of Holywell. If, however, the plea has to be placed more than a very few years later, Magdalena must follow Clementia, say circ. 1210.
There are two fines dated 8 Henry III. (1223–4) relating to Camberwell and one in the following year relating to the Priory's Mill in Bromley, in all of which "Matilda," prioress of "Haliwell," is mentioned.
A charter, dated August, 1239, (fn. 46) of Holy Trinity Priory mentions the grant of property at Alsewick to Agnes, the prioress, and the nuns of Haliwell. A reference to Agnes also occurs in a grant of 1239–40 from Holywell Priory to St. Thomas of Acon, (fn. 47)and in a fine dated 18th November, 1240, concerning land in Dunton.
A charter of Christiana of Kent, prioress of "Halewelle," can be dated 1272. (fn. 48) A reference to Cristiana, prioress of "Haliwell," also occurs in a fine of 10 Edward I. (1282), and a deed in the possession of St. Paul's, dated 1283, is concerned with a grant by Christina, prioress of "St. John de Haliwelle." (fn. 49) As will be seen below, Christina was succeeded by Alice in or before 1293. In his will, however, dated 21st December, 1312, (fn. 50) Thomas Romayn left the reversion of certain property in the parish of St. Mary Woolchurch to his two daughters, nuns in "Halywell," with remainder to Dame Cristina de Kent, their aunt, "a nun there." It is difficult to resist the suggestion that it is the former prioress who is referred to, and that for some reason or other she had resigned her office some 20 years or more before her death.
Alice, prioress of "Haliwell," is mentioned in a deed of 1293 in the possession of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's. (fn. 51)
The priory had acquired without royal licence a yearly rent of 20 marks out of the manor of Lexenden. Pardon to the nuns was granted when Lucy of Colney (see below) was prioress, and in the documents concerned (fn. 52) it is stated that the rent had been acquired by Albreda, the then prioress.
The Assize Rolls (fn. 53)for Easter, 2 Edward III.(April, 1328), contain a reference to a plea by the prior of St. Mary Spital against "Lucy, prioress of Haliwell," and the Patent Rolls under date of 12th February, 4 Edward III. (1329–30), contain a grant to Lucy "de Colneye," prioress of "Haliwell."
In an inquisition taken at the Guildhall on 16th August, 34(?) Henry VIII., (fn. 54) reference was made to a deed dated 16th March 1329–30, by which Maria de Storteford, prioress of the "House of Halywell," entered into an agreement concerning the priory's property in Soper Lane. On 4th November, 1334, Mary, prioress of "Haliwell," wrote accepting the grant of Westminster on behalf of Elizabeth Montacute (see below).
An action brought in 1345 against Elizabeth, prioress of Holywell, in respect of the Camberwell property reveals the fact that the property had been leased by Elizabeth's predecessor, Theophania, on 5th February, 1335–6). (fn. 55)
Elizabeth Montacute was the third daughter of William de Montacute, second Baron Montacute, and Elizabeth, daughter of Peter de Montfort. (fn. 56) She entered the priory of Holywell as a nun, and in 1334 an agreement (fn. 57) was come to between the priory and Westminster Abbey, to the effect that as she had nothing of her own wherewith to provide for her food and clothing, and the revenues of the priory were not sufficient for the sustenance of the nuns there (neither of which statements is very easy to believe), the abbey out of pity for her poverty, and in consideration of many benefits received from her relations and especially from Simon, bishop of Worcester, (fn. 58) granted to her for life the yearly pension of 100s. which the bishop used to draw from them. From the nature of the case it would seem that she had but recently taken the veil, and, though she is described as "a girl" of noble birth when she entered the convent, that is perhaps not entirely inconsistent with the fact that she was at this date at least 18 (fn. 59) and probably several years older. She became prioress before Michaelmas, 1340, for in connection with the law-suit referred to above under Theophania, it is recorded that "at Michaelmas, 14 Edw. III., the aforesaid Elizabeth, now prioress, removed the same Richard from those tenements." On 29th April, 1341, Maud, her sister, was consecrated abbess of Barking and the chronicler mentions that among those present were the bishop of Ely, her brother, and the prioress of "Haliwelle," her sister. (fn. 60) In the time of the Black Death (1349) Elizabeth petitioned for and obtained plenary indulgence. (fn. 61) In 1354 and 1355 references occur to "Elizabeth de Monte Acuto," as prioress. (fn. 62) On 26th January, 1356–7, (fn. 63) the King ordered an inquisition into the facts of a complaint made by "Elizabeth, prioress of Halewell." This was to the effect that certain citizens and "other malefactors and disturbers of Our peace" by force and arms had broken the close, houses, gates, doors and windows of the priory, and captured, abducted and married Joan, the daughter of John of Coggeshall, (fn. 64) who had been committed by Henry Galeys to the care of Elizabeth, who in turn had bound herself to restore her unmarried. So far as has been discovered, this is the latest allusion to Elizabeth Montacute.
On 10th March, 37 Edw. III. (1362–3), John Modefrey, pepperer, executor to Robert Westmelne, tailor, appeared at the Guildhall and declared that he had paid on behalf of Isabella, Robert's daughter, £46 13 4 to "Dame Elena, prioress of the said House of Haliwell." (fn. 65)
In a document (fn. 66) of Hilary, 10 Ric. II. (i.e., January or February, 1386–7) concerning Holywell Cross the name of the then prioress is stated to be Isabella Norton, and at Christmas, 1392, Isabella Norton, as prioress, signed a lease (fn. 67) to Baldwin Cole, of the manor of Camberwell.
Among the records of St. Paul's is an acquittance (fn. 68) dated 7th October, 11 Henry IV. (1409) to the Master of the College of St. Laurence Poulteney from Edith, prioress of Holywell. She is obviously to be identified with Edith Griffith, who, Hugo states, (fn. 69) is mentioned in a lease of St. Mary Graces as prioress in I Henry IV. (1399–1400).
Clementia is referred to as prioress in a fine dated 18 Henry VI.(1439–40) relating to a messuage called "le Gatehouse" and a garden and land in Shoreditch. There is also extant a lease (fn. 70) dated 4th October, 23 Henry VI. (1444) by Clemencia, prioress of the house and church of St. John the Baptist of "Halywell," to Thos. Russell.
On 19th September, 2 Edw. IV. (1462) Joan Sevenok, (fn. 71) prioress of "Haliwell," appeared (fn. 72) at the Guildhall with reference to the patrimony of Alice, daughter of John Crichefeld, aged 15½ years, a nun in the priory.
On 3rd March, 14 Edw. IV. (1474–5), Elizabeth Prudde, as prioress, leased (fn. 73) to Sir Ralph Jocelyn the priory's property in Layston and Wyddial.
The earliest reference to Joan Lynde as prioress occurs in a lease dated 1st October. 7 Henry VIII. (1515), to John Hughbank of property in Moorfields (fn. 74) the latest in an obligation, dated 18th February, 24 Henry VIII. (1532–3), between John Hardeware, vicar of Trumpington, and the Priory (fn. 75) Hugo states that Sybil Newdegate was elected prioress on 14th January, 1534–5, in which case Joan probably died towards the end of the previous year.
Ellis, followed by Lovegrove, includes among the prioresses "Clemencia" under the date 1521. He quotes the authority of the Mores MS. collection for the statement, but the above facts concerning Joan Lynde show that it is almost certainly an error.
Hugo gives no authority for his statement that Sybil Newdegate was elected prioress on 14th January, 1535, but in any case it is quite certain that she held that position before 20th September, 1535. (fn. 76) There can be little doubt that Sybil was daughter of John Newdegate, sergeant-at-law, who died in 1528, and Amphelisia, daughter of John Nevill. According to Lysons (fn. 77) they had ten sons and four daughters. None of the latter are mentioned by name in John's will, (fn. 78) but that one of them was named Sybil is shown by the fact that George, one of the sons, refers in his will (see below) to his sister "Sibell Newdegate."
Two priests appear to have been attached to the priory. Henry Aubrey in his will (see below) mentions "every of the ij prestes" and the document was witnessed by (Sir) John Fenton and (Sir) John Burford, "prestes in Halywell"; and the account for Sir Thos. Lovell's funeral expenses (fn. 79) contains the item: "To my lady of Halywell's two priests for service done in the month for the corpse, 6s. 8d." Two priests were also attached to the chantry founded by Lovell at Holywell. In his will (fn. 80) dated 10th December, 1522, he designated "Master Henry Smyth and Master Thomas Sperke to have the service of my chauntery at Holywell unto they be beneficed," and in the inventory of chantries taken in 1 Edward VI. two are also mentioned, viz. (Sir) James Hurst and (Sir) Richard Maryf. (fn. 81)
Henry Aubrey, who died in 1471–2, was "styward" of Holywell. (fn. 82)
At the time of the Dissolution the priory had a steward, an understeward, an auditor and a receiver. The names and salaries of the persons holding these offices in 1534 are shown in the return printed on p. 159. John "Nudegate," the understeward, was perhaps the prioress's eldest brother, who died in 1545–6. (fn. 83) On 9th August, 1537, the prioress appointed another brother, George Newdegate, chief steward, understeward, keeper of courts, surveyor and general receiver of the priory's lands at a salary of £13 6s. 8d. charged upon the Burnham estate (fn. 84), and he was continued in these offices after the dissolution. (fn. 85)
The receiver in 1534 and 1535, when the returns of the priory's property were made, was Alexander Harrington. On 1st July, 1537, however, the prioress appointed him and his son, Thomas, jointly and severally, receivers and collectors of rents, etc., in the city of London and its suburbs, at a salary of £10 with food and drink daily at the priory. After the dissolution they were continued in office at 20 marks a year. (fn. 86)
The clerk of the church. (fn. 87)
John Wytting, "porter and Baily" in 1471. (fn. 87)
The sexton. (fn. 88)
The priory was dissolved on 10th October, 31 Henry VIII. (1539), and the following are the names of the inmates and the amounts of the pensions granted (fn. 89):—
|" (fn. 91)Sibell Newdegate, Priorise,||Lli|
|Elene Claver, (fn. 90) Suppriorise,||vjli.||xiijs.||iiijd|
|(fn. 91)Alice Martyn,||iiijli.|
|(fn. 91)Alice Goldwell,||iiijli.||vjs.||viijd.|
|(fn. 91)Beatrix Lewes,||lxvjs.||viijd.|
|(fn. 91)Elene Clave,||liijs.||iiijd.|
|(fn. 91)Agnes Bolney,||liijs.||iiijd.|
It is interesting to compare the figures for Holywell with those for the three other London monastic establishments for women, though the incompleteness of the figures for St. Mary, Clerkenwell, makes it difficult to arrive at any certain conclusions therefrom.
|Abbey of the Minoresses. (fn. 91)||Priory of St. Helen's. (fn. 91)||Priory of St. Mary Clerkenwell.||Priory of Holywell.|
|Income. (fn. 92)||£318||8||5||£320||15||8½||£262||19||0||£300||19||5|
|Number of nuns.||25||15||[?]||14|
|Pensions to abbess or prioress.||£40||£30||£50||£50|
|Ditto. to sub-prioress.||—||£4||—||£6||13||4|
|Ditto. to nuns.||4 @ £3||3||8||5 @ £3||6||8||4 @ £4 (fn. 93)||1@ £4||13||4|
|10 @ £2||13||4||8 @ £2||13||4||4 @ £3||6||8 (fn. 93)||1 @ £4||6||8|
|9 @ £2||—||—||1 @ £4|
|1 (a novice)||—||—||5 @ £3||6||8|
|@ £1||6||8||4 @ £2||13||4|
An interesting reference to the prioress occurs five years after the Dissolution. In his will, (fn. 94) dated 13th August, 1544, George Newdegate left £10 a year to be paid by his widow "to my Sister Sybell," and provided that, in case of the former's death during the nonage of the children, his "landes, annuities and Rentes do remayne to my syster, Sibell Newdegate, and she to have the dysposing of them to thuse of my children, and if they dye the remaynder to her only, whome I make overseer of this my last will and testament."
A reference to the fate of Holywell is preserved in the evidence given by Christopher Chaitour against a man called Cray, who had attached himself to the former as travelling companion to London from some place between Huntingdon and Royston. Cray brought up the question of the "pulling downe of Abbys," and stated that "there are moche grudgyng in thes parties, but none daire spek, and many goythe of beggyng and it causythe moche robbing." And later on, as they rode into London, "the sayd Cray, showing this examinat [Chaitour] the late noonrye of Halywell, sayd, see her is on of the wyde open Wenesdayes of wh we comunyd." (fn. 95)
A distant view of the priory is contained in Wyngaerde's sketch of London, which probably dates from about this time. This represents the church as having a high central spire, as well as two gables which may be the western termination of the nave and the south aisle.
The spoiling of the priory soon commenced. A note dated 31 Henry VIII. (i.e., not later than April 1540) refers to the receipt of £74 14s. 9d. in respect of the "superplus" of moveables, jewels and "base" silver taken at the surrender of five monasteries, including Holywell. (fn. 96) In July, 1540, three indentures were made between James Nedeham, the clerk and surveyor of the king's works, and Thomas Spylman, one of the receivers of the Augmentations, for the taking of lead from the priories of St. Mary Spital, Holywell, and St. Mary, Clerkenwell. The contract had been completed by 30th April, 1541, by which time 30 fother, (fn. 97) 4 cwt., 3 qrs. and 7 lbs. of lead had been taken from Holywell and employed for repairing the roof of Westminster Hall. (fn. 98) Moreover, the chapter house (specified to include "the rooffe . . . with the selyng of waynescott, the tyle stones, the pavyng stones, the glasse, the iron and the walles") was sold entire to William Bromles and Anthony Dunwyche, and seems to have been pulled down some time before 10th August, 1541. (fn. 99)
It is quite in accord with this that we find that the grant of the site to Henry Webb in 1544 included only the "land and soil" of the chapterhouse. The same is the case with regard to the church, the dormitory and the chapel at the north end of the fratry. Nevertheless some of the monastic buildings seem to have survived until that date, for the fact that the lead and timber of the cloister and the stones, timber, tiles, glass and iron of, in and above the chapel, were reserved to the King, would seem conclusive that, at any rate, the particular buildings mentioned were still standing. In the particulars for grant (1544) to Webb there is a memorandum to "reserve all the leade yet remaynyng upon a gallerye whiche doth cover the south yle of the churche leding from my Lorde of Rutlandes lodging to Sir Thomas Lovelles Chappell and to excepte the walles of the same Ile in case the leade there shall remayne."
This very reservation, however, would probably have the effect of hastening demolition when once the grant had passed, and, although certain of the outbuildings remained for another 50 years, there can be little doubt that most of the principal buildings disappeared almost at once.
When Ellis wrote in 1798 but few traces of the priory were left. The most conspicuous remnant had been a gateway mentioned in Gough's edition of Camden's Britannia, (fn. 100) and that had been destroyed about 1785. (fn. 101)
The Rev. Thomas Hugo, in an unpublished lecture on Holywell Priory preserved in the British Museum, (fn. 102) states that quantities of sculptured stone, representing the work of every period, and probably belonging to the Priory church, were dug up when the work of forming the North London Railway was in progress, and that he had in his possession several architectural remains taken from the site.
The same writer states that when the Middle Level sewer was being constructed in 1863, two leaden coffins were discovered about 15 feet from the then surface in King John's Court, to the south of New Inn Yard, lying side by side, enclosed by walls of chalk in a yard behind Nos. 9 and 10, New Inn Yard.
According to an article by E.W. Hudson in the Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, in 1898, a portion of the effigy of a bishop, sculptured in Purbeck marble, was found face downwards about 1883 during the demolition of a house on the north side of New Inn Yard, east of the North London Railway. (fn. 103) As discovered, it formed part of the paving of a cellar within 10 feet of, and about 8 feet below, the surface of the street. The position would seem to have been within the site of the chapter house as indicated on the conjectural plan of the Priory Precinct (Plate 83).
The latest writer on the priory (fn. 104) states that the only remnant of the monastery existing in 1904 was "a piece of stone wall about 50 feet long in a timber yard at 186, High Street, Shoreditch" (see "A" on plan). Since that date, building operations have taken place and the walling referred to has been removed. A portion of an old brick wall remaining in position at the rear of Nos. 185–7 occupies the site of the cemetery wall, but certainly does not date from pre-dissolution times.
The priory precinct.
(a) "The place in which the church is situated with all its appurtenances, viz., the moor in which the spring which is called 'Haliwelle ' (fn. 105) rises, which Robert, son of Gelran, canon of the church of the Blessed Paul, London, gave under the name of three acres of land."
(c) "The land which Walter, (fn. 106) precentor of the church of the Blessed Paul, London, gave to the nuns under the name of three acres."
The British Museum transcript of the Register of the priory contains a note of the confirmation by Richard, bishop of London, and T., archbishop of Canterbury, of the grant by Robert, son of "Genor," of "the place of Haliwell in the land of the prebend" of Robert. T. can stand for only T[heobald], archbishop from 1138 to 1161, or T[homas], from June 1162 to 1170. The only Richard who was bishop of London during the period 1138–70 was Richard de Belmeis the younger, whose term of office lasted from September, 1152, to May, 1162. The archbishop was therefore Theobald, and the date of the confirmation lies between 1152 and 1161.
The area of the priory precinct, which, as will be seen, reached from Bateman's Row to Holywell Lane, and from approximately the site of Curtain Road to the high road, was about eight acres, a figure which agrees fairly well with the acreage of the grants enumerated above. The general locale of the precinct is indicated by Chassereau's map (Plate 1) as in the northern angle formed by Holywell Lane and the main road. As no remains of the priory buildings have been found to exist to-day, and no plan of their lay-out has been discovered, the details concerning the boundaries of the precinct and the situation of the different buildings have had perforce to be gathered from documentary evidence. From such evidence a conjectural plan of the precinct (Plate 83) has been compiled, the facts obtained, which unfortunately in most instances are somewhat lacking in precision, being interpreted in accordance with the generally recognised disposition of conventual buildings belonging to contemporary monasteries of the Augustinian order. In principle the plan agrees with the known lay-out of the Augustinian abbeys at Lacock and Burnham, while the blocks of buildings will be found to correspond well with the indications in Rocque's map. (p. 182).
At the time of the dissolution the precinct was divided into three portions: (1) in the direct occupation of the nuns, afterwards granted to Henry Webb, (2) in private occupation, afterwards in the ownership of Robert Ferrars, and (3) in the occupation of the earls of Rutland. A necessary preliminary to the plotting out of the precinct is the ascertaining of the boundaries between these portions.
Webb's portion.—On 23rd September, 1544, the King sold (fn. 107) to Henry Webb (then a gentleman usher to Queen Catherine Parr) the portion of the precinct which had been in the direct occupation of the nuns. (fn. 108) This is described as comprising a messuage lying on the west side of the church door and adjoining to the lower gate of the priory; the hall and all chambers, kitchens and buildings above and below; the gardens on the north side of the messuage and adjoining the hall and chambers; houses and buildings adjoining the west end of the church and extending north from the lower gate 148 feet to the end of a stone wall; houses and buildings extending eastward from the same end of the stone wall; the house and buildings called the fratry, above and below, extending to the outer walls of the same houses and buildings as far as the door in the east end of the fratry, and southward from the same door to the cloister (fn. 109); the cloister extending to the walls of the church; "the ladies' gardens" lying behind the dortor; the prioress's garden and dove-cot in the garden; the convent orchard of one acre; barns, brewhouses, granaries, stables, etc., on the west side of the priory and within the lower gate; the land, ground and soil of the precinct, extending from the lower gate, and the land and soil of the church, chapter-house, and dormitory; the land and soil of the chapel at the north end of the fratry; the "chapel yard"; "the washing house"; a stable 50 feet north and south, and 20 feet east and west, abutting on the priory mansion east and the old dove-house west, a brewhouse north and the workhouse south; the barn called the Oat Barn, 54 feet long by 24 feet wide, on the west side of the stable, and abutting on a garden in the tenure of Katherine Carleton, east, Finsbury Field west, a garden in the tenure of Jane Powes south, and the old dovehouse north. After Webb's death (fn. 110) the property passed to his daughter and her husband (Susan and George Peckham) who, on 16th August, 1555, sold it (fn. 111) to Christopher Bumsted, (fn. 112) and on 1st November of the same year the latter mortgaged (fn. 113) the premises to Christopher Allen and Giles his son. After the death of the elder Allen, Bumsted quarrelled with the son, who charged him with breaking the original covenant. (fn. 114) Allen was apparently seeking an opportunity to foreclose, and in this he seems to have been successful. He died on 27th March, 1609, and the inquisition taken on his estate (fn. 115) shows that he was still in possession of the property. After his death it seems to have passed almost at once into the hands of George Peckham, (fn. 116) grandson of the vendor in 1555, and on 9th March, 1611–2, Peckham sold it (fn. 117) to Sir Thomas Dacres under the description of "all that the scite of the late dissolved monastery or priory of Halliwell, etc., granted to Henry Webb by lettres pattentes." Details are given of the various occupations. (fn. 118) On 19th December, 1615, Thomas, son of Sir Thomas, disposed (fn. 119) of the property to George Pitt. The latter's son, Edmund, had an only daughter, Alice, who married Sir James Rushout. On 29th June, 1692, the latter sold the property to James (afterwards Sir James) (fn. 120) Bateman, who, dying in 1718, left (fn. 121) to his third son Richard, "all those my messuages, etc., lately belonging to the priory of Holywell." Eventually the property came into the hands of John, second Viscount Bateman, who died in 1802. Between 1809 and 1814 Lord Bateman's trustees sold the whole of the property in plots, and from the description of these it is possible to define the limits of the estate. (i) Included among the sales were Nos. 159 to 181, Holywell Street (Shoreditch High Street). As the grant to Webb mentions no houses in the high road it is obvious that in pre-dissolution days the conventual gardens ran right up to the road. (ii) On 27th June, 1814, the trustees sold part of the southern frontage of Bateman's Row, to the west of New Inn Street. (fn. 122) The precinct therefore reached as far as Bate man's Row. (iii) Three sales are recorded (fn. 123) covering altogether 219 feet of the frontage of Curtain Road between Bateman's Row and New Inn Yard. The precinct therefore reached as far westward as the site of Curtain Road. (iv) On the south, as has been seen, the Webb property included towards the east the site of No. 181, Shoreditch High Street. The western part of the boundary was in dispute between Webb's successors and the earls of Rutland. (fn. 124) The determination of the central portion is somewhat complicated. The details from which the line can be ascertained are contained in (i) a series of leases and (ii) the sale of the whole property comprised in those leases.
(i) may be taken in three parts: (a) is a set of leases, (fn. 125) dated 23rd August, 1751, by Richard Bateman, of seven houses on the south side of New Inn Street (now Yard), "west of a new street leading to King John's Court." The site of this "new street" is now covered by the North London Railway. The houses, counting westwards, had frontages of (i) 15½ feet, (ii) 15 feet, (iii) 15 feet, (iv) 15 feet, (v) 14 feet 10 inches, (vi) 14 feet 8 inches and (vii) 15½ feet respectively, and their depths from New Inn Yard were (i) 87 feet, (ii) 87 feet, (iii) 87 feet to a break and then 28 feet, (iv) 111 feet, (v) 90 feet, (vi) 80 feet and (vii) 78 feet 8 inches (b) is a lease, dated 14th March, 1750–1, (fn. 126) of a parcel of ground on the south side of New Inn Street with frontage of 170 feet and depth of 92 feet, obviously on the other (eastern) side of the "new street." (c) is another lease, (fn. 127) dated 26th July, 1757, "of a parcell of land . . . whereon a piece of old building commonly called . . . the cloisters or chapple formerly stood, scituate in King John's Court . . . containing on the north side thereof 100 feet, on the south side thereof, 74 feet 6 inches, on the east side thereof 20 feet, on the west side thereof 27 feet, on the south side towards the east end thereof  feet (fn. 128) and on the south side towards the west end therof 16 feet."
(ii) Amongst the sales effected by Lord Bateman's executors was one of the whole of the Webb property south of New Inn Yard, and this again changed hands before the construction of the North London Railway. The boundaries are thus described in the two deeds:—
Sale 2nd July, 1814, by Lord Bateman's trustees to Benjamin Ambler. (fn. 129)
Sale 11th August, 1864, by Ambler's executor (Thos. Rock) to John Rock. (fn. 130)
|Sale 2nd July, 1814, by Lord Bateman's trustees to Benjamin Ambler. (fn. 131)||Sale 11th August, 1864, by Ambler's executor (Thos. Rock) to John Rock. (fn. 132)|
|then runs S.E.||55 ft. 6 ins.||55 ft. 6 ins.|
|then runs E.||26 ft. 3 ins.||26 ft. 3 ins.|
|then runs S.||46 ft. 8 ins.||46 ft. 8 ins.|
|W. to E. on S. side.||51 ft. 10 ins.||51 ft. 10 ins.|
|then runs S.||21 ft.||21 ft.|
|then runs E.||36 ft. 4 ins.||36 ft. 4 ins.|
|then runs N.||10 ft.||10 ft.|
|then runs E.||74 ft. 6 ins.||74 ft. 6 ins.|
|then runs S. 7 ft.|
|then runs E.||8 ft.||8 ft.|
|then runs N.||20 ft.||8 ft.|
|then runs E.||1 ft. 6 ins.||1 ft. 6 ins.|
|then runs N.||1 ft. 6 ins.||1 ft. 6 ins.|
|then runs E.||114 ft.||114 ft.|
|then runs N.||2 ft.||2 ft.|
|then runs E.||14 ft. 6 ins.||14 ft. 6 ins.|
|from N. to S. on E. side,||92 ft.||92 ft.|
It will be noticed that the second deed fills up an obvious gap in the first. In the other case where the documents differ the 20-feet is to be preferred to the 8-feet, which seems to be a mere repetition of the previous figure.
Ferrars' Portion.—On 18th April, 1542, the King granted (fn. 133) to George Harper inter alia "all that messuage and tenement of ours and garden adjoining the same, . . . now or late in the tenure of John Carleton (fn. 134) . . . . within the site, circuit and precinct of the late monastery of Halywell." This property was probably identical with the messuage or tenement formerly belonging to Sir Richard Manners which was sold (fn. 135) on 10th May, 1563, by Thos. Manners to Robert "Farrers." Ferrars died on 1st May, 1590, leaving (fn. 136) to his wife, Mary, for life, "all that my house or "tenement within Hallywell . . . wherein I nowe dwell," and it subsequently came into the hands of his daughter, Bridget Yeomans. (fn. 137) On 9th March, 1614–5, Hugh Yeomans, Bridget's husband, sold (fn. 138) the property to Simon Yeomans and Simon his son, and on 2nd May, 1638, the younger Simon parted with it (fn. 139) to William and Simon Turgis. On 29th May, 1682, Thos. Turgis sold (fn. 140) the premises to Anthony Ball and John Brown, who pulled down the existing houses and erected others, and on 24th September, 1684, disposed of the lot to Charles Feltham. (fn. 141)
Included in the sale was a parcel of ground, 54 feet east to west by 27 feet north to south, abutting north on Three Tun Alley (afterwards Wood's Buildings) and east on premises in the occupation of Edward Yates. This had been purchased on 3rd December, 1683, from Francis Gofton. In 1686 the combined property was sold to Sir Christopher Milton. (fn. 142) After his death it is found in the possession of his three daughters, (fn. 143) and in 1703 it was sold (fn. 144) by John Mullineux Oliver and Anne his wife, to William Wallis, who on 3rd March, 1703–4, disposed (fn. 145) of it to Richard Dunford. On 4th May, 1705, Dunford sold (fn. 146) a small portion of the combined property to Thos. Parkhurst. (fn. 147) This was 31½ feet east to west and 44 feet north to south, and, like the parcel bought of Gofton, abutted north on Three Tun Alley and east on the premises of Yates.
The remainder, consisting at the time of 19 messuages, was on 24th February, 1752, sold (fn. 148) by John Dunford to Edw. Thomson, who, on 20th March of the same year, disposed (fn. 149) of 15 of the messuages, in three lots, to John Scarr. One lot, containing 2 messuages, was to the south of Crown Court (33 feet east to west by 29 feet north to south), but the other two were bounded on the south by that court and on the north by Three Tun Alley. The one, comprising 11 messuages, was 177 feet long, and the other, at the west end of the court, was 33 feet long, and contained 2 messuages.
Meanwhile the Parkhurst portion had come into the hands of the Glaziers' Company, (fn. 150) who on 30th June, 1873, sold (fn. 151) it (now 4 messuages) to the Metropolitan Board of Works in connection with the formation of Great Eastern Street. The plan of the improvement shows the four houses lying between Wood's Buildings (formerly Three Tun Alley) and Crown Court at a distance of about 33 feet from Curtain Road, and having a length of about 28 feet, in each case measured along Crown Court. It is therefore evident (i) that the Parkhurst plot lay between the two plots of 33 feet and 177 feet sold to Scarr, (ii) that the parcel purchased of Gofton, which was 54 feet east to west, and which had the same southern and eastern boundary as the Parkhurst plot, reached westwards to about 7 feet (fn. 152) from the site of Curtain Road, and (iii) that the total width of the northern part of the property owned by Ball and Browne was 33 + 28 + 177 = 238 feet.
It is therefore evident that the northern boundary of the Ferrars' property ran along a line 27 feet south of Three Tun Alley for a distance of 61 feet from the site of Curtain Road, then turned northward 27 feet to the southern side of that alley, and then proceeded eastward to a point about 238 feet from the site of Curtain Road. The 33-feet wide lot on the south side of Crown Court together with the 4 remaining messuages, which are specifically stated to be excluded from the sale, obviously represent the whole of the southern side of the eastern half of Crown Court. (fn. 153)
The whole of the Ferrars property can now be plotted on the plan (fn. 154) (see p. 177).
The Rutland portion.—On 8th November, 1537, the prioress leased (fn. 155) to Thomas, earl of Rutland, (fn. 156) the house or mansion which Lawrence Foxley (fn. 157) then held and occupied, all the houses and mansions on the north side between Foxley's house and "Master Lovell's chapell" with the void ground newly appointed thereto, the house or mansion held by William Barnes and the house called "the Prioress porter's lodge," all within the walls and gates of the priory. The lease was for 90 years and the annual rent was 53s. On 1st January, 1537–8, the prioress granted (fn. 158) the earl a lease also of the mansion or messuage, with garden adjoining, with the long gallery leading from the messuage to the chapel, all within the walls and gates of the priory, as well as certain property outside the precinct. (fn. 159) The lease was for 58 years and the rent £6 13s. 4d. On 1st December, 1584, the then earl surrendered both leases to the Crown and obtained in return a fresh lease of all the property mentioned for 60 years at a rent of £9 6s. 4d. On 5th June, 1610, the King granted (fn. 160) to Geo. Salter and John Williams "all that tenement or messuage . . . with garden ". . . . within the ambit of the late Priory of Hollowell . . . formerly in the tenure or occupation of Thomas, earl of Rutland," of an annual rent of £6 13s. 4d.; also another tenement, with garden adjoining (20s. a year) four chambers and a piece of land called "the Semitorie," (6s. 8d.), a tenement called "the Porter's Lodge" (6s. 8d.), and a tenement with garden (20s.). All are said to have formerly been in the tenure of the earl of Rutland. The slight discrepancy between the total annual value of £9 6s. 8d. and the rent of £9 6s. 4d. payable under the lease of 1584 is a mistake, (fn. 161) and the property sold to Salter and Williams is obviously identical with that comprised in the lease. Three weeks later Salter and Williams sold (fn. 162) the property to Thomas Screven. Screven died in 1613 leaving (fn. 163) to his "deere frend, Mr. Frauncis Gofton, Esq." all his lands and tenements in Holywell. The property subsequently came into the hands of another Francis Gofton (fn. 164) (probably grandson of the former) and Alethea his wife. The latter sold it to Mary and Bennet Westrow, from whom it passed to Dorothy Westrow, their sister and heir, who devised it to Margaret Cooper for life and after her decease to Mary Weston. On 5th July, 1763, Richard Weston and Mary his wife, disposed of it to Joseph Newsom.
The sales and leases of Newsom and his successors furnish material for determining the extent of the Rutland property, which, with one exception, comprised the whole of that part of the precinct lying to the south of the Webb and Ferrars' properties. The following points may be selected. (A) On 11th December, 1764, Newsom sold (fn. 165) a parcel of ground abutting west on "the new road [Curtain Road] opposite Holywell Mount. By deeds in the possession of the Council this property can be identified with a plot on the east side of Curtain Road practically midway between Holywell Lane and Crown Court. (B) The same deed of 1763 contains the names of Thos. Martin, Ric. Taylor, Ric. Bayley, Peter Mason, Michael Harrington and Arthur Deane as tenants of the Rutland property, and these names occur a few months later among the tenants of premises in Holywell Lane on the site of Deane's Mews. (fn. 166) (C) Newsom's widow and son on 22nd February, 1787, sold (fn. 167) to William Stark three messuages in Curtain Road abutting north on Crown Court for 54 feet, and on 23rd October in the same year sold (fn. 168) to Thos. Matthews two messuages on the south side of Crown Court, and abutting on Deane's premises to the east, having a frontage of 30 ft. 4 ins. These two pieces of Rutland property with B cover the whole of the western half of the south side of Crown Court. (D). On 15th August, 1839, the successors of Newsom sold to James Sinnott (fn. 169) certain property, described on a plan, on the west side of King John's Court. (E) On 26th December, 1771, Newsom's trustees leased (fn. 170) to William Jones a parcel of ground on the east side of King John's Court, the northern boundary of which fits into the southern Webb boundary. (F) On 15th August, 1839, Newsom's successors sold (fn. 171) the premises comprised in (E) as well as property adjoining on the south and reaching as far as (but not including) the house at the eastern corner of King John's Court and Holywell Lane.
The exception indicated above relates to the frontage along the high road and at least a portion of Holywell Lane. On 3rd January, 1531–2, the prioress leased (fn. 172) to Thomas Towle and Margaret his wife all those "three mesuages or tenntryes somtyme foure tenntryes or mesuages . . . and they conteign in bredth south to north next to the Kinges highwey three rods and in length from the Kinges highwey in theaste to the Semytory wall of the said monastery in the west 6 rods and a halfe [108 feet], and in bredth alonge by the said Semytory wall from the north to the south seven rodes and two fote [118 feet]." The cemetery was definitely included in the Rutland property, (fn. 173) and it will be observed that the measurement from the Webb boundary southward along the backs of the premises in Shoreditch High Street as far as the backs of the premises in Holywell Lane is exactly 118 feet, and that this line at its southern extremity is exactly 108 feet from the High Street. The site of the east wall of the cemetery is thus fixed, and it is obvious that the Rutland portion of the precinct did not reach as far as the main road, but was separated therefrom by houses and their gardens. The fact that the cemetery reached south only to within 45 feet of Holywell Lane makes it probable that at the time of the dissolution houses already existed on the north side of the lane for some distance.
In addition to the main portion of the Rutland property, there was also an outlying portion, to the north of the Ferrars estate. This can best be dealt with in connection with the larger problem of the lay-out of the south-west part of the nuns' portion of the precinct. The evidence for this dates mostly from some 40 years after the dissolution.
On 13th April, 1576, Giles Allen leased the portion in question to James Burbage. From the description contained in the lease, (fn. 174) combined with details ascertained from other legal documents, it is possible to form a good general idea of the premises at that date.
It will be seen that the plot was roughly rectangular, the sides being:— On the west, the brick wall dividing the precinct from Finsbury Fields; on the south, the barn in the occupation of the earl of Rutland; on the north, a stone wall. The eastern boundary was marked by a well in the middle of a courtyard and by a pond. The general orientation of the plot is established by the fact that Finsbury Fields lay to the west of Holywell. With the exception of the houses held by Harrison and Draggon, which fronted south, the buildings faced eastwards, and had gardens running as far as the brick wall on the side of Finsbury Fields. To the south of these buildings, and separated from them by an open space, was the Great Barn, 80 feet long and 24 feet wide. (fn. 175) The barn which was at the west end of the plot, (fn. 176) lay east and west, and along its southern side flowed a brook or "sewer" from the pond. (fn. 177) South of the brook was a plot (fn. 178) which subsequently, under the description of "void ground," formed the subject of dispute between Allen and the earl of Rutland. This "void ground" was bounded on the south partly by the barn in the occupation of the earl, known as the Oat Barn. (fn. 179) This barn had been included in the original grant to Webb (fn. 180) where it is described as 54 feet long by 24 feet wide, and abutting on Finsbury Fields on the west. The lease of the barn to Sir Richard Manners, (fn. 181) granted by the prioress on 1st April, 1539, contains the further information that it lay east and west. The Oat Barn, therefore, extended along only 54 feet of the southern edge of the "void ground," which for the remainder of the distance was bounded by a wall forming the northern limit of a property belonging, a few years later, to Mrs. Askew. (fn. 182)
To the east of the "void ground" lay the stable of the earl. This had also formed a part of the grant to Webb. (fn. 183) Next to the stable and lying wholly or partly to the north of it, was a pond, which extended beyond the line of the Great Barn, for it formed the eastern limit of the open space to the north of that structure, as well as of part of the "void ground" to the south of it.
How the Oat Barn and the stable, which had been included in the grant to Webb, had come into the hands of the earls of Rutland, does not appear, but the disputes between the latter and the owners of the Webb property show that these buildings had by a very early date come to be used by the earls and their tenants and to be regarded by the former as included in their lease.
Together with these they claimed the ownership of the "void ground," and a large amount of evidence was brought to show that all these premises had been consistently used by them for many years. (fn. 184) Although no definite legal decision in the case has been discovered, they were certainly successful. In a mortgage dated 29th June, 1614, by Francis Gofton (then owner of the Rutland property) to Pye and Howes, (fn. 185)the former, mentioning that the sale of his lands had been hindered by reason of a title or question thereunto made by Sir Thos. Dacres (then owner of the Webb property), includes in the premises dealt with "the greate voyde plott of grounde" which undoubtedly represents the "void ground" of the controversy.
It is necessary first to identify the site of the "void ground," (fn. 186) which, according to the above, lay immediately to the north of Mrs. Askew's wall and the Oat Barn. Mrs. Askew was the widow of Robert Ferrars, (fn. 187) and her wall was obviously the northern boundary wall of the Ferrars property.
A few weeks after the sale of the Rutland estate to Newsom in 1763, (fn. 190) the latter sold to Joseph Brettel and John Scarr two contiguous plots, (fn. 191) reaching eastward from Curtain Road for a distance of 151 feet and filling up the whole space between Three Tun Alley and New Inn Yard. This Rutland property north of Three Tun Alley obviously represents the "void ground," which therefore reached at least as far north as the south side of New Inn Yard.
Immediately to the north of the "void ground," and included in the Webb estate was the Great Barn. Among the sales of the Webb estate between 1809 and 1814 was one (fn. 192) on 28th September, 1809, to Oliver Pask, of two plots, forming the whole of the northern frontage of New Inn Yard, between Curtain Road and New Inn Broadway. The Webb estate therefore reached at least as far south as the north side of New Inn Yard.
New Inn Yard has on two occasions undergone alteration. It is now from 25 to 30 feet wide, whereas Morden and Lea's Map of 1682 shows it as about 10 feet wide. The first alteration, which took place in the second half of the 18th century, increased the width from 10 to 25 feet, and from a comparison of the Ordnance Sheet with Rocque's Map (1746), it appears that this widening was carried out by setting back the northern side a distance of 15 feet. The second alteration was made after the formation of Great Eastern Street in 1875, when that part of New Inn Yard which opens on to Curtain Road was widened to 30 feet. This additional 5 feet seems to have been obtained at the expense of both sides equally, and therefore at the entrance into Curtain Road the present northern side of the street is 2½ feet north of the 1875 position and 17½ feet north of the original position. The Webb estate, therefore, including the site of the Great Barn, reached southwards at least to a point 17½ feet south of the present northern side of New Inn Yard.
The statement of Mary Hebblethwaite (fn. 193) that the Great Barn stood on the west part of the "void ground" makes it practically certain that, like the Oat Barn, it abutted on the brick wall.
The site of this corresponds within a little with the eastern side of Curtain Road, as may be seen from the fact that the Oat Barn which adjoined the wall, was about 7 (fn. 194) feet distant from the site of the road.
The Priory Buildings.—From the above it is possible to plot out with approximate accuracy the sites of the Oat Barn, "void ground," earl's stable, and Great Barn. Rocque's Map shows that in 1746 the open space now known as New Inn Broadway (then Holywell Court) extended southward and eastward further than it does at present. (fn. 195) In fact, a study of the map shows that this enlarged New Inn Broadway plus the site of the "void ground" (fn. 196) was the old Great Inner Court of the Priory, and it becomes probable that the houses leased to Burbage were situated on the western and northern sides of the court. Of those on the former side one is described in the lease as the "millhouse." This seems to correspond with the old brewhouse of the priory which "was afterwardes converted into an oatemeale myll." (fn. 197) The successors of the north-side houses are shown in Rocque's Map, and their northern boundary, which is said to be a stone-wall, is apparently still represented by the northern end of New Inn Broadway. If this, as seems probable, is the stone-wall which according to the grant to Webb formed the northern termination of the line of houses and buildings "adjoining the west end of the church and extending north from the lower gate 148 feet," the site of the latter gate can be fixed as on the present New Inn Yard.
The position of the church (including, of course, its chapels) can be roughly determined. This was entirely within the Webb property, and as the Rutland property contained the houses next to "Master Lovell's chapel" and the long gallery leading to the chapel, it is obvious that the boundary between the Webb and Rutland properties includes the southern boundary of the church.
The chapel built by Lovell (fn. 198) was on the south side of the choir, (fn. 199) and is probably to be identified (partially) with "the piece of old building commonly called . . . the cloisters (fn. 200) or chapple" mentioned as one of the factors in the determination of the Webb boundary. (fn. 201) This identification is supported by the fact that Rocque's Map shows at the east end of the lower Holywell [King John's (fn. 202)] Court what is almost certainly the gallery connecting the Rutland mansion with the Lovell chapel. We thus obtain not only the site of the south wall of the church, but that of the Rutland mansion. As regards the west end of the church, this is limited by the line of building shown in Rocque at the south-east of the upper Holywell Court.
The site of the eastern wall of the cemetery (included in the Rutland property) has already been identified. (fn. 203)
The arrangement of the remaining conventual buildings is more or less problematical, as the only evidence is the general description contained in the grant to Webb. The following points may be noticed. The mansion house of the priory which lay "on the west side of the church door and adjoining to the lower gate" is, it is suggested, as indicated on the plan. The southern side of the cloister is shown on the site of New Inn Yard. The chapel (not Lovell's) and chapel yard at the north end of the fratry obviously cannot have been connected with the church. In the conjectural plan it has therefore been assumed that the reference is to a chapel attached to the infirmary. There is no evidence to indicate where the wash-house stood, but in the conjectural plan it is assumed to have occupied the site of the houses leased to Burbage on the north side of the inner court. A door is shown affording entrance into the orchard on the north, where the clothes could be dried. Water was available from either of the wells shown. That in the middle of the inner court is referred to in the lease, while that in the orchard is indicated on Chassereau's and Rocque's Maps. (fn. 204)
The Theatre.—In addition to its associations with the ancient priory, the land lying within the northern angle of Curtain Road and New Inn Yard possesses a unique interest as including the site of Burbage's "Theatre."
It was on 13th April, 1576, (fn. 205) that James Burbage secured from Giles Allen a 21 years' lease of the premises, for the purpose of erecting a building to be devoted to the performance of plays. In due course this, the first public playhouse in London, was erected and obtained the name of The Theatre. The earliest reference to it is contained in an order of the Privy Council, dated 1st August, 1577, referring to "such as . . . do use to play without the Liberties of the Citee . . . as the theater and such like." (fn. 206)
The site of The Theatre is easily deduced from that of the Great Barn, (fn. 207) for the latter building was actually shored up against the former. (fn. 208) The Theatre therefore lay a very few feet away from the barn, and obviously on the north side. (fn. 209)
The Great Barn was 24 feet wide. (fn. 210) Allowing 6 feet for the distance between the two buildings, it follows that the southern edge of The Theatre was 30 feet north of the southern frontage of the barn, or 12½ feet north of the present northern line of New Inn Yard. (See plan on p. 177.)
It does not fall within the scope of this volume to detail the financial and other worries which Burbage experienced during the existence of The Theatre. For details of these reference should be made to Wallace's The First London Theatre.
There is but scanty information as to the plays which were performed at The Theatre. In a list of plays that had been fortunate enough to meet with his approval Gosson mentions (fn. 211) "The Blacke Smith's Daughter and Catilins Conspiracies," "usually brought into the Theater." The same writer also refers (fn. 212) to "the history of Cæsar and Pompey, and the Playe of the Fabii at the Theater," and quotes the "Authour of the Playe of playes showen at the Theater, the three and twentieth of Februarie last." Lodge mentions (fn. 213) one who "looks as pale as the wisard of ye ghost which cried so miserally at Ye Theator like an oister wife, Hamlet, Revenge," thus making it clear that the old (pre-Shakesperian) play of Hamlet was acted there; and the statement in the Blacke Booke (1604) that "he had a head of hayre like one of mydivells in Dr. Faustus, when the olde Theatre crackt and frighted the audience," shows that Marlowe's Faustus had been produced on its stage.
During the course of its existence The Theatre attracted a great deal of unwelcome attention on the part of the authorities. This culminated in an order, issued on 28th July, 1597, by the Privy Council, (fn. 214) to the effect that "those playhouses that are erected and built only for suche purposes shall be plucked downe, namelie The Curtayne and The Theatre nere to Shorditch." Although the order was not carried out, we hear no more of plays at The Theatre. In 1598, Skialetheia refers to—
The close of the year saw the end of The Theatre. Burbage's lease of the premises had expired in the previous year, and although under its terms he could claim an extension if he could show he had expended £200 in the improvement of the premises on the site, a condition with which he had complied, he found Allen very reluctant to grant him equitable terms. In the spring of 1597 Burbage died leaving the matter in the hands of his son Cuthbert. Allen afterwards declared (fn. 215) that "seeing the greate and greevous abuses that grewe by the sayd Theater," he had intended to pull it down. Cuthbert Burbage, evidently fearing such a contingency, finally planned a dramatic coup. On 28th December, 1598, the Burbages, with Peter Street to superintend the work, and about twelve others, suddenly appeared on the scene, broke up The Theatre, carried away all the materials to the south side of the Thames, and used them in the construction of The Globe.
The shape of The Theatre is not known, though if the term "amphitheatrum" (fn. 216) is to be taken in its literal significance, it was roughly circular (fn. 217) like The Swan and The Rose. Its size is not known, but the diameter was probably 60 feet or more. Such, at any rate, is suggested by the fact that the building cost over £600, (fn. 218) while the Fortune, which was 80 feet square, cost only £520. (fn. 219)
In view of the great interest attaching to the site of The Theatre the London County Council decided to indicate it, and on 11th November, 1920, a bronze tablet, with enamel lettering, and of the following design was affixed to the front of Nos. 86 and 88, Curtain Road, and unveiled by Miss Lilian Braithwaite.
The establishment of The Theatre and The Curtain playhouses in this locality naturally made Shoreditch a great resort of actors. James Burbage, the founder of The Theatre, lived in the priory precinct, and reference has been made to the house there in the occupation of Cuthbert his son, (fn. 220) and the purchases of property by both Cuthbert and his brother Richard. (fn. 221) Mrs. Stopes (fn. 222) has given a long selection from the parish registers of names connected with the drama, and in 1913 a marble tablet was erected in the church by the Shakespeare League in "acknowledgment of the work done "by the players, musicians, and other men of the theatre" buried within the precincts of the church, and in particular to the memory of the three Burbages, William Somers, Richard Tarlton, Gabriel Spencer, William Sly and Richard Cowley.