A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1904.
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9. THE PRIORY OF BUSHMEAD
The Augustinian priory of Bushmead (fn. 1) was founded some time during the reign of Henry II. by Hugh de Beauchamp, greatgrandson of the Hugh of Domesday. (fn. 2) The exact date is difficult to determine, but it must have been before 1187, as in that year the founder was slain at the Crusades. (fn. 3) Leland (fn. 4) says that the canons of Bushmead venerated a certain hermit as the founder of their house, and perhaps, like Beaulieu, it was built on the site of an old hermitage; but the first prior was a chaplain of Colmworth named William. (fn. 5) The Beauchamps of Eaton Socon retained the patronage of the house until the middle of the fourteenth century, when it passed to Sir John Engayne, (fn. 6) and later to the Braybrooks. (fn. 7) Sir Gerard Braybrook, who died in 1427, and was buried in Colmworth church, left directions in his will for the prior of Bushmead to sing his requiem. (fn. 8) Other benefactors were Simon de Pateshull and several members of the family of Wildeboef of Eaton. (fn. 9) The earliest papal bull securing special privileges to the house was that of Innocent III. in 1198. (fn. 10) The canons were probably few in number even in the thirteenth century, as their total income in 1291 (fn. 11) was only about £25; a prior and three canons are mentioned in 1283, (fn. 12) and the same number appears in a charter of 1523, (fn. 13) and in the acknowledgment of the Royal Supremacy a little later. (fn. 14) The house has no history to speak of; it is only once mentioned in the Annals of Dunstable, under the year 1249, (fn. 15) when the prior was present, with the heads of the other Augustinian houses of the county, at the visitation held by Bishop Grossetête at Caldwell, and joined them in counselling Prior Eudo to resign. In 1283 the prior, Richard Foliott, and three of his canons, with four other persons, were accused by Agnes de Legh of having been the cause of her son's death (fn. 16); and in 1342 Prior Robert of Lubenham was involved in a suit with the abbot of St. Alban's about the manor of Caldecote in Herts, which he claimed against a tenant of the abbot's, but finally quitclaimed before the day appointed for the hearing of the case. (fn. 17) The episcopal registers contain very few references to Bushmead, and not a single visitation is recorded. It may be gathered from this source that the conventual church was rebuilt, like so many others, early in the fourteenth century, but the canons were too poor to complete it without a licence to beg alms (fn. 18); and that about the same time a canon who had left the monastery 'through levity of mind,' and wandered about in secular habit, returned penitent, but found his prior unwilling to receive him back. (fn. 19) About the same time another of the canons, Richard of Stoughton (who was afterwards prior and probably died of the pestilence), obtained a licence from the bishop to keep a school of sixty boys, and teach them 'the science of grammar' (fn. 20); but it is not known how long this good work was continued. As the income of the house was less than £100, it was surrendered under the act of 1536 (probably on 8 February), and the prior received a pension of £8. (fn. 21)
The priory was dedicated to St. Mary, and its first endowment by Hugh de Beauchamp and his brother Roger included very little more than the site, with certain rights of way, wood, water and pasture, and the tithes of Eaton Park; (fn. 22) but by 1236 a number of small rents and parcels of land had been added, not only in the county of Bedford, but also in Huntingdon, Cambridge, Northampton, and Hertford; (fn. 23) with the manor of Blisworth, Northants. (fn. 24) The total income of the priory in 1291 was however only £25 13s. 7d.; (fn. 25) a taxation recorded in its chartulary gives a total of £35 19s. 4d. (fn. 26) The advowson church of Caldecote, Herts, was granted to the prior and convent in 1283, (fn. 27) but they do not seem to have retained it long. In 1302 the prior held only one-fortieth of a knight's fee of the barony of Eaton. (fn. 28) The valuation of 1535 amounted to £71 13s. 9d.; (fn. 29) and that which was made immediately after the dissolution to £83 19s. 8¾d. (fn. 30) (all in small sums except the demesne lands, which were worth £20 1s. 4d.)
Priors of Bushmead
William, first prior (fn. 31)
Joseph of Copmanford, (fn. 32) occurs 1231
John de Wildeboef, (fn. 33) elected 1233, died 1251
Simon of Colesden, (fn. 34) occurs 1260
Richard Foliott, (fn. 35) occurs 1283, resigned 1298
Simon of Redburn, (fn. 36) elected 1298, resigned 1321
Robert of Lubenham, (fn. 37) elected 1321, resigned 1348
Richard of Stoughton, (fn. 38) elected 1348, died 1349
Simon of Grantesden, (fn. 39) elected 1349, resigned 1350
John of Risley, (fn. 40) elected 1355, resigned 1385
William of Lidlington, (fn. 41) elected 1385
William Chanewe, (fn. 42) elected 1444, resigned 1465
Nicholas Smith, elected 1510, (fn. 43) resigned 1531
Richard Rogers, (fn. 44) elected 1531, died 1531
Robert Burre, (fn. 45) elected 1531
The seal of the priory, affixed to Harl. Ch. 83, A 28, is in excellent preservation, representing our Lady seated with the holy Child on her knee, a bishop with crosier on either side, and the prior crouching below. Legend: PRESULIS IN PRATO (fn. 46) FAMULOR DE VIRGINE NATO. Reverse: the Assumption, our Lady encircled by angels, a crown suspended above her head. Legend: S. ECCLIE ET CONVENTUS SCE MARIE DE BISSEMEDE.