A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 1. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1905.
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2. THE PRIORY OF BRADWELL
The priory of Bradwell, like that of Luffield, has scarcely any history at all. It was founded somewhere about the year 1155 by Meinfelin, lord of Wolverton, (fn. 1) and the patronage of the house continued in this family for a century at least. (fn. 2) Its endowments were very small, and it had scarcely any property outside this county.
As early as the reign of John the prior had to contest with Alan of Etchingham the advowson of Padbury church, (fn. 3) and there were several suits in the thirteenth century in connection with the church of Chalfont St. Giles, (fn. 4) which passed for some time out of the hands of the monks. (fn. 5) This house appears to have been among those which suffered most from the effects of the Great Pestilence: the prior, William of Loughton, died in 1349, and a dispensation granted in the same year to a certain monk of illegitimate birth to hold any office, even that of prior, (fn. 6) suggests that the number of those eligible was very small at that time. It is stated by Browne Willis that the prior in 1361 was sequestered for causing or allowing dilapidation of the conventual buildings, (fn. 7) and there seems to have been a vacancy for some years after this. (fn. 8) Not even the names of the priors between 1410 and 1492 have as yet been recovered: the history of the house during that period is almost a blank sheet. In 1504, at the resignation of Thomas Wright, the number of monks was insufficient for a canonical election, and the bishop was obliged to collate a prior (fn. 9); and in 1524 the site of the monastery and its scanty revenues were granted to Cardinal Wolsey for the endowment of his new college. (fn. 10)
During the latter half of the fourteenth century, when the priory of Bradwell was evidently very poor and its monks few in number, it nevertheless appears to have had a very high character for the strict observance of the rule. For one of those monks who obtained permission from the good abbot of St. Albans, Thomas de la Mare, to leave his own monastery in search of a more perfect life, made choice of this little house (fn. 11) as a place of holy retirement; perhaps finding its simplicity and very real poverty more attractive than the stately order of the great abbey in which he was professed. The priory seems to have maintained this character for some time. When Bishop Gray visited it between 1431 and 1436 (fn. 12) he had no serious fault to find with anything he heard or saw. He encouraged the monks in spite of the smallness of their numbers still to be regular in rising to mattins; and if there were not sufficient voices to sing the office they were permitted to recite it without note, yet devoutly and distinctly, observing the pause in every verse. If they were unable to go to the refectory together every day, they should do so at least on Wednesdays and Fridays: in other words, the fact that they were few was not in any way to hinder the regularity of their life. The bishop concluded by bidding them increase their number as soon as possible on pain of contempt, but it seems probable that their poverty made this almost impossible, for in 1455 they had to petition for the suppression of the vicarage of Padbury and its union with the parish church (fn. 13): and the sum total of their revenue at the time of the dissolution of the monastery was less than £50.
The original endowment of the priory comprised only certain lands in Wolverton and Padbury, and the churches of Wolverton, Padbury, Stantonbury, Chalfont St. Giles' and Stoke Hammond. (fn. 14) The church of Stantonbury was granted at an early date to the Cathedral at Lincoln, (fn. 15) and the church of Chalfont St. Giles in the year 1259; the latter was however reckoned among the benefices belonging to the monastery in 1527. The temporalities assigned to Bradwell in 1291 amount only to £10 19s. 10d. (fn. 16); and a survey taken in 1380 gave a total of £32 6s. 2d. (fn. 17) At the dissolution the total issues of the house were stated to be £47 4s. 1¼d. (fn. 18)
Priors of Bradwell
Nigel, (fn. 19) occurs 1189
Richard, (fn. 20) occurs 1201
John, (fn. 21) occurs 1219
Richard, (fn. 22) resigned 1237
Simon de Kantia, (fn. 23) elected 1237
John, (fn. 24) occurs 1253
Bartholomew, (fn. 25) occurs 1272
Robert of Ramsey, (fn. 26) elected 1280
John, (fn. 27) died 1320
Robert of Rowsham, (fn. 28) elected 1320
Robert Foliot, (fn. 29) died 1331
Simon of Elstow, (fn. 30) elected 1331, resigned 1336
William of Loughton, (fn. 31) elected 1336, died 1349
John of Billing, (fn. 32) elected 1349
John of Willen, (fn. 33) deprived 1361
John Horwood, (fn. 34) occurs 1388, died 1410
William Horwood, (fn. 35) elected 1410
John Wells, (fn. 36) elected 1492, died 1503
Thomas Wright, (fn. 37) elected 1503, resigned 1504
Robert Boston, (fn. 38) elected 1504, resigned 1515
John Ashby, (fn. 39) last prior elected 1515
Pointed oval seal, one side of which is chipped, attached to a charter (fn. 40) bearing the date 1209, represents the prior standing on a corbel holding a book. Legend, partly defaced, runs: . . . ILL' PRIORIS DE BRADEWELL.