A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1948.
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HOUSES OF AUGUSTINIAN CANONS
7. THE PRIORY OF ANGLESEY
Henry Knighton, an Augustinian Canon writing in the 14th century, states that Henry I founded certain Augustinian houses, among them Creake in Norfolk and Anglesey in Cambridgeshire. (fn. 1) The statement appears questionable in both cases. Both were Augustinian priories in Knighton's time, and that of Creake had originated as a hospital, in the 12th century, (fn. 2) but there is no definite evidence as regards Anglesey before Richard de Clare, (fn. 3) Earl of Gloucester in right of his wife, endowed it with half the manor of Bottisham and the advowson of the church there, about 1212. (fn. 4) Like many other Augustinian houses Anglesey began as a hospital, in which condition it may have existed before Earl Richard's foundation. In 1282 Pope Martin IV ordered the collection from a number of English religious houses of certain dues payable in a variety of foreign, and mostly obsolete, coins; the dues appear to date back to the early 12th century, (fn. 5) and in the list is included the Hospital of Anglesey, which was to pay 1 melachin (a Hispano-Saracenic coin). (fn. 6) One of the earliest of the Anglesey deeds (fn. 7) names Richard 'Rector of the Hospital of Blessed Mary of Anglesey', (fn. 8) who is probably identical with Richard, the first known Prior of Anglesey, who occurs in 1222. (fn. 9) About this time Ralph, son of William of Fulbourn, gave land to the brethren of St. Mary of Anglesey for the use of the 'sick poor', (fn. 10) and a number of other small grants were made to 'the brethren', (fn. 11) one of these, by Ralph Marefrey, being subsequently confirmed by Master Henry de Hinton to 'the canons and brethren'. (fn. 12) The final conversion of the community into a priory of regular canons was evidently the work of Master Laurence of St. Nicholas, a papal chaplain in minor orders, whom Cardinal Guala appointed rector of Chesterton when that church was given him in 1217. (fn. 13) Early in 1218 Guala obtained the rectory of Terrington St. Clement for him also: (fn. 14) Laurence went to live at Anglesey, and died there about 1236. During the intervening years the monastery was built and substantially endowed and the community transformed. The stricter houses of canons were everywhere approximating more closely to the Benedictines, and the fact that Roger Brigham, Prior of Ely (c. 1210-29), addresses 'the Prior and Convent of Anglesey' as 'our most beloved in Christ, who observe a worthy Rule (religio)' (fn. 15) points to the possession by Anglesey of a body of Observances, drawn up for it, or adapted from those of some strict Augustinian house, at the time of Laurence of St. Nicholas, and probably under his influence. In July 1236, about the time of his death, the convent exchanged 80 acres of the fee of Everard Fraunceys for 80 acres lying in the fields of Bottisham and Wilbraham 'which Master Laurence bought with his own money'; the profits, and those of a flock of 600 sheep, he gave towards the building of the church, cloister, and prior's chamber, (fn. 16) and when he died 'almost the entire fabric of the church, cloister, refectory dormitory and prior's lodging' had been completed 'at his expense, and by his own proper care and industry'. (fn. 17)
It was probably in view of this rapid expansion that in February 1237 Bishop Hugh Northwold caused William (de Fordham), then prior, to bind himself and his successors never to raise a loan or incur a debt of more than 60 marks on the convent's behalf without the advice of the Bishop of Ely. This bond was embodied in the written 'Customs' and so accepted as part of the Rule as kept at Anglesey. (fn. 18) One of the witnesses to this deed was William, subprior of Barnwell, and the foundation charter of Master Laurence's chantry was confirmed there by the bishop, 'he being present at Barnwell in full synod'. (fn. 19)
To the endowment of this chantry Laurence assigned part of the extensive lands which he had acquired for the canons. One of their number, nominated as Master Laurence's chantry priest, was to say mass daily in the conventual church, and on his death his successor must be chosen from among the canons within the week. From this time the maintenance of chantries served by the community, or by secular priests attached to it, came to be the special work of the canons of Anglesey. Master Laurence and his heirs never usurped the legal 'founders' rights' of the house of Clare, but he left a deep impression upon the priory, of which he is described as 'principal benefactor'. After his death, Nicholas Sandwich, Prior of Christ Church, Canterbury, sent two monks to Anglesey to recover a volume containing the De laude Apostoli of St. John Chrysostom, the Brut, and Robert, Bishop of Hereford, on the Computus, which had been lent to Laurence and had remained at Anglesey. (fn. 20) The book duly appears in the 14th-century catalogue of the Christ Church library. (fn. 21) With Terrington, Master Laurence's rectory in Norfolk, a link was maintained. Walter de Tyrrington, who witnessed Hugh Northwold's confirmation of Laurence's benefactions, (fn. 22) was probably his vicar, and in 1283 Hugh de Balsham granted an indulgence to all who should visit Anglesey Church, where Walter vicar of Terrington was buried, or, passing the wayside cross near Anglesey, erected to his memory, should there say an ave for his soul. (fn. 23) In 1272 John Terrington, or de Guyhirn, was prior; (fn. 24) a Hugh de Tyrrington was among the canons in 1254 (fn. 25) and a William Tyrington in 1379. (fn. 26) There was easy communication between the two places by water.
In 1251 the first chantry served by a secular priest within the priory was founded by Richard, rector of Melbourn, for himself, Hugh Northwold, and Hugh's successors, Bishops of Ely. In return for land in Hertfordshire, and at Haslingfield, the canons were to maintain a secular chaplain in perpetuity, with fit lodging, a canon's allowance of food, and a stipend of 20s.; his clerk was to have a servant's daily allowance, and any surplus profit from either piece of land was assigned to the infirmary. (fn. 27) Between 1275 and 1286 Sir John Scalers, lord of the manor of Greenbury in Barley, founded a chantry at Babraham, of which Hugh de Balsham made the Prior of Anglesey trustee, to present a chaplain if at any time Sir John's heirs failed to do so within 20 days of a vacancy. (fn. 28) In 1276 William, titular Bishop of Edessa, granted an indulgence on behalf of Anglesey, (fn. 29) and on Friday, 17 December 1277, Archbishop Kilwardby stayed for one night at the priory and made a visitation of the house, holding an ordination in the parish church at Bottisham on the following day. (fn. 30) During the second and third quarters of the 13th century there is no sign of diminution in the small gifts and purchases which accumulated property for the canons, chiefly in Swaffham Prior, Fulbourn, Little Wilbraham, and Cambridge. (fn. 31) Several wellknown Cambridge names of this period appear as those of benefactors, (fn. 32) among them Robert, son of Robert Huberd, who himself became a canon of Anglesey. (fn. 33) The canons had already obtained property in the Henney and their stone house in St. Michael's parish, (fn. 34) which adjoined the rectory house of St. Michael's Church.
About 1291 the lady Alice Talemasche, already a considerable benefactress, leased the manor of Little Wilbraham to the priory for ten years. (fn. 35) Their lands in that parish were already in 1291 the second largest item in the priory's property in Ely diocese, which was valued at £59 3s. 7d. in all; (fn. 36) outside the diocese Anglesey had its manor in Barley, worth £4 13s. 4d., (fn. 37) 13s. in Little Thurlow, (fn. 38) 6s. in Standon, (fn. 39) 2s. in Great Bardfield, (fn. 40) and, in the part of the diocese of Norwich within Cambridgeshire, the grange of Thornhall in Wicken, valued at £1 13s. 3½d (fn. 41)
In 1296 it was reported to William de Luda, Bishop of Ely, at his visitation, that Thomas Luton, a servant or lay official, was living with a woman in the precincts of the priory: he cleared himself, and was restored to his quarters. (fn. 42) In 1298, after the archiepiscopal visitation of Winchelsey, during the vacancy of the see of Ely, the prior himself had to answer charges of incontinence and extravagance, and resigned. Roger Weston, the sub-prior, was elected in John Bodekesham's place, the archbishop ordering his official to install him 'unless it were the right of the Archdeacon of Ely'. (fn. 43) Winchelsey gave orders that Bodekesham, who had a recurrent sickness, was to be confined to the cloister, except during an attack, when he might walk in the precincts with a discreet fellow-canon. (fn. 44) In 1314 his name appears again as a borrower of books from the priory book-cupboard. (fn. 45) He had St. Paul's Epistles, the Miracles of Our Lady, and other works. Books issued for study that year also included a psalter with musical notation and the Book of Proverbs, both lent to the prior, and two other psalters, glossed. Canon Law was represented by the Decreta Decretorum and Raymond de Pennafort, (fn. 46) the last being lent with the Sentences, the Pastorale of St. Gregory, and the Liber de Viciis et Virtutibus to the Official of the Bishop of Ely, who appears to have been one of the canons. Of St. Gregory's other works the convent owned the Homilies on the Sunday Gospels and the first part of the Moralia on Job, including the treatises 'of abuses' and 'of justice'. Two copies of Belet's De Officiis supplied instruction on ceremonial, and one of these was bound up with the De Sacro Altaris Mysterio of Innocent III. Lives of the saints included, besides the ubiquitous Miracles of St. Mary, a life of St. Thomas of Canterbury, one of St. Mary Magdalen, and a Vita Sanctorum bound up with Belet, which was lent to Henry Yelveden, who became prior in 1338. There were also an Alcuin, a Tractatus de Remediis, and, especially interesting in this connexion, 'the book of John de Tyrington' (fn. 47) bound with the Disticha Catonis, a favourite monastic book. The majority of the canons had more than one volume out at a time. Walter de Withersfield, who succeeded Roger Weston in 1317, had the second Belet. Nine canons are mentioned in the list, and this seems to have been about the average size of the community: their names suggest that most were of local origin. (fn. 48) In addition, Master Henry de Melreth, perhaps priest of the chantry of Richard of Melbourn, had one of the glossed psalters, while the other was pledged to a woman. Master Adam de Wilbraham, another secular clerk, had the incomplete Moralia. The list is written on the back of a deed providing for the absence during part of 1300 and 1301 of Geoffrey, Rector of Wendlington, who had a corrody in the priory; (fn. 49) clearly more than one secular priest was living in the precincts. Lay protégés of the house of Clare seem to have been provided with pensions rather than corrodies. During the minority of Gilbert, the last earl, his mother, Joan of Acre, and her husband, Ralph Monthermer, granted 28s. a year to Ivor le Lardiner of Cardiff out of the revenues of Anglesey, with the proviso that if any other corrodarian were appointed by them during his lifetime the pension should cease. In 1317, when Gloucester's patrimony was divided among his sisters, the pension was granted to one Edward de Riseby, and the Cardiff dependant renounced his claim. (fn. 50) In 1327 the right to name a corrodarian, through the prior, was granted to William Gosfield, Master of St. John's Hospital in Cambridge, in return for a rent of 2 marks from his land in Swaffham Prior. (fn. 51)
In 1328-9 Richard Bodykesham and John Wigenhall were wardens of the fabric of the priory church, (fn. 52) where rebuilding seems to have been in process. Their receipts included £4 18s. 5d. from the sub-prior, which may represent subscriptions, as well as 20s. from the vicar of Waterbeach for the farm of Swaffham.
On 15 January 1331 Elizabeth de Burgh, Lady Clare, had licence to grant a rent of £20 from her lands in Lakenheath to found a chantry in Anglesey for herself and the souls of the Kings of England. Thomas Chedworth, a priest attached to her household, was her chief intermediary in the business of the foundation and witnessed the charter. (fn. 53) Subsequently he gave the canons land in Braughing to found another chantry of two priests for himself. (fn. 54) Lady Clare provided for two secular chaplains to live in the priory and have either 20s. a year for clothing, with maintenance at the canons' table, or a stipend of 12 marks out of Lakenheath. Any profit over the cost of their maintenance was to be equally divided between the kitchener's office and the general expenses of the house. They were to say daily mass at the altar of the Holy Cross in the priory church: on a vacancy the canons must find a successor by the following Michaelmas, and meanwhile carry out his obligation themselves. (fn. 55)
The canons exchanged a great part of their Haslingfield land for property in Cambridge in 1349, (fn. 56) and in 1352 bought 44 acres in parishes round Cambridge. (fn. 57) But already, on 30 May 1350, Thomas Chedworth had executed a deed at Clare in which he stated that 'considering the immense and various miseries resulting from the huge mortality of men' and that 'lands in many places lie waste' and fallen into sudden ruin 'so that they can raise neither rent nor customary service' he was unwilling to burden the convent with the maintenance of two priests as provided on the old value of his endowment, and so required that they should find one priest only at a regular salary of 5 marks a year. (fn. 58)
In 1355 Lady Clare also modified the terms of her chantry, releasing the priory from providing one of her two chaplains for so long as it should be charged with the pension of Master Robert Spaldyng, (fn. 59) one of the original fellows of University Hall, who some time after 1342 lost his fellowship for alienating 'Spaldyng's Inn' to the monks of Ely. (fn. 60) Lady Clare, who had refounded University Hall as Clare Hall in 1338, seems to have provided for him by granting him a pension out of her priory. Clare Hall itself had suffered from the effects of the disorganization which followed the Black Death, and in 1353 the Prior of Anglesey had been appointed one of a commission to investigate charges of maladministration in the college. (fn. 61) Elizabeth de Burgh made her will in 1355, five years before her death; she left 10 marks to the priory and a complete vestment of cloth of gold with apparels of silver on the copes. (fn. 62) In January 1377 a canon of Anglesey, John Myntemoor of Trumpington, who had been ordained priest on 7 June 1376, (fn. 63) absconded, and was brought before the Bishop of Ely charged with apostasy: he was adjudged to do penance for as many weeks as he had been absent. (fn. 64)
For the clerical poll-tax of 1379 Anglesey was rated among houses of less than £100 annual value. The prior, who was himself appointed collector of the tax in Cambridgeshire, therefore paid 20s. and each of his six canons 20d. (fn. 65) The sub-prior was William Bodekesham. Another was also called Bodekesham and of the remainder three were de Cantebruggia, Tirynton, and Wollepyt. At the end of the subsidy roll comes a list of clerks connected with the household of the Bishop of Ely with 'Seman Harpour de Angleseye', 'Robertus Alayn de eadem', William 'capellanus in eadem', and a Reynold de Leverington, all priests. Perhaps the priests in Anglesey follow the bishop's clerks because the priory— Robert Spaldyng being dead—supported both chaplains of Lady Clare's chantry out of rents paid by the Priory of Ely in Ely, and one in the chantry of Richard of Melbourn, founded in part for the souls of the Bishops of Ely. Reynold de Leverington is not described as 'of Anglesey', but a chaplain of his name occurs in Bottisham in 1389. (fn. 66)
There can have been very few additions to the real property of the house after this date. Legacies of money were frequent, however. The inheritance of the house of Clare passed, before the end of the century, to the Earls of March, and Edmund Mortimer, who died on 27 December 1381, left 40 marks to Anglesey. (fn. 67) In 1393 John Demoke, who left money for beacons to guide wayfarers through Bottisham fen, bequeathed 6s. 8d. to the priory; (fn. 68) but the peak of prosperity was passed.
About 1450 Walsingham was five years in arrear with the rent of 12 marks payable towards the Lady Mass at Anglesey under the charter of Lady Clare and pleaded that the 'decays and ruyne of the lands and tenements' had made the amount excessive. (fn. 69) Richard, Duke of York, as patron of both houses, was called upon to arbitrate, and decided that the two secular priests provided for by Elizabeth de Burgh were to be replaced by a canon of Anglesey; that the rent was to be reduced to £3 13s. 4d., at which amount it stood in 1535; (fn. 70) and that the arrears were to be settled by one payment of £10 from 'our hows of Walsingham'. Early in 1462, when the prior, John Danyell, resigned, Cecily, the king's mother, granted licence to elect his successor. (fn. 71) Six canons took part in the election, of whom four were priests and two in deacons' orders, and John Wellys, steward and sacrist, was elected. (fn. 72) The retiring prior was given an annuity of 6 marks, lodging within the priory consisting of a chamber with a fire-place and a solar over it, a little garden with a pond, and the use of a servant of his own choice: the chapel of St. Edmund was to be at his disposal for him to say mass when he wished. In 1476 the king, as heir of Elizabeth de Burgh, modified her chantry also. Two canons were to take the place of her two secular priests, and of these one was in future to celebrate in the new chapel built by William Allington at the parish church of Bottisham. (fn. 73) In 1479, when Morton succeeded Gray as Bishop of Ely, John Wellys, Prior of Anglesey, sat among the prelates at his right hand for the great banquet which followed the instalment, though in the lowest place. (fn. 74)
In 1508 George Holland, formerly Prior of Stoneley (Hunts.), was appointed to Anglesey by the Bishop of Ely, James Stanley, to whom, shortly before the bishop's death in 1515, he resigned, receiving a pension of 10 marks, (fn. 75) about which there was afterwards some controversy. (fn. 76) John Barton, who succeeded him as prior, resigned while the see of Ely was still vacant, (fn. 77) and his name does not appear among those electing William Seggewyke, or Reche, a canon of Barnwell who had been vicar of Waterbeach. (fn. 78) Permission for the election was given on 20 November 1515 by Queen Katharine, now patron; it took place on 22 December, but was not confirmed until 16 February 1516. The nine canons who took part were all priests and included Robert Dullingham, sacrist; Simon Hullocke, kitchener; and John Boner, who was prior at the Dissolution: three others were absent and were declared contumacious. (fn. 79)
The Prior of Anglesey had been absent from the General Chapter of 1509 and was fined 40s. (fn. 80) He was, however, with the Prior of St. Bartholomew the Great, appointed to visit in the dioceses of Ely and London. (fn. 81) They failed to do so, and were heavily fined in 1518, (fn. 82) but the new prior, William Seggewyke, was again appointed visitor for the two dioceses, this time with another London prior as his colleague. (fn. 83)
Between 1521 and 1531 a number of small bequests of money were made to the priory, (fn. 84) and at Bishop Goodrich's visitation in 1534 there were still nine canons, (fn. 85) of whom five were the same as those of 1516, but there were two new priests and two 'novices professed', so that recruits, even then, do not seem to have been lacking. The value of the priory as stated in 1535 was £124 9s. (fn. 86) or, according to another valuation made after the suppression of the house, £170 7s. 5¾d. gross and £153 9s. 8¾d. clear. (fn. 87) The priory therefore fell under the Act for the suppression of the smaller monasteries in 1536. The exact date of its surrender is unknown but was before 7 August in that year, when Bottisham rectory was granted by the Crown to George Carleton. (fn. 88) In February 1539 the site of the priory was granted to John Hynde. (fn. 89) John Boner, the prior, was presented to Brinkley rectory by Sir Edward North in 1538; (fn. 90) he received his pension of £20 a year (fn. 91) as late Prior of Anglesey in 1552 and 1553, (fn. 92) so must have remained unmarried. Robert Dullingham was parish priest of Bottisham in 1540 and 1543, and may possibly be the Robert Dullingham who had a pension of 25s. for the free chapel of Great Shelford under Queen Mary. (fn. 93)
Priors of Anglesey
Richard, occurs 1221-2 (fn. 94)
Hugh, occurs 1262-3 (fn. 97)
John, occurs 1272-4 (fn. 98)
Henry, occurs 1278 (fn. 99)
William Lede, or Lode, occurs 1402 (fn. 114)
Hervey, occurs 1404 (fn. 114)
John Huy, elected 1408 (fn. 114)
John, occurs 1411 (fn. 115)
George Holland, appointed 16 Apr. 1508, resigned 1515 (fn. 122)
John Barton, elected 19 Feb. 1515, resigned 30 Aug. 1515 (fn. 123)
John Boner, or Fordham, occurs 1532, (fn. 126) surrendered 1536
The 13th-century seal (fn. 127) of the priory shows the Blessed Virgin holding the Child, both with right hand raised; on either side of her head is an angel. The legend is: ANGEL' . ANGLESIE . SVNT . SIGNA . TIP'Q . MARIE. The impression seen by Cole bore a counterseal with the legend:
The seal of Prior John Wellys shows the Blessed Virgin, with the child on her left arm, in a canopied niche; in base the prior kneeling. Legend: SIGILLVM IOHANNIS PRIORIS ANGLESIE. (fn. 128)
A cast of a seal attributed to Robert, Prior of Anglesey, of the 14th century, is in the British Museum. (fn. 129) No such prior is known and there seems no reason to accept the identification.