A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
4. THE PRIORY (fn. 1) OF HATFIELD REGIS OR BROADOAK.
A large number of original deeds and other documents from Barrington Hall relating to this priory are preserved at the British Museum. (fn. 2) These have been partially calendared (fn. 3) by the Historical Manuscripts Commission; and the substance of the more important ones is given by Mr. G. Alan Lowndes in an article (fn. 4) on the history of the priory, to which the present account is largely indebted.
The priory was dedicated to St. Mary and was founded as a cell to the abbey of St. Melaine at Rennes in Brittany, probably some time about 1135, by Aubrey de Vere the second, who died in May, 1141. Aubrey de Vere the third, count of Guisnes and afterwards first earl of Oxford, confirmed the foundation by a charter (fn. 5) to which he attached a knife instead of a seal, the witnesses including his father and his brothers-in-law Geoffrey de Mandeville and Robert de Essex. King Stephen also granted a charter. (fn. 6)
The founders granted to the priory the churches of Hatfield and Great Canfield, a moiety of the tithes of Sible Hedingham and lands in Bumpstead Helion in Essex, and a knight's fee at Babraham and tithes at Castle Camps and Shudy Camps in Cambridgeshire. Geoffrey Boterel granted a mark of silver yearly from his land at Nettlested in Suffolk in 1139. (fn. 7) Geoffrey son of Ralph de Thunderley granted a moiety of the church of Thunderley; and Alexander son of Rivallon of Thunderley granted the other moiety in 1143. (fn. 7) Richard de Camville granted the church of Manuden in 1143; but there seems to have been a difficulty about the title, for the bishop delayed the confirmation and Richard had to write to remonstrate with him. (fn. 7) Adelm de Burgate granted tithes at Burgate in Suffolk. Robert de Cokefeld granted the church of Beaumont, (fn. 8) but it appears to have passed afterwards from the possession of the priory to the de Veres. Land in Nosterfield was granted (fn. 9) by Hugh, earl of Oxford, in 1235. The church of Bumpstead Helion was leased to the priory in 1246 by the dean and chapter of St. Paul's, London, at a rent of 34 marks yearly. Henry III on 25 November, 1235, granted the manor of Hatfield to William, then prior, at a rent of £100 yearly as his predecessor Stephen had held it. (fn. 10)
Henry I had granted tithes in Hatfield to the canons of St. Botolph's, Colchester, and in consequence many disputes arose between the two houses concerning their rights, until the pope appointed the prior of Bermondsey and the archdeacon of London to decide the matter. These gave their award in 1194. (fn. 11) The monks were to have all the small tithes in the town known as the canons' tithes, paying to the canons 6s. yearly for them; except that the canons were to have all tithes of geese, all tithes of sheaves from the lands belonging to the canons of Thremhall, and tithes of grain from certain lands, including all lands in the king's demesne in Hatfield that should afterwards be brought into cultivation. Under Edward II the monks had trouble in getting the tithes from the king's park there until, after their petition (fn. 12) in Parliament, the king on 14 August, 1326, gave orders (fn. 13) for payment to be made to them of all tithes of his stud and of other beasts in the park, and of the herbage, pannage, milking and other profits from it. Later, trouble arose again between the two priories about the tithes; and it was only finally settled by an agreement confirmed (fn. 14) by Bishop Stokesley on 16 February, 1532, that the monks should have all, paying to the canons £3 yearly as compensation.
The temporalities of the priory mentioned in the Taxation of 1291 amounted to the value of £20 18s. 6d. yearly; of which £11 2s. 4d., or more than half, came from Camps in Cambridgeshire. Hatfield itself contributed £2 19s. 6d., Helion Bumpstead £2. 9s. 1d., Manuden £2 4s. 1d. and Nettlested, Cambridge, Farnham, Haverhill, Horseheath, Matching, Sible Hedingham and Steeple Bumpstead the remainder. Besides the Essex churches already mentioned the priory also owned spiritualities amounting to £31 11s. 8d. yearly in Sible Hedingham, Ugley, Ditton, Silverley, Great Wratting, Burgate, Little Wilbraham, Weston, Great Abington, Great Camps and Hildersham. Licence was granted on 18 September, 1320, for the appropriation of the church of Silverley; (fn. 15) and on 25 May, 1329, for the appropriation of the church of Great Abington. (fn. 16)
The patronage of the priory always belonged to the de Veres, earls of Oxford. After a time trouble arose with the abbot of St. Melaine, who claimed the right of appointing the prior, and this came to a head in 1235. The earl sent an outsider to be received as prior, and the bishop refused to hear the monks' objections and excommunicated them for saying that the abbot had the right of appointment. The abbot prayed that the sentence might be relaxed, and when the bishop refused to do so, on the ground that the earl had sent armed men to guard the priory, appealed to the pope. The bishop and earl, in contempt of the appeal, put into the priory William, a monk of Colchester, and then the convent made a second appeal to the pope. The bishop excommunicated them and all who held communion with them; and the said monk carried off everything, removing the treasure and books. At the request of an archdeacon he gave the convent what was necessary, but ordered his ministers to serve them not like monks but like swineherds, forbade the cooks to give them fire or water, made the lay brothers and servers swear not to give them anything, and closed the dormitory and offices, so that they had to return to Rennes. This is, of course, only the French version of the incident, which is interesting as an example of the assertion of practical independence by an English house. Pope Gregory IX on 17 April, 1236, ordered (fn. 17) commissioners to hear the matter; but it was not settled until 11 November, 1254, when Fulk, bishop of London, made an award (fn. 18) with the agreement of the parties. At each vacancy of the priory the monks, after asking the assent of the patron, should have free power to elect a prior, who should then be presented to the patron and by him to the bishop for confirmation. The prior should, however, give notice of the death of his predecessor to the abbot and convent of Rennes.
The conventual church was built, or rebuilt, in the first part of the fourteenth century, mostly at the expense of Robert Taper of Hatfield, who was a very large benefactor to the priory. In 1317 he made an agreement to pay £30 to Thomas Page, carpenter of Newport, for the construction of twenty-eight stalls to complete the choir, with a proper entrance at the west end and everything to match six stalls which had lately been made. Page was to prepare the stalls at his own house and bring them to be carved and polished at the church, and while he was working there he was to receive food and drink from the monastery. The money was to be paid to him in instalments as required, and the work was to be completed by Easter, 1319.
Taper had licence (fn. 19) on 12 May, 1323, to grant lands and rent in Hatfield, Castle Camps and Shudy Camps to the prior and convent, that they should find a chaplain to celebrate divine service daily in their church for his soul; but on 20 September, 1325, he released them from this obligation, as they had undertaken that during his lifetime a special prayer should be said daily at mass for the soul of Millicent, his late wife, and afterwards for the souls of both, and that their anniversaries should be duly kept.
As early as 1329 an extraordinary and probably unique incident (fn. 20) occurred in connexion with these benefactions. Although Roger de Crishale, the late prior, William de Sabrichford, sub-prior, and others of the seniors of the monastery had related that Robert Taper had erected the greater part of the fabric of the church at his own expense, and done much else for the monastery, some of the brethren hesitated to believe them; and so, wishing to be assured, John de Hatfield, then sub-prior, called some together to meet Robert in the choir on 8 July. The latter stated, in answer to inquiries from the sub-prior, that he had caused the chapel of the Cross with the fabric of the new oratory adjoining to be erected at his own expense except for the workmen's bench, part of the carriage and a heap of stones collected in the church. He had caused the chapel of St. Mary with the fabric of the new oratory adjoining to be constructed at his own expense except for part of the carriage and the bench; and his wife had caused the ceiling to be painted at her expense. The glass and ironwork of the new presbytery were made at his expense except for a window which John de la Lee had glazed. The great south window with its glass and ironwork was made at his expense; and also the great window at the west end, for the construction of which he had handed £20 to William, then sub-prior. He had had the great bell made, and it cost him £20 and half a mark. He had found a mason for the construction of the dormitory at his own expense, except for the bench, and done much else which he could not tell in detail. He had repaired the old wooden structure of the old presbytery with its covering of lead. He had appropriated the tenement of Philip Bussh to the monastery at his own expense, and it had cost him in all 190 marks; and he had repaired the manor at Nosterfeld, and afterwards given 20 marks yearly to the monastery. He had given his own tenement in Hatfield to the monastery a little while before, as they could see with their own eyes. He had redeemed a debt of 27 marks on the monastery to Nicholas de Storteford. All these things he offered to swear to at the high altar. Taper appears to have forgiven the ingratitude and scepticism of the monks, for on 4 May, 1331, he granted to them a shop in Hatfield.
The prior and convent on 18 September, 1327, granted participation in all the benefits conferred by their church to Roger de Wautham, canon of St. Paul's, London, who had given precious vessels for the use of themselves and of the parish church.
An important ordinance was made in March, 1338, by Prior John of Colchester and the convent. (fn. 21) It was stated that the monastery had long been so burdened that the monks had to go begging among their friends for clothing and other necessaries. But as the gifts to the monastery had lately increased, so that this could be remedied, the number of monks was to be increased by two, so that there should be always at least fourteen with the prior. The church of Silverley was committed to the chamberlain of the monastery for the provision of clothing and other necessaries, which he was to supply to the value of 20s. yearly to each professed monk in the priesthood, and 10s. yearly to each other monk; and from the residue payments were to be made to the sub-prior, precentor, almoner refectorer, infirmarer, cellarer and sacrist. Certain tithes and offerings were also assigned to these three last officers. A special mass was to be said daily by the last professed monk for the soul of John de Hothum, late bishop of Ely, who had appropriated the church of Great Abington to the monastery, and for the good of the present prior, who with great care had procured many benefits to the monastery, and for his soul after death. The anniversaries of the bishop and prior were to be solemnly celebrated, and food distributed to the poor on them; and the obits of dead priors were to be kept, and masses said for them. This ordinance was to be read in chapter once every year.
After this time there is very little further acquisition of property recorded. Several mentions of the priory are found in the court rolls of the manor, principally in cases of debt and trespass, and the names of priors given. On 21 July, 1378, a commission (fn. 22) of oyer and terminer was granted by the king, on complaint (fn. 23) by the prior that the vicar of Hatfield and numerous other persons had attacked the priory and thrown down a great part of the cloister and walls, and ejected the monks.
On Sunday after the Purification, 1434, the convent granted participation in the benefits of their church to John Derham, late prior, who had given £20 to the priory to be used as a reserve fund, and to his parents Richard and Isabel. (fn. 24)
The oath of supremacy was taken (fn. 25) on 8 July, 1534, by Richard, prior, Robert Thornton, subprior, James Booland, John Sylvirley, William Wryghtt, Thomas Pake, William Whetmon, Thomas Rose, John Albon and Thomas Amphabell.
The net value of the priory is given in the Valor as £122 13s. 2½d. yearly; the gross value being £157 3s. 2½d.; and it was consequently dissolved in accordance with the Act of 1536. It appears (fn. 26) that there were at that time only four monks besides the prior, their names being given as Robert Hastynges, James Nicholson, William Wryght and William Wade. These are no doubt identical with those of the same Christian names in the list above, and it seems probable that the other five had been released by the visitors. There were twenty servants, of whom nine were waiting servants. The debts of the house amounted to £167 16s. 0d., while it had £4 10s. 0d. owing to it. The six bells belonging to it were valued at £40, and the lead at £66 13s. 4d., the church and cloister being completely and the dorter only half leaded. Rewards were given to the prior, monks, organ-player, servants, etc., the prior receiving 26s. 8d. and each monk 20s.; and a pension (fn. 27) of £16 yearly was given to the prior. An inventory (fn. 28) was taken on 19 June of the goods in the various chambers and buildings, these being valued at £42 3s. 1d., besides cattle worth £7 5s. 8d., and corn worth £16 16s. 8d. There were 56 ounces of plate, valued at £10 5s. 8d.
The possessions of the priory were dispersed after the dissolution, the site and some tenements in Hatfield being granted (fn. 29) in fee to Thomas Noke, of Hatfield, on 22 June, 1540, for £234, at a rent of 26s. yearly.
Priors Of Hatfield Regis
William, occurs 1143. (fn. 31)
Richard. (fn. 32)
Hervey. (fn. 33)
William de Hereford. (fn. 36)
Thomas de Herlestone, occurs 1275. (fn. 37)
Michael, occurs 1278. (fn. 38)
Andrew Mey, elected 1440, (fn. 55) occurs 1457.
William Brondon, occurs 1471, died 1489. (fn. 56)
John Bedwell, elected 1489. (fn. 57)
Richard Haver, occurs 1502, resigned 1518. (fn. 58)
Edmund Sudbury, elected 1528. (fn. 61)
Richard Stondon, the last prior, 1536. (fn. 62)