A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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HOUSES OF CLUNIAC MONKS
12. THE PRIORY OF LITTLE HORKESLEY (fn. 1)
The priory of St. Peter, Horkesley, was founded under Henry I by Robert son of Godebold (fn. 2) and Beatrice his wife. They state in their foundation charter (fn. 3) that they have granted to the monks of Thetford all their churches with everything pertaining to the same, for King Henry and their lord Robert (son of Sweyn), under the condition that the prior and convent should send as many monks to serve God in the church of St. Peter, Horkesley, as the place could conveniently maintain. Besides Horkesley they granted the church of Wiston in Suffolk, the church of Asheldham with sixty acres of land, half the church of Boxted and all the tithes from their demesne in Boxted. Beatrice granted the tithe from her marriage portion and from the land which her uncle Turold gave to her. The endowment also included the tithes of Foulton and Fordham and land in Reydon. The monks were to be subject to the prior of Thetford, but beyond the payment of half a mark of silver yearly nothing was to be exacted from them.
This charter is still preserved in the Bodleian Library, together with several other documents relating to the early history of the house. (fn. 4) Its possessions were confirmed by the heirs of the founder, and by Richard and Gilbert, bishops of London; and the appropriation of the church of Wiston was confirmed by the bishop of Norwich and Hubert, archbishop of Canterbury. William the constable, of Withermarsh, granted to the monks in frankalmoin land in Withermarsh, Nayland, Shelley, Horkesley and Reydon; and by his will left his body to be buried in the chapel of St. Mary in their church. John de Rookwode in 1379 granted lands in Wiston which had descended to him from John de Lacford to feoffees to grant by royal licence (fn. 5) to the prior and convent to celebrate for the souls of John de Lacford and others. Land and rent were also acquired in Little Horkesley and Wormingford in 1412. (fn. 6) In the middle of the thirteenth century Fulk, bishop of London (1242-1259), gave to Reginald, then prior, and the monks the fruits of the church of Boxted, except the vicarage and the collation to it, in exchange for the church of Asheldham. (fn. 7)
The temporalities of the priory mentioned in the Taxation of 1291 amount to the value of £3 16s. 1½d. yearly; of which £1 12s. 10d. came from Great Horkesley, and £1 12s. 7½d. from Little Horkesley, with smaller sums from Wiston, Hockley and Aldham. The spiritualities were more valuable, the church of Wiston being worth £6, while portions of 13s. 4d. and 3s. 6d. were owned in the churches of Fordham and Mose. The church of Boxted also belonged to the priory, and in an extent (fn. 8) of 18 Edward II it is mentioned as let at farm for £6 13s. 4d. yearly.
It appears by extracts (fn. 9) from the court rolls of the manor of Nayland that the prior and convent in 1263 and 1316 proved that they did not hold any tenement for which they owed suit at the court of Nayland. Prior Henry was acquitted in 1295 of the charge of taking with dogs and shooting with arrows a hare at Great Horkesley. In 1260 and again in 1290 the prior and monks proved that they had had common of pasture in the forest of 'Cesterwald' from the time of Robert of Essex.
Horkesley, being a Cluniac house, was at first regarded as alien and taken into the king's hands with others; but in 1377 Thetford and its cells were made denizen. (fn. 10)
In the account (fn. 11) of the visitation of the English Cluniac houses in 1279, the priors of Mont Didier and Lenton report that they were at Horkesley on 14 September. There were there four monks with a prior, leading good lives. The prior had not long been appointed; he found the house with a debt of 40 marks, which he had increased to 100, but from the surplus of the harvest he would be able to pay off 40 marks that year. In an enumeration (fn. 12) of the Cluniac foundations in England (about 1450) Horkesley is said to be immediately subject to Thetford. According to some there should be three monks there, and according to others two; and divine service was celebrated without chant except mass and vespers.
The authority of Thetford, however, seems to have been rather slight at the end of the fourteenth century. Edward III at the denunciation of John, prior of Thetford, ordered Roger de Ware, his fellow monk, to be arrested and delivered to him as a vagabond; but Roger claimed that he had long been prior of Horkesley and that the prior of Thetford had no jurisdiction over him, and appealed to Rome and Canterbury. The king accordingly in October, 1374, ordered (fn. 13) the prior of Thetford to appear in Chancery to show cause why the writ should not be superseded, Sir Robert de Swynbourne (fn. 14) finding security for the appearance of Roger. The latter presumably was successful, for he occurs later as prior of Horkesley.
The priory was suppressed by Wolsey in accordance with his licences from the king and pope; the actual dissolution being carried out by his agent, John Alen, on 11 February, 1525. (fn. 15) Its spiritualities were valued (fn. 16) at £11 6s. 8d, and its temporalities at £16 1s. 3d. yearly, including (fn. 17) lands in Great and Little Horkesley, Wormingford, Fordham, Ardleigh and Hockley in Essex and Nayland, Stoke by Nayland, Wiston, Bures, Reydon and Shelley in Suffolk. By an inquisition (fn. 18) taken on 17 May, 1527, it was found that there were at the priory at the time of the suppression a prior and one other monk, and that these had since been transferred to other places. The priory was granted first to Wolsey's college at Oxford and afterwards on 30 July, 1528, to his second college at Ipswich. (fn. 19)
Priors of Horkesley
Philip (fn. 20), occurs circa 1230.
Robert, (fn. 21) occurs 1239.
Reginald, (fn. 22) occurs circa 1250.
Simon, (fn. 23) occurs 1260, 1263.
Henry, (fn. 24) occurs 1295.
William de Boys, occurs 1343. (fn. 28)
John Horkysley, resigned 1398. (fn. 32)
John Burgh, occurs 1439. (fn. 33)
John Stanground, resigned 1461. (fn. 34)
John Stanford, the last prior. (fn. 35)