A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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48. THE PRIORY OF TAKELEY
The foundation of Takeley is of special interest on account of its connexion with the Conquest. When the Norman fleet was prepared for the invasion in 1066, it lay for a fortnight at the mouth of the Somme waiting for a favourable wind. (fn. 1) Prayers were offered up at the abbey of St. Valery, and at last the monks brought out in solemn procession the shrine containing the body of the saint. The blowing of the south wind on Wednesday, 27 September, was piously ascribed to this, and there can be no doubt that the grants made to the abbey in England, whether by the Conqueror or others, were intended as a thank-offering. The exact date of the foundation is not known, but it must have been between 1066 and 1086.
The lands held by the abbey in Essex at the time of the Domesday Survey have already been given, (fn. 2) and it also owned the churches of Hampton, Heston, Isleworth and Twickenham in Middlesex, and the advowson of the church of Birchanger in Essex. Henry I granted a charter (fn. 3) confirming the possessions in frankalmoin. The temporalities amounted at the time of the Taxation in 1291 to £49 7s. 5d. yearly, the greater part being fairly evenly distributed between Widdington, Takeley, Bradwell, Birchanger, Lindsell and Dengie, with smaller sums in Manuden, London and Stansted. There were also portions of £1 10s. in the church of Great Canfield and £1 in the church of Debden. An extent (fn. 4) of the priory was taken when it was in the king's hands in 18 Edward II, and valuations of the manors of Lindsell, Takeley, Widdington, Birchanger and Bradwell show a considerable advance on the amounts of 1291. The priory owned goods and live stock valued at £7 15s. 7d. at Lindsell, £22 15s. 10d. at Takeley, £12 5s. 11d. at Widdington and £7 10s. 8d. at Birchanger. Similar information is given by the account of the keeper of the priory for the period.
On 30 January, 1330, the king ordered (fn. 5) the escheator to restore the temporalities of the priory, which had been seized on account of the death of John, late abbot of St. Valery. The prior had complained of this and an inquisition was taken, by which it was found that the abbey held the possessions in frankalmoin, and they had never been taken into the hands of any king by reason of the death of any abbot.
William Wychard of Takeley brought an action for trespass against the Prior Andrew in 1336, (fn. 6) and when the prior came to Stratford-atBow to defend his case certain persons attacked him and his attorneys and servants and tried to break into their lodging, so that he was afraid to appear before the justices. (fn. 7) The prior alleged that he was a bondman of the manor, and the proceedings were delayed until it was found by inquisition that it was not so. The king finally on 26 February, 1339, ordered the justices to render judgement. (fn. 8)
The priory was taken into the king's hands and restored at farm to the prior during the war with France. In 1337 (fn. 9) the prior paid £126 yearly, and in 1342 (fn. 10) this was increased to £140. At the request of Queen Isabel, however, the extra £14 was remitted (fn. 11) by the king on 20 September, 1343. The priors seem to have had considerable difficulty in collecting their rents, and in 1343 the king ordered (fn. 12) serjeantsat-arms to compel payment to be made. In 1351 the prior was in arrear to the extent of £168 13s. 4d., and the king on 26 May granted (fn. 13) him respite from payment. On 2 June, 1358, protection for two years was granted (fn. 14) to the prior, as he was still in arrear to the king and other creditors of his predecessor troubled him. The custody of the priory was committed (fn. 15) to the prior on 8 May, 1378, at a farm of 200 marks (£133 6s. 8d.) yearly, but he was not to be charged with arrears before 35 Edward III. A commission was issued in 1390 to inquire about waste and dilapidations in the priory during the king's reign. (fn. 16)
The priory was eventually sold by the abbot and convent to William of Wykeham for the two colleges founded by him, the possessions in Essex being assigned to New College, Oxford, and those in Middlesex to Winchester College. Richard II granted licence for this on 10 March, 1391, (fn. 17) and released the colleges from payment of the rent of 200 marks. The sale was also confirmed (fn. 18) by Pope Boniface IX on 2 February, 1392, and accordingly in 1403 we find Richard Malford, warden of New College, holding the priory. (fn. 19)
Priors of Takeley
John, occurs 1301. (fn. 20)