A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1903.
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14. THE PRIORY OF MOTTISFONT
This priory of Austin canons, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was founded by William Briwere about 1200. (fn. 1) His chief gifts were lands at Mottisfont, Hale and Eldon, and the churches of Longstock and Ashley. To these his brother John Briwere added the church of Little Somborne. King John granted a confirmation charter of these gifts, dated 23 October, 1204, and added thereto, as his own donation to the canons, the church of Eling. On the death of his wife Beatrice, the founder gave to the priory all his lands in the adjacent parish of Michelmarsh, and five marks in rent from Barbache, to keep her anniversary. William Briwere, the son of the founder, gave them the church of King's Somborne, and the mill and 40 acres of land at Stockbridge, together with rents at Mottisfont and elsewhere, to keep his anniversary. Margery de la Ferte, daughter of the founder, confirmed all these gifts, and also materially increased the priory's endowment, particularly with lands at Trusbury and Compton, and with lands and buildings at Winchester, both within and without the walls. (fn. 2)
The obituary of the Mottisfont canons shows that they observed the anniversary of Peter de Rivallis, a brother of the founder, on 23 November. It is stated that he was known as 'The holy man in the wall,' and that many miracles were worked through him. He gave a large sum of money and many jewels to purchase a rent-charge to secure the keeping of his anniversary. Queen Eleanor also conferred many possessions and goods on the priory to secure the perpetual keeping of her obit, which was observed by all the priests of the house. The queen provided that seven poor widows should daily receive refreshment in the house in her memory, and that five poor persons should sit at table on her anniversary.
Laurence de Colshull gave a large sum of money, many jewels, and much furniture, to provide for the daily saying by a canon of a mass for him and others, with special collects. John Forstbury and Joan his wife gave all their lands and tenements at Westley for their anniversary. It was provided in their behalf that each week two canons should celebrate mass at the altars of the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin respectively. And Agnes Betune, widow, gave all her lands and tenements at Ogden and Bentley, for keeping her anniversary on the first Thursday in Lent. (fn. 3)
An indult was granted in 1241 by Pope Gregory IX. to the prior and brethren of Mottisfont to hold to their uses, on its voidance, the church of Somborne, of their patronage, reserving a vicar's portion. (fn. 4)
The prior of Mottisfont at this time seems to have been respected at the papal court, as he was twice ordered to see to the enforcement of the papal authority in this country. (fn. 5)
Roger de Clifford, justice of the forest on this side Trent, was ordered, in January, 1275, to cause the prior and convent of Mottisfont to have four oaks fit for timber in the wood of Melchet, which is within the forest of Clarendon, for the work then in progress at their church. (fn. 6)
Archbishop Peckham visited this priory on 26 January, 1284, and issued long injunctions to be observed by the canons. Amongst them was one permitting the employment of women over sixty years of age for certain domestic work. Mention is also made of the duties of prior, sub-prior, sacrist, chanter, cellarer and treasurer. (fn. 7)
The taxation of 1291 gave the annual value of the temporalities of the priory in the archdeaconry of Winchester at £27 10s. The church of Mottisfont was at the same time declared of the annual value of £30. The priory was also possessed of lands at Kidwelly, in the distant archdeaconry of Cardigan, which were worth 20s. per annum.
In the same year, licence was granted for the alienation in mortmain, by John de Rivers the younger, to the prior and convent of Mottisfont, of an acre of land in Roswyk in Pengareg and the advowson of the church of Mullion, Kerrier (Cornwall). (fn. 8) This was confirmed by Edward II., together with leave to appropriate the church. (fn. 9)
Licence from the Crown to elect in vacancies of religious houses was only required when the Crown was patron. Owing to the minority of the heir of Briwere the founder, the king claimed the ad interim patronage of this house in 1291. The patronage is stated to have belonged to Maud daughter and heir of Patrick de Cadurcythe king's ward, in 1294, (fn. 10) but soon afterwards it devolved wholly on the Crown, by whom it was conferred on the Earl of Lancaster.
From the episcopal registers we find that Thomas de Barton was instituted as prior on 21 February, 1294, and on the same day the the bishop's mandate was issued to the archdeacon for his induction. The various proceedings of the election are set forth with much detail; the election was by way of compromise, and eleven canons (the full number) recorded their votes for him. (fn. 11)
In 1310 Bishop Woodlock issued his mandate for visiting this priory, appointing the Saturday after the feast of St. Matthew as the day. No decree was issued as the result of this visitation, so it may be concluded that the bishop was satisfied.
In April, 1316, licence was obtained for the alienation in mortmain by William Russell, to the prior and convent of Mottisfont of a messuage, 80 acres of land, 4 acres of meadow, and 5s. 2d. of rents in Barton Stacey. (fn. 12)
The documents relative to the election of John de Dernford as prior in 1330 are set forth at length in the episcopal registry, and include the consent of Henry, Earl of Lancaster, as the patron. (fn. 13) In 1331, the bishop issued a mandate to the new prior to report as to the condition of the priory and to produce a statement of accounts. (fn. 14) On 26 November, 1334, Bishop Orlton visited Mottisfont, and preached to the canons in their chapter-house from the text ' Omnia honeste et cum ordine fiant.' (fn. 15)
In 1349 Robert de Bromore, sub-prior, was elected prior, Prior Dernford having probably died of the plague, and in the following year Richard de Caneford was elected prior, on the death of Prior Bromore, probably from a like cause. In 1352 Ralph de Thorleston, a canon of Leicester, was made superior, as there was apparently no suitable priest left of their own house. (fn. 16)
In December, 1353, Henry of Lancaster petitioned the pope for an indulgence to those who visited the Augustinian priory of Mottisfont on Trinity Sunday, or who contributed to it. The petition stated that the duke's mother Maud was buried in the priory church. (fn. 17) A special effort was apparently being made to revive the house after the shock of the Black Death, which must have greatly reduced the income of the priory as well as thinned its numbers. Pope Innocent VI. lent a ready ear to this influential petition, and in the same month that the application was received, granted the relaxation of a year and forty days' penance to penitents who gave helping hands to the priory of Mottisfont, the indulgence to hold good for five years. At the same time a relaxation of a year and forty days of enjoined penance was granted to penitents who visited this church on the feasts of the Holy Trinity, the Assumption and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, and those of the Holy Cross and St. Michael. (fn. 18)
In July, 1354, Pope Innocent VI. granted a dispensation to Walter de Bocland, canon of Mottisfont, being the illegitimate son of a married woman, to hold any dignity or office in the Austin order, short of the abbatial. (fn. 19)
During the vacancy of the see in 1404, this priory was visited by the commissioners of Archbishop Arundel on 8 November, when all was found to be satisfactory. (fn. 20)
In 1456 a commission appointed by Bishop Waynflete declared the priory vacant, because William Marlynburgh, the prior elect, did not exhibit sufficient title. Whereupon William Westkarre was elected. (fn. 21)
Henry VII., patron of Mottisfont (through the duchy of Lancaster), finding the priory seriously reduced in numbers and income, and being desirous to change it into a collegiate church for a dean and prebendaries, applied to the pope for a bull for its suppression. In response to this application Alexander VI. in 1494 issued a bull for the suppression of the priory, in favour of a college. It is stated that the priory, instead of supporting eleven canons, according to the original foundation, was then only able with difficulty to maintain three, and that the annual income did not exceed £120. (fn. 22) Henry however changed his mind and resolved to annex the priory to his Windsor foundation; but, changing yet again, he determined to assign it to his great chapel at Westminster Abbey. Alexander VI. complacently issued another bull, in the year 1500, authorizing the suppression of Mottisfont priory, together with Luffield priory in Lincoln diocese for the last of these purposes. (fn. 23) But, strange to say, neither Henry VII. nor the abbot of Westminster availed themselves of this papal sanction to seize the priory, and it continued until the dissolution of the lesser monasteries.
The priory was visited by the commissary of the prior of Canterbury, during the vacancy of the sees of both Canterbury and Winchester, on 30 March, 1501. John Edmunds, the prior, stated that the annual rents had increased to two hundred marks; that when he entered on his office the house was burdened to the extent of £40; but that at the present time it was not in debt, save with respect to 300 marks, due to the king within a certain time for excusing the appropriation of the house to the monastry of Westminster. Richard Wraxton, subprior, John Colmer, sacristan, Thomas Edmunds, the cellarer, and Robert Marleys, another of the canons, were also examined.
The report of the first commission to visit Hampshire houses, made by Sir James Worsley and his brother commissioners on 30 May, 1536, stated that the priory of Mottisfont had been 'dissolved and possession thereof delivered to Sir William Sandes of the most honourable Order of the Garter, Lord Chamberleyne, according to the King's pleasure.' It was stated to be of the annual value of £164 12s. 6d.; that there were ten canons, eight of them priests and two novices; that one of them had been committed to the monastery of Christ Church, Twyneham, eight given 'letters of capacity,' and 40s. 'of the kinge's reward,' and one novice sent to his friends with 30s.; that there were twentynine other inmates who had been discharged; that the church and mansion were in convenient repair, but the outhouses in ruin and decay; that the lead and bells were worth £155, which had been delivered to the Lord Chamberlain; that the plate and jewels worth £42 3s. 8d, and ornaments worth £38 15s. 4d. were reserved for the king; that corn, stock and stores worth £67 11s. 4d. had been delivered to the chamberlain; that the house owed £103 2s.; was owed £2 13s. 4d.; and that the woods, etc., were worth £106 13s. 4d. (fn. 24)
In 1529 John, prior of Mottisfont, was duly summoned, with the heads of the other Hampshire religious houses, to the Convocation of the province of Canterbury. (fn. 25)
The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 names William Christchurch as prior, and gives the clear annual value as £124 3s. 5½d.
On 26 March, 1536, Harry Huttoft, a Southampton customs official, when writing to Cromwell about charges to be levied on goods at the port, stated that there was much talk there about the suppression of religious houses, adding, with the assurance that was characteristic of most of Cromwell's friends and tools, 'Let me be a suitor for one, viz. the house of Mottisfont, where there is a good friend of mine with as good a master and convent as is in the country. If none are to be reserved, but all must pass one way, please to let me have it towards my poor living.' (fn. 26) The house was actually surrendered on 22 May following. (fn. 27)
Huttoft did not however succeed in getting his longed-for share of the monastic plunder, for. Mottisfont fell to the lot of a much more influential person, William, Lord Sandys, K.G., the king's chamberlain. The grant, dated 14 July, 1536, conferred on him and Lady Margery, his wife, the site and the whole of the possessions and advowsons of the late priory. (fn. 28)
The prior, William Shepperd, alias Christchurch, who seems to have been entirely complacent, obtained the large pension of £20. (fn. 29)
Lord Sandys speedily set about the work of altering the priory for his own convenience. A letter from Mottisfont of August, 1538, says that the lord chamberlain had been keeping house there since the beginning of May and intended to continue there till Allhallow-tide to oversee his works. The writer expressed the opinion that he was making a goodly place of the priory and intended to lie there most of his life. (fn. 30)
What had become of the seven poor widows of Queen Eleanor's foundation, who were to receive daily food at the house of Mottisfont, is not stated.
The pointed oval seal of thirteenth century date (see illustration) affords an unusual method of representing the Holy Trinity. The Father, with nimbus, seated holds a half-length figure of the Son in a cloth extended on His knees; overhead is the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove. On the field is a sun and moon and several groups of three annulets or stars. Legend : + . . . . .L : Ecclesie : Sancte : Trinitatis : de : Motesfunt.
Priors of Mottisfont
Henry de Wynton, d. 1294
Thomas de Barton, (fn. 31) 1294
William, (fn. 32) 1300
John de Dwineford, (fn. 33) 1317 -23
Walter de Wallup, (fn. 34) 1323
Benedict de Wallup, resigned 1330
John de Dernford, (fn. 35) elected 1330
Robert de Bromore, 1349-50
Richard de Caneford, 1350
Ralph de Thorleston, (fn. 36) 1352
John Netherhavene, (fn. 37) 1356
William Marlynburgh, prior elect, 1456
William Westkarre, (fn. 38) 1456
John Edmunds, 1501-29
William Christchurch, alias Shepperd, 1535-6