A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1903.
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HOUSE OF PREMONSTRATENSIAN CANONS
17. THE ABBEY OF TITCHFIELD
The Premonstratensian Abbey of Titchfield, nine miles south-east of Southampton, was founded by Bishop Peter des Roches in the year 1222, when a colony of White Canons were invited to settle there from the Shropshire Abbey of Halesowen. By the foundation charter the Abbey of St. Mary (fn. 1) was endowed with the manor of Titchfield and its appurtenances, and with lands in Swanwick, Porchester, Walsworth and Cosham. This was confirmed, with grants of the fullest privileges, by Henry III. in 1231. (fn. 2) Other important grants were those of the manor of Cadlands and lands in Hythe, Stanswood, and Woodcott and Felde (in Fawley parish) by Eva de Clinton, daughter and heiress of Roger de Escures; the manor and lands of Inkpen (Berks) by the Mansels; the manor and lands of Corhampton and the wood of Charlwood by the founder; lands in Stubbington and Chark by the Rayners, Bretts and St. Johns.
The Harley MSS. 6602 and 6603 contain transcripts and extracts from three Titchfield registers belonging to the Duke of Portland, which were made in 1739. Their accuracy is assured, for they were collated with the originals in 1830-1 by Sir F. Madden, and corrected in red ink. The first register gives a large number of grants and customs of manors; at the end is a list of abbots, (fn. 3) drawn up about 1390, when John de Romsey was abbot, and afterwards brought down to the eve of the dissolution. The following is a translation of the list:—
Richard, the first abbot, came from Halesowen with his brethren in the year 1222, and ruled this church well and religiously. He died on 16 June, and was buried before the door of the chapter-house.
Isaac was the second abbot; in his time the manors of Cadlands and Inkpen were acquired. He died on 19 June, and was buried in the cloister before the door of the chapter-house, on the right hand of the monument of the first abbot.
After his death, Henry de Branewyk succeeded him. He was afterwards sought as abbot of Halesowen, and there rested in peace.
To him Henry de Spersholte succeeded, in whose time the manor of Newland was acquired and lost. He died on 22 September, and was buried in the cloister.
To him succeeded Brother Yvo, in whose time the manor of Mirabel was acquired and lost. He died on 3 March, and was buried in the cloister.
Adam, third abbot of this church, ruled with honour. (fn. 4) He died on 14 September, and was buried in the cloister on the left of the monument of Abbot Peter de Wynton.
William de Byketon, the fourth abbot, was a venerable ruler of the church; he died on 8 November, and was buried in the church, at the altar of St. Richard.
John Sydemanton, fifth abbot, ruled well, and died on 3 December. He was buried in the cloister, between the door of the library on the south and the monument of Abbot Wynton on the north.
Roger de Candever, sixth abbot, ruled this church honourably and religiously for about eighteen years. He died on 5 August, and was buried in the cloister at the entrance to the church near the altar of St. Peter.
John de Combe, seventh abbot, in whose time the manors of Crofton and 'Fontelegh-Pageham' were acquired. He ruled this church for about twenty years, and died on 5 May, and was buried in the cloister, at the head of the monument of Abbot Roger de Candever.
Peter de Wynton, eighth abbot, ruled this house religiously for one year and six months. He died on 16 July, and was buried in the cloister between the monument of Abbot Adam on the north and Abbot Sydemanton on the south.
William de Wollop, ninth abbot, ruled this church in the best possible way for twenty years, nine months and three days. In his time the land and tenement of Markes and 'Brykoresland' were acquired and appropriated. He also acquired, but did not appropriate, the land and tenement of Ward, the land of 'Froghemour,' the land of 'Firsteburyesland' at Chirk, and the tenements which were John Goudale's in Titchfield. Also in his days John Edindon gave his manor of Portsea and 'Copenore' to the priory. He died on 23 May, and was buried in the cloister, north of the monument of Abbot Candever.
John de Thorni, tenth abbot, ruled prudently over this church for nineteen years, thirteen weeks and five days; in his time the lands and tenements mentioned under his predecessor were all appropriated. He died on 30 September, and was buried in the cloister at the feet of the image of the Blessed Virgin, which he had erected there in honour of the Mother of God by a buttress.
John de Romsey, eleventh abbot of this church, ruled honourably. (fn. 5)
Thomas Bensteade, thirteenth abbot, ruled well, and resigned his staff under compulsion.
William Winchestour, alias Fryer, was fourteenth abbot, and ruled six and a half years.
William Auyten, fifteenth abbot, ruled this church well for sixteen years. He built the house commonly called 'The Grete Place.' He also restored the windows of all the chambers, and built another house near the cross in the body of the town. He died 25 October, and was buried near the monument of John Thorny.
Thomas Coyk, sixteenth abbot, ruled for twentyone years.
Thomas Blankpayn, seventeenth abbot, ruled for twenty years, and resigned on a pension.
The Rev. Father John, Bishop of Elphin in Ireland, abbot in commendam of Welbeck and Titchfield, prebendary of York and Southwell and visitor of the Premonstratensian Order, the eighteenth abbot, rebuilt the ruinous church.
The second register opens with an account of the library, as catalogued in the year 1400. It is often forgotten how large a portion of his time the professed monk or canon was expected to give to the study of the Scriptures and of other literature. This was particularly the case with the order of Prémontré. The rule of the White Canon was in this respect more stringent and definite than that of the Black Canon, as appears in various particulars. The office of librarian was joined to that of chanter in the Austin houses, but was a separate office in the Premonstratensian houses. The later canons were distinctly invited to study not only the Scriptures, but theology, philosophy and Literœ Humaniores The original statutes are much more precise as to the times of reading than those of the Black Canons. The Premonstratensian rule provided that after sext, which followed immediately after high mass, the time was to be given to reading (whilst the servants and reader dined) until the bell rang to enter the frater. In the winter most of the convent had light refreshment (mixtum) after terce, and dinner was not served until after nones; and in that half of the year the long interval between sext and nones was assigned to reading. Again, after evensong throughout the year, there was reading until the bell sounded for collation. (fn. 6) The importance of reading is emphasized by a special chapter being assigned to Quomodo se habeant fratres tempore lectionis. (fn. 7) All the brothers were to read at the appointed hour, save those engaged on necessary duties, and they were to make all speed to attend lection. They were to sit in cloister when reading, conducting themselves with all decorum, each reading his own book, save those who might be singing from antiphoners, graduals, or hymnaries, or giving readings to others. If any one was obliged to leave he was to replace his book in the case, or if he wished to leave it on his seat to signify by sign to a brother sitting near that he left it in his custody. At all times of lection the brothers were to wear their slippers (nocturnalibus botis). No manuscript was to be kept in the cloister carrols nor in the dormitory chests without leave of the abbot.
The librarian, called armarius, from the armarium or case in which the books were kept, was to mend and care for the books and to open and shut the case as required. He was to mutually assign and change the books as they were wanted, but not without leave of the abbot or prior, or without making an entry. He was also required to keep a numbered list of the books. (fn. 8) The Premonstratensian rule underwent various changes on the authority of the General Chapter in the seventeenth century, and was finally revised in 1630. The librarian was then termed bibliotbecarius; he was ordered to arrange his books, in the place where they were kept, according to their subject or faculty. (fn. 9) This had been done at Titchfield for at least two and a half centuries before the passing of this revised statute.
The usual places for books in religious houses were cases in recesses of the cloister. It was not until a comparatively late period that a few of the larger houses thought of providing a special room or building for the library. (fn. 10) Titchfield was only a daughter house of no great wealth, and from its having in 1400 so large and valuable a library in a special apartment opening out of the cloister, and from the general character of the White Canons as a reading order, it may perhaps be assumed that the Premonstratensians usually had a particular chamber to serve for the books or manuscripts.
There were in the library of Titchfield, as is specifically described, four cases (columna) wherein to place the books. It would seem that the door was on the west side of the chamber, for there were two cases against the east wall, a third against the south wall and a fourth against the north wall. Each of these cases had eight shelves (gradus), marked with a letter of the alphabet, representing a division of the library and not the special shelf. In case I., were the Bibles and the patristic glosses on the different books; II., the Fathers and general theology; III., sermons, legends, rules and canon and civil law; IV., medical and surgical works, grammar, logic, philosophy and varia. The alphabet letters gave further classification; thus B was affixed to seven shelves of case I., containing the glosses on the Scriptures; and D was marked on five shelves of case II., whereon stood the works of St. Augustine and St. Gregory. The first folio or the cover of each volume contained not only the shelf letter, but a number indicating its position on the shelves. The very volume that gives the library list has on its first page the mark 'P.x.' On turning to the catalogue there is found entered Rememoratorium monasterii et omnium maneriorum de Tycbefeld, as the tenth book on shelf P.
The total number of volumes was 224, but it must be remembered that many of these MS. volumes contained a variety of treatises, which if printed after modern fashion would make several separate books. (fn. 11)
Several of the other volumes of this library must have been of exceptional bulk or unusually close writing. Only one book is named as written in English, viz. a copy of the Golden Legends (E. vii.); but under the letter Q are various books in French. Among the more curious theological tracts may be mentioned: De ortu et educatione Pontii Pilate, and De ortu Judee Iscaritis. At the end of the library catalogue a list is given of upwards of a hundred other volumes pertaining to the divine office, and usually kept in the church.
The library catalogue is followed by an itinerary, or distance in miles, of the various English houses of White Canons from Titchfield; the nearest being Durford in Sussex, 16 miles, and the most remote Alnwick in Northumberland, 276 miles. (fn. 12)
The next matter that is illustrated in this interesting register is the very serious way in which the monasteries, in common with the rest of the country, suffered from the awful Black Death of 1349-50. The local annalist cites an inventory of the monastery and its manors and granges of the year before the plague. In the eighth year of the rule of Abbot Peter de Winton, namely on 4 July, 1348, the monastery and its manors had 170 quarters of wheat, 175 of barley, 198 of oats and 22 of winter wheat; also 41 horses, 24 draught horses (affri), 30 oxen, 9 bull-calves, 182 bullocks, 10 bulls, 93 cows, 118 heifers, 20 calves, 273 swine, 940 muttons, 18 rams, 137 ewes and 768 lambs. In the tenth year of Abbot John Thorny, namely on 27 June, 1370, the condition of the monastery was so exhausted and its burdens so heavy that there was no wheat in the house or in its manors, and but 5 quarters of barley, 2 quarters of dredge (fn. 13) and 16 quarters of oats. As to livestock, they had 23 horses of both kinds, 27 oxen, 21 colts, 190 bullocks, 10 bulls, 66 cows, 44 steers, 38 heifers, 16 yearlings, 24 calves, 9 boars, 20 sows, 50 pigs, 100 hogs, 25 suckling pigs, 780 muttons, 19 rams, 550 ewes and 280 lambs.
The chief reason of the great contrast in bread stuffs between 1348 and 1370 (when it might have been thought that the country would have recovered from the shock of the plague), was that the great scarcity of labour and its higher price caused so much of the arable land to remain untilled or to be changed into pasture.
In 1370 an inventory was also taken of the plate as follows:—
A small cross with foot, silver gilt; a gospeller (textus), silver-gilt (cover) adorned with relics; a crystal vase for relics; 17 chalices, of which 9 were gilt; a silver-gilt pix for the high altar; 4 silver cruets; 6 silver bowls, of which 2 are large and 4 smaller, for double feasts; 2 pastoral staves; 3 silver candlesticks, one of which is small for midnight mass on Christmas Day; 3 silver-gilt censers; 4 silver-gilt cups, 3 with covers; 3 great silver goblets (bollœ) with feet, with covers; 42 pieces (pecie) of silver, 5 of which have small feet and covers; 5 'once pedate,' (fn. 14) with silver covers; 2 flagons (olla) of silver, for wine; 2 small silver basins (lavatoria); a silver plate with a foot; a silver gilt pipe (fistula) for communicating the infirm; and 81 spoons.
There was no money found in the treasury, and the debts of the house amounted to the serious sum of £202 16s. 9d. (fn. 15)
At the end of the second register of Titchfield is written out this prayer, to be said with the greatest devotion on getting into bed:—
In Monte Celyon requiescunt Septem Dormientes, Malchus, Maximus, Constantinus, Dionysius, Serapion, Martinianus, atque Johannes. Per istorum merita det michi Deus noctem quietam et soporem quietam. Amen.
To this is added—
Hæc oratio abunde testatur quibus in tenebris istud versabatur seculum.
The reference is of course to the beautiful Syrian legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, first made known in western literature by Gregory of Tours.
In the third register of Titchfield, which is termed a rental, particulars are given of the customs of their manors.
In 1334 the king's officials of the New Forest seized certain cattle belonging to the Abbey of Titchfield, for continuous feeding within the bounds of the forest to the grave prejudice of the king. (fn. 16) The abbot claimed through his attorney the right of common pasture for his beasts of Cadlands in the New Forest; the abbot also claimed a parcel of land within the forest, lying in la Whitefeld at 'Wyndhall,' as part of his manor at Cadlands. The chief forester, on the part of the Crown, admitted the abbot's right to the parcel of land within the forest, but that his cattle and sheep did not remain there, and strayed generally in the forest. To this the abbot's attorney replied that they made an annual payment of 18s. for this very right, and prayed a search of the rolls. Search was made and judgment was given in favour of the abbey.
By the aid for making Edward the Black Prince a knight in 1346, we find that the Abbot of Titchfield held half a knight's fee in Soberton, half a fee and a quarter of a fee in Crofton and a third part of a fee in Cadlands. (fn. 17)
The Premonstratensian Order was absolutely free from diocesan visitation or control, but the energetic Wykeham secured certain recognition from Titchfield as a house founded by one of his predecessors in the episcopal chair of Winchester.
On 20 November, 1390, Richard, abbot of Halesowen, presented John Romsey, abbotelect of Titchfield, appointed by the brethren of that convent, rightly and canonically, according to the privileges of their order (to which house he stood in the position of father abbot), to Bishop Wykeham, praying for his benediction. Abbot Romsey made his due profession to the bishop, describing himself as elected and confirmed, recognizing the bishop as (through his predecessor) the founder of their house, and promising to do all things which pertained by right or custom to the founder and patron of the house. Even to this recognition of the bishop, the abbot added the qualifying phrase providing against anything contrary to all the customs and privileges of his order. The bishop thereupon, when celebrating pontifical mass in his private chapel, after the abbot had signed a promise of canonical obedience and reverence, gave him his benediction. (fn. 18)
The houses of the White Canons were visited yearly by the father-abbot, that is, the abbot of the house from which they had their origin, save in those years when there was an authorized visit by commission of the General Chapter of Prémontré. On 12 June, 1420, Titchfield was visited by John Poole of Halesowen, as father abbot, with the assistance of the Abbot of Durford, at a time when there had been a vacancy in the office of abbot, and when Richard Aubrey, the prior, had been elected by his fellow canons to fill the post. Abbot Poole duly confirmed the election. The visitors found that there was no money in the treasury, that there was owing to the house £43 4s., but that the debts amounted to £62 0s. 6d. A return was made of the valuables both in the sacristry and the treasury. This inventory corresponds in the main with that of 1370; the silver spoons had increased from 81 to 84, whilst the chalices had decreased from 17 to 14. The livestock was: 24 horses, 10 draught horses, 4 colts, 154 oxen, 7 bulls, 69 cows, 17 heifers, 10 steers, 28 yearlings, 29 calves, 381 muttons, 207 'burtis et muricis,' 121 hogsters, 100 lambs, 17 boars, 24 sows, 33 pigs, 126 hogs and 89 suckling pigs. Neither in the granary nor bakehouse was there anything. There was hay enough, at a reasonable estimate, to last till the Assumption for use at their hospice. (fn. 19)
Titchfield was visited in 1478 by Richard Redman, Bishop of St. Asaph and Abbot of Shap, in conjunction with Hubert, commissarygeneral. In answer to the set form of visitation questions, it was stated that the Abbot of Halesowen was their father abbot, that their church was dedicated in honour of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, because on that day one Brother Richard, with other canons of Hayles, had first come to Titchfield, and that they held two churches, the perpetual curates of which were both canons. (fn. 20)
On 3 July of this year one Thomas Borrell, canon of the house of Langley, Norfolk, was sent to the Abbot of Titchfield to undergo in the latter house forty days of penance for a grave fault. This was done in accordance with the decree of Bishop Redman as visitor. Thomas brought with him sufficient clothing for his body and bed, to last a year. The Abbot of Langley commissioned his brother of Titchfield to hear the penitent canon's confession. (fn. 21)
The Valor of 1535 gives the gross income of the abbey at £280 19s. 10½d. and the clear value at £249 16s. 1d. John Maxey, Bishop of Elphin, was then abbot.
John Salisbury, the twentieth and last abbot, was consecrated suffragan Bishop of Thetford on 19 March, 1536, by Archbishop Cranmer and the Bishops of Salisbury and Rochester. (fn. 22) In May, 1538, he was appointed Canon of Norwich, and in the following year dean; in 1571 he was made Bishop of Sodor and Man, and died in 1573.
On 1 May, 1537, the Bishop of Thetford wrote to Wriothesley saying that he intended to send his steward to him the next week to pay his fee for the half year, and desired that he would continue his favours to his poor house. (fn. 23) The income of the house put it outside the first Act of Parliament for dissolution, and for such cases a variety of schemes for 'surrender' were devised. Apparently Salisbury had been put in office, through some cajolery, to secure surrender. Sir Thomas Audeley, the chancellor, wrote a letter of reply to Cromwell in December, 1537, touching the dissolution of this house, and saying that a deed of gift by the abbot and convent, if they were content to give up their house, sealed before some judge of record, would suffice; but if Cromwell wished to have a fine or recovery he explained how it might be taken. (fn. 24)
Meanwhile John Crawford and Rowland Lathum were made the king's commissioners to secure the surrender of Titchfield, which was promised to Wriothesley. The commissioners wrote to him on 22 December, 1537, saying they had made careful inquiries of the state of the monastery and how many grants had been passed under the convent seal. They described the church as being most naked and barren, being of such antiquity, saying that 40s. would buy all except the vestment Wriothesley had given and two old chalices. Evidently the canons had had plenty of warning, and had before this stripped their church of its valuables. It would be interesting to know what became of their library. At Michaelmas last there were two team of oxen, but now not one ox. They found a dozen rusty platters and hangings worth 20s., and described the lands as very ruinous. The abbot and convent confessed to having granted pensions to the old abbot and others to the extent of £50 per annum. The debts amounted to £200; the abbot and convent expected to be assured of £135 a year for their lives, 100 marks to the abbot, £6 13s. 4d. to each of eight priests and £5 each to three novices. The house owed the king above 200 marks for first fruits, arid the expense of alterations would be at least 300 marks; so the commissioners were right in assuring their patron that his first entry would be expensive. (fn. 25)
Though Crawford and Lathum wrote on 22 December of Titchfield as 'the late monastery,' the formal surrender by John, 'perpetual commendatory of the abbey' and the convent, of the house, with all its possessions in Hants, Berks and elsewhere, was not signed until 28 December. (fn. 26) Thomas Wriothesley at once obtained a grant in fee simple of the site, church and the whole of the possessions of the abbey in Hampshire, including the advowsons of the churches of Titchfield, Lomer and Corhampton, as well as of the manor and lands of Inkpen in Berkshire. (fn. 27)
On 2 January, 1538, the commissioners, Crawford and Lathum, wrote to Wriothesley thanking him for his new year's gift, mentioning the sale of marble stones, altars, etc., from the conventual church, and making light of the plucking down of the church in a scandalous letter already cited. Later in the same month Wriothesley received news from Titchfield that the carpenter had stayed in his work of pulling down the church because he was 'loath to adventure with him before the change of the moon, and that the pavement of the nave was taken up, but scarce the tenth tile saved because they were so worn.' (fn. 28) Two more letters were written by Crawford to Wriothesley in the following April, wherein he described the alterations in progress at Titchfield, and stated that he had offered the bells to one Mr. Myls for £60. (fn. 29)
At the time of the dissolution the possessions of the monastery were the manor of Wyker in Porchester, the manors of Titchfield, Abshot, 'Posbroke,' 'Newcourt Parva,' Fontley, Swanwick, Croft on, Mirables, Newland, Walsworth, Portsea, Copner, Cadlands, Corhampton; various lands, etc., in Wickham, 'Warishassefeld,' Brooke, Porchester and elsewhere; the rectories of Titchfield, Lomer and Corhampton, and the manor of Inkpen in Berkshire. (fn. 30)
When Leland visited Titchfield he wrote in his Itinerary: 'Mr. Wriothesley hath builded a right stately House embatelid, and having a goodely Gate, and a conducte castelid in the Midle of the Court of it, yn the very same Place wher the late Monasterie of Premostratences stoode caullyd Tichefelde.' (fn. 31)
Abbots of Titchfield
Richard, (fn. 32) 1222
Henry de Branewyk
Henry de Spersholte
William de Byketon
Roger de Candever
John de Combe
Peter de Wynton, elected about 1340
William de Wallup
John de Thorny, elected about 1360
John de Ramsey, elected about 1379 (fn. 33)
Richard Aubrey, 1420
William Winchestour, alias Fryer
John Maxey, Bishop of Elphin, about 1535-6
John Simpson, 1536, resigned in the same year (fn. 34)
John Salisbury, 1536-7