A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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11. PRIORY OF COCKERHAM
This cell of the abbey of St. Mary in the Meadows (de Pratis) at Leicester, served by Austin Canons, was established in 1207 or 1208. William de Lancaster I on his marriage to Gundreda daughter of Roger, earl of Warwick, cousin of Robert, earl of Leicester, founder of the abbey (1143), had given the canons between 1153 and 1156 his manor of Cockerham, itschurch with the dependent chapel of Ellel, and the hamlets of Great and Little Crimbles. (fn. 1) Henry II in the latter year confirmed the gift, to which William before 1160 added a grant of common of pasture throughout his fee in Lonsdale and Amounderness. (fn. 2) His son William de Lancaster II (died 1184) dispossessed the abbey and founded the hospital (afterwards abbey) of Cockersand on part of the manor. The Leicester canons obtained judgement in the court of John, count of Mortain, when lord of the honour of Lancaster, between 1189 and 1194, against William's widow Heloise and her second husband Hugh de Morvill, who thereupon confirmed the original gift, as did also Count John. (fn. 3) This was followed by an agreement between the two houses by which the site of Cockersand was cut out of the manor and parish of Cockerham, Leicester Abbey conveying it in free alms to the hospital. (fn. 4) Further litigation between the abbey and William de Lancaster's daughter and heiress, Heloise and her husband Gilbert son of Roger Fitz Reinfred ended (13 May, 1207} in a final concord; Heloise and Gilbert renounced all claim on Cockerham and Crimbles, in consideration whereof Abbot Paul and the convent undertook to place three of their canons in the church, which had hitherto been served by a chaplain, on whose death the number of canons was to be raised to four. (fn. 5) A prior of Cockerham is mentioned in 1208. (fn. 6)
The new cell never became conventual. Its canons remained under the authority of the abbot, its prior or warden was no doubt removable at his pleasure and acted merely as agent of the chief house, which by the middle of the fourteenth century put an end to its existence. The introduction first of a stipendiary and then (between 1281 and 1290) of a perpetual vicar paved the way for the withdrawal of most of the canons. (fn. 7) Christiana de Lindsay, wife of Euguerrand de Guisnes, lord of Coucy, in confirming (1320) the grant of her ancestor William de Lancaster to the abbey, stipulated for their retention, (fn. 8) but after her death, some fourteen years later, the abbey abandoned all pretence of observing the undertaking of 1207. In 1366 and again in 1372 its title to Cockerham manor was questioned on this ground by royal officers, but the courts decided in its favour because the original gift imposed no conditions. (fn. 9) The final concord was apparently ignored. But Christiana's great-great-granddaughter Philippa de Coucy, widow of Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford and duke of Ireland, formally renounced any claim derivable from its non-observance, and this waiver was confirmed by Henry IV and Henry VI. (fn. 10)
The Lancashire estate of Leicester Abbey was still managed by a warden (custos, gardianus), probably always a canon of Leicester. (fn. 11) In 1477, however, it was leased to one John Calvert at a rent of £83 6s. 8d., (fn. 12) and was apparently still farmed for that sum in 1535. (fn. 13) The original, gift of William de Lancaster I comprised two plough-lands, (fn. 14) to which some small parcels were subsequently added. The gross value of the property (including the rectory) in 1477 was estimated to be £99 10s. 9d. without reckoning perquisites of courts and some other ' commodities of the manor.' (fn. 15) In 1400 an extent which included these gave a total income of £117 7s. 8d. (fn. 16) The pestilence of 1349 is said to have about halved the return from the rectory tithes of Cockerham. (fn. 17)