A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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HOUSES OF PREMONSTRATENSIAN CANONS
12. THE ABBEY OF COCKERSAND
The Premonstratensian abbey of Cockersand was originally founded as a small hospital of that order of canons. William de Lancaster, second baron of Kendal and lord of Wyresdale, who died in 1184, gave the site (fn. 1) and was usually considered the founder, but the foundation seems to have been really due to the efforts of Hugh Garth, a hermit ' of great perfection,' who is said to have collected the alms of the neighbourhood for the erection of the hospital and to have become its first master. (fn. 2) The canons came from Croxton Abbey, Leicestershire, (fn. 3) which, probably about this time, established a cell at Hornby.
The site, bleak and exposed, consisted of mossland forming the seaward portion of the township of Cockerham to the north of the Cocker sands; the house was at first styled St. Mary of the Marsh on the Cockersand. (fn. 4) Some richer land in the adjoining township of Thurnham was added by William de Furness, lord of Thurnham from 1186. (fn. 5)
In 1190 Pope Clement III took the ' monastery hospital' under his protection, confirmed gifts of land by various donors, some of which were in Cumberland, Westmorland, and South Lancashire, and bestowed upon it the privileges which the popes were accustomed to confer on fully established religious houses; among them free election of their priors and exemption of their demesne lands from tithe. (fn. 6)
The hospital benefited by the widespread connexions of the Lancaster family, but was presently involved in a serious dispute with the Austin Canons of Leicester Abbey. The Cockerham manor, which included the site of the hospital, had been given with the church to the Leicester canons by William de Lancaster I, but resumed by his son before his grant to Hugh the Hermit. (fn. 7) Between 1189 and 1194 the abbey recovered the manor in the court of John, count of Mortain, then lord of the honour of Lancaster, against Heloise widow of William de Lancaster II and her second husband Hugh de Morvill. (fn. 8) This decision introduced a defect into the hospital's title, and though Leicester Abbey may not have been disposed to press this to the utmost it resisted the ambition of the canons to have the priory promoted to abbatial status, and even contested some of the privileges granted by Clement III. Under these circumstances the canons seem to have contemplated removal to another site if they did not actually remove for a time. Theobald Walter, who obtained a grant of Amounderness from John, count of Mortain, about 1192, issued a charter within the next few years bestowing Pilling Hay in free alms on ' the abbot and canons of the Premonstratensian order there serving God . . . for the erection of an abbey of the said order.' (fn. 9) The canons undoubtedly had an abbot before 1199, and the style 'abbas et conventus de Marisco' without mention of Cockersand, which seems confined to this period of uncertainty, may have been adopted in deference to the Leicester objections. (fn. 10) It suited a site on the verge of Pilling Moss even better than the original one.
That no abbey of Cockersand was recognized until Leicester withdrew its opposition seems fairly clear from the terms of the settlement arranged apparently in the sixth year of John (1204-5). Abbot Paul and the convent of Leicester granted to the canons of Cockersand 'locum in quo domus hospitalis de Kokersand sita est,' with permission to build an abbey and have an abbot. (fn. 11) No tithes to Cockerham church were to be exacted from the site of the house, but this exemption was not to extend to any other land it might acquire within the parish. Cockersand undertook also not to acquire any further land within the manor of Cockerham. (fn. 12)
Subsequent disputes between the two abbeys over boundaries, tithes, pasture and pannage, and the administration of sacraments at Cockersand to parishioners of Cockerham, were the subject of compositions in 1230, 1242-5, 1340, and 1364. (fn. 13) King John showed some favour to the canons. While the dispute with Leicester was still undecided he confirmed them (1201) in possession of the site of the hospital together with the pasture of Pilling. (fn. 14) On 28 July, 1215, he granted them two plough-lands of his own demesne at Newbigging near Singleton in Amounderness, and freed them and their tenants from suit to shire and hundred courts, from pleas of murder, theft, hamsoken and forestel, and from every kind of tax, toll, and due. (fn. 15) Three weeks later he confirmed some important gifts by Gilbert son of Roger FitzReinfred, the husband of the founder's daughter Heloise de Lancaster. (fn. 16) These comprised Medlar in Amounderness, (fn. 17) and the advowson of the parish church of Garstang. (fn. 18) William, who became archdeacon of Richmond in 1217, gave permission for its appropriation to the abbey, reserving the power to ordain a perpetual vicarage. (fn. 19) John le Remain, archdeacon of Richmond, ordained a vicarage (fn. 20) apparently in 1245. (fn. 21) In the bishop of Norwich's Taxation (1254) the rectory was assessed at £22, the vicar's portion at £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 22) Thurstan Banaster gave to the canons the valuable advowson of Wigan between 1213 and 1219, but his gift does not seem to have taken effect. (fn. 23) The advowson of Claughton was acquired in two moieties between 1216 and 1255 by grant of Godith of Kellet and her niece's son Roger of Croft, but though the abbey's right of presentation was successfully maintained against the widow of Roger's son in 1273, (fn. 24) the advowson went back to the Crofts in the fourteenth century. (fn. 25)
The only advowson except Garstang which the abbey held till the Dissolution was obtained in the same period. Between 1206 and 1235 Robert son of Hugh, lord of Mitton, granted the right of presentation to its church, which stood on the Yorkshire side of the Ribble, part of the parish, however, being in Lancashire. (fn. 26) In 1314 the abbey secured from Edward II at a cost of £40 licence to appropriate the church to their own uses. (fn. 27) Permission to serve the church by a secular or a regular priest, appointed or removed at the abbot's pleasure after the death or resignation of the existing vicar, was granted by Pope Boniface IX in 1396. (fn. 28)
During the thirteenth century down to the passing of the Mortmain Act in 1279, the abbey received an unusually large number of grants of land. It is calculated that on an average they amounted to forty or fifty a year, but they were mostly small parcels.
Cockersand was one of the forty-eight houses whose abbots were summoned to the famous parliament of Carlisle in January, 1307, (fn. 29) but this was probably a solitary summons and its head did not become a mitred abbot. The abbey suffered severely in the Scottish raid of 1316. Its assessment for tenths was reduced shortly after by five-sixths. (fn. 30)
Robert of Hilton, canon of the house, received a pardon in 1327 for the death of one of his brethren. (fn. 31) In 1347 Robert of Carlton, then abbot, was accused of using violence to one John de Catterall. Catterall alleged that the abbot with four of the canons, a lay brother, and fourteen other persons had assaulted and maimed him; at Lancaster, and a commission of oyer and: terminer was granted. (fn. 32) No record of its inquiry seems, however, to have survived.
Troubles of another kind assailed the abbey from the middle of the fourteenth century. In 1363, owing to the ravages of the plague, a dispensation had to be obtained for several of the: canons to be ordained priests in their twenty-first year. (fn. 33) Half a century later (1412) a permanent: dispensation to this effect for all their canons was. granted in consideration of the remote situation of the house, which at times made it difficult to find men prepared to receive the regular habit there. (fn. 34) The sea continually wore away the walls which protected its buildings. In 1378 the abbot and convent begged Richard II to confirm their charters without fine, in view of their poverty and the fact that ' each day they are in-, danger of being drowned and destroyed by thesea.' (fn. 35) There is no evidence that their request was acceded to, but Pope Boniface in 1372. granted a relaxation for twenty years of a year and forty days of penance to all almsgivers to Cockersand, (fn. 36) and in 1397 the king granted them the farm of the alien priory of Lancaster during the war with France at a rent of 100 marks a. year. With some difficulty and at an expense, as was afterwards alleged, of 500 marks they obtained possession, only to be turned out on the arrival of Henry IV. (fn. 37) Their representations procured on 4 November, 1399, a grant of restitution of the profits for the year just ended, but a fortnight later it was revoked. (fn. 38)
Fear of violence from parties with whom they were in litigation induced them to obtain letters of protection from Henry in 1402. (fn. 39)
The three quarters of a century following is a blank in the history of the house. Fresh light comes with the election of a successor to Abbot Lucas in 1477; this was not accomplished without dissension, one of the canons being charged with inviting lay intervention. (fn. 40) The state of the abbey during the last quarter of the fifteenth century is recorded with some fulness in the extant visitations of Richard Redman, bishop successively of St. Asaph, Exeter, and Ely, and visitor of the English province of the Premonstratensian order. These inquisitions were as a rule triennial and the records of eight such visitations of Cockersand between 1478 and 1500 are preserved. (fn. 41) Until 1488 Redman detected nothing more reprehensible than some laying aside of the claustral mantle (capa) at meals, and garments girded high like those of travellers and labourers. (fn. 42) The house was £100 in debt in 1478, but this had been paid off by 1484.
Some relaxation of discipline was disclosed at the next. visitation in April, 1488. Redman excommunicated two apostate canons, forbade the brethren to reveal the secrets of the order and the plans of the house to great lords, or to use their influence to obtain promotion, and enjoined them to be satisfied with the food provided, attend all the hours, and refrain from wandering about the country. (fn. 43) In December he was recalled to deal with two of the canons, William Bentham the cellarer and James Skipton the cantor and grain master (granatorius) who were accused of breaking their vow of chastity. Bentham admitted his guilt, and Skipton, who denied the truth of the charge, could get none of his brethren to support him. The visitor imposed forty days' penance on both, and ordered Bentham to be removed for three years to Croxton Abbey, and Skipton for seven to Sulby Abbey in Northamptonshire. (fn. 44) The term of banishment must have been relaxed in Skipton's case, for at the next visitation in 1491 he was cellarer, Bentham being sub-prior. (fn. 45) Skipton afterwards became abbot.
To prevent similar scandals in future Redman forbade drinking after compline, and the employment of women to carry food to the infirmary or refectory. The evil of evening drinking was not, however, rooted out, for in 1500 the bishop attributed various diseases from which a number of the brethren were suffering, to inordinate potations and sitting up after compline. (fn. 46) In 1494 Thomas Poulton, who had been cantarist at Tunstall, was found guilty of two cases of incontinence, (fn. 47) and in 1500 Robert Burton and Thomas Calet were removed from their stalls for some offence not stated. (fn. 48) Burton was afterwards restored. (fn. 49) The visitations reveal a number of minor disorders—disobedience to the abbot, lingering in bed during mattins, neglect of services on pretext- of illness, frequenting of weddings, fairs, and other secular assemblies, and the wearing over the white habit of a black garment with black or various-coloured ' liripipes' or streamers, and (in 1491) the use of ' istos volubiles sotulares nuper inter curiales usitatos, Anglice vocatos slyppars sive patans.' (fn. 50) In 1497 the canons were forbidden to exchange opprobrious or scandalous charges or to draw knives upon one another. (fn. 51) There are no means of deciding how general such derelictions were, but comparison with the visitations of 1478 and 1481 leaves a decided impression that the tone of the community had altered for the worse in the interval.
In the reign of Henry VII Edward Stanley, Lord Monteagle, held its stewardship with those of Furness and Cartmel, and the office passed to his son and successor. (fn. 52) The pressure brought to bear upon the monasteries by the crown and its agents for some time before the Dissolution is illustrated by a letter in which Abbot Poulton excuses himself to Cromwell from preferring his nominee Sir James Layburn to certain lands in the manor of Ashton on the ground that the heirs of the late occupants claimed to hold by tenant-right. (fn. 53)
Doctors Legh and Layton made a serious charge against two of the canons, (fn. 54) but this was not corroborated by the royal commissioners under the Act of Suppression, who visited the abbey at the end of May, 1536. (fn. 55) They reported that the prior and twenty-one canons, all of them priests, were of honest conversation and desirous to continue in religion. Two of them served chantries at Tunstall and Middleton, and two others acted as proctors for the abbey at its appropriate churches of Mitton and Garstang, but all four could be recalled to the monastery. No mention is made of the lay brothers (conversi) who occur at an earlier period, unless they were the five, 'poor aged and impotent men' whom the foundation required to be kept at the abbey.
Ten other poor men were provided with bed and board daily for charity. The total cost was £22 7s. 4d. a year. There were two persons living in the house by purchase of corrodies; one of these, bought in 1507 for ten marks, cost the abbey half that sum yearly. Its staff of servants numbered fifty-seven, of whom nineteen were officers of the household, ten waiting servants, and eleven hinds of husbandry. The wages bill for a year was £46 16s. 8d. The income of the abbey as ascertained for the purposes of the tenth in 1535 (fn. 56) was well under the limit of £200 fixed by the Act of February, 1536, which empowered the crown to dissolve the smaller monasteries. But the Commissioners raised the valuation to not far short of £300, and this, coupled with their report of the good state of the house, doubtless induced the king to use the discretion conferred upon him by the Act of Suppression and allow Cockersand to continue. (fn. 57)
It was not until 29 January, 1539, that the house was surrendered by Abbot Poulton and his twenty-two canons. (fn. 58) Two months later the site, with the demesne lands and the rectory of Garstang, was leased for twenty-one years to John Burnell and Robert Gardiner at a rent of £73 6s. 8d. (fn. 59) John Kitchen of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, farmer of the monastery from 1539, bought the site and demesne from the crown on 1 September, 1543, for £700. (fn. 60) By the marriage of his eldest daughter Anne to Robert Dalton of Thurnham Hall it passed to that family, in whose possession it still .remains. (fn. 61)
The abbey was dedicated to St. Mary. As already stated its original endowment was largely augmented during the thirteenth century by numerous gifts of land and rents. A considerable portion of these were in Amounderness, but extensive acquisitions were made in the other Lancashire hundreds, and in the adjoining counties of Cumberland, Westmorland, Chester, and York. The donations usually consisted of small parcels, but there were some important exceptions. In the early years of the abbey Adam de Dutton gave it a moiety of the vill of Warburton with other lands in Cheshire for the foundation of a cell in connexion with the church of St. Werburgh at Warburton. (fn. 62) Abbot Roger, before 1216, resigned to Geoffrey son of Adam all but eight oxgangs of land in Warburton, for confirmation in which latter he undertook to find a chaplain to minister for Adam's soul. There seem still to have been canons there in the middle of the century, but in 1271 the abbey sold all its rights to the second Geoffrey de Dutton for the sum of eighty marks. (fn. 63) Among its Westmorland grants was one of half the township of Sedgewick by Ralph de Beetham between 1190 and 1208. (fn. 64) In Amounderness Gilbert son of Roger Fitz Reinfred granted the vill of Medlar, one plough-land; (fn. 65) Adam de Lee before 1212 gave a moiety of the vill of Forton; and the remaining moiety, with the lordship of the whole, was acquired prior to 1272. (fn. 66) William de Lancaster III bestowed four oxgangs of land in Garstang on his deathbed in 1246. (fn. 67)
South of the Ribble Elias son of Roger de Hutton gave the whole township of Hutton, comprising three plough-lands in the parish of Penwprtham, between 1201 and 1220, (fn. 68) and about the middle of the century Westhoughton in Salford Hundred was conveyed to the abbey in several portions. (fn. 69) Sir Edmund de Nevill, kt., gave a third of the manor of Middleton in Lonsdale in 1337 to endow a chantry there, which was served by one of the canons. (fn. 70) These estates were managed by eleven bailiffs and the stewards of Hutton and Westhoughton, in addition to the abbey steward, a post occupied by Thomas Stanley, Lord Monteagle, a receiver and a court steward. (fn. 71) The rent-roll of the house in 1535 was estimated at £145 5s. 11½d. and the total annual value of its temporalities at £182 8s. 8½d. (fn. 72) From spiritualities a revenue of £45 16s. 8d. accrued. The expenses were £70 11s. 4d., leaving a net income of £157 14s. 0½d. (fn. 73) But the commissioners of 1536 must have thought this estimate unduly low, for they raised it far higher than in the case of any other monastery they visited. (fn. 74) They put the net income at £282 7s. 7½d. The indebtedness of the house was £108 9s. 8d. Its bells and lead were worth £126 13s. 4d. and its movable goods £217 5s. 1d. (fn. 75)
In common with the other English houses of the order Cockersand was subject to visitation by the abbot-general of Prémontré or his commissary, and until the beginning of the fourteenth century its abbots were required to attend the annual general chapter held at the mother house and to pay their share of any tax imposed for the benefit of the order in general and Prémontré in particular. (fn. 76) It was placed in the northern of the three circuits (circariae) into which the English abbeys were divided for purposes of visitation and taxation. (fn. 77) The Statute of Carlisle, however, in 1307 forbade the payment of tallages to foreign houses, (fn. 78) and the English abbots demanded relief from the burden of annual attendance at Prémontré, (fn. 79) and its abbot's yearly visitations of their province. After a lengthy dispute, which was carried to Rome, Abbot Adam de Crecy in 1315 absolved the abbots from personal attendance at the general chapter, consented to reduce the burden of visitation and to limit the calls for contributions to necessary collections approved by their representatives at the chapter. (fn. 80) Henceforth the abbot of Prémontré seems to have executed his visitorial powers at longer intervals through a commissary who was one of the abbots themselves.
In 1496 Bishop Redman, abbot of Shap, who was then the abbot's visitor, informed the abbot of Cockersand that he intended to visit his monastery, arriving on 3 April if the tide served. He asked that someone should be sent to Lancaster the day before to provide lodgings for him and safe conduct inter maris. pericula to the abbey. (fn. 81) The visitor of 1506 spent a night at Kendal at the expense of Cockersand, and his visitation lasted two days. (fn. 82)
More frequent visitations were made by the local visitors in each circuit. (fn. 83) The abbot was expected to attend the provincial chapters of the order, which were usually held in some town in the Midlands. (fn. 84)
Abbots of Cockersand
Hugh (Garth) the Hermit, (fn. 85) said to have been
Master of the Hospital before 1184
Henry, (fn. 86) occurs as prior before and in 1190
Th[?omas], (fn. 87) occurs as ' Abbas de Marisco' between 1194 and 1199
Roger, (fn. 88) occurs as ' Abbas de Marisco,' and in 1205-6 as 'abbas de Kokersand '
Hereward, (fn. 89) occurs 1216 and May, 1235
Richard, (fn. 90) occurs 1240
Henry, (fn. 91) occurs 1246 and April, 1261
Adam de (? le) Blake, (fn. 92) occurs July, 1269, and 1278
Thomas, (fn. 93) occurs September, 1286 and 1288
Robert of Formby, (fn. 94) occurs 1289 and 10 September, 1290
Roger, (fn. 95) occurs 1300
Thomas, (fn. 96) occurs August, 1305, and 22 March, 1307
Roger, (fn. 97) occurs 1311 and 1331
William of Boston, (fn. 98) occurs 1334 and 10 October, 1340.
Robert of Carleton, (fn. 99) occurs July, 1347, died 20 March, 1354
Jordan of Bosedon, (fn. 100) elected 4 May, 1354, and occurs 30 November, 1364
Richard, (fn. 101) occurs 21 November, 1382
Thomas, (fn. 102) occurs 1386-7 and 1388-9
William Stamford, (fn. 103) occurs 1393
Thomas of Burgh, (fn. 104) occurs 1395 and 1403
Thomas Green, (fn. 105) elected 6 July, 1410, occurs 1436-7
Robert Egremont, (fn. 106) elected 1444, occurs 1474
William Lucas, (fn. 107) died 1477
William Bowland, (fn. 108) elected 1477, died 1490
John Preston, (fn. 109) elected 16 December, 1490, occurs 1500
James Skipton, (fn. 110) elected 20 December, 1502
Henry Stayning, (fn. 111) elected 7 October, 1505
John Croune, (fn. 112) elected 11 May, 1509
George Billington, (fn. 113) occurs 1520-1 and 27 September, 1522
John Bowland, (fn. 114) occurs 22 January, 1524, and 20 May, 1527
— Newsham (fn. 115)
Gilbert Ainsworth, (fn. 116) elected 25 March, 1531
Robert Kendal, (fn. 117) elected 16 October, 1531
Robert Poulton, (fn. 118) elected 27 May, 1533, surrendered 29 January, 1538-9
The common seal of the abbey is pointed oval and represents three niches one above another; in the upper one God the Father in the attitude of benediction, on each side a demi-angel swinging a censer; in the centre one the Virgin crowned with the Child on her left arm; in the lower one the abbot in prayer. (fn. 119) Legend:—
A seal of Abbot Henry (c. 1242-50) is attached to a deed among the Trafford muniments printed in the chartulary (p. 723). It is vesicashaped (1⅞ in.× 1⅛ in.), much rubbed and worn, apparently bearing the right fore-arm and hand of a canon outstretched, holding a crozier. Legend in Gothic characters hardly discernible:—