A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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13. PRIORY OF HORNBY
This small house of regular canons was established in the second half of the twelfth century by the Montbegons of Hornby. The canons, it seems probable, were brought from the Premonstratensian house at Croxton in Leicestershire, of which the priory was certainly afterwards, and perhaps from the outset, a dependent cell. Croxton Abbey had been founded shortly before 1159 by William, earl of Warenne and count of Boulogne and Mortain, lord of the honour of Lancaster. Roger de Montbegon III (1172 ?-1226) 'gave to the canons of Hornebi in alms 100 acres of land in Hornebi,' (fn. 1) and he doubtless was the founder of the priory, though some have attributed its creation to his father Adam or his grandfather Roger II. (fn. 2)
The third Roger de Montbegon also granted to the priory the advowson of Melling church (fn. 3) and presumably that of Tunstall. The former had belonged to the Norman abbey of Sées as part of the endowment of its cell at Lancaster, but was transferred to Roger before 1210 in consideration of a yearly pension of 2s. from the church to Lancaster Priory and his renunciation of all claim upon the chapel of Gressingham, hitherto dependent upon Melling. (fn. 4) Roger dying without issue, his lands passed to his kinsman Henry de Monewden, who on 14 September, 1227, alienated the Lonsdale estates, including Hornby Castle and the advowsons of the priory and of Melling, to Hubert de Burgh and his wife Margaret. (fn. 5) The prior's failure to challenge the inclusion of the Melling advowson involved him nearly twenty years later (1246) in litigation with Hubert's widow over the right of presentation to the living. (fn. 6) Before the proceedings had gone very far Geoffrey, abbot of Croxton, intervened on the ground that the priory was a cell of his abbey and that he could remove the prior at his will, which the prior admitted to be the case. A compromise was ultimately arranged by which the Countess Margaret acknowledged Croxton's right to the advowson, but was allowed to present her clerk pro hac vice. A licence for the appropriation of the church was obtained by the abbey from Edward II on 20 May, 1310. (fn. 7) Tunstall church was appropriated and a vicarage ordained before 1230. (fn. 8)
Henry de Monewden's disposal of the advowson of the priory, and the absence of any mention of its subordination to Croxton before 1235, (fn. 9) have inspired a suggestion that it was originally independent and that Hubert de Burgh, who received a grant of the manor of Croxton in 1224, (fn. 10) first made it a dependent cell of the Leicestershire abbey. But this is only conjecture, and if the priory contained no more than three canons, including the prior—its later complement—it is scarcely likely to have been, independent.
From the middle of the thirteenth century, at all events, the dependent status of the priory is sufficiently clear. In 1292 the abbot of Croxton sued for lands in Wrayton ' ut jus hospitalis sui S. Wilfridi de Hornby,' (fn. 11) and a letter is extant from Abbot Thomas 'ad obedientiaries suos de Hornby' requiring better obedience to the prior appointed by him. (fn. 12) For above sixteen years prior to 1526 the then abbot of Croxton is recorded to have occupied not only the rectory but the vicarage of Tunstall, and in 1527 the vicars both of Melling and Tunstall were canons of Croxton. (fn. 13) In the Valor Ecclesiastieus of 1535 the possessions of the priory were assessed with those of the abbey. It is true that the prior of Hornby was sometimes present at the provincial chapter of the abbots of the order, (fn. 14) and that the priory was separately surrendered to Legh and Layton on 23 February, 1536, (fn. 15) by the prior William Halliday, whose morals they had called in question, (fn. 16) and the two canons, John Fletcher and Robert Derby. (fn. 17) But this was evidently cancelled and a new prior appointed, for the surrender of Croxton Abbey, made on the 8 September, 1538, was signed by John Consyll, prior, and John Fletcher and Thomas Edwinstowe, canons of Hornby. (fn. 18)
The site was granted in 1544 to Thomas Stanley, second Lord Monteagle, whose father had acquired Hornby Castle and its lands. (fn. 19)
The priory was dedicated to St. Wilfrid. (fn. 20) In 1292 its temporalities (bona) were taxed for tithe at £8 13s. 4d., reduced to £2 after the Scottish raids. (fn. 21) Its gross income in 1535 amounted to £94 7s. 8½d., of which £28 8s. 4½d. was derived from its temporalities and £66 6s. 8d. from spiritualities. (fn. 22) The fixed charges, £18 7s. 4d. in all, included a fee of £2 to the chief seneschal, Lord Monteagle, one of £1 6s. 8d. to Marmaduke Tunstall, seneschal of its lands in Lancashire, 13s. 4d. to the court steward, Thomas Croft, and £4 for alms to thirteen poor people 'by the foundation of Roger de Montbegbn.' (fn. 23)
Priors or Wardens of Hornby
Richard of Croxton, (fn. 24) occurs 1227
N ( ), (fn. 25) occurs 1230
Robert, (fn. 26) died 1246
Robert of Gaddesby, (fn. 27) appointed. 1379
Thomas Kellet (fn. 28) (Kelyt), occurs 1475
Thomas Wyther, (fn. 29) occurs 1482
Ellis Sherwood, (fn. 30) occurs 1484 and 1490
Edmund Green, (fn. 31) occurs 1497 and 1501
William Halliday, (fn. 32) occurs 1535, surrendered 1536
John Consyll, (fn. 33) surrendered 1538
The seal attached to the surrender of 1536 has been (doubtfully) supposed to be the common seal of the priory. Unfortunately it is much broken and none of the legend remains.