A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.
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44. THE PRIORY OF HAVERHOLME
The Gilbertine priory of St. Mary, Haverholme, was founded as a double house in 1139 by Alexander, bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 1) In 1137 he had offered the site, a marshy island in the river near Sleaford, to the abbot of Fountains for a Cistercian abbey. (fn. 2) Abbot Gervase accepted it; two years were spent in erecting those monastic buildings which were absolutely needful, and on Candlemas Day, 1139, a band of monks was sent from Fountains to take possession. (fn. 3) The place displeased them, and the bishop gave them instead the site on which the house of Louth Park was built. Alexander then offered Haverholme to his former confessor, Gilbert of Sempringham, who had lived in his household for eight years. The number of nuns at Sempringham was increasing very rapidly, the Cistercian buildings were ready for them at Haverholme, and the bishop considered that there was sufficient arable and pasture land for their needs. (fn. 4) St. Gilbert sent nuns, lay sisters and lay brothers to Haverholme, but at first they suffered severely from poverty. In 1140 Simon Tushett 'had compassion on their good life, and fearing that they would lack the wherewithal to live,' granted them lands in Ashby. (fn. 5) Henry II, (fn. 6) Roger Mowbray, (fn. 7) and Roger de Lacy (fn. 8) were among their later benefactors.
St. Gilbert added canons to the community soon after his return from Citeaux, in 1148. (fn. 9) He afterwards limited the numbers in the house to 100 nuns and lay sisters, and 50 canons and lay brothers. (fn. 10)
In October, 1164, Thomas, archbishop of Canterbury, found shelter at Haverholme, among other houses of the Gilbertine order, when he fled abroad from the Council of Northampton. (fn. 11)
In 1254 the spiritualities of the house were assessed at £40, the temporalities at £100 11s. 10d. (fn. 12) Three years later Richard of Gravesend, bishop of Lincoln, held that the resources of the house were insufficient for the maintenance of guests and poor, and appropriated to the use of the convent the church of Sleaford (Vetus Lafford) and a moiety of Ruskington. (fn. 13) In 1291 the value of the temporalities had increased by over £18 a year, (fn. 14) and about the beginning of the fourteenth century the annual sales of wool amounted to 15 sacks. (fn. 15) At that time the revenues probably sufficed for the needs of the house; apparently no efforts were made to get a licence to appropriate lands in mortmain, money was not advanced by the Italian merchants, no special difficulty was experienced in the payment of the taxes.
In 1303 the prior held one knight's fee in Dorrington, seven-eighths of a fee in Ruskington, three-quarters in Hougham, a quarter in Brauncewell, a quarter in Wilsfold, one-sixth in Marton, one-sixth in Dorrington, one-tenth in Timberland, one-seventeenth in Booth by, four-fifths of half a fee in Wellingore, and seven-eighths of half a fee in Anwick. (fn. 16) Like other monasteries and townships, the prior was presented for neglect before the justices of sewers. In 9 Edward II complaint was made that the south side of the water from Happletreeness to Kyme was in decay, the prior was bound to repair a great part of it and refused. (fn. 17) It was also stated that he ought to provide a boat at the Bothe near the Wathe mouth, the public crossing from Kesteven, to carry over foot passengers by day and by night. (fn. 18)
The disturbed state of the country in the reign of Edward II and the earlier years of his son is notorious, and Haverholme Priory did not escape being embroiled with neighbours. In 1316 a commission of oyer and terminer was issued on the prior's complaint that certain men fished in his free fisheries at Iwardy, carried away his fish and other goods, and threw one of the canons into the water. (fn. 19) In 1327 John Bussy of Thistleton, knt., and Hugh Wysman of Agham and others broke into the prior's close at Marston by Hougham, carried away his goods, writings and muniments, and assaulted his servants. (fn. 20) Three years later certain men fished in his fisheries at Old Lafford and Haverholme, broke the banks between which the water flowed to his mills, and flooded 300 acres of his meadow land. They assaulted two of the canons, a lay-brother, and the prior's servant, imprisoned one canon until he made a fine of £10 for his release, and robbed the other of 40s. of the prior's money. (fn. 21) There is no record of any reprisals, but in 1330 the prior and two of the canons with the prior of Sempringham and others trespassed on a close at Evedon. (fn. 22)
The later history of the priory is quite obscure. Shortly before the dissolution there were many manuscripts but few printed books. (fn. 23)
In 1535 the clear value of the property was only £70 15s. 10½d. out of which the net income drawn from the rectories was £7 13s. 8d. (fn. 26) The demesne lands farmed by the prior's convent were worth £9 6s. 8d. a year.
In the hands of the crown bailiff, four years later, the property brought in £103 17s. 6½d., and included the rectories of Ruskington, Sleaford, and Anwick, lands in Ruskington, Anwick, and Dorrington, and four mills in Lincolnshire, lands and tenements in Staunton, Thorp, Thoroton, Shelton, and granges at Warborough and Staturn in Nottinghamshire. (fn. 27)
Priors of Haverholme
Richard, occurs 1164 (fn. 28)
Simon, occurs 1234 (fn. 29)
Odo, occurs 1255 (fn. 30)
William de Walden, occurs 1330 (fn. 31)
Robert Home, occurs 1522 (fn. 32)
Prioress of Haverholme
Margaret Woodhouse, occurs 1538 (fn. 35)
A seal, attached to a deed [1196-1203] (fn. 36) is a pointed oval, and represents the Virgin seated, with a crown, the Child between her knees, the right hand uplifted. (fn. 37) The legend is imperfect,
SIGILLVM SANT . . . RHOL . . .
The prior's seal of the thirteenth century (fn. 37) is a pointed oval, and represents the prior standing on a carved platform, lifting up his hands. The legend is
SIGILL' PRIORIS DE HAVERHOLME.