A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1910.
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10. THE PRIORY OF WORKSOP
The priory of Worksop for Austin Canons, according to an old chronicle cited by Dugdale, was first founded, probably after a humble fashion, by William de Lovetot in the year 1103. (fn. 1)
The fuller endowment charter of Worksop Priory is in the hands of Colonel Henry Mellish of Hodsock Priory. (fn. 2) By this charter, of the reign of Henry I, c. 1130, William de Lovetot, with the assent of his wife Emma and of his sons (Richard and Nigel) granted to God and the Holy Church and to the canons of St. Cuthbert of Worksop all the chapel furniture (capellaria) of his house, with the tithes and oblations; the church of Worksop, where the canons were, with lands and tithes and all that pertained to the church; the fish-pond and mill and meadow near the church; the whole tithe of his customary rents, both in Normandy and England; a carucate of land in Worksop field, ad inwara(m), (fn. 3) and his meadow at 'Cathale'; all his churches of the honour of Blyth, namely, those of Gringley, Misterton, Walkeringham, Normanton, Car Colston, Willoughby, Wysall, and portion of the church of Treswell, with all tithes, lands, and possessions belonging to these churches; the tithes of his pannage, honey, venison, fish, and fowl; and the tithes of malt and of his mills, and of all his possessions from which tithe was wont or ought to be given.
This charter was confirmed by his eldest son Richard de Lovetot, who also added valuable grants of his own, including half the church of Clarborough; two bovates of land in Hardwick Grange, near Clumber, ad utwara(m); (fn. 4) the whole site of the town of Worksop near the church, inclosed by a great ditch as far as Bracebridge meadow; also without the ditch, a mill, mansion, and Buselin's meadow; other moist lands on the north by the water; and from the water by the road under the gallows towards the south, marked out by crosses set up by himself and his son; a mill with fish-stew at Manton; and all Sloswick. By the same charter Richard also confirmed grants by his mother Emma of a mill at Bolam, an oxgang at Shireoaks, various other lands at Hayton, Rampton, Normanton, and Tuxford, and the church and two oxgangs at Car Colston. He further granted to the canons the privileges of feeding as many pigs as they possessed in Rumwood, and of having two wagons for the collecting of all the dry wood they required in the park of Worksop. Finally he confirmed the grant of land in Thorpe by Walter and Roger de Haier. The date of this long and important charter is about 1160. The charter itself was laid on the altar of the priory church by Richard de Lovetot and his son William. (fn. 5)
Richard's wife Cecilia gave, as her gift to the priory, the church of 'Dinsley,' Yorkshire, (fn. 6) (Over or Low Dinsdale).
These various grants to the priory were confirmed in 1161 by Alexander III, in a bull giving the canons the privileges of exemption from tithes, presentation to their churches, burial rights for all persons save the excommunicate, and leave to celebrate mass at a time of general interdict in a low voice with closed doors and silenced bells. (fn. 7)
The third great benefactor was William de Lovetot, the son of Richard and Cecilia. On the day of his father's funeral he gave to God, St. Mary, St. Cuthbert, and the canons of Radford (fn. 8) or Worksop, the tithes of all the rents he then had or ever should have on this side of the sea or beyond it. He died in 1181, his wife Maud daughter of Walter Fitz Robert being but twenty-four years of age, and leaving a daughter of the same name, aged seven, as heiress. This great heiress was eventually given in marriage to Gerard de Furnival, who joined the Crusades and died at Jerusalem in 1219. Gerard slightly increased the grants to the priory, allowing the canons the privilege of pasturing forty cattle in Worksop Park between Easter and Michaelmas. (fn. 9) His widow Maud, who survived him several years, granted a full charter of confirmation in the year 1249 with one or two small additions, such as a wood in Welham and further property in Gringley. (fn. 10)
Thomas de Furnival, the eldest son of Gerard and Maud, was slain in Palestine in the lifetime of his mother; his son Gerard gave the third part of his mills at Bradfield to the priory. This Gerard died childless, and was succeeded by his brother Thomas. (fn. 11)
The Prior of Worksop in 1269 brought an action against Thomas de Furnival because there had been so much waste, sale, and destruction of timber in Worksop Park that there was not a sufficiency of dry wood for his two wagons according to old covenant. (fn. 12)
It would seem, however, that peace was quickly made between the litigants, for in the following year, when Thomas de Furnival obtained licence to build a castle on his manor of Sheffield, he agreed with the canons of Worksop to provide him with two chaplains and a clerk at his castle, to whom he engaged to pay 5 marks a year. (fn. 13)
The Quo Warranto Rolls of the beginning of the reign of Edward I show that the Prior of Worksop had no difficulty in establishing the freedom of his men from tolls, passage, pontage, and all manor of customs before juries of the counties of Nottingham, York, and Derby, by the production of a charter of Henry I granting them these exemptions throughout the whole of England. He also maintained his rights to free warren on the Nottinghamshire manors of Walkeringham, Hardwick, and Shireoaks, and on the Derbyshire manor of Brampton; as well as to the amercement of his own tenants at Worksop for breaking the assize of bread and ale. (fn. 14)
The Taxation Roll of 1291 yields a total of £71 6s. 8d. as the income of Worksop Priory, namely £40 for temporalities, all within the county; £10 out of Sheffield rectory; the appropriated churches of Normanton £12, and of Burton £8; and pensions from the churches of Car Colston 6s. 8d., and Willoughby 20s. (fn. 15)
The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1534 sets forth the annual value of the temporalities in the counties of Nottingham, York, Derby, and Lincoln, as £156 8s.; whilst the appropriated Nottinghamshire churches of Worksop, Walkeringham, Gringley, Sutton, Normanton, Burton, Osberton, Car Colston, Willoughby, Wysall, and Screveton, with pensions from the Derbyshire church of Clowne, the Lincolnshire church of Rushton, and the Yorkshire church of Wickersley, together with a third part of the rectory of Sheffield (£5 6s. 8d.), yielded £145 18s. 10d. This gave a total value of £302 6s. 10d. But the clear value was reduced to £239 15s. 5d. There were various pensions paid to York for appropriations. The obligatory alms also involved a considerable annual charge. The distribution to the poor at Christmas in commemoration of William Lovetot the founder was on an unusually large scale, costing in wheat and rye bread and in beer £9 16s. 4d. The prior's dish of meat given every day cost £3 a year, and the Lady dish another £3; whilst the canons' dish, which had been given every day in the chapter-house since the foundation of the priory, cost £4 a year. Other gifts in kind, as the obits of priors and benefactors came round, cost £5; and there were also 'two pyes of the pytaunce gevven in almes to poore people, vs.' (fn. 16)
There are various entries pertinent to this priory in the earlier episcopal registers of York. In 1227 a contention arose as to the church or chapel of Osberton between the Prior and Convent of Worksop and Robert son of William. An inquisition was held by the Archdeacon of Nottingham, whereupon Archbishop Gray declared that it had been made plain that the church of Osberton was a chapel of Worksop and belonged to the priory there, although it had been alienated for some time, and he therefore allowed them to convert it to their own uses for the support of the poor, after the death of the clerk who then held it. (fn. 17)
The prior and canons in 1234 obtained the archbishop's sanction to appropriate to their own uses, especially in the exercise of hospitality, the church of West Burton, of which they had the advowson. (fn. 18)
In 1276 Alan de London, one of the canons of Worksop, was instituted to the vicarage of the church of Worksop by Archbishop Giffard, on the presentation of the prior and convent of the same; Alan swore obedience only to the archbishop. (fn. 19)
Archbishop Wickwane visited Worksop Priory on 26 May 1280, with the result that the following injunctions were subsequently issued: The prior was not to permit the holding of any private property, and to forbid all going outside the gates of the priory save for some inevitable and necessary cause. All lockers of the canons were to be opened four times a year and oftener if there was any cause, anything found therein to be applied to the common use of the monastery; the canons were not to go out alone, when there was necessity for leaving the house; idle canons lingering without cause in the farmery were to be treated as paupers and otherwise punished; two canons in particular, Robert de Sancto Botulfo and Peter de Retford, were to be removed from the farmery and to consort with the convent; Adam de Rotherham, the late cellarer, to stay in the cloister and do penance; the sick to be kindly treated; all sinister and unfitting speech forbidden; no canon or brother to eat and drink with any outside guest, unless the prior was present; silence to be strictly observed according to rule; alms not to be wasted; the entertaining of costly and useless guests forbidden; William Selliman, a rebellious and quarrelsome canon, and William de Grave and Henry de Marcham, two lay brothers, accused of incontinence, to be punished. These rules were to be read in chapter once a month. (fn. 20)
John de Tykill, Prior of Worksop, had three canons of his monastery deputed by the archbishop in 1311 to act as his coadjutors. At the visitation of 1313 he was found guilty of incontinence and maladministration, and was removed. (fn. 21)
An inspeximus and confirmation charter of 1316 recites, inter alia, a grant of Henry III in 1268 to the priory to take two cart-loads daily of heather in Sherwood Forest, not to exceed the annual value of 60s., in consideration of the loss sustained in their wood of Grove, which Edward the king's eldest son had caused to be felled in the time of trouble in the realm to make engines and other necessaries to invade the Isle of Axholme, then resisting the king. (fn. 22) The cart-loads were only to be taken in two places, namely in Rumwood and 'Cuthesland.' At the same time the appropriation of the church of Sutton on Trent, originally granted in 1302, was confirmed. (fn. 23)
In 1316 licence was granted for the appropriation of the church of Car Colston. (fn. 24)
Edward I had granted the Prior and Convent of Worksop 60 acres in the east part of his wood of Rumwood at a rental of 10s., and to inclose and bring it into cultivation if they thought fit. But in 1335 they complained to Edward III that after they had inclosed it Ralph de Nevill and his fellow justices of the forest took the whole site into the king's hands on a presentment by the forest ministers, alleging that they had inclosed more than the 60 acres, and demanding a further rental of 2s. 2d. for an additional 13 acres. The king, willing to show the canons a special favour, in return for the manifold charges they had frequently incurred when he visited their priory, granted them the whole space they had inclosed free of all rent for ever. (fn. 25)
In 1338 there was an inspeximus and confirmation of the charter to the priory executed by Thomas de Furnival III, the great man of that great family, who was summoned as a baron to Parliament from 1294 till his death in 1332. Almost the only addition that this baron made to the grants of his ancestors was that he gave permission to the convent to have free ingress and egress to his park to look after the forty cattle of the priory feeding there between Easter and Michaelmas. (fn. 26)
In 1384 the priory paid the heavy sum of £40 to William de Nevill, keeper of the king's manor house of Clipston in Sherwood Forest, for its repair, in return for which they obtained the Crown licence to appropriate the church of Willoughby. (fn. 27)
In the following year 25 marks were paid to the king by the priory to secure the alienation to them of five messuages and a moiety of three more messuages in East Retford, the joint gift of Richard de Rawclyf, rector of Clowne, William de Burgh, rector of Babworth, and Peter Cook, chaplain, towards finding a chaplain to celebrate daily in the priory for their good estate and for their souls after death. (fn. 28)
This priory was subjected in 1536 to a visit from the notorious commissioners, Legh and Layton. They affected to have discovered four canons guilty of unnatural sin; one desired release from his vows. The annual income was declared to be £240 and the debts 200 marks. (fn. 29)
Sir John Hercy, writing to Cromwell on 31 October 1538, remarked that 'the prior and convent of Worksop are so covetous, they sell flocks of sheep, kye, corn, woods, etc.' (fn. 30) And who can blame them? They clearly foresaw their overthrow. On 15 November of the same year came the surrender of the priory with sixteen signatures. We give the names of those who signed, adding the amount of pensions they obtained on 25 March 1539; (fn. 31) all the four accused by Legh and Layton obtained their pensions.
The four canons to whose names an asterisk is prefixed are those so foully branded in the Comperta.
In November 1541 Henry VIII granted the priory of Worksop and divers parcels of demesne lands, &c., to Francis, fifth Earl of Shrewsbury, in exchange for the manor of Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire. (fn. 32)
There is in the British Museum a cast from a damaged impression of the seal of Henry, prior temp. John. It is a pointed oval, and bears the prior standing on a platform, lifting the right hand in benediction, and holding in the left a scroll inscribed . . . CIA DEI. The legend is:—
. . . . . HENRICI . PRIORIS . DE . WIR . . . . .
Priors of Worksop
William de Huntingdon, first prior (fn. 33)
William, 1180 (fn. 34)
Stephen, c. 1196 (fn. 35)
Henry, 1200 (fn. 36)
Walter, occurs c. 1230 (fn. 37)
Robert de Pikebow, 1260 (fn. 38)
J., occurs 1267 (fn. 39)
Alan de London, resigned 1300 (fn. 40)
John de Tykill, 1303, also occurs 1311 and 1313 (fn. 41)
Robert de Carlton, 1313 (fn. 42)
John, 1396 (fn. 43)
Roger de Upton, died 1404 (fn. 44)
John de Leghton, 1404 (fn. 45)
Charles Flemmyng, occurs 1458, resigned 1463 (fn. 46)
William Acworth, 1463 (fn. 47)
Robert Ward, occurs 1486, died 1518 (fn. 48)
Robert Gateford, 1518 (fn. 49)
Nicholas Storth, 1522 (fn. 50)
Thomas Stokkes, occurs 1535 (fn. 51)