A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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18. THE PRIORY OF WROXTON
The priory of Wroxton was founded in honour of St. Mary (fn. 1) about 1217 by Magister Michael Belet. His father was Michael Belet, butler to Henry II, who in 1166 held four knights' fees; when Hervey the elder son died, Michael, who was a clerk and rector of Wroxton, succeeded to the inheritance. (fn. 2) In a deed preserved at Lincoln cathedral, (fn. 3) of 1216 or 1217, as we can tell by the witnesses, he promises the Bishop of Lincoln that without delay he will present to him a canon to be instituted prior of Wroxton; that this prior shall be permitted to choose at least twelve fit men, and admit them as canons; that they shall have free administration of all that has been granted to Wroxton; that if on this occasion he nominates the prior, on all subsequent occasions the canons shall be allowed liberty of election. On 9 January, 1218, the bishop confirmed to the canons of Wroxton the manor-house and grounds, and the advowson of the church; (fn. 4) and in September, 1219, he gave a wider confirmation to the prior and canons, and allowed them to appropriate the church, Michael Belet, the rector, retaining for life 'the possession in it which he holds.' (fn. 5) But we have evidence that the heirs of Michael Belet disapproved of his charity; for in March 1221 the Pope writes that—
A certain clerk M. has founded a religious house on his property with the consent of his brother, the next heir; but Walter de Verdun, who hoped to succeed to the property, disturbs the canons, who are at present only six. (fn. 6)
When we find that the patroness of Wroxton after the death of Michael Belet was Annora de Verdun, we can identify the unnamed house, which had recently been founded in 1221, with Wroxton.
The original endowments granted by the founder were the manors of Wroxton (Oxon.) and Thorpe Belet (Northamptonshire), the church of Wroxton with the chapel of Balscott, and the advowsons of Syston (Lincolnshire), and Ounesby (Aunsby, Lincolnshire). (fn. 7) Some twenty-five years later he added land in Syston to the value of £10 a year, from which, however, Godstow Abbey was to receive £2. (fn. 8) The income from these sources in 1291 reached about £54. In 1317 the canons obtained leave to acquire lands in mortmain up to £5, (fn. 9) and soon acquired the church of Syston, worth 66s. 8d., and a carucate of land in Syston worth 13s. 4d. (fn. 10) They had possessed the advowson of this church by the gift of their founder, but in 1270 it had been settled that they should have only every alternate presentation. (fn. 11) On 4 November, 1345, they petitioned the bishop to be allowed to appropriate the church of Syston, for so poor were they through the claims of hospitality that, unless some help were given them, they would be unable to maintain the original number of canons. (fn. 12) On 11 February, 1346 the licence of the king was given for this appropriation; (fn. 13) but the bishops' registers do not record that it was accomplished until 1390. (fn. 14) In 1340 John de Broughton gave the canons a rent of 13s. 4d. a year on condition that all the canons, when they said mass, should pray for the life and prosperity of himself and Margaret his wife, and after their death pray for their souls 'as is customary in the case of a brother or a sister of the said house.' This was confirmed in 1356 by Thomas his son, who bargained that every year, on 2 June, a canon should be sent to the church of Broughton to celebrate for the souls of his father, himself and Joan his wife. This was confirmed in 1457 by Joan widow of William Wykeham, William Fenys (Fiennes), lord 'de Say de Seele,' and Margaret his wife, heiress of William Wykeham. (fn. 15) At the bishop's visitation in 1445 the house contained a prior and eleven canons; and all was well. (fn. 16) In 1526 the gross income was £104; deductions, including £15 for repairs, £43; leaving a net income of £61. (fn. 17) In September, 1530, a visitation (fn. 18) was held by the chancellor of the diocese. The house contained eight canons, including the prior, and also three novices; and the answer of each was that all was well. In 1534 Thomas Smith and eight others subscribed to the supremacy. (fn. 19) In 1535 the net income, allowing nothing for repairs, was £79, and the next year the house was dissolved. Tregonwell reported in 1535 that 'the prior was a good husband but rude and unlearned, et qualis pater tales filii.' (fn. 20)
To judge from the silence of the bishop's registers, discipline was good at Wroxton, and the original number of canons was nearly retained to the very end.
Priors of Wroxton
Roger the first prior (fn. 21)
Geoffrey (fn. 22)
Richard, elected in 1232 (fn. 23)
Hugh, elected in 1243, (fn. 24) died 1263
William de Caldewelle, elected 1263, (fn. 25) deposed 1271
Nicholas de Cerney, elected 1271, (fn. 25) died 1272
William de Dayleford, elected 1272, (fn. 25)
(? Robert de Waufre, occurs 1280 (fn. 26) )
Richard de Deen, died 1305 (fn. 27)
Robert Faningho, elected 1305, died 1340
William de Abberbury, elected 1340, (fn. 28) died 1349
Thomas de la Grove, elected 1349 (fn. 29)
Richard, occurs 1410 (fn. 30)
John Abberbury, occurs 1445 (fn. 31)
William Braddenham, occurs 1490 (fn. 32)
Richard, occurs 1504 (fn. 33)
Richard, Randall, resigned 1510 (fn. 34)
Thomas Smith, elected 1510, (fn. 34) surrendered 1536
The seal of this priory is a pointed oval: the prior, seated, holding a book between three canons seated on each side. In a small niche overhead, with trefoiled arch, the Virgin seated, the Child on the left knee. In base, under a cusped arch with an arcade on each side (?) Michael Belet, the founder, three-quarters length, lifting up the right hand, in the left hand an uncertain object. (fn. 35) Legend:—
SIGILL' PRIORIS ET CONVENT[VS] ECCL' (?) SCE MARIE DE WROCSTĀ