A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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13. THE PRIORY OF BARLYNCH
The priory of St. Nicholas was in the parish of Brompton Regis, which in the 12th century had come into the possession of William de Say. From him it passed, through his daughter Matilda, into the hands of the Ferrers family. It claims William de Say as its founder, and his daughter Matilda endowed it with the advowson of the church of Brompton Regis. The authority for its origin is to be found in a confirmation by Henry III in 1256, which is recited in a confirmation of the priory endowment by Edward III in 1339. (fn. 1) Our earliest notice is to be found in the acts of Bishop Reginald (1174–91) creating the prebends of Holcombe, White Lackington, Timberscombe, in the cathedral church of Wells. (fn. 2) These gifts are witnessed among others by Walter, Prior of 'Berliz' or Barlynch.
In 1236 the priory benefited to the extent of 3 marks under the will of Hugh of Wells, Bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 3)
About 1260 (fn. 4) Isolda, Abbess of Godstow, conveyed to the canons as of the benefaction of Canon Lolinton some land at Morebath, and John Comyn increased the grant. Robert Brunell sold them the manor of Morebath, and Reginald de Moion gave them the manor and church of 'Marinaley' or 'Marrynaleigh' (Mariansleigh) in Devonshire, and Warin de Bassingborn gave them the advowson of Morebath.
In 1268 (fn. 5) Robert the prior and his brother canons engaged to pay to the dean and chapter 100s. yearly towards the stipend of a chaplain to pray for the soul of Canon Hugh de Rumenal. The executors of Canon Hugh had provided 200 marks for the canons, and with that they had procured the advowson of Winsford and 100s. a year in rents.
In 1273 (fn. 6) Robert the prior bound himself and the canons to pay 26 marks yearly to the communar in return for 520 marks advanced by the bishop, the dean and chapter and the executor of John de Bruton to the priory, with which they had purchased the manor of Morebath. This was again confirmed in 1277.
In 1276 (fn. 7) the priory's right to exercise manorial rights in the manor of 'Bromland' was contested by Matthew de Beril and his wife, Elizabeth; the prior claimed that his predecessor had enjoyed these rights, but he yielded to Matthew, only reserving the patronage of the parish church.
Soon after we find the dean and chapter of Wells allocating the 25 marks yearly paid by the Prior and canons of Barlynch towards the payment of a priest and the equipment of a chantry for John de Button, William, his brother, and William, his nephew, the two latter being the two bishops of that name. (fn. 8)
In the Taxatio of 1291 (fn. 9) the prior is said to own the lands and rents at Morebath and 'Marmelegh' in Devonshire, a pension of 40s. a year out of the vicarage of Brompton, and 10s. rent from Winsford and from the parish of Stogumber.
In 1329 (fn. 10) Hugh, the prior, pleaded age and illness as a reason for resigning his office, and desired Bishop Drokensford speedily to grant a licence to the convent to elect a successor lest the goods of the impoverished house should be wasted.
In 1381 (fn. 11) licence was given to John Waskham (fn. 12) to alienate the glebe of Bradford, and give it and the advowson of Bradford Church to the prior and convent of Barlynch. This was again confirmed in the following year. (fn. 13)
In 1478 (fn. 14) William Hampney, the prior, and the convent of Barlynch received a grant of two yearly fairs at Bury, a hamlet of Brompton, a mile south of Barlynch, where formerly the Besils had a court-house on the eastern side of the Exe, together with a court of pie powder and all issues.
In 1532 (fn. 15) James Hadley of Withycombe in his will left 20s. to the Prior and convent of Barlynch, and also a bequest to his brother, Sir William, at Barlynch.
In 1535 (fn. 16) the Valor gives the endowment of the monastery as worth £98 14s. 8d.
The following letter (fn. 17) from Dr. Tregonwell to Cromwell was written after he had visited the priory, while on his way into Devonshire. He had authority to accept the surrender of the smaller monasteries, and it is possible that his choice of the sub-prior to take the place of the prior may have been designed for the purpose of furthering surrender from a man more easy to move than John Norman.
My moaste bounden dewtye to youre masterchype premysed, Pleasithe the same to be aduertysede, that at this my beying at Barlyche in Somersetschere (a house of chanons of thordre of Seynt Augustyne) I percue that the prior of that howse will be and ys contentyde to resygne his rome and offyce of priorschipe of the same, soo that his supprior namede Syr John Barwyke may suceyde hym yn that rome. The same Barwyke ys (of trowthe) moaste apt and meate for that rome of any wt yn that monasterye, bothe of dyscreacyon and also of undrestondyng. And althoghe hit hathe pleasede you to geve me authorytye by youre commysson to receue resygnacyons and to dyrecte and ordre electyons of all Abbottes and priors beying wt yn the lymettes of youre sayde commyssyon, yet wtowte youre speciall pleasure to me knowen I wyll attempte nothing concernyng the same. Besechyng youre mastreschipe that hit maye stande wt youre pleasure to sygnyfye unto me (by youre wretyng) yo commawndemente co cernyng the same howse off Barlyche. The landys therof ys cll yerly, the howse ys yn dette lxll, and yn some rewen and dekey. This daye I ryde to Barnastaple and soo yn to thother partyes of Devonschere. As knowithe oure lorde godde whoo preserue your mastreschipe. from Barlyche the IX daye of Novembre.
The ordynarye wolde have electyde the sayde Barwyke to be prior yff my comyng hether hadd not byn, for the howse ys not of the kynges fowndacyon. Mr. phetyplace of beselles lyghe ys ther founder I have showyde the partyes that all this matter lyeth yn yor mastreschipes hond and therfor y have advised them to make sewet to you for thopteynyng of ther purpose.
In July 1537 (fn. 18) John Berwick, the prior, seems to have been assigned a pension of 20 marks, but in Cardinal Pole's pension list (1553) (fn. 19) an annuity of 60s. is entered as due to Edmund Gregory, and nothing is said about Berwick, who probably in the meantime died.
A priory in so remote and thinly populated a district and so slenderly endowed could never have supported any considerable number of canons. The largest number recorded was nine, who in 1524 united to request Dr. Thomas Bennet, commissary of Cardinal Wolsey, to nominate a prior for them, at the time when John Norman was chosen.
In 1456 there were seven canons, but in 1492, when Robert Wynde ceased to be prior, there were only three canons. Nothing is known of the ordinary life of the house, and no visitation returns are extant. Thomas Thornbury in 1461 was suspended for neglect in keeping the house in proper repair, and in 1492 Robert Wynde is spoken of in the election of his successor as deprived and at the same time as having made a free resignation, both statements probably being correct, the deprivation preceding the formal resignation. In place of Robert Wynde the three canons who were present united to elect Thomas Birde, a canon of Taunton, as their prior. (fn. 20) Robert Williamson, a notary apostolic, was called in to preach the sermon, and John Brodrybbe, rector of Skilgate, and John Edyngton, vicar of Dulverton, were the formal witnesses. The selection of Thomas Birde required the consent of the Prior of Taunton, and on this being given he succeeded Wynde in the management of the affairs of the house. Thirty-two years afterwards, as an old man, he resigned the office of prior, and received a pension of £6 13s. 4d. and food allowance, and the best chamber in the priory after that of the priors.
In the pension list (fn. 21) of the canons of Taunton a Thomas Matthewe appears, and it is possible that this may have been the Thomas Matthewe of Barlynch who took part in the election of Birde.
Priors of Barlynch
Walter, temp. Bishop Reginald (1174–91) (fn. 22)
John, occurs 1243 (fn. 23)
Robert, occurs 1263, 1277 (fn. 24)
Umfray, occurs 1288 (fn. 25)
Hugh Price, resigned 1321 (fn. 26)
Humphrey de Umbiri, resigned 1347 (fn. 27)
Symon Pile, elected 1347 (fn. 28)
William Wroxhale, occurs 1387 (fn. 29)
John de Taunton, occurs 1390 (fn. 30)
John Porter, died 1430 (fn. 31)
Thomas Bury, elected 1430 (fn. 32)
Thomas Thornbury, elected 1457 (fn. 33)
William Hampne, 1478 (fn. 34)
John Chester, died 1488 (fn. 35)
Robert Wynde, elected 1488 (fn. 36)
Thomas Birde, elected 1492 (fn. 37)
John Norman, appointed 1524 (fn. 38)
John Berwick or Barwyke, last prior, appointed 1535 (fn. 39)