A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.
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13. THE PRIORY OF STONE
The priory of Stone was founded in an existing church dedicated to St. Wulfad. The identity of the saint is uncertain. The Historia Fundationis (fn. 1) claims him as a son of Wulfhere, King of Mercia (657-74), and states that, with his brother Ruffinus, he was converted to Christianity by St. Chad and martyred by his father; remorse for this act is said to have led to King Wulfhere's own conversion by St. Chad and to his foundation of a monastery at Stone. This legend, however, cannot be accepted. Wulfhere was already a Christian when he became king, (fn. 2) and the story on which it is probably based is set by Bede in another part of the country over ten years after Wulfhere's death. (fn. 3)
It is possible that the regular canons at Stone were preceded by another religious community. Domesday Book records the gift of a carucate of land in Walton (in Stone) made by Achil, a freeman, to his sister; it has been suggested that this was a gift to some small community of nuns, possibly a hermitage. (fn. 4) The only corroborative evidence, however, is provided by some late-medieval verses:
. . . two nunns and one preest lived in this place
The which were slayne by one Enysan . . .
This Enysan slue the nuns and priest alsoe,
Because his sister should have this church thoe. (fn. 5)
Although the value of these verses as evidence for an early religious community is slight, they may preserve a confused tradition of the circumstances in which the Austin priory was founded at Stone. Enisan was Enisan de Walton, the son of the Ernald who held Walton under Robert de Stafford in 1086, but it is Enisan's son, another Ernald, who appears in the Pipe Roll of 1129-30 as owing a fine of 10 silver marks for 'the men whom he killed'. (fn. 6) It was perhaps the need to raise this sum that led to the sale to Geoffrey de Clinton of the property on which Stone Priory was founded. (fn. 7) Soon after his foundation of Kenilworth Priory (about 1125) Clinton acquired the church of Stone from Enisan de Walton and, with the assent of Enisan's superior lord, Nicholas de Stafford, conveyed it to the canons at Kenilworth. (fn. 8) In a deed of about 1131 Enisan and Ernald II confirmed the church to Kenilworth Priory and added to it land in Stone and Walton; at the same time they confirmed the sale to Kenilworth of other land in Walton by Enisan's daughter and her husband. (fn. 9) In return Clinton gave 50s. and a palfrey worth 20s. to Ernald and a grey cloak and a palfrey to Enisan. (fn. 10) These gifts were confirmed by Nicholas de Stafford and his heir, Robert, (fn. 11) but were the subject of some litigation in the king's court. (fn. 12) They were subsequently confirmed again by Ernald de Walton. (fn. 13)
The first mention of a daughter-house of Kenilworth at Stone (fn. 14) is in a charter of 1138-47 by which Robert de Stafford II granted 'to the church of Stone and the canons serving God there' considerable spiritual and temporal property. (fn. 15) It is possible that this is in fact the foundation charter of Stone Priory; Robert was the overlord of much property which Geoffrey de Clinton secured for his foundation at Kenilworth, (fn. 16) and after the death of the powerful Clinton he may well have wished to see a daughter-house set up in the church where his father, Nicholas, had been buried. Robert's charter stresses his relationship to the priory as 'brother and patron of the same church of Stone' and expresses his desire to be buried there. The patronage remained in the Stafford family. (fn. 17) Robert gave to the canons by this charter 'my chapel' of Stafford, (fn. 18) the churches of Madeley, (fn. 19) Tysoe (Warws.), and Wolford (Warws.), a mill at Wootton Wawen (Warws.), a villein at Stafford castle with his holding, and a tithe of 'all my hunting'. Other gifts made by Robert included half of the church of Wootton Wawen, a villein, Godfrey of Ullenhall, with his holding, part of the wood at Ullenhall (in Wootton Wawen) and the manor of Horton. (fn. 20)
Spiritual endowments accumulated fairly quickly thereafter but involved the priory in considerable litigation. The church of Milwich was given by Nicholas de Milwich; this gift was confirmed by his overlord, Robert de Stafford, between 1138 and 1147, (fn. 21) though the title was not finally secured until 1233. (fn. 22) About 1155 Walter de Caverswall, with the consent of his overlord, Robert de Stafford, gave the canons his half share of the church of Stokeupon-Trent. By the early 1220s the Earl of Chester, who then held the other half, was claiming the priory's share also; he asserted that it had been wrongfully alienated by Walter. (fn. 23) In 1223 the priory surrendered its share to the earl in return for 2 virgates of land in Seabridge (in Stoke parish). (fn. 24) The priory early claimed Swynnerton church, and their claim was long resisted by the two clerks there. About 1157, however, with the assent of the lord of Swynnerton, the two clerks conceded that the church was subject as a parochial chapel to Stone Priory (fn. 25) and that it should provide the priory, as 'mother-church', with an annual pension of 2s. (fn. 26) Nothing was said about the advowson of the church in this agreement. The canons evidently claimed it and succeeded in exercising the right when, during John's reign, the lord of Swynnerton was outlawed. (fn. 27) In 1218, however, Kenilworth Priory recognized the lord of Swynnerton's claim to the advowson in return for a pension of 2 marks to be paid to Stone by the parson of Swynnerton. (fn. 28) Ruald de Dilhorne gave the church of Dilhorne to the canons, and his grant was confirmed by Robert de Stafford and Bishop Richard Peche (1161-82). (fn. 29) The priory also acquired a claim to the church of Bradley, perhaps by a grant of the Stafford family; together with the church of Dilhorne it was confirmed to the priory by Pope Alexander III (1159-81). (fn. 30) Bradley church, however, involved the canons in considerable litigation as it was claimed as appurtenant to the church of Gnosall. Although this contention was abandoned about 1165, the priory had to agree to share equally with the Chapter of Lichfield (fn. 31) all the revenues of Bradley church except the tithes on the lordship of Bradley and those belonging to St. Nicholas's Chapel within Stafford castle. By 1223, however, both Stone Priory and the Chapter of Lichfield had lost the church of Bradley to the Stafford family. (fn. 32) In 1196 the priory was accused of disseising Basile de Loxley of the church of Loxley (Warws.), but the prior successfully delayed proceedings by pleading his subjection to Kenilworth. (fn. 33) Soon afterwards the priory's title had confirmed by a final concord. (fn. 34) Kenilworth was some right in the church of Checkley but surrendered it to Alice de Hopton in 1196 in return for a rent of 20s. and the tithes of Normacot; (fn. 35) Stone Priory established its title to these tithes in 1238. (fn. 36)
The priory was granted quittance of all synodal customs for its churches by Bishop Clinton (112948), and by Bishop Peche (1161-82) all the liberties which the abbeys of Burton and Rocester possessed in their parishes. (fn. 37) Occasional glimpses are afforded of the relations between the canons and their parishes. Landowners who desired to have private chapels or services had to secure the permission of the priory. About 1200 the canons granted to Eleanor de Verdon permission to maintain a chapel in her house at Kibblestone (in Stone parish). (fn. 38) In 1226, when Hervey de Stafford fell ill at Tysoe, the canons permitted him to have private services in his chamber there from Christmas to Epiphany taken by Brother Peter, one of their number; it was, however, stipulated that this was not to be a precedent for worship there. (fn. 39) To what extent the canons served their parish churches themselves or by secular vicars is uncertain. In 1259, however, a papal indult, after noting that the church of Stone was a parish church and conventual and had hitherto been served by the religious and two secular priests appointed by them, allowed that the canons should not be compelled to institute a vicarage there. (fn. 40)
The temporal possessions of the house did not increase greatly in the course of the 12th century, though Henry II's confirmation shows a few additions to its original endowment. (fn. 41) The canons never owned much land outside Stone and Walton but did acquire small properties in Darlaston, Stokeby-Stone, and Stallington (all in Stone parish). (fn. 42) Some property was also acquired at Coppenhall (in Penkridge parish) (fn. 43) and Tysoe. (fn. 44)
Privileges and gifts from the Crown helped to augment the priory's resources during the 13th century. In 1251 the canons purchased a charter granting them a market at Stone on Tuesdays, a yearly fair there on the eve, feast, and morrow of St. Wulfad (23-25 July), and free warren in their demesne lands in Stone and Stallington provided these were not within the royal forest. (fn. 45) In 1266 the king ordered 12 timber oaks to be sent to the priory from Cannock Forest. In 1282 he granted the canons a buck from the forest. (fn. 46)
During the Barons' Wars of Henry III's later years the priory seems both to have suffered from, and to have taken advantage of, the disturbed state of the country. Early in 1263 royalist forces under William la Zouche, Justiciar of Chester, and David, brother of Llewelyn, Prince of Wales, took the town of Stafford and Chartley castle. As they returned they burnt the town of Stone, plundered the priory, and destroyed its muniments. (fn. 47) In 1265 the Abbot of Hulton impleaded the Prior of Stone and others for impounding 300 of his sheep at Stallington, ill-treating his shepherd, and seizing his growing corn; it was reported that the sheriff had been prevented by the war from distraining the prior to appear. (fn. 48) At this time also the cellarer of the priory and others were accused of theft from the house of Adam de Arderne when he was 'in prison for the king and Edward his son'. (fn. 49)
From an early date Stone was evidently semi-independent of the mother-house, in fact if not in theory, and was not, like Calwich (another cell of Kenilworth), a place where a keeper presided for short periods over a handful of brethren. (fn. 50) Though the parish church of Stone was evidently a wealthy one, the decisive factor in the growth of the priory was probably its adoption as the family monastery by the barons of Stafford. As a result of this Stone was not destined to remain one of those small houses of Austin canons which were characteristic of the order in England. Whether or not the original establishment of a cell at Stone had been due to Robert de Stafford II, (fn. 51) it is evident that his successors considered that they had a claim to the advowson of the priory. After litigation over the priory between Robert de Stafford IV and the Prior of Kenilworth in 1242 and 1243, Robert remitted this claim in return for 40 acres of land in Stafford. (fn. 52) In 1259, when the Prior of Stone died during a vacancy in the mother-house, the king confirmed the right of the Prior of Kenilworth to appoint (ordinare) the Prior of Stone, saving royal rights when Kenilworth was vacant. (fn. 53)
Daughter-houses of regular canons, however, normally attained their independence in the long run, and Stone became independent of Kenilworth in the later 13th century. In 1260 an agreement between the priories of Kenilworth and Stone stated that the latter was to be 'free from all subjection to the prior and convent of Kenilworth'. The agreement, however, reserved and defined the rights of prior and canons of Kenilworth as patrons of Stone Priory. During a vacancy at Stone the custody of the priory was to be exercised by one of the canons or servants of Kenilworth; the canons of Stone were to obtain licence to elect a new prior from the Prior of Kenilworth and two canons of Kenilworth were to be present at the election. The Prior of Stone, if he had been professed at Kenilworth, was to be present at the election of a prior of Kenilworth and was to have a place in the chapter and choir. Apart from the rights of patronage the Prior of Kenilworth reserved only the right to hospitality at Stone for himself and a train of ten horses during a two-day visit each year. The Prior of Stone was to be free to receive and profess canons and to dispose of the possessions of the priory. Copies of all the charters of Kenilworth which related to Stone were to be delivered under the seals of the bishop and the Prior of Kenilworth, and when necessary the originals were to be produced. (fn. 54) By an indenture of 1292 (fn. 55) a division of the property of the two priories was made. Kenilworth released to its daughter-house all its right in the priory and church of Stone with its chapels, lands, tithes, and other appurtenances. The churches of Madeley and Milwich, the chapel of St. Nicholas in Stafford castle, half the church of Stoke-upon-Trent, (fn. 56) the Warwickshire churches of Wolford (with its chapel) (fn. 57) and Tysoe, and the tithes of Barton (fn. 58) were all confirmed to Stone, but the church of Loxley was retained by Kenilworth. Stone was also confirmed in its possession of temporal estates in Stone parish (fn. 59) and at Coppenhall, Fradswell (Colwich parish), 'Herdewick' (probably Hardiwick in Sandon parish), and Stafford. Outside the county Stone retained temporalities at Tysoe, Wootton Wawen, Ullenhall, and Weston-under-Wetherley (Warws.). (fn. 60) Kenilworth, as well as retaining Loxley church, expressly reserved the patronage of Stone Priory and an annual pension of 12½ marks out of the revenues of the daughter-house. (fn. 61) Despite these reservations the agreement probably marks the effective independence of Stone. The priory's title to certain estates which had belonged to the great-grandson of Enisan de Walton was further strengthened in the following year (1293) by a final concord between the prior and Roger de Pyuelsdon and his wife Joan, heiress of the Walton family. (fn. 62)
Stone Priory was assessed at 2 marks for the aid of 1235-6 but was probably wealthier than Trentham which was assessed at the same amount. (fn. 63) None of the other Augustinian houses of Staffordshire approached this figure. (fn. 64) The Taxatio of 1291 shows that Stone Priory was worth £79 6s. 10d. Temporal possessions were worth £10 6s. 10d. and all were within Stone parish except the property at Seabridge (in Stoke parish). (fn. 65) Spiritual possessions were worth much more: Stone church was valued at £40, Tysoe church at £20, (fn. 66) and Milwich church at £5 6s. 8d. Pensions of £2, £1, and 13s. 4d. were received from the churches of Swynnerton, Checkley, and Madeley respectively. (fn. 67) At the quo warranto inquiry of 1293 (fn. 68) the Prior of Stone claimed free warren in all the priory's demesne lands of Stone, Stoke-byStone, and Stallington, and the weekly market and yearly fair at Stone. For these liberties he produced the charter of Henry III granted in 1251. (fn. 69) The prior also claimed the right of gallows on the authority of a charter of Henry I, (fn. 70) which he produced. This confirmed the possessions of Kenilworth Priory which were to be held 'whole, quiet and free . . . with soc, sac, toll and team, and infangentheof'. The Prior of Stone claimed that his house, a cell of Kenilworth, was entitled to enjoy these rights in its possessions, and the jury agreed that the prior and his predecessors had always enjoyed them since the time of the charter.
The priory was evidently in some financial difficulty in the late 13th century. In 1273 it owed 16 marks to Thomas de Basinges, citizen of London, (fn. 71) in 1294 £12 to William of Doncaster, (fn. 72) and in 1305 £24 to Ralph de Hengham. (fn. 73) It is possible that these debts were unpaid corrodies; there is, at any rate, plenty of evidence that the priory was defaulting on the payment of corrodies at this time. In 1281 Maffeo Spinelli sued the prior for the arrears of an annual rent' of 2 marks due to him from the priory; the arrears amounted to 27 marks, but Spinelli remitted his claim to these arrears and to the rent in return for a payment of 30 marks. (fn. 74) In 1288 Thomas de Melewych remitted his claim to a corrody from the priory in return for a payment of 18 marks. (fn. 75) In 1294 William, son of Robert de Cotes, sued the prior for disseising him of a corrody at Stone which consisted daily of a loaf of bread, a gallon of ale, broth (pottagium), and the same ration of food as a canon received; two candles each night during November, December, and January; and each year four cartloads of wood, a robe worth 1 mark, and sustenance for a horse and groom on three nights. William's plea was successful; he was awarded 30s. damages (fn. 76) and was presumably reinstated in his corrody. The priory's general obligation to provide hospitality was also found onerous; the canons alleged that the location of the priory on a main highway caused a heavy burden of hospitality and on this account, in 1343, they were allowed by the bishop and the king to appropriate the church of Madeley. (fn. 77) The king, however, exacted as well as conferred favours. In 1315 the priory was burdened with the maintenance for life of William de Blakelowe, a soldier who had been maimed at the recent siege of Carlisle. (fn. 78) In 1339 wool belonging to the priory worth 22½ marks was pre-empted by agents of the Crown in return for a promise of repayment the following year. (fn. 79)
In 1312 the priory was granted a general licence to acquire lands and rents to the annual value of £20 'on account of the devotion which the king bears to St. Wulfad whose body rests in the church of the priory of Stone'. (fn. 80) Acquisitions by the priory in respect of this licence, however, seem to have been few: in 1326 the priory was allowed to acquire 10 messuages in Stone (fn. 81) and in 1335 a messuage, land, and rent in Fulford and Meaford worth 26s. 2d. (fn. 82) The last acquisition under the licence was in 1402 when the canons were granted permission to acquire messuages, rent, and land worth £4 6s. 8d. (fn. 83) The value of the lands acquired under this licence was thus only a nominal £20; in reality they were worth little more than £5. (fn. 84) In 1366 the Pope granted an indulgence for penitents who visited the priory and helped to keep it in repair. (fn. 85)
The history of the priory in the 15th century is better documented than might be expected. When in 1439 the priory of Christ Church, Aldgate, fell on evil days, the Prior of Stone was one of three Augustinian priors who, with the Abbot of Leicester, president of the order, were appointed to keep the house and its revenues for two years. (fn. 86) In 1446 the Pope allowed the priory to serve the church of Stone by one or two canons because 'for the most part secular priests are hard to find and it is not distant from the said monastery'. (fn. 87)
During the priorate of Thomas Wyse grave dissension between the prior and canons led to litigation at Canterbury and Rome and to a visitation of Stone by the heads of four neighbouring Augustinian houses. (fn. 88) It appears that Prior Wyse had encountered disobedience and hostility from his canons as a result of certain disputes about the canons' salaries and their plots in the conventual garden. In the absence of regular discipline petty disputes were doubtless magnified; the prior reacted harshly and the community was divided by 'schisms . . . insults, hard and unjust words . . . prolonged malice and wickedness'. Matters came to a head when three canons brought the disputes into the archbishop's Court of Audience. The Auditor of Causes made 'a number of injunctions and rules' for the welfare and government of the priory and compelled Prior Wyse to swear to observe them. Wyse, however, did not do so and was excommunicated by the auditor. The prior then appealed to Rome, and in the summer of 1450 the sentence of excommunication was conditionally lifted. Bishop Booth and Prior Holygreve of Kenilworth (fn. 89) were ordered to exact a promise from Wyse that, if the sentence were found to be just, he would obey their mandates; they were then to call before them the canons and others who were involved and to settle all the matters in dispute. The quarrels were not, however, settled in this way. Early in December 1450 the abbots of Darley (Derb.) and Lilleshall (Salop.) and the priors of Arbury (Warws.) and Ranton visited the priory 'by the express wish, mandate and authority' of Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham, and the bishop. This change of plan may have been due to the initiative of Buckingham, the patron, for the visiting abbots and priors in their injunctions several times stressed the obligations of the community to lay society and in particular to the founders and benefactors of the priory. (fn. 90)
As the quarrels within the community had given rise to 'scandals and slanders offensive to God and man, and also to great expenses and losses', the visitors applied themselves to the reform of both the spiritual and the temporal government of the priory. Their detailed regulations were designed both to reform specific abuses (fn. 91) and to re-establish proper observance of the Augustinian rule generally; they thus give a clear picture of the spiritual state of the community at Stone before 1450 and of the day-today routine in a small Augustinian house at this time. It is clear that the common life of the community had largely broken down. This was a not uncommon feature of late-medieval monastic life, (fn. 92) and at Stone the symptoms were much the same as elsewhere: the choir and cloister were neglected, the canons associated too freely with secular persons, the refectory was no longer used for meals, and drinking and gossiping after compline were usual. (fn. 93) The visiting superiors noted all these faults and made regulations against them, but they showed no inclination to analyse the deeper causes of this crisis beyond attributing a part in it to the Devil. (fn. 94)
At Stone as elsewhere the breakdown of the common religious life seems to have been due in large part to the obedientiary and wage systems; these were, however, unaffected, or even strengthened, by the injunctions of 1450. The worst effects of the obedientiary system were the inroads which it made into the service of the choir and cloister. At Stone the visitors provided against these by enjoining the prior and cellarer to be personally present at matins, vespers, and mass each Sunday and solemn feast day and by ordering all canons in priest's orders to celebrate mass daily. In essentials, however, the obedientiary system was confirmed: officials were to be appointed and under the prior's supervision were to employ revenues assigned to them. One common effect of the obedientiary system — the uncertain distribution of the common revenues (fn. 95) — had perhaps been made worse at Stone by Prior Wyse's attempts to interfere with the canon's salaries; this had evidently been a principal cause of the crisis. Under the new regulations each canon was to receive an annual salary of £1 13s. 4d. for his clothing and necessities. (fn. 96) In addition the canons were to have such gifts, legacies, and offerings as were made for the burial of the dead, (fn. 97) while the epistoler and gospeller on the major feasts were to receive rewards of a penny. Though the wage system with its encouragement of possessiveness thus remained, some of its worst manifestations at Stone were checked by the visitors. In their settlement of the disputes between the prior and canons over the conventual garden the visitors ordered that it was to be held in common and that plots there were to be assigned each year to the canons; the profits of cultivation, however, were no longer to be applied to private purposes but to the common uses of the priory. Similarly the profits from bee-keeping in the garden and cemetery were no longer to be privately retained but were assigned to the sacrist's revenues.
Other regulations concerning the secular affairs of the priory were designed to ensure that its business was conducted with unanimity. The officers were to be appointed on the advice of the community and were all, including the prior, to render annual accounts. The common seal was to be kept under three locks, the keys being held by the prior, subprior, and sacrist; no corrodies were to be granted, the goods of the house were not to be alienated, and farms were to be granted under the common seal only after due deliberation in chapter. The canons' shaving and the laundering of their clothes were to be paid for out of the common revenues, and the canons were strictly forbidden to employ private laundresses.
It seems clear that the visiting superiors were above all concerned to raise the standard of regular observance, and to this end they made a number of provisions which illuminate in some detail the daily routine of the small community. The canons were to live in 'charity, peace and concord' and to show reverent obedience to the prior at all times, and the prior was urged to be modest and kind to his brethren. Silence was to be strictly observed in the choir, cloister, and dormitory, as laid down in the liber ordinis. After compline all the canons were to go together to the dormitory where each in his own cell was to prepare himself for rest by prayer and meditation 'so that the canons who must rise in the middle of the night (fn. 98) are more disposed to pay due worship to God'. Attendance at the monastic offices was to be improved and canons who missed matins were to be punished by fines and penitential diets. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays the community was to have an hour of recreation before vespers; instead of remaining in the cloister for study and contemplation the canons were to go into the orchard within the monastery precincts; here they could stroll about, read, or play suitable games. All canons were to avoid suspect places and persons, and no secular person was to be admitted to their dormitory or even to their recreation. No canon was to leave the precincts without the prior's special permission.
The most detailed regulations were those concerned with the meals and diet of the canons. Friday and Saturday were the chief days of abstinence, but food was also to be less on Monday and Wednesday unless an important feast occurred. Meals were to be eaten in common in the prior's hall until the refectory had been repaired 'for where there is a community of religious without a refectory . . . religion is not well served'. Eating and drinking in the dormitory cells, which had evidently been usual, was forbidden, and only the infirm or those invited to the prior's table were to eat apart from the community. For infirm canons there had been no proper provision for some years, and the visitors ordered an infirmary to be built and an infirmarer appointed without delay.
The visitors' injunctions were ratified early in 1451 by the Duke of Buckingham as patron, by Bishop Booth, and by Archbishop Stafford. (fn. 99) Under the Augustinian rule they were clearly designed to be the basis of the priory's daily life. To what extent they improved the observance of religion there is not known. At many points — as for example the system of fines for being absent from choir and rewards for singing the Epistle and Gospel — they seem to reinforce a mercenary view of the religious life. At others they seem to allow for little zeal on the part of the brethren for whom they were drawn up; thus the infirmarer is urged to attend conscientiously to the needs of the sick, 'reflecting that a similar thing may happen to him in the same way, and therefore let him do for another what he would wish to have done for himself'. (fn. 100) The orderly life envisaged by these regulations was evidently hard to attain in the turbulent conditions of the 15th century. In 1458 the suffragan bishop was commissioned to bless and reconcile the priory church, which had been polluted by bloodshed. (fn. 101) In 1472 the prior was ordered to pay £6 damages for his part in disseising Richard Whalley of the manor of Darlaston; (fn. 102) later in the same year the prior was imprisoned by the sheriff. (fn. 103) The following year the prior sued a miller of Walton for breaking into his close at Aston and depasturing cattle there; he also sued a John Heywood for 6½ marks. (fn. 104) In 1484 a John Bilstone was sued for stealing 190 sheep worth £20 from the priory. (fn. 105)
The community (including the prior) numbered six in 1377 and 10 in 1381. (fn. 106) A visitation of 1518 (fn. 107) shows that there were then six canons and two novices; this number was considered by the visitor to be too low. The prior expressed his desire to increase the number of brethren but alleged that the other canons were unwilling for this to be done. In 1521 (fn. 108) there were eight canons and two novices. At this period the officials were the subprior, sacrist, and cellarer. (fn. 109) In 1521 the novices stated that there was no one to teach them Latin except the sacrist. (fn. 110)
The visitations of 1518 and 1521 (fn. 111) reveal that the house was troubled by hostility between the prior and subprior. The main cause of dispute was the presence in the monastery of one Onyon, a glover, and his family, who were evidently protégés of the prior. In 1518 the subprior stated that Onyon's wife and daughters lived at the top of the bell-tower and were maintained out of the goods of the house. In 1521 he claimed to have been attacked and threatened by Onyon and his son and insulted by one of his daughters; (fn. 112) he added that the wife and a daughter were a source of scandal. (fn. 113) Other members of the community, however, supported the prior and the Onyon family; one of them stated that the subprior was a drunkard and much given to hunting.
At the visitation of 1518 the prior claimed that during his period of office he had increased the value of the priory's goods and livestock to 1,000 marks. In 1518 and 1521 the house was free from debt, and in the latter year the prior stated that the annual income was 360 marks. (fn. 114) Neither the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 nor the account of the Crown's minister in 1537 suggests an income of this size. It is, however, possible that the prior's figure includes some estimate of the annual income from fines for granting leases of the priory property. The Valor gives the total gross income as £130 2s. 11d. a year. (fn. 115) Temporal possessions were stated to produce £54 12s. 11d., the major part deriving from the manor of Stone (£27 13s. 2d.) and property at Stallington (£16). Various payments reduced this to £50 19s. 6d.; these included a fee of £1 6s 8d. a year to Sir Edward Aston, chief steward of the priory's temporalities, and a fee of the same amount to Geoffrey Walkeden, bailiff of Stone. Spiritual possessions produced £75 10s. of which the church of Stone produced £40 (principally from tithe) and the church of Tysoe £24 (from glebe and tithe). The annual pension of £9 to Kenilworth Priory and other payments reduced this to £59 15s. 5⅓d. (fn. 116) The gross annual value of the priory property as listed in 1537 after it had passed to the Crown was £199 19s. 1½d. The spiritual endowments, worth £87 0s. 8d. a year, consisted of the appropriated churches of Stone, Tysoe, Madeley, and Milwich and pensions from the churches of Swynnerton and Checkley. The temporal endowments, worth £112 18s. 5½d. a year, consisted of the manor of Stone and lands and rents in Aston, Darlaston, Stoke-by-Stone, Burston (in Stone), Oulton, 'Doreslowe', Hilderstone (in Stone), Meaford, Walton, Stallington, Stafford, Coppenhall, and Seabridge. (fn. 117)
The last prior, William Smyth, seems to have been optimistic about the fate of his house, although Stone came within the terms of the Act of 1536 for dissolving the lesser monasteries. (fn. 118) Smyth had bought some timber from the bishop who, apparently seeing the shape of things to come, delayed delivery, whereupon the prior wrote anxiously in February 1537: 'If I have not the said timber, I know not where to be provided for my great work now in hand'. (fn. 119) In March Lord Stafford wrote to Cromwell that the royal commissioners were expected the following Sunday but that 'the Prior of Stone thinks his house shall stand, whereof the country is glad'. Lord Stafford had been trying to secure a grant of the priory's land but now asked for Ranton instead. (fn. 120)
The house was evidently suppressed in the spring of this year, the prior receiving a pension of £20. (fn. 121) He seems to have mortgaged 'a shrine of silver gilt', (fn. 122) perhaps to raise money to avert the suppression of the house; chattels of the priory, which were said to have been embezzled, included four standing cups and two 'salts' of silver. (fn. 123) Lord Stafford transferred the alabaster tombs of his family from the priory to the Austin friary at Stafford, (fn. 124) but in vain since that house too was dissolved the year after Stone. The site of Stone Priory was bought in 1538 by William Crompton, citizen and mercer of London. (fn. 125)
Little remains of the priory buildings. Part of a sub-vault of the western range is incorporated in the cellars of the house called The Priory. (fn. 126) To the east of it are some slight remains, possibly of the chapter-house.
Ralph, occurs before 1147. (fn. 127)
Roger, occurs 1162 and some time between 1174 and 1176. (fn. 128)
Sylvester, occurs 1194 and 1196. (fn. 129)
Richard, occurs before 1198 and in 1203. (fn. 130)
Reynold, occurs 1227. (fn. 131)
Gilbert, elected Abbot of Haughmond 1241. (fn. 132)
Humphrey, occurs 1245-6. (fn. 133)
Roger of Worcester, occurs 1260 and 1288. (fn. 134)
John Tiney, occurs 1292 and 1294. (fn. 135)
Thomas of Milwich, died by March 1309. (fn. 136)
John de Attelberge, elected 1309, died 1327. (fn. 137)
John of Stallington, elected 1327, probably died 1349. (fn. 138)
Walter of Podmore, elected 1349, died 1391. (fn. 139)
William Madeley, elected 1391, died 1402. (fn. 140)
Ralph of Stamford, elected 1402, resigned 1423. (fn. 141)
Thomas Holygreve, B.Cn.L., elected 1423, elected Prior of Kenilworth 1439. (fn. 142)
Thomas Wyse, elected 1439, occurs 1473. (fn. 143)
Robert Wyse, occurs 1477, resigned 1493. (fn. 144)
Thomas Fort, or Ford, M.A., Bishop of Achonry, elected 1493, elected Prior of Huntingdon 1496. (fn. 145)
William Duddesbury, died by March 1507. (fn. 146)
Richard Dodicote, elected 1507, died 1524. (fn. 147)
William Smyth, occurs 1529, prior at the dissolution in 1537. (fn. 148)
The seal of the house in use in the 13th century is a pointed oval 2½ by 1½ in. and shows the Virgin crowned and seated with the Child on her left knee and holding a flower in her right hand. (fn. 149)
SIGILLUM ECCLESIE SANCTE MARIE ET SANCTI W . . . [M]ARTIRIS DE STANIS