A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1975.
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28. THE PRIORY OF WOODBRIDGE
The small priory of Austin canons at Woodbridge, in honour of the Blessed Virgin, was founded about the year 1193, by Ernald Rufus. It was endowed at the outset with lands at Woodbridge and in the neighbourhood, and with the advowson of Woodbridge church, and to these were soon added the advowsons of Brandeston and St. Gregory, Ipswich. (fn. 1)
There were no appropriations to this priory at the time when the taxation roll of 1291 was drawn up, but the temporalities brought in an income of £23 11s. 8½d. This amount was chiefly derived from lands and rents in Woodbridge parish, namely, £12 10s. 10d., and the next largest item was £6 13s. 4d. from lands at Layer de la Hay, Essex. (fn. 2)
The Valor of 1535 showed a considerable increase. The prior and canons at that time held the rectory of Woodbridge (£8), whilst a portion of Brandeston Rectory produced £2 13s. 4d. The temporalities came chiefly from Woodbridge, Alnesbourn, Lyndeley, and Aspall. The total clear annual value of the priory was £50 3s. 5½d. (fn. 3)
The alliance of the small priory of Alnesbourn with that of Woodbridge, in 1466, has been previously described.
Licence was granted by Edward II, in 1318, to the prior and convent of Woodbridge to acquire in mortmain lands and rents to the value of 100s. a year. (fn. 4) But there was no ready response of benefactors to avail themselves of this licence. It is not until the year 1344 that we find a gift made under shelter of the licence of 1318, and then it was only land and rent, the gift of John de Brewon, clerk, to the value of two out of the hundred shillings that were sanctioned. (fn. 5)
Bishop Nykke personally visited Woodbridge priory on 2 August, 1514. The prior and one of the canons stated that all was well, but two other canons said that the prior was remiss in the collecting of rents to the detriment of the house. It was also reported that the manor house of Alnesbourn was in complete ruin, but not through the fault of the then prior. The bishop enjoined on the prior to be more particular and diligent in collecting rents due to the priory. (fn. 6)
At the visitation of the same bishop in 1532, William Lucham, sub-prior, deposed that the prior was remiss and a poor administrator; that the priory gates were not shut at proper times; that the house was in debt £10; and that they had neither corn nor barley in store for the next autumn. Canon Goodall stated that the south porch of the conventual church was in ruins on account of defects in the timber, and that the house was overburdened with the pension to ex-prior Coke. Canon Penderley, the curate of Woodbridge, said that there was not sufficient income to discharge the burdens and to do the repairs of the priory. Canon Pope considered that the prior had incurred too great expense in making a water-mill. Canon Daneby said that the priory suffered from penury and want, and that both house and mill were in bad repair, but that otherwise all was well, and in this Canon Houghton agreed. The bishop admonished the prior to use all diligence in repairing the defects and dilapidations of the priory. (fn. 7)
Henry Bassingborne, the prior, and six canons signed their acknowledgement of the royal supremacy on 21 August, 1534. (fn. 8)
The house was suppressed in February, 1536-7, and a pension was assigned to Prior Henry. (fn. 9) The rest of the canons went out unpensioned.
The site of the priory and its possessions were granted to Sir John Wingfield and Dorothy his wife.
Priors of Woodbridge
Ambrose, (fn. 10) occurs 1267
Thomas, (fn. 11) occurs 1286
Henry de Ocklee (Eccles), (fn. 12) 1305
John de Athelyngstone, (fn. 13) 1326
John Brundish, 1342
William Bast, 1345
John de Hadeley, (fn. 14) 1349
William Halton, 1349
Henry de Brom, (fn. 15) 1371
Thomas de Croston, (fn. 16) 1372, died 1394
William de Melton, (fn. 17) 1394
Thomas Parham, (fn. 18) 1432
Nicholas Foster, (fn. 19) occurs 1447-52
Thomas Pakkard, (fn. 20) 1467
John Hough alias Hadley, (fn. 21) 1493
Augustus Rivers, (fn. 22) 1507
Richard Bool, 1509
Thomas Cooke, (fn. 23) 1516
Henry Bassingborne, (fn. 24) 1530
The first seal of the priory, early fourteenth century, bears the crowned Virgin seated on a throne with a footboard, the Holy Child on the left knee, and a sceptre in the right hand. Legend:—
. . OMUNE: CAPITULI: ECC'E: DE: WODEBRE. . . . (fn. 25)
The later seal, fifteenth century, represents the Annunciation under a canopied niche. The Blessed Virgin and the Archangel Gabriel have a pot of lilies between them; a scroll from the latter bears 'Ave gracia ple.' In the base is a Latin cross on a shield. Legend:—
+ SIGILLU: COE: CAP'LI: BTE: MARIE: DE: WODEBREGGE (fn. 26)