A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1967.
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8. THE PRIORY OF SOUTHWARK
The original name of this priory, St. Mary Overy, signified St. Mary over the river. Stowe recites a tradition, which he had from the lips of Linsted, the last prior, that, long before the Conquest, there was at Southwark a house of sisters endowed with the profits of a ferry across the Thames; but that afterwards it was converted into a college of priests who, in the place of the ferry, built the first wooden bridge over the Thames and kept it in repair. This tradition, however, is not supported by any known authority. Whatever may have been the nature of any earlier foundation on the same site, it was in the year 1106 that the order of regular or Austin canons was established at St. Mary's, Southwark. (fn. 1)
The founders or refounders at this date were William Pont d'Arch and William Dauncey, two Norman knights. It is said that Bishop Giffard lent them much assistance, and in 1107 built the nave of the church; hence he was sometimes termed the founder.
The principal grants that were made to the canons in the twelfth century were the church of St. Margaret, Southwark, by Henry I., lands at Banstead by Mansel de Mowbray; two weighs of cheese at 'Badleking' in the manor of Kingston Lisle in Berkshire; lands at 'Waleton' by Alexander Fitzgerald; 60 acres of land at 'Wadeland,' Foots Cray, by William de Warren; the tithe of his farm at Southwark, and confirmation of grant of a stone building which had belonged to William de Pont d'Arch, by King Stephen; the church of All Saints, Graveney, confirmed to them by Archbishop Lanfranc; and five city churches and many other advowsons from divers donors. (fn. 2)
On 11 July 1212 a terrible fire broke out on the Surrey side of the water, occasioning the loss of about 1,000 lives, in which the priory church, together with London bridge with its houses and chapels, were consumed. The conventual buildings were also all destroyed save the frater. (fn. 3)
In 1215, when the prior and canons had moved into their new house, having temporarily occupied the hospital of St. Thomas, an important agreement was made between Prior Martin and the archdeacon of Surrey, warden of the hospital, which is cited in the subsequent account of the hospital. The rebuilding after the fire was materially helped by the munificence of Peter de Roche, Bishop of Winchester, who also built a spacious chapel dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen, which afterwards became the parish church of that name, and the south aisle of the priory church. (fn. 4)
In 1244 Bishop William de Raleigh, having incurred the enmity of the king, dared not tarry in his episcopal house, which adjoined the priory, but took refuge with the canons, and thence escaped by boat down the Thames to France. (fn. 5)
On 15 February 1260 there was a great gathering in the priory church of Southwark, when Henry de Wengham was consecrated Bishop of London by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the presence of the Bishops of Worcester, Chester and Salisbury, and Richard, King of Germany. (fn. 6)
In the time of Prior Stephen the priory church was begun to be rebuilt. A thirty days' indulgence was granted in 1273 to all penitents who contributed to the fabric. (fn. 7)
In 1284 John Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury, visited the monastery, where it appears there was some friction among the brethren. On 21 May in that year he issued injunctions to the prior for the better order of the house. He commanded that no canon should on any account enter the city of London or the town of Southwark without another canon or lay brother, or eat or drink there unless with peers or prelates; that silence should be maintained in the church, choir, cloister and frater; that the sub-prior should not only study the dignity of religion, but also the bonds of charity, and should correct the faults of the brethren with due gentleness, especially in the absence of the prior; that the money of the house should be placed in the hands of two of the brethren, who should account for it to the prior. The archbishop inveighed particularly against 'the detestable crime' of any of the brethren holding property, and put any so doing under excommunication. He at the same time removed Hugh de Chaucumbe, the cellarer; William de Cristeshall, almoner and infirmarer; and Stephen, the chamberlain and sacrist, injoining that one canon should not hold the offices of almoner and infirmarer. (fn. 8)
The taxation roll of 1291 shows that the income then accruing from temporalities was considerable, viz. in Winchester diocese, £27 1s. 3d., of which above £22 was for rents in Southwark; in Chichester diocese, £2 1s. 4d.; in Rochester diocese, £8; in Lincoln diocese, £3 15s.; and in London diocese, rents out of no fewer than forty-seven parishes, amounting to £70 3s. 5½d. The only spiritualities entered are a pension of 13s. 4d. for the prior out of the rectory of St. Mildred's, Poultry, and 2s. for the canons out of the rectory of St. Bartholomew the Less.
From an ecclesiastical taxation of a later date, cited in the priory register, (fn. 9) it appears that the priory then held the rectories of Graveney, worth yearly 8 marks; Wendover, 42 marks; Stoke Poges, 18 marks; Reigate, 20 marks; Betchworth, 24 marks; Banstead, 20 marks; Mitcham, 20 marks; Addington, 12 marks; Newdigate, 12 marks; St. Margaret, 13 marks; St. Mary Magdalen, 6 marks; and Tooting, 40s. There were also pensions to the priory of 4s. from the church of St. Mary Magdalen, of 2s. from Newdigate, of 20s. from Woodmansterne, of 4s. from Tooting, of 5 marks from Swanscombe (Kent), and of 13s. 4d. from Leigh.
On the day of Sts. Philip and James 1304 the following nineteen were the professed of the priory: William Waleys, prior; Adam de London, fraterer; Henry de Kersalton, pittancer; Henry de Blockele; Peter de Cheynham, precentor; Ralph de London, cook; John de Gatton; Geoffrey de Wendover; John de Lechlade; Roger de Wynton, sub-prior; Roger de Reygate, cellarer (erased); Symon de Westminster; John de Cantuar; John de Northampton; John de Wynton, sub-cellarer; Robert de Kancia, cellarer; Robert de Wells; and John de Ardenere. (fn. 10)
In May 1313 the prior and convent of Southwark obtained licence for the appropriation in mortmain of the church of Newdigate, which was of their advowson. (fn. 11)
Henry de Cobham, keeper of certain of the late Templars' lands in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, was ordered in October 1313 to pay to the Bishop of Winchester the wages of 4d. a day assigned by the late Archbishop of Canterbury and the whole provincial council for the maintenance of Richard de Grafton, a Templar placed in the priory to do penance. (fn. 12) The priory had to maintain other pensioners: thus in April 1315 Peter, prior of Southwark, and his chapter granted to Thomas de Evesham, clerk of the king's chancery, in consideration of his good service to them, a yearly pension of 100s. for life out of their manor of Tadworth; (fn. 13) and in October 1319 Hugh de Windsor was sent to the priory for his maintenance, in consideration of his good service to Queen Isabel. (fn. 14) And again a grant was made by Edward III. in February 1344, at the request of Richard, Earl of Arundel, who would have to come to London very often to treat of various matters for the king, that he should lodge in the priory, and have the use of suitable houses (chambers) there for him and his household during the king's pleasure. (fn. 15)
Pardon was granted to the priory and convent of Southwark in 1314 for having acquired in mortmain, without the late king's licence, various shops and messuages in Southwark, and lands in Mitcham, Chelsham and Kidbrook; (fn. 16) and in January 1332 a like pardon was granted them for entering without licence from the king's progenitors into six marks of rent in London, bequeathed to them by Sabina, late the wife of Philip le Taillour, citizen of London, for daily celebration for the souls of Philip and Sabina.
The Bishops of Winchester not infrequently used the priory church. For instance, Bishop Sandale held ordinations there in 1316, 1317 and 1318; (fn. 18) on 10 March 1352 John Sheppey was consecrated Bishop of Rochester in this church. (fn. 19)
The priory was again burnt or severely damaged by fire in the reign of Richard II. Considerable repairs and rebuilding were at once undertaken. (fn. 20) The work must have been accomplished by the beginning of the year 1390, for on 7 February Bishop Wykeham commissioned his suffragan, Simon, Bishop of Achonry, to reconcile the conventual church of St. Mary Overy and the annexed church of St. Mary Magdalen, and to dedicate the altars and graveyard. (fn. 21) To this work John Gower, the poet, is said to have been a liberal contributor. Bishop Wykeham again on 12 February 1391, obtained the services of John, Bishop of Sodor, to reconcile the church of St. Mary Overy, the adjoining parish church of St. Mary Magdalen, and St. Mary's chapel in the conventual farmery, and their respective graveyards, after pollution by bloodshed. (fn. 22) The nature of the affray or accident is not known.
The bishop gave notice on 7 January 1395 of his intention to visit the priory on the Wednesday after the conversion of St. Paul (fn. 23) and in June 1397 he commissioned John Elmere, the official, William Stude, an advocate of the Court of Arches, and John de Ware, to visit it. (fn. 24) The result of this latter visitation was that the newly appointed prior, Kyngeston, was found to be suffering from so serious an infirmity as to be incapable of ruling his house, and that the discipline had in consequence become very lax. The custody of the house was therefore committed to the sub-prior and John Stacy, another of the canons, with full power of punishing excesses and delinquencies. They were to call to their aid, if necessary, William Stude and John Ware, the bishop's visiting commissioners. No canon was to leave the house except for some grave cause and with a special letter from the two custodians, under pain of imprisonment. The sub-prior was enjoined to have an account of rents received during the last four years made up for audit: and the bishop also put forth several other practical injunctions for the due management of the temporalities. (fn. 25)
In March 1398 Prior Weston was licensed by the bishop to let benefices appropriated to the priory, with a proviso that none of the buildings belonging to these rectories were to be used as taverns or for any illicit or dishonourable trades that might bring discredit on the church. In the following month the bishop visited the priory. (fn. 26) In February 1399 Prior Weston was admonished by Bishop Wykeham not to alienate the endowments of the house. (fn. 27)
By his will dated 15 August 1408 the poet Gower left his body to be buried in the priory church; 40s. to the prior; 13s. 4d. to each priest-canon; 6s. 8d. to each canon in his novitiate; to each valet within the gates 2s., and to each serving boy 12d. For the service of the altar of the chapel of St. John, where he was to be buried, he left two full sets of vestments, one of 'blew' baudkyn mixed with white colour, and the other of white silk; one large missal and a new chalice. (fn. 28)
In 1406 the marriage of Edmund Holland, Earl of Kent, with Lucy, daughter of the Duke of Milan, who brought her husband a dower of 100,000 ducats, was celebrated in the parish church. Stowe records another wedding in this church of some importance in February 1424, when James I., King of Scotland, after a captivity of eighteen years, was released and married Lady Joan Somerset, daughter of the Duchess of Clarence by her first husband, John, Earl of Somerset.
In the ninth year of the rule of Henry Werkeworth, in the year 1424, there was hanging in the tower of the priory a ring of seven bells. The first, called Augustine, weighed 38 cwt. 7 lb.; the second, Mary, 27 cwt. 3 qr. 13 lb.; the third, Stephen, 19 cwt. 3 qr. 7 lb.; the fourth, Ave Maria, 15 cwt. 9 lb.; the fifth, Laurence, 13 cwt. 7 lb.; the sixth, Vincent, 7 cwt. 21 lb.; and the seventh, Nicholas, 5½ cwt. 9 lb. But in that year Prior Henry caused the bells to be increased in weight and number so as to form a ring of eight bells, which were hung in the newly constructed tower of the priory church on the vigil of St. Bartholomew's Day, 1424. The first bell, called Trinity; the second, Mary; the third, Augustine; the fourth, Laurence; the fifth, Gabriel; the sixth, All Saints; the seventh, John the Evangelist; and the eighth, Christopher. (fn. 29)
On the death of Prior Henry Werkworth in January 1452, the usual brief was sent forth from the convent inviting the prayers of those of other religious houses for the rest of his soul. A copy of this document, wherein the highest praise is given to the late prior—vir industrie laudabilis—is extant among the Peck. MSS. (fn. 30)
John Bottisham, the prior, who resigned in 1462, was granted a pension of twenty marks, in addition to his maintenance at the prior's table; also board and cloth for a gown for his servant. The ex-prior was further assigned a suitable chamber in the priory with a fire-place and wood for 300 fires; also six quarters of charcoal, and nine dozen pounds of tallow candles.
In 1469 the middle roof of the nave fell in; it was repaired with woodwork, as also was the roof of the north transept. (fn. 31)
A grant was made by Edward IV. to Southwark priory in 1475 of the advowson and appropriation of the parish church of West Tilbury, Essex, on condition of the convent promising to celebrate daily within their church a mass of St. Erasmus the Martyr, in which the priest should pray for the soul of the king's father, Richard, Duke of York, and for the good estate of the king and his consort Elizabeth, and for Edward Prince of Wales, and the king's other children, and for their souls after death. (fn. 32)
Dr. Thomas Hede, commissary of the prior of Canterbury, visited the priory on 6 May 1501, during the vacancy of the sees of Winchester and Canterbury. Prior Michell reported favourably of the spiritual condition of the house, but he stated that there was a debt of £190 when he entered on his office, and that the debt did not now exceed £100, and that there were no valuables pledged. The seal was kept in the sacristy under four keys, the respective custody of which was in the hands of the prior, sub-prior, sacrist, and precentor. He had not ordered a balance sheet for that year, but was prepared to do so when requested. Richard Hayward, sub-prior, testified that silence was duly observed at the proper times and places; and that the debt of the house was the fault of the predecessor of the then present prior. William Kemp, sacrist, Richard Holand, precentor, canons John Hale, Thomas Archer, John Corcar, Richard London, William Godwyn, Thomas Eustache, Humphrey Furnor, and William Major, acolyte, were content to report omne bene. William Walter, acolyte, said that he had been professed for six years and was two years ago ordained acolyte, but that he had not been presented for further orders. John Hall, acolyte, 21 years of age, said he had been professed for seven years, and was ordained acolyte four years ago. (fn. 33)
An important chapter of the canons regular of St. Austin was held in their chapter house, Leicester, on Monday, 16 June 1518, when 170 joined in the procession, of whom 36 were prelati or heads of houses. As night came on they adjourned till Tuesday morning at seven, and when they again assembled the prior of Southwark, with every outward demonstration of trouble and sorrow, appealed for a stricter and verbal observance of their rule. His manner and address excited much stir, but he was replied to by many, particularly by the prior of Merton. On the first day of this chapter a letter had been read from Cardinal Wolsey observing with regret that so few men of that religion applied themselves to study. On Wednesday, the concluding day of the chapter, Henry VIII. and his then queen were received into the order. (fn. 34)
'On November 11th of this year there was a great procession by command of the king, at which were the canons of this church, with their crosses, candlesticks, and vergers before them, all singing the litany.' (fn. 35)
Prior Bartholomew Linsted and the convent 'surrendered' on 27 October 1539. The prior obtained a pension of £100, two of the monks £8 each, and nine monks £6 each. A note to the pension list, which was signed by Cromwell, stated that the prior was to have a house within the close where Dr. Mychell was dwelling. (fn. 36)
Priors of Southwark
Aldgod, (fn. 37) 1106; died 1131
William Wallys, (fn. 38) 1284. This prior is said to have ruled for 23 years
Peter de Cheyham, 1306. (fn. 41) This prior is said to have ruled 28 years
Thomas de Southwark, elected 1327 (fn. 42); resigned 1331
John Kyngeston, elected 1395 (fn. 43); died 1397
Robert Weston, elected 1398 (fn. 44); died 1414
John Bottisham, elected 1453; resigned 1462 (fn. 45)
Richard Brigges, collated 1486 (fn. 46); died 1491
John Reculver, elected 1491 (fn. 47); 1499
The pointed oval seal (fn. 48) of the eleventh century represents a king standing, with crown having loose straps ending in trefoils as in the great seal of William II.; in the hands is an inscribed scroll (illegible). Legend: SIGILLUM SBĒ MARIE SVDWERKENSIS ECCL'IE.
Of the second seal (fn. 49) of the twelfth century there are only imperfect impressions.
Obverse: The Blessed Virgin on a throne, with Holy Child on left knee, and a fleur de lis in right hand; within a pointed oval inscribed: AVE: MARIA: GRACIA: PLENA: DRI: TECUM: BENEDICTA. Legend: SIG . . . . . E : SAN . . . . . ERCHA.
The third seal, (fn. 50) used by Prior Henry Collingbourne in 1375, and by Prior Robert Weston in 1414, is pointed oval, and has canopied niches, within which are the crowned Virgin and Child, St. John Baptist with Agnus Dei, and St. John the Evangelist with eagle. In the base is the prior kneeling. The legend is destroyed.
Of a seal ad causas, (fn. 51) used in 1383, there is only an imperfect impression, of which the lower half is wanting. It is a pointed oval, and represents the Annunciation. Legend: . . . . GILL . BE . . . . . . . K. AD : CAUSAS.
A seal used by Prior Henry Werkworth in 1422, bears the crowned seated Virgin and Holy Child. The impression is imperfect. (fn. 52)