A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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HOUSES OF AUGUSTINIAN CANONS
9. THE PRIORY OF HARDHAM (fn. 1)
The origin of the priory of St. Cross (fn. 2) of Hardham, sometimes called Heringham, is unknown, but it was clearly in existence by about the middle of the thirteenth century, as in 1263 Milane 'la Recluse,' of Steyning, brought an action against the prior to recover certain lands given to the canons by Amfrid de Feringes, who appears to have formerly made her an allowance from the issues of the same. (fn. 3) Although defeated in this suit she again brought a similar action, with equal lack of success, in 1278. (fn. 4) As the church of St. George of Hardham, which had been given to the priory of Lewes by Joscelin, nephew of the castellan of Arundel, (fn. 5) was confirmed to the canons by William, prior of Lewes, (fn. 6) it seems probable that the house was founded after 1248, in which year William Russhelin became prior of Lewes. The original endowment is also unknown, but must have been slight, as in 1291 the temporalities of the priory amounted to only £6 18s. 6d. (fn. 7)
In 1316 William Paynel granted to the canons his manor of Cokeham in Sompting, 32 acres of land in Lancing, and a ferry at New Shoreham, on condition that they should support four secular chaplains to celebrate daily in their church for the souls of himself and the king. (fn. 8) This arrangement was found to work very badly, and in 1332 Maud, daughter of John Paynel and heiress of the said William, granted that instead of seculars they might find four regular chaplains of their own order, to avoid the strife occurring daily between the canons and the secular chaplains on account of the difference of their rules of life. (fn. 9) The grant of the manor of Cokeham had carried with it the patronage of the hospital of St. Anthony in that place, and in 1352 the prior of Hardham obtained leave to appropriate the hospital. (fn. 10)
The first reference that we have to the internal history of the priory is in 1299, when the archbishop visited Hardham and deposed the prior, Robert de Glottyngs, for misrule and for incontinence and adultery. (fn. 11) The deposed prior, here called Robert de Bodeketon, was sent to the priory of Tortington, his own priory being ordered to send his clothes and other belongings thither and to pay the cost of his keep. (fn. 12) He was, however, a man of influence, in fact the bishop of Chichester two years earlier had failed to depose him owing to his powerful friends, (fn. 13) and he contrived to get himself elected prior of Shulbred some time before October, 1300, when the archbishop wrote to the bishop of Chichester expressing his astonishment that he had allowed this to happen. (fn. 14) Again in 1355 a canon of this house, John de Kent, was banished to Tortington where he was to be kept within the precincts for a time 'that he may refrain from worldly matters and attend to spiritual;' (fn. 15) he was subsequently allowed to go to the priory of Reigate and join their community. (fn. 16) Tortington seems to have remained the customary place of banishment for disobedient canons of Hardham, one being sent there in 1478. The visitation in this latter year showed the house to be in a bad state alike as regards its fabric and its inmates. The prior kept bad order, and the brethren were given to frequenting neighbouring taverns. (fn. 17) At this time there were six brethren besides the prior, but in 1380 the whole community numbered only five, (fn. 18) and this was the case also in 1521, when the only presentment made was that the house was in bad repair, (fn. 19) and in 1524, when the prior had to admit that he had been concerned with certain laymen in stealing the earl of Arundel's deer. (fn. 20) If the religious did occasionally join part with poachers they also suffered at their hands, as for instance in 1345, when Ralph atte Gate stole 1,100 eels worth 11s. from the prior's stream called 'the Shire' (fn. 21); a less irregular but more serious loss occurring in 1400, when certain persons by cutting a ditch in connexion with this same stream so lessened the value of the prior's fishery that where his predecessors used to take 2,000 pikerell, 4,000 eels, and 3,000 roach yearly, he could now take only 100 pikerell and 200 eels. (fn. 22)
In 1527 the community consisted of the prior, two canons and a novice, (fn. 23) and not long afterwards, in 1532, there was talk of its being suppressed, but by Cromwell's ' prudent counsel and charitable words' the priory continued to stand and prosper. (fn. 24) It is probably more than a coincidence that just about the same time the canons of Hardham granted an annuity to Cromwell. (fn. 25) Its fall, however, was only postponed for a short time, the monastery being dissolved previous to 1535, as it does not occur in the Valor of that year, by agreement between the prior and Sir William Goring, the patron, who obtained a grant of the site and property from Henry VIII. (fn. 26) The actual date of dissolution was probably the winter of 1534, at which time Robert, prior of the house of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, sold to Richard Scrase for £680 the manors of 'Heryngham' and Cokeham with 200 messuages, 4,000 acres of land, 300 of meadows, and 1,000 of pasture and other property in Hardham, Sompting, Pulborough, Petworth, and other parishes. (fn. 27) As there is no mention in this transaction of the convent it is possible that the prior was the last surviving member of the house.
Priors of Hardham
Richard, before 1278 (fn. 28)
Robert, occurs 1278 (fn. 29)
Robert de Glottyngs, deposed 1299 (fn. 30)
Henry, occurs 1306 (fn. 31)
John, occurs 1336 (fn. 32)
John de Kent, occurs 1351 (fn. 33)
John Baron, occurs 1380 (fn. 34)
Stephen, occurs 1402 (fn. 35)