A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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24. THE TRINITARIAN FRIARS OF THELSFORD
Near the banks of the Avon, not far from the road to Warwick from Wellesbourne, was founded, about the beginning of the thirteenth century, a small monastery, to the honour of God, St. John Baptist, and St. Radegund. Henry de Bereford and Isabel his wife, some time between the years 1200 and 1212, granted the church of Barford and property in the parish to the canons of St. Radegunde of 'Theuelisford.' (fn. 1) This mention of canons suggests that Tanner was correct in believing that this monastery was originally a house of canons of the short-lived order of the Holy Sepulchre, most of whose possessions passed, early in the thirteenth century, to the order of the Holy Trinity for the Redemption of Captives. The friars of this order were under vows to divide all the possessions they enjoyed into three parts; one for their own sustenance, the second to relieve the poor of the district where their house might be established, and the third to redeem Christians kept captive by the infidels. The transference of Thelsford and its property to the friars may possibly have taken place about 1214, in which year, according to Dugdale, Sir William Lucy of Charlecote endowed this house with 13 acres of land and the adjacent meadows where the priory stood, and other lands on the opposite side of the way. He also gave them the advowson of the church of Charlecote and half a virgate of land there, and desired that the house should be used not only for the shelter and sustenance of the religious men of the order, but also as a hospital for the relief of the poor and for the reception of pilgrims. (fn. 2)
Fulk Lucy, grandson of Sir William, gave the friars leave to inclose a road which passed between their church at Thelsford and their habitation. From a subsequent Sir William Lucy, temp. Henry III, they had liberty to inclose 2 acres of land adjoining their house, so as to include them in their precincts. In the adjacent parish of Barford they had various gifts of land, as well as the advowson of the church. From William de Nasford, some time lord of Barford, they had a grant of the fishing in the Avon from Le Milne to his own mill-dam, with leave to make a pound at Barford for such cattle as should trespass on their lands, also 3 virgates called the Free Hide, exempt from all secular service, together with free egress and ingress for their cattle to and from the common pasture of Barford. From Richard Malore they received lands at Kirkby, Leicester, with the advowson of that church and the chapels of Shilton and Packington. Among other benefactions were three parcels of land from William Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, and lands and tenements at Heathcote from Roger de Charlecote. These considerable gifts enabled the friars to extend their buildings and erect a larger church than had sufficed at their first foundation. (fn. 3)
At the feast of the translation of St. Thomas the Martyr, 1285, Bishop Giffard consecrated this new church and churchyard, and preached from Psa. xcii. 5, Domus tua decet, &c. (fn. 4) In the previous year the bishop had commissioned Robert, prior of Thelsford, to hear confessions and enjoin penances throughout the diocese. (fn. 5)
In 1312 the bishop of Worcester issued a commission to the deans of Warwick and Hampton concerning the minister and brethren of Thelsford, who had been excommunicated for the damnable presumption of fabricating letters of Pope Clement, being of an order privileged and exempt, to be publicly absolved. (fn. 6)
In November, 1329, when Edward III was at Kenilworth, confirmation was granted to Thomas de Offyngton, then minister, and the brethren of the house of St. John the Baptist and St. Radegund, Thelsford, of a large number of small grants to that house. (fn. 7)
The minister and Trinitarian Friars of Thelsford obtained licence, in 1332, to acquire land and rent in mortmain to the yearly value of 10 marks. (fn. 8) In 1334 these friars, under a like style, and their attorneys obtained protection for three years to collect alms, by virtue of an indulgence by the pope to their order. (fn. 9) A variety of small grants in mortmain were confirmed to the friary in May, 1337, on payment of a fine of 1 mark. (fn. 10)
In 1411 the pope granted plenary remission to the minister, friars,' and sisters' of the Trinitarian house of St. Radegund, Thelsford, (fn. 11) and in July, 1467, Bishop Carpenter renewed letters of indulgence for the sustentation of the order of the Holy Trinity and Redemption of Captives of the house of St. Radegund, Thelsford, to last during the pleasure of the diocesan. (fn. 12)
In 1354 Thomas Lucy, then lord of Charlecote, and Philippa his wife, gave certain lands at Charlecote to the friars of Thelsford to celebrate mass for their souls and for the soul of William de Clinton, earl of Huntingdon, the founder of Maxstoke Priory. In 1394 Sir William Lucy, Roger Strange, and John, vicar of Wellesbourne, gave to their house a messuage, 40 acres of land and 6 acres of meadow lying in Ashowe and Newbold Pacy. In 1492 another Sir William Lucy ceded to the house certain privileges that his ancestors had always enjoyed at Thelsford, and by his will of the same year left 40s. to the friars for his obsequies. (fn. 13)
His son and heir, Edmund Lucy, whose will was proved in 1498, desired to be buried in the Lady chapel of the conventual church of Thelsford, on the north side of his mother Margaret. He bequeathed to that house a cross of silver-gilt of the value of £10, to be bought by his executors. Forty marks were appointed to be spent there on the day of his burial among the priests, clerks, and poor people. He also willed that at his 'month's mind' twelve poor men should hold torches round his grave, each of them receiving a black gown and hood and 4d. in money. He likewise provided that his anniversary should be kept at Thelsford for twenty years after his death at an annual cost of 40s.; and that one of the Thelsford priests should sing mass in the chapel for his soul and the souls of his relatives for six years, 8 marks being paid for the same. His grave was to be covered with a marble stone 7 ft. by 4 ft., with the arms and effigies of himself and wife. (fn. 14) Edmund's wife, Joan Hungerford, by her will, dated 1514, desired to be buried by his side, and left 40s. to the house of Thelsford. (fn. 15)
The Valor of 1535 (fn. 16) gave the clear annual value of this house as £24 19s.; being a house of friars it did not come under the provisions of the Act of 1536.
On 18 March, 1538, William Lucy, of Hampton Lucy, wrote to the bishop of Worcester that there was a small house near him of the order of the Trinity, of which he was patron. There were very few houses of this order in the realm, the chief being that of St. Robert of Knaresborough. He was anxious to make an agreement with the head of the house by which he might recover the house and land, and he would continue payment of the tenth yearly due to the king. (fn. 17)
Edmund David, prior, and three others signed the surrender of their house to Dr. London for the king's use on 26 October, 1538. (fn. 18)
Two days later London wrote to the Chancellor of the Augmentations, to the effect that the house of 'the crossed friars of Thelisforde' was worth but £18 a year, and that they had assigned to 'Edmund Davie, late minister there,' a pension of £5. (fn. 19) Three days later, in a letter to Cromwell, London stated that he had left the Thelsford House in the custody of the late minister and one of the king's servants. He added the following particulars of an alleged fraud:—
In the body of the church was an image, at an altar's end, called 'Maiden Cutbroghe,' and under her feet a trough of wood descending under the altar which was hollow. Thither resorted such as had headache or had any 'slottich widow locks, viz., hair grown together in a tuft.' They put a peck of oats into the trough, and when they were once slid under the altar the friars stole them out from behind, and the sick must pay a penny for a pint of these Maiden Cutbroghe oats, and ' then their heads should ache no more till the next time.'
He pulled down this idol with her manger. (fn. 20)
With regard to Mr. Lucy's request to have this house, Cromwell at first told London to put him in possession, but he almost immediately changed his mind and assigned it to Mr. Cheney. (fn. 21)
On 22 January, 1539, London wrote to Cromwell that he had committed the custody of the late friary of Thelsford to Mr. Lucy. He described the house as in much ruin and the church little and unfinished. To have defaced them would not have put £20 in the king's pocket, but standing as it does it may do Mr. Lucy's pleasure, whom he describes as a man of learning, living quietly with his neighbours, and having many children and brothers and sisters on his hands. (fn. 22)
Ministers Of Thelsford (fn. 23)
Robert, temp. Edw. I
Simon de Charlecote, 1312
Thomas de Offinton (Offyngton), 1328
Thomas de Charlecote, 1353
William de Clarindon, temp. Ric. II
Robert Bowston, occurs 1440 (fn. 24)
Robert Bolton, 1473
Roger Lynton, 1474
John Brokeden, 1492 (fn. 25)
Robert Brokeden, 1513
Edmund Alcester, 1535
Edmund David, 1538