A History of the County of York: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1974.
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53. THE PRIORY OF MARTON
The priory of Marton was founded, as a double house of Augustinian canons and nuns, by Bertram de Bulmer, who lived at the end of the reign of Stephen and the beginning of that of Henry II. (fn. 1) The nuns did not remain there long, but moved to Mblseby (or Moxby, as it is now called, a mile and a half from Marton) and there formed an independent establishment on land given them by Henry II. (fn. 2) Henry de Nevill, (fn. 3) grandson of the founder, confirmed his ancestor's grant of the vill of Marton with its church and other gifts of land by Richard de Runtcliffe and Roger de Punchardune. Henry Nevill further gave to the canons of St. Mary of Marton his manor of Woodhouse, (fn. 4) except two bovates of land in Appletreewick, which he intended to give to the nuns of Monkton.
From some unknown donor the canons obtained the church of Sheriff Hutton, (fn. 5) and in 1322 Archbishop Melton ordained a vicarage in the church, ordering, inter alia, that the canons were to pay out of its revenues the large annual sum of 20 marks to the abbey of St. Mary, York. The canons had also the church of Sutton, in which Archbishop Walter Gray ordained a vicarage in 1227. (fn. 6)
The priory of Marton was in financial straits in 1280, (fn. 7) when Archbishop Wickwane directed that a complete statement of the temporalities of the house should be compiled for the Prior of Warter and Roger the archbishop's chaplain, who were to report to the archbishop. The prior was to retain the name and office, as such, under his vow of obedience till the archbishop ordered otherwise. On 2 August (fn. 8) the archbishop accepted the resignation of Walter, the prior, on account of age and decrepitude, and 'ad quietam tuam et augmentum contemplacionis,' and on the same date wrote to R. de Nevill, the patron, that on account of the poverty of the priory he was promoting Brother Gregory de Lesset as prior, and in the formal letter to Gregory de Lesset, canon of Newburgh, appointing him Prior of Marton, dated 4 August, the appointment is said to be made with the consent of the patron and of all the canons of the house. A concurrent letter was sent to the Prior and convent of Newburgh, asking that Gregory de Lesset might be released from the office of subprior of that house, and allowed to go as prior to Marton. The archbishop, on 11 August, made a public declaration (fn. 9) that he had only made this appointment under the pressure of necessity, and that his action was not to be to the prejudice in future of the priory or its patron. A few months later (on 13 December 1281 (fn. 10) ) the archbishop wrote to the prior and convent that, having beheld with paternal pity the almost irreparable ruin to which they and their house had been brought by their wantonness and demerits, he had appointed Thomas, Archdeacon of Cleveland, to carry into effect the ordinances made for the house as a result of a recent visitatation. Subsequently (fn. 11) he commanded the prior and convent to send certain of their less useful brethren to religious houses in which holy religion waxed more strongly. He had also sent the Prior of Newburgh to their house, and, according to the prior's arrangement, the archbishop directed that the canons were to send Brothers John de Esyngwald and Laurence to other religious houses, to be named by the archbishop. In a letter to the Prior and convent of Newburgh (fn. 12) the archbishop referred to. the reformation of the monastery of Marton. He had learnt that its temporalities had almost come to an end; religious honesty was undone, the observance of the rule was shamelessly banished, and troubled businesses had taken the place of pious zeal. He saw how honest and pleasing to God was the behaviour of the congregation of Newburgh, and on that account he ordered them to send certain wise and honest of their number to Marton, at the nomination of the prior of that house, to the assistance and relief of Marton. No doubt Gregory de Lesset, so recently subprior of Newburgh, wished, to be strengthened in his work of reformation at Marton by the help of some of his late brethren at Newburgh.
Laurence, one of the two canons of Marton who were to be sent away, must have been exceptionally troublesome, for the archbishop, addressing on 5 August 1283 (fn. 13) the Priors of Nostell and Newburgh, presidents of the general chapter of canons regular in the province of York, stated that at the visitation of Marton the congregation of his brethren there could not submit to his reprobate and perverse behaviour among them, and that the prior had no safe place there in which to shut him up, especially as no iron bolt could resist him, but he loosened it as he would, and got out. The archbishop asked them to find some safe place of detention, that he might undergo salutary penance.
In 1286 (fn. 14) Gregory de Lesset left Marton and returned to Newburgh. During his rule at Marton he seems to have obtained from that house a manor in Craven, and Archbishop Romanus ordered that this was to be restored to Marton, and that Gregory was to give up the writings he had about it to the Prior of Marton. If, however, he had contracted any reasonable debts on account of it, the Prior of Marton was to answer for them, and satisfy the creditors. The Prior and convent of Marton were to pay to Newburgh, as long as Gregory lived, a yearly sum of 40s., and half of this the Prior of Newburgh, at his discretion, was to give as a solace to Gregory, and the other half was to be for the general use of Newburgh. If, however, Marton had secretly or openly sustained any kind of charge by Gregory's action, then the whole sum was to go to the house of Newburgh, but this only if he were properly convicted or confessed. These directions were conveyed to Marton and Newburgh by similar letters, mutatis mutandis, dated 11 October 1286. (fn. 15) There is no record of the election of Gregory de Lesset's successor, but his name transpires a year later, when, on 27 October 1287, the archbishop issued a mandate to the sub-prior and convent of Marton to elect a prior in succession to Brother John de Wylton, resigned. (fn. 16) Their choice fell on William de Bulmer, the sub-prior, but the archbishop quashed the election 'non vicio persone sed forme,' and eventually appointed John de Lund, (fn. 17) canon of Bolton. Although no fault was then found with William de Bulmer, he got into serious trouble at a later period, but in what way is not said. In 1308 (fn. 18) Archbishop Greenfield sent him to Drax, to undergo a specified penance, and Marton was to pay 4 marks annually for his maintenance there. In 1314 (fn. 19) Archbishop Greenfield held a visitation of Marton, and issued injunctions of a general character, almost identical with others sent to Newburgh at the same time. The archbishop had, however, to deal with some serious cases of immorality. Alan de Shirburn, one of the canons, had confessed to incontinence with Joan daughter of Walter de Cartwright, and Juliana wife of William 'le Mazun' of York, living in Bootham, and with Maud Bunde of Stillington. The archbishop enjoined the following penance: he was to keep convent in cloister, quire, dormitory and refectory continuously, unless sick or otherwise legitimately prevented. He was not to go outside the precincts of the monastery, or the outer door, except in honest company and with the licence of the president. He was to hold no office in the monastery, without special licence. Every day he was to say a nocturn of the psalter. Each Wednesday and Friday he was to say the seven penitential psalms with the litany, humbly and devoutly prostrated before the altar of the Blessed Virgin, and on those days he was to fast on bread, ale, and vegetables. Once a week, at least, he was to confess his sins humbly and devoutly. He was not to speak to any woman, without the licence of the president, who was to hear what was said. The prior was to tell Brother Stephen of this, and make him a copy of the penance, and also notify the archbishop how Alan de Shirburn performed what was enjoined him. Brother Stephen, who was to have a copy of the penance, was Stephen de Langetoft, another canon, who had owned at the visitation to the vice of incontinence with Alice de Hareworth, dwelling at Marton, and with Agnes de Hoby. He was to perform the same penance as Alan de Shirburn.
Another misdoer was Brother Roger de Scameston, a conversus of the house, who confessed to misconduct of the same kind with Ellen de Westmorland living at Brandsby, with Beatrix del Calgarth wife of John de Ferlington, Eda Genne of Marton, Maud Scot of Menersley, and Beatrix Baa, relict of Robert le Bakester of Stillington. The penance imposed on him was that every Wednesday he was to fast on bread, ale, and vegetables, and every Friday on bread and water, and in no manner whatever was to go outside the precincts of the monastery. Every Wednesday and Friday he was to receive a discipline from the president. Every day before the altar of the Blessed Virgin, fasting, he was to say, fifty times, the Lord's Prayer with the Salutation of the Blessed Mary, humbly and devoutly. Once a week, at least, he was to confess his sins. He was not to speak to any woman, nor was he to be placed in any office until the archbishop saw fit to deal otherwise with him.
On 16 June 1304 (fn. 20) Archbishop Corbridge issued a commission to William de Wirkesall to go to Marton and correct faults discovered at a recent visitation, but there is nothing said as to what was amiss.
Archbishop Melton notified the house on 5 May 1318 (fn. 21) of his intention to visit it, and on 15 June the prior, Simon de Branby, resigned. The sub-prior and canons elected no other as their prior than Alan de Shirburn, who had so grievously misbehaved only four years before. The archbishop quashed the election on the ground of irregularity, and appointed a canon of Bridlington, Henry de Melkingthorp, and at the same time commissioned Roger de Heslington, official of the court of York, and John de Hemingburgh, dean of Christianity, to correct the faults disclosed at the visitation. (fn. 22) A few days later (27 July (fn. 23) ) the archbishop wrote to the Prior of Bridlington to send Robert de Scarbrough and Stephen de Snayth, two of his canons, as he had appointed them sub-prior and cellarer, respectively, of Marton, in order to correct the abuses of that house. The Prior of Bridlington was to take John de Maltby and Stephen de Langetpft from Marton. All points to continued disorder and misrule at Marton, and Melton was not the man to treat lightly such a condition of affairs. Henry de Melkingthorp resigned in 1321, and the canons elected Robert de Tickhill, one of their number, to succeed him. This election the archbishop also quashed, but appointed Robert de Tickhill jure devoluto, provision being made for Melkingthorp. (fn. 24) The following year, however, witnessed the dispersion of the canons of Marton propter destruccionem Scotorum. In a letter of 3 November 1322 (fn. 25) to the Prior and convent of Bridlington, the archbishop related that owing to the recent hostile incursion of the Scots the monastery of Marton was devastated, its animals and property despoiled, its villages, manors, and estates, as it were, devoured by fire, so much so, that it could not support the college of canons serving God there. He therefore sent to Bridlington Brothers Alan de Shirburn and John de Soureby. At the same time similar letters were sent to Warter for Simon de Branby, to Drax for William de Craven, to Thurgarton for John de Malteby, to Shelford for Stephen de Langetoft, and to Newstead in Shirwood for Ingram de Semer, canons of Marton. This accounts for seven of the members, and apparently the prior, sub-prior, and cellarer, who are not named, continued at or near the spot, for on 18 November the archbishop granted licence quibusdam canonicis dicte domus de Marton to remain in a suitable and honest place, and to say mass and divine offices, in places legitimately set apart for that purpose. No doubt they remained in order to superintend the reconstruction of their house, and the repairing of the mischief done by the Scots.
On 17 July 1351 (fn. 26) William de Wakefield, one of the canons professed in the house, was found guilty of divers crimes, excesses, and errors which are not named. He was then, according to the rules of the order, imprisoned, and Archbishop Zouch ordered that he was to be deprived of any office he held in the house, and care was to be taken lest his crimes did harm to others. He was not to receive or send letters, and other restrictions were placed upon him.
The prior and canons seem to have been ready to lend a willing ear quite at the last to the royal commissioners, and quit their habit voluntarily, before they were compelled to do so. According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus the clear annual revenue was £151 5s. 4d. (fn. 27) In 1527 it was returned as £131 16s. 6d. (fn. 28)
In the account of Laurence Beckwith for a year from Michaelmas 1535, (fn. 29) the receipts from Marton amount to £219 5s. 8d., and Thomas Godson, the late prior, is named as being rector of Sheriff Hutton. This was evidently a sinecure appointment, as Richard Moreton is elsewhere spoken of as receiving £10 as perpetual vicar of Sheriff Hutton. Two of the canons, George Burgh and George Sutton, had bought cattle from the monastery before the suppression, and 'Mr.' George Davy, whom Thomas Yodson had succeeded as prior in 1531, was still alive. He had, on his resignation, received under the common seal of the house a yearly pension for life of £13 6s. 8d. by equal portions on the feasts of St. Martin and Pentecost at the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the conventual church, between the hours of ten o'clock and noon. The house was formally 'suppressed' on 19 May 1536, when Thomas Yodson was paid £25 13s. 4d. for his expenses with his servants in London from 2 March to 4 May, with certain legal charges, and his expenses going and returning. George Sutton, one of the canons, received £4 for riding to London, at the order of the visitors, stopping there, and returning. Eight canons, pro vadiis, received 20s. each from 1 March to 4 May. There were thirty-seven servants then in the employment of the house. The house was finally surrendered by the prior and fifteen canons on 9 February 1535-6, and on 3 March 1535-6 Thomas Barton delivered to Cromwell a letter from the Prior of Marton. If the prior left the place, Barton wished to have it, as the house was near where he was born, and his ancestors were benefactors to it. It was well wooded and not worth less than £200. (fn. 30)
Priors Of Marton
Herniseus, occurs before 1181 (fn. 31)
Richard, occurs 1235 (fn. 34)
Simon, occurs 1238 (fn. 35)
John, occurs 1252 (fn. 36)
Walter, resigned 1280 (fn. 37)
John de Wylton, elected 1286, resigned October 1287 (fn. 40)
John de Lund, appointed 1287 (fn. 41)
Alan de Morton, confirmed December 1304 (fn. 42)
Robert de Tickhill, succ. 1321 (fn. 47)
Robert, occurs 1369 (fn. 54)
Robert de Stillington, occurs 1403 (fn. 59)
John de Goldsborough, occurs 1436 (fn. 60)
Robert Cave, resigned 1443 (fn. 61)
Henry Rayne, confirmed 1443 (fn. 62)
Christopher Latoner, confirmed 1506 (fn. 63)
John Caterik, confirmed 1519 (fn. 64)
George Davy, resigned 1531 (fn. 65)
Thomas Yodson, confirmed 7 June 1531 (fn. 66) (last prior)
The 13th-century seal (fn. 67) of the chapter is circular, 2 in. in diameter, showing our Lady seated in a throne between the sun and moon. The legend is:—
Henry, the second prior, sealed with a vesica, (fn. 68) 1½ in. by 11/8 in., having a figure of himself standing, with the legend:—
The seal (fn. 69) of Prior John de Thresk (13491357) is a vesica, 1¾ in. by 1¼ in., with our Lady crowned and seated with the Child, and the prior kneeling below. The legend ran:—