A History of the County of York: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1974.
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54. THE PRIORY OF NEWBURGH
Roger de Mowbray in 1145 (fn. 1) gave to God and the church of St. Mary 'de Novo-Burgo,' and the canons there serving God, the site itself and all the east part of 'Cukewald' (Coxwold) beyond the fishpond (vivarium), the church of St. Mary of Hood, with the land and wood under the adjoining hills, as the monks of Byland had formerly possessed it. (fn. 2) Also the church of Coxwold, with its subordinate chapels, viz.: Kilburn, Thirkleby, and Silton, the church of Tresc (Thirsk), together with the chapel of St. James. Robert de Mowbray also granted the canons and their men who dwelt in Thirsk all the liberties and privileges which his burgesses possessed in the burgh, of buying and selling in the market-place and outside it free of toll and stallage.
Besides these gifts Robert de Mowbray confirmed the donation of the church of Welburn with 6 bovates, and the valley where the church stood with the chapel of Wombleton, (fn. 3) and the churches of Kirby in Ryedale (Kirkby Moorside), Kirby near Boroughbridge (Kirby Hill), and Cundall with their endowment lands. Nigel (fn. 4) the son of the founder, and William the grandson, confirmed these and other gifts.
By a separate charter Roger de Mowbray (fn. 5) granted to the canons of Newburgh the churches of Masham, Kirkby Malzeard, 'Landeford,' Haxey, Owston, 'Appewrda,' and Belton; Samson de Albini, to whom Nigel, Roger de Mowbray's father, had given them, assentiente pariter et donante. To this grant Roger, Abbot of Byland, was one of the witnesses. Samson de Albini (fn. 6) made a separate grant of the churches in question to Augustine, prior of the church of St. Mary of Newburgh, with certain conditions.
A further grant (fn. 7) was made by Roger de Mowbray for the soul of his father Nigel, his mother Gundreda, his own soul, and that of Adeliz his wife, to God, 'Sanctae Marie de Insula desubtus Hode,' and to Augustine the prior, and the canons serving God there, in perpetual alms, of the church of St. Andrew in York, 'quae est ultra fossam in Fischergata.' Among the witnesses to this charter were William the dean and the chapter of York, and Samson de Albini.
The priory of Newburgh was peopled from Bridlington, and the canons who came for that purpose at first settled at Hood, which had been vacated by the monks of Byland. This latter grant of Roger de Mowbray would seem to have been made to the canons while settled at Hood, and before they moved to Newburgh, when Hood became a cell of that house.
There is interpolated in Archbishop Giffard's register (fn. 8) an undated sentence of deposition, pronounced by his predecessor, Godfrey de Ludham (1258-64), against a prior of Newburgh, whose name, unfortunately, is not given. It is not improbable, however, that Prior John, whose name occurs in 1252-3, may have been the prior in question. Whoever the prior was whom the archbishop deprived, his faults, as recorded in the sentence, stamp him as a very bad ruler. He did not, it is related, correct the brethren equitably, but excused some and detestably made known the private confessions and penances of others. Of his own initiative he imputed crimes to others, and had entered into a conspiracy against the archbishop's visitation of the house. He had made the brethren take a wicked oath not to tell the archbishop the things that needed correction, and had forbidden them, under threat of excommunication, to reveal matters to the archbishop. Although he took a corporal oath that he would reveal all, except secret faults, many faults that were not secret, though repeatedly asked, he refused to reveal. He was thus a perjured man, besides being a waster of the goods of the church, keeping an extravagant and superfluous household. For these, and many other faults concerning which the archbishop was silent, he decreed him removed from the rule of the priory. The brethren were absolved from obedience to him, and directed to provide the monastery with a new prior.
On 22 June 1259 (fn. 9) Pope Alexander IV granted an indulgence to the Prior and Augustinian convent of Newburgh, that they might cause those of their churches and chapels in which vicars had not been appointed to be served, as heretofore, by their chaplains, and that vicarages should not be taxed, or perpetual vicars appointed against their will, notwithstanding any contrary indult granted to the archbishop.
On 18 September 1275 (fn. 10) Archbishop Giffard held a visitation of Newburgh, when it was found that the monastery was in debt to no less an amount than £737 16s. 10d. A certain camera had been uselessly built apud Fresch. (fn. 11) No other buildings were to be constructed without the assent of the wiser and older of the convent, and the necessary works of the great house were to be preferred. The prior was too lenient with the obedientiaries, and was ordered to be more strict. The sub-prior was easily provoked, he was to keep his temper under pain of removal from office. The cellarer was dealing in horses as merchants did, which was incongruous with religion. He was not to do so, under pain of removal from office, as in commerce between buyer and seller it was difficult to avoid sin. This inhibition was extended to all obedientiaries. The cellarer did not speak civilly to his brethren or to those outside, as he should, that the house might obtain the favour of many. Under pain aforesaid, he was to conduct himself with gentleness and courtesy. The custos of the fabric did not render accounts of his expenses, either beyond the sea (fn. 12) or at home, nor did he conduct himself properly in his office. When he had rendered his account the office was to be given within a month to some one else who was able to conduct it. The gardener, who was too much given to roving about, and did not do his work as he should, was to be removed within fifteen days and another appointed. There were gossipings among the brethren, and laymen and seculars were too often about the chamber of the late prior, which was not seemly. Such offences were to stop, and none were to go to the ex-prior's chamber without the licence of the prior or sub-prior.
Archbishop Wickwane held a visitation of the priory on 16 February 1279-80, (fn. 13) when the following correcciones were made: All were to obey their prior honestly, and no one was to sham illness, nor was such a one by any means to be admitted to the infirmary, but rather as a deceiver he was to be expelled and punished.
No one, after compline, was to go into the cloister for ribaldry or drinking, and if any one visited a guest or friend, with the leave of the president, he was not to eat or drink there. The prior, taking with him the sub-prior, was four times a year to examine all the chests and carols, lest the poison of private ownership should defile any one in the sight of God.
The refectory-alms, and those of the whole monastery, were to be distributed 'in usus ipsius Dei vivi' and the poor, and not unlawfully intercepted. If any one, at lauds or matins, was negligently silent, he was to be suspended at once, and expelled from the consort [of the others] until he repented. The original and full state of the prior was restored, his coadjutors being removed, provided the prior took counsel of the convent and was active in resisting rebels and dangers.
Those were to be preferred for the schools and offices who would fully instruct in divine service, and discreet guardians of good fame and conversation were to be deputed for the management of the property and the granges. Obedientiaries who dimitted office were not to keep anything. All the convent were to see that Divine service was celebrated distinctly, and that every letter to be sealed in full congregation of the convent was openly and publicly sealed.
The keeping of useless or wasteful servants, and also of a superfluity of dogs, was strictly prohibited. No woman was to be received as guest except the honourable wife of the patron, who, for one night only, might stop at the monastery. No one was to receive payments or gifts without the consent of the president, and then was not to keep such himself, but they were to be assigned to common use by the prior or president. Hunting, moreover, on the part of the canons and unlawful outings were wholly forbidden, and the doors and exits of the monastery were to be better guarded than they had been. William de Foxholes, Robert Wrot, William de Endreby, and Anselm de Pontefracto, whose morals and deeds had hitherto been discordant with the rule, were committed by the archbishop for correction to the prior and sub-prior.
A certain Roger, a conversus of the house, had, to the scandal of the order, left it. Archbishop Romanus, on 26 May 1286, (fn. 14) wrote to the prior to receive him back to his habit again. He was, no doubt, the same as Roger de Soureby, concerning whom the archbishop in his decretum of 11 October of the same year (fn. 15) (which deals mainly with Marton), (fn. 16) directed that as he was penitent he was to be admitted to the house, but sent to reside at Hood.
On 29 December 1292, (fn. 17) the archbishop ordered the public excommunication of Robert de Wetwang, who, nineteen years before, had entered Newburgh as an Augustinian canon, and was at the time an apostate, wandering about to the great peril of his soul and the scandal of the people, leading a very dissolute life.
On 28 September 1312 (fn. 18) Archbishop Greenfield commissioned two of his clerks to receive the purgation of the Prior of Newburgh, who stood charged with certain unspecified acts of incontinence. Two years later the archbishop wrote (3 April 1314) to the prior, (fn. 19) that during a recent visitation held in the city of York, a canon of Newburgh, John de Baggeby, had sinned carnally with a certain Alice de Hextildesham, and had confessed his sin. The archbishop sent him to the prior to be punished.
On Monday after the Translation of St. Thomas the Martyr in the same year (fn. 20) the archbishop held a visitation of Newburgh, on which he sent a decretum to the prior and canons, couched in terms common to such documents, and throwing little light on its internal affairs, except that the house was heavily in debt and burdened by pensions and liveries.
In May 1318 (fn. 21) a visitation of Newburgh was held for Archbishop Melton, who issued a long series of injunctions, which are, however, for the most part of a general character. Charity was to be nurtured, Divine services properly performed, and especially those of our Lady and for the departed, and others said without note, which were not to be gabbled, and one side was not to begin the verse of a psalm before the other side had finished. Seculars were to be restrained from frequent use of the cloister and infirmary and other private places. No strangers were to eat in the refectory except mature and worthy persons. The sick were to be attended to as their needs required and the means allowed, and they were to have a discreet and modest canon, at the appointment of the prior, who should say the canonical hours, and celebrate mass to their edification and solace. All the members of the house were to use the accustomed habit, and avoid novelties in dress.
In July 1328 (fn. 22) Archbishop Melton ordered three canons, for disobedience, to be sent to other houses of the order—John de Thresk to Cartmel, John de Kilvington to Hexham, and William de Wycome to St. Oswald's, Gloucester. Four other rebellious canons were to receive a weekly discipline.
It was the custom for the archbishop to claim a pension for someone nominated by himself, on the occasion of the creation of a new abbot or prior, in certain of the monasteries. The custom prevailed in regard to Newburgh, and on 2 August 1323 (fn. 23) Archbishop Melton wrote to the prior and convent to assign a decent annual pension to Richard de Whatton, clerk, virtute creacionis novi prioris. Apparently the new prior was John de Cateryk, who had been elected two years before.
In 1366 (fn. 24) Archbishop Thoresby gave notice of his intention to visit Newburgh, because a rumour had reached him that the house, by the indiscreet rule of the prior and the carelessness of the officials, was very greatly in debt and almost bankrupt. The result of the visitation is not recorded. In 1380-1 (fn. 25) the convent comprised the prior and fifteen canons.
In 1404 (fn. 26) one of those little gleams of light which help to make the daily routine of the house more realistic is thrown upon the scene by an indult granted by Pope Boniface IX to William Chester, priest and Augustinian canon of Newburgh; seeing that by the customs of the priory each of the canons, being a priest, was bound in a certain order to say mass week by week, in a loud voice and with music, such canons being called ebdomadarii, and seeing that he, on account of an impediment of his tongue, could not conveniently do so, he was to be free for life from such obligation.
Archbishop George Nevill gave notice of a visitation of Newburgh on II October 1465, (fn. 27) and a letter is preserved in his register from the prior, William Helmesley, giving the names and offices of the persons summoned to appear before the archbishop. The offices were those of subprior, sacrista et magister fabricarum, magister tannarie, elemosinarius, cellerarius, magister sartrie, magister firmarie, cantor, hostiarius, (fn. 28) magister granarie, sub-cellarius, sub-cantor, sub-sacrista, refectorarius. The result of the visitation itself does not seem to have been entered in the register.
In the Taxatio of 1291 (fn. 29) the ancient assessment of Newburgh is put at £81 7s. and the new assessment at £20.
In 1527 (fn. 30) the clear value was returned as £300, and in the Valor Ecclesiasticus (fn. 31) the total income was returned as £457 13s. 5d. and the clear value at £367 8s. 3d. The priory of Newburgh held property in Durham, Leicestershire, and Lincolnshire, besides Yorkshire. (fn. 32)
Drs. Legh and Layton (fn. 33) record, as superstition at Newburgh, that the canons had the girdle 'Sancti Salvatoris,' which, as it was said, was good for those in child-birth. They had also in veneration an arm of St. Jerome.
There were seventeen canons besides the prior, William Lenewodd, at the dissolution, (fn. 34) four of whom were deacons. The prior received a yearly pension of £50, and the others sums varying from £16 13s. 4d. to £4 each.
When an inquiry was made in the seventh year of Edward VI (fn. 35) as to the payment of pensions in the North Riding the following return was made as to Newburgh: William Edward (106s. 8d.) appeared with his patent; John Flint (106s. 8d.) 'is dead the xth day of July in the first yere of Kinge Edward the Sexe' ; Robert Tenant (100s.); Rowland Fostar (100s.); Thomas Grason (£4); James Barwyke (£4); and William Graye (£4) appeared with their patents and were for the most part a year in arrear.
On 18 December 1537 (fn. 36) the council in the north wrote to the king that 'of late a young fellow, Brian Boye, late servant to the Prior of Newburgh as keeper of St. Saviour's Chapel (whereunto many pilgrims resort), said that the prior has spoken unfitting words of your highness.' The prior and Boye were examined together, and the prior swore that it was false. Boye was commanded home to his father, and although there was no other evidence against the prior they say 'we have thought right to sequester him till the king's pleasure is known at St. Leonard's, York, (fn. 37) a house of the same order, with our fellow Mr, Magnus.'
Priors Of Newburgh
Augustine (fn. 38)
Richard, occurs 1169-70 (fn. 39)
Swein, occurs before 1195 (fn. 40)
Barnard, occurs 1199 (fn. 41)
M . . ., occurs 1199 (fn. 42)
D . . ., occurs 1202 (fn. 43)
Ingram, occurs 1246-9 (fn. 46)
John, occurs 1252-3 (fn. 47)
William de Louthorpe (mentioned 1284) (fn. 48)
John de Skipton, 1250-1 (fn. 49)
John de Thresk, elected 1331 (fn. 63)
Thomas de Hustewayt, appointed 1351 (fn. 64)
John de Kylvington, occurs 1359 (Query, an intruder)
John de Thresk (Query, a second time), died 1369
Thomas de Hustewayt, elected 1369 (fn. 65)
William Helmesley, confirmed 15 Dec. 1459 (fn. 70)
Thomas Yarom, elected 1476 (fn. 71)
John Latover, elected 1483, resigned (fn. 72)
Thomas Barker, elected 16 June 1518 (fn. 73)
John Ledes, elected 1524 (fn. 74)
William Lenewodd, (fn. 77) 1538
The earliest seal, (fn. 78) of 12th-century work, is a vesica, 3 in. by 2 in., the obverse having our Lady crowned, sceptred, and seated, holding the Child. The legend is:—
SIGILLVM SANCTE MARIE DE NEVBVRGO
The reverse is an antique gem in a vesica, 1½ in. by 11/8 in., with the legend:—
SIGNE OBEDIENCIE ET PIETĀTS.
The 12th-century seal (fn. 79) of the secretary of the chapter is another antique gem in a vesica, 21/8 in. by 15/8 in., with the legend:—
✠ S' SECRETAR' CAPITVLI BEATE MARIE DE NOVOBVRGO
The second seal (fn. 80) of the abbey is a 13thcentury vesica, 3 in. by 15/16 in., showing our Lady crowned and sceptred and seated in a richlydecorated chair between two censing angels. She holds the Child on her left knee, and is blessing with her right hand. Below is the prior with two monks. The legend is:—
SIGILLVM A . . . . . CTE MARIE DE NOVOB . . . . .
The 12th-century seal (fn. 81) of Prior Barnard is a small vesica, 1¾ in. by 1 in., with a seated figure of a saint, and the legend:—
. . . . NARD PRIOR' DE NOVOBVRGO