Priors of Canterbury

Pages 8-12

Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 2, Monastic Cathedrals (Northern and Southern Provinces). Originally published by Institute of Historical Research, London, 1971.

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Monks had probably been introduced at Christ Church by St. Dunstan, although the formal establishment seems to date from a little later, c. 997. (fn. 1) It was not until archbishop Lanfranc's time that the community became fully monastic, and it was to prior Henry that Lanfranc addressed his Monastic Constitutions. (fn. 2)

In 1174 the pope granted the convent the right to elect their prior sede vacante. (fn. 3) Under Gregory IX the monks gained the right of free election, but with the archbishop as scrutator. (fn. 4)


Monk of Le Bec-Hellouin (Ben., Eure, France). Appd. by abp. First occ. as prior before 1078, perhaps as early as 1074 (Anselm, Opp. 111 ep. no. 58, see V. H. Clover in La Normandie Bénédictine au temps de Guillaume le Conquérant (Lille, 1969) p. 438; dated by R. W. Southern, St. Anselm and his Biographer (Cambridge, 1963) p. 269 and n. 1, '1076 or early 1077'), and perhaps prior-designate in 1073 (see V. H. Clover pp. 437-8, discussing Anselm, Opp. 111 epp. nos. 17, 24). Prior until became abbot of Battle (Ben., Sussex), el. 11 June 1096 (Chron. de Bello, [ed. J. S. Brewer] (1846) p. 44; cf. Ecclesiastical Hist. of Orderic Vitalis, 11 ed. M. M. Chibnall (Oxford, 1969) p. 192).


Monk of St. Symphorien, Beauvais (Ivo of Chartres, Epp. in Patrologia Latina, ed. J. Migne, clxii no. 78) and then of Christ Church (Anselm, Opp. IV ep. no. 182). Appd. by abp. in succession to Henry, presum. 1096 (Eadmer, H.N. p. 219; cf. Will. Malmesbury, G.P. pp. 137-8). Prior until became abbot of Peterborough (Ben., Northants), el. 1107 (A.S.C. 'E' p. 181; cf. Eadmer, H.N. p. 197). Later bp. of Rochester (see below p. 75).

Conrad (fn. 5)

Monk and sacrist of Christ Church (Oxenedes p. 294). Appd. by abp. between June 1108 and Apr. 1109, in succession to Ernulph, after a vacancy (Eadmer, H.N. pp. 197, 219; cf. Cart. of St. Gregory, Canterbury, ed. A. M. Woodcock (Camden 3rd ser., lxxxviii) no. 2). Prior until became abbot of St. Benet, Hulme (Ben., Norf.), el. after Jan. 1125, perhaps c. 14 Oct. 1126, because said to have ruled 18 weeks and to have d. 17 Feb. 1127 (Oxenedes p. 294; cf. ibid. p. 432, and Reg. Holme 1 172). (fn. 6)

Geoffrey I

First occ. after May 1125 (Textus Roffensis, ed. T. Hearne (Oxford, 1720) p. 156; cf. Reg. Roff. p. 346 for a similar witness-list, but where the date '1131' must be wrong). (fn. 7) Prior until appd. abbot of Dunfermline (Ben., Scotland), 1128 (John Worc. p. 28; cf. Regesta Regum Scottorum 1, ed. G. W. S. Barrow (Edinburgh, 1960) no. 8).


Presum. in office at dedication of church of Christ Church, 4 May 1130 (Gerv. Cant. 1 96; cf. Letters of Osbert of Clare, ed. E. W. Williamson (Oxford, 1929) pp. 208-9). D. 1137 (Gerv. Cant. 1 100). Commem. 11 May (Canterbury obits. II fo. 27r, III fo. 186r). (fn. 8) So presum. d. May 1137.


Monk of Christ Church. El. by monks in succession to Elmer, sede vacante, 1137 (Gerv. Cant. 1 97, 100). Deposed by abp. c. 1143, but reinstated by legate on papal mandate c. 1143 (ibid. p. 127). Res. to become monk at St. Augustine's, Canterbury (Ben.), c. 1143 (ibid.).

Walter Durdent

Appd. by abp. on deposition of Jeremiah, c. 1143, but prob. not in office until after Jeremiah's res., c. 1143 (Gerv. Cant. 1 127). First occ. 1 Sept. 1145 (Saltman, Theobald no. 222). Prior until became bp. of Coventry and Lichfield, cons. Oct. 1149.

Walter de Meri ( or Moyri ) alias Parvus

Abp.'s chapl. and monk of Christ Church. Appd. by abp. 1149, presum. after Oct. (Gerv. Cant. 1 141; cf. Saltman, Theobald nos. 164-5). Involved in dispute with abp. from Apr. 1151; asked to resign and immediately deposed by abp., late March or early Apr. 1152, and imprisoned at Gloucester (Gerv. Cant. 1 143-6, given s.a. 1150, can be dated by reference to Will. Thorne's chron., Historiae Anglicanae Scriptores X, ed. R. Twysden (1652) col. 1812; see Saltman, Theobald pp. 59-62, 73). (fn. 9) Prob. to be identified with Walter 'quondam prior' who was commem. 7 Jan. (Canterbury obits. I fo. 3r, II fo. 12v). (fn. 10)


Subprior of Christ Church, acting in position of prior in 1152, presum. after Walter de Meri's deposition (W. Urry, Canterbury under the Angevin Kings (1967) pp. 391-4). Appd. prior by abp., perhaps c. Sept. 1152, after abp.'s return from exile (Gerv. Cant. 1 146). First certain occ. 28 March 1155 (Saltman, Theobald pp. 535-6). D. 27 Sept. 1167 (Gerv. Cant. 1 205). Commem. 27 Sept. (Canterbury obits. II fo. 43r, III fo. 225v).


Prob. previously subprior of Christ Church (cf. Materials for Becket VI no. 366). Lic. el. apparently sought from king soon after Sept. 1167 (ibid. no. 351). Odo presum. el. after 16 May 1168 (ibid. no. 412) and prob. before Oct. or Nov. 1169, but not recognised by abp. Becket (ibid. no. 502). Candidate for abpric. July 1173 (Diceto 1 369). Prior until became abbot of Battle (Ben., Sussex), el. 10 July 1175 (Chron. de Bello, [ed. J. S. Brewer] (1846) p. 156), blessed by abp. 28 Sept. and instal. 29 Sept. (ibid. p. 162; cf. Gerv. Cant. 1 256 and Diceto 1 403, which both give 1175).


Abp.'s chanc. and monk of Christ Church. Became prior 1175 (Gerv. Cant. 1 256). Prior until became abbot of Peterborough (Ben., Northants), el. 29 May 1177 (Gesta Hen. II 1 166; cf. Gerv. Cant. 1 262).


Abp.'s chapl. and monk of Christ Church. Became prior 1177 (Gerv. Cant. 1 263). Res. because of old age 6 Aug. 1179 (ibid. p. 293), but apparently occ. as prior [27 Aug. 1179] (W. Urry, Canterbury under the Angevin Kings (1967) pp. 410-11). Commem. 9 May (Canterbury obit. II fo. 26v).

M. Alan

Monk of Christ Church. Appd. by abp. with consent of convent 6 Aug. 1179 (Gerv. Cant. 1 293). Prior until became abbot of Tewkesbury (Ben., Glos.), el. May 1186, blessed 15 June (ibid. p. 335; cf. Ann. Waverley p. 244). (fn. 11)


Cellarer of Christ Church. Appd. 13 July 1186 (Gerv. Cant. 1 336). D. at Velletri 21 Oct. 1188 (ibid. p. 429; Canterbury obit. I fo. 14r). Commem. 21 Oct. (Canterbury obits. I fo. 14r, II fo. 46r, III fo. 233v).

Roger Norreis

Cellarer of Christ Church (Gerv. Cant. 1 380-1). Appd. by abp. 6 Oct. 1189 (ibid. p. 460). Removed by abp. after monks' objections, 30 Nov. 1189 (ibid. p. 481). Abbot of Evesham (Ben., Worcs.), appd. Jan. or Feb. 1191 (ibid. p. 484; cf. Chron. Evesham, ed. W. D. Macray (Rolls ser. xxix) pp. 102-3).

Osbern de Bristou (fn. 12)

Monk of Christ Church (Gerv. Cant. 1 443, 460). Appd. by abp. Jan. or Feb. 1191 (ibid. p. 484). Expelled by monks 10 May 1191 (ibid. p. 495; cf. Gesta Hen. II 11 142 and Chron. of Richard of Devizes, ed. J. T. Appleby (1963) p. 27).

Geoffrey II

Subprior of Christ Church. El. by monks 10 May 1191 (Gerv. Cant. 1 496; cf. Epp. Cant. p. 334). Prior and convent expelled by king 15 July 1207 (Gerv. Cant. 11 100). D. in exile 15 June 1213 (ibid. (cont.) 11 108). Commem. 15 June (Canterbury obits. II fo. 31r, III fo. 194r).


Succeeded as prior c. June 1213, presum. el. by monks (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 108; cf. Reg. Antiquissimum of Lincoln, 1 ed. C. W. Foster (Lincoln Record Soc. xxvii) p. 137). Temps. of priory released 1 June 1213 (Rot. Litt. Pat. p. 99b). D. 1222 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 112). Prob. to be identified with Walter prior who was commem. 6 Feb. (Canterbury obits. I fo. 5r, II fo. 15v). (fn. 13) So presum. d. Feb. 1222.

M. John de Sittingbourne (fn. 14)

Monk of Christ Church. Succeeded 1222 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 112). Abp.-el. of Canterbury, March-June 1232 (see above p. 6). Perhaps to be identified with John prior who occ. Sept. 1234 (Canterbury, Reg. E fo. 376v). Certainly d. by 1238 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 133), perhaps by Aug. 1236 or even by Dec. 1235 (see below). Commem. 18 July (Canterbury obits. II fo. 35r, III fo. 203r).

John de Chetham

First certain occ. before Dec. 1237 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 131), (fn. 15) but presum. the unnamed prior who was apparently appd. by abp. and approved by convent some time before 11 Aug. 1236 (Reg. Greg. IX no. 3277) and who occ. 23 Aug. 1236 (ibid. no. 3303). Perhaps to be identified with the unnamed prior who initiated appeal against abp. concerning some churches before 22 Dec. 1235, which was settled 18 Dec. 1237 (Wilfrid Wallace, Life of St. Edmund of Canterbury (1893) pp. 488-98). Forced by abp. to res., and became Carthusian early Nov. 1238 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 133; cf. Chron. Maj. 111 492; Ann. Waverley p. 320). Commem. 8 July (Canterbury obits. II fo. 33v, III fo. 199v).

Roger de La Lee (fn. 16)

Monk of Christ Church. El. by monks 7 Jan. 1239 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 146-7). Abp.'s conf. withheld and monks excomm. 14 Jan. (ibid. pp. 150-1; cf. Chron. Maj. 111 493). Appeals to pope and dispute continued until abp.'s d., Nov. 1240 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 151-80). Last occ. 9 Oct. 1244 (Canterbury, Reg. A fo. 63r). Res. 1244 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 202), presum. after 9 Oct. D. 1258 (ibid. p. 206). Commem. as Roger 'quondam prior' 24 Aug. (Canterbury obits. II fo. 39r, III fo. 213r).

Nicholas de Sandwich (fn. 17)

Monk of Christ Church. Succeeded 1 Nov. 1244 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 202 n. 1). Appd. and instal. by abp.-el. 25-27 Oct. 1244 (Ang. Sac. 1 174-5). Last occ. 16 July 1258 (reg. of Christ Church: C.U.L., MS. Ee. v. 31 fo. 9r-v). Res. 1258 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 207), presum. between 16 July and 12 Nov. (cf. below). Commem. as 'quondam prior' 11 Feb. (Canterbury obits. II fo. 16r, III fo. 163r).

Roger de Sancto Elphego (fn. 18)

Subprior of Christ Church (cart. of Christ Church: B.M., Add. MS. 6159 fo. 5r). Notification of his el., with approval of abp., 12 Nov. 1258 (ibid.; cf. Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 207). D. 29 Sept. 1263 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 226). Commem. as 'quondam prior' 29 Sept. (Canterbury obit. II fo. 43v).

Adam de Chillendenne (fn. 19)

Treas. of Christ Church (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 227). Abp.'s lic. el. sought Sept. or Oct. 1263 (ibid. p. 226). El. and approved by abp. 1263/4 (ibid. p. 228). Instal. by monks 16 Apr. 1264 (ibid. p. 229). Abp.-el. of Canterbury 1270-72 (see above p. 7). D. 13 Sept. 1274 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 278). Commem. 13 Sept. (Canterbury obits. II fo. 41v, III fo. 217v).

Thomas de Ringmere (fn. 20)

Abp.'s chapl. and monk of Christ Church. Succeeded, and instal. by abp. 19 Sept. 1274 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 278). Res. to become Cistercian at Beaulieu (Hants), 17 March 1285 (reg. of Christ Church: B.M., Cotton MS. Galba E. iv fo. 109v; Chron. Bury p. 84; cf. Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 292). Commem. 11 May (Canterbury obits. II fo. 27r, III fo. 186r).

Henry of Eastry (fn. 21)

Treas. of Christ Church (Chron. Bury p. 85). El. 8 Apr. 1285 (reg. of Christ Church: B.M., Cotton MS. Galba E. iv fo. 109v). Abp.'s conf. 9 Apr. (ann. Dover fo. 62r). Instal. by abp. 10 Apr. 1285 (Gerv. Cant. (cont.) 11 292). D. 9 Apr. 1331 (B.M., Cotton MS. Galba E. iv fo. 109v). Commem. 8 Apr. (ibid. fo. 183v; Canterbury obit. II fo. 23v).


  • 1. See D. Knowles, The Monastic Order in England (2nd ed., Cambridge, 1963), p. 50 and app. 111.
  • 2. The Monastic Constitutions of Lanfranc, ed. D. Knowles (1951) p. 1.
  • 3. P.U.E. 11 no. 131.
  • 4. H.M.C., Eighth Report app. p. 317; cf. R. A. L. Smith, Canterbury Cathedral Priory (Cambridge,1943) pp. 29-30.
  • 5. 1 Theoder', who apparently occ. as prior [1120 × Sept. 1122] (Ancient Charters, Royal and Private prior to 1200, ed. J. H. Round (Pipe Roll Soc. x) no. 9), is prob. to be identified with Thidiricus, monk of Christ Church, who occ. in letters of abp. Anselm (Anselm, Opp. v epp. nos. 334, 379).
  • 6. Commem. 17 Feb. (Canterbury obits. I fo. 6r, II fos. 16v-17r), 18 Feb. (J. Dart, Hist. of the Church of Canterbury (1726) app. p. xxvii). But in Oxenedes pp. 46, 47, he is said to have succeeded as abbot of Hulme in 1120 and to have d. in 1126.
  • 7. Temp. Helewise, archdcn. of Canterbury (below p. 13).
  • 8. Commem. 16 May (obit. of St. Augustine's, Canterbury: B.M., Cotton MS. Vitell. C. xii fo. 129v).
  • 9. For other relevant documents, see Letters of John of Salisbury 1, ed. W. J. Millor, H. E. Butler and C. N. L. Brooke (1955) no. 1, and P.U.E. 1 no. 58; Brooke in Letters of John of Salisbury 1 p. 1 n. 2, puts Walter's deposition in late 1153 or early 1154, but Saltman's interpretation makes intelligible Wibert's occ. as acting prior in 1152 (see below p. 10).
  • 10. Walter prior, who was commem. 6 Feb. is prob. to be identified with Walter prior from 1213 to 1222 (below p. 11).
  • 11. But Ann. Tewkes. pp. 53-4 wrongly gives 1187 as date of el.
  • 12. ?Bristol, Glos. He is called Osbert in Epp. Cant. pp. 325-7, 331-2 etc.
  • 13. But cf. Walter de Meri above p. 9.
  • 14. ?Sittingbourne, Kent.
  • 15. For date, see C. R. Cheney in Bull. Inst. Hist. Res. xxxvi (1963) 17-18.
  • 16. His family held land in Lee (Priory) ('La Lee') and Ickham, Kent (Canterbury, Reg. E fos. 174v- 175r; cf. J. K. Wallenberg, The Place-Names of Kent (Uppsala, 1934) pp. 522, 523).
  • 17. Prob. Sandwich, Kent.
  • 18. ?St. Alphege, Canterbury.
  • 19. Prob. Chillenden, Kent.
  • 20. Prob. Ringmer, Sussex.
  • 21. Kent.