The suppression

The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1. Originally published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1921.

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'The suppression', in The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 1, (Oxford, 1921) pp. 253-261. British History Online [accessed 25 April 2024]


The surrender of the priory of St. Bartholomew actually took place on the 25th October, 1539, the deed of surrender being sealed in the chapter-house of the priory on that day. It is a small parchment measuring 16¼ in. by 8¼ in. (pl. X, p. 254). It is in excellent condition; it is kept in a small bag and is numbered 136 among the Deeds of Surrender in the Court of Augmentations at the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane. It bears no signatures of the members of the convent (which is unusual), but only that of William Petre, the king's commissioner, who took the surrender; attached, however, is a good impression in brown wax of the monastic seal, and this must have been the last time the matrix was used before it was destroyed.

The deed may be shortly translated thus: (fn. 1)

'To all the faithfull in Christ to whom this present charter shall come, Robert by divine permission abbot of the monastery of Waltham in the county of Essex, and prior in commendam of the monastery or priory of St. Bartholomew in Smithfield and the convent of the same place, sends greeting. Know ye that we the aforesaid abbot and convent for sure reasons and considerations at present particularly moving us, by our unanimous agreement and consent, and of our spontaneous will, have given granted and by this our present charter confirmed to our most excellent prince and lord, Lord Henry VIII, by God's grace King of England and France, Defender of the Faith, Lord of Ireland, and supreme head on earth of the English Church, all our aforesaid monastery and priory of St. Bartholomew and the whole site of our late priory and all our demesnes, manors, churches, chapels, rectories, and vicarages and chantries . . . as well spiritual as temporal, as well in the counties of Middlesex, Hertford, Essex and in the City of London as anywhere else in the kingdom which belong to the monastery . . . and also all and every kind of our church ornaments, jewels and goods which we have in right of the said monastery; to have hold and enjoy all the aforesaid demesnes and manors to our lord the king, his heirs and successors for ever. And we the said abbot and convent and our successors will warrant against all peoples for the lord the king and his successors all the monastery and the demesnes and manors (etc.) with their appurtenances. In testimony of which we have set our common sea to this our present charter.

'Dated at our chapter-house the 25th day of October in the 31st year of the reign of our said lord the present king Henry the Eighth.

'Acknowledged before me William Petre (fn. 2) one of the clerks of the Chancellery of the lord the king the day and place written above by me William Petre.'

The day after the surrender, viz. on the 26th October, 1539, a list was made of the canons in the house. Against each name was then inserted, by Sir Robert Southwell, (fn. 3) the pension allotted. (fn. 4) All pensions were made payable at Michaelmas and Lady Day, and in addition a money gift was made to make the pension date from the day of the surrender. The pension was to cease upon the recipient being advanced by the king to any ecclesiastical office. (fn. 5) The grant of the pension was made to each canon by deed identically worded in each case, except for the amount of the pension and the name and office of the pensioner. Each deed was dated the 20th November, 31 Henry VIII (1539), and may be translated thus from the Latin:

'The king to all to whom these presents shall come greeting. Since the late monastery of St. Bartholomew in Smythefeld by London in our county of Middlesex is now being dissolved whereof a certain Robert Glasier at the time of that dissolution and sometime previously was sub-prior there. We wishing that a reasonable yearly pension or promotion worthy of the same Robert should be provided for the better supporting his food dress and sustenance. Know ye therefore that we, in consideration of the premises, of our special favour, and of our own sure knowledge and proper motion, by the advice and consent of the chancery and council of the Court of Augmentations of the revenues of our crown, have given and granted and by these presents do give and grant to the said Robert a certain annuity or yearly pension of fifteen pounds sterling; to have, enjoy and yearly receive the said fifteen pounds to the said Robert and his assigns from the feast of St. Michael the Archangel last past to the end and for the term of the life of the said Robert or until the said Robert shall have been promoted by us to one or more ecclesiastical benefices or other promotion worth the clear annual value of fifteen pounds or over; to be paid yearly by equal portions at the feasts of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of St. Michael the Archangel, as well by the hands of the treasurer of the Revenues and Augmentations of our crown for the time being from our funds in his hands which happen to remain from the said revenues, as by means of the receipts, profits and revenues for the time being of the said late monastery out of the same profits and revenues; for the reason that express mention, etc. In testimony whereof, etc.

'Witness, Richard Rich, Knight, at Westminster, the 20th November in the 31st year of our reign. By the said chancery and council by virtue of the said warrant.'

The following is the list of the 13 canons and the pensions allotted to them by separate deeds, as above, preserved in the Augmentation Office: (fn. 6)

£ s. d
Robert Glasier, sub-prior 15 0 0
William Barlowe, canon 10 13 4
John Smyth (senior), canon 10 13 4
Henry George " 6 13 4
John Smyth (junior) " 6 13 4
Christopher Reynolds " 6 13 4
Peter Wade " 6 13 4
Robert Stokys " 6 13 4
Robert Kenham " 6 13 4
Richard Duffe " 6 13 4
John Sutton " 6 13 4
George Chapman " 5 0 0
Mathew Dyll (fn. 7) " 5 0 0

(Signed by) Robert Southwell,

William Petre,

Thomas Mildemaye,

Thomas Spilman.

The pension for the prior was arranged later. In the list of pensions paid in the year 1542 (fn. 8) Robert Kenham does not appear, so he had either had promotion or died. In 1546 'nil' is written against Peter Wade's, Robert Stokys' and George Chapman's (fn. 9) names, but not so against Chapman's in the following year. (fn. 10) In the year 1556, under Philip and Mary, there were only five left on the list, though there was an additional annuitant, Richard Ward, of 20s. a year (fn. 11)

The furniture of the church and of the monastic buildings after suppression was usually sold by public auction, (fn. 12) and the inventories taken for the purpose of the sales are preserved among the augmentation papers at the Record Office, but there is no such inventory concerning St. Bartholomew's. The church furniture may have been sold to Rich or others by private tender; but anyhow it was probably dealt with at once.

As regards other saleable materials, instructions concerning them were given; as by Rich to John Scudamore, one of the auditors and receiver of suppressed lands, (fn. 13) 'to make sale of bells and superfluous houses and have the lead melted into plokes and sows, weighed and marked with the king's marks'.

The fate of the bells we know on the authority of Stow, (fn. 14) who wrote:

'The church having in the bell tower six bells in a tune, those bells were sold to the parish of St. Sepulchre'

(where they were unfortunately run out at the Fire of London). There were, however, five bells left for the parish, which five are still rung weekly in the present tower of the church. They are fully described further on. (fn. 15) They bear the mark of Thomas Bullesden, who flourished in 1506–1510, so they may have been cast for parochial bells at the instance of Prior Bolton, but if, as some think, they were the top bells of a ring of twelve it may be that the parishioners, as at Croxden, claimed them at the suppression on the plea that they had been rung for the parochial as well as for the monastic services. (fn. 16) Or it may be that Rich, knowing that he was to buy the church and parish, withheld them from sale for the use of his parish church. In the case of Waltham Abbey there is a record that in 1540 the parishioners petitioned that five of the eight bells should be obtained for them from the king, as the parish church had had only one bell, which was in the abbey tower since the time of King Henry II. (fn. 17)

The plate and jewels, ready money, copes and vestments from the churches were taken in charge by Sir John Williams, the master and treasurer of the jewels and plate to the king, who lived in the Close. His declaration of what he received between the 26th April, 1537, and the 4th December, 1545, and how the same was disposed of, has been printed for the Abbotsford Club. (fn. 18) Some of the plate was sold to the masters of the mint in the Tower, some was reserved for the king's use, and part of the proceeds was expended in the expenses of Anne of Cleves with her train at Calais, and part in other ways. The plate from St. Bartholomew's was delivered to Sir John Williams by Thomas Spilman Esq. sixteen days after the suppression (2nd November 1539). It consisted of—

Gilte plate Diiijxxx oz. iii q.a rt. = 590 oz. 3 carats.
Parcel gilte plate ccclxx oz. = 370 oz.
White plate cccxi oz. = 311 oz.
1,271 oz. 3 carats.

To compare this with some of the other London monasteries: Westminster yielded 8,808 oz.; the Grey Friars 2,890 oz.; St. John's, Clerkenwell, 2,445 oz.; the Blackfriars 1,132 oz.; the White Friars 458 oz.; the Charterhouse 447 oz.

It would seem that Cromwell had taken the precaution of having a list of the plate made five years before, since, among his Remembrances, in a declaration of escripts and writings which came into his custody in March 1534, occurs: 'VII. Plate appertaining to the priory of St. Bartholomew'.

The actual building material of the nave and parish chapel, the king says in his grant to Rich, 'has been utterly taken away thence and the lead, stones and timber are being turned to our own use and sold'.

The possessions of the monastery, outside the monastic precincts, were valued in the year 1535, as already seen, for the purpose of carrying into effect the provisions of the Act concerning the payment of firstfruits and tenths of the Church to the king. It is recorded in Valor Ecclesiasticus (fn. 19) that the gross rental of St. Bartholomew's was then:

£ s. d.
In the city and immediate suburbs (including St. Sepulchre's £42) 493 3 7
" Middlesex 187 19
" Essex 27 16 8
" Hertfordshire 31 7 0
" Buckinghamshire 18 0 0
" Suffolk 14 3 4
£772 9 10¾
The Valor total is incorrectly cast and is more by 10 3
£773 0
From this there were deductions for various rent charges and ground rents; fees for stewards; for John Burgoyne the auditor, 40s.; for John Dean, Rector of Little Stanmore (who was in 1544 made the first rector of St. Bartholomew's), £6 13s. 4d., &c. 79 10
Leaving clear (fn. 20) £693 9 10¼

The survey specially mentions that no profits were reckoned in connexion with the 'courtyards, gardens and orchards with various houses built within the precincts of the said monastery', and these were valued to Rich in the 'particulars for grants', as we shall see, at £117 7s. 11d. net per annum. The valuation of the possessions, as rendered to the Augmentation Office in 1540–1 (that is, after the suppression), by the king's ministers and receivers, known as the 'computi ministrorum' (fn. 21) differs from that made in 1535 for the Valor Ecclesiasticus; but not to any great extent, since the total income from the counties of Middlesex, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Herts, and Bucks only differs by £3 0s. 8d. (The valuation of the London possessions is not given in the computi.)

Fuller was allowed to retain possession of his abbey longer than that of his priory, in fact to a later date than any abbot in the kingdom, for he was not called upon to surrender Waltham until the 23rd March, 1540. (fn. 22) The surrender is sealed and also signed by the abbot and 17 of the canons. It is docketed by Sir William Petre as recognized before him on the same day. The gross income of the abbey was £1,079 12s. 1d.; the clear revenue, as shown in the Valor Ecclesiasticus, was £900 4s. 3d. Pensions were assigned the next day: £20 a year to the prior; £10 to the sub-prior; £9 each to two of the canons; £8 to another; £6 13s. 4d. to eight others, and to four more £5 each. (fn. 23) The sub-prior, Edmund Saunders, was at first entered for £6 13s. 4d. only, but the amount was altered by Cromwell to £10, who signed the alteration as 'Thomas Essex' (this was the same year as his execution). The pension list was certified by Thomas Mildmay and signed by Sir Richard Rich. Waltham was one of those houses which the Bishop of Winchester proposed to the king should form one of the new bishoprics, (fn. 24) but the scheme was only partly carried out, and Waltham was suppressed.

Robert Fuller, both as Prior of St. Bartholomew's and as Abbot of Waltham Holy Cross, was treated with exceptional liberality; from which fact, and from what we have already seen, we assume that he rendered exceptional services to the king. For, as late prior commendatory of St. Bartholomew's, he was granted for life practically the whole of the possessions of the monastery. The grant was dated at St. Bartholomew's the 6th May, 1540, and was of the manors, &c., of Great Stanmore, Canons, Portepole and Wyndbores, (fn. 25) Midd.; Langley hall, Shortegrovehall, and Bradfeld, Essex; Tayng, Canon Holmes, and Wellhall, Herts; Mentmore, Bucks; and all buildings in London and elsewhere which belonged to the priory: except the chief messuage of the priory then in the tenure of Sir Richard Rich. (fn. 26) Also the annual fair called 'Barthylmewes Feyre', held within the precincts of the priory for three days from the vigil of St. Bartholomew; also the rectories of St. Sepulchre in the suburbs of London; Theydon Bois, Essex; Gorleston, Suffolk; Leystoft, Norfolk; and Mentmore, Bucks, with the advowsons; also pensions out of Wenhaston church, Suffolk, and Danbury church, Essex; tithes of Chardyngton, Midd.: and oblations in St. Mary's chapel of Yarmouth, Norfolk. (fn. 27)

As abbot of Waltham Holy Cross, Fuller was, immediately on his surrender of the abbey, granted a pension of £200 a year from the lands and possessions of the abbey; (fn. 28) and on the 6th May he was granted for life the manors of Woodford, Theydon Bois, Netysswell, Paffyld, Stanford-le-Hope, Wormyngford and Stanway, Essex; Cullynges, Herts; Alrychesey, Beds; and rectories and advowsons of Wormyngford and Alrychesey churches. This grant was dated at Waltham Holy Cross (fn. 29) and was probably to provide the £200 pension.

Thus with the surrender of his monasteries did the prior and abbot also surrender his vows of poverty! He enjoyed his possessions a few months only, for, on the 12th August following, he made his will, (fn. 30) and, as it was proved on the 4th October, he must have died either in August or September 1540.

In his will he describes the king as the supreme head on earth of the Church of this realm, and himself as Robert Fuller, priest, late Abbot of Waltham and Prior Commendatory of St. Bartholomew's in West Smithfield, London, suppressed. He willed to be buried in Corpus Christi Chapel in St. Sepulchre's Church. He bequeathed to the same church for repairs, and for the maintenance of the services, £13 6s. 8d.; to the brotherhood of Corpus Christi there, £3 6s. 8d.; and to the brotherhood of Our Lady and St. Stephen there, £3 6s. 8d. for the maintenance of the services and for the ornaments of the altars of the fraternities. He directed that two priests that he had provided should sing masses for his soul and for the souls of Robert, John, and Katharine (who these were is not stated), and for the souls of the founder and benefactors of the suppressed priory of St. Bartholomew's in West Smithfield; that this should continue for seven years and that the priests should be paid £8 each yearly; that the vestments and chalice that he had given to these two priests were to remain for the use of the church at the end of the seven years. He also made provision for the priests, clerks and sextons, and poor householders of the parish, for bread for the poor, and for wine and wax for the aforesaid two priests for the seven years. He bequeathed £10 for the repairs of the parish church of St. Lawrence, (fn. 31) Waltham Holy Cross; £5 to 'the fraternity' of St. Michael, otherwise called 'charnell of Waltham'; and £5 to 'the fraternity of Our Lady', in the same church at Waltham. He also made provision for a priest to pray there for his soul, and for those of Robert, John, and Katharine and for the founders of the late abbey there suppressed, the priest's salary to be £8 a year for seven years. He made similar provision regarding vestments and a chalice, and for the priests, clerks, sextons, poor householders, and bread for the poor, as for those of St. Bartholomew's. He bequeathed to his 'most dere and dred sovereign Lord King Henry VIII '£40, beseeching him to be a good and gracious lord to his executors. He bequeathed £3 6s. 8d. yearly for seven years for the maintenance of the highways of Waltham town. He directed his executors 'to provide yearly for seven years for four scour ells of canvas clothe at five pence the ell, to make at a penny each forty shirts and smocks for the poor'. He bequeathed to Thomas Hawkins, his chaplain and executor, £6 13s. 4d. yearly for seven years, to pray for his soul, and to take a collect for him daily; to John Higham, his old servant and executor, 26s. 8d. yearly for seven years; to Humphrey Barrett, his servant, 26s. 8d.; and to Richard Higham of Royden, gentleman and overseer of his will, 40s. for a like term. To Sir Robert Glasier, priest, and Sir Humphrey Murten, priest, his chaplain, each £8 to pray for his soul. To poor people in 'penny dole', for funeral expenses, for priests, clerks, and sexton, and for wax £30. To each of his servants two weeks' wages and 10s. for livery cloth and 10s. for diet for one month as a reward for their labours. And to his two executors, and to his overseer, 12 yards of black cloth at 13s. 4d. a yard, and to Richard Higham of Roydon the lease of his house within the Close of St. Bartholomew for six months, and then to continue to have it for two years subject to finding an honest priest of good conversation to sing his mass daily for him. He gave to Sir Richard Rich, Knight, 'for such goodness as he had found in him', £20. To Robert Thydley, gentleman, 'for such pains as he had taken for him in matters of law and otherwise, 40s.'; and to each of his executors and his overseer, £20; and in addition 40s. yearly for being at his obit kept at St. Sepulchre's Church and at Waltham; and for seeing that the churchwardens paid his priests their wage. The rest of his goods, money, plate, and movables, &c., he left to his executors to bestow on poor householders and for mending the highways of Waltham.

His executors were as named above, with the addition of Edward Stacye of Waltham, gentleman. The witnesses were Sir Thomas Warren, priest and late prior of Waltham; James Sutton, gentleman; and Humphrey Barrett, (fn. 32) with others.

The will was proved, as already said, on the 4th October, 1540. It is written at great length, evidently by his friend Robert Thydley, his lawyer, and shows the testator as a sober, religiously minded man and thoughtful to the last for his dependants.


  • 1. For Latin see App. I, p. 501.
  • 2. Sir Wm. Petre, a courtier and official, a tool of Cromwell against the monasteries. His monument is in Ingatestone Church, Essex.
  • 3. Sir Robert Southwell, a receiver of the augmentations, was sent by Rich to the Tower to deprive Sir Thomas More of his books. Profited greatly by the suppression of the monasteries; made Master of the Rolls, 1542.—D.N.B.
  • 4. Cal. State Papers, 1539, No. 391 (2).
  • 5. Ib., 1540, No. 1032.
  • 6. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks., No. 234, 'Enrolments of leases and pensions 30, 31, 32 Hen. VIII'. Also Cal. State Papers, 1540, No. 1032 (94).
  • 7. Delly in 1542; Delye in 1546.
  • 8. Cal. State Papers, 1542, No. 258.
  • 9. Ib., 1546, No. 643 (f. 11).
  • 10. Ib., 1547, No. 775 (f.15).
  • 11. Cardinal Pole, Bk. of Pensions, K. R. Misc. Bk., No. 31, f. iii.
  • 12. Hibbert, Diss. Mon., p. 163.
  • 13. Cal. State Papers, 1538, 23 Aug., No. 168.
  • 14. Stow, p. 141.
  • 15. Vol. II, chap. vii, bells.
  • 16. Hibbert, Diss. Mon., p. 169.
  • 17. Cal. State Papers, 1540, No. 394.
  • 18. Abbotsford Club, Monast. Treasures, pp. 2, 3, 26.
  • 19. Valor Eccles. i, 407. See also p. 380 below.
  • 20. Dealt with at length in chapter xii on the Possessions.
  • 21. Aug. Off. Minis. Accts., No. 2376, 31–32 Hen. VIII.
  • 22. Cal. State Papers, A.D. 1540, No. 393.
  • 23. Dugdale, Mon. Ang. vi,. 58.
  • 24. Cal. State Papers, 1539, No. 429.
  • 25. The manors of Canons and Wimboro, see Lysons, Environs, ii, pt. 2, p. 671.
  • 26. See Vol. II, chap. x, prior's lodging.
  • 27. Cal. State Papers, 1541, No. 1500, f. 18: Little Yarmouth, Suffolk, intended.
  • 28. Ib., 1540, No. 393.
  • 29. Ib., 1541, No. 1500, f. 17.
  • 30. App. I, p. 541.
  • 31. This was the dedication of the abbey.
  • 32. As Humphrey Barrett was a beneficiary under the will, his acting as witness would at the present time make void the legacy to him.