House of Benedictine monks: The priory of Beaulieu

A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1904.

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'House of Benedictine monks: The priory of Beaulieu', A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904), pp. 351-353. British History Online [accessed 21 June 2024].

. "House of Benedictine monks: The priory of Beaulieu", in A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904) 351-353. British History Online, accessed June 21, 2024,

. "House of Benedictine monks: The priory of Beaulieu", A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904). 351-353. British History Online. Web. 21 June 2024,

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The priory of Beaulieu was founded between 1140 (fn. 1) and 1146 upon the site of a hermitage at Moddry in the parish of Clophill, granted to Ralf the hermit by Henry d'Albini, and afterwards by his son Robert d'Albini to the abbey of St. Albans as a cell of that monastery. (fn. 2) A small cell had already been founded at Millbrook under Richard, the fifteenth abbot (fn. 3) (1097-1119), and this was merged in the new priory. (fn. 4) The house was never an important one, as it was always small and poor. The original endowment only provided for four or five monks, (fn. 5) and it is not likely that their number was increased at any time. Early in the thirteenth century the prior was involved in a long suit in the Curia Regis, (fn. 6) concerning the church of Milton Ernest, which the son of the founder wished to recover for himself; but it remained finally with the religious, and was granted to them afresh in proprios usus by Bishop Gravesend in 1275 on account of their poverty. (fn. 7) At some time in the fourteenth century the house was partially destroyed by fire; (fn. 8) it suffered probably also from the general depreciation of property after the great pestilence. Finally, near the beginning of the fifteenth century, when Abbot John of Wheathampstead 'went down into the garden of nuts, to see if the vines were flourishing and the pomegranates were bearing fruit' (fn. 9) —in other words, made a visitation of the cells—he found Beaulieu in such a poverty-stricken condition (fn. 10) that it could scarcely support two monks. After reflection he decided to unite the cell with the parent abbey, and apply its revenues to other purposes. There were two things necessary before he could do this. He had to gain the consent of the patron of the house, Lord Grey de Ruthyn; and also to obtain a bull from the pope. Lord Grey signed a full surrender of all his rights in the priory in May, 1434; (fn. 11) and the papal bull which had been asked of Martin V. was granted at last by Eugenius IV. (fn. 12) at about the same time. But it was an expensive matter to claim and use the bull; and while the abbot hesitated, and tried to find out from lawyers whether after all an ordinary prelate could not grant him the necessary licence, the king's escheator stepped in and declared that the house had escheated to the Crown. A jury was summoned to inquire into the abbot's title, which was probably (fn. 13) proved without difficulty; for in a short time he was able to carry out the whole of his original plan. Lord Grey de Ruthyn was granted an anniversary, and a rent of 20s. a year; (fn. 14) the vicarage of Clophill was re-instituted a rectory, on condition that the rector should say mass three times a week for the soul of the founder, Robert d'Albini (fn. 15); and the income of the priory, amounting to £18 a year, was divided amongst the students from the abbey of St. Alban's at Oxford, so that each might receive a pension of 13s. 4d. annually, (fn. 16) and pray for their benefactor at mass. These arrangements were completed before the death of John of Wheathampstead in 1464, and the priory disappeared so completely that even its site was for a long time forgotten. (fn. 17)

The original endowment (fn. 18) gave to the priory the demesne land in the parish of Clophill afterwards called the manor of Beaulieu (including the hermitage, the church of Moddry and 15 acres for the service of the chapel of Cainhoe three times a week); the churches of Millbrook, Ampthill and Clophill; the mill of Turnhall, the wood of Hazeldean, with other parcels of land and meadow, and certain rights of pasturage on the founder's demesne. Cecily, mother of the founder, added the church of Milton Ernest; (fn. 19) and Aumary de St. Amand a carucate in Wilshampstead for the service of the chapel of St. Machutus in the parish of Haynes (Hawnes). (fn. 20) The temporalities of the priory in 1291 were valued at £26 7s. 10d. ; the spiritualities at £17 6s. 8d., (fn. 21) out of which four vicars' stipends were to be paid. Only two small fractions of a knight's fee in Clophill and Flitton are entered as held by the prior in 1302, and only one in 1346 and 1428. (fn. 22) At the time of the union of the cell with St. Alban's the abbot stated its whole revenue at £18; (fn. 23) the jury at the inquisition valued the lands at £12. (fn. 24)

No seal of this priory remains, so far as is known.

Priors of Beaulieu

Walter de Standon, elected 1233 (fn. 25)

Roger, elected 1237 (fn. 26)

Roger de Thebrugg, elected 1281 (fn. 27)

John of Stopsley, elected 1285 (fn. 28)

John of Stagsden, transferred 1296 (fn. 29)

William de Parys, elected 1296 (fn. 30)

Peter of Maydenford, elected 1299 (fn. 31)

Gregory of St. Alban's, elected 1302 (fn. 32)

Richard of Northampton, elected 1305 (fn. 33)

William of Kirkby, elected 1310, (fn. 34) transferred 1312

Richard of Hertford, elected 1312 (fn. 35)

Henry of St. Neot's, elected 1316 (fn. 36)

Adam of Newark, elected 1340, occ. 1349 (fn. 37)

John of Caldwell, elected 1351 (fn. 38)

William of Winslow, elected 1374 (fn. 39)

John Warham, occurs 1396 and 1401 (fn. 40)

Richard Smyth of Missenden, occ. c. 1405 (fn. 41)


  • 1. The date falls between the death of Henry d'Albini (who founded Sopwell Nunnery 1140) and that of Geoffrey, abbot of St. Alban's (1119-46).
  • 2. Foundation Charter, Arundel MS. 34, f. 32; Lansd. MS. 863, f. 83b.
  • 3. Granted by Neel de Wast, and confirmed by Henry d'Albini (Foundation Charter, and Matth. Paris, Gesta Abbatum [Rolls Series], i. 67). Henry d'Albini and his brothers had also given to St. Alban's the church of Clophill, and tithes of Cainhoe and Cotes (Cott. MS. Nero, D vii. f. 98; Matth. Paris, Gesta Abbatum [Rolls Series], i. 68).
  • 4. Matth. Paris, Gesta Abbatum (Rolls Series), i. 78.
  • 5. The inquisition held in 1433 (J. de Amundesham, Ann. Mon. S. Albani [Rolls Series], ii. 109) proved that the manor of Beaulieu in the parish of Clophill was granted to sustain for ever four monks to serve the chapel of Cainhoe; and another carucate of land given later was to support one more to serve the chapel of St. Machutus in Haynes.
  • 6. Cur. Reg. R. 15 John, 58, No. 4.
  • 7. Linc. Epis. Reg., Rolls of Grossetête.
  • 8. Cott. MS. Nero, D vii. f. 111. Margaret, Countess of Norfolk, among other gifts, 'dedit cellæ nostræ de Bello Loco vastatæ per incendium, xx marcas.'
  • 9. J. de Amundesham, Ann. Mon. S. Albani (Rolls Series), ii. 105.
  • 10. 'Adeo collapsa et facultatibus per sinistros eventus diminuta' (Supplication to the pope, in Arundel MS. 34, f. 33b). The priory had been unable to contribute anything to the abbey between 1396 and 1401, and a wall built round it about this time was erected at the expense of the abbey (Matth. Paris, Gesta Abbatum [Rolls Series], iii. 455, 456).
  • 11. 12 May, 13 Henry VI. in Cott. MS. Claudius, D i. f. 134b; Arundel MS. 34, f. 33 has 12 May 6 Henry VI.
  • 12. A short summary of the whole story is given in Cott. MS. Nero, D vii. f. 33b. The account of John de Amundesham does not explain that the abbot finally released and used the bull, though it names the two popes.
  • 13. The narrative of John de Amundesham ends abruptly without giving the verdict (Ann. Mon. S. Albani [Rolls Series], ii. 105-12).
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Ibid. and Cott. MS. Nero, D vii. f. 33b.
  • 16. A notice of the payment of this pension to the students and its purposeis found in the Appendix to J. de Amundesham (Ann. Mon. S. Albani [Rolls Series], ii. 292).
  • 17. The reference in the inquisition of 1433 to 'quoddam manerium vocatum Belewe in parochia de Clophulle in dicta comitate Bedf.' fixes the site.
  • 18. Foundation Charters, Lansd. MS. 863, f. 83b. The church of Rinethella here and in Dugdale, Mon. iii. 274 is an evident misreading for Ametbella, which is given quite clearly in Arundel MS. 34, f. 32b, an earlier transcript of the first charter. The Lansd. MS. is a transcript of the seventeenth century.
  • 19. Cur. Reg. R., 58, n. 4.
  • 20. Cott. MS. Claudius, D i. f. 134b. The chapel of St. Machutus is said in Cott. MS. Nero, D vii. f. to have been the gift of Robert d'Albini.
  • 21. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.)
  • 22. Feud. Aids (P.R.O.), i. 13, 14, 33, 46.
  • 23. In his supplication to the pope.
  • 24. Cott. MS. Claudius, D i. f. 134b.
  • 25. Linc. Epis. Reg., Rolls of Hugh de Wells.
  • 26. Ibid. Rolls of Grossetête.
  • 27. Ibid. Rolls of Sutton.
  • 28. Ibid.
  • 29. Ibid. Inst. of Sutton.
  • 30. Ibid. 102.
  • 31. Ibid. 104; Cal. of Pap. Letters, i. 601.
  • 32. Linc. Epis. Reg., Inst. Dalderby, 260d.
  • 33. Ibid. 261d.
  • 34. Ibid. 265d. Prior of Hertford, 1312-6.
  • 35. Ibid. f. 270. Previously prior of Hertford.
  • 36. Ibid. 274d.
  • 37. Linc. Epis. Reg., Inst. Burghersh, 321; Cal. of Pap. Letters (P.R.O.), iii. 339.
  • 38. Linc. Epis. Reg., Inst. Gynwell, 388d.
  • 39. Ibid. Inst. Buckingham.
  • 40. Matth. Paris, Gesta Abbatum (Rolls Series), iii. 425, 480.
  • 41. Cott. MS. Nero, D vii. f. 135b; his father died 1405, leaving legacies to St. Alban's.There was a titular prior of Beaulieu who sent his proctor to Convocation in 1529 (L. and P. Hen. VIII. [P.R.O.] iv. 6047). Cole (from MS. notes of Browne Willis) gives the name of 'Thomas Kingsbury, monk of St. Alban's, prior of Beaulieu, and archdeacon of St. Alban's,' under the date 1531. Add. MS. 5827, f. 174b.