Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Bushmead

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


'Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Bushmead', A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904), pp. 385-387. British History Online [accessed 22 June 2024].

. "Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Bushmead", in A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904) 385-387. British History Online, accessed June 22, 2024,

. "Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Bushmead", A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904). 385-387. British History Online. Web. 22 June 2024,

In this section


The Augustinian priory of Bushmead (fn. 1) was founded some time during the reign of Henry II. by Hugh de Beauchamp, greatgrandson of the Hugh of Domesday. (fn. 2) The exact date is difficult to determine, but it must have been before 1187, as in that year the founder was slain at the Crusades. (fn. 3) Leland (fn. 4) says that the canons of Bushmead venerated a certain hermit as the founder of their house, and perhaps, like Beaulieu, it was built on the site of an old hermitage; but the first prior was a chaplain of Colmworth named William. (fn. 5) The Beauchamps of Eaton Socon retained the patronage of the house until the middle of the fourteenth century, when it passed to Sir John Engayne, (fn. 6) and later to the Braybrooks. (fn. 7) Sir Gerard Braybrook, who died in 1427, and was buried in Colmworth church, left directions in his will for the prior of Bushmead to sing his requiem. (fn. 8) Other benefactors were Simon de Pateshull and several members of the family of Wildeboef of Eaton. (fn. 9) The earliest papal bull securing special privileges to the house was that of Innocent III. in 1198. (fn. 10) The canons were probably few in number even in the thirteenth century, as their total income in 1291 (fn. 11) was only about £25; a prior and three canons are mentioned in 1283, (fn. 12) and the same number appears in a charter of 1523, (fn. 13) and in the acknowledgment of the Royal Supremacy a little later. (fn. 14) The house has no history to speak of; it is only once mentioned in the Annals of Dunstable, under the year 1249, (fn. 15) when the prior was present, with the heads of the other Augustinian houses of the county, at the visitation held by Bishop Grossetête at Caldwell, and joined them in counselling Prior Eudo to resign. In 1283 the prior, Richard Foliott, and three of his canons, with four other persons, were accused by Agnes de Legh of having been the cause of her son's death (fn. 16); and in 1342 Prior Robert of Lubenham was involved in a suit with the abbot of St. Alban's about the manor of Caldecote in Herts, which he claimed against a tenant of the abbot's, but finally quitclaimed before the day appointed for the hearing of the case. (fn. 17) The episcopal registers contain very few references to Bushmead, and not a single visitation is recorded. It may be gathered from this source that the conventual church was rebuilt, like so many others, early in the fourteenth century, but the canons were too poor to complete it without a licence to beg alms (fn. 18); and that about the same time a canon who had left the monastery 'through levity of mind,' and wandered about in secular habit, returned penitent, but found his prior unwilling to receive him back. (fn. 19) About the same time another of the canons, Richard of Stoughton (who was afterwards prior and probably died of the pestilence), obtained a licence from the bishop to keep a school of sixty boys, and teach them 'the science of grammar' (fn. 20); but it is not known how long this good work was continued. As the income of the house was less than £100, it was surrendered under the act of 1536 (probably on 8 February), and the prior received a pension of £8. (fn. 21)

The priory was dedicated to St. Mary, and its first endowment by Hugh de Beauchamp and his brother Roger included very little more than the site, with certain rights of way, wood, water and pasture, and the tithes of Eaton Park; (fn. 22) but by 1236 a number of small rents and parcels of land had been added, not only in the county of Bedford, but also in Huntingdon, Cambridge, Northampton, and Hertford; (fn. 23) with the manor of Blisworth, Northants. (fn. 24) The total income of the priory in 1291 was however only £25 13s. 7d.; (fn. 25) a taxation recorded in its chartulary gives a total of £35 19s. 4d. (fn. 26) The advowson church of Caldecote, Herts, was granted to the prior and convent in 1283, (fn. 27) but they do not seem to have retained it long. In 1302 the prior held only one-fortieth of a knight's fee of the barony of Eaton. (fn. 28) The valuation of 1535 amounted to £71 13s. 9d.; (fn. 29) and that which was made immediately after the dissolution to £83 19s. 8¾d. (fn. 30) (all in small sums except the demesne lands, which were worth £20 1s. 4d.)

Priors of Bushmead

William, first prior (fn. 31)

Joseph of Copmanford, (fn. 32) occurs 1231

John de Wildeboef, (fn. 33) elected 1233, died 1251

Simon of Colesden, (fn. 34) occurs 1260

Richard Foliott, (fn. 35) occurs 1283, resigned 1298

Simon of Redburn, (fn. 36) elected 1298, resigned 1321

Robert of Lubenham, (fn. 37) elected 1321, resigned 1348

Richard of Stoughton, (fn. 38) elected 1348, died 1349

Simon of Grantesden, (fn. 39) elected 1349, resigned 1350

Adam of Leverington, elected 1350, resigned 1355

John of Risley, (fn. 40) elected 1355, resigned 1385

William of Lidlington, (fn. 41) elected 1385

William Chanewe, (fn. 42) elected 1444, resigned 1465

William Stoughton, elected 1465, died 1473

Thomas Stoughton, elected 1473, resigned 1481

Robert of Potton, elected 1481, resigned 1482

John of Bosworth, elected 1482, died 1493

Gregory Norwich, elected 1493, resigned 1510

Nicholas Smith, elected 1510, (fn. 43) resigned 1531

Richard Rogers, (fn. 44) elected 1531, died 1531

Robert Burre, (fn. 45) elected 1531

The seal of the priory, affixed to Harl. Ch. 83, A 28, is in excellent preservation, representing our Lady seated with the holy Child on her knee, a bishop with crosier on either side, and the prior crouching below. Legend: PRESULIS IN PRATO (fn. 46) FAMULOR DE VIRGINE NATO. Reverse: the Assumption, our Lady encircled by angels, a crown suspended above her head. Legend: S. ECCLIE ET CONVENTUS SCE MARIE DE BISSEMEDE.


  • 1. Besides the charters in Dugdale, Mon. vi. 280, there is a chartulary of the priory in the possession of W. Hugh Wade-Gery, Esq., of Bushmead, of which an abstract was printed in Beds N. and Q. iii. 130-45. All references to the chartulary given below are taken from this account.
  • 2. The genealogy followed here is taken from the chartulary of Warden (Add. MS. 24465, ff. 31b, 39), which states that Hugh of Domesday had two sons: Payn, baron of Bedford, and Simon, whose son Hugh married the heiress of Eaton, and founded the other line of Beauchamps; Hugh's son was Oliver, who had a son Hugh, founder of Bushmead Priory. The Bushmead foundation charters are granted by 'Hugh son of Oliver.' This genealogy is not the same as that in Dugdale's Baronage, 224-5.
  • 3. Ibid. 225, from Roger of Hoveden.
  • 4. Leland, Coll. i. 68.
  • 5. Named in the foundation charter (Dugdale, Mon. vi. 280).
  • 6. Bushmead Chartul., No. 30 (dated 1346). Confirmation of Sir John Engayne (Add. MS. 24465, f. 31b).
  • 7. Henry Braybrook was among the earlier benefactors (Bushmead Chartul., Eaton Charters, Nos. 32, 69 [mentioned with Prior Joseph] ).
  • 8. His will (in the Lamb. Lib.) is printed in Beds N. and Q. ii. 222. It has some interesting directions. On the day after his death was to be said a mass of our Lady and a requiem by note, with two wax tapers each of twelve pounds weight standing the one at his head and the other at his feet all through the service, and twelve poor men clothed in russet frieze, each of them holding a torch throughout the service. Every poor person at the funeral was to have 4d., and the prior of Bushmead to do the service and have for his travail 6s. 8d., and every canon of his house that was present 3s. 4d., and all other priests 12d.
  • 9. Bushmead Chartul., Eaton Charters, Nos. 34, 35, 56-61; Foundation Charter, Dugdale, Mon. vi. 280.
  • 10. Bushmead Chartul. No. 1. Other bulls were granted by Honorius III., Gregory VIII. and IX., and Innocent IV.
  • 11. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.)
  • 12. Pat. 11 Edw. I. m. 13d. An appeal made against Richard Prior, and 'three canons of the house,' which does not necessarily imply that there were no more at that time.
  • 13. Harl. Ch. 83, A 28.
  • 14. Rymer, Fœdera, vi. (2), 199.
  • 15. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Series), iii. 178.
  • 16. Pat. 11 Edw. I. m. 13d. Nothing further is known of the circumstances, but it may have been a similar affair to that of Christine Mustard, who accused the prior and some canons of Dunstable of causing the death of her husband (Ann. Mon. [Rolls Series], iii. 298, 306). He was really killed at a wrestling match before the hospital of Hockliffe, at which the canons of Dunstable were present.
  • 17. Gesta Abbatum Mon. S. Albani (Rolls Series), ii. 330.
  • 18. Linc. Epis. Reg., Memo. Dalderby, 163d (1310); ibid. Memo. Burghersh, 21, 35d (1321). (Indulgences for the fabric, and a licence to beg alms.)
  • 19. Ibid. Memo. Burghersh, 75d, 77d.
  • 20. Ibid. 246d (1332).
  • 21. L. and P. Hen. VIII. x. 1238; xiii. (1), 1520. The latter, which is a list of pensions paid 28 Henry VIII., has the date 8 Feb. after the name of the prior of Bushmead.
  • 22. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 281–2.
  • 23. Bull of Gregory IX. dated 1236 (Cott. MS. Aug. ii. 117).
  • 24. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 282, charter of Isabel Pauncefote, and of her daughters, confirming the same. Neither is dated, but the name of Blisworth is on Pope Gregory's bull and in Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.) among the temporalities of the priory.
  • 25. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.)
  • 26. Bushmead Chartul. (undated).
  • 27. Pat. 11 Edw. I. m. 13. Licence for alienation in mortmain by William de Hurst of the advowson of the church of Caldecote, and a carucate of land.
  • 28. Feud. Aids, i. 15.
  • 29. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.)
  • 30. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 283.
  • 31. Foundation Charter, Dugdale, Mon. vi. 280. The following list of names is taken as it stands from the Bushmead Chartulary, where however no dates are given, only the time that each prior was in office. Fortunately the dates can be supplied for nearly all from other sources.
  • 32. Bushmead Chartul. under Barford Charters, reference to Joseph, 1231.
  • 33. Linc. Epis. Reg., Rolls of Hugh de Wells (on the resignation of Joseph). The Bushmead Chartul. adds: 'qui obiit monachus Wardon, 1251.'
  • 34. Bushmead Chartul. Stilton Charters.
  • 35. Pat. 11 Edw. I. m. 13d.
  • 36. Linc. Epis. Reg., Inst. Sutton, 104; Jocelyn of Stoughton, the cellarer, was elected, but Simon accepted by the bishop. The chartulary gives him fifty years of office, which the registers do not corroborate.
  • 37. Ibid. Inst. Burghersh, 291. This prior has thirty-four years assigned him, which is again in excess of the interval between the institutions.
  • 38. Linc. Epis. Reg., Inst. Gynwell, 375.
  • 39. Ibid. 362d. He is said in the chartulary to have resigned after a year and a day, and his successor in 29 Edward III., which corresponds with the next institution.
  • 40. Ibid. 393. He is said to have been prior twenty-eight years.
  • 41. Ibid. Inst. Buckingham, 344.
  • 42. Ibid. Inst. Alnwick, 184d.
  • 43. Linc. Epis. Reg., Inst. Smith, f. 458. Formerly prior of Huntingdon (Dugdale, Mon. vi. 280). L. and P. Hen. VIII. iv. 6047 (Convocation of 1529). The five intervening names are given from the chartulary, reckoning the years backwards from Nicholas Smith, in the hope that the later entries are more correct; which at last leaves only twenty years for William Chanewe instead of twenty-five. In the original they stand thus: William Chanewe (or Chanu), twenty-five years; William Stoughton, eight years; Thomas Stoughton, eight years; Robert Potton, one year; John of Bosworth, eleven and a half years; Gregory Norwich, seventeen years.
  • 44. Linc. Epis. Reg., Inst. Longland, 249 (Chartulary: 'quondam prior de Broke et prior istius ecclesie qui obiit post secundam mensam prelationis suæ A°D. 1531').
  • 45. Ibid. 246d.
  • 46. An allusion to the name Bissemede (Bishop's mead).