Alien house: Priory of La Grave or Grovebury

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

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'Alien house: Priory of La Grave or Grovebury', A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904), pp. 403-404. British History Online [accessed 13 June 2024].

. "Alien house: Priory of La Grave or Grovebury", in A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904) 403-404. British History Online, accessed June 13, 2024,

. "Alien house: Priory of La Grave or Grovebury", A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 1, (London, 1904). 403-404. British History Online. Web. 13 June 2024,

In this section



The manor of Leighton was granted by Henry II. to the abbess and convent of Fontevraud in 1164 (fn. 1); and it is probable that a house was built there for a cell of the order, not very long after. A prior is first mentioned in 1195–6, and is then called the prior of Leighton (fn. 2); the name of La Grave or Grava does not appear till late in the reign of Henry III. (fn. 3) The dedication of the church is unknown. The prior of Leighton had a good deal of trouble with his tenants on the subject of feudal services during the thirteenth century, which involved him in suits before the Curia Regis from 1213 to 1290. (fn. 4) William de Lyencourt, who was prior of La Grave during the latter part of the century, was a person of some importance; he was proctor general or the abbess of Fontevraud in England, (fn. 5) and had some journeys to take in this capacity, (fn. 6) for which he had to seek safe conducts from the king.

Both the mother house at Fontevraud (fn. 7) and the priory of Almesbury (fn. 8) in England, where the king's mother and daughter had made their profession, (fn. 9) were in great poverty at this time, but there is no mention made of poverty at La Grave. Its history in the fourteenth century is a little difficult to trace; in 1316 the manor was stated to be the property of the abbess of Fontevraud, but 'now in the hand of the Princess Mary,' (fn. 10) and in 1349 the pope wrote a letter to King Edward III., asking him to allow the abbess and convent to regain possession of the house of La Grave, of which they had been despoiled. (fn. 11) It seems however to have returned to its original position as a cell of Fontevraud, for it was reckoned in the next century among the alien priories, and granted in 1438 to Eton College; and a few years later, in 1481, its property was transferred to the dean and canons of Windsor. (fn. 12)

The original endowment of the house was simply the royal manor of Leighton, with land belonging to Walter Pullan, worth 32s. (fn. 13) Some smaller gifts of land in Edlesborough, (fn. 14) and Stewkley (fn. 15) (Bucks) and in Studham (fn. 16) were added later. The value of the manor in Leighton in 1291 was £32 6s. 8d.; and other temporalities of the priory in the deanery of Dunstable amounted to £2 2s. 2d. (fn. 17) In 1302 (fn. 18) the abbess of Fontevraud held one knight's fee in Stewkley; in 1316 (fn. 19) the manor of Leighton, and half a fee in Studham; in 1346 (fn. 20) only half a fee in Stewkley.

The names of only two priors remain:—

Nicholas, (fn. 21) occurs 1258 and 1263;

William de Lyencourt, (fn. 22) occurs 1283, 1287, 1297


  • 1. Round, Cal. of Doc. France, i. 377; Dugdale, Mon. vi. 1085. The charter was confirmed by John (Chart. R. [Rec. Com.], i. pt. 1, 72b, which states that the manor of Leighton was worth £56).
  • 2. Cur. Reg. R. 6 Rich. I. No. 5; Feet of F. (Rec. Com.), 7 Rich. I. p. 3. It would seem that the cell was founded between 1189, when the manor of Leighton was apparently held directly by Fontevraud, and 1195–6, the first date of a prior.
  • 3. Anct. Deeds (P.R.O.), D. 222. He is called the prior of Leighton as late as 44 Henry III. (Cur. Reg. R. 168, n. 2 in dorso).
  • 4. These difficulties between him and his men belong to the general ecclesiastical history of the county; they also serve to clear him from blame for the murder of a lay brother of Dunstable, killed by 'the men of the prior of Grava' in 1259 in defence of the rights of his church (Ann. Mon. [Rolls Series], iii. 213). The property of the two priories lay in the same neighbourhood, and such a quarrel might easily arise without the knowledge of the head of either house.
  • 5. Pat. 25 Edw. I. m. 18d.
  • 6. Ibid.; Pat. 15 Edw. I. m. 4.
  • 7. Pat. 20 Edw. I. m. 28, where it states they had only the blackest of bread to eat on Fridays.
  • 8. Ibid. 21 Edw. I. m. 18.
  • 9. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Series), iii. 326 (in the year 1285).
  • 10. The daughter of Edward I. at Almesbury (Feud. Aids, i. 21).
  • 11. Cal. of Pap. Letters, iii. 39–40.
  • 12. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 1085 and Pat. 20 Edw. IV.
  • 13. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 1085.
  • 14. Pat. 9 Edw. I. m. 3. Licence for alienation in mortmain of 6½ acres in Edlesborough.
  • 15. Feud. Aids, i. 82.
  • 16. Ibid. 21.
  • 17. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.)
  • 18. Feud. Aids, i. 82.
  • 19. Ibid. 21.
  • 20. Ibid. 128. It was at this time that the abbess said she had been despoiled of the priory.
  • 21. Anct. Deeds (P.R.O.), D. 222, 331.
  • 22. Pat. 11 Edw. I., 15 Edw. I., 25 Edw. I.