Alien priories: The priory of Stratfield Saye

Page 113

A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.

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Although the church and greater part of the parish of Stratfield Saye are in Hampshire, the site of the small alien priory was just over the county border in Berkshire.

Nicholas de Stoteville gave the church of Stratfield Saye, with a small hermitage dedicated to St. Leonard within the parish, to his newlyfounded abbey of Vallemont, in Normandy, about the year 1170. (fn. 1) Two or more monks of the abbey lived here to look after their property, and established a small priory.

In 1294, when difficulties arose as to the alien priories owing to the wars with France, Edward I had the whole of their property and goods valued throughout England. The prior of Stratfield Saye at that time held a messuage with dovecote within the precincts of the priory manor, worth 6s. 8d. a year; he held also one hundred acres of arable land, worth 25s. a year, at 3d. an acre; seven acres of meadow worth 8s. 9d. an acre, at 15d. an acre; and six acres of underwood, worth 18d.; total, 41s. 11d. There were seven free tenants holding two virgates at a rent of 35s. 9d. The prior also drew a pension from the church of Stratfield Saye of 71s. 8d., making the total annual value £7 9s. 4d. (fn. 2)

At the same time the stock of the priory was thus valued: three plough horses and six foals, 33s. 6d.; a team of eight plough oxen, 48s.; another inferior team, 40s.; five cows in poor condition, 20s.; nine calves, 4s. 6a.; a bull, 4s.; four bullocks, 12s.; three heifers, 9s.; twentysix two-year-old sheep, 18s. 4d.; nine lambs, 3s.; two boars, 3s.; three sows, 4s.; fifteen pigs, 15s.; and eight little pigs, 2s.; total, £11 11s. 4d. The kitchen utensils were valued at 23s. 5d., and the value of the sown crops at 54s, giving a full total of £15 8s. 9d. (fn. 3)

We find from the Patent Rolls of Edward III that the priory evidently occupied the site, and perhaps used the actual buildings of the old hermitage. In March, 1332, William Valaran, who is styled 'prior of the hermitage of Stratfield Say' and proctor-general in England for the Abbey of St. Mary's, Vallemont, had licence to sell wood to the value of £10 out of the wood belonging to the abbey at Wydemore, in Pamber Forest, to find funds for the repair of the hermitage. (fn. 4)

On 25 April, 1341, the king granted the hermitage of St. Leonard, Stratfield Saye, to John le Fevre, of Connellan, of the order of St. Benedict, the priorship being in his gift owing to the king's assumption of the lands of all alien religious persons throughout England. (fn. 5)

In June, 1342, restitution was made to Brother Ralph, monk of Vallemont, warden of the hermitage of Stratfield Saye, of the hermitage and its lands lately taken into the king's hands, owing to the war with France; because it had been found by inquisitions taken by the sheriffs of Berkshire and Hampshire that the same was charged with a chantry of two monks, and with divers other alms and works of piety, for which it had an endowment of £5 8s. 5d., and if the priory was retained in the king's hands these could not be maintained. (fn. 6)

On 3 March, 1345, the mayor and bailiffs of Dover were directed to permit Brother Ralph, prior of Stratfield Saye and monk of the abbey of Vallemont, who was about to set out to parts beyond the sea by the king's licence, to cross from that port, and to allow him reasonable expenses so far as a gold noble; but he was to make no apport or tribute to a foreign abbey contrary to the statute. (fn. 7)

Edward III in 1399 permitted the abbot and convent of Vallemont to grant the hermitage of Stratfield Saye and its lands, valued at £30 a year, to Thomas Colle and his heirs. (fn. 8)

In 1461 Edward IV granted the old priory estates of Stratfield Saye to Eton College. (fn. 9)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 1044.
  • 2. Add. MS. 6164, fol. 21.
  • 3. Ibid. fols. 41–3.
  • 4. Pat. 6 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 14.
  • 5. Ibid. 15 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 23.
  • 6. Ibid. 16 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 40.
  • 7. Close, 19 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 27d.
  • 8. Pat. 22 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 19.
  • 9. Ibid. 1 Edw. IV, pt. iii, m. 24.