House of Benedictine nuns: The priory of Bromhall

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

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'House of Benedictine nuns: The priory of Bromhall', in A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 2, ed. P H Ditchfield, William Page( London, 1907), British History Online [accessed 19 July 2024].

'House of Benedictine nuns: The priory of Bromhall', in A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 2. Edited by P H Ditchfield, William Page( London, 1907), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024,

"House of Benedictine nuns: The priory of Bromhall". A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 2. Ed. P H Ditchfield, William Page(London, 1907), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024.

In this section



Of the early foundation of the priory of Benedictine nuns at Bromhall within the limits of Windsor Forest, nothing is known. The first mention of it occurs in the year 1200, when King John bestowed on the priory of St. Margaret the church of Sunningwell with all its appurtenances. (fn. 1)

The consent of Bishop Simon de Gandavo to the appropriation of the church of Aldworth to the priory was obtained in May 1308. A vicarage was at the same time ordained, whereby a messuage with place adjoining and certain crofts and virgates of land were assigned to the vicar, together with mortuaries and oblations, and tithes of mills, as well as various small tithes, including those on apples, gardens, flax, wool, milk and cheese. (fn. 2)

Licence was granted under privy seal, in 1391, to the prioress and nuns of Bromhall, to appropriate, in consideration of their poverty, the advowson of North Stoke, co. Oxford. (fn. 3) The priory had to pay 3s. 4d. pension on Christmas day to the dean and chapter of Lincoln in recognition of their consent to this appropriation. (fn. 4)

In 1228 the king issued his mandate to Jordan, the forester of Windsor, to give full access to the prioress and nuns of Bromhall to the 100 acres of waste which the king had granted to the convent, in accordance with the bonds and divisions laid down by the king's courts. (fn. 5) In 1231 the king pardoned the nuns the pannage fees due to the crown for 36 pigs, and ordered the agisters of Windsor Forest henceforth to permit the priory to have free pannage. Later in the same year Henry ordered the constable of Windsor to grant the prioress three beams of timber in Windsor Forest, to make shingles for the repair of their refectory, and also to give her an oak. (fn. 6) The prioress and nuns of Bromhall obtained licence from the king in 1283 to inclose with a small dyke and a hedge sufficiently low for the entry and exit of the deer, the 100 acres of land which they had of the king's gift within the forest of Windsor, and which they had brought into cultivation. (fn. 7)

In July 1285, an inspection and confirmation of the charter of Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, and Margaret his wife to the nuns of Bromhall, was granted by Edward I. By this charter the priory obtained 100 acres of the waste of 'Asserigge' which lay between 'Pillingbere' and the high road from Bracknell and Reading. (fn. 8)

On 8 April, 1310, Constance de Bluntesdon, Maud de Burghton, and Dionisia de Horshulle, three nuns of Bromhall, arrived at Windsor to acquaint the king with the resignation of Isabel de Sunnyng their prioress, and to obtain letters of licence to elect her successor. (fn. 9)

On 22 May Edward II issued his mandate to the escheator for the restitution of the temporalities of Bromhall to Claricia de Cotes, a nun of that place, in consideration of the poverty of the house, and being unwilling to cause loss to the nuns by a prolonged voidance. He accepted her preferment as prioress by the bishop of Salisbury in place of Maud de Broughton, whose election, though the king had assented thereto, was found by the bishop to be canonically void. (fn. 10)

Margery de Fouleston died in December, 1327, and on the 6th of that month the nuns obtained licence to elect. After a little delay Gunnilda de Bokham was elected prioress, and the king, compassionating the poverty of the house, empowered the constable of Windsor Castle to grant royal assent to the election, and upon canonical confirmation to receive the fealty of the new prioress. (fn. 11)

Archbishop Arundel, on 6 November, 1404, issued a commission to the archdeacon of Berks., the dean of Windsor, and three others, to hold an inquiry concerning a complaint made by the nuns of Bromhall, who alleged that Juliana Bromhall, one of their number, had for twenty years led an evil life, having without their consent usurped the rule of the house, and had appropriated to her own nefarious uses chalices, books, jewels, and rents and property of the convent. (fn. 12) The exact result of the commission is not known, but Juliana resigned in 1405.

The early charters of this priory were burnt by mishap in 1462. Thereupon Alice, the prioress, and the nuns obtained inspection and confirmation of letters patent of 14 Edward II, whereby five charters of Henry III and letters patent of Edward I had been inspected and confirmed. The nuns were only charged the small fee of half a mark, doubtless in consideration of their misfortune. (fn. 13)

There is another reference to this disastrous fire. In this same year Walter de Cantilupe, bishop of Worcester, issued his mandate to the abbots, priors, and archdeacons of his diocese, to collect alms for the nuns of St. Margaret of Bromhall, in Sarum diocese, as their house had recently been destroyed by fire. (fn. 14)

It seems impossible to ascertain the exact facts that led to the early suppression of this small nunnery. Henry VIII, writing to the bishop of Salisbury on 13 December, 1521, thanked him for the care he had taken in suppressing the nunnery of Bromhall' for such enormities as was by them used.' He concludes by ordering the bishop to deliver to the bearer the evidences of the house then in his hands. (fn. 15) In the following March, at an inquisition held at Windsor, it was found that a priory of Benedictine nuns, dedicated to St. Margaret, was founded by the king's progenitors at Bromhall, under the authority of the bishop of Salisbury; that Joan Rawlyns, the prioress, resigned on 12 September, 1521; that the two nuns who were there with the prioress left the priory as a profane place, and that it is consequently dissolved; that the convent was seised of the church of St. Margaret and of the churchyard, and of the site and grange of the nunnery, which last included the mansion, manor, water-mill, gate-house, and gardens; that the church and churchyard were of no value, being set apart for divine service, and that the rest was worth 4s. a year. They believed that the convent was also seised of the manors of Bromhall and Wingfield, and that it held all its possessions of the king, to whom they reverted. (fn. 16)

On 21 October, 1522, the various possessions of the priory of Bromhall were transferred by the crown to the master, fellows, and scholars of St. John's College, Cambridge. (fn. 17)

Prioresses of Bromhall

Agnes de St. Edmund, occurs 1268 (fn. 18)

Margery de Wycombe, appointed 1281 (fn. 19)

Isabel, occurs 1295 (fn. 20)

Matilda de Berghton, appointed 1302 (fn. 21)

Isabel de Sunnyng, resigned 1310 (fn. 22)

Claricia de Cotes, appointed 1310 (fn. 22)

Matilda de Bourton, appointed 1315 (fn. 23)

Margery de Fouleston, appointed 1326, (fn. 24) died 1327 (fn. 25)

Gunnilda de Bokham, elected 1327 (fn. 26)

Isabel de Hautford, elected 1349 (fn. 27)

Alice de Falle, occurs 1358, 1363 (fn. 28)

Eleanor, occurs 1392 (fn. 29)

Juliana Bromhall alias Dunne, occurs 1404, resigned 1405 (fn. 30)

Thomasine Bodyngton, appointed 1405 (fn. 31)

Alice Burton, 1437, 1445 (fn. 32)

Isabel Beale, resigned 1483 (fn. 33)

Anne Thomas, resigned 1498 (fn. 34)

Elizabeth Leukenor, appointed 1498 (fn. 35)

Joan Rawlyns, 1511-1521

There is an impression of the seal of this priory attached to a deed of 16 Richard II, at Westminster Abbey, whereby Eleanor the prioress and the convent undertake to pay 3s. 4d. yearly to the dean and chapter of Lincoln for their consent to the appropriation of the church of North Stoke. The seal, which is circa 1200 in style, represents St. Margaret trampling on the dragon, and is exceptional in having two large faces in profile protruding from the inner side of the margin. Only a few letters of the legend remain. (fn. 36)


  • 1. Rot. Chart. 1 John, m. 11.
  • 2. Sar. Epis. Reg. Gandavo, fols. 88, 89; Pat. 2 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 24.
  • 3. Ibid. 15 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 27.
  • 4. Dugdale, Mon. iv, 507.
  • 5. Ct. R. 12 Hen. III, m. 13.
  • 6. Ibid. 15 Hen. III, m. 14, 11, 2.
  • 7. Pat. 11 Edw. I, m. 22.
  • 8. Ibid. 13 Edw. I, m. 9.
  • 9. Pat. 3 Edw. II, m. 8.
  • 10. Ibid. m. 6.
  • 11. Ibid. 1 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 8, 4, 1.
  • 12. Cant. Arch. Reg. Arundel, fol. 129b.
  • 13. Pat. 2 Edw. IV, pt. iii, m. 16, 15.
  • 14. C. C. C. Oxon. MSS. 154.
  • 15. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iii, 1863.
  • 16. Ibid. 2080.
  • 17. Pat. 14 Hen. VIII, pt. ii, m. 5. In Baker, Hist. of St. John's Coll. Camb. references are given to various letters contained in the 'Red Book,' relative to the suppression of the priory, and the transference of the property, dating from Oct. 1521, up to the following Feb.; the letters are numbered consecutively from 168 to 173.
  • 18. Cole MSS. xxviii, fol. 65b.
  • 19. Willis, Mitred Abbeys, ii, App. 3.
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Sar. Epis. Reg. Gandavo, fol. 42b.
  • 22. Pat. 3 Edw. II. m. 8, 6.
  • 23. Sar. Epis. Reg. Mortival, i, fol. 182.
  • 24. Ibid. fol. 186.
  • 25. Pat. I Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 8.
  • 26. Ibid. m. 1.
  • 27. Sar. Epis. Reg. Mortival.
  • 28. Willis, Mitred Abbeys.
  • 29. Cart. Misc. Westm. (Dugdale, Mon. iv, 507).
  • 30. Cant. Arch. Reg. Arundel, fol. 129b.
  • 31. B.M. Ducarel MSS. xiii, 184.
  • 32. Willis, Mitred Abbeys.
  • 33. Ibid.
  • 34. Sar. Epis. Reg. Blyth, fol. 100.
  • 35. Ibid.
  • 36. This seal is drawn on pl. 25 of vol. iv of Dugdale, Mon.