Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Sandleford

Pages 86-88

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

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This small priory of Austin canons was founded by Geoffrey, the fourth count of Perch, and Matilda of Saxony, his wife, on a site about a mile south of Newbury, called Sandleford or Sandford, close to the banks of the Enborne, which forms the boundary between Berkshire and Hampshire. The date of the foundation lies between the years 1193 and 1202. It appears from the confirmation charter of Archbishop Stephen that the house was dedicated to the honour of St. John Baptist, and endowed with the church and all the lands of Sandleford. The boundaries of the lands are set forth in detail, and the whole was inclosed with hedges and ditches. The endowment also included the wood of Bradmore (still known as Broadmore), the right to construct a mill on the Enborne, and thirteen marks sterling to be paid the canons annually out of the mills of Newbury. (fn. 1)

The information that can be gleaned of this house is meagre and fragmentary. In 1204 the rent of thirteen marks out of the mills of Newbury was confirmed by the crown, (fn. 2) and when Henry III was at Reading in June, 1231, he instructed the sheriff of Berkshire to see that the prior and canons of Sandleford had the 13 marks a year out of the mill of Newbury, granted to them by Earl Geoffrey de Perch; the mill having come into the hands of the crown on the death of the earl, (fn. 3) as Thomas, the son of the founder, and the last count of Perch, was killed at Lincoln in 1217.

The taxation roll of Pope Nicholas in 1291 names temporalities that the prior of Sandleford held, which were worth £2 8s. 8d. at Newbury, £1 15s. at Enborne, £1 6s. at West Ilsley, and 10s. at Aldworth.

Thomas de Sandleford obtained licence in 1312 for alienation in mortmain to this convent of a messuage, 20 acres of land, and 2 acres of meadow in 'Clere Wodelond,' by Kingsclere, Hampshire. (fn. 4) Confirmation of grant and release, which Agnes widow of Richard Neirnut and others made to the church of St. John Baptist, Sandleford, and the prior and canons of that place, of possessions in West Ilsley and the advowson of that church, was entered on the patent rolls in 1313. (fn. 5) The prior and convent obtained licence under the privy seal in March, 1320, to appropriate in mortmain the church of West Ilsley, which was of their advowson. (fn. 6) Nicholas de la Beche obtained licence in April, 1339, to alienate to this house the advowson of the manor chapel of Hacklestone, Wiltshire, and of a portion of the tithes of the manor, in exchange for a messuage and a carucate of land in Aldworth, Berkshire. (fn. 7)

In 1340 the prior and convent obtained privy seal licence to acquire land and rent, not held in chief, to the annual value of £10. Two years later they acquired, under this licence, the sixth part of three mills at Newbury, of the gift of Hugh de Mortuo Mari, but this only produced an annual sum of 5s. (fn. 8) A considerable augmentation of endowment came to the priory in 1349, when John de Estbury and three others assigned to this house 144 acres of land, 20 acres of meadow, 12 acres of wood, and 10s. rent in Newbury. (fn. 9)

In 1310 a release was granted from Edmund de Wyntreshull to Walter de Wyntreshole, his brother, of his right in the manor of Eastleigh, Hampshire, with the advowson of the priory of Sandleford, Berkshire. (fn. 10)

Notwithstanding the smallness of the house and its endowments, the priory was expected to receive royal pensioners, and on 28 February, 1317, William Spyny, who had served the king and his father, was sent to the prior and convent of Sandleford, to receive his maintenance for life. (fn. 11)

In 1320 Edward II was visiting in this neighbourhood; on 31 August he was at Sandleford Priory, where he apparently tarried for the night. (fn. 12)

In February, 1297, protection was granted by Edward I until All Saints' Day to the prior of Sandleford, his men, lands, goods, rents, and possessions, on fine being made before the chancellor. (fn. 13)

Proceedings were begun to be taken in February, 1440, against Simon Dam, prior of Sandleford, on account of the dilapidation of the property and goods of the house during the time he had been superior, and more especially for personal incontinence. The charges were sufficiently grave and well-founded to secure his deprivation at the hands of the bishop; sentence was pronounced in the church of Newbury on 19 April. (fn. 14)

A dispute that arose in the reign of James I, between the rector of Newbury and the lessee of Sandleford as to tithes, enables us to learn something more as to this priory and its later days. The case came before the King's Bench in 1615, and the details then set out show that among privileges granted the priory by papal bull no person was allowed to build a chapel or oratory within the limits of Sandleford parish without the convent's consent; that, therefore, Sandleford was not within the parish of Newbury, but was a parish to itself; that there never was any incumbent presented or instituted to the church or chapel of Sandleford, for the prior and canons were parson, without any endowment of vicar; that when the priory and its possessions were united to the collegiate church of Windsor, about 1478, the dean and canons placed a stipendiary priest to say divine service at Sandleford at a stipend of £8. (fn. 15)

This appropriation of Sandleford Priory to Windsor was brought about by Bishop Beauchamp of Salisbury, during the time that he also held the deanery of Windsor (1478-81). It was then stated that the religious had wholly forsaken the monastery, but no particulars seem to be extant. The Valor of Henry III gives the annual value of the Sandleford estates to Windsor College as £10, and at the same time the free chapel of Sandleford was entered as £8. The Chantry Commissioners of 1548 returned Sandleford as a free chapel of that value, but said that the dean and canons of Windsor claimed to appoint to it at will. (fn. 16)

The lawsuit of 1615 also shows that at that date the chapel had been suffered to fall into decay by the farmers of the priory, and that the bells, seats, and other furniture had all been taken away. The chapel was converted into a diningroom in the eighteenth century, when the property belonged to Elizabeth Montagu, the famous 'bluestocking.'

Priors of Sandleford

Stephen, c. 1260 (fn. 17)

Robert de Wynton, elected 1301 (fn. 18)

Thomas de Sandleford, occurs 1311, (fn. 19) 1330 (fn. 20)

William de Wynton, resigned 1334 (fn. 21)

Robert Gilbert, elected 1334 (fn. 21)

John, elected 1383 (fn. 22)

Richard Stanford, elected 1403 (fn. 23)

Hugh Warham, elected 1406 (fn. 24)

Symon Dam, deposed 1440 (fn. 25)

William Costyn, elected 1448 (fn. 26)

William Westbury, occurs 1457 (fn. 27)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 565.
  • 2. Close R. (ed. Hardy), i, 3.
  • 3. Close, 15 Hen. III, m. 12.
  • 4. Ibid. 6 Edw. II, m. 10.
  • 5. Ibid. 7 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 15.
  • 6. Ibid. 13 Edw. II, m. 9.
  • 7. Pat. 13 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 19.
  • 8. Ibid. 14 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 6; 16 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 38; Inq. a.q.d. 15 Edw. III, No. 39.
  • 9. Money, Newbury, 149.
  • 10. Close, 4 Edw. II, m. 22 d.
  • 11. Ibid. 10 Edw. II, m. 15d.
  • 12. Money, Newbury, 160.
  • 13. Pat. 25 Edw. I, m. 15d.
  • 14. Sar. Epis. Reg. Aiscough (2nd pt.), fol. 50.
  • 15. Lysons, Mag. Brit. i, 353; Money, Newbury, 67–70.
  • 16. College and Chantry Cert. No. 7.
  • 17. Witness to a deed. Money, Newbury, 131.
  • 18. Sar. Epis. Reg. Gandavo, fol. 26.
  • 19. Witness to a deed. Money, Newbury, 161.
  • 20. Close, 4 Edw. III, m. 30 d.
  • 21. Sar. Epis. Reg. Wyville, ii (2nd pt.), fol. 35.
  • 22. Ibid. Erghum, fol. 716.
  • 23. Ibid. Mitford, fol. 76.
  • 24. Ibid. fol. 103.
  • 25. Ibid. Aiscough (2nd pt.), fol. 50.
  • 26. Ibid. (1st pt.) fol. 71.
  • 27. Madox, Form. Angl. 126.