Houses of Benedictine monks: The priory of Bradwell

Pages 350-352

A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 1. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1905.

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The priory of Bradwell, like that of Luffield, has scarcely any history at all. It was founded somewhere about the year 1155 by Meinfelin, lord of Wolverton, (fn. 1) and the patronage of the house continued in this family for a century at least. (fn. 2) Its endowments were very small, and it had scarcely any property outside this county.

As early as the reign of John the prior had to contest with Alan of Etchingham the advowson of Padbury church, (fn. 3) and there were several suits in the thirteenth century in connection with the church of Chalfont St. Giles, (fn. 4) which passed for some time out of the hands of the monks. (fn. 5) This house appears to have been among those which suffered most from the effects of the Great Pestilence: the prior, William of Loughton, died in 1349, and a dispensation granted in the same year to a certain monk of illegitimate birth to hold any office, even that of prior, (fn. 6) suggests that the number of those eligible was very small at that time. It is stated by Browne Willis that the prior in 1361 was sequestered for causing or allowing dilapidation of the conventual buildings, (fn. 7) and there seems to have been a vacancy for some years after this. (fn. 8) Not even the names of the priors between 1410 and 1492 have as yet been recovered: the history of the house during that period is almost a blank sheet. In 1504, at the resignation of Thomas Wright, the number of monks was insufficient for a canonical election, and the bishop was obliged to collate a prior (fn. 9); and in 1524 the site of the monastery and its scanty revenues were granted to Cardinal Wolsey for the endowment of his new college. (fn. 10)

During the latter half of the fourteenth century, when the priory of Bradwell was evidently very poor and its monks few in number, it nevertheless appears to have had a very high character for the strict observance of the rule. For one of those monks who obtained permission from the good abbot of St. Albans, Thomas de la Mare, to leave his own monastery in search of a more perfect life, made choice of this little house (fn. 11) as a place of holy retirement; perhaps finding its simplicity and very real poverty more attractive than the stately order of the great abbey in which he was professed. The priory seems to have maintained this character for some time. When Bishop Gray visited it between 1431 and 1436 (fn. 12) he had no serious fault to find with anything he heard or saw. He encouraged the monks in spite of the smallness of their numbers still to be regular in rising to mattins; and if there were not sufficient voices to sing the office they were permitted to recite it without note, yet devoutly and distinctly, observing the pause in every verse. If they were unable to go to the refectory together every day, they should do so at least on Wednesdays and Fridays: in other words, the fact that they were few was not in any way to hinder the regularity of their life. The bishop concluded by bidding them increase their number as soon as possible on pain of contempt, but it seems probable that their poverty made this almost impossible, for in 1455 they had to petition for the suppression of the vicarage of Padbury and its union with the parish church (fn. 13) : and the sum total of their revenue at the time of the dissolution of the monastery was less than £50.

The original endowment of the priory comprised only certain lands in Wolverton and Padbury, and the churches of Wolverton, Padbury, Stantonbury, Chalfont St. Giles' and Stoke Hammond. (fn. 14) The church of Stantonbury was granted at an early date to the Cathedral at Lincoln, (fn. 15) and the church of Chalfont St. Giles in the year 1259; the latter was however reckoned among the benefices belonging to the monastery in 1527. The temporalities assigned to Bradwell in 1291 amount only to £10 19s. 10d. (fn. 16); and a survey taken in 1380 gave a total of £32 6s. 2d. (fn. 17) At the dissolution the total issues of the house were stated to be £47 4s. 1¼d. (fn. 18)

Priors of Bradwell

Nigel, (fn. 19) occurs 1189

Richard, (fn. 20) occurs 1201

John, (fn. 21) occurs 1219

Richard, (fn. 22) resigned 1237

Simon de Kantia, (fn. 23) elected 1237

John, (fn. 24) occurs 1253

Bartholomew, (fn. 25) occurs 1272

Robert of Ramsey, (fn. 26) elected 1280

John, (fn. 27) died 1320

Robert of Rowsham, (fn. 28) elected 1320

Robert Foliot, (fn. 29) died 1331

Simon of Elstow, (fn. 30) elected 1331, resigned 1336

William of Loughton, (fn. 31) elected 1336, died 1349

John of Billing, (fn. 32) elected 1349

John of Willen, (fn. 33) deprived 1361

John Horwood, (fn. 34) occurs 1388, died 1410

William Horwood, (fn. 35) elected 1410

John Wells, (fn. 36) elected 1492, died 1503

Thomas Wright, (fn. 37) elected 1503, resigned 1504

Robert Boston, (fn. 38) elected 1504, resigned 1515

John Ashby, (fn. 39) last prior elected 1515

Pointed oval seal, one side of which is chipped, attached to a charter (fn. 40) bearing the date 1209, represents the prior standing on a corbel holding a book. Legend, partly defaced, runs: . . . ILL' PRIORIS DE BRADEWELL.


  • 1. Browne Willis, History of Abbies, ii. 15.
  • 2. The name of Longville appears as patron in an election of 1410; and Sir John Longville granted the priory to Cardinal Wolsey in 1524, with the proviso that a chaplain should be found to sing mass for his soul in the priory church or else in the new college at Oxford. L. and P. Henry VIII. iv. (1) 536.
  • 3. Feet of F. (Rec. Com.), 3 John, p. 200.
  • 4. Feet of F. 3 Hen. III. Nos. 2 and 6. The prior gained the day, but granted the presentation to William de Aubeney and his wife for life. There was another suit in 1253, when John de Wellington failed to establish a claim on the church (ibid. 37 Hen. III. no. 4).
  • 5. In 1259, when it was granted to the Cathedral at Lincoln. Lipscomb, History of Bucks, iii. 229.
  • 6. Cal. of Pap. Letters, iv. 175.
  • 7. Browne Willis, History of Abbies, ii. 15. When Browne Willis's references can be traced, they are usually found to be accurate in connection with his own county.
  • 8. Commissions were issued by the bishop in 1376 and 1381 to different persons to take charge of the priory during vacancy. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Bokyngham, 126 and 235.
  • 9. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Smith, 375d.
  • 10. L. and P. Henry VIII. iv. (1) 536, etc.
  • 11. Gesta Abbatum (Rolls Ser.), iii. 416.
  • 12. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Gray, 202.
  • 13. Ibid. Memo. Chadworth, 41. The vicars had constantly brought suits against the priory, thinking they had not a sufficient share in the fruits of the benefice.
  • 14. Dugdale, Mon. iv. 508-12.
  • 15. Lipscomb, History of Bucks, iv. 348.
  • 16. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.).
  • 17. Dugdale, Mon. iv. 510-11. The survey is quoted from a valuation which Browne Willis saw at Buckden, dated 1380; and in the Episcopal register of 1380-1 a survey of the goods of the monastery was ordered, of which this may be the result (Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Bokyngham, 235). The prior of Bradwell in 1316 had only one third of the village of Padbury. Feud. Aids, i. 109.
  • 18. L. and P. Henry VIII. iv. (3) 6788.
  • 19. Browne Willis, History of Abbies, ii. 15.
  • 20. Feet of F. (Rec. Com.), 200.
  • 21. Feet of F. Bucks. 3 Hen. III. 2 and 6, and Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Hugh of Wells, A° 11.
  • 22. Ibid. Rolls of Grosstête.
  • 23. Ibid. He had been sacrist of Peterborough.
  • 24. Feet of F. 37 Hen. III. 4.
  • 25. Ibid. 56 Hen. III. 17.
  • 26. Browne Willis, History of Abbies, ii. 15.
  • 27. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Burwash, 325.
  • 28. Ibid.
  • 29. Ibid. 338. He may be the same as Robert of Rowsham.
  • 30. Ibid.
  • 31. Ibid. 349.
  • 32. Ibid. Inst. Gynwell, 240.
  • 33. Browne Willis, History of Abbies, ii. 15. This may be the same as John of Billing; but as Willis does not give his reference, it cannot at present be proved that he has misread the name.
  • 34. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Repingdon, 444.
  • 35. Ibid.
  • 36. Browne Willis, History of Abbies, ii. 15. He had been prior of Snelshall.
  • 37. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Smith, 371d.
  • 38. Ibid. 375d.
  • 39. Ibid. Inst. Atwater, 40d. He seems to have been alive in 1529. L. and P. Henry VIII. iv. 6033.
  • 40. Harl. Chart. 84 D. 19.