Houses of Gilbertine canons: Priory of Marmont

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1948.

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'Houses of Gilbertine canons: Priory of Marmont', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2, ed. L F Salzman( London, 1948), British History Online [accessed 14 July 2024].

'Houses of Gilbertine canons: Priory of Marmont', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2. Edited by L F Salzman( London, 1948), British History Online, accessed July 14, 2024,

"Houses of Gilbertine canons: Priory of Marmont". A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2. Ed. L F Salzman(London, 1948), , British History Online. Web. 14 July 2024.


In the early morning of 4 February 1188 St. Gilbert, founder of the only English monastic Order, died at Sempringham. (fn. 1) Among the great number of persons whom he had influenced during his long life was Maud, daughter and heir of Richard de Dunwich and wife of Sir Ralph de Hauvill who held Dunton, with Doughton and Kettleston, in Norfolk by the serjeantry of keeping two of the king's falcons, (fn. 2) and had land in Upwell in the Liberty of St. Etheldreda. (fn. 3) The manor of the Bishops of Ely in Upwell extended into Outwell in Norfolk and adjoined the de Hauvill land which was also on both sides of the river, the Cambridgeshire part being at once within the Isle of Ely and in the Norwich deanery of Fordham. (fn. 4)

On the night of the saint's death it is recorded that Maud de Hauvill dreamt that she saw a great company of angels bearing the souls of three of the blessed to heaven, of whom one exceeded the others in glory, and that he was Master Gilbert of Sempringham. (fn. 5) It was not, however, until nearly 15 years later that Ralph de Hauvill founded on his land in Upwell a small priory or chantry of three priests of the Gilbertine Order for the souls of himself and his wife. The endowment, which was confirmed by King John on 9 May 1204, (fn. 6) consisted of all the lands of Ralph and Maud on both sides of the water in Welles, with all their buildings and franchises there, together with the bodies of the founders. The Order was to build a house for their three canons at Ralph's expense, and their only service was to be the payment of 5s. a year as rent, and the reservation of Hauvill's right and that of his heirs to pasture 60 head of cattle with the canons' beasts. The king in confirming the gift stipulated that the canons were to say mass daily in the parish church—apparently they had no conventual chapel—for the soul of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

With his lands in Upwell and Outwell de Hauvil gave for the maintenance of the new house the church of Dunton, with its chapel at Doughton, and Kettleston Church in the diocese of Norwich, with Haconby Church in that of Lincoln, not far from Sempringham itself. Sir Thomas Hauvill, his son and heir, is said to have confirmed all his father's gifts and to have given the canons four couple of swans, with permission to pasture four mares and foals. (fn. 7) But the founder's grant seems to have been only partially effective, as there is no evidence that the canons ever had Kettleston or Haconby Church. That of Dunton, however, is noted in 1291 as appropriated to the priory and valued at £10, (fn. 8) the temporalities of the priory at that time being £11 in Upwell (fn. 9) and £4 10s. in Walsoken. (fn. 10) The canons do not appear to have had the advowson of the vicarage at Dunton. (fn. 11) By 1535 the value of Dunton rectory had fallen to 50s. and the total income of the priory was only £10 16s., of which £7 came from their Cambridgeshire manor of Upwell. (fn. 12) At that time, the commissioners note that Marmont is a cell to the priory of Watton in Yorkshire, but that as it has its own communal seal they have valued it separately. (fn. 13) There is no other evidence of this connexion; but the whole history of this little house is involved in obscurity.

The commissioners appointed in 1536 to survey the religious houses were instructed, if there were any Gilbertine houses in their county, 'to order the governors to appear before the Chancellor of the Augmentations at Westminster to learn the King's pleasure'. (fn. 14) Under Norfolk the commissioners reported that 'the monastery of Shuldeham and the Priory of Marmonde ben of thordre of Gylberdynes, who hath lykewyse commandement by privy seale to appere before you opon sight of the same', (fn. 15) but there is no known record of any Gilbertine prior having so appeared. On 14 October 1538 Roger, (fn. 16) Prior of Marmont, surrendered his house to Dr. Legh, with William Cristall, his only canon. (fn. 17) There had been no resistance from Gilbertine heads of houses and all were pensioned, but the Prior of Marmont, here styled Roger Walker, received, as was natural for so small and poor a priory, the smallest pension of all, only £2 13s. 4d., William Cristall receiving 40s. (fn. 18)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, p. xxii; Rose Graham, St. Gilbert of Sempringham and the Gilbertines, 24.
  • 2. Rot. Hundr. (Rec. Com.), i, 535; Blomefield, Norfolk, vii, 84.
  • 3. Ibid. 455.
  • 4. 'Welles' is the common medieval name for the combined parishes of Upwell in the Isle of Ely and Outwell in Norfolk. Some confusion is caused by the fact that, whereas Upwell is in the Cambridgeshire Rural Deanery of Fordham (Cambs.), in the diocese of Norwich, Outwell is in the Deanery of Fincham, which also includes Fordham in Norfolk.
  • 5. Mon. Angl. vi, p. xxiv.
  • 6. Rot. Chart. (Rec. Com.), 129.
  • 7. Blomefield, Norfolk, vii, 477.
  • 8. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 89.
  • 9. Ibid. 101.
  • 10. Ibid. 97.
  • 11. Blomefield, op. cit. 87.
  • 12. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 379.
  • 13. Ibid. 380.
  • 14. Dublin Review, Apr. 1894, p. 261.
  • 15. Ibid. 265.
  • 16. He was prior in 1535: Valor Eccl. iii, 379. According to Blomefield (op. cit. 478) Peter Church was prior in 21 Hen. VIII, but he gives no reference.
  • 17. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (2), 608.
  • 18. Ibid. xiv (1), p. 600.