Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Breadsall

Pages 54-56

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section


With regard to the foundation of this small priory of Breadsall or Breadsall Park, it has always hitherto been stated that it was in its first origin an establishment of Austin Friars, or Friars Eremites. This statement has been made in consequence of the entry on the Patent Roll of 1266 to the effect that Henry III granted to the Eremites of Breadsall a messuage and 20 acres of land in Horsley and Horston, for which they were to render yearly half a mark to the bailiff of the royal manor of Horston. (fn. 1) There must, however, be some slip of the scribe in making this entry, for the Austin Friars, in common with the other mendicant orders, were not allowed to accept any benefactions of land other than the site of their house. Instead of ever being a house of Austin Friars, this priory was clearly a priory of Austin Canons; otherwise such a donation as this would have been an impossibility. Moreover, a house of friars was invariably placed amid a considerable population. All that can be said of its origin is that it was clearly well established before 1266, and that it was founded in the thirteenth century by one of the Curzons of Breadsall, either by Richard Curzon, son of Henry Curzon by the heiress of Dunne, or by Sir Robert Curzon, the son of Richard.

The possessions of this small priory of the Holy Trinity were valued by the Taxation Roll of 1291 at £5 19s. per annum. The 20 acres at Horston in the adjoining parish of Horsley produced 10s. a year, whilst 20 acres of land round the house at Breadsall, with a dovecote, were worth £2. The priory also held rents in Breadsall and small plots of land in Morley and Horsley, whilst the yearly profits on their farm stock averaged £2 5s. 8d.

The royal bequest of the Horston acres was farmed for the priory from an early date. In 1328 licence was obtained from the crown by the prior of Breadsall Park to lease this land for a term of forty years to Thomas de Goldyngton and his heirs. (fn. 2)

The first prior of this house named in the episcopal registers was Hugh de Mackworth, who was appointed in 1306 under the patronage of Richard Curzon. (fn. 3) The endowments of this house were so slender that it seems never to have had more than two canons beside the prior, and not infrequently only one, and finally simply a prior. It therefore came about that a canonical chapter election was an impossibility, and hence the simple nomination of the hereditary patron was usually accepted. The patron of the priory was the lord of the manor of Breadsall Overhall, who was also the patron of the rectory of the parish church of Breadsall. It was held by the Curzon family for eight generations, but passed, in the reign of Richard II, to the Dethick family through the marriage of William Dethick with Cecilia, daughter and heiress of Thomas Curzon.

In 1309 Hamund de Merston, canon of the house of the Holy Trinity of the park of Breadsall, was admitted to the rule of the same at the presentation of Richard Curzon. (fn. 4) The same prior was readmitted by Bishop Northburgh in 1322 at the presentation of Henry Curzon. (fn. 5) The next prior was William de Repyndon, a canon of Breadsall. He resigned in October, 1347, and the bishop commissioned the abbot of Darley to act for him in the business of the election of Thomas de Castello, with the result that it was duly confirmed. (fn. 6) In 1365, after a long vacancy, the bishop collated as prior Thomas de London: a curious and exceptional appointment, for Prior Thomas had been a monk of Burtonon-Trent. (fn. 7) Geoffrey de Stafford, after a short interval, was the next prior, and on his resignation in 1370 Thomas Lewes, one of the canons of the house, was made prior. The entry of Lewes' institution in the episcopal register names Robert Molde, rector of Breadsall, Henry Adderley, and John de Twyford, vicar of Spondon, as patrons of the house. This triple patronage may have arisen through the true patron being an infant.

Four or five of the subsequent priors had previously been canons of the house; but the appointments in 1442 and 1487 were from among the Austin Canons of Darley Abbey, and in 1456 from those of Repton Priory. When Roger Upton was appointed prior in 1384 Sir Thomas Wendesley was the patron, but only pro hac vice. Sir Thomas was a Derbyshire knight of some renown; he was killed at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403; his effigy is in the south transept of Bakewell church. It is not clear why he presented on this occasion, but it may possibly have been in return for some specific benefaction, by arrangement with the rightful patron.

In return for a number of small benefactions made by Henry Cotton, clerk, and others in 1392, (fn. 8) it was stipulated that daily masses should for ever be celebrated within the priory church for the good estate whilst living, and for the souls after death, of the various donors.

In 1402 there was another inquisition to allow William Dethick to assign to the prior and convent of Breadsall Park one rood of land and a moiety of the rectory of Mugginton. The land was valued at 3d. per annum, and the half of the rectory at £5. This William Dethick was the son of William Dethick by Cecilia the heiress of Curzon. (fn. 9) William Dethick, though he obtained the sanction of the inquest for this alienation, neglected to procure letters patent to warrant the evasion of the Statutes of Mortmain, and on his death, in 1411, his executors and trustees were mulcted by the crown in the heavy fine of 25 marks for licence to continue to the priory the alienation of the rood of land and the moiety of the church of Mugginton. (fn. 10) It is stated in this licence that the gift was made to the priory for the augmentation of divine worship there, and for prayers for the souls of William Dethick and Alice his wife, and their posterity and ancestry. It was further stipulated that a suitable sum was to be given to the poor of Mugginton out of the fruits of the living by the prior, in accordance with the provisions of the statute 15 Ric. II, cap. vi, and that he should also see to the sufficient endowment of a vicar for that parish.

William Dethick procured this moiety of the rectory of Mugginton and the rood of land in 1401 from Peter de la Pole and his wife Elizabeth (heiress of Chandos) in exchange for land in Radbourne, Dalybury Lees, and Heanor. (fn. 11) For about a century and a half Mugginton was served by a rector and by a vicar on behalf of the moiety belonging to the priory. On the suppression of Breadsall Priory in 1536 this half rectory of Mugginton was transferred to Darley Abbey, but in less than three years the abbey also fell into the hands of the crown, and it was granted to Thomas Babington.

In 1444 there was a suit between the dean and chapter of the newly-formed collegiate church of St. Mary, Leicester, who were the appropriators of the rectory of Duffield, and the priory of Breadsall Park as holder of one moiety of the church of Mugginton, and Richard Bec, the rector of the other moiety of the same church, concerning the tithes of a certain field called Hethfeld. The decision of the arbitrator, Roland Thornton, licentiate of laws, official of Lincoln, was in favour of the Leicester College, because the field was proved, from various fines and old documents, to be within the bounds and limits of the parish of Duffield. Richard Bec, who held the living from 1426 to 1469, was condemned, for contempt of Court of Arches, to pay to the Leicester Chapter the sum of 40s. (fn. 12)

In the year 1448, during the time that Thomas Breadsall was prior (1442-56), certain charters and evidences pertaining to the priory, which particularly affected the interests of William Dethick as hereditary patron, were stolen. On the complaint of William Dethick, the bishop of Coventry and Lichfield issued his mandate to the rectors of the churches of Breadsall and Morley, to the vicar of Horsley, and to the chaplain of All Saints', Derby, directing them, during high mass on the next three Sundays and feast days to warn all concerned in this theft, to restore the muniments within fifteen days, under pain of the greater excommunication. (fn. 13) Whether this ecclesiastical threat secured the return of the purloined deeds cannot now be ascertained.

An agreement was entered into in 1453 between Thomas Breadsall, prior of Breadsall Park, and John Statham, of Morley, by which the prior undertook, in consideration of a gift by John Statham of 7 marks for the roof of the priory church, and for glazing the (clearstory) windows of the same, that the prior or a canonpriest of the priory should celebrate an annual mass for the souls of Goditha, Thomas, Elizabeth Cecilia and John Statham on the feast of the Eleven Thousand Virgins. (fn. 14) Goditha, heiress of Morley, died in 1418, having brought the estate to her husband Ralph Statham. Their son Thomas married Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Lumley, and the issue of this marriage was John Statham, who took to wife Cecilia Cornwall. John Statham died the year after his benefaction to this priory, and was buried at Morley.

On 28 March, 1454, Bishop Boulers granted licence to John Derby, canon of Breadsall Park, for a year's absence from the priory to administer the sacraments and discharge all clerical offices (sacra et sacralia) in parish churches throughout the diocese, but always to wear the habit of his order. (fn. 15) He was evidently licensed to discharge the duties, in modern parlance, of a special missioner, and was probably a gifted preacher.

In October, 1456, the bishop confirmed the appointment of Robert Burton, a canon of Repton Priory, to be prior of Breadsall by the express consent of Sir William Dethick, patron of the same, with whom, it was stated, rested the first licence to elect or provide a superior when the priory was vacant. The vacancy occurred through the resignation of Thomas Breadsall, the late prior. (fn. 16)

When the Valor Ecclesiasticus was drawn up in 1535 there were small temporalities in Breadsall, Duffield, Windley, and Horsley, and the moiety of Mugginton rectory was valued at £5 6s. 8d.; but the clear annual income was only £10 17s. 9d. William Pendylton was prior, and had only himself to rule, for there was no brother canon.

On the suppression of the lesser houses in 1536, this small priory came to an end. William Pendylton, the prior, obtained in 1537 the minute pension of 5 marks. (fn. 17) The house and site of the late priory, with adjoining land, were farmed of the crown by Lawrence Holland, of Belper, from Michaelmas, 1536. (fn. 18)

Priors of Breadsall

Hugh de Mackworth, appointed 1306 (fn. 19)

Hamund de Merston, appointed 1309 (fn. 20)

William de Repyndon, resigned 1347 (fn. 21)

Thomas de Castello, appointed 1347 (fn. 22)

Thomas de London, appointed 1365 (fn. 23)

Geoffrey de Stafford, resigned 1370 (fn. 24)

Thomas Lewis, appointed 1370 (fn. 25)

Roger Upton, appointed 1384 (fn. 26)

Thomas Holand alias Bakster, 1431-42 (fn. 27)

Thomas Breadsall, 1442 (fn. 28) -56 (fn. 29)

Robert Burton, 1456 (fn. 29) -87 (fn. 30)

Henry Halom, appointed 1487 (fn. 30)

John Alton, died 1519 (fn. 31)

Thomas Beyston, appointed 1519 (fn. 32)

William Pendylton occurs 1535, surrendered 1536 (fn. 33)

There is a small fragment of the seal of Breadsall Priory attached to a document of 1453. Enough remains to show that its subject was a representation of the Holy Trinity beneath canopied work. (fn. 34)


  • 1. Pat. 50 Hen. III, m. 8.
  • 2. Pat. 2 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 30.
  • 3. Lich. Epis. Reg. Langton, fol. 65.
  • 4. Lich. Epis. Reg. Langton, fol. 71.
  • 5. Ibid. Northburgh, vol. i, fol. 63.
  • 6. Ibid. fol. 180.
  • 7. Ibid. Stretton, fol. 37 d.
  • 8. Chan. Inq. 15 Ric. II, pt. 2, No. 134.
  • 9. Inq. a.q.d. 3 Hen. IV, No. 2.
  • 10. Pat. 11 Hen. IV, pt. 2, m. 7.
  • 11. Derb. Arch. Journ. xxvii, 142.
  • 12. Lich. Epis. Reg. Heyworth, fol. 194b.
  • 13. The muniments of Mr. Hugo Harpur-Crewe, Derb. Arch. Soc. Journ. xvi, 179-81.
  • 14. B.M. Add. Chart, 5243.
  • 15. Lich. Epis. Reg. Boulers, fol. 96.
  • 16. Ibid. 32.
  • 17. Aug. Off. Bks. ccxxxii, fol. 19b.
  • 18. For full particulars as to this, and the transference of the property in 6 Edw. VI to the duke of Suffolk, and by him in the following year to Thomas Babington, see Cox, Churches of Derby, iii, 73-4.
  • 19. Lich. Epis. Reg. Langton, fol. 65.
  • 20. Ibid. fol. 71. Merston seems to have been a second time admitted, in 1322; ibid. Sede Vac. fol. 63b.
  • 21. Ibid. Northburgh, vol. i, fol. 180.
  • 22. Ibid.
  • 23. Ibid. Stretton, fol. 37d.
  • 24. Ibid. fol. 41b.
  • 25. Ibid.
  • 26. Ibid. fol. 49b.
  • 27. Ibid. Heyworth, fol. 49b.
  • 28. Ibid. fol. 92b.
  • 29. Ibid. Boulers, fol. 32.
  • 30. Ibid. Hales, fol. 77.
  • 31. Ibid. Blyth, fol. 37b.
  • 32. Ibid.
  • 33. Valor Ecclesiasticus.
  • 34. Add. Chart. 5243.