Alien houses: The priory of Povington

Pages 118-119

A History of the County of Dorset: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.

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Povington, formerly a manor and now a hamlet in the parish of Tyneham in the isle of Purbeck, was granted to the abbot and monks of Bec-Hellouin in Normandy by Robert Fitz Gerold, (fn. 1) a Norman who accompanied the Conqueror to England, and who is returned in Domesday as holding 'Povintone' of the king, the manor being valued then and in the days of Edward the Confessor at £11. (fn. 2) In the roll of Norman landowners in England of the year 1205 the manor of Povington belonging to the abbot of Bec was valued at 100s. unstocked, and at double that amount with the stock. The prior of Bec was reported to have removed since Easter eighty-five cheeses and all the wool of the flock, together with 1 mark from the sale of beans, 15s. from the sale of oats, and 20s. 9d. of the Easter rent. (fn. 3)

Notwithstanding the many charters granted in favour of this Norman abbey by the Norman and early Plantagenet kings, (fn. 4) the claim of the monks to their estates here did not pass unchallenged. As a result of a trial by wager of battle fought out between Avenel Fitz Robert and Henry abbot of Bec by his attorney, William de Wanecing, the former by a fine levied within fifteen days of Michaelmas, 1223, released to the said abbot his claim to the manor of Povington, and received by way of compensation the sum of 30 marks of silver. (fn. 5)

Towards the close of the thirteenth century the manor of Povington with its members of West Whiteway in the parish of Tyneham, Lutton and Blackmanstone in the parish of Steeple, and Milborne Bec in the parish of Bere Regis, had come to be reckoned as parcel of the priory of Ogbourne, Wiltshire, another cell to Bec; (fn. 6) the temporalities of the prior of Og in Tyneham and Steeple, Milborne Bec and Povington being assessed at £11 10s. in the year 1291. (fn. 7)

In common with other alien cells Povington was constantly taken into the king's hands during the wars with France. By an inquisition held on the occasion of its seizure 8 October, 1324, by Walter Beril and Martin Roger de Blokkesworthe the goods found in the manor of Povington and Lutton were valued at £58 9s. (fn. 8) The sheriff in 1337 was charged with the issues of Povington and Lutton, and of 'a certain place called Milborne Bek,' amounting to £28 4s. 9d., which had been taken into custody by Henry Haydok, clerk, and delivered to him. (fn. 9) The inquisition at Wareham the Monday after Easter, 1387, probably ordered with a view to ascertain the cause of the steady decrease in value then taking place in most of the alien cells, showed that the possessions of the prior of Ogbourne at Povington and West Whiteway, Lutton, and Blackmanstone were worth £6 13s. 4d. after all charges and deductions had been made. (fn. 10)

The vicissitudes of the manor during the fifteenth century were many and various, and one can hardly account for the contradictory effect of many of the grants. Before the final suppression of alien priories in 1414 Ogbourne, with all its rectories, manors, land, and possessions, &c., was granted by Henry IV to John duke of Bedford, who, piously recollecting the religious nature of the benefaction, made it over to the warden and canons of St. George's, Windsor, the gift being confirmed by Henry V. (fn. 11) Henry VI, on the death of the duke in 1435, (fn. 12) granted the manor of Povington—together with pensions and portions in Milborne Bec, Turnworth, Charlton, and Up Wimborne—parcel of the sometime alien priory of Ogbourne, which had reverted to the crown, to Richard Sturgeon, clerk, for life, and in 1442 bestowed the reversion of the manor with its members on John Carpenter, the master and brethren of the hospital of St. Anthony, London, for the exhibition and support of five boys or scholars 'well disposed' at the university of Oxford, each of whom should previously have been well and sufficiently instructed in the rudiments of grammar at Eton College and should receive at the university 10s. per week until he had attained the degree of bachelor of arts. (fn. 13) This arrangement notwithstanding, the king nine years later gave to the provost and college of Eton the farm or rent to be paid by John Newburgh, knt., for the custody of the manor of Povington to which he had been appointed the previous Michaelmas, 1450, together with the reversion of the same. (fn. 14) Edward IV, in the first year of his reign, while confirming the previous grant to St. George's, Windsor, of the alien priory of Ogbourne and all its appurtenances by John duke of Bedford, granted the manor of Povington to William Beaufitz for the term of twenty years. (fn. 15) In 1467 he made it over to Eton College, (fn. 16) and again in 1474 made it the subject of another grant in favour of the chapel of Windsor. (fn. 17)

The schemes of the Yorkist king for the union of Eton and Windsor and the enrichment of the royal chapel of the latter by the endowments of Henry VI's college were foiled by the decision of Archbishop Bourchier. (fn. 18) Edward IV by letters patent of May, 1478, appears to have repeated his grant of this manor to Windsor, (fn. 19) but Povington was, nevertheless, restored to Eton with other lands of which it had been deprived in anticipation, and remained in the hands of the college down to the reign of Henry VIII. (fn. 20)

There is in the case of Povington little to favour the presumption that a religious house was actually maintained here. A single reference to it as a 'priory' occurs years after it had passed away from its ancient possessors the abbots of Bec, (fn. 21) and, in all probability, it would be most accurately described as a grange.


  • 1. The pancarta of this foreign abbey, granted by Henry VI (Pat. 12 Hen. VI, pt. 1, m. 13), contains inspeximus charters of Henry IV, Richard II, Edward III, Henry III, and Henry II, with a confirmation of the possessions of the monks by Henry I, including a grant of the manor of 'Ponniton' in the county of Dorset by Robert Fitz Gerold.
  • 2. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i, 80b.
  • 3. Rot. Norman. (Hardy), 123.
  • 4. See collection of charters contained in Pat. 12 Hen. VI, pt. 1, m. 13, and Cal. Doc. France, 120–31.
  • 5. Feet of F. 7 Hen. III, 5 (26). Again in the autumn of 1225 Henry III directed the sheriff to delay a suit between Avenel de Purbeck and the abbot respecting a carucate of land with appurtenances in Milborne, and between John Fordham and the abbot in regard to the mill in Wareham until the following Easter, on account of the death of the proctor-general of the abbot in England, the abbot subsequently appointing Ralph de Exon, his monk, to act as his representative; Close, 9 Hen. III, m. 1; 10 Hen. III, m. 29.
  • 6. In 1206 John signified to the sheriff of Bucks, that the prior of Ogbourne had paid £100 down for the right to hold in his custody all lands and possessions of the monks of Bec in England, so that he might be disseised of none of them save by the special command of the king, and that he had also engaged to send none of the issues abroad; Rot. de Oblatis et Finibus, 1199–1216 (Hardy), 314. The town of Povington was returned in 1285, however, by the jurors of the hundred as belonging to the abbey of Bec-Hellouin, though they could not say by what title. The abbot claimed to have the fines (amerciamenta) of his tenants, the assize of bread and ale, and the right to hold a view of frankpledge within the manor; Inq. of Assess, relating to Feud. Aids, ii, 23–4.
  • 7. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 183–4.
  • 8. Mins. Accts. bdle. 1125, No. 7.
  • 9. Ibid. No. 9.
  • 10. Add. MS. 6164, fol. 506.
  • 11. Chart. R. 1 Edw. IV, m. 20.
  • 12. Inq. p.m. 14 Hen. VI, No. 36.
  • 13. Pat. 20 Hen. VI, pt. 1, m. 5.
  • 14. Ibid. 29 Hen. VI, pt. 1, m. 9.
  • 15. Chart. R. 1 Edw. IV, m. 20.
  • 16. Pat. 7 Edw. IV, pt. 3, m. 13.
  • 17. Ibid. 14 Edw. IV, pt. 4, m. 1.
  • 18. Hist. of Colleges of Winchester, Eton, &c. (Ackermann), 29.
  • 19. Pat. 17 Edw. IV, pt. 1, m. 1.
  • 20. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 216.
  • 21. This is in the patent of Edward IV in 1467; Pat. 7 Edw. IV, pt. 3, m. 13.