Alien houses: The priory of Wareham

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

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'Alien houses: The priory of Wareham', in A History of the County of Dorset: Volume 2, (London, 1908) pp. 121-122. British History Online [accessed 1 March 2024]

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An ancient monastery, probably the earliest religious foundation in this county, was built here in Saxon times, but afterwards destroyed in the Danish raid of 876. (fn. 1) Cressy, in his account of the assault on Wareham by the Danes in that year, describes the house as 'a noble monasterie of religious virgins seated in the same town.' (fn. 2)

After the Conquest a priory or cell to the Norman abbey of Lire, founded by William Fitz Osborn, kinsman and marshal to the Conqueror, (fn. 3) was established here in the early part of the twelfth century in connexion with the churches and lands in Wareham granted to the abbey by Robert earl of Leicester. A charter in the register of Carisbrooke Priory, the chief house of Lire in England, states that Henry II confirmed to the abbot and convent among their English possessions the church of Wareham with its appurtenances, the church of Gussage with 100s. worth of land, and the church of 'Rinchorde' with its appurtenances, the gift of Robert earl of Leicester, with a hide of land in Wareham the gift of William de Waimuta or Weymouth; while by another charter he confirmed to the abbey the churches of Wareham, with a hide of land given by Robert earl of Leicester, and an ounce of gold given by William de Waimuta, in the reeveship (praepositura) of Wareham. (fn. 4)

In 1290 the prior successfully petitioned the king to grant a licence for Peter Doget, chaplain, to alienate to the brethren a messuage and a carucate and a half of land in Whiteway; (fn. 5) and in 1329, by a fine of 20s., the prior and convent obtained a licence for the alienation in mortmain of a messuage and land in Whiteway towards the support of a chaplain to celebrate daily in the convent church for the souls of all the faithful departed. (fn. 6)

Besides the church of St. Mary, Wareham, of which the prior was the rector, the prior held the presentation of the churches of St. Martin, St. Michael, and St. Peter within the town. In 1291 the spiritualities amounted to £12 2s. 9d. from the churches of Shapwick, Gussage (St. Michael), Holy Trinity Wareham, St. Mary Wareham, Knowle, Winfrith Newburgh, and East Stoke. (fn. 7) The temporalities within Steeple and Tyneham, Whiteway, Egliston, Blandford, and Wareham, were worth £8 0s. 8d. (fn. 8)

The priory is not mentioned in the general seizure of alien cells as the property of Norman landowners in 1204, but it occurs on the eve of John's death in 1216, when the king notified Peter de Manley that he had committed the abbey of Shaftesbury to the prior of Wareham during a vacancy, and that the abbey should remain under the king's protection so long as it was in the custody of Prior William. (fn. 9) An order was subsequently issued in November in the first year of Henry III, directing the prior to cause the newly-elected abbess to have full seisin of all the possessions of the abbey. (fn. 10)

Edward III in 1294 granted letters of protection to the prior in return for a grant of a contribution from his goods, (fn. 11) the letters being renewed in March, 1297, for Prior Nicholas. Bynet. (fn. 12) On the seizure of alien property in 1324, the goods and possessions found in this cell by Walter Beril and Roger de Blokkesworthe, custodians of religious houses 'of the power and dominion of the king of France,' were found on inquisition to be worth £27 14s. 6d., of which £6 0s. 10d. came from the parish of Wareham. (fn. 13) On being taken into the king's hands by Edward III in 1337, they were valued at £39 16s. 2d., (fn. 14) and the house was committed to the custody of the prior for the payment of 10s. and an annual farm of 40s. at the exchequer. (fn. 15) A year later the prior of Wareham, together with the heads of nine other abbeys and priories, was ordered to remove to manors nearer the sea, for the defence of the coast in view of a threatened attack from the enemy. (fn. 16)

Information may be gathered as to the management of the cell in the middle of the fourteenth century from a complaint made by Prior Robert de Gascur or Gascourt, soon after his appointment in 1354, (fn. 17) as to the condition in which he then found it. According to the writ of inquiry issued the following year, the late Prior William de Noys, to whom the custody had been committed, had grievously abused his trust; he had consumed and entirely dissipated the goods and chattels of the house, had alienated its property, and transferred abroad a large sum of money acquired by such alienations; the present head, in consequence, found he could not get a sufficient living for himself and his fellow monks, could neither pay the king the annual farm of 40s. or 6 marks, nor restore the buildings which his predecessor had allowed to get out of repair, and he prayed the crown to appoint a remedy. (fn. 18) We may here state that the episcopal registers record the presentation of priors to the ordinary by the abbots of Lire, or their proctors the priors of Carisbrooke, and their admission after having made profession of canonical obedience; but, as in the case of the larger priories of Frampton and Loders, no attempt seems to have been made by the bishop to exercise jurisdiction.

Richard II in 1391 committed to Ralph Maylok, proctor of the abbot of Lire, the custody of all the possessions of the abbey in England, with the exception of the three priories of Carisbrooke, Wareham, and Hinckley (Leicestershire), for an annual rent of £122. In November, 1394, the grant was renewed in favour of Thomas Wallwayn, Robert de Whytyngton, and William Slepe, but revoked the following year on the petition of the abbot's proctor. (fn. 19) An inquisition held at Wareham the Monday before Easter, 1387, as to the possessions of the priory, stated that these were then worth £10 after all deductions and charges had been reckoned. (fn. 20) In the last year of his reign, the king, at the request of his nephew Thomas duke of Sussex, made over to Edmund, prior of Mount Grace in Yorkshire, the priories of Hinckley, Wareham, and Carisbrooke, paying respectively a yearly farm of £50, £4, and 110 marks, with the rest of the English possessions of the abbey, the farm of which amounted to 200 marks, for as long as the war should last, and quit of all payment of yearly rent. (fn. 21)

Upon the suppression of alien houses in 1414, Henry V bestowed on the Carthusian priory which he had founded at Sheen all the lands belonging to the abbey of Lire in England with the exception of the Hinckley priory, (fn. 22) the Valor of 1535 giving the Surrey foundation temporalities and spiritualities in this county amounting to £44 10s. 8d. from estates that had formerly belonged to the late priory of Wareham. (fn. 23)

Priors of Wareham

Roger, temp. Richard I (fn. 24)

William, occurs 1216 (fn. 25)

Nicholas Bynet, occurs 1297 (fn. 26)

Peter de Deserto, presented 1302 (fn. 27)

John Mabere, presented 1309, (fn. 28) died 1311

Hilderic de Pacoys, presented 1311 (fn. 29)

Ralph, called Coudray, presented 1323 (fn. 30)

William de Bally, presented 1329, (fn. 31) resigned 1332

John de Bediers, presented 1332 (fn. 32)

Michael de Molis, presented 1334 (fn. 33)

William de Barly, presented 1343 (fn. 34)

William de Noys, presented 1349, resigned 1354 (fn. 35)

Robert de Gascur, or Gascourt, presented 1354 (fn. 36)

Ludovicus de Goulaffe, presented 1362, (fn. 37) resigned in same year

Peter de Ultra Aqua, presented 1362, (fn. 38) resigned 1364

William de Minguet, presented 1364 (fn. 39)

Stephin de Barra, died 1412 (fn. 40)

John Kyngeston, presented 1412 (fn. 41)

Walter Eston, presented 1416 (fn. 42)


  • 1. Tanner, Notitia, under Dorset, xxix.
  • 2. Ch. Hist. of Brit. (1668), lib. xxviii, cap. iv. Leland describes this nunnery as situated between the two rivers, the 'Frome' and the Trent or Puddle, but it must not be confounded with that other monastery near the Frome in Somerset built by Aldhelm and included in the bull of Pope Sergius I in 701, granting privileges to various monasteries of the bishop's foundation, which was probably also destroyed by the Danes; Leland, Collect. ii, 388; Birch, Cart. Sax. i, 152; Tanner, Notitia, under Somerset, xxi.
  • 3. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 1040.
  • 4. See Chart. under Carisbrooke, Dugdale, Mon. vi, 1041, No. v.
  • 5. Anct. Pet. 10881; Pat. 18 Edw. I, m. 18.
  • 6. Ibid. 3 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 17.
  • 7. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 178, 178b, 179b.
  • 8. Ibid. 183–4.
  • 9. Close, 18 John, m. 1, 2.
  • 10. Pat. 1 Hen. III, m. 16.
  • 11. Pat. 22 Edw. I, m. 8. The prior of Wareham was also requested in 1332 to contribute towards the subsidy raised on the marriage of the king's sister; Close, 5 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 6d.
  • 12. Pat. 25 Edw. I, pt. 1, m. 13.
  • 13. Add. MS. 6164, fol. 282.
  • 14. Mins. Accts. bdle. 1125, No. 9.
  • 15. Close, 2 Edw. III, pt. 3, m. 6.
  • 16. Rymer, Foed. (Rec. Com.), ii (2), 1062.
  • 17. Sarum Epis. Reg. Wyville, ii (Inst.), fol. 264.
  • 18. Hutchins gives a copy of the original of this writ of inquiry; Hist. of Dorset, i, 87.
  • 19. Pat. 18 Ric. II, pt. 2, m. 7.
  • 20. Add. MS. 6164, fol. 506.
  • 21. Pat. 22 Ric. II. pt. 3, m. 10–11.
  • 22. Chart. R. 3 & 4 Hen. V, No. 8; Pat. 2 Hen. VI, pt. 4, m. 26–27.
  • 23. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii, 52.
  • 24. As witness to a charter (1191–7) of Hawys, countess of Gloucester; Cal. Doc. France, 387.
  • 25. Close, 18 John, m. 1, 2.
  • 26. Pat. 25 Edw. I, pt. 1, m. 13.
  • 27. Sarum Epis. Reg. Simon of Ghent.
  • 28. Ibid. i, fol. 79d.
  • 29. Ibid. fol. 106d.
  • 30. Ibid. Mortival, i, fol. 114.
  • 31. Ibid. 178d.
  • 32. Ibid. Wyville, ii (Inst.), fol. 18.
  • 33. Ibid. fol. 31.
  • 34. Ibid. fol. 131.
  • 35. Ibid. fol. 264.
  • 36. Ibid.
  • 37. Ibid. fol. 295.
  • 38. Ibid. fol. 298.
  • 39. Ibid. fol. 305d.
  • 40. Ibid. Hallam, fol. 39.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. Ibid. fol. 59d.