House of Austin canons: Priory of Baxterwood

Page 109

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

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Towards the end of the twelfth century, certainly after 1180, (fn. 1) Henry Pudsey, a son of Bishop Pudsey, (fn. 2) having become possessed of the vills of Wingate (fn. 3) and Haswell (fn. 4) (Essewell), near Durham, founded a monastery at the latter place, and conferred both vills upon certain religious persons, probably canons of Gisburn, (fn. 5) for its maintenance.

The newly founded monastery was called 'The Church of St. Mary of Haswell,' (fn. 6) but it is doubtful whether the building of any church or religious house was actually begun at Haswell, (fn. 7) as almost immediately afterwards the same, together with other and more extensive possessions, (fn. 8) were conferred by Pudsey and others upon a newly founded monastery situated at Baxterwood, on the River Browney, about a mile from Durham. (fn. 9) This site was probably chosen in preference to Haswell on account of its greater natural beauty. (fn. 10)

This second establishment, which was called 'The New Place upon the Browney,' (fn. 11) was also dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin. It was to be occupied by a body of canons of Gisburn, (fn. 12) sent thither from the mother-church under the superintendence of Stephen, one of its dignitaries. (fn. 13)

The building of the New Place does not seem to have advanced far, as no trace can now be discovered of wall or foundation. (fn. 14) The exact site can however be ascertained by reference to Bishop Pudsey's charter of confirmation. (fn. 15)

Baxterwood being so close to Durham, and the canons being of a different order from the monks of the priory, it was not to be expected that peace should long prevail. The Durham monks harassed the settlers in various ways, (fn. 16) till at last, as Geoffrey of Coldingham tells us, they drove Henry Pudsey to apologize for his presumption, and to make an entirely fresh arrangement. (fn. 17) He agreed to abandon the canons, to endow the church of Finchale with the lands previously granted to the monastery at Baxterwood, and to place there a certain number of Durham monks, under the immediate authority and control of Durham priory.

Lands in another part of the county were granted to the church of Gisburn, (fn. 18) and at first Stephen, the superior of the New Place, seemed satisfied. (fn. 19) Subsequently, however, he became restive; the pope was appealed to, and measures were taken to force Stephen to keep his promise of resigning the foundation charters of Baxterwood. (fn. 20) His opposition was crushed, and the revenues of the New Place were transferred to Finchale. (fn. 21)

The canons had a common seal, of simple but beautiful design. The Blessed Virgin was represented seated on a curious chair or settle of very light construction, holding on her left arm the Infant Saviour, whose form was partially covered by the folds of her robe. The seal was of the usual vesica shape, and the inscription ran—

✠ Sigill . Ecclie . Sce . Marie . De . Novo Loco . Super . Brun. (fn. 22)


  • 1. MS. Treas. Dur. 3, 6, Spec. G. 2.
  • 2. Ibid. 2a, 2ae, 16.
  • 3. Ibid. Cart. ii, fol. 107b.
  • 4. Ibid. 1a, 2ae, et 3, 6, Spec.
  • 5. Priory of Finchale (Surt. Soc.), x.
  • 6. MS. Treas. Dur. 1a, 2ae.
  • 7. Priory of Finchale (Surt. Soc.), x.
  • 8. Surt. Hist. Dur. iv, (2), 105.
  • 9. MSS. Treas. Dur. Orig. 3a, 1ae; Pont. i, 1; 3, 6, Spec. x, 3; 4a, 1ae, 91; Cart. ii, fol. 109b.
  • 10. Priory of Finchale (Surt. Soc.), xi.
  • 11. MS. Treas. Dur. 4a, 1ae, 91.
  • 12. Ibid. Orig. 3a, 1ae, Pont. i, 1.
  • 13. See MS. Treas. Dur. Cart. iii, 88.
  • 14. So Priory of Finchale (Surt. Soc.), xi, note; and Boyle's Guide to Co. Dur. (ed. 1892), 403. But Surtees says [Hist. Dur. iv (2), 105], 'Half a mile down the stream [of the Browney, from Aldin Grange] are the evident vestiges of Henry Pudsey's foundation at Bacstaneford.'
  • 15. MS. Treas. Dur. Orig. 3a, 1ae, Pont. i, 1.
  • 16. Wharton, Angl. Sacr. i, 726.
  • 17. Ibid.
  • 18. MS. Treas. Dur. Cart. iii, 88, 88b.
  • 19. Ibid. 2, 6, Spec. N. 3.
  • 20. Ibid. 3, Sextae Specialium, c. 2.
  • 21. Wharton, ut supra.
  • 22. Engraved, Priory of Finchale (Surt. Soc.), 15.