Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Prittlewell

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

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'Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Prittlewell', A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2, (London, 1907), pp. 138-141. British History Online [accessed 25 June 2024].

. "Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Prittlewell", in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2, (London, 1907) 138-141. British History Online, accessed June 25, 2024,

. "Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Prittlewell", A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2, (London, 1907). 138-141. British History Online. Web. 25 June 2024,

In this section


The earliest known mention of the monastery of St. Mary, Prittlewell, is found in a confirmation (fn. 2) of the possessions of the priory of Lewes, in Sussex, by Ralph, archbishop of Canterbury, in 1121; where it is said to have been granted to Lewes by Robert, son of Sweyn. Sweyn appears as the holder of Prittlewell in Domesday (fn. 3); and so its foundation can certainly be placed between 1086 and 1121, and probably in the latter half of this period after his death. It appears later among the possessions confirmed to Lewes by Stephen. (fn. 4) Robert's son, Henry of Essex, probably added to the endowment of the priory; for he is called the founder in a petition, (fn. 5) probably of the fourteenth century, where the prior, protesting against the demand from the Exchequer of £100 yearly when the priory is only worth £150 yearly and there are eighteen monks to maintain, says that they do not send any contribution abroad to the mother house of Cluni, but spend all their revenues upon their own house in England according to the form of the charter which they had from their founder, Henry of Essex.

The founder, Robert, by charter (fn. 6) granted to the priory the church of Prittlewell with the chapels of Sutton and Eastwood, and the tithes of the hamlet of Milton, and ordered that the prior should pay a mark of silver yearly on the feast of St. Pancras to the prior of Lewes as an acknowledgement of subjection. Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, confirmed (fn. 7) to the priory the above, and also the churches of Rayleigh, Thundersley, the two Shoeburys, Canewdon, (fn. 8) Wickford, (fn. 9) Stoke, Clavering and Langley. Prittlewell was, for its size, unusually rich in church spoils, for it held, appropriated at various times, the churches of Canewdon, Clavering with Langley, Eastwood, (fn. 10) Prittlewell and the two Shoeburys in Essex, and Stoke with the chapel of Nayland in Suffolk, (fn. 11) and it also owned the advowsons of the rectories of Great Horkesley, East Mersea, Rayleigh, Rawreth, Thundersley and Wickford, and portions in these and in the churches of Hockley, North Benfleet, Bumpstead Helion and Great Warley.

The temporalities of the priory mentioned in the Taxation of 1291 were valued at £37 16s. 4½d. yearly, of which £20 8s. 8d. came from Great Shoebury, £6 19s. 2d. from Prittlewell, £3 3s. 6d. from Clavering, £1 11s. 8d. from Hadleigh and £1 2s. 6d. from Little Shoebury, with smaller sums from Nevendon, Bowers Gifford, Paglesham, Rayleigh, Hawkwell, Maldon, Great Stambridge, Pitsea, Ramsden Bellhouse, Leigh, Stoke Nayland, Shipbourne in Kent, and London. The greater part of the income of the priory, however, came from its spiritualities, the rectory of Stoke Nayland alone being valued at £40.

In 1203 the prior and convent, in return for a quitclaim of a moiety of the advowson of the church of North Shoebury, granted to Reginald de Cornhill and his heirs the presentation for ever of one clerk to be a monk in their house. (fn. 12) Hamo de Bocland was admitted as a monk in 1281 at the presentation of Sir John de Rochford, (fn. 13) and in 1343 the prior and convent record the admission of Henry de Southcherche, an illegitimate son of Sir Peter de Southcherche, and his subsequent apostasy. (fn. 14)

In the years 1299-1301 the prior was engaged on behalf of the king on the construction of a new prison at Rayleigh and the repair of houses at Eastwood and Nayland and a mill at Rayleigh. (fn. 15)

Corrodies were claimed by the crown in the priory; John Swetyng being sent there in 1343 to receive such maintenance as Peter Burgulon had had. (fn. 16)

In 1359 the prior and convent had licence to acquire land and rent in Prittlewell for the celebration of a memorial for the soul of William de Dersham, servant of William de Bohun, earl of Northampton. (fn. 17)

In the Cluniac visitation of England in 1276 (fn. 18) John, prior of Wenlock, and Arnulph, constable of the abbot of Cluni, report that they were at Prittlewell on March 21. There were there fifteen monks, and the house owed £100 sterling. The priors of Mont Didier and Lenton visited it on 17 September, 1279, (fn. 19) and found fourteen monks leading good lives. The prior was rebuilding his church; the other buildings were in good condition. The house had no other debt than 100 marks, for which it was responsible through Miles, the present abbot of Vezelay, when he was prior of Lewes; and its goods, though not abundant, were sufficient for it until the new harvest. The prior was a person of good life and fame. In 1305 (fn. 20) the visitors found that four monks were lacking from the accustomed number, and the prior of Lewes was ordered to make up the deficiency unless prevented by some reasonable cause. In case of his negligence the number would be made up by the lord abbot.

In an enumeration (fn. 21) of the Cluniac houses in England (about 1450) Prittlewell is said to be subject to the priory of Lewes and in (the jurisdiction of) the city of London. There should be there fourteen monks. The only alms distributed are the fragments collected in the refectory and the prior's chamber. Four masses are celebrated there and written down in the table, and of these three are with and one without chant.

William le Auvergnat, monk of Lewes, was appointed prior in 1311. (fn. 22) He was accused of incontinency in the city of London in 1314, and the Cluniac visitors, not being able to get full information, ordered the prior of Lewes to inquire into the matter and punish him if guilty. (fn. 23) The prior of Lewes decided to deprive him, and in 1315 presented Guichard de Caro Loco (fn. 24) or Cherlieu to the priory, but the latter was rejected by the king as William was already in possession. (fn. 25) William obtained protection from the king in 1315, (fn. 26) and again in 1316. (fn. 27) In February, 1316, the priory was sequestrated by the king on account of its poverty and Adam de Osgodeby appointed to its custody. (fn. 28) James de Cusancia, (fn. 29) monk of Lewes, was appointed prior in December, 1316, by the prior of Lewes and admitted by the king, (fn. 30) and a keen fight raged between him and William for the possession of the priory. Both were summoned to appear before the council in August, 1318, and William there renounced his claim, (fn. 31) but nevertheless afterwards made forcible entry into the priory. (fn. 32) He appealed to the archbishop of Canterbury, and the prior of Dunmow, to whom the case was committed, decided in his favour. James then appealed to the archbishop, and pending the appeal ejected William and his party. (fn. 33) The judges of the archbishop's court again decided in favour of William; upon which James again appealed, first to the archbishop and then to the pope. Pending the appeal some monks of Lewes by order of the prior came in force to the priory, wounded William in the head while he was celebrating mass at the high altar, and dragged him and three of his monks off bound hand and foot to Lewes. (fn. 34) The matter was finally settled by the death (fn. 35) of William in 1321, probably from the wound, and James occupied the priory. He resigned in 1334 (fn. 36) and appears later as prior of Thetford.

Prittlewell, being a Cluniac house, was considered alien, and so was frequently taken into the king's hands in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It was generally let to the priors at farm, the rent paid in 1338 being £40 yearly. (fn. 37) But in May, 1373, Lewes and its cells were made denizen. (fn. 38)

Pope Boniface IX in 1400 granted indulgences to all penitents visiting the church at certain times and giving alms for its repair, and gave licence for the prior and five other confessors chosen by him to hear their confessions and grant absolution. (fn. 39)

The net value of the priory is given in the Valor as £155 11s. 2½d. yearly, the gross value (according to Speed) being £194 14s. 3½d. It was consequently dissolved in accordance with the Act of Parliament of 1536, the prior receiving a pension (fn. 40) of £20 yearly, and an inventory (fn. 41) of the goods in the various chambers and buildings was taken on 8 June. These were valued at £110 18s. 0d., besides cattle worth £38 14s. 0d. and corn worth £27 17s. 2d. There were 196¼ ounces of plate, valued at £37 11s. 2d. The house was free from debt, and had £6 owing to it.

The site of the priory with the manor of Prior's Hall in Prittlewell was granted on 28 May, 1537, to Sir Thomas Audeley, the chancellor. (fn. 42)

The patronage of the priory passed to the crown with 'the honour of Essex'; (fn. 43) and the priors were appointed by the prior of Lewes and admitted by the king after their fealty had been taken. At each vacancy the escheator went to the priory and took simple seisin of it in the king's name and deputed a porter at the gate. The king received nothing of the issues during the vacancy, and the escheator and porter departed when the new prior brought the king's letters of admission. (fn. 44) The priors are generally said to be monks of Lewes, and were probably almost always so.

Priors of Prittlewell

William, occurs 1203. (fn. 45)

Simon de Waltham, appointed 1241. (fn. 46)

Peter, occurs 1258. (fn. 47)

William de Verge, appointed 1261. (fn. 48)

William, occurs 1275. (fn. 49)

Nicholas de Cokefeld, appointed 1281, (fn. 50) died 1290. (fn. 51)

Peter de Montellier, appointed 1290. (fn. 52)

John de Monte Martini. (fn. 53)

Henry de Fautrariis, appointed 1308. (fn. 54)

Giles de Seduno, appointed 1309. (fn. 55)

Thomas de Shelevestrode, appointed 1310. (fn. 56)

William le Auvergnat, appointed 1311. (fn. 57)

James de Cusancia, appointed 1316, (fn. 58) resigned 1334. (fn. 59)

John Chaluns, occurs 1342, (fn. 60) 1345. (fn. 61)

Francis de Baugiaco, appointed 1361, (fn. 62) resigned 1362. (fn. 63)

John Saver, appointed 1363. (fn. 64)

Ralph Miouns, (fn. 65) occurs 1362, 1368.

Richard Ysewode, appointed 1376. (fn. 66)

James Wygepole, appointed 1385. (fn. 67)

James, occurs 1419, (fn. 68) 1423. (fn. 69)

Richard Lachemere, appointed 1428, (fn. 70) occurs 1447. (fn. 71)

Laurence Bristowe, occurs 1454. (fn. 72)

Hugh Suker, or Sugur, appointed 1468, (fn. 73) died 1476. (fn. 74)

John, appointed 1476, (fn. 75) occurs 1494. (fn. 76)

John de Eston, occurs 1509, (fn. 77) 1513, (fn. 78) 1515. (fn. 79)

Thomas Norwiche, occurs 1525, (fn. 80) the last prior. (fn. 81)

The seal (fn. 82) of the priory is a pointed oval, 2½ in. by 1½ in., representing the Assumption of St. Mary in a canopied niche. At the sides in four canopied niches are four angels. In the base under a carved round-headed arch is a saint lifting up the right hand in benediction and holding a sword in the left. Legend:—



  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. v, 21.
  • 2. Anct. Chart. (Pipe R. Soc.), No. 8.
  • 3. V. C. H. Essex, i, 485.
  • 4. Cal. Doc. France, p. 510.
  • 5. Anct. Petn. E 155.
  • 6. Printed in Dugdale, Mon. v, 22.
  • 7. Newcourt, Repertorium, ii, 472.
  • 8. Henry III in 1233 claimed Canewdon church as an escheat of Henry of Essex, but the prior stated that Henry I had confirmed it to them (Abbrev. Plac. (Rec. Com.) p. 120).
  • 9. In 1195 the prior produced a charter, by which Robert of Essex, son of Sweyn, gave Wickford church to the church of Prittlewell and the monks of St. Pancras, Lewes (Ibid. p. 2.).
  • 10. The churches of Eastwood and North Shoebury were appropriated by leave of Richard II, but the convent did not obtain his licence under the great seal, and so had to pay 40 marks to obtain pardon and licence in December, 1399 (Pat. 1 Hen. IV, pt. 5, m. 1).
  • 11. Pandulph, bishop elect of Norwich, about 1220 appropriated the church and chapel to the priory and ordained a vicarage. The bishop of Norwich was to nominate a fit person at each vacancy for presentation by the prior and convent (Bodl. Chart. (ed. Turner and Coxe), 56; Pat. 16 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 24).
  • 12. Cal. Feet of F. (Essex Arch. Soc.), 26.
  • 13. Anct. D, L 249.
  • 14. Ibid. L 250.
  • 15. Misc. of Exch. Bdle. 2, No. 17.
  • 16. Close, 17 Edw. III, m. 23 d.
  • 17. Pat. 33 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 12.
  • 18. Duckett, Records of Cluni, ii, 127.
  • 19. Ibid. 143.
  • 20. Ibid. Visitations of Cluni, 277.
  • 21. Records of Cluni, ii, 210.
  • 22. Pat. 4 Edw. II, pt. 2, m. 19.
  • 23. Visitations of Cluni, 302, 316.
  • 24. He had been appointed prior of Pontefract in 1311, and was afterwards prior successively of Northampton and Wenlock.
  • 25. Close, 9 Edw. II, m. 23.
  • 26. Pat. 8 Edw. II, pt. 2, m. 30.
  • 27. Ibid. 9 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 8.
  • 28. Ibid. m. 7.
  • 29. He was a brother of John de Cusancia, prior of Bermondsey, and William de Cusancia, treasurer of the prince of Wales.
  • 30. Pat. 10 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 4.
  • 31. Foed. iii, 755.
  • 32. Pat. 12 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 5, 22d.; Close, 12 Edw. II, m. 29d.
  • 33. James was in possession in January, 1320, when as prior he made a lease to his brother of the manor of Shoebury (Pat. 13 Edw. II, m. 19). In 1319 the bishop of London and other arbitrators awarded damages to him against Sir Hugh de Neville for assault and trespass at the priory, and at Wakering and Shoebury (Anct. D. LL 55).
  • 34. Cal. Papal Letters, ii, 211, 212.
  • 35. Ibid. 214.
  • 36. Close, 8 Edw. III, m. 17.
  • 37. Ibid. 12 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 20.
  • 38. Pat. 47 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 10.
  • 39. Cal. Papal Letters, v, 405.
  • 40. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), 575.
  • 41. Ch. Gds. (Exch. K.R.) xii, 31, 32, 33. See Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. ix, 280, 384.
  • 42. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xii (1), 1330 (58).
  • 43. Pat. 25 Hen. III, m. 7. The advowson was granted in 1228 to Hubert de Burgh (Chart. 13 Hen. III, pt. 1, m. 18), but came back soon to the crown.
  • 44. Close, 3 Edw. II, m. 26; 10 Edw. II, m. 3; 8 Edw. III, m. 17.
  • 45. Cal. Feet of F. (Essex Arch. Soc.), 26.
  • 46. Pat. 25 Hen. III, m 7. A prior Simon, probably the same, occurs in £249 (Feet of F. Suff. 33 Hen. III.).
  • 47. B.M. Add. Chart. 28,414.
  • 48. Eccl. Pet. 2. 24.
  • 49. Close, 3 Edw. I, m. 30.
  • 50. Pat. 9 Edw. I, m. 19. He was prior of Clifford in Herefordshire, and was appointed by the sub-prior of Lewes and the prior of Thetford acting for the prior of Lewes during his absence from England.
  • 51. Ibid. 18 Edw. I, m. 4.
  • 52. Ibid. The priory was granted at farm in 1297 (Pat. 25 Edw. I, pt. 1, m. 12d.) to Prior Peter, probably the same, who contrived to leave behind him arrears of the farm amounting to £128 6s. 10d., which the king in 1303 granted to Queen Margaret (Pat. 31 Edw. I, m. 34).
  • 53. Close, 3 Edw. II, m. 26. He was afterwards prior of Lewes. He is probably the John, prior of Prittlewell, who in 1304 and 1305 went beyond the seas on business of Queen Margaret (Pat. 32 Edw. I, m. 5; 33 Edw. I, pt. 1, m. 13).
  • 54. Pat. 1 Edw. II, pt. 2, m. 11. He went abroad a few days later (ibid. m. 9).
  • 55. Ibid. 2 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 1.
  • 56. Ibid. 3 Edw. II, m. 3.
  • 57. See above.
  • 58. See above.
  • 59. Close, 8 Edw. III, m. 17.
  • 60. Fine R. 16 Edw. III, m. 32. He had the priory at farm for £40 yearly.
  • 61. Close, 19 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 22d.
  • 62. Pat. 35 Edw. III, pt. 3, m. 37.
  • 63. Cal. Papal Registers, Pet. i, 393. He became prior of Montacute in Somersetshire. At this vacancy Peter de Tenoleo, prior of Monks Horton in Kent, applied to the pope to be made prior of Prittlewell (ibid. 400), and Denys de Hopton, sub-prior and almoner of Prittlewell, to be made prior of Monks Horton (ibid. 401). Both petitions were granted by the pope, but it is not certain whether they took effect.
  • 64. Pat. 37 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 42.
  • 65. Pipe R. 36, 42 Edw. III.
  • 66. Eccl. Pet. 31, No. 46.
  • 67. Pat. 9 Ric. II, pt. 2, m. 41. John Wygpole, possibly the same, was prior in the reign of Henry IV (Pat. 10 Hen. IV, pt. 1, m. 30).
  • 68. B.M. Cat. of Seals, i, 708.
  • 69. De Banco, Easter, 1 Hen. VI, 265.
  • 70. Pat. 6 Hen. VI, pt. 1, m. 6.
  • 71. De Banco, Hil. 32 Hen. VI, 104.
  • 72. Ibid. 140.
  • 73. Ibid. 7 Edw. IV, pt. 3, m. 7.
  • 74. L.T.R. Mem. R. 19 Edw. IV, Hil. ro. 2.
  • 75. Ibid.
  • 76. Chan. Inq. Ser. ii, vol. 11, No. 19.
  • 77. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. ix, 41; Newcourt, ii. 45. An agreement with the rector of North Benfleet about tithes.
  • 78. Newcourt, Repertorium, ii, 640. In connexion with tithes in Great Warley.
  • 79. Aug. Off. Conv. Leases, Essex, 90.
  • 80. Ibid. 94.
  • 81. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xii (1), 1330 (58).
  • 82. B.M. Seals, lxiii, 30.