A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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14. THE PRIORY (fn. 1) OF STANESGATE (fn. 2)
In the charter of 1121, mentioned above under Prittlewell, the monastery of St. Mary Magdalen, Stanesgate, is stated to have been granted to Lewes Priory by Ralph son of Brien, who appears as the holder of Stanesgate in Domesday. (fn. 3) It appears again later among the possessions confirmed to Lewes by Stephen. (fn. 4) Ralph was also the founder of the Augustinian priory of Bricett in Suffolk (about 1110), and Stanesgate was part of its original endowment; so that it seems probable that Bricett was the earlier foundation and the grant to the Cluniacs an afterthought. By a fine (fn. 5) made before Henry II (about 1163) Bricett released to Lewes all right in the churches of Steeple and Stanesgate and 70 acres of land in Tillingham, receiving as compensation 30 marks down and 1 mark yearly at the hands of the monks of Stanesgate. The date of the foundation of Stanesgate may, therefore, certainly be put between 1086 and 1121, and probably in the last ten years of this period. The possessions of the priory were afterwards confirmed to it by Americ Pecche, the heir of the founder. (fn. 6)
Not much is known of the origin of these, although grants by Philip de Boville, Bartholomew de Badlesmere, Gilbert Foliot and Peter his son, and William Page are recorded. (fn. 7) The bulk of the tithes of Steeple were confirmed to the priory by Richard, bishop of London, (fn. 8) soon after its foundation; and the appropriation of the church and the possession of the tithes were also confirmed (about 1210) by William, bishop of London. The priory shared the advowson of the vicarage of Steeple with Bicknacre. The yearly value of the possessions mentioned in the Taxation of 1291 is only £5 14s. 7½d. Of this £3 was the portion of the priory in the church of Steeple, and 9s. the portion in the church of Messing. The monks had temporalities of 19s. 6d. in Steeple, 18s. 11½d. in Tillingham, and smaller sums in Great Totham, Woodham Mortimer, Maldon and St. Laurence. In two extents, (fn. 9) however, taken in 18 Edward II, the (gross) value of the priory is much larger. Early in the thirteenth century Abbot Adam and the convent of Colchester released to Stanesgate and Bicknacre certain tithes in Steeple for a rent of 16s. 8d. from each house. (fn. 10) Agreements with various vicars about tithes in Steeple and with Colne Priory about tithes in Messing are also known. (fn. 11)
A few mentions of Stanesgate are found among the records of Cluni. In 1259 (fn. 12) the prior of Lewes was called on to answer for the alienation of the priory. In 1293 (fn. 13) the church was threatened with ruin, and the prior of Lewes was ordered to find a suitable remedy to be applied by the prior of Stanesgate. Apparently there was no result; for in 1306 (fn. 14) the order was repeated, and it was stated that the house was 'spiritually and temporally destroyed.' In an enumeration of the Cluniac houses in England (about 1450) it is stated that there ought to be at the priory, according to some, two monks, or according to others three, and every day there should be one mass with chant. (fn. 15)
The priory, being alien, was frequently taken into the king's hands in the fourteenth century, and generally let to the priors at farm, the amount paid by them being only £4 yearly. (fn. 16) In the year 31 Edward I it was testified before the treasurer and barons of the Exchequer (fn. 17) that the priory was so poor that its issues and goods scarcely sufficed for the prior and monks, and so the king pardoned to the prior the arrears, amounting to £20. In an account (fn. 18) rendered by the keeper of the priory for the period from 8 October to 10 December, 1324, when it was in the king's hands, an allowance of 3s. weekly was made to the prior and 1s. 6d. weekly to each of three monks. The live stock consisted of a palfrey of the prior valued at 20s., six stots worth 30s., three oxen worth 30s. and a boar, two sows, eight pigs and ten piglets, worth together 22s. 6d. The list of goods included such articles as two chalices, two copes, four sets of vestments, two missals, etc., and also two cups of 'maser,' four silver spoons, three brazen pots, etc. In May, 1373, the priory was made denizen, (fn. 19) and thenceforward was freed from Cluni and subject only to Lewes.
Stanesgate was dissolved (fn. 20) by William Burbank, an agent of Wolsey, on 9 February, 1525, and granted by Wolsey first to Cardinal's College, Oxford, (fn. 21) and later to his shortlived college at Ipswich. (fn. 22) In a release (fn. 23) by Lewes it is stated that it owned the manors of Stanesgate, Tillingham and Great Totham, the advowsons of the churches of Stanesgate and Steeple, a watermill in Stanesgate and other possessions in Stanesgate, Tillingham, Great and Little Totham, Steeple, Ramsey, Woodham Mortimer, Tiptree, Messing, Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Tolleshunt Magna and Maldon. Its spiritualities were valued at £5 0s. 3d. and its temporalities at £38 8s. 3d. yearly. (fn. 24) By an inquisition (fn. 25) taken on 8 August, 1525, it was found that there were at the priory at the time of the suppression a prior and two monks, and these had been transferred to other places. The cattle, grain and utensils were valued (fn. 26) at £39 10s. 0½d.
After Wolsey's fall Stanesgate was granted (fn. 27) on 19 December, 1531, to the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem; and on the dissolution of the Hospital it was sold (fn. 28) on 10 March, 1544, to Edmund Mordaunt, who had licence (fn. 29) on 1 June to alienate it to Sir Richard Rich.
Priors of Stanesgate
Alexander, (fn. 30) occurs 1176.
Gilbert, (fn. 31) occurs circa 1210.
Alan, (fn. 32) occurs 1254.
William de Petresfeld, (fn. 33) occurs circa 1260.
Theobald. (fn. 34)
Alexander, occurs 1297, (fn. 35) 1303. (fn. 36)
John Darcy, (fn. 37) occurs 1332.
William de Cantuaria, occurs 1374. (fn. 38)
John, occurs 1403, (fn. 38) 1411. (fn. 39)
Thomas Lewys. (fn. 40)
Paul, occurs 1435. (fn. 40)
Thomas Mallyng, occurs 1438. (fn. 40)
Geoffrey Gosselyn, occurs 1440. (fn. 41)
Robert Chamberleyn, occurs 1475. (fn. 38)
John, occurs 1490. (fn. 38)
George Goodharste, occurs 1511. (fn. 38)
Thomas Marshe, the last prior. (fn. 42)