Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Berden

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

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'Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Berden', in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2, (London, 1907) pp. 143-144. British History Online [accessed 2 March 2024]

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Nothing is known of the origin of this house, though it was probably founded by some of the Rochefords, lords of the manor of Berden. It appears to have been at first a hospital. (fn. 1) It was dedicated to St. John the Evangelist.

Its possessions are valued in the Taxation of 1291 at £6 9s. 10d. yearly. There was a portion of 10s. in the church of Dengie. The temporalities amounted to £1 5s. 4d. in Berden, £1 4s. 7d. in Clavering and Langley, and £1 in Rickling, with smaller sums in Paglesham, Elsenham, Rochford, Hawkwell, Newport, Dengie and Little Shoebury in Essex, East Reed, Brent Pelham and Little Pelham in Hertfordshire and Cambridge.

A fair at midsummer at Berden was granted to the prior and convent in 1214, (fn. 2) 1222, (fn. 3) and 1267. (fn. 4) In 1314 they had licence (fn. 5) to acquire from Robert de Rocheford 18 acres of land in Berden, and the advowson of the church, and to appropriate the church. The appropriation was not actually carried out till 1427, when a vicarage was ordained (fn. 6); and in 1514 they were allowed, in consideration of their poverty, to appropriate this also and to serve the church by a removable chaplain. In 1317 they had licence (fn. 7) to acquire rent in Shoebury, Great Stambridge and Bretton from Walram de Rocheford; in return for which they agreed (fn. 8) to find a canon to celebrate divine service at the altar of St. Mary in the church for the souls of himself and his wife for ever.

Pope Gregory X on 13 March, 1272, granted a bull confirming the liberties of the priory; and on 4 March, 1308, twenty-one bishops promised forty days' indulgence to all who should help the rebuilding of the priory or make gifts to it of ornaments and other things, as the church, cloister, refectory, dormitory, infirmary and hall and almost all the buildings had lately been burnt to the ground. (fn. 9)

In 1343 the advowson of the priory was granted by William de Bohun, earl of Northampton, and Elizabeth his wife to the abbot and convent of Walden. (fn. 10)

On 20 February, 1455, notice was given to the prior of intended visitation on 30 April by the priors of Holy Trinity and Elsing Spital, London, who had been appointed visitors in the dioceses of London and Ely at. the last chapter general of the Augustinian order celebrated in the priory of St. Bartholomew, London. On 5 April in another year not far off the priors of Holy Trinity and Blackmore, similarly appointed at the last chapter at Leicester, announced visitation on 6 May. (fn. 11)

A few letters (fn. 12) from various persons to Prior Thomas Dane are preserved, though they are of no great importance. He appears to have had a dispute about homage and relief demanded from him at the honour of Rayleigh, and also trouble in collecting arrears of rent from his lands in Rochford hundred. The tenants maintained that they had paid to John Ive of Rayleigh, late receiver of the prior, and the executors of the latter said that he had paid every penny. One tenant had left the district without paying.

The value of the priory is given in the Valor as £29 6s. 4½d., the gross value being £31 5s. 1¾d. It was dissolved in 1536, the prior receiving a pension (fn. 13) of £5. An inventory (fn. 14) of the goods in the various chambers and buildings was taken on 18 June. These were only worth £7 7s. 2d. in all, besides cattle valued at £2 6s. 8d. The house had no corn and nothing was owing to it, but it was in debt to the extent of £2 19s. 5d. The whole of the stuff was sold to Henry Parker for £7 1s. 0d. except the plate, which amounted to twelve ounces, and was valued at £2 3s. 2d.

The priory was leased (fn. 15) in 1537 to Parker; and in January, 1539, it was granted (fn. 16) for £100 to him and Mary his wife in tail male, with the rectory of Berden and various possessions in Berden, Manuden, Elsenham, Henham, Takeley, Rickling, Clavering, Ugley, Rochford, Brent Pelham and Stokyng Pelham, of the total yearly value of £23 7s. 0d., at a rent of £2 7s. 0d.

Priors of Berden

Stephen. (fn. 17)

Gilbert, occurs 1235, (fn. 18) till 1241. (fn. 19)

John. (fn. 20)

Nicholas, occurs 1285. (fn. 21)

W. occurs 1317. (fn. 22)

William, occurs 1337. (fn. 23)

John de Marchia, resigned 1393. (fn. 24)

John Parent, elected 1393, (fn. 25) died 1429. (fn. 26)

Thomas Whaplode, collated 1429, (fn. 26) resigned 1440. (fn. 27)

William Cotyngham, collated 1440, (fn. 28) resigned 1441. (fn. 29)

Thomas Dane, collated 1441, (fn. 30) occurs 1463, (fn. 31) resigned 1473. (fn. 32)

William Wodde, collated 1473, (fn. 33) died 1486. (fn. 33)

Robert Harlow, collated 1486, (fn. 34) resigned 1487. (fn. 35)

John Clement, collated 1487, (fn. 36) resigned 1490. (fn. 37)

John Scott, collated 1490, (fn. 38) occurs 1501. (fn. 39)

John Wakeley, occurs 1514, (fn. 40) 1534, (fn. 41) the last prior. (fn. 42)

The seal (fn. 43) of the priory is a pointed oval, 2 in. by 1½ in., representing St. John the Evangelist in a canopied niche with tabernacle work at the sides, holding in the left hand a chalice from which a serpent issues and pointing to it with the right hand. Legend:—



  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 551.
  • 2. Close, 16 John, m. 16.
  • 3. Ibid. 5 Hen. III, m. 3.
  • 4. Chart. 51 Hen. III, m. 5.
  • 5. Pat. 7 Edw. II, pt. 2, m. 18.
  • 6. Newcourt, Repertorium, ii, 54.
  • 7. Pat. 10 Edw. II, pt. 2, m. 2.
  • 8. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. vii, 581.
  • 9. Chanc. Misc. 20. 4.
  • 10. Pat. 17 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 3.
  • 11. Chanc. Misc. 19. 5.
  • 12. Anct. Corres. (P.R.O.).
  • 13. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), 1520.
  • 14. Ch. Gds. (Exch. K. R.), xii, 31, 32, 33. See Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. ix, 280, 346.
  • 15. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), 581.
  • 16. Ibid. xiv (1), 403 (61).
  • 17. Dodsworth MS. lxxiv, 26.
  • 18. Cal. Feet of F. 104.
  • 19. Assize R. 231, m. 27. He is said to have held certain lands in Clavering for seventeen years, his successor being elected in 1241.
  • 20. Cole MS. xxxii, 207b.
  • 21. Assize R. 242, m. 21.
  • 22. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. vii, 581.
  • 23. Anct. D. C 2,948.
  • 24. Lond. Epis. Reg. Braybrook, 298.
  • 25. Ibid. The bishop confirmed the election on 23 December.
  • 26. Ibid. Gray.
  • 27. Ibid. Gilbert, 115. An exchange with Latton, on 2 April.
  • 28. Ibid.
  • 29. Ibid. 117b. On 10 April.
  • 30. Ibid. He was prior of Tiptree.
  • 31. Anct. Corres. lvii, 114. On 27 September Nicholas, bishop of Elphin, conferred on him a canonry and the prebend of St. Patrick, Milton, in the cathedral church of Elphin.
  • 32. Lond. Epis. Reg. Kemp, 139.
  • 33. Ibid. 208.
  • 34. Ibid. On 3 July, through defective numbers.
  • 35. Ibid. 211b.
  • 36. Ibid. On 25 February. He had previously been prior of Mountjoy in Norfolk.
  • 37. Ibid. Hill, 3.
  • 38. Ibid. On 23 October, through defective numbers.
  • 39. Aug. Off. Conv. Leases, Essex, 7, 12.
  • 40. Ibid. 9.
  • 41. L. and P. Henry VIII, vii, 1025. He signed the oath of supremacy.
  • 42. Ibid. xiii (1), 1520.
  • 43. B. M. Seals, lxii, 95.