A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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17. THE PRIORY (fn. 1) OF BLACKMORE
This priory, which was dedicated to St. Laurence, appears to have been founded by some of the Sanford family, probably towards the end of the twelfth century. In an undated deed, (fn. 2) early in the reign of Henry III, the canons recite that the late Alan de Sanford, son of their patron, Sir John de Sanford, had elected to be buried in their church near his forefathers, and his uncle, Sir Gilbert Basset, had made grants to them in memory of him, in return for which they grant to Gilbert and his heirs the right of presenting one canon to the house, to be called the Basset canon. The advowson of the priory afterwards passed by the marriage of Alice de Sanford, granddaughter of Sir John, to the De Veres, earls of Oxford.
The churches of Tyburn in Middlesex, Great Hormead in Hertfordshire, Blackmore and Margaretting were appropriated (fn. 3) to the priory, and vicarages ordained by William de Sancta Maria, bishop of London (1199-1221). The church of Willingale Spain was similarly appropriated (fn. 4) in the time of Fulk Basset, bishop (1242-59); but in 1398 the rectory was restored, a pension of 40s. being reserved to the priory. In 1248 they were also in possession of the chapel of Copford; of which the history is that Alfred Gernon formerly gave 15 acres of land to a chaplain to celebrate divine service daily in the chapel, but as the chaplain found the endowment insufficient he gave up the land and went away, and Alfred then made an agreement with the prior of Blackmore, the latter providing a chaplain and Alfred granting 24 acres of land for his support. (fn. 5)
In the Taxation of 1291 the temporalities of the priory were valued at £21 17s. 7½d. yearly. This included £5 11s. 7d. in Blackmore, £3 1s. 8d. in Willingale Doe, £2 17s. in Broomfield, £2 6s. 6d. in Little Laver, £2 5s. 0½d. in Margaretting, £1 5s. in Great Hormead, £1 1s. 4d. in Shellow and £1 in Layston in Hertfordshire. The remainder of the possessions lay in Shenfield, Willingale Andrew, Bobbingworth, Norton, Roxwell, High Laver, Ingatestone, Standon and Ongar, and Brent Pelham in Hertfordshire. A few licences to acquire property in mortmain are recorded on the Patent Rolls.
Henry III on 23 September, 1232, granted (fn. 6) to the canons a fair at their house on the vigil, the day and the morrow of St. Laurence (10 August). A dispute appears to have arisen between the prior and Gilbert de Sanford about the site; and an agreement was come to at Easter, 1234, by which, in return for other grants, the prior granted to Gilbert a moiety of all benefits arising from the fair, and also that the fair should be kept every year by their common bailiffs in the accustomed place, and if that should be insufficient, then when the fair increased the residue of the fair should be on the land of Gilbert in the nearest and most suitable place. At Midsummer, 1240, a further agreement was made, as the prior complained that Gilbert had not observed the fine. (fn. 7)
In November, 1309, episcopal injunctions were issued to this priory as the result of a visitation. The prior and canons were enjoined to be regular in their attendance at all the offices night and day, to cease from strife and contentions, not to wander outside the precincts, to receive no money for the purchase of clothes or necessaries, and not to assign any of the church ornaments of their house to the churches appropriated to them. There were a few other injunctions of the usual character. With regard to the cure of the parish church of Blackmore, it was insisted that a fit priest should be at once presented to the bishop for saying mass and the canonical hours and otherwise ministering to the parishioners. This last order was neglected, and on 14 February, 1310, the bishop peremptorily ordered compliance within ten days. On 6 April, 1310, Nicholas, the prior, and Walter de Chelmsford, one of the canons, appeared before the bishop in London and entered into a covenant with five of the parishioners of Blackmore to present a parish vicar under a penalty of 40s. (fn. 8)
The priory was dissolved (fn. 9) on 10 February, 1525, by John Alen, agent of Cardinal Wolsey; its spiritualities being valued (fn. 10) at £41 13s. 4d., and its temporalities at £43 11s. 3d. yearly. By inquisitions (fn. 11) taken on 8 August and 20 November it was found that there were at the priory at the time of the suppression a prior and three canons, who were transferred to other places; and that its possessions included the manors of Blackmore, Margaretting, Willingale, Bowells and Bromfeld. A detailed list of the debts of the house, amounting in all to £27 19s. 10d., is preserved, (fn. 12) and part of an inventory of the goods of the church. In this Our Lady's aisle is said to be 40 ft. in length and St. Peter's aisle 52 ft.
Exactly a year after the suppression the priory was granted (fn. 13) by Wolsey to his college at Oxford, and three years later it was transferred (fn. 14) to his second foundation at Ipswich. By his forfeiture it came into the king's hands, and on I January, 1532, it was granted to the abbot and convent of Waltham. (fn. 15)
Priors of Blackmore
Richard, (fn. 16) occurs 1204.
Roger. (fn. 17)
William, (fn. 18) occurs 1234, 1240, 1244.
John, (fn. 19) occurs 1248, 1253, 1268.
Nicholas, (fn. 20) occurs 1310.
James, occurs 1351. (fn. 21)
Walter Bumsted, died 1385. (fn. 22)
John Dawdre, elected 1406. (fn. 25)
William, occurs 1437. (fn. 26)
John Canone, resigned 1445. (fn. 27)
William Manypeny, collated 1445. (fn. 28)
Robert, occurs 1458. (fn. 31)
John Webbe, resigned 1476. (fn. 32)
Thomas Basset, collated 1476. (fn. 33)
Thomas Colyns, died 1513 (fn. 34).
The seal (fn. 37) of the priory (about the middle of the thirteenth century) is a pointed oval of yellow wax measuring about 2½ in. by 1½ in., with the lower part broken, representing St. Laurence under a canopy. Legend:
SIGILL . VENT . KEMORA.