A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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17. THE PRIORY OF DEERHURST
The origin and early history of Deerhurst are very obscure. According to Leland, a monastery at Deerhurst was known to Bede, but of this fact there is now no proof. (fn. 1) On the evidence of a document in the chartulary which was compiled by Heming, sub-prior of Worcester while Wulfstan was bishop (1062-95), there was a monastery at Deerhurst soon after 804. (fn. 2) Leland also stated that the Danes burnt Deerhurst. (fn. 3) The monastery was rebuilt in or before 970. St. Alphege in his youth was a monk of the house, and was even then conspicuous for his holy life. (fn. 4) It is probable that he became abbot in 970, (fn. 5) and that under him the strict observance of the rule of St. Benedict was introduced into the monastery. Fervour and zeal probably languished at Deerhurst as in many other Benedictine houses in the first half of the eleventh century. It was perhaps as a measure of reform that about 1059 (fn. 6) Edward the Confessor granted the greater part of the lands of Deerhurst to the Benedictine monastery of St. Denis, reserving the remainder for his new foundation of St. Peter, at Westminster. (fn. 7) Thus Deerhurst became an alien priory, and the first monk from St. Denis who came as prior was Baldwin, afterwards, in 1065, abbot of Bury St. Edmunds. (fn. 8) In 1069 William the Conqueror confirmed the possessions of Deerhurst Priory. (fn. 9) According to the Domesday Survey, the possessions of St. Denis in Gloucestershire amounted to 64 hides, and included the vills of Uckington, Staverton, Coln St. Dennis and Caldicot, Little Compton, Prestonon-Stour, and Welford, besides 30 burgess-tenements in Gloucester. (fn. 10)
Deerhurst was served by a prior and monks from St. Denis, who paid a yearly sum from the revenues of the priory to the mother house. In 1250 Matthew Paris records an extraordinary episode. (fn. 11) According to his statement, Richard, earl of Cornwall, when staying at St. Denis, purchased the priory of Deerhurst from the abbot, and caused the transaction to be ratified in the papal curia. The priory with the eight vills belonging to it was then worth £300 a year. On his return to England in 1250 Richard dispersed the monks of Deerhurst, took possession of the property, and proposed to build a castle on the banks of the Severn. His occupation of Deerhurst was only temporary, though why the transaction became void remains a mystery. In 1264 a composition was made between Walter Cantilupe, bishop of Worcester, and the abbot of St. Denis, by which it was agreed that the abbot should appoint one of his monks as prior of Deerhurst, and should present him to the bishop by reason of his parochial cure in that church, and not by reason of the priory. (fn. 12) The abbot might recall the prior by signifying his intention to the bishop. The prior was bound to obey the bishop in all things, saving the privileges of the monastery of St. Denis. In accordance with this composition, which was confirmed by Godfrey Giffard, bishop of Worcester, in 1270, the priors of Deerhurst were subsequently presented, instituted, and recalled. The bishops exercised the right of visitation in the church of Deerhurst on account of the parochial cure, but had no jurisdiction over the monks of the priory. (fn. 13)
In 1319 Edward II granted the right of holding two fairs of three days in the manor of Deerhurst, at the feasts of the Invention and Exaltation of the Cross. (fn. 14) Like other alien priories, Deerhurst was seized on account of the revenues which were sent to the mother house during the wars with France. The effect of the king's action was that the prior and convent held their lands of him on payment of a ferm to the exchequer, which may have represented the amount sent yearly to the mother house. (fn. 15) The crown also presented to churches of which the advowsons belonged to the priory, as they fell vacant. (fn. 16) In time of war the abbots of St. Denis presented the priors to the king, (fn. 17) who notified to the bishop of Worcester his will that they should be instituted. In the reign of Edward III the alien priories were in the king's hands from 1337 to 1361. (fn. 18) In 1345 he leased the priory to Thomas de Bradeston for £110 a year. (fn. 19) Under such an arrangement as this the administration of property and receipt of revenues was, of course, taken from the prior, and there can be no doubt that Thomas de Bradeston was bound to pay the convent a fixed sum for their maintenance and the provision of a chaplain to serve the parishioners. However, the priory was then vacant, and when John Godelli was appointed in 1346 the king restored the custody to him on payment of £110 a year to the exchequer so long as the war lasted. (fn. 20) In 1389 the custody of the priory was granted to John Russell, a knight, and William Hitchcock, a chaplain, at a rent of £200. (fn. 21) The prior was entitled to receive 46 marks a year from certain tithes and oblations, and bound to find chaplains for the parish church. In a previous grant all the spiritualities of the priory were reserved to his use, and it is not clear if he was supposed to provide for himself and his monks and find the chaplains for 46 marks. (fn. 22) In 1394 John Russell complained that the prior had received the money and had not paid the salaries of the chaplains. (fn. 23) On Christmas Eve, 1394, the prior was killed, but no presentation was made by the abbot of St. Denis, and after a vacancy of nearly three years the king presented John Todenham, a monk of St. Mary's, Thetford, to the priory. (fn. 24) The temporalities were still let for a ferm, and under that system it was inevitable that the property should suffer. In 1374 the value of its spiritualities and temporalities was estimated at only 200 marks, and at that time a prior and two monks were living at Deerhurst. (fn. 25) In 1400, immediately after the restitution of the priory to St. Denis by Henry IV, (fn. 26) the new prior, William Forestar, prevailed on the king to issue a commission to several persons, including the sheriff of Gloucester, to inquire about divers wastes, sales, and destructions committed on divers lands and possessions pertaining to the alien priory of Deerhurst, and the removal of divers charters, writings, rent rolls, and muniments by the late farmers of the priory and others of those parts. (fn. 27) The payment due from the prior to St. Denis was 120 marks a year, (fn. 28) which was probably made until 1415, when war broke out with France. Deerhurst was one of the alien priories which were not confiscated under the Act of Parliament of 1415. (fn. 29) It was not made denizen until 1443, (fn. 30) and in that grant Henry VI declared that he acted on the petition of Hugh de Mantyazon, who had been presented as prior by the abbot of St. Denis in 1411. (fn. 31) Deerhurst was placed on the same footing as other priories in England, and the right of freedom of election was assured to the convent. Four years later Henry VI cancelled the grant, and gave the priory and possessions of Deerhurst to Eton College. (fn. 32) In 1461 Edward IV granted Deerhurst to William Buckland, a monk of St. Peter's, Westminster, that it might be fully restored to the abbot and convent of St. Denis, provided that they supported monks, a secular chaplain, and servants, all of whom should be English, and that no pension or impost was paid to the mother house. (fn. 33) On 18 January, 1466, Carpenter, bishop of Worcester, collated William Buckland to the priory on the ground that there were not a sufficient number of monks to proceed to an election, and that the abbot of St. Denis had made no presentation. (fn. 34) In 1467 Edward IV took the priory from William Buck land, on the plea that he had only maintained one secular chaplain and no other monk besides himself, that he had wasted the revenues and withdrawn hospitality. (fn. 35) The king granted Deerhurst to Tewkesbury on condition that the abbot and convent should maintain a prior and four monks there, the prior to be appointed and removed at the will of the abbot. (fn. 36) At the same time Edward took the alien priory of Goldcliff from Tewkesbury and gave it to Eton College. (fn. 37) The possessions of Deerhurst in 1467 included the manors of Deerhurst, Hawe, Wolston, Uckington, Coln St. Dennis, Welford, Preston-on-Stour, and Compton in Gloucestershire, Taynton with La More in Oxfordshire, and the rectories of Deerhurst and Uckington. (fn. 38) The union of Deerhurst with Tewkesbury was confirmed by Carpenter, bishop of Worcester, in 1469. (fn. 39) The cell was surrendered as part of the possessions of the abbey of Tewkesbury on 9 January, 1540. (fn. 40)
Priors of Deerhurst
Baldwin, occurs 1065 (fn. 41)
Stephen of Paris, instituted 1270 (fn. 42)
Robert of Elleboef, instituted 1272 (fn. 43)
Stephen de Moysiaco, instituted 1278 (fn. 44)
Peter de Thoriniaco, instituted 1302 (fn. 45)
John Godelli, 1346 (fn. 54)
John Coci, 1349 (fn. 55)
Peter Cudoe, ob. 1361 (fn. 56)
John de Medunta, admitted 1361 (fn. 57)
Vacant until 19 July, 1397 (fn. 62)
John Todenham, admitted 1397 (fn. 63)
William Forestar, admitted 1399 (fn. 64)
William Buckland, 1461 (fn. 67)
After the union with Tewkesbury the priors were appointed solely at the will of the abbot and convent, and no record exists of their succession.
Robert Cheltenham, occurs 1535 (fn. 68)
James Bromsgrove, occurs 1539 and 1540 (fn. 69)