Houses of Augustinian canons: The priory of Horsley

Pages 91-93

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

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In the reign of William the Conqueror, Roger Montgomery, earl of Shrewsbury, endowed the Benedictine abbey of St. Martin at Trouarn in Normandy with the manors of Horsley in Gloucestershire and Runckton in Sussex. (fn. 1) Another Norman lord, Robert de Romeliolo, gave the church of St. Andrew at Wheatenhurst near Horsley. (fn. 2) A prior and monks from Trouarn lived in the cell at Horsley until 1260. (fn. 3) In that year the abbot and convent of Trouarn gave all their property in England to the abbot and convent of Bruton in exchange for their possessions in the dioceses of Coutance and Bayeux. (fn. 4) Thus Horsley ceased to be an alien priory, and became a dependent cell of Bruton, which had been founded as a house of Augustinian canons in 1142 by William de Mohun. (fn. 5)

In 1262 Walter Cantilupe, bishop of Worcester, admitted Stephen, a canon of Bruton, on the presentation of the prior of that house, to the care, rule and custody of the priory of Horsley. (fn. 6) The cell was managed entirely for the interests of the mother house, and in 1271, on the request of his brother, Walter Giffard, archbishop of York, Godfrey Giffard, bishop of Worcester, granted that the prior of Horsley should dwell at Bruton or elsewhere for four years, and that the prior of Bruton should administer the fruits of Horsley as should seem expedient to him, for the payment of the debts of his house, which was then greatly impoverished. (fn. 7) In 1276 Giffard ordered that on the presentation of the prior of Bruton, the prior of Horsley should have the cure of souls of Horsley and Wheatenhurst, with all offerings and oblations, and should have with him one canon regular, chosen by the prior of Bruton. (fn. 8) Difficulties again arose in 1283. The bishop wrote to the prior of Bruton, stating that having been lately at Horsley he found that hospitality was withdrawn and charity banished, and that the profits of the priory were converted to alien and strange uses. The bishop therefore admonished the prior not to take more from the priory of Horsley than was anciently 'accustomed and due.' (fn. 9)

In 1307 the prior of Horsley resisted the commissaries of the prior of Worcester when they attempted to visit his house during the vacancy of the see. He was excommunicated, and made an appeal to the archbishop of Canterbury, but afterwards withdrew it, and acknowledged the right of the prior of Worcester to visit the priory. (fn. 10)

In 1349 Prior Henry de Lisle determined to go on a pilgrimage to Rome, and on 31 December, when the bishopric was vacant, the prior of Worcester granted him a licence to set out, on the understanding that the prior of Bruton had given his consent. (fn. 11) He showed himself strangely neglectful of his duties, and in 1355 Edward III ordered an inquisition to be made into the devastations and dilapidations of Henry de Lisle at Horsley. (fn. 12) The jurors declared that he had cut down trees and sold wood to the value of £100, and also sold eighty oxen and cows which fell in as heriots at the time of the plague. He had spent £60 in going to Rome and Venice without the licence of the prior of Burton. (fn. 13) In 1357 he resigned, (fn. 14) but the conduct of William Cary, who became prior in 1363, (fn. 15) gave rise to still greater dissatisfaction. At an inquisition (fn. 16) made by command of the king in 1369 it was stated that the prior had withdrawn all hospitality for seven years, although he was bound to provide dinner every day for six poor people in his hall. (fn. 17) He had leased the manor of Horsley for the term of his own life to the prior of Bruton without the king's consent; (fn. 18) and, although two voidances had occurred, the profits had gone to the prior of Bruton instead of to the crown. Probably on account of diminished revenues the prior and convent of Bruton were anxious to withdraw the canons from Horsley. For a payment of twenty marks, Edward III restored the manor of Horsley, which had been seized by the escheators; and agreed that henceforward no prior of Horsley should be nominated, and that vicarages should be created in the churches of Horsley and Wheatenhurst, (fn. 19) but some years passed before the king's grant took effect. During the vacancy of the see on 30 July, 1375, the prior of Worcester sent a mandate to the rural dean of Stonehouse to sequester the fruits of the priory and of the two churches on account of the absence of the prior, the peril of souls therefrom, and the withdrawal of hospitality, adding that the buildings of the priory had in great part collapsed and the profits of the house had been wasted. (fn. 20) The sequestrator was negligent, and on 16 August another commissioner was appointed in his stead, (fn. 21) but William Cary succeeded in preventing the seizure of the profits of the churches. (fn. 22) In the following year Henry Wakefield, bishop of Worcester, determined to put an end to the scandal. The bishop of Bath and Wells had excommunicated William Cary for leaving his house without permission from Bruton, and on 26 March, 1376, Bishop Wakefield sent a mandate to the deans of Gloucester and Stonehouse to denounce the prior of Horsley as excommunicate, (fn. 23) and the dean of Stonehouse was bidden to sequester the fruits of the priory. (fn. 24) On 5 July the bishop made a new ordinance by which the prior of Bruton was able not only to present the prior of Horsley but to recall him. (fn. 25) Nothing further is known of William Cary; but the prior of Bruton did not appoint a successor. Acting on the charter of Edward III he retained the manor. In 1380 Bishop Wakefield created vicarages in the churches of Horsley and Wheatenhurst. (fn. 26) Possibly a part of the priory buildings served as a manse for the vicar of Horsley. The history of the cell thus came to an end in 1380.

Priors of Horsley (fn. 27)

Stephen, 1262, (fn. 28) occurs 1269 (fn. 29)

Walter de Horwood, occurs 1271 (fn. 30)

Richard de la Grave, 1292 (fn. 31)

William, 1298 (fn. 32)

William de Milverton, ob. 1329 (fn. 33)

Laurence de Haustede, 1329 (fn. 34)

Henry de Lisle, 1335, (fn. 35) resigned 1357 (fn. 36)

Richard de Holt, 1357, (fn. 37) resigned 1363 (fn. 38)

William Cary, 1363 (fn. 39)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. vii, 1030, 1031.
  • 2. Ibid. 1031.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Cartul. of Bruton and Montacute (Somerset Rec. Soc.), 76.
  • 5. Ibid. xviii.
  • 6. Cartul. of Bruton and Montacute (Somerset Rec. Soc.), 77.
  • 7. Worc. Epis. Reg. Giffard (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 46.
  • 8. Cartul. of Bruton and Montacute, 79.
  • 9. Worc. Epis. Reg. Giffard (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 216.
  • 10. Worc. Reg. Sede Vac. (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 120, 121.
  • 11. Ibid. 245.
  • 12. Cartul. of Bruton and Montacute, 90.
  • 13. Ibid. 93.
  • 14. Worc. Epis. Reg. Brian, fol. 22d.
  • 15. Ibid. Barnet, fol. 4d.
  • 16. Cartul. of Bruton and Montacute, 95.
  • 17. Ibid.
  • 18. Ibid.; Dugdale, op. cit. vii, 1031.
  • 19. Ibid.
  • 20. Reg. Sede Vac. 347.
  • 21. Worc. Reg. Sede Vac. (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 347.
  • 22. Ibid. 348.
  • 23. Worc. Epis. Reg. Wakefield, fol. 7d.
  • 24. Ibid. fol. 8.
  • 25. Ibid.
  • 26. Ibid. fols. 14, 133d., 134.
  • 27. It has not been possible to trace the names of the priors of the first foundation who were appointed by the abbot and convent of Trouarn.
  • 28. Cartul. of Bruton and Montacute, 77.
  • 29. Worc. Epis. Reg. Giffard (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 21.
  • 30. Ibid. 46.
  • 31. Ibid. 425.
  • 32. Ibid. 507.
  • 33. Worc. Epis. Reg. Orlton, fol. 33. He may be the prior who was appointed in 1298.
  • 34. Ibid. fol. 33.
  • 35. Ibid. Montacute, fol. 20.
  • 36. Ibid. Brian, i, fol. 22d.
  • 37. Ibid.
  • 38. Ibid. Barnet, fol. 4 d.
  • 39. Ibid.