Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Southwick

A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1903.

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'Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Southwick', in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2, (London, 1903) pp. 164-168. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

In this section


Henry I. in 1133 founded in the church of St. Mary, Porchester, a priory of Austin canons. The foundation charter assigned to the canons the appropriation of the church of Porchester, timber for fencing, building and fuel, as well as common pasture in the wood of Hingsdon; the manor of Candover; a hide of land in Southwick, and a hide of land in Applestead. The charter gave the canons every possible manorial right over their lands. This charter was witnessed, amongst others, by the Bishops of Winchester, Salisbury and St. Davids, and by the Bishops elect of Durham and Ely. (fn. 1)

An undated deed of the early part of the thirteenth century records a grant by Luke, the prior of Southwick, to John the goldsmith, of the plot and house which Robert, the sacrist of Southwick, built in Portsmouth, in exchange for half a virgate of land in Kingston. (fn. 2)

In 1204 King John granted the canons of Southwick a confirmation charter of the manor of Dean, (fn. 3) and in 1214 he issued general letters of protection for the monastery. (fn. 4) In 1234, Henry III. granted the priory a weekly market and an annual fair.

Pope Innocent IV., in February, 1254, issued a mandate to Berard de Nimpha, a papal agent, living in England, to imprison for life and deprive of their benefices certain forgers of papal letters, and to cite to Rome (with six others) the prior of Southwick, who is mentioned in the letters suspected to be false, that he may, if possible, prove his innocence. (fn. 5)

Licence was granted to the prior and canons in May, 1278, after injunction made by the sheriff, to enclose with hedges and a ditch a certain way opposite the great gate of their priory leading southward, upon condition that they made another way on their own ground of the same width. (fn. 6)

In 1280 the prior of Southwick was called upon to show by what right the convent held the manors of Dean and Colemore; whereupon the prior, who appeared personally, produced the charter of King John, and the jurors decided in favour of the monastery. The prior's right to gallows, a market, and assize of bread and ale in the town of Southwick was also called in question by the counsel for the Crown. The prior produced charters of Henry III. to substantiate his claims to gallows and a Wednesday market, but with regard to the assize of bread and ale he pleaded a prescriptive title. The jury found that the prior was only entitled to this assize on the market day, and that it pertained to the king on all other days of the week. (fn. 7)

On 10 January, 1281, Archbishop Peckham, from information he had received, deemed it advisable to interfere in the affairs of Southwick priory and removed Prior Andrew from his post. On his removal the archbishop drew up an ordinance as to his future treatment. The ex-prior was to receive daily two loaves called miches, (fn. 8) one chopyn, (fn. 9) and two gallons of convent beer, and from the kitchen and for his clothing the same as were supplied to the sub-prior. He was also to have commons for one servant. An honorable chamber was to be selected for his use and that of one other canon as his companion. He was to receive half a mark in money on the feasts of Christmas and Pentecost. The ex-prior was to be regular in attendance in the quire and chapter, and on solemn days to take his meals in the frater with the rest of the convent This order was dated 12 February, 1282. (fn. 10)

The energetic archbishop again visited the monastery of Southwick in 1284 and found it disturbed in spiritualities and most desolate in temporalities. He forwarded a long visitation decree on 4 February. The archbishop therein strongly condemns the late Prior Andrew, stating that the temporal difficulties of the priory were chiefly his fault. The ex-prior is ordered to sleep in the dorter and eat in the frater the same as the rest of the canons. If he presumed to eat elsewhere, so often as he thus offended he was to be excluded from the church and given a diet of bread and water. A door communicating from the garden, attached to the chamber where the ex-prior had been quartered, within the outer court, was ordered to be built up with stones and mortar. Andrew was also to be strictly confined to the cloister and its surrounding offices, until he could produce in chapter to the satisfaction of the archbishop or diocesan a proper balance sheet of his accounts. The lack of observance of silence by the canons both in quire and cloister was severely admonished. Any future offender was to be proclaimed in chapter and for the first offence to be deprived of the first pittance in the frater, for the second offence to have no other drink but water, and for the third to suffer both of these penalties. (fn. 11)

In 1289 licence was obtained for an alienation in mortmain by Richard de Burhunt to the priory of South wick of 50 acres of land and the site of a mill in Southwick, in exchange for a mill and 15 acres of land there. (fn. 12)

In 1291 Pope Nicholas IV. granted a faculty to the prior and convent of Southwick to wear caps or amices on their heads in church, which were to be removed at the gospel and the elevation. (fn. 13) The taxation of this date gave the annual value of the temporalities of the priory in the archdeaconry of Winchester at £27 17s. 8d.

In the days of Bishop Woodlock there were various troubles at Southwick. In 1307 the papal nuncio in England interfered in the case of one Richard Spede, a canon of the house, relative to effusion of blood, and also granted him dispensation with regard to certain simoniacal irregularities. (fn. 14) On 28 October, 1308, the bishop sent a mandate to the prior of Southwick against Canon Philip de Winton on account of scandals, enjoining that he should not depart from the cloister until the bishop's visit, that he was to write no letters nor cause any to be written, that all writing materials were to be taken from him, and that no secular servant nor outsider was to have any communication with him, save in the presence of one of the brethren of the house. (fn. 15) On the following Christmas Day, the bishop gave notice of his approaching visitation through the archdeacon. (fn. 16) On 19 February, 1308, the bishop communicated with the prior as to the liberating from prison of Richard Spede; he was not to depart out of the cloister or the buildings round the cloister. After the bishop's visitation various injunctions were forwarded relative to the hours of mass, the religious habit, talking with women, dietary, and quarrelling. (fn. 17)

On the Saturday after the feast of St. Matthew, 1310, Bishop Woodlock again visited the priory; (fn. 18) as no decree is entered in his registers it may be assumed that all was then satisfactory.

Edward II. maintained his right to send pensioners to the house of Southwick. On 21 December, 1316, John de Sheford, who had long served the king, was sent under privy seal to the prior and convent of Southwick to receive maintenance in food and clothing. (fn. 19) Just a week later William de Spyny, another old servant of the Crown, was sent to Southwick priory in like manner. (fn. 20)

On 14 November, 1334, Bishop Orlton visited the priory and preached to the canons in their chapter house from ' Est puer nunc hic qui habet quinque panes hordaceos et duos pisces.' In 1336, Prior John de Gloucester petitioned the king to the effect that although his house was bound to supply sustenance for one only of the king's servants, he had lately, at the king's request, admitted Simon Bacoun into the house in the lifetime of John le Vyneour, another of the king's servants, and prayed for an indemnity. The Crown thereupon ordered an inquisition to be held whether the house had in the past been charged with one or two of the king's servants. The jurors found that the house was liable for one only, and on 2 October letters patent were sent to the prior, recording the verdict, and granting that the admission of Simon should not prejudice the house as a precedent. (fn. 21)

The priory was excused payment to the king of tenths or tallages in 1342 for three years, in consequence of their lands and rents in Portsmouth and Southampton, wherein were their chief means of support, having being burned and consumed by the French. (fn. 22)

In July, 1343, the bishop granted absolution to certain canons of this house, Richard de Cittesthorn, Henry Dene and Richard Botiller, who had been guilty of violence. (fn. 23)

By the return of knights' fees made in 1346 it is recorded that the prior of Southwick had two parts of a fee in Eliisfield. (fn. 24)

The University of Oxford, in 1366, petitioned the pope on behalf of Thomas Cranlegh, bachelor of canon law, for a benefice to be reserved for him by the prior and convent of Southwick. The prayer was granted by Urban V., as well as a subsequent one of the same year, for an augmentation of the value of the benefice in the gift of the priory of Southwick to twenty-five marks, with cure of souls, and ten without. (fn. 25)

At an inquisition held at Southwick before Thomas de Weston, the escheator of the county, on 4 May, 1381, on the death of Prior Richard Bromdene, the jury declared that the prior, on the day of his death, held, in Southwick, £10 of rents, 193 acres of land of the annual value of 32s. 2d. at 2d. the acre, 41 acres of pasture of the annual value of 3s. 7d. at 1d. the acre, and 22 acres of meadow, 7s. 4d., at 4d. the acre; that the woods and underwoods, the dovecote and water mill were of no value; that the perquisites of courts, with two views of frank-pledge, averaged 3s. 4d.; customary payments averaged 6s. 8d. Particulars were also given of the various other Hampshire manors pertaining to the priory. Similar inquisitions are recorded as held for the possessions of the priory in Wilts, Sussex and Oxon. The vacancy lasted thirty days, namely from 28 April to 27 May, and the sum due to the Crown for that period was £12 7s. 6d. The entries conclude with a copy of the restoration of the temporalities by the king to Prior Nowell. (fn. 26)

Bishop Wykeham took much interest in this house and founded therein a chantry for the souls of John and Sibil, his parents. On 22 August, 1383, Thomas Gervays and Thomas le Warenner, two canons of Southwick, were sworn before the bishop to duly maintain this chantry. (fn. 27) Solemn oaths for the maintenance of this chantry were also renewed by the canons in 1386 and in 1394.

Another chantry was founded here in March, 1385. Sir Bernard Brocas of Roche Court, near Fareham, a great friend of the bishop and his chief parker, granted to Prior Nowell and the convent of Southwick 5 acres of land and 3 acres of meadow at Southwick, together with the manors of Hoo and Havington (with certain exceptions) in free alms, on condition of finding a chaplain to say a daily mass at the altar of Sts. Katharine and Mary Magdalen, on the north side of the chancel of the priory church, for King Richard and Sir Bernard Brocas and Katharine his wife, as long as they should live, and afterwards for their souls, also for the souls of Edward III., and of Mary, Sir Bernard's deceased wife, and his brother, sisters and benefactors and all the faithful departed. The priory was also bound to other works of piety: the prior and his successors were to pay one penny to the canon who should say mass; 100s. for celebrating the obit of Sir Bernard and his wife on the eve of the Annunciation, with Placebo and Dirige, and the tolling of the bells, and again on the eve of St. Michael the Archangel, and the feast of St. Mary Magdalen; and 6s. 8d. for distribution amongst the brethren on each of those three days. The prior and convent bound themselves to the bishop and to Sir Bernard, in the penalty of £10, to perform the conditions, and that they should be read aloud every year on those three days at the meeting of the chapter. (fn. 28)

In the like month and year, Prior Nowell was appointed by the Crown to supervise the works which the king had ordered to be executed at Porchester Castle by Robert Bardolf, the constable thereof, and to control all the sums expended. (fn. 29) In October of the same year the bishop issued his mandate to Prior Nowell forbidding the sale of corrodies. (fn. 30)

The bishop visited Southwick priory on 6 May, 1397, and had no complaints to record. (fn. 31) After Bishop Wykeham's death, the priory was again visited on 25 October, 1404, by the commissary of Archbishop Arundel, but he found nothing to correct. (fn. 32)

In May, 1465, inspection and confirmation was granted by Edward IV., to Philip the prior and the convent of Southwick of all their royal charters from 3 John to 15 Richard II. (fn. 33)

On 7 November, 1494, the house was visited, during the vacancy of the see, by Robert Shirborne, treasurer of Hereford (afterward Bishop of Chichester), as commissary of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Prior Stanbrook deposed that all the canons were men of religion and good morals and conversation, and that there were two tenements in the town of Southwick belonging to the priory which had been destroyed by the last high wind. Eleven of the canons appeared before the visitor, but had no depositions to make. (fn. 34)

The priory was again visited on 12 March, 1501, by Dr. Hede, as commissary for the prior of Canterbury, during the vacancy of the see. John Lawder, the prior, stated that it had not deteriorated during his time and that the value of the rents and profits had grown to £300, and was sufficient to support all their burdens; that none of the valuables of the priory were in pawn, and that the common seal was kept under the four keys of himself and the sub-prior and two other of his brethren. Thomas Kent, sub-prior and sacrist, said that silence was observed at all the appointed times and places; he differed from his superior as to the number of keys to the chest in which the common seal was kept, for he stated there were five, three of which were kept by the other canons in order of seniority. William Whyte, another canon, maintained however that there were only four keys, whilst Peter Elton, the precentor, agreed with the sub-prior that there were five. We wonder whether the commissary ordered the chest to be produced that he might count the number for himself. John Pince, the warden of the chapel of St. Mary, and Thomas Sketle, the sub-chanter, were content to report omnia bene. The matter of the keys seemed to be the only point in dispute.

Henry VIII. passed through Southwick in September, 1510, and made an offering of 6s. 8d. at Our Lady of Southwick. (fn. 35)

In January, 1514, the Crown granted a licence to Prior Thomas Kent and the monastery of Southwick to hold a fair for three days on the feast of St. Philip and St. James and the two following days; instead of a fair for two days on the eve and day of the Assumption of the Virgin, which had been granted by Henry III., and which was said to injure the neighbouring fairs. (fn. 36) Thomas Annesley, a gentleman with the Queen Consort, in November of the same year, was granted a corrody in this house, in the place of Thomas Parker, deceased. (fn. 37) On the surrender of this corrody by Annesley it was granted in October, 1530, to Robert Wenham, master of the children in the collegiate church of Windsor. (fn. 38)

There are various letters of Prior Norton to Lord and Lady Lisle at the Public Record Office, but they are of no interest as regards the priory. In 1534 he seems to have retired, for in September of that year he wrote to Lady Lisle saying that the visitation of God (the plague) was very sore and extreme in the marine ports, and that many of her loving friends had died; adding that he was living peacefully at his hermitage of St. Leonard's. It concludes, 'scribbled with a comfortless heart, in œde heremitica divi Leonardi.' (fn. 39) However, in 1535, when the Valor Ecclesiasticus was taken, William Norton is named 'modo Prior.' The total clear annual value of the priory was then estimated at £257 4s. 4d.

Cromwell found a tool ready to betray the house in one of the canons, James Gunwyn. On 20 January, 1536, Gunwyn wrote as follows to Cromwell: ' We are bound by the will of William Wykeham to have daily five masses in our church, which have not been said for more than forty years. On 26 May last the Commissioners sat in our place to ascertain the yearly value of our lands, that a tenth part might be assessed according to Act of Parliament, when my master (the prior) delivered them a book of the yearly rents which was not in all points made truly. Also on 22 September last we had a visitation of our house by Dr. Layton, when we had certain injunctions given us to be observed, several of which have been neglected hitherto. I send you this information in discharge of my oath of obedience, and would have done it earlier if I could have had a trusty messenger, for if my master knew of my writing he would convey away the plate, money and jewels in his keeping.' (fn. 40)

A letter to Lord Lisle of 16 March, 1538, stated that the priory was to be suppressed, and that 'Our Lady of Southwick' was taken down. On 21 March, John Husee, a solicitor and servant of the Lisles, wrote to Lord Lisle that ' Pilgrimage saints goeth down apace as Our Lady of Southwick, the Blood of Hales, St. Saviour's and others.' On the following day the same correspondent wrote to like effect to Lady Lisle. (fn. 41) Leland referred to the fame of the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Southwick. (fn. 42)

On 7 April, 1538, the surrender of this monastery, with all its possessions in Hants, Wilts, Oxon and elsewhere, was signed by the prior, William Norton, and twelve of the canons. The signature next to the prior's is that of James Gunwyn. (fn. 43) The surrender was made to the notorious Layton. Two days later Husee wrote to his master that Southwick was suppressed, adding, 'I think the most part will down.'

The lands belonging to the priory at the dissolution were: the manors of Southwick with the rectory, Newland, Hannington, Sutton Scotney, 'Moundesmer,' Preston Candover, 'Oldfishborne,' Farlington with a fishery, Denmead Molens, Clanveld and Aldbourn, Weralles in Dorchester with the rectory, Colmer, Stubbington, Hoe, West Boarhunt, Boarhunt, Harbert and Bury; the rectories of Nutley, Swindon, Portsea, Portsmouth and 'Wanstede,' and lands, rents, etc., in Prior's Dean, the city of Winchester and Andover. (fn. 44)

The priory of Southwick was assigned to one John White, a mean, fawning servant of Wriothesley's. He wrote to Wriothesley five days after the surrender, saying that by the provision of God and his master's help he has attained what he had desired all his life, namely, an honest house in which to bid his guests welcome! He complained however that the stuff in the house was but slender, only four feather-beds and the furniture old and in manner rotten. He also was much aggrieved with Dr. Layton, for he took from hence twelve of the best of the twenty bacon hogs hanging in the roof, which the other visitors had given him. It is not surprising to learn that he was in such trouble with the monastery servants that he knew not what to do. Not one of the husbandry servants would stay with him, though they knew in what need he stood of them for the sowing of barley. (fn. 45)

The prior received the large pension of £66 13s. 4d. (fn. 46)

Among the books of this house Leland noticed during his visit Henricus Huntingdunensis, Beda de die judicii et Historia Bedœ Saxonice. (fn. 47)

No sooner had White gained possession of the priory, than he imitated his master Wriothesley at Titchfieid, and pulled down the conventual church, establishing himself and his household in the prior's lodging and adjacent parts of the buildings.

Priors Of Southwick

Guy, (fn. 48) about 1190-1217
Luke, early in the thirteenth century
Walkelin, died in 1234
Matthew, 1234-66
Peter de Maupol, 1266-73
Andrew de Winton, (fn. 49) 1273-81
John de Clere, (fn. 50) 1281-91
Robert de Hempton or Hewton, (fn. 51) 12911315
William de Winton, (fn. 52) 1315-6
Nicholas de Cheriton, (fn. 53) 1316-34
John de Gloucester, (fn. 54) 1334
Richard Bromdene, 1349-81
Richard Nowell, (fn. 55) 1381-9
William Husselegh, (fn. 56) 1389-98
Thomas Courteys, (fn. 57) 1398-1432
Edward Dene, 1432-55
John Soberton, (fn. 58) 1455-63
Philip Stanbroke, (fn. 59) 1463
John Lawder, about 1494
Thomas Kent, 1514, 1521
William Norton, (fn. 60) 1521-38


  • 1. Cited in the Inspection and Confirmation Charter of Edward III. (Charter Roll, 27 Edw. III. m. 9, No. 19). Add MS. 32, 280 chiefly consists of the late Sir F. Madden's transcript of the greater part of a chartulary of Southwick, which was then in the possession of Mr. Thistlethwayte. It is described as a large quarto of 271 folios, and containing copies of 1,016 instruments. It was compiled in 1396, under the direction of Prior Hursley. It appears to be strictly a chartulary, and to contain no narrative account of the house, or of its buildings and administration.
  • 2. Ancient Deeds, P.R.O., D. 100.
  • 3. Charter Roll, 5 John, m. 5.
  • 4. Close, 16 John, m. 19.
  • 5. Cal. of Papal Letters, i. 303.
  • 6. Pat. 6 Edw. I. m. 16.
  • 7. Placitade Quo Warranto (Rec. Com.), 767, 768.
  • 8. Miche or Micche, signifying a loaf, is used in Chaucer, etc.
  • 9. Chopyn, probably a coarse wheaten loaf (see Halliwell's Dict. 'chobbins' and ' cob-loaf).
  • 10. Cant. Archiep. Reg., Peckham, f. 172b.
  • 11. Cant. Archiep. Reg., Peckham, f. 232b. Besides the entry of this decree another copy of it, on a separate piece of parchment, is stitched into the register.
  • 12. Pat. 18 Edw. I.m. 45.
  • 13. Cal. of Papal Letters, i. 533.
  • 14. Winton. Epis. Reg., Woodlock, ff. 75b, 76.
  • 15. Ibid. f. 97b.
  • 16. Ibid. f. 99b.
  • 17. Ibid. ff. 119, 123, 149b.
  • 18. Ibid, f. 159b.
  • 19. Close, 10 Edw. II. m. 22d.
  • 20. Ibid. m. 17d.
  • 21. Pat. 10 Edw. III. pt. 2, m. 20.
  • 22. Pat. 16 Edw. III. pt. 3, m. 2.
  • 23. Winton. Epis. Reg., Orlton, i. f. 121b.
  • 24. Feudal Aids, ii. 330.
  • 25. Cal. of Papal Petitions, i. 516, 521.
  • 26. Add. MS. 3 2,280, f. 506.
  • 27. Winton. Epis. Reg., Wykeham, iii. f. 202b.
  • 28. Ibid. f. 213; Pat. 8 Rich. II. pt. 1, m. 36.
  • 29. Pat. 8 Rich. II. pt. 2, m. 19.
  • 30. Winton. Epis. Reg., Wykeham, f. 220b.
  • 31. Ibid. iii. f. 292a.
  • 32. Cant. Archiep. Reg., Arundel, i. f. 502.
  • 33. Pat. 5. Edw. IV. pt. 3, m. 21.
  • 34. Cant. Archiep. Reg., Morton, i. 91b.
  • 35. Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII. ii. 144d.
  • 36. Pat. Hen. VIII. pt. 2, m. 1.
  • 37. Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII. i. 5552.
  • 38. Ibid. iv. 6, 1751.
  • 39. Ibid. vii. 1153.
  • 40. Ibid. x. 138.
  • 41. Ibid. xiii. 514, 564, 580.
  • 42. Leland's Itinerary, iii. 98.
  • 43. Dep. Keeper's Report (P.R.O.), viii. app. ii. 41.
  • 44. Dugdale's Monasticon, vi. 244.
  • 45. Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII. xiii. 748.
  • 46. Ibid. xiv. 1355.
  • 47. Leland's Collectanea, iv. 148.
  • 48. Catalogue of charters in the possession of Lord Fitzhardinge, p. 37, No. 92.
  • 49. Pat. 2 Edw. I. m. 24.
  • 50. Ibid. 10 Edw. I. mm. 22, 21.
  • 51. Ibid. 20 Edw. I. mm. 28, 27; Winton. Epis. Reg., Pontoise, f. 11.
  • 52. Pat. 8 Edw. II. pt. 2, mm. 12, 11.
  • 53. Ibid. 9 Edw. 2, mm. 32, 30; Winton. Epis. Reg., Woodlock, f. 203b.
  • 54. Pat. 7 Edw. III. pt. 3, m. 3; 8 Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 42 and pt. 2, m. 31.
  • 55. Winton. Epis. Reg., Wykeham, i. f. 118; Pat. 4 Rich. II. pt. 2, mm. 6, 2.
  • 56. Winton. Epis. Reg., Wykeham, i. ff. 197-9.
  • 57. Ibid. i. ff. 288, 289.
  • 58. Ibid. Waynflete, i. f. 76.
  • 59. Ibid. f. 128b.; Pat. 3 Edw. IV. pt. 2.
  • 60. Pat. 12 Hen. VIII. pt. 2, m. 8.