Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Breamore

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 Breamore', in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2, (London, 1903) pp. 168-172. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]

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The priory of St. Michael's, Breamore, was founded for Austin canons by Baldwin de Redvers and his uncle Hugh towards the end of the reign of Henry I. The confirmation charter of that king is cited in inspections, and confirmations of Edward III., Henry IV. and Henry VI. The charter of Henry I. enumerates, as the original foundation, three hides of land at Stanfit, the church of 'Sappeleja ' (? Stapeley) with a virgate of land and 6 acres of meadow in that town, the church of Whitsbury with the tithes of the whole manor, and lands at Breamore. To this the king added pasturage for a hundred beasts of the canons, and pannage for a hundred pigs in the New Forest, together with as much dead wood as they required for fuel.

All grants of churches, chapels, lands, tithes, meadows, mills, fisheries, etc., that had been made to the canons of Breamore were confirmed to their prior Robert by Bishop Henry de Blois (1129-71). (fn. 1) The same bishop confirmed to them the appropriation of the neighbouring church of Rockburne, with the assent of the patron Manasser Bisset, and of the priest Crispin, to whom was assigned a pension of two shillings. (fn. 2) Manasser Bisset was also the donor of 22½ acres to the priory of St. Michael. He placed in the priory an additional canon, who was to specially serve (in masses) him and his ancestors. (fn. 3)

In the reign of Henry II. a composition was entered into between Prior Geoffrey and the canons of Breamore and the lazar house of Bradley, whereby it was covenanted that the church of Rockburne, which was near to Breamore Priory, should pertain to the canons, but that they should pay therefrom a yearly sum of 100s. to the house of Bradley. (fn. 4)

Among the ancient deeds of the Public Record Office is a grant in frankalmoin by Henry, son of Thomas son of Hugh de Tarente Keynes, with the consent of Joan his wife, to the canons of Breamore, of a curtilage and lands in Pimperne, Dorset, with pasture for fifty-two sheep, paying 3s. yearly to the abbess and convent of Tarente. It is an undated deed, but of the first half of the thirteenth century. (fn. 5)

Towards the end of the reign of Henry III. the priory church of Breamore required re-roofing, and the king granted ten oaks in the park of Melchet for the purpose, and gave orders to this effect to Stephen de Eddesworth, bailiff of Clarendon. The canons however only obtained two oaks, and in the reign of Edward I. petitioned the king on the subject in 1278, when he was at Winchester. The king instructed Roger de Clifford, justice of the forest on this side Trent, to make inquiries, and if it was so to cause the prior and convent to have the remaining oaks. (fn. 6)

There are three references to this priory in the proceedings of Quo Warranto at the beginning of the reign of Edward I. The prior had made claim to wreck of the sea in regard to his lands in Somerset. As however neither the prior nor his proctor put in an appearance for the hundred of Carhampton, the claim went by default. A like course of non-appearance, with a like result, happened with regard to the prior's claim to have gallows and assize of bread and ale at Langley. Probably both these cases were too weak to defend, and were encroachments made on the royal prerogative in the troublous times of Henry III. When the prior's claim to a virgate of land at Shirenewton (Newton Tony), with its appurtenant rights, was called in question at like proceedings for Wiltshire, Prior Thomas appeared in person, and produced evidence showing that this right had been conferred on the priory by Henry II. and confirmed by John and Henry III., so that the jury had no difficulty in returning a verdict in his favour. (fn. 7)

On 27 February, 1286, licence was granted for the alienation in mortmain by the prior and convent of Breamore to Robert, Bishop of Bath and Wells, of the advowsons of the churches of Stanton Drew and Chelworth. (fn. 8)

At the taxation of 1291, the priory's temporalities in the archdeaconry of Winchester (Breamore, etc.) were valued at £7 9s. 0d.; in the archdeaconry of Bath (Portbury) at £6; in the archdeaconry of Dorset (Pimperne) at £3 16s. 6d.; and in the archdeaconry of Sarum (Eblesborne and Corton) £4 8s. 6d. There was also a pension of £1 payable to the priory from the rectory of Stanton Drew, making the total annual value £22 14s. 0d.

In September, 1294, the prior of Breamore, in common with the great majority of the heads of the religious houses, received protection for one year in favour of the persons and goods of the priory, in consequence of the convent having contributed according to the taxation made for a tenth for the Holy Land. (fn. 9) A like protection was granted in 1297 on making fine before the chancellor. (fn. 10)

In March, 1301, grant was made in free alms to the prior and convent of Breamore of the advowson of the church of Brading, Isle of Wight, in exchange for the priory remitting to the king 500 marks, wherein the king was bound to them for corn, stock and other things in diverse manors. This was done at the request of Thomas, prior of Breamore, Richard, prior of Christchurch, and Gilbert de Knovill, who were the executors of the will of Isabel de Fortibus, Countess of Albemarle, and for the good of the soul of the said countess and her ancestors whose bodies were buried in the priory church of Breamore. (fn. 11)

The bishop sent letters early in 1310 announcing his intention to visit Breamore, and eventually fixed on Saturday next after the feast of the Annunciation as the day. (fn. 12) There are no entries of decrees after this visitation.

On 11 December, 1327, Bishop Stratford forwarded to the prior and convent his visitation decree. The orders were arranged under ten heads: (1) That all the canons and obedientiaries should attend the day and night hours and the great mass, and four canons the solemnly sung mass of our Lady. (2) That the door into the nave of the church be kept firmly and securely closed; and that the door into the quire be kept open until the beginning of the mass of our Lady, and after the end of the high mass, until the beginning of vespers, and from the end of vespers until the beginning of the said mass of our Lady, day by day; that the door from the cloister to the prior's hall be kept diligently by the cellarer; and that the sacrist or cellarer be held responsible to the chapter for the due warding of all the cloister doors. (3) That silence be observed at the customary times and places, and that no conversation be held with any women, secular or religious, save in honest places, from a reasonable cause, with the sanction of the prior or sub-prior, and in the presence of a brother canon. (4) That no canons of the house, save the obedientiaries (office holders), depart out of the monastery precincts without the express sanction of the prior or sub-prior. (5) That the chantry in the manor house of Hugh Courtenay be served by a secular priest at the charge of the priory; and that at the times of pilgrimage or devotion of the faithful at the chapel of St. Thomas near their house, one of the older canons or a trustworthy secular be appointed to collect their oblations. (6) That the prior or sub-prior should daily visit the farmery to see that there is suitable food for the infirm and to superintend the distribution of alms to the poor; and that the laudable custom of assigning to the poor the goods of a deceased canon for his soul's sake be maintained; and that there be one breviator (fn. 13) in the house, according to custom. (7) That the beds of the canons in the dorter be arranged so that they can be openly seen, and that all curtains or other impediments be removed and destroyed; also that the orologium (fn. 14) and lavatory be repaired according to the bishop's injunction. (8) That the common seal be kept under three keys, one in the custody of the prior, another of the sub-prior, and the third of one of the canons chosen by the chapter, and that it be not used save in the chapter house and with the consent of the chapter. (9) That there be two treasurers, namely the sub-prior and one appointed by the chapter, to have all dealings with the bailiffs and other servants of the priory, and to present an annual account. (10) That the novices should serve in the frater, and that proper novice masters should be appointed for their instruction. (fn. 15)

In June, 1332, the priory received a visit from Robert de Kelleseye, one of the king's clerks, bearing a letter to the prior inviting a subsidy towards the expenses of the marriage of Eleanor, the king's sister, with Reginald, Count of Guelders. (fn. 16) The canons granted the sum of 60s., and in the following year they received an acknowledgment, together with a pledge that the subsidy should not be construed into a precedent for them or their successors. (fn. 17)

The prior and convent seem at this period to have been good sheep farmers. In November, 1339, they received letters patent promising to pay, at the Purification and Easter, £28 5s. 5d. for five sacks and thirty-eight cloves of the better wool at 100s. the sack, taken by Robert de Popham and his fellows as collectors of the customs for Hampshire. (fn. 18)

On 13 February, 1336, Bishop Orlton visited Breamore Priory and preached in the chapter house. As there was no subsequent decree the presumption is that the bishop was satisfied. (fn. 19)

In 1347 the church of Brading, Isle of Wight, was transferred by Peter, prior of St. Helen, to John de Wallup, prior of Breamore, at the king's request. There are a variety of deeds relative to this release at the Public Record Office. (fn. 20) The transfer had originally taken place in 1301, when permission was granted to Breamore to appropriate the church, (fn. 21) and was confirmed in 1315, but there seems to have been some dispute and uncertainty about it.

The priory, like most religious houses, had a fraternity into which laitywere received as associates. On the Saturday after the Epiphany, 1348, John, the prior, and the convent of Breamore, received John de Brommore, Gena his wife, and John their son, into their brotherhood, to partake of all benefits pertaining to their house. At the same time the priory undertook to celebrate their anniversaries with Placebo and Dirige, and a mass for them, and for John and Agnes the said John's parents, and would distribute three shillings' worth of bread to a hundred and forty-four poor people in Fordingbridge on their anniversary. (fn. 22)

Shortly after this there must have been a vacancy in the office of prior, for in 1356 there was a demise from Thomas, prior of Breamore, and the convent, proprietors of the church of Brading, to Walter Burgeys of the parish of Godshill in the same island, of the rectory of Brading with all its tithes. (fn. 23)

In January, 1376, Bishop Wykeham directed John de Wormenhale, his official, and the prior of Mottisfont, to hold a visitation at the priory of Breamore in consequence of the laxity alleged against them, but there is no record of any decree. (fn. 24) During the vacancy of the see in 1404, the priory was again visited (November 3) by the commissary of Archbishop Arundel. (fn. 25)

Dr. Hede, commissary of the prior of Canterbury, in the vacancy of the see, visited this priory on 24 March, 1501. The visitation was held in the Lady chapel, for the chapter house was in a state of decay. John Chandler, the prior, stated that when he entered on his office the house was indebted to the extent of £600; that he had paid this off and had redeemed valuables and corrodies that had been pledged by his predecessor for about £200; that the rents had increased to the annual amount of £206 1s. 10d.; that divers valuables of the house were still in pledge; that by their old statute there were three canons and five brothers in priests' orders; that the burdens of the house, although the debts had been paid, amounted this year to £102 10s. 9d. Richard London, the sub-prior, stated that when the present prior succeeded, the house was burdened to the extent of £700 or thereabouts, of which the present prior had paid about £100. Canon William Ladoke stated that the prior had redeemed two silver cups that had been pledged by his predecessor to Sir Hugh Conwey and paid to him for them £22. Canons John Wynne, William Tary and Richard More also testified to the burdens of the house, and their reduction by the present prior, but their statements are somewhat contradictory. (fn. 26)

When Henry VIII. exacted a 'loan' in 1522 from the spirituality for the king's personal-expenses in France for the recovery of the Crown, the priory of Breamore paid the very large sum of £66 13s. 4d. (fn. 27)

In 1529 Prior William was summoned to Convocation, and attended personally. (fn. 28)

The last prior of the house seems to have been quite ready to pay court to the civil power as the storms gathered round the religious houses. He wrote on 8 August, 1533, to Cromwell, proffering his services, and offering, if there was anything in their poor house to pleasure Cromwell, to put it at his service. (fn. 29) In June, 1535, Prior Finch wrote again to Cromwell in a similar strain, proffering his service and that of his house, and desiring a continuance of Cromwell's favour. (fn. 30)

In that year the Valor Eccksiasticus was taken, when the annual value of the priory was returned at £200 5s. 1½d., together with two pounds of pepper. Alms and other obligatory outgoings amounted to £45 11s., so that the clear annual value, in addition to the pepper, was only £154 14s. 1½d. This brought the house well within the limit of the first series of dissolutions, and it was surrendered on 10 July, 1536. (fn. 31)

The site of the priory was granted in November of that year to Henry, Marquis of Exeter, and Gertrude his wife, together with all its possessions. The grant particularizes these as the manors of 'Bulborne Haywode' (Breamore), 'Robstead' and Langley, Hants; Wilton, and ' Corton with Ostum St. George,' Wilts; Canford and Pimperne, Dorset; Portbury, Somerset; and Northcote, Devon; with all lands in those places and in ' Bernes,' South Charford, Hardley, Creech, Fordingbridge, Gorley and Ibsley, Hants; Ebbesborne and 'Gysardston,' Wilts; and the rectories and chapels of Breamore, Rockburne, Whitsbury and Brading, Hants. The marquis was also to receive as much fuel as he required out of the New Forest, and all other rights that had been enjoyed by the prior. A rental was reserved to the Crown of £16 15s. 7d. (fn. 32)

The sycophancy of Prior Finch met with its reward. On 26 June, 1536, he was assigned a pension of £18, (fn. 33) and in March, 1538, he was appointed to the suffragan bishopric of Taunton. (fn. 34) He was consecrated in the Lady Chapel, Blackfriars, by the Bishops of Rochester, Colchester and St. Asaph on 7 April; (fn. 35) he died in 1559.

Priors of Breamore

Robert, (fn. 36) about 1129
Geoffrey, (fn. 37) time of Hen. II.
S., (fn. 38) about 1244
Thomas de Pimperne, (fn. 39) 1286, 1301
Thomas Dounton, (fn. 40) elected 1308
William le Eyr, resigned 1327
James de Wyttenham, 1327, (fn. 41) 1339 (fn. 42) (?)
John de Wallup, 1342, (fn. 43) 1352 (fn. 44)
Thomas, about 1356 (fn. 45)
John de Tyneham alias Sussebury, (fn. 46) 1361-90
John Berard, 1390-1431
John London, (fn. 47) 1431
Thomas Hunspill, (fn. 48) 1435-67
Robert Stokys, (fn. 49) 1467-90
John Herries, (fn. 50) 1490
John Chandler, elected before 1501, resigned in 1508
William Hollyngborne, (fn. 51) 1508-about 1511
William Finch, 1511-36


  • 1. Madox's Formulate Anglicanum, 39.
  • 2. Ibid. 292.
  • 3. Charter at College of Arms, cited by Dugdale.
  • 4. Madox's Formulare Anglicanum, 22, 368.
  • 5. Ancient Deeds, P.R.O., B. 2917.
  • 6. Close, 6 Edw. I. m. 10.
  • 7. Placita de Quo Warranto (Rec. Com.), 698, 776, 867.
  • 8. Pat. 14 Edw. I, m. 20.
  • 9. Ibid. 22 Edw. I. m. 8.
  • 10. Ibid. 25 Edw. I. m. 15d.
  • 11. Pat. 29 Edw. I. m. 19.
  • 12. Winton. Epis. Reg., Woodlock, ff. 146, 161.
  • 13. The breviator of a religious house was one of the brethren appointed for the purpose of carrying round to adjacent religious houses of various orders the brief or document testifying to the death of any professed member, so that the due services might be offered for his soul. The brief was inscribed with the name of each house visited, together with the date. In certain houses a monk or canon was nominated by the superior to undertake this circuit as each death occurred; in other houses one of the staider brethren was appointed beforehand to undertake the duty as necessity required.
  • 14. Possibly the clock, but more likely the sundial on the south side of the north wall of the cloister.
  • 15. Winton. Epis. Reg., Stratford, f. 178b.
  • 16. Close, 6 Edw. III. m. 16d.
  • 17. Pat. 7 Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 12.
  • 18. Ibid. 13 Edw. III. pt. 2, m. 37.
  • 19. Winton. Epis. Reg., Orlton, i. f. 50.
  • 20. Ancient Deeds, P.R.O., B. 533, 534, 535, 536,539,677. See also Percy Stone's Arch. Antlq. of the Isle of Wight, i. 19, 98, 99.
  • 21. Pat. 8 Edw. II. pt. 2, m. 9.
  • 22. Ancient Deeds, P.R.O., B. 3593.
  • 23. Ibid. B. 675.
  • 24. Winton. Epis. Reg., Wykeham, iii. f, 136b.
  • 25. Cant. Archiep. Reg., Arundel, i. f. 503.
  • 26. Sede Vacante Register, Canterbury Priory.
  • 27. Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII. iii. 2483.
  • 28. Ibid. iv. 6047.
  • 29. Ibid. vi. 957.
  • 30. Ibid. viii. 840.
  • 31. Aug. Off., Misc. Books, cccc. 23.
  • 32. Pat. 28 Hen. VIII. pt. 1, m. 8.
  • 33. Aug. Misc. Books, ccxxxii. f. 17.
  • 34. Rymer's Fœdera, xiv. 587.
  • 35. Cant. Archiep. Reg., Cranmer, f. 214.
  • 36. Madox's Formulare Anglicanum, 39.
  • 37. Ibid. 22, 368.
  • 38. Ibid. 84.
  • 39. Ancient Deeds, P.R.O.
  • 40. Winton. Epis. Reg., Woodlock, f. 86b.
  • 41. Ibid. Stratford, f. 10.
  • 42. Madox's Formulare Anglicanum, 92.
  • 43. Winton. Epis. Reg., Orlton, i. f. 112.
  • 44. Ancient Deeds, P.R.O., B. 611.
  • 45. Ibid. B. 675.
  • 46. Winton. Epis. Reg., Edingdon, ii. f. 107.
  • 47. Cole MS. and Ancient Deeds, P.R.O., B. 3262.
  • 48. Ancient Deeds, P.R.O., B. 95, 844.
  • 49. Winton. Epis. Reg., Waynflete, i. f. 15b.
  • 50. Ibid. Courtney, f. 8b.
  • 51. Ibid. Fox, ii. f. 99.