Houses of Austin canons: Oratory of Barton

Pages 180-181

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

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The oratory or priory of Barton, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, whose priests followed the rule of St. Augustine, was situated in Whippingham parish, Isle of Wight. It was founded in 1275 by Thomas de Wynton, rector of Godshill, and John de Insula, rector of Shalfleet. (fn. 1) The oratory was endowed with land in Whippingham, Arreton, Span, Appleford, Kerne, Rookley, Dolcoppice, La Snape, Walpan, some pasture on St. Catherine's Down, two corn mills in Newport, and with some house property at Southampton.

The foundation charter laid down that the oratory was to consist of six chaplains with a clerk, who were to live an honest life, follow the Austin rule, and celebrate perpetually both for the living and the dead. One of their number was to be presented to the bishop to serve as archpriest or superior, and within twenty days of any vacancy among the chaplains a fit person was to be chosen and presented to the diocesan. The chaplains were to be under the immediate control of the bishop, and their servants under the archdeacon. They were to hold their goods in common, and the effects of any chaplain dying were to go to the oratory. There was to be only one dish, with a pittance, at each meal, save on great festivals, when there was to be a third dish. The chaplains were to be diligent in their prayers and reading; they were not to go outside the precincts of the house without the archpriest's leave; in the oratory they were to wear surplices with black copes, and when outside humble habits of one colour, black or brown (burnet), with a frieze cloak and cap. At table, the archpriest was to sit at the head, next him the chaplain who had celebrated high mass that morning, and then in their respective order the chaplains who had celebrated the masses of the Blessed Virgin, the Holy Trinity, and Requiem. The chaplains were to sleep in a common dormitory where silence was to be observed. In all offices they were to follow the use of Sarum; one of the chaplains was to be appointed precentor and draw up the order of services. The archpriest was to be responsible for the temporalities of the house. Thirteen poor brethren were to have their food daily, for which purpose the revenue from Crudmore farm, in Carisbrooke parish, was appropriated.

In the return of knights' fees made in 1346 it appears that the archpriest of Barton held a quarter of a fee in Span and a seventh part in Barton. (fn. 2)

In 1386 the bishop committed the charge of the house to Gilbert Noreys, one of the chaplains. (fn. 3) In a short time however grievous complaints reached the bishop with regard to warden Gilbert's conduct. His brother chaplains accused him of having given away or sold, without their consent, 180 of the best sheep, worth 12d. apiece; 20 of the best beasts, worth £10, for 10 marks; all the wool and sheepskins; a saddle horse for 30s.; a mare and foal, well worth 20s., for 5s.; several barge loads of timber and bricks; as well as 30 quarters of barley, 30 quarters of oats, and 10 quarters of pease. Moreover he had pawned a chalice and vestments and other silver. In addition he was accused of grave incontinence, and of tavern haunting, requiring an attendant to lead him nightly to his lodging. Bishop Wykeham commissioned the abbot of Quarr and two others to inquire into this charge, with the result that Gilbert Noreys was removed, and William Love, one of the chaplains, admitted as archpriest on 7 June, 1387. (fn. 4)

Meanwhile the affairs of the oratory did not improve, the buildings got into a sad state, and Love, the archpriest, was taken prisoner by the French. In his absence his jurisdiction was formally suspended, and in 1390 the custody of both spiritualities and temporalities were assigned by Wykeham to his suffragan, Simon, bishop of Achonry. (fn. 5) Soon after this Love escaped or was released from his imprisonment across the seas, and resumed his rule. Under pressure of his diocesan, in January, 1394, a covenant was entered into between William Love and Richard Lathbury, a tiler and mason, by which the latter covenanted to keep the buildings in order, Love providing materials and a labourer, and allowing Lathbury his victuals and 10s. a year and keep for a horse. (fn. 6)

But the house speedily got into further trouble; Love became a prisoner in the Fleet, we know not on what charge, and in October, 1394, the custody of the Oratory was committed by the bishop to the joint care of Nicholas, rector of Niton, and William Smyth, vicar of Brading. (fn. 7) In 1403 a commission was directed to the abbot of Quarr and the rector of Niton to inquire into charges of apostacy, sacrilege, and other grave offences preferred against Love, which resulted in his removal. (fn. 8)

In 1439 Warden Thurbern, of Winchester College, petitioned Cardinal Beaufort to permit the appropriation of the oratory to the college on the ground of the insufficiency of their income, which had been recently much impaired by a fire among their house property at Andover. Walter Trengof, the archpriest, who had just been appointed archdeacon of Cornwall, his native county, raised no objection. The cardinal bishop gave his consent, and the return to writ ad quod damnum was favourable. On 27 March, 1439, the royal licence to Walter Trengof to alienate, and to the warden and scholars of Winchester to acquire and hold in mortmain the possessions of the oratory was duly sealed.

The college covenanted to maintain a chaplain in the chapel of the Barton oratory, to deliver a pound of wax annually to the warden of St. Mary's altar in the minster of St. Swithun, and to celebrate Trengof's obit in consideration of his surrender.

The chaplain's stipend of £6 was duly paid and service maintained at Barton until the days of Edward VI., when all divine worship ceased within its walls.

Archpriests or Priors of Barton

Jordan de Marisco, 1275
Simon in the time of Edward II.
Nicholas de Alresford, elected 1310
Richard, 1343
Roger Pope of Exeter, 1349
Robert Somborne, 1366-83
Gilbert Noreys, 1386
William Love, 1387-1403
John Godewyne, 1417
John Bradshawe, 1423-4
Walter Trengof, (fn. 9) 1424-39


  • 1. Inspeximus of original charter (Stone's Arch. Antiq. I. W. pt. i. p. 121, note b).
  • 2. Feudal Aids, ii. 337, 340.
  • 3. Winton. Epis. Reg., Wykeham, i. f. 172b.
  • 4. Ibid. iii. 229b, 230.
  • 5. Ibid. i, f. 205; iii. f. 245.
  • 6. See Archeeokgia, lii. 297-313, for an article on the evidences of this Oratory among the Winchester College muniments by T. F. Kirby, F.S.A.
  • 7. Winton. Epis. Reg., Wykeham, iii. f. 280.
  • 8. Ibid. f. 357.
  • 9. Stone's Arch. Antiq. I. W. pt. i. p. 62.