Alien houses: Priory of Andover

Pages 219-221

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

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Among the various English gifts that the Conqueror bestowed on the Benedictine abbey of St. Florent, Saumur, was the church of Andover, with a hide and 14 acres of land, tithes of all the demesne lands in the parish, and extensive pasture rights, with wood for fuel, for fencing and for building purposes. (fn. 1) In 1100 William Rufus renewed the gift to St. Florent of the church of Andover, with its tithes and all its appurtenances, and directed, with characteristic fierceness, that all churches built under the mother church of Andover should be utterly destroyed, or should be held by the monks of St. Florent. (fn. 2) In 1146 Pope Eugenius III. confirmed to the abbey the church of St. Mary of Andover, with the chapel of Foxcote, and this confirmation was repeated ten years later by Pope Adrian IV., and by Pope Urban III. in 1186. (fn. 3)

The abbey of St. Florent placed a colony of monks at Andover, and established there a priory or cell directly after the church was given them. The homes of the monks are described as being juxta ecclesiam. In the present large churchyard, a little to the north of the parish church, a piece of trim ivycovered walling is still standing, which is said to be the only remnant of the old priory.

Between 1160 and 1173 an agreement was made and confirmed at Andover between the monks of St. Florent and Philip Croch, in the presence of Froger, abbot of St. Florent, concerning three virgates and two acres of land held by the church of Andover at Easton, of the fee of Matthew Croch. Philip was to pay the prior of Andover half a mark of silver annually for that land as long as he lived. The prior was to do no service to the king nor any one, but Philip was to acquit it in everything. On the day of Philip's death the monks were to have the land freely. Philip swore, with his hand on the four gospels, that he would never seek directly nor indirectly to deprive the priory of that land or rent. (fn. 4)

In the time of Pope Urban IV. there is a curious instance of papal interference, when the prior of Andover was Master Berard of Naples, papal subdeacon and notary. On 29 May, 1264, a papal letter was addressed to him, reciting that by custom he had, as prior of Andover, the right to present a fit person for the perpetual vicarage of St. Mary, Andover, to the abbot of St. Florent, to which the priory was subject, to be by him presented to the bishop; but that as the vicarage had been long void, and as on account of the disturbance of the realm the prior (who was nonresident and an Italian) had had no notice of the voidance, so that neither he nor the abbot could present, the said prior and abbot were licensed to present a fit person within six months from the time that the prior was aware of the voidance of the vicarage; any collation, provision or investiture of any ordinary notwithstanding. (fn. 5)

In 1294, when the priory of Andover was seized by Edward I., it was found that the prior's messuage and dovecot within the precincts were worth 5s. a year, and 48 acres of lands 24s., and 12 acres of meadow 12d. Rents from diverse tenements realized 68s., and the tithes of the church £66 13s. 4d. The total annual value came to £71 18s. 4d. (fn. 6)

On 22 October, 1305, Robert de Combor, a monk of St. Florent, was instituted to this priory by Bishop Woodlock. In the previous year there had been a great dispute between John de St. John, prior of Andover, and Robert de Combor as to the latter's violent intrusion into the priory. During the vacancy of the see of Winchester the matter was referred to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and immediately on Bishop Woodlock's appointment, the primate issued his mandate to the bishop to execute speedy justice in this quarrel. The bishop appointed the rural dean of Andover to report, with the result that Robert submitted, renounced all rights, and was absolved. However, he was shortly afterwards formally instituted, probably on the resignation of Prior John. (fn. 7)

Prior John de Pomariis is mentioned in the Close Rolls of 1331, where his name appears in conjunction with the parson of Horncastle as owing 200 marks to two merchants of Florence. The amount was to be levied, in default of payment, on their lands and chattels in Hampshire. (fn. 8) In the following year Prior John de Pomariis and his brother ecclesiastic were in a yet more serious pecuniary dilemma, for they owed on bonds the large sums of £130 to Bartholomew Richo, merchant of Kerio, and £113 6s. 8d. to Asselinus Simonetti, merchant of Lucca, and Bindus Gile of Florence; these debts were ordered to be levied in default of payment on their lands, chattels and ecclesiastical goods in the county. (fn. 9) In 1334 the amounts due to the merchant of Kerio were still unpaid, for in that year Bartholomew Richo put in his place William de Newenham, clerk, to prosecute the execution of a recognisance for £81 made to him in Chancery by John de Pomariis, prior of Andover, and Master Peter de Galiciano, parson of Horncastle church, in the diocese of Lincoln, and of another recognizance for £50 made to Bartholomew by the same prior and Peter. (fn. 10)

Andover was another of the alien houses expected to keep at least one royal pensioner. In November, 1333, John de Baddeley, yeoman of the king's napery, by reason of his good and long service, was sent to the prior and convent of Andover to receive such maintenance from that house for life as Richard le Naper, deceased, had received at the request of Edward II.

On 1 October, 1337, pardon was granted to Prior John de Pomariis of his outlawry in Hampshire for non-appearance before William de Shareshull and his fellow justices of oyer arid terminer to answer touching a trespass against the king at Winchester. (fn. 11)

The Patent Rolls of 1341 have a long entry relative to the priory of Andover, which is of much interest as illustrating the intricacy of the dealing with alien houses. John de Pomariis, the late prior, had been removed by his superior, the abbot of St. Florent, to the priory of Sele, Sussex, which was another cell of this great house of Anjou. Prior John, in a petition to the king, recited that he had held the priory of Andover as well in the time of Edward II. as of the present king, when the alien priories were taken into the Crown's hands through the war with France, without fine or farm, because he was born of the duchy of Acquitaine, and was not of affinity or confederacy with the king's enemies; he therefore asked that as he had been removed to Sele the king would order him to be discharged of the farm of fifty marks which the last prior of Sele, because he was born of the power of the king's enemies, was held to render. The king, because John had been born of his duchy and was his liege man, and because the priory of Andover had come into the hands of an alien of the power of the king's enemies, and had on that account been taken into his hands and would remain in them during the war with France, granted that John should hold the priory of Sele without fine or farm, and commanded the sheriff of Hampshire to take Andover priory into his hands and to account for the true value thereof from the date of the removal of Prior John. (fn. 12)

On 23 October, 1399, Nicholas Gwyn, on the death of Prior Denys, was instituted to the priory of Andover by Bishop Wykeham at the king's presentation. Nicholas was an English Benedictine monk, and he held the priory under the condition of paying the apport of forty marks to Henry IV. and his successors, so long as the war with France continued, and in addition maintain sundry English monks, chaplains and officials. At the general dissolution of the alien priories in 1414, Gwyn was permitted to alienate the priory to Winchester College. The college however could not have gained any profit from the transaction for some time, as the possessions of Andover priory were held by them subject to a yearly pension of forty-five marks to the Crown, of twenty marks yearly to Queen Joan, the widow of Henry IV., as part of her dower, and of a life pension of fifty-two marks to the ex-prior, Gwyn. (fn. 13) The college tried its best to get released from the pension to Queen Joan, but without effect; she did not die until 1437. Gwyn enjoyed his pension for twenty years.

This grant to the warden and scholars of Wykeham's college was confirmed by Edward IV. in 1461, (fn. 14) in consequence of an attempt that was made that year to refound the priory of Andover by a Bill in Parliament.

In 1535 the Winchester accounts returned the Andover priory property at £31 a year, but there were probably some arrears or special deductions for that year, as in 1548 it produced £81. (fn. 15)

Priors Of Andover

Berard of Naples, about 1264
John de St. John, 1304
Robert de Combor, (fn. 16) 1305
Helias de Combor, (fn. 17) 1307
Ralph de Combor, 1316
Helias de Combor, (fn. 18) 1320
John de Pomariis, (fn. 19) 1331, 1341
Philip Maghe, 1341
Denys Canoun, 1363-99
Nicholas Gwyn, 1399-1414


  • 1. Pat. 8 Edw. II. pt. 2, m. 1. The charter of William the Conqueror is cited in an inspection and confirmation of Edward II.
  • 2. Round's Cal. of French Documents, i. 415.
  • 3. Ibid. p. 403, 404.
  • 4. Ibid. p. 415.
  • 5. Cal of Papal Letters, i. 418.
  • 6. Add. MS., 6164, f. 8.
  • 7. Winton. Epis. Reg., Woodlock, pp. 1, 10b, etc.
  • 8. Close, 5 Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 2d.
  • 9. Ibid. 6 Edw. III. mm. 38d, 36d.
  • 10. Ibid. 8 Edw. III. m. 10d.
  • 11. Ibid. 11 Edw. III. pt. 3, m. 19.
  • 12. Pat. 15 Edw. III. pt. 3, m. 12.
  • 13. Wykeham's Register (Hants Record Society), i. 221; ii. 615; Kirby's Annals of Winchester College, p. 173.
  • 14. Pat. Edw. IV. pt. 7, m. 31.
  • 15. Leach's Winchester College, 146-7.
  • 16. Winton. Epis. Reg., Woodlock, pp. 1, 10b, etc.
  • 17. This and the following institutions are quoted from a writ for return of presentations to alien priories, 2 Hen. IV., given in Wykeham's register, bat in each case the actual episcopal register has also been examined.
  • 18. This was probably a re-appointment. Priors of alien houses were frequently moved from one priory to another.
  • 19. Close, 5 Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 2d.