Alien houses: Priory of Monk Sherborne

Pages 226-229

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

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The largest of the alien priories established in Hampshire was that founded by Henry de Port, in the time of Henry I., at Monk Sherborne, otherwise called West Sherborne, which pertained to the Benedictine abbey of St. Vigor, at Cerisy in Normandy, now Cerisy-laForêt (Manche). His selection of this abbey for his gift was doubtless due to the fact that it lay only some twelve miles from his Norman home at Port-en-Bessin, while its priory of Deux-Jumeaux was half way between the two. Though subject to St. Vigor and sending doubtless from the earliest times its apport or tribute to the parent house, Sherborne was in the exceptional position of being an alien priory or cell which had its true conventual life and a certain degree of genuine, independence. The prior and convent of Sherborne, not the abbot and convent of St. Vigor, were accepted by the Bishops of Winchester as patrons of such livings as Bramley and Church Oakley, whilst the later priors received episcopal institution. It is on this account, we suppose, that Bishop Wykeham paid no attention to Sherborne when drawing up for the crown, in 1401, the list of institutions to alien priories that were to be found in the various episcopal registers of the diocese. Nevertheless, as will be noted, Sherborne was regarded throughout as an alien priory by the civil authorities.

Hugh de Port, at the Domesday Survey, was possessed of a great barony, of which Basing was the head. He had too a son and heir, Henry, who, in his foundation charter, gave to God and St. Vigor of Cerisy the whole of West Sherborne with its woods and church and tithes. To this he added the meadow of Longbridge and the mill and meadows of ' the other Sherborne ' (Sherborne St. John), all his tithes in Basing and certain other lordships, and the churches of Bramley, Newnham, and Upton (Grey). (fn. 1) These gifts were confirmed by John de Port, Henry's son, together with small additional gifts by himself and his mother Hadwise. His confirmation is granted to the monks of Sherborne (among whom he desired to be buried) and not to the abbey of St. Vigor. John de Port was living as late as 1167. His son Adam, who succeeded him, granted to the Sherborne monks the tithes of all his mills at Sherborne in exchange for the possession of the mill granted by his grandfather as above; the first witness to his charter is his wife Sibyl, who is styled comitissa. William de St. John, son and heir of Adam de Port, who took the name of St. John from his mother Mabel, granted a short charter of confirmation of certain lands which had been bestowed on William Fitz-William by Adam de Port in conjunction with the prior and convent of Sherborne. (fn. 2) There is another charter of this William de St. John extant, wherein he makes mention of William, prior of Sherborne; it is witnessed by Gervase, prior of Andwell.

The charter of Bishop Henry de Blois confirming those of Henry and John de Port to the monks of Sherborne is amongst the Queen's College muniments; it is witnessed by Ralph, archdeacon of Winchester and Robert de Inglesham, archdeacon of Surrey, and dates therefore between the years 1130 and 1140.

Amongst the same muniments is a grant, probably of the time of Henry II., to the priory of St. Fromond, Normandy, of the church of Shaw (Berks), a grant to the same prior of a 'pension' of 40s. out of the rectory of that church made by Herbert, Bishop of Salisbury, in 1207, and also a notification by James, prior of St. Fromond to R., Bishop of Salisbury (probably Richard Poore, 1217-28), of the grant of the church of Shaw by. his house to the prior and convent of Sherborne, together with the grant itself from the one priory to the other. (fn. 3)

Among the Sherborne evidences now at Oxford, is an interesting deed from a social point of view, whereby Baldwin de Portseat, a knightly tenant of John de Port in 1166, conveyed a virgate of land at 'Froditonia' (Fratton in Portsea) to the monks of Sherborne, and two men, William and Ernulf, dwelling on it, together with their children. (fn. 4)

In 1273 Lawrence, abbot of St. Vigor, set forth in a deed, still preserved at Queen's College, that his monastery had two priories, one the priory of Deux-Jumeaux (De Duobus Gemellis) in Normandy, and the other of Sherborne in England, and that the prior and monks of both these priories desire to act honorably to each other; therefore the chapter of St. Vigor, Cerisy, for their own good and peace and that of the two priories, ordained that the sum of ten shillings a year, which the Bishop of Salisbury has been wont to pay to the priory in Normandy from 'Lavintone' [Lavington, Wilts] should henceforth be always paid to the priory of Sherborne (the expense and trouble of transferring the money to France being so great), due compensation having been made to the French priory by the monks of Sherborne. There is also another deed of the same year by which the abbot and convent of Cerisy appointed Richard de Bourdigny, prior of Sherborne, and Bartholomew, called ' Robyn,' of Cerisy, dwelling in that priory, their attorneys to receive the rent of 10s. payable yearly by the Bishop of Salisbury. Licence was granted by the Crown, during pleasure, in 1275, to the priors and monks of Shireburn to take weekly two cartloads of dead wood in the forest of Pamber for their hearth. (fn. 5)

The priory acquired other endowments; for in 1291 the prior was rector ex officio of Aldermaston, Berks, and his house was in receipt of ' pensions' from the churches of Padworth, Sulhamstead, and Shaw in that county, of St. Frideswide's at Wallingford, and of Lavington, Wilts, in addition to owning temporalities at Sotwell, Berks, which was held by the family of De Port under Hyde Abbey. (fn. 6) And in 1316 the prior was returned as one of the lords of West Shifford, Berks, (fn. 7) where his house had received an early endowment from the same family. That the house had received benefactions from other quarters is shown by an interesting suit of 1233 as the result of which the prior lost the advowson of Windlesham, Surrey, which had been given to his house by a huntsman of Henry II. who made his son a monk there.

The extent and inventory of Sherborne priory, taken in 1294, names 300 acres of land of the annual value of 65s., 20 acres on the hill (super montana de Schireburn unde potest seminare), 3s. 4d., 10 of meadow, 10s., 6 of moor, 3s., pasture, 2s. 6d., common pasture, 6s. 8d., and pannage, 23s. 4d.; total, £6 3s. 10d. The rents paid by twenty-four tenants realized £22 19s., and their labour for the lord was estimated at 20s. Pensions, spiritual dues, and portions came to £5 7 12s., yielding a total income for the priory of £87 14s. 10d. The livestock inventory reached £27 14s. 6d. The monks had an abundance of corn-seed, including wheat enough for forty-three acres and oats for 86 acres. The dependent churches paid the monks £42; namely, Upton, 9 marks, Chinham, 10 marks, Sherborne, 106s., and Bramley 36 marks; the church of Aldermaston was farmed to Nicholas, clerk of Herriard. It had been a bad wet year for the hay; it is entered at only 13s. 4d., residuum inundatum. (fn. 8)

In June, 1338, the prior, who was in arrears to the extent of £53 of an annual payment of £80 to the king for the custody of his priory, was ordered to pay that sum forthwith to Menaudus Brocas, one of the keepers of the king's great horses. (fn. 9)

In the autumn of the same year, distraint was made on the prior of Sherborne to find a man-at-arms by the keepers of the seaboard of Hampshire; but, on the petition of the prior to the king, alleging that he and his monks had nothing left wherewith to live after rendering the £80 yearly, the distraint was superseded. (fn. 10)

The heavy rent demanded by the Crown involved this unhappy priory in such financial difficulties that resort was had to exceptional measures. In July, 1340, protection with clause nolumus, that is to say, immunity from the seizure of his cattle by the Crown officials, was granted for the prior, whilst Nicholas de la Beche and James de Wodestok were appointed overseers and chief keepers of the priory during pleasure, to receive the revenues and to apply them to relieve the estate of the house by advice of the prior and some of the more discreet members of the convent. The priory is described as grievously burdened with debt and of the foundation of the ancestors of the heir of John de St. John, tenant in chief, the king's ward. (fn. 11)

The election of the prior Inguerand de Duino, monk of Cerisy, on the death of prior William Bernand, is set forth with much detail in Wykeham's first register, On 12 August, 1375, Inguerand appeared before the bishop at Waltham, bringing a letter from the prior and convent of Cerisy, sealed with green wax and verified by Master Stephen de Rippia, notary public, praying that their choice might be confirmed. On 28 August the bishop issued his mandate to the official of the Archdeacon of Winchester, ordering him to proceed to the priory of Sherborne on 30 August, and there to make proclamation that if any wished to object to the form of the election of Inguerand or to him personally, they were to appear before the commissary and before Giles and Peter, monks of Sherborne and their fellows, and John Atte More, steward of the house, and John the porter, on a day and time named. The due. setting forth of this proclamation was testified to the bishop under the seal of the rural dean of Basingstoke who was present. Any objectors were cited to appear on the Wednesday after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the chapel of the Castle of Farnham. Subsequently, on 26 September, the bishop, at his manor at Southwark, commissioned Master William Lozinge, canon of Salisbury, his chancellor, to sit in the church of St. Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey, and there to give his judgment. The chancellor pronounced the election null and void by reason of various defects of procedure and form, but admitted Inguerand on account of his many virtues (as stated elaborately in the usual form), in exercise of a power of provision delegated by the bishop. (fn. 12)

In May, 1370, the bishop commissioned his official to correct a delinquent monk of Sherborne, William le Valeys, for abusive words to his prior and brother monks and for general disobedience to the rule. (fn. 13)

In April, 1380, a grant was made to Inguerand, the prior, of the custody, without rent, of the priory of Sherborne, with the issues, from the death of William, the late prior (in the king's hands on account of the French war), by mainprize of John Atte More and Roger Savage as granted to William in 1369. (fn. 14) Three years later, certain letters patent which had been granted to one John Slegh, as custodian of Sherborne priory, were revoked in favour of Prior Inguerand, as neither John, after notice from the sheriff, nor the king's attorney had shown cause against the revocation. (fn. 15) Nevertheless, as is shown by frequent entries about this date on the Patent Rolls, the king presented to various benefices pertaining to the priory, as holder of the temporalities during the war.

Among the official instruments in Wykeham's registers is a form, undated, of commission to take an inventory of the goods of Sherborne, when it was thought that Prior Inguerand was dying. His condition is therein stated to be so serious as to render him quite incapable of attending to the affairs of his house, and that there was hardly any hope of his recovery. It was also alleged that in the event of his death the priory, in which there were but few monks, would be in sore straits in both sacred and secular affairs. (fn. 16) Inguerand died early in 1397, and on 2 February of that year, the bishop admitted as prior Walter Marshall of Bristol, a Benedictine monk. The form of admission recites that the priory of Sherborne, under the rule of an alien priory, was vacant by the death of Inguerand, and that in accordance with the legislation of I Richard II., during the war with France, the bishop entrusted Walter with the rule and governance of the priory (on the nomination of Sir Thomas de Poynings, Lord St. John), on condition of his supplying mattins, mass, and the other desired offices according to ancient use, and of his keeping the conventual church and house and buildings in proper repair, and checking all waste. (fn. 17)

In the same year there was another vacancy, apparently through the resignation of Walter Marshall. On 3 October, 1397, Bishop Wykeham having first formerly annulled his election made by the alien abbey, as he was willing to act graciously, accepted Guilliaume Trenchefan, monk of St. Vigor, as prior of Sherborne, with the personal assent of Sir Thomas Poynings. After the general suppression of the alien houses, the priory of Monk Sherborne was given by Edward IV. to the Hospital of St. Julian, or God's House, Southampton. God's House had, however, been given by Edward III. to Queen's College, and hence the endowments and muniments of this priory were transferred to that college, which college still holds them.

Priors Of Monk Sherborne

William, early thirteenth century
Richard de Bourdigny, 1273
Thomas, (fn. 18) about 1329
Robert Corbet, 1347-9
Denis Vanceyo, (fn. 19) 1349
William Bernand, (fn. 20) about 1369
Inguerand de Duino, (fn. 21) 1375-97
Walter Marshall, 1397
William Trenchefan, (fn. 22) 1397


  • 1. Dugdale's Monasticon, VI. 1013-4. The originals of this and the other De Port charters given by Dugdale are preserved at Queen's College, Oxford. The series of charters quoted in this and the following pages are all to be found among the muniments of Queen's College (see Hist. MSS. Commission Appendix to Fourth Report, pp. 451-5). In his Baronage (i. 465) Dugdale cites a charter, as at Queen's College, in which Adam de Port, of the Mapledurwell line, gave the chapel and tithes of Newnham, on the day of that chapel's dedication, with the tithes of Mapledurwell to the monks. This Adam, who (probably later) founded the priory of Andwell, also gave the tithe of his demesne at Littleton, Wilts, to the priory of Deux Jumeaux, which gift was confirmed, at a later date, as to the monks of St. Vigor.
  • 2. Mr. Round's papers on 'The families of St. John and of Port' and on 'The Ports of Basing and their Priory' in Genealogist, n.s. xvi. pp. 1 et seq.; xviii. 137-9.
  • 3. St. Fromond had been colonized by monks from St. Vigor. The church of ' Sagie ' or ' Sageys,' as it is styled in these documents, is identified throughout in the Historical MSS. Report as that of Seez (a cathedral) in Normandy; but Mr. Round has identified it in the Genealogist as that of Shaw.
  • 4. '. . . cum duobus hominibus, videlicet Guillemo et Ernulfo, in eadem terra manentibus, et simul infantes eorum' (Genealogist as above).
  • 5. Pat. 3 Edward I. m. 32.
  • 6. Taxation of Pope Nicholas.
  • 7. Feudal Aids, i. 50 (where the entry is wrongly assigned to Sherborne Abbey, Dorset).
  • 8. Add. MS. 6164, f. 7.
  • 9. Close, 12 Edw. III. pt. 2. m. 23.
  • 10. Ibid. p. 3, m. 15.
  • 11. Pat. R. 14 Edward III. pt. iii. m. 52.
  • 12. Wykeham's Registers (Hants Record Society), i. 63-66.
  • 13. Ibid. iii. f. 34b.
  • 14. Pat. 3 Ric. II. pt. 3, m. 16.
  • 15. Ibid. 6 Rich. II. pt. 3, m. 10.
  • 16. Winton. Epis. Reg., Wykeham, iii. f. 291b.
  • 17. Ibid. i. f. 266.
  • 18. Close, 3 Edw. III. m. 8d.
  • 19. Winton. Epis. Reg., Edingdon, i. ff. 30, 58.
  • 20. Ibid. Wykeham, iii. f. 17a.
  • 21. Wykekam's Registers (Hants Record Society), i. 63-66.
  • 22. Ibid. f. 260.