Alien houses: The priory of Lewisham

A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1926.

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'Alien houses: The priory of Lewisham', in A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, (London, 1926) pp. 238. British History Online [accessed 21 April 2024]

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Elstrudis, countess of Flanders, with her sons Arnulf and Adelulf, on 11 September, 918, granted Lewisham, Greenwich, and Woolwich of her inheritance to the abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul, Ghent, for the good .of the soul of her lord Baldwin and herself and her sons. (fn. 1) Edgar, king of the English, in August, 964, at the prayer of his friend Dunstan, under whose governance the abbey was in the time of his brother King Eadwi, granted to the abbey Lewisham and its appurtenances of Greenwich, Woolwich, Mottingham, and Combe to hold as fully as he had held them in demesne, and as formerly Elstrudis had given it to the abbey. Later the English possessions were taken away from the abbey; and in 1016 Edward the Confessor, son of Ethelred, being kindly received at Ghent by the abbot, vowed that if his father's realm were restored to him he would restore its possessions to the monastery; which he did accordingly in 1044, granting a charter of liberties. (fn. 2)

William I granted a long charter of confirmation and liberties in 1081. Henry I also granted a charter of confirmation, which was confirmed by Henry III in 1229, (fn. 3) and again by Edward II in 1317; (fn. 4) and other charters were granted by William II, Henry I, and Stephen, and by John in 1209. (fn. 5) Gervase de Cornhell at one time claimed to hold Lewisham and Greenwich of the abbot, but eventually (about 1165) withdrew his claim.

The church of Lewisham (fn. 6) was appropriated to the abbey by G. bishop of Rochester, and the church of East Greenwich (fn. 7) by Bishop Richard in 1239. The temporalities belonging to it in Lewisham and Greenwich were valued in the Taxation of 1291 at £70 18s. yearly, and those in London at 16s. 10d. In 1293 and again in 1313 the abbot claimed and was allowed various liberties in Lewisham and Greenwich. (fn. 8)

In 1275 the abbot of Ghent and the prior of Lewisham were ordered (fn. 9) to appear before the king with all the muniments relating to the priory, so that the king might then cause what should seem fit to the council to be done touching any defaults or withdrawals there might be, as it pertained to him to provide that in houses of his patronage the distributions and alms established by him. and his predecessors should be observed without diminution or deceit. The abbot and convent had licence (fn. 10) in the same year to sell the manor of Lewisham to the bishop of Rochester, though this appears not to have been done; and it seems probable that they had already begun to find their English property troublesome, and wished either to dispose of it or to evade the charges on it. In 1330 the people of Lewisham and Greenwich complained (fn. 11) to the council that the barton of Lewisham had been granted to the abbot for the maintenance of four chantries, and distribution of alms on, every Thursday and Friday for the souls of the founders of the priory, but that these had been withdrawn for sixteen years.

In 1298 a charge of robbery was brought against the prior. (fn. 12)

In 1299 the abbot was amerced in £40 by reason of a toll which the prior of Lewisham had taken without warrant in the king's highway at Greenwich; but he was pardoned this at the instance of Amadeus, count of Savoy. (fn. 13)

Lewisham, being a cell to Ghent, was of course alien; and in 1295 a clerk was appointed to the custody of the priory, as the number of foreigners staying there constituted a danger to the realm on account of the situation of the priory on the River Thames. (fn. 14) It was taken into the king's hands during the war with France, and generally let to the priors at farm, the amount paid in 1338 being. 10 marks yearly. (fn. 15) In 1415 the alien priories were definitely confiscated by Act of Parliament; and Henry V in that year granted Lewisham to the Carthusian monastery newly founded by him at Sheen in Surrey. (fn. 16)

Priors of Lewisham

Sigo (fn. 17)
Arnold, occurs 1229 (fn. 18)
John, occurs 1298 (fn. 19)
James de Doura, occurs 1317 (fn. 20)
William Seregotz or Segrotis, occurs 1343, (fn. 21) 1345 (fn. 22)


  • 1. For these charters see Cal. of Doc. in France, 500-5.
  • 2. Carte Antique, T. 10. Printed in Dugdale, Mon. vii, 988.
  • 3. Chart. 13 Hen. III, m. 12.
  • 4. Chart. R. 11 Edw. II, No. 83.
  • 5. Ibid, 10 John, m. 2.
  • 6. Thorpe, Reg. Roff. 470-1.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 316, 356.
  • 9. Close, 3 Edw. I, m. 10d.
  • 10. Pat. 3 Edw. I, m. 26.
  • 11. R. of Parl. (Rec. Com.), ii, 49.
  • 12. Pat. 26 Edw. I, m. 7.
  • 13. Ibid. 27 Edw. I, m. 26.
  • 14. Ibid. 23 Edw. I, m. 5.
  • 15. Close, 12 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 20.
  • 16. Chart. R. 3-4 Hen. V, No. 8.
  • 17. Thorpe, Reg. Roff. 470.
  • 18. Chart. 13 Hen. III, m. 12.
  • 19. Pat. 26 Edw. I, m. 7
  • 20. Cant. Archiepis. Reg. Reynolds, fol. 22.
  • 21. Close, 17 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 33 d.
  • 22. Ibid. 19 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 22.