Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Bilsington

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

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'Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Bilsington', A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, (London, 1926), pp. 156-157. British History Online [accessed 17 June 2024].

. "Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Bilsington", in A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, (London, 1926) 156-157. British History Online, accessed June 17, 2024,

. "Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Bilsington", A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, (London, 1926). 156-157. British History Online. Web. 17 June 2024,

In this section



John Mansel, provost of Beverley, by a charter (fn. 1) dated in June, 1253, (fn. 2) with a long list of witnesses, states that with the consent of Henry III and the authority of Boniface, archbishop of Canterbury, he has founded a monastery of canons regular professing the rule of St. Augustine, in honour of St. Mary, for the good estate of the king and Queen Eleanor, and has granted in frankalmoign to William, prior, and the canons, as endowment, that part of the manor of Bilsington which he had of the grant of the heirs of Hugh, earl of Arundel, and all his land of Polre, Gozehale, and Ecche. The priory was to be free and subject to no other house, and at times of vacancy the sub-prior and convent might elect a new prior without asking licence from anyone. This and several other charters and documents relating to the priory are to be found in a small chartulary preserved at the British Museum. (fn. 3)

The foundation charter was confirmed by a charter of Henry III, dated 12 June, 1253, which was confirmed afterwards by Henry VI in 1444 (fn. 4) and Edward IV in 1466. (fn. 5) Edward I in 1276 confirmed to the convent their rights at vacancies, provided that when they elected a prior they should present him for the royal assent and the confirmation of the archbishop of Canterbury, and that after the prior had been confirmed he should come to the king with letters testimonial. (fn. 6)

Henry III on 9 March, 1266, reciting that the priory was vacant and the patronage of it pertained to him by the grant of the founder, committed it to the custody of Simon de Daunteseye, one of the executors of the will of the founder, during pleasure. (fn. 7) On 7 June, 1272, he granted the manor and priory of Bilsington to the abbot and canons of St. Mary, Boulogne; (fn. 8) though this grant seems not to have taken effect.

Archbishop Peckham wrote to the prior and convent on 26 April, 1284, forbidding them to waste their woods and other possessions without his permission, and adding that if they did not fear canonical censure he would denounce them to the king, their patron. (fn. 9)

In the Taxation of 1291 the temporalities of the priory, in Bilsington, Woodnesborough, Newchurch, Brookland, Lydd, Ruckinge, Hinxhill, Eastbridge, Othe, and Woldene, were valued at £33 16s. 5d. yearly. In 1328 the prior and canons had licence to acquire the advowson of the church of Bilsington from the prior and convent of Boxgrave, and to appropriate it. (fn. 10) In 1327 they had licence to drain, inclose, and bring into cultivation a salt marsh of 60 acres in Lydd; (fn. 11) but the expense was too great for them, and in 1337 they had another licence to lease 40 acres of it in perpetuity to tenants who might drain it. (fn. 12)

The priors of Tonbridge and St. Gregory's, Canterbury, gave notice of intended Visitation of the priory of Bilsington in 1353, by authority of the Augustinian chapter. (fn. 13)

By an inquisition (fn. 14) taken in 1372 it was found that the priory was of the king's foundation to find seven canons to celebrate for the king and his progenitors, and that for four years past there had been no priests there except the prior and one canon, and the canon celebrated in the parish church, which was appropriated to the priory. The prior was bound to find a canon to celebrate for the souls of Thomas de Meyne and his ancestors for certain lands in Lede given by him for that cause, but the prior was a common merchant and went to all fairs to trade, and no mass was celebrated for the souls. It does not appear whether the prior was properly called to account for his shortcomings.

Archbishop Arundel issued injunctions after a visitation in 1402, in which he forbade the entry of women, as observed by him, and sales of wood without the consent of the archbishop. The prior was further ordered to show the state of the house. (fn. 15)

In 1510 the archbishop held an inquiry by request, when it was found that William Tilman, the prior, had run the house into debt and neglected his spiritual duties. The prior of Leeds, who had been induced to endorse the bills of the prior of Bilsington, begged that the goods of the monastery might be sequestrated with a view to the speedy clearing off of the debt. The archbishop thereupon granted a decree of sequestration against Bilsington. (fn. 16)

The oath of acknowledgement of the royal supremacy was taken on 26 December, 1534, by John, prior, and six others. (fn. 17) In the Valor of 1535 the gross value of the possessions of the priory, including the manors of Belgar in Lydd and Over Bilsington, is given as £122 0s. 8d. yearly, and the deductions amounted to £40 19s. 1¾d., leaving the net value £81 1s. 6d. (sic) yearly. (fn. 18) The house would thus have come under the operation of the Act of Dissolution of the next year; but, as happened in a few other cases, this was anticipated, and the prior and convent surrendered on 28 February, 1536. (fn. 19) A pension of £10 yearly was afterwards given to the prior. (fn. 20)

The site of the priory was leased on 29 July, 1537. to Anthony Seyntleger; (fn. 21) and on 31 July, 1538. the reversion of this and most of its possessions were granted to the archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 22)

Priors Of Bilsington

William, occurs 1253 (fn. 23)
Walter, occurs 1255 (fn. 24)
John de Romenale, elected 1276 (fn. 25)
Hamo de Clopton, elected 1279 (fn. 26)
John de Sandwyco, elected 1293, (fn. 27) died 1317 (fn. 28)
Simon de Hauekeshell, elected 1317, (fn. 28) resigned 1320 (fn. 29)
John de Wy, elected 1320 (fn. 29)
John de Romene, elected 1342, (fn. 30) died 1349 (fn. 31)
Edmund de Cantuaria, elected 1349, (fn. 32) resigned 1361 (fn. 32)
John de Aldham, elected 1361, (fn. 33) resigned 1363 (fn. 34)
John de Romene, elected 1363 (fn. 34)
Thomas Brenchesle, elected 1390 (fn. 35)
John Broke, elected 1411, (fn. 36) resigned 1426 (fn. 37)
William Peers or Pyers, elected 1426 (fn. 38)
Roger Erle, elected 1435 (fn. 39)
William Mungeham, elected 1439 (fn. 40)
Hamo Betrysden, elected 1441 (fn. 41)
Laurence Wattes, elected 1442 (fn. 42)
Paul Pyre, elected 1457 (fn. 43)
Robert Carpenter, elected 1460, (fn. 44) occurs 1470 (fn. 45)
Thomas Andrewe, elected 1491, (fn. 46) occurs 1501 (fn. 47)
William Tilman, occurs 1510 (fn. 48)
William Tiseherste, resigned 1513 (fn. 49)
Richard Cotyndone, elected 1513 (fn. 50)
Arthur Sentleger, resigned 1528 (fn. 51)
John Tenterden or Moyse, appointed 1528, (fn. 52) the last prior (fn. 53)

The seal (fn. 54) of the priory (fourteenth century) is a pointed oval measuring 2¾ by 1¾ inches. In a carved niche with three trefoiled canopies, pinnacled and crocketed, the coronation of the Virgin; an angel issuing from above and placing the crown on her head. The background diapered. In the base, under an arcaded corbel, the founder turning to the right, holding a model of the church, and a group of kneeling canons. Legend:—



  • 1. Printed in Dugdale, Mon. vi, 492.
  • 2. Matthew Paris (Chron. Maj. v, 691) mentions the foundation, but assigns it to the year 1258.
  • 3. Add. MS. 37018.
  • 4. Pat. 23 Hen. VI, pt. 2, m. 13.
  • 5. Pat. 5 Edw. IV, pt. 3, m. 23.
  • 6. Pat. 4 Edw. I, m. 20.
  • 7. Pat. 50 Hen. III, m. 24.
  • 8. Pat. 56 Hen. III, m. 10.
  • 9. Reg. Epist. J. Peckham (Rolls Ser.), ii, 709.
  • 10. Pat. 2 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 21.
  • 11. Pat. 1 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 32.
  • 12. Pat. 11 Edw. III, pt. 3, m. 13.
  • 13. Cal. Bodleian Chart. 135.
  • 14. Inq. a.q.d. 51 Edw. III, No. 28.
  • 15. Cant. Archiepis. Reg. Arundel, i, fol. 409b.
  • 16. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. ix, App. pt 1, 120a.
  • 17. L. and P. Hen. VIII, vii, 1594 (6).
  • 18. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 50.
  • 19. L. and P. Hen. VIII, ix, 816 (5).
  • 20. Ibid. xiii (1), p. 577.
  • 21. Ibid. p. 586.
  • 22. Ibid. 1519 (68).
  • 23. See above.
  • 24. Close, 4 Edw. III, m. 17.
  • 25. Pat. 4 Edw. I, m. 6. He was a canon of Leeds.
  • 26. Pat. 7 Edw. I, m. 6.
  • 27. Pat. 21 Edw. I, m. 18.
  • 28. Pat. 10 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 30.
  • 29. Pat. 14 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 13.
  • 30. Pat. 16 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 26; he was sacrist.
  • 31. Pat. 23 Edw. III, pt. 3, m. 24.
  • 32. Pat. 35 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 24.
  • 33. Ibid. He was a canon of Leeds and was appointed by the archbishop, to whom the convent resigned their right of election.
  • 34. Pat. 37 Edw. III, pt. I, m. 27.
  • 35. Pat. 13 Ric. II, pt. 2, m. 8.
  • 36. Pat. 13 Hen. IV, pt. 1, m. 21. He was subprior.
  • 37. Cant. Archiepis.. Reg. Chicheley, i, fol. 46b.
  • 38. Ibid.; Pat. 5 Hen. VI, pt. 1, m. 19, 17.
  • 39. Pat. 13 Hen. VI, m. 8, 1.
  • 40. Pat. 17 Hen. VI, pt. 2, m. 13.
  • 41. Pat. 19 Hen. VI, pt. 2, m. 23.
  • 42. Pat. 20 Hen. VI, pt. 3, m. 21. He was a canon of Combwell.
  • 43. Pat. 36 Hen. VI, pt. 1, m. 7.
  • 44. Pat. 38 Hen. VI, pt. 2, m. 3. Robert occurs as prior in 1466 (Pat. 5 Edw. IV, pt. 3, m. 23) and 1479 (Pat. 19 Edw. IV, m. 22d.).
  • 45. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. vi, App. 543.
  • 46. a Pat. 7 Hen. VII, m. 33 (4).
  • 47. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 492.
  • 48. a See above.
  • 49. Thorpe, Reg. Roff. 331. He became abbot of Lesnes.
  • 50. Cant. Archiepis. Reg. Warham, fol. 349b.
  • 51. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, 4557. He appears to have become prior of Leeds.
  • 52. Ibid.
  • 53. Ibid, ix, 816(5).
  • 54. B.M. Seals, lxv, 1.