A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1926.
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23. THE ABBEY OF BRADSOLE OR ST. RADEGUND
This abbey, situated at Bradsole in the parish of Poulton and dedicated in honour of St. Radegund, was one of the two English houses colonized directly from the chief house of the order at Prémontré, Bayham in Sussex being the other. Tanner mentions two chartularies belonging to it, one of which is now preserved in the Bodleian Library (fn. 1); and some extracts from them have been printed in the Monasticon. (fn. 2)
The return of 1478 (fn. 3) gives the date of the foundation as 1192 or 1193, which agrees well with the scanty evidence of the early deeds; and describes the abbot as being patron in himself, which is consistent with the statement of Leland, (fn. 4) that the founder was a canon named Hugh, who was the first abbot. It may be that Hugh was the moving spirit in the establishment of the house and procured grants from various charitable donors, none of whom was sufficiently predominant to claim the patronage. Walter Haket and Emma his wife, with the assent of William de Poltone and Stephen his heir, granted land at Bradsole, and this was confirmed by their overlord Geoffrey, count of Perche, and later, with other grants, by his son Thomas, count of Perche. Robert de Poltone granted the manor of Poulton. Hamo de Crevequer and Maud de Abrincis his wife granted the advowson of the church of Alkham and the chapel of Mauregge, now Capel. The church of Leysdown in Sheppey was granted by Robert Arsiche and confirmed by Archbishop Stephen. Philip de Columbariis granted the church of Postling; Bertram de Criol the manor of Combe; Hubert de Burgh the churches of Portslade and Aldrington in Sussex; and Henry de Wengham, dean of St. Martin le Grand, London, the church of Shepherdswell.
In addition Richard I granted to the canons 100 acres of land adjoining their land of Bradsole. John, on 24 August, 1199, confirmed to them their place of Bradsole (fn. 5); and on 12 May, 1204, he granted to them 100 acres of land in the manor of River. (fn. 6) On 26 March, 1208, he granted the church of River with the intention that the abbey should be rebuilt there (fn. 7); but this idea was soon abandoned, arid on 26 July, 1215, he made another grant of the church for the maintenance of the canons and, of pilgrims there, saving to John de Riveria his possession during his life. (fn. 8) Henry III on 16 March, 1227, granted a charter of confirmation; (fn. 9) and on the same day he gave to the abbot and convent a rent of 20s. which he used to receive from the mill in the court of River, which they had of the grant of Alan Corbell, and also gave them the site of the mill of 'Crabbehole. (fn. 10) Edward II granted a charter of confirmation in 1315. (fn. 11)
There was at one time a small Premonstratensian monastery at Blackwose (fn. 12) in Newington in Kent, subject to the abbey of Lavendon in Buckinghamshire, where there were five canons and one laybrother; but the place could not maintain them, and they were forced to wander about the country to the great scandal of the order. The Premonstratensian chapter put them under the obedience of the abbot of St. Radegund's, on account of his proximity, and he repaired their house and paid their debts; but the place was again destroyed on the recurrence of war, and at the request of the barons of Hythe was finally united with St. Radegund's. (fn. 13) It appears from the Valor of 1535 that 2s. yearly was paid to the abbot of Lavendon as compensation.
The temporalities of the abbey were valued at £27 19s. 8d. yearly in the Taxation of 1291. In the reign of Edward II the abbot complained that some of his lands had been wrongly charged for the sixteenth granted by the laity, and the matter was brought before the barons of the Exchequer. It was found by inquisition that he had temporalities taxed at 50s. at Paddlesworth and 'Clavertegh', 11 marks at Pising and Shepherdswell, 1 mark at River, 10 marks 2s. 8d. at St. Radegund's, Foxhole, Hawkinge, Combe, and Blackwose, 50s. 8d. at ' Stottemere' and in the port of Dover, 5s. at Leysdown, 5s. at Westbere, 40s. at Marsh borough and in the port of Sandwich, 22s. at Canterbury and ' Shierch,' and 6 marks at Sutton, and that he paid a tenth on these with the other clergy. He consequently was discharged of the sixteenth in 1324, and his successor obtained an exemplification of the judgement in 1341. (fn. 14)
Early in the fourteenth century St. Radegund's was involved in a lawsuit with Bayham, apparently in connexion with a dispute about the abbacy of the latter house. (fn. 15) Abbot William and others were charged with having on Sunday, the Translation of St. Thomas the Martyr, 1303, in the king's highway at Ash near Wingham, seized certain goods and chattels belonging to the abbot of Bay ham in the custody of one John de Arundel, his fellow canon, viz. a horse with saddle and bridle, a prayer-book, a girdle and a purse, of the value of £10, and also a papal bull concerning the removal of Solomon de Wengham, canon of St. Radegund's, out of the abbey of Bayhamand letters executory of the said bull, and 48s. in money. The defendants pleaded that they were acting in pursuance of a mandate from the abbot of Prémontré, and took the canon as rebellious to his superiors, that he might be punished; the purse contained only 4s. 9d. and they offered everything to the abbot of Bay ham, who refused to receive them, but did afterwards accept the horse.
The saddle and bridle had rotted by age, and the prayer-book had been given back to the canon, but the girdle and purse and 4s. 9d. they handed into court. The jury found for the defendants.
The abbot was summoned to Parliament under Edward I, but not afterwards. (fn. 16)
The king claimed the right of corrody in the abbey, and in 1316 sent Richard Trallock to the abbot and convent to receive maintenance in food, clothing, shoe-leather, and other necessaries of life and a chamber within the inclosure of the abbey for his residence. (fn. 17)
In 1327 the abbot was allowed to cross at Dover to the chapter general at Prémontré with £15 for his expenses. (fn. 18)
Pope Boniface IX in 1401 granted indulgence to penitents visiting the abbey on Palm Sunday and the feast of St. James the Apostle, with power for the abbot and seven other priests deputed by him to hear their confessions. (fn. 19)
Discipline does not appear to have been well kept at St. Radegund's; for we hear of several apostate canons, and successive abbots appealed to the crown for the arrest of William de Sandwico as such in 1305, John Strete in 1388, Thomas Watsone in 1464, and John Newynton in 1473. (fn. 20)
Protection was granted in 1453 to the abbots of Bayham and St. Radegund's, making a visitation of the houses of the order in England. (fn. 21)
The Premonstratensian records (fn. 22) throw considerable light on the history of the abbey. The abbot was one of the intermediaries in the dispute between the abbot of Prémontré and the English houses of the order in 1311. On the resignation of Abbot Henry de S. in 1345 the election of John R. as his successor, which was conducted by the abbots of Dale and Bayham on 4 October and was by way of compromise, is described in detail. Provision was made on the following day for the retiring abbot; he was to have a manor belonging to the monastery, with all stock and utensils, and an allowance of 10 marks yearly; he might have a canon of the house to stay with him for a week; if he went to the monastery a competent chamber was to be assigned to him; and he was to have all the furniture which he had before. In 1475 Ingram Fraunce was abbot, and there were ten other canons, of whom two are described as apostate. In 1478, in answer to the set form of questions, it was stated that the abbot was patron himself, the abbot of Prémontré was father abbot, the abbey had six churches, some served by canons and some by seculars, and it was founded in 1192 or 1193. (fn. 23) The names of Abbot Ingram, Thomas Hewlett, sub-prior, and five other canons are given.
Richard Redman, bishop of St. Asaph, abbot of Shap, and vicar of the abbot of Prémontré in England, visited St. Radegund's several times. On 30 August, 1482, he ordered the abbot not to allow the canons to celebrate outside the monastery except in churches belonging to it, and not to receive canons professed in other houses. The monastery was in urgent need of repair, which should be undertaken at once. The canons were to work in the gardens or wherever else they might be required; they were to wear amices, and their number was to be increased. An apostate canon of Shap appeared before him and asked for pardon, and he was put in charge of the abbot until his case should be considered at the next provincial chapter. The debt of the house, which was £70 at the preceding visitation, was now reduced to £40, and the house was sufficiently supplied with corn and other necessaries. Ingram was abbot and Thomas Reypost sub-prior, and there were four other canons.
In 1488 Redman visited on 14 July, when John Hey was abbot and Thomas Raypose prior, with ten other canons, including ex-abbot Ingram. He formally excommunicated John Newton as an apostate and a sower of discord. The abbot was ordered to provide properly for the canons, not to correct them before seculars, and to observe certain rules in their admission to the monastery. The canons were not to go out of the monastery without leave of the abbot, nor to play games for money, dice and cards being especially forbidden. The house was in moderately good state considering the ruin and waste made by the late abbot, whose debt of £212 had been diminished by £60.
In 1491 he visited on 9 October and found agreement between the abbot and convent and no complaints. The monastery needed great repairs, but the new abbot had already set about them and the debt was now reduced to 28 marks. John Newynton, the late apostate, was now abbot and William Kyrkby sub-prior, with the ex-abbot Ingram Francys and five other canons.
At the next visitation on 28 June, 1494, one of the canons who had been detected in apostasy and, what was worse, in wearing secular dress, submitted himself, and after explanations and at the intercession of the abbot his punishment was left over till the provincial chapter. The abbot and convent were charged to observe the customs of the order properly, and Thomas Haut was appointed sub-prior. The debt was now £20, but the supply of corn and animals was sufficient. John Newynton was still abbot, with nine other canons, of whom two were novices.
The number of the canons was the same in 1497, but three are described as apostate. The bishop visited on 14 October, and found great dissensions between the abbot and convent—so great that he could not discuss them, and adjourned the settlement until the provincial chapter. In the meantime he charged all to live in harmony and the abbot to increase the number of the canons and make repairs to the monastery. The debt amounted to £10, and the provision of corn and animals was sufficient.
Matters had only grown worse when Redman made his next (and last recorded) visitation on 3 October, 1500. John Newton was still abbot, with Edmund Norwich as sub-prior, and nine other canons, three of them novices. The convent charged the abbot with frequenting taverns on Sundays and feast-days, and with bad language and incontinence; and the visitor ordered him to repair the whole monastery, which was visibly ruinous, to cease frequenting taverns and other assemblies of laymen except at proper times, and to apply himself to his office. He admitted a debt of £30, but the supply of corn and animals was sufficient. It is significant that the next abbot appears to have come from Bayham.
St. Radegund's was marked for visitation by Thomas Wilkinson, abbot of Welbeck, on 2 October, 1506, but the result is not preserved.
The possessions of the abbey in 1535, (fn. 24) including the parsonages of Shepherdswell, River, Portslade, Postling, Leysdown, and Alkham, and the manors of River, Shepherdswell, Hawkinge, and Pising, amounted to the value of £142 8s. 9d. yearly; but deductions for rents, fees, pensions, and obits brought the net income down to £98 9s. 2½d. It was consequently dissolved under the Act of 1536. The canons appear to have tried to make the most of their last days, for a correspondent writes (fn. 25) to Cromwell that 'the abbot of St. Radegund's is setting men to fell his woods at a great pace, and, if Cromwell does not stop him, will do much harm to the place, one of the properest in Kent.' Thomas Dale, prior, received a pension of 20 marks, (fn. 26) and it is probable that he is identical with Thomas, who was abbot in 1532. (fn. 27)
The site of the monastery was leased (fn. 28) to Richard Kays on 10 May, 1537, for twenty-one years at a rent of £13 10s. 8d. and on 31 July, 1538, the reversion was granted to the archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 29)
Leland, writing about the time of the Dissolution, says (fn. 30) of St. Radegund's: ' The Quier of the Chyrche is large and fayr. The Monastery ys at this tyme metely mayntayned, but yt appereth that yn tymes past the Buildinges have bene ther more ample then they be now.'
Abbots of St. Radegund's
Hugh (fn. 31)
Richard, (fn. 32) occurs 1222
Henry, (fn. 33) occurs 1241, 1258, 1265
John, (fn. 34) occurs 1273
William, occurs 1303, (fn. 35) 1312 (fn. 36)
Robert de Monyngeham, elected 1325 (fn. 37)
Gilbert, occurs 1328 (fn. 38)
Richard de Offynton (fn. 39)
Henry de S., resigned 1345 (fn. 40)
John R., elected 1345 (fn. 44)
Warisius de Cant', elected 1362 (fn. 41)
Richard Brygge, deposed (fn. 42) 1386-7
Clement, elected 1387, (fn. 43) occurs 1391 (fn. 44)
John Strete, died 1396-7 (fn. 45)
John, occurs 1415, (fn. 46) 1421 (fn. 47)
William, (fn. 48) occurs 1446 (fn. 49)
John Petre, died 1454 (fn. 50)
John Chilton, elected 1454 (fn. 50)
Thomas, occurs 1464 (fn. 51)
Ingram Fraunce or Francys, (fn. 52) occurs 1475, 1482
Henry (fn. 53)
John Hey, (fn. 54) occurs 1488
John Newynton or Newton, (fn. 54) occurs 1491, 1500
Thomas Willouse, occurs 1509 (fn. 55)
William, occurs 1523, (fn. 56) 1529 (fn. 57)
William Bukler, resigned c. 1530 (fn. 58)
John Wylmerton, occurs 1531 (fn. 59)
Thomas, occurs 1532 (fn. 60)
The seal (fn. 61) (thirteenth-century) of the abbey is a pointed oval measuring 1⅝ by 1⅛ inches, representing St. Radegund seated on a throne, turned to the left, giving a pastoral staff to a kneeling abbot. Legend:—
SIGILL' ABBATIS ET CONVENTUS SANCTE RADEGUNDIS
A later seal (fn. 62) (fifteenth - century) measures 2⅝ by 1⅞ inches, and represents St. Radegund crowned, standing in a canopied niche with carved towers at the sides, in the right hand a pastoral, staff obliquely, in the left a book. The corbel of the niche in masonry. Legend:—
SIGILLF ABBATIS ET GONVENTUS SBE RADEGUNDIS