Friaries: The Trinitarian friars of Mottenden (Headcorn)

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

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'Friaries: The Trinitarian friars of Mottenden (Headcorn)', in A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, (London, 1926) pp. 205-208. British History Online [accessed 21 April 2024]

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The earliest reference to this priory is a royal writ issued 18 January, 1235-6, to inquire if the prior of Mottenden Was seised of certain rents of the gift of Robert de Rokel or Rokeslay. The jurors returned that the prior was in seisin of 14s. 6d. and eight hens rent of the gift of Robert, out of a tenement which he held at Ospringe for two years before his death; also of 11 seams of barley from his tenement in Plumworth.

But of the entire domain.which Robert had in Plumworth, they say the prior had no service therefrom before the death of Robert as, they believe; but the prior had seisin of the rents homages and other pertinencies to the said domain two years before the death of the said Robert as abosve. (fn. 1)

By grant of Sir Robert de Rokeslay the friars were entitled to receive 60s. a year from the abbot of Boxley for a marsh and mill outside Sandwich. The sum was reduced to 50s. with the consent of Sir Robert's son and heir Richard, and subsequently to 40s. The friars are found asserting their rights in the court of the mayor of Sandwich as late as 1474. (fn. 2) Sir Robert de Rokeslay, seneschal of the archbishop of Canterbury, who died between 1230 and 1235, is called by Leland the original founder of the house, (fn. 3) though this title was afterwards given to Sir Michael de Ponynges, knt. (fn. 4) The friars of this house are sometimes described as of the ' Order of the Holy Cross,' or Cruciferi; (fn. 5) the confusion arose from the Trinitarian or Maturine friars wearing a blue and red cross on their habits. The friars of this house are first expressly mentioned as Trinitarians March, 1253-4, when Henry III granted them the right to hold a fair every year on the vigil and feast of the Holy Trinity and six following days. (fn. 6) The jurors in the great inquest of 1275 said that the friars of Mottenden had appropriated 40 acres or more, whereby the king lost 5s. a year. (fn. 7) In 1276 William de Welles and three other brethren of the house obtained a writ of protection for five years, probably while soliciting alms. (fn. 8) The minister and brethren having fallen into ' great mischief and poverty,' owing to the siege of Leeds Castle (1321) and the bad years and murrain of their beasts, petitioned the king for licence to acquire 10 librates of lands and rents. (fn. 9) Licence to acquire lands and rents to the value of 40s. a year was granted in 1337. (fn. 10) The house received several additions to its property in the fourteenth century. Robert Golde in 1325 granted to John le Bray, the warden, 5 acres of land in Aylesford, to celebrate divine service daily for the souls of Richard and John de Rokele, their ancestors and successors. (fn. 11) In July, 1338, Robert de Stangrave and Joan his wife granted to the ministers and friars 80 acres of land and 10 acres of meadow in Staplehurst and Frittenden, of the yearly value of 26s. 9d. (fn. 12) In 1347, at the request of Sir. Michael de Ponynges, the king granted the friars licence to acquire in mortmain 30 librates of land and rent not held in chief. (fn. 13)

In 1362 Sir Michael de Ponynges, knt., Richard de Cressevill, parson of Rolvenden, and Robert Botillere, gave the friars half an acre of land in Lancing and the advowson of the church of Lancing, for finding two chaplains to celebrate divine, service daily in their house of Mottenden, for the good estate of the king and the souls of the grantors and others. The grant was confirmed by John de Mowbray, lord of Bramber. (fn. 14)

In 1374, in part satisfaction of the grant of 30 librates, the king authorized the following gifts to the friars:— (fn. 15) John Wilde, parson of the church of Buckland, 100 acres of land, 250 acres of wood, and 11d. of rent in Cranbrook and Benenden; (fn. 16) John Parmenter, John Mascal, and William Waterman, I messuage, 104 acres of .land, 10 acres of pasture, 2½ acres of wood, 9/14d. of rent, the rent of I quarter of barley, and ' the rent of one hen and three parts of a hen,' in Ospringe and Preston near Faversham; William Benge, I messuage and I acre in Ospringe and Faversham; William Waterman and William Bishop, 16 acres in Sutton Valence; John Parmenter, 2s. 10d. of rent in Staplehurst; the value of the whole being £7 18s. 11¼ d. a year. In further satisfaction of the grant of 30 librates, Richard II, in January, 1393-4, permitted Stephen Norton of Chart, by Sutton Valence, and Stephen his son, John Herberfield, and John Blecche, to confer on, the minister and friars of Mottenden

two messuages, 91 acres of land and 9 acres of meadow, rents to the value of 34s. 4d. and the rent of one cock and four hens, with their appurtenances, in Staplehurst and Headcorn and Boughton Monchelsea.

The annual value of the whole is certified by the jurors to be only 34s. 2d. (fn. 17)

About 1384 the temporalities of the ministry of Mottenden were reckoned at 100s. a year. (fn. 18)

In 1387 the prior and chapter of Christchurch, Canterbury, as lord of Hollingbourne, permitted certain tenants to alienate lands in the manor to these friars; (fn. 19) and in 1394 an agreement was made between the prior and the minister as to some questions in dispute between them. (fn. 20)

Each house of Trinitarian friars had originally as a rule seven inmates—the minister, three clerks, and three lay brethren—but the number was afterwards increased. A third part of the income of the house from all sources had to be devoted to the redemption of captives imprisoned by the pagans for the faith of Christ. (fn. 21) The friars sometimes served chapels in different parts of the country; thus the office of warden of the chapel of St. Laurence, Crediton, generally held by a Trinitarian friar of Hounslow, was in 1332 conferred by Bishop Grandison on William de Allertone in Shir wood, priest and friar of Mottenden. (fn. 22) Generally the friars of Mottenden seem to have been drawn from the immediate neighbourhood, or from the estates of the house. (fn. 23) In 1372 the minister of Mottenden was appointed provincial of England in a general chapter of the order 'for the correction of abuses'; on his claiming jurisdiction over the house at Easton, Wiltshire, arid summoning the minister of Easton to appear at a chapter of the order to be held in London on 3 May, 1382, Henry Sturmy, the patron of the house at Easton, denied his right, and caused him to be attached in the common pleas, 'and he is under mainprize to appear from day to day.' He petitioned the king to set him free. (fn. 24) Richard Lyming, a friar of this house, having unlawfully left his order, was admitted to the Cistercian monastery of Boxley, but subsequently returned to Mottehden. (fn. 25) In 1404 Richard de Berham brought an action against the minister to compel him to carry out an agreement made between Geoffrey of Sissinghurst and William de Bottune, late minister, whereby the latter engaged to supply two friars to celebrate in the chapel at Sissinghurst. (fn. 26) Several letters of fraternity issued by the minister of this house are extant; thus in 1477, John Prince, lord of the manors of Theydon Gernon and Theydon Bois, and Lucy wife of William Margyte, having aided in an expedition against the Turks, were admitted as brother and sister of the order by Richard of Lancing, minister of Mottenden. (fn. 27)

This Richard of Lancing added to the library one of the two volumes (fn. 28) known to have belonged to Mottenden, namely MS. Bodley 643, which contains works on logic and grammar by Burley, Duns Scotus, Albertus Magnus, and John Esteby, with the note: 'Bought by Friar Richard de Lancing 1467, price 26s. 8d., but it is worth more.' (fn. 29) Richard was provincial and minister of Mottenden in 1488, when he induced the mayor and commonalty of Oxford to restore to the Order the chapel and tenements of the Trinitarian friars without the east gate of that city; (fn. 30) this land was at the Dissolution reckoned among the possessions of the friars of Mottenden. (fn. 31) Richard held the same offices in 1494, when he received John Davy and Elinor his wife, and John Dering of Surrenden Dering, esq., benefactors of the Order, to the privileges of confraternity. (fn. 32) pne of the chief privileges of these confratres was the right to choose their own confessor.

Peter Husey, archdeacon of Northampton, by will made 31 December, 1499, left his body to be buried in the choir of this church; he seems to have died in this priory. (fn. 33)

On Trinity Sunday the friars were accustomed to hold a solemn I procession and pageant, the chief feature of which was an attack on the holy company by some one arrayed like a devil, and his repulse by the use of holy water. Of this pageant, 'some lately alive in this shire have been eyewitnesses,' wrote Lambarde in 1570. (fn. 34)

The minister returned the net annual value of . the property in 1535 as £60 13s. o½d. According to the figures given in the Valor Ecclesiasticus however, the correct total, allowing for all deductions and adding 8d. received from the chantry of Headcorn, would be £58 1s. Among the deductions were charges for the obits of Robert Stangrave and Joan his wife, Richard Lyle, and William Appledorefield. The oblations in the church were wont to be worth yearly 40s., but were ' now scant worth 5s.' (fn. 35)

Early in 1538 Cromwell was warned that Sir Edward Neville was endeavouring to persuade the minister of Mottenden secretly to surrender his house. (fn. 36) But Cromwell, who was how, after the death of the earl of Northumberland in 1537, (fn. 37) honoured with the title of founder of the priory, had marked its property for his own. In November, 1538, Neville was sent to the Tower for complicity in the conspiracy of the Poles, and a patent was issued to Cromwell confirming his estate, possession and interest in the site of the late priory, of Mottenden, and the manors of Mottenden, Plushenden, Plomford, and Delmynden in Kent; the rectory of Lancing, Sussex, and all tithes thereto belonging; the advowson of the parish church of Lancing and the vicarage of the same church; a saltmarsh in Canwynden (? Canewdon) alias Derwishop, Essex; and all lands, &c., in the counties of Kent, Sussex, and Essex, late of John Gregory alias John Harietsham, late minister of the Trinitarian priory of Mottenden. (fn. 38)

After Cromwell's attainder much of the property, comprising 361 acres with some woods, was leased in 1540 to Sir Anthony Aucher of Swingfield, Kent, esq., for twenty-one years at a rent of £25 a year, and in Tune, 1544. the site and the greater part of the Kentish possessions of the house, valued at £39 5s. ofrac34;d. a year, were purchased by him for £806 12s. 3½d (fn. 39)

At the time of the Dissolution the priory held a messuage in Hertford called ' le Trinytie ' and lands in the fields of Hertford, and in the parishes of Digswell, Hatfield, and Amwell, Hertfordshire; these were in the tenure of John Andrewe and Anne his wife, and were sold in August, 1540, to Anthony Denny. (fn. 40)

In February, 1555-6, four friars of this house were still in receipt of pensions: John Hendyman, £4; William Barker, Richard Broklehurst, and Andrew Pyttenden, 53s. 4d. each. (fn. 41)


William, 1289 (fn. 42)
John le Bray, 1325
William de Bottune, c. 1400 (fn. 43)
Thomas, 1404 (fn. 44)
Richard Lancing, 1477, 1494
Richard Sutton, alias Baker (fn. 45)
John Gregory alias John Harietsham, 1532, 1538 (fn. 46)

The seal of the priory, engraved in Hasted's Kent, represents the Almighty with nimbus, seated, holding in front of Him the crucified Saviour; below a cross patée. Another seal of the priory has the Almighty with nimbus, seated, in a niche with triple canopy, with both arms upraised; on each side a saint or attendant holding up one of the divine hands; in base, a prior, half length, in prayer, to the left. Legend:—



  • 1. Arch. Cant. ii, 292; from Exch. No. 13, 20 Hen. III (P.R.O.). (Plumworth or Plumford is in Ospringe and Preston.)
  • 2. Boys, Hist. of Sandwich, 195; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 80, 81.
  • 3. Leland, Coll. i, 88; Pat. 9 Hen. III, m. 3.
  • 4. Tanner, Notit. Mon. Kent, xlii.
  • 5. Leland, ut supra; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, 1027 (25).
  • 6. Roles Gascons (ed. .Michel), i, 323.
  • 7. Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), i, 223.
  • 8. Pat. 4 Edw. I, m. 6.
  • 9. Anct. Pet. (P.R.O.), 6344.
  • 10. Pat. 11 Edw. III, pt. 3, m. 22.
  • 11. Ibid. 18 Edw. II, pt. 2, m. 12. 'Totynton' is probably a mistake for ' Motynton.' This is perhaps the land in Maidstone in the valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 81.
  • 12. Pat. 12 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 9; Inq. a.q.d. file 246, No. 8.
  • 13. Pat. 21 Edw. III, pt. 4, m. 19; Inq. a.q.d. file 338, No. 18. An inquest had been held on this proposed grant as early as 1349, Inq. a.q. d file 292 No. 19.
  • 14. Pat. 36 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 16; 13 Ric. II, pt. 2, m. 21; Close, 38 Edw. III, m. 31d.
  • 15. Pat. 48 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 22.
  • 16. i.e. in the manor of Delmynden; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 81.
  • 17. Pat. 17 Ric. II, pt. 2, m. 42.
  • 18. Chron. W. Thorne, in Twysden's Decem Scriptures, 2168.
  • 19. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. viii, App. pt. i, 329. The friars did not hold land in Hollingbourne in 1535.
  • 20. Ibid, ix, App. pt. i, 110.
  • 21. See bulls of Innoc. III (17 Dec. 1198) and Clement IV (7 Dec. 1267); Cherubini, Bullar. Rom. i, 71, 135; Dugdale, Mon. vi, 1558.
  • 22. Exeter Epis. Reg. Grandison, 1291; Oliver, Mon. Dioc. Exon. 78.
  • 23. Thus in 1485 Richard of Lancing, the minister and provincial, appointed Jacob Ospring and Richard Sutton proctors in the ensuing provincial chapter. Eccl. Doc. (P.R.O.), 3 (1).
  • 24. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. iv, 198-9.
  • 25. Cal. Papal Let. v, 276 (A.D. 14.00).
  • 26. a De Banco R. Hil. 5 Hen. IV, rot. 103.
  • 27. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. iii, 274; cf 310. Tanner says that copies of several pardons and indulgences granted by several popes to benefactors of this house are preserved in the register of Hadrian de Castello, bishop of Bath and Wells.
  • 28. The other volume is MS. Bodl. Auct. D. ii, 20, bought by John Armorer, vicar of Sutton Valence and Headcorn, from Buckhurst, once friar of Mottenden, probably after the Dissolution.
  • 29. Richard of Lancing was proctor of the house in 1470, minister in 1474. Boys, Hist. of Sandwich, 195.
  • 30. Bridgwater Corp. Mun. Oxf. D. No. 35, 180; cf. Wood, City of Oxf. (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), i, 600.
  • 31. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvi, 722; Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. iii, 310.
  • 32. Hasted, Hist. and Topog. Surv. of Kent, ii, 391.
  • 33. Ibid. 392.
  • 34. Perambulation of Kent (ed. 1826), 300.
  • 35. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 81, 63; Cranmer returned the annual value of the friary as £5 8 0s. 3½d.; ibid. 98.
  • 36. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), 229.
  • 37. Leland, Collect. i, 88, calls the earl of Northumberland the ' modern ' founder. Henry Percy, third earl of Northumberland, had married Eleanor, granddaughter and heiress of Robert lord Poynings.
  • 38. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (2), 967 (54).
  • 39. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvi, p. 720; xix (1), 812 (48). P.R.O. Part. for Grants, 55; Hasted, op. cit. ii, 392. Neither the property in Kent lying to the south of Headcorn, namely at Staplehurst, Frittenden, Cranbrook, and Benenden, nor the property outside Kent, was included in this grant. The later history of the property will be found in Hasted.
  • 40. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, 1027 (25); cf. Tanner, Nottt. Mon. sub Hertford.
  • 41. Arch. Cant. ii, 59.
  • 42. Reg. Epist. J. Peckham (Rolls Ser.), in, 1010.
  • 43. De Banco R. Hil. 5 Hen. IV, rot. 103.
  • 44. Ibid.
  • 45. Pat. R. Supplem. 57.
  • 46. He was B. Can. L. of Oxf.; Reg. Univ. Oxon. (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), i, 38; Wood, Fasti, 47; Bloxam, Magd. Coll. Reg. ii, 2.
  • 47. Hasted, op. cit. ii, 392; B.M. Seals, Ixv, 88; Magd. Coll. Oxf. Mun. Ashurst, 8; cf. Arch. Cant. x, Abstract of Proc. 13 March, 1874.