House of Cluniac monks: The cell of Kersal

Pages 113-114

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.

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In the reign of Stephen Ranulf Gernons, earl of Chester, when in possession of the district 'between Ribble and Mersey' gave the hamlet of Kersal in the township of Broughton, parcel of his demesne manor of Salford, to the Cluniac priory of Lenton, near Nottingham, in free alms for the establishment of a place of religion. The gift, the date of which lies between 1143 and 1153, included rights of fishery in the Irwell and of pasture on and approvement of the waste. (fn. 1) Ranulf's tenure of 'between Ribble and Mersey' was a mere interlude, and between 1174 and 1176 Henry II regranted Kersal to Lenton Priory without mention of any previous grant. (fn. 2) In his charter it is described as a hermitage which the monks of Lenton are to hold as freely and quietly as Hugh de Buron their monk held it. (fn. 3) This seems to point to some interruption in their ownership. King John confirmed his father's grant on 2 April, 1200. Whether Lenton at first kept more than a single monk at Kersal is not quite clear. The papal delegates who, about the date of John's confirmation, settled a dispute between the monks of Lenton and Albert de Nevill, rector of Manchester, in whose parish Kersal lay, ordered that the 'prior sive alius qui apud Kersale pro loco custodiendo pro tempore fuerit' should always promise to observe the rights of the mother church. It is not, however, until the fourteenth century that the existence of a prior of Kersal is definitely attested. From a Cluniac visitation of that date it appears that there were then a prior and one monk in the cell. Mass was celebrated only once a day. (fn. 4) The dispute with the rector of Manchester referred to above arose out of the diversion of tithes, offerings, and mortuaries to the chapel and cemetery of the cell. By the settlement arrived at the rector conceded the right of sepulture at Kersal in return for an annual gift of two candles, each of 1½lb. of wax, but no parishioner was to be buried or make offerings there without full compensation to the church at Manchester; the admission of parishioners to the sacraments by the monks was forbidden. (fn. 5)

Beyond this, a temporary seizure by the crown, about 1371, on the plea that the original gift bound Lenton to keep two monks there, (fn. 6) and one or two grants of land, the history of the cell is a blank. It might have come to an end in the fifteenth century had not Lenton, which as a filiation of Cluny ranked as an alien priory, secured letters of denization from Richard II in 1392-3. (fn. 7)

Doctors Legh and Layton in their report confined themselves to the financial condition of the cell. (fn. 8) As one of the larger monasteries Lenton escaped dissolution in 1536, but was already being bled. The prior wrote to Cromwell begging time to complete the payment of £100 to him, and adding, 'I have accomplished your pleasure touching the cell of Kersal in Lancashyre.' (fn. 9) What Cromwell's pleasure was there is nothing to show.

In April, 1538, Thurstan Tyldesley, hearing that Lenton was about to come into the king's possession, asked Cromwell to let him have the farm of Kersal, which he said was worth twenty marks a year—a considerably higher estimate than the king's commissioners had made in 1535-6. (fn. 10) The site and demesne lands of the cell, however, were leased by the crown on 3 February, 1539, for twenty-one years to John Wood, 'one of the Oistryngers,' at a rent of £11 6s. 8d. (fn. 11) On 23 July, 1540, the crown sold the cell to Baldwin Willoughby, sewer of the chamber, for £155 6s. 8d. (fn. 12)

Kersal cell was dedicated to St. Leonard. (fn. 13) Its original endowment was augmented in the reign of Richard I or John by grants of two parcels of land in the parish of Ashton-underLyne; Matthew son of Edith gave a portion of his land in Audenshaw, and Alban of Alt half Paldenlegh. (fn. 14) In the new valuation for the tenth, made in 1535, the income of the cell was stated to be £9 6s. 8d., the only deduction mentioned being an annual fee of £1 to the steward, Sir John Byron of Clayton, kt. (fn. 15) Legh and Layton speak of a debt of twenty marks. (fn. 16) The crown contrived nearly to double the income; the lessee paid £11 6s. 8d., and other rents not included in his lease brought up the total to £17 14s. 10d. (fn. 17)

Prior of Kersal

John of Ingleby, (fn. 18) occurs March, 1332.


  • 1. Farrer, Lanes. Pipe R. 326. Mr. Farrer assigns it to 1142, but see Tait, Mediaeval Manchester, 169.
  • 2. Lanes. Pipe R. 327; Pat. 17 Hen. VI, pt. 1, m. 9. This was always regarded as the foundation charter; Testa de Nevill, ii, fol. 827; Coram Rege R. No. 442.
  • 3. The reference to Hugh's time does not appear in Edw. II's inspeximus of the charter of Hen. II, but it is given in that of Hen. VI, and was part of that charter when produced in court in 1371; ibid. Hugh was doubtless the hermit and may perhaps be identified with the Hugh de Buron whose gifts to Lenton were confirmed by Stephen or with his son; Dugdale, Mon. v, 108. He is said to have stayed at Kersal until his death; Coram Rege R. No. 442.
  • 4. G. F. Duckett, Visitations of Engl. Cluniac Foundations (1890), 43.
  • 5. Lanes. Pipe R. 331.
  • 6. Coram Rege R. No. 442, m. 1 d. A jury found that though not bound to find more than one monk at Kersal, the priory for fifty years past had kept there two, and occasionally three, of their own free will.
  • 7. Pat. 16 Ric. II, pt. 2, m. 19. During the French wars it had been taken into the king's hands with the other alien houses; cf. Cal. of Pat. 1389-92, p. 29.
  • 8. L. and P. Hen. VIII, x, 364.
  • 9. Ibid. x, 1234.
  • 10. Ibid, xiii (i), 789.
  • 11. Dugdale, Mon. v, 110.
  • 12. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, 942 (102). Sir John Willoughby, kt., was steward of Lenton in 1535.
  • 13. Lanes. Pipe R. 330.
  • 14. Lancs. Pipe R. 328-30, 332. The endowments comprised in 1371 three messuages, 100 acres of land, 24 acres of meadow, and 40 acres of wood; Coram Rege R. 442, m. 1d.
  • 15. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), v, 147.
  • 16. L. and. P. Hen. VIII, x, 364.
  • 17. Dugdale, Mon. v, 117.
  • 18. Assize R. 428, m. 2. Accused of wounding Adam Le Reve of Broughton.