Houses of Augustinian canons: The priory of Launde

A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1954.

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'Houses of Augustinian canons: The priory of Launde', in A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 2, (London, 1954) pp. 10-13. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

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The Augustinian Priory of St. John the Baptist at Launde was founded by Richard Basset and his wife Maud (fn. 1) before 1125. (fn. 2) was endowed by the founders with the village of Loddington (Leics.) arid the churches of Weldon, Weston-byWelland, and Ashby (Northants.), Welham, Holt, Frisby-on-the-Wreak, Oadby, Ab Kettleby, and Witherley (Leics.), Colston Basset (Notts.), Wardley (Rut.), Pattingham (Staffs.), Hathersege (Derbys.), and several others. (fn. 3) The grant of Loddington probably included the church of the village, which was certainly in the priory's hands early in the 13th century. (fn. 4) Before 1162 Launde also obtained from various benefactors the churches of Tilton, Grimston, and Rotherby (Leics.), and Glaston (Rut.), with the Leicestershire manor of Frisby-on-the-Wreak and some less important endowments. (fn. 5) Under Henry II Frisby was seized by the king, (fn. 6) but subsequently at the request of the canons of Launde an inquiry was held to discover whether Frisby was part of the royal demesne or whether it belonged to the priory by the gift of Ralph Basset. (fn. 7) In the end the priory seems to have retained Frisby, which it still held at the Dissolution. (fn. 8) By the early 13th century the priory had acquired the Leicestershire churches of Peatling Parva, Ashby Folville, and Shoby, with one-half of the advowson of Withcote, and the Northamptonshire churches of Blatherwick, Arthingworth, and Little Bowden. (fn. 9) Some of these endowments were later lost. The Templars claimed Grimston church as a chapel of Rothley, apparently with success, (fn. 10) and in 1284 the Abbot of Lire secured possession of the church of Witherley. (fn. 11) Shoby church had been lost by 1393. (fn. 12) The church of Holt, though mentioned in Henry I's confirmation charter, does not appear subsequently amongst the priory's possessions, and probably ceased to exist before the early 13th century. (fn. 13)

At the beginning of the 13th century some trouble apparently arose between the priory and its patron, Richard Basset, for in 1201 an agreement made between Basset and the prior provided that the priory should give up all the charters it had obtained from Geoffrey Riddell, (fn. 14) retaining only his great confirmation charter and the foundation charter of the earlier Richard Basset. Any charter subsequently brought forward by the priory was to be considered void. (fn. 15) Another dispute between the priory and Richard Basset, caused by the convent's action in installing a prior before he had been presented to the patron, was settled by an agreement which provided that presentation to the patron should be duly made. (fn. 16) In 1234, the king gave timber to the priory for the building of its church. (fn. 17) The Prior of Launde was one of the monastic heads removed by Bishop Grosseteste in 1236, (fn. 18) but the cause of his removal is unknown. A later prior was summoned to the Parliament of January 1265. (fn. 19) In 1344 the priory obtained licence to appropriate Pattingham church, (fn. 20) and in 1368 Ralph Basset, the patron, became a canon of the house. (fn. 21) The occurrence of three disputed elections, in 1289, (fn. 22) 1300, (fn. 23) and I350, (fn. 24) suggests that the priory may Have experienced a period of internal dissension, and during the 14th century its condition must have been unsatisfactory. At some date between 1360 and 1366 a complaint was made by some of the canons to the Bishop of Lincoln that the prior, John of Witherington, was showing favouritism to some canons, though he was harsh to others, and that he neglected to sleep in the dormitory or to eat in the refectory. (fn. 25) When Prior John resigned, in 1366, there was so much difficulty in electing a new prior that the sixteen canons of the house requested the bishop to nominate one. (fn. 26) Some years later serious differences arose between the canons and another prior, Thomas Colman. The canons brought a lawsuit against Colman, and while the action was pending, in 1388, the king, then controlling the patronage owing to the minority of Richard Basset, found it necessary to order the prior to refrain from beating, imprisoning, and expelling the canons, alienating the priory's chattels, and wasting its woods, as information had been received that the prior was committing such acts. The prior was ordered to allow the canons adequate maintenance out of the priory's goods. (fn. 27) Before the end of 1388 Colman either resigned or was deprived because of his opposition to a papal provision to the priory's church of Hathersege. (fn. 28) His successor was a canon of Dunstable, Walter Baldok. (fn. 29) Baldok had deserted his own monastery, and had spent some time at the royal court seeking preferment. (fn. 30) No doubt he owed his election to the king's temporary possession of the patronage, and it was probably through Baldok that Richard II was led to consider founding a chantry at Launde in 1393. (fn. 31) The chantry was duly established, and endowed by the appror priation of the churches of Ab Kettleby in 1397 and of Wardley and Hathersege in 1398; it was provided that three canons of Launde were to celebrate masses daily for the souls of the king, his parents, and his first queen, Anne, and for the good estate of the king and his second queen, Isabel. Licence was granted for the three churches to be served by suitable canons. (fn. 32) In the case of Ashby Folville church, appropriated to Launde a few years earlier, the pope had laid down that the cure of souls was to be exercised by a canon of the house. (fn. 33) In 1395 Baldok obtained papal exempr tion from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Lincoln, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other judges ordinary. (fn. 34) He proved an unsatisfactory prior, and at some date between 1395 and 1398 he was deprived of his office. (fn. 35) His successor, John Henriz, was probably also a supporter of Richard II, for the king employed him on a mission to Rome. (fn. 36) After the fall of Richard II Baldok was executed for treasonable activities on behalf of the deposed king. (fn. 37)

Before 1404 Thomas Colman had again become Prior of Launde, (fn. 38) and he remained in office until 1416 at least. (fn. 39) In view of his past record, his rule is unlikely to have been very successful. In 1440 the priory was visited by Bishop Alnwick, and a rather unsatisfactory position was disclosed; the canons numbered only ten, although some time previously there had been eighteen; there were complaints that women were allowed too free access to the choir of the conventual church, that silence was not properly kept, that corrodies were sold without the bishop's licence, and that the prior failed to render a full account to the canons yearly. In general, the canons seem to have neglected the divine offices in order to attend to business affairs. The bishop ordered these faults to be amended, and warned the prior not to take any important steps without the convent's consent. When Launde was allowed to appropriate Oadby church in 1446, it was stated that the priory was then worth only 400 marks a year, although it had formerly been worth a thousand; bad management and untoward events in the vicinity were said to be the cause of the decline. (fn. 40)

Little is known of the priory's history for the rest of the 15th century. In 1528 the house was visited by the chancellor of the diocese. (fn. 41) Besides the prior, there were then thirteen in the priory, including four novices. The refectory was reported to be ruinous, and the conventual church was also rather dilapidated, but the prior was making preparations for repair. No serious personal faults were disclosed, though the prior and sub-prior were admonished for failing to treat their brethren with sufficient charity after correction, and one of the canons was said to be causing discord in the house. In 1534 the prior and thirteen others acknowledged the royal supremacy over the church. (fn. 42) Launde, being assessed at a clear yearly value of nearly £400 m 1535, (fn. 43) was not included amongst the smaller monasteries which were first dissolved. (fn. 44) In 1536 an attempt seems to have been made to blackmail the prior by threatening to charge him with immorality. (fn. 45) The priory was surrendered in December 1539, the prior receiving a pension of £60, and ten of the canons pensions ranging from £9 to £5 a year. (fn. 46) Thomas Cromwell, who had been interested in the priory's possessions as early as 1528, (fn. 47) had marked down the house for himself, (fn. 48) and in 1540 he was granted the site of the monastery, together with some of its possessions. (fn. 49) In the First Minister's Account the annual gross value of the priory's possessions is given as £517. 8s. 1½d. (fn. 50)

Priors of Launde

John, occurs before 1125. (fn. 51)
Ralph, occurs about 1160. (fn. 52)
Walkelin, occurs 1189 (fn. 53) and 1201. (fn. 54)
Osbert, occurs 1230. (fn. 55)
Robert, occurs 1236. (fn. 56)
Robert de Martivail, occurs 1240 (fn. 57) to 1252. (fn. 58)
Reynold, died 1273. (fn. 59)
Richard de Martivail, elected 1273, (fn. 60) died 1289. (fn. 61)
William of Somerby, elected 1289, (fn. 62) resigned 1300. (fn. 63)
John of Kirkby, elected 1300, (fn. 64) died 1309. (fn. 65)
John de Burgh, elected 1309, (fn. 66) died 1319. (fn. 67)
Henry of Braunseton, elected 1319, (fn. 68) resigned 1334. (fn. 69)
John of Peatling, elected 1334, (fn. 70) died 1350. (fn. 71)
John of Wytherington, elected 1350, (fn. 72) resigned 1366. (fn. 73)
John of Leicester, elected 1366, (fn. 74) died 1369. (fn. 75)
John of Rearsby, elected 1369, (fn. 76) resigned 1376. (fn. 77)
Thomas Colman, elected 1376, (fn. 78) deprived or resigned, 1388. (fn. 79)
Walter Baldok, elected 1388, (fn. 80) occurs 1395, (fn. 81) deprived before 1398. (fn. 82)
John Henriz, occurs 1398. (fn. 83)
Thomas Colman, occurs 1404 to 1416. (fn. 84)
William Northampton, elected 1423, (fn. 85) occurs 1440. (fn. 86)
Thomas Myles, occurs 1458. (fn. 87)
Thomas Frisby, occurs 1464 (fn. 88) to 1478. (fn. 89)
Robert Northampton, occurs 1482-3. (fn. 90)
John Lancaster, occurs 1509, (fn. 91) surrendered the priory 1539. (fn. 92)

The very elaborate 15th-century seal (fn. 93) of the priory is a large vesica, 2¾ by 1¾ in. It shows St. John the Baptist standing under a canopy, and holding a lamb in his left hand. On the right and left, respectively, of the saint's figure are the figures of a lady and of ah armed knight, probably representing the founders, Richard and Maud Basset. In the base is a kneeling canon between two shields, one bearing the arms of Basset of Weldon dimidiating those of Ridel, the other bearing the arms of Basset of Weldon alone. The legend reads:



  • 1. Dau. of Geoffrey Ridel: Complete Peerage, ii, 1.
  • 2. City of London Letter Bk. C, ed. R. R. Sharpe, 220; cited J. C. Dickinson, Origins of the Austin Canons, 121. An early charter of Hen. I confirming the priory's possessions (Dugd. Mon. vi, 188, no. I) cannot be considered reliable, as it mentions Alexander, Bp. of Linc., but is witnessed by the chancellor, Ranulph, who died before the death of Alexander's predecessor. See J. H. Round, 'The Spurious Tewkesbury Charter', Genealogist (N.S.), viii, 93-94. Another royal charter of confirmation (Dugd. Mon. vi, 188-9, no. II) names Ric. and. Maud as founders of Launde.
  • 3. Dugd. Mon. vi, 188-9, no. II. The list of chs. confirmed to Launde includes those of 'Pillesleye', 'Tacheham', 'Stantona', 'Brinton', and 'Malucshella'. These 5 places have not been identified. Nichols (Leics. iii, 301) identifies 'Tacheham' with Thatcham (Berks.). But see V.C.H. Berks, iii, 325. Frisby was appropriated from the foundation of the priory, and Welham before c. 1220: Rot. Hugonis de Welles, ed. W. P. W. Phillimore, i, 259, 261.
  • 4. Ibid. i, 259. Loddington was appropriated by c. 1220 (ibid.).
  • 5. Dugd. Mon. vi, 189, no. III. Tilton was appropriated by c. 1220: Rot. Hugonis de Welles, i, 258.
  • 6. Pipe R. 1182 (Pipe R. Soc. xxxi), 97; and see subsequent Pipe R.
  • 7. Pipe R. 1190 (Pipe R. Soc., N.S. i), 44; Pipe R. 1191-2 (Pipe R. Soc., N.S. ii), 128.
  • 8. Dugd. Mon. vi, 189.
  • 9. Rot. Hugonis de Welles, i, 52, 105, 240, 258, 260, 268; Nichols, Leics. iii, 302.
  • 10. Farnham, Leics. Notes, ii, 338; Rot. Ric. Gravesend, ed. F. N. Davis, 163.
  • 11. Farnham, op. cit. v, 425-6.
  • 12. Ibid. iv, 76.
  • 13. The ch. is not mentioned in the 'Matriculus' of the Archdeaconry of Leic.: Rot, Hugonis de Welles, i, 238-72. See also Nichols, Leics. ii, 16.
  • 14. Unlikely to be Geoffrey Ridel, the father of Maud who was one of the founders of the priory. Possibly Geoffrey Ridel, Bp. of Ely, whose relationship to the earlier Geoffrey, and to the Basset family, has not been ascertained.
  • 15. B.M. Sloane Chart. xxxi, 4, m. 1, no. 2.
  • 16. Ibid., no. 4.
  • 17. Cal. Close, 1231-4, 517.
  • 18. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), iii, 143.
  • 19. Cal. Close, 1264-8, 86.
  • 20. Cal. Pat., 1343-5, 235.
  • 21. Complete Peerage, ii, 11, and references there cited.
  • 22. Rosalind Hill, 'Bishop Sutton and the Inst. of Heads of Religious Houses in the Dioc. of Linc.', E.H.R. lviii, 209.
  • 23. Linc. Reg. Dalderby, Inst., f. 196b.
  • 24. Linc. Reg. Gynewell, Inst., f. 316a.
  • 25. Linc. Reg. Buckingham, Memo., f. 144a.
  • 26. Ibid., Inst. i, f. 238a.
  • 27. Cal. Close, 1385-9, 519-20.
  • 28. Cal. Pat., 1385-9, 527; Cal. Papal Letters, 1362-1404,435.
  • 29. Cal. Pat.,1388-92, 1.
  • 30. T. Walsingham, Hist. Anglicana (Rolls Ser.), ii, 249.
  • 31. Cal. Papal Letters, 1362-1404, 446.
  • 32. Cal. Pat., 1396-9, 124, 322.
  • 33. Ibid., 1388-92, 107; Cal. Papal Letters, 13621404, 523.
  • 34. Ibid.
  • 35. Cal. Pat., 1396-9, 413; T. Walsingham, Hist. Anglicana (Rolls Ser.), ii, 249.
  • 36. Cal. Pat., 1396-9, 413.
  • 37. T. Walsingham, Hist. Anglicana (Rolls Ser.), ii, 249; Ypodigma Neustriae (Rolls Ser.), 393. Other accounts merely state that the Prior of Launde was executed, without giving his name, but Walsingham, who gives more detailed information than the other chroniclers, states that the victim was Baldok, and that he was a former Prior of Launde. For other accounts, see Eulogium Hist, sive Temporis (Rolls Ser.), iii, 389, 392-3; Monumenta Frandscana (Rolls Ser.), ii, 162; Chron. of Grey Friars of London (Camden Soc., 1st ser. liii), ed. J. G. Nichols, 10. Baldok was described as the king's 'secret chaplain' in 1393: Anglo-Norman Letters and Pet., ed. M. D. Legge, 382.
  • 38. Descriptive Cat. of Derbys. Charts., ed. I. H. Jeayes, 166; Cal. Close, 1405-9, 528. In 1392 Colman, who had previously been absolved, had obtained papal dispensation and rehabilitation, so that he could hold any offices of his order: Cal. Papal Letters, 13621404, 435.
  • 39. Cal. Pat., 1416-22, 14.
  • 40. For the record of the visitation, see Visitations of Religious Houses in the Dioc. of Linc. [1420-49], ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, ii, 177-83. For the appropriation of Oadby, see Cat. Papal Letters, 1431-47, 570; Cal Pat., 1441-6, 392.
  • 41. Visitations in Dioc. Linc., 1517-31, ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, ii, 178-81.
  • 42. L. & P. Hen. VIII, vii, p. 472.
  • 43. Valor Eccl. iv, 165. The priory's possessions included in 1535 the appropriated rectory of Rosthorne (Ches.); ibid. iv, 164. Rosthorne had been granted to. Launde in 1507, and appropriated in the same year: Cal Pat., 1494-1509, 535; G. Ormerod, Hist, of Chester (2nd ed.), i, pt. 2, 432.
  • 44. L. & P. Hen. VIII, x, p. 515.
  • 45. Ibid. x, p. 522.
  • 46. Ibid. xiv (2), p. 256.
  • 47. Ibid. Addenda, i (1), p. 192.
  • 48. Ibid. xiv (2), p. 150.
  • 49. Ibid. xv, p. 285.
  • 50. S.C. 6 / Hen. VIII / 7312, mm. 60-75.
  • 51. City of London, Letter Bk. C, 220. Cited J. C. Dickinson, Origins of the Austin Canons, 121.
  • 52. F. M. Stenton, Doc. Illustrative of Social and Econ. Hist. of Danelaw, 337; Descriptive Cat. of Derbys. Charts., 132.
  • 53. T. Madox, Formulare Anglicanum, f. xiv; cited Nichols, Leics. ii, 302.
  • 54. B.M. Sloane Chart. xxxi, 4, m. I, no. 2.
  • 55. Ibid. no. 5; Nichols, Leics. iii, 303.
  • 56. G. F. Farnham, 'The Skeffingtons of Skeffington. App.', T.L.A.S. xvi, 106. Possibly Robt. de Martivall.
  • 57. Hist. MSS. Com., Rutland, iv, 131.
  • 58. Cal Close, 1251-3,190; Cal Chart. R., 1226-57, 333.
  • 59. Rot. Ric. Gravesend, 154.
  • 60. Ibid. Elected per viam compromissi.
  • 61. E.H.R. lviii, 209.
  • 62. Ibid.
  • 63. Linc. Reg. Dalderby, Inst., f. 196b.
  • 64. Ibid.
  • 65. Ibid., f. 204a.
  • 66. Ibid.
  • 67. Cal Fine R., 1319-27, 9; Cal Pat., 1317-21, 400.
  • 68. Cal Pat., 1317-21, 405.
  • 69. Linc. Reg. Bek, Inst., f. 42b.
  • 70. Ibid.
  • 71. Linc. Reg. Gynewell, Inst., f. 316.
  • 72. Ibid.
  • 73. Linc. Reg. Buckingham, Inst., i, f. 238a.
  • 74. Ibid.
  • 75. Ibid. i, f. 246b.
  • 76. Ibid.
  • 77. Ibid. i, f. 266a.
  • 78. Ibid.
  • 79. Cal Pat., 1358-9, 527; Cal Papal Letters, 1362-1404, 435.
  • 80. Cal. Pat., 1388-92, 1.
  • 81. Cal. Papal Letters, 1362-1404, 523.
  • 82. Cal. Pat., 1396-9, 413; T. Walsingham, Hist. Angl. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 249.
  • 83. Cal. Pat., 1396-9, 413.
  • 84. Descriptive Cat. of Derbys. Chart. 166; Cal. Close, 1405-9, 528; Cal. Pat., 1416-22, 141; Cal. Papal Letters, 1404-15, 335. Colman was still only a canon in 1400 (Cal. Papal Letters, 1362-1404, 310), so he must have been re-elected between 1400 and 1404.
  • 85. Visitations in Dioc. Linc. [1420-49], i, 164.
  • 86. Ibid. ii, 178.
  • 87. Nichols, Leics. iii, 306, citing a deed not now avaikble.
  • 88. Cat. of the Archives of All Souls Coll. Oxf., ed. C. T. Martin, 261.
  • 89. Cal. Pat., 1476-85, 84.
  • 90. Ibid. 342; Cat. Anct. D. v, A13424.
  • 91. L. & P. Hen. VIII, i (2nd ed.), p. 246.
  • 92. Ibid. xiv (2), p. 256.
  • 93. E. 25/72*.