House of Premonstratensian canons: The abbey of Croxton Kerrial

Pages 28-31

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

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The founder of the Abbey of St. John the Evangelist at Croxton was William, Count of Boulogne and Mortain, (fn. 1) who gave a site for the building of the abbey, and endowed it with the church of Croxton Kerrial, (fn. 2) and lands and pasture rights there. (fn. 3) Count William also confirmed grants to the abbey by his vassals of the Derbyshire churches of Lowne and Ault Hucknall, (fn. 4) a carucate at Nether Broughton (Leics.), and other less important possessions. (fn. 5) Although these grants must have been made before Count William's death in 1159, it seems likely that canons were not established at Croxton until 1162. (fn. 6) The new monastery was a daughter of the Premonstratensian Abbey of Newhouse. (fn. 7) Croxton Abbey was granted further lands at Croxton Kerrial, and at Sedgbrook (Lincs.), by William and Hugh, the sons of Ingram, portarius de Liuns. (fn. 8) Other important additions to the abbey's possessions (fn. 9) were the church of Sproxton (Leics.), of which one-third was given by Hugh of Boby and twothirds by Achardus of Sproxton, (fn. 10) one-half of the advowson of South Croxton (Leics.), (fn. 11) and the advowsons of Tunstall (fn. 12) and Mellinge (Lancs.). (fn. 13) Early in the 13th century Philip D'Aubigny granted the manor of Waltham-on-the-Wolds (Leics.) to the abbey. (fn. 14)

Croxton was the mother house of the abbeys of Blanchland (Northumb.), founded in 1165, and Cockersand (Lancs.), founded c. 1180. (fn. 15) A cell of Croxton was established at Hornby (Lancs.) before 1212, (fn. 16) and this offshoot remained subject to the mother house. (fn. 17) When King John lay dying at Newark he summoned the Abbot of Croxton to hear his last confession and to embalm his body for burial. (fn. 18) The king's heart was buried in the abbey church, (fn. 19) and Henry III, in memory of his father, bestowed a number of gifts upon Croxton. (fn. 20) In 1217 the king granted to the abbey a hundred solidatae of land at Finedon (Northahts.), (fn. 21) but the abbey either never obtained seisin of the property or was obliged to return it, for in 1229 the king ordered the Exchequer to pay 100s. yearly to Croxton in place of the land that had been assigned at Finedon. (fn. 22) In 1227 the abbey. obtained a grant of a market and yearly fair at Waltham, (fn. 23) and in 1231 the king gave it revenues from Twyford, Skeffington, Tilton, and Rothley in place of the 100s. yearly from the Exchequer. (fn. 24) King Henry made frequent gifts of timber to Groxton, (fn. 25) and in 1244 he presented a chasuble to be used in the conventual church for celebrating the anniversary of King John's death. (fn. 26) In the reign of Henry III Hubert de Burgh, who had obtained possession of the manor of Croxton, appears to have claimed some right to nominate canons to vacancies in the abbey. (fn. 27)

In the 14th century a series of misfortunes fell upon Croxton. In June 1326, through a plumber's carelessness, the abbey church and the cloister, with some other buildings, were burnt down, and one canon died in the fire. (fn. 28) The abbey suffered further loss through Scottish devastation of its possessions in the north of England. (fn. 29) Its resources were, however, increased by the acquisition of the manor of Croxton Kerrial, in or after 1335, (fn. 30) and of the advowson of Finedon in 1346. (fn. 31) Finedon was appropriated by 1350. (fn. 32) At about the same time Croxton received several gifts of less importance. (fn. 33) Despite these benefactions, the house was £2,000 in debt in 1348, (fn. 34) presumably because of the heavy cost of rebuilding after the fire. The abbey also suffered severe losses through pestilence, which carried off all its senior canons save the abbot and prior. (fn. 35) Novices were brought in, (fn. 36) 1363 the abbot obtained a papal dispensation permitting the ordination of twelve canons of Croxton and Cockersand at the age of 21, to compensate for the losses caused by the plague. (fn. 37) The abbey seems to have made a good recovery from its losses by fire and pestilence; its abbot acted as visitor of the Premonstratensian houses of England in 1362, (fn. 38) and in or shortly after 1363 Sir Andrew Louterel granted to the abbey the Leicestershire manors of Saltby and Bescaby, as the endowment for two secular clerks who were to celebrate mass daily in the conventual church. (fn. 39) The lay brothers of the house are mentioned in the 14th century, though not subsequently. (fn. 40)

At the end of the 14th century difficulties seem to have arisen at Croxton, (fn. 41) and it is possible that one abbot may have been deposed, (fn. 42) but the records of a series of visitations show that in the late 15th century Croxton was in an exemplary state.

Richard Redman, Bishop of St. Asaph, when he visited the abbey in 1482 in his capacity as general visitor of the Premonstratensian Order in England, found affairs in a very satisfactory state both spiritually and materially, and it was only necessary to order minor corrections in the canons' dress and chanting. There were at the time the abbot and 15 canons at Croxton, besides the prior of the cell at Hornby, and another 7 canons resident outside the monastery. (fn. 43) In 1484 there were besides the abbot 25 canons in all, including 3 at Hornby. There were also 3 novices. The vicarages of Croxton, Mellinge, and Tunstall were then being served by canons, (fn. 44) and it is probable that several of the canons mentioned two years earlier as residing outside the house were serving the abbey's appropriated churches. In 1484 three canons were engaged in serving chantries established in the conventual church. (fn. 45) In 1488 Bishop Redman again found the house in a praiseworthy condition. Three canons were acting as vicars of Croxton, Tunstall, and Mellinge, (fn. 46) as was still the case three years later. (fn. 47) Visiting the abbey in 1491, Redman found it necessary to punish one of the canons for apostasy, (fn. 48) but when he came again in 1494 everything was in an excellent state, and the abbey was particularly well provided with grain and livestock. (fn. 49) In 1497 the position was equally satisfactory; there were then twenty-three canons, including the abbot, the Prior of Hornby, and four canons acting as vicars of Croxton, Sproxton, Mellinge, and Tunstall. There were also two novices. (fn. 50) In 1500 the same four churches were being served by canons, and the abbey had thirty canons in all, including the Prior of Hornby and one canon there. (fn. 51) At the same date Bishop Redman again found that the house was in a satisfactory condition; the chapel of St. Mary had been rebuilt, and lost revenues had been recovered. (fn. 52)

No later visitation records of the abbey are available. Tunstall and Mellinge were being served by canons of Croxton in 1527. (fn. 53) The election of Thomas Greene, the last Abbot of Croxton, was marked by a violent conflict with the abbey's patron, Lord Berkeley. After the death, early in March 1534, of the abbot, the canons of Croxton agreed under pressure from Thomas Cromwell to defer the election of a successor, though claiming that they had always previously held elections without any licence from the patron. (fn. 54) Later, however, Lord Berkeley arrived at the abbey with a body of retainers and refused to allow the election to proceed until his demand for £500 had been satisfied. The canons refused, and eventually Berkeley allowed the election to take place. The new abbot was, however, forced to pay Berkeley £160 in cash, and to give a bond for the payment of another £160. (fn. 55)

The clear yearly revenues of Croxton Abbey, including those of the cell at Hornby, were assessed at £485. 0s. 10¾d. in 1535, (fn. 56) and the abbey in consequence survived the dissolution of the smaller monasteries. (fn. 57) Croxton was surrendered in September 1538 when there were, besides the abbot, eighteen canons at Croxton, with a prior and two canons at Hornby. (fn. 58) Shortly afterwards all were pensioned, the abbot being granted £80 a year, and the canons an average of about £5 each. (fn. 59) The First Minister's Account shows a total net revenue of £320. 2s. 2½d. (fn. 60)

Abbots of Croxton Kerrial (fn. 61)

Alan, translated to Blanchland, 1165. (fn. 62)
William, occurs 1177. (fn. 63)
Adam, occurs from 1202 (fn. 64) to 1221. (fn. 65)
Elyas, occurs from 1228 (fn. 66) to 1231. (fn. 67)
Ralph of Lincoln, restored 1230-1, (fn. 68) occurs 1240. (fn. 69)
Geoffrey, elected 1241-2, (fn. 70) occurs 1268. (fn. 71)
William of Graham, elected 1274, (fn. 72) occurs 1280-1. (fn. 73)
William of Huntingdon, occurs 1285. (fn. 74)
William of Brackleye, occurs 1319. (fn. 75)
William, occurs from 1342 to 1348. (fn. 76)
Thomas of Loughtburgh, occurs from 1351 (fn. 77) to 1374. (fn. 78)
John Grantham, occurs 1398. (fn. 79)
John of Skotyltorp, occurs 1401 and 1402. (fn. 80)
William, occurs 1408-9. (fn. 81)
William Overton, occurs 1417. (fn. 82)
Adam of Berforthe, elected 1421. (fn. 83)
John Eston, occurs from 1425 (fn. 84) to 1444. (fn. 85)
Robert, occurs 1448. (fn. 86)
John Arghume, elected 1473, (fn. 87) died 1491. (fn. 88)
Elias Atterclyff, elected 1491, (fn. 89) occurs to 1529. (fn. 90)
Thomas Greene, elected 1534, (fn. 91) surrendered the abbey, 1538. (fn. 92)

The 13th-century seal (fn. 93) of Croxton Abbey is a pointed oval, measuring 2½ by 1⅝ in. It depicts the Virgin Mary enthroned, with the infant Jesus on her left arm. Her foot rests on an eagle (the symbol of St. John the Evangelist) which holds a scroll with the word 'JOH'ES'. Of the legend there remains:



  • 1. Count from 1154 to his death in 1159.
  • 2. Not known as Croxton Kerrial until the 13th cent. About 1220 it was said that Croxton ch. had been appropriated since the foundation of the abbey: Rot. Hugonis de Welles, ed. W. P. W. Phillimore, i, 267.
  • 3. Nichols, Leics. ii, App., 77; Hist. MSS. Com., Rutland, iv, 175.
  • 4. Ault Hucknall ch. was lost in the early 13th century: H. M. Colvin, White Canons in Engl. 96; Cal. Papal Letters, 1198-1304, 50; A. Hamilton Thompson, 'Newstead Priory', Trans. Thoroton Soc. xxiii, 59.
  • 5. Nichols, Leics. ii, App., 77; Hist. MSS. Com., Rutland, iv, 175. Lowne ch. was appropriated during the episcopate of Geoffrey, Bp. of Coventry and Lich., 1198-1208: Nichols, op. cit. ii, App., 82.
  • 6. Colvin, White Canons in Engl. 92-93; Collect. Anglo-Premonstratensia (Camden Soc., 3rd ser. x), ed. F. A. Gasquet, ii, 153.
  • 7. Ibid, i, 102-4, 223; ii, 153.
  • 8. Nichols, Leics. ii, 151; ii, App., 77-78; Hist. MSS. Com., Rutland, iv, 177, 180. Wm.'s gifts were confirmed by Ric. I: Nichols, op. cit. ii, App., 77. The grants of both Wm. and Hugh must be later than 1176, when their father obtained both Croxton and Sedgbrook: Hist. MSS. Com., Rutland, iv, 175.
  • 9. Tugby ch. was in possession of the abbey of 'Crokeston' c. 1220 (Rot. Hugonis de Welles, i, 258), but the monastery in question was Crokesden (Staffs.), not Croxton: Valor Eccl. iii, 125.
  • 10. Nichols, Leics. ii, App., 82. Croxton was in possession of part of the advowson of Sproxton before 1209 (Rot. Hugonis de Welles, i, 73) and apparently of the whole advowson by about 1220: ibid. 267. One-third of Sproxton ch. had been appropriated by c. 1220 (ibid.), and licence to appropriate the remaining ⅔ was obtained in 1310: Cal. Pat., 1307-13, 281.
  • 11. The abbey was granted the whole advowson in the late 12th century, but the grant was disputed, and eventually the abbey only obtained half: Nichols, op. cit. ii, App., 82. Licence to appropriate half of South Croxton ch. was obtained in 1310: Cal. Pat., 1307-13, 281.
  • 12. Nichols, op. cit. ii, App., 82. The grant of the advowson was confirmed by Roger, Abp. of York, d. 1181: ibid. Tunstall was appropriated before 1230: V.C.H. Lancs, ii, 160.
  • 13. Granted to Hornby Priory: ibid, ii, 160; Nichols, op. cit. ii, App., 83. Licence to appropriate Mellinge was obtained in 1310: Cal. Pat., 1307-13, 229.
  • 14. Nichols, op. cit. ii, App., 96; Cal. Inq. p.m. i, P. 257.
  • 15. V.C.H: Lancs. ii, 154; Colvin, White Canons in Engl., 98-99, 139; Collect. Anglo-Premonstratensia, i, 96, 224; ii, 89, 95, 111. An undated list of Premonstratensian houses (ibid, i, 224) mentions Blanchland as a dau. of Newhouse, but see the other references cited.
  • 16. Bk. of Fees, i, 219.
  • 17. See V.C.H. Lancs. ii, 160, for an account of Hornby.
  • 18. Matt. Paris, Chron. Majora (Rolls Ser.), ii, 668-9.
  • 19. Cal. Chart. R., 1226-57, 463.
  • 20. See instances given below.
  • 21. Cal. Pat., 1216-25, 41.
  • 22. Ibid., 1225-32, 264-5; Cal. Lib., 1226-40, 24, 76, 109, 126.
  • 23. Cal. Chart. R., 1226-57, 65.
  • 24. Ibid. 131.
  • 25. Cal. Close, 1227-31, 181, 273; 1234-7, 139; 1242-7, 209.
  • 26. Cal. Lib., 1240-5, 250.
  • 27. Colvin, White Canons in Engl. 95, citing Cat. Anct. D. ii, A3264.
  • 28. Hen. Knighton, Chron. (Rolls Ser.), i, 433.
  • 29. Cal. Papal Reg. Pet., 1342-1419, 128.
  • 30. Cal. Pat., 1334-8, 125.
  • 31. Cal. Papal Letters, 1342-62, 252.
  • 32. Cal. Pat., 1350-4, 18.
  • 33. Ibid., 1334-8, 237; ibid., 1330-4, 556; ibid., 1338-40, 206; ibid., 1340-3, 33; Farnham, Leics. Notes, v, 135.
  • 34. Cal. Close, 1346-9, 595. The debt was later paid off: ibid.
  • 35. Cal. Close, 1349-54, 335-6.
  • 36. Cal. Close, I349-54, 335-6.
  • 37. Cal. Papal Letters, 1362-1404, 32.
  • 38. Cal. Pat., 1361-4, 177.
  • 39. Ibid. 395; Cal. Close, 1364-8, 358-9; Farnham, Leics. Notes, v, 342.
  • 40. Cal. Pat., 1358-61, 301; Colvin, White Canons in Engl. 361 n.
  • 41. Colvin, op. cit., 389-90; Collect. Anglo-Premonstratensia, i, 53-56.
  • 42. Collect. Anglo-Premonstratensia, i, 53-56, 230-2. The nature of this incident is obscure. Gasquet (loc. cit.) gives the date as c. ? 1336, but John of Grantham, who is mentioned in this connexion, occurs as abbot in 1398: Farnham, Leics. Notes, v, 137. See also Colvin, op. cit. 389-90, 401.
  • 43. Collect. Anglo-Premonstratensia, ii, 152-3.
  • 44. Ibid. ii, 155. Tunstall and Mellinge were probably being served by canons in the first half of the 14th century: Colvin, White Canons in Engl. 144 n.
  • 45. Collect. Anglo-Premonstratensia, ii, 155.
  • 46. Ibid. 156-7.
  • 47. Ibid. 160.
  • 48. Ibid. 159.
  • 49. Ibid. 160-1.
  • 50. Ibid. 162-3.
  • 51. Ibid. 163-4.
  • 52. Ibid. 164. For a list of lands and rents regained at this time, see Nichols, Leics. ii, App., 103.
  • 53. V.C.H. Lancs. ii, 160.
  • 54. L. & P. Hen. VIII, vii, pp. 129, 156.
  • 55. Ibid. vii, App., p. 635.
  • 56. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 152.
  • 57. L. & P. Hen. VIII, x, p. 515.
  • 58. Ibid. xiii (2), p. 502.
  • 59. Ibid. xiv (1), p. 598.
  • 60. S.C. 6/Hen. VIII/1827, mm. 20-32.
  • 61. See the list given in Colvin, White Canons in Engl. 400-1, which differs in some details from that given here.
  • 62. Ibid. 400.
  • 63. Doc. Illustrative of Social and Econ. Hist. of Danelaw, ed. F. M. Stenton, 209, 215.
  • 64. Earliest Lines. Assize R., ed. D. M. Stenton, 52, 85.
  • 65. Colvin, White Canons in Engl. 400.
  • 66. Nichols, Leics, ii, App., 93.
  • 67. Ibid. 94; Farnham, Leics. Notes, ii, 193.
  • 68. Rotuli Hugonis de Welles, ii, 316.
  • 69. Farnham, Leics. Notes, ii, 193. In the list in Dugd. Mon. vi (2), 876, an Abbot John is given as occurring in 1241, but no authority is cited.
  • 70. Rot. Roberti Grosseteste, ed. F. N. Davis, 416.
  • 71. Farnham, Leics. Notes, i, 214. In the list in Dugd. Mon. vi (2), 876, Abbot Wm. of Houghton is listed as having died in 1274, but no authority is cited.
  • 72. Rot. Ric. Gravesend, ed. F. N. Davis, 156.
  • 73. Cal. Pat., 1272-81, 413, 467.
  • 74. Nichols, Leics. ii, App., 89.
  • 75. Cal. Pat., 1317-21, 393. Wm., Abbot of Croxton, occurs several times between 1285 and 1319, but it is impossible to say which abbot is meant. See Colvin, White Canons in Engl. 401; Farnham, Leics. Notes, ii, 378; v, 133; Collect. Anglo-Premonstratensia, i, 3.
  • 76. Farnham, op. cit. ii, 197; Nichols, Leics. ii, App., 100; Hist. MSS. Com., Rutland, iv, 14.
  • 77. Farnham, op. cit. v, 135.
  • 78. Hist. MSS. Com., Rutland, iv, 122. The reference to Thomas, Abbot of Croxton, in Collect. AngloPremonstratensia, ii, 148-9, which has been tentatively assigned to 1279 by the editor, should probably be dated 1379. See Colvin, White Canons in Engl. 390.
  • 79. Farnham, Leics. Notes, v, 137.
  • 80. Cat. Anct. D. iv, A9030; Cal. Pat., 1401-5, 75.
  • 81. Hist. MSS: Com., Rutland, iv, 181. Perhaps Wm. of Sleforde; Collect. Anglo-Premonstratensia, i, 230.
  • 82. Farnham, Leics. Notes, v, 137.
  • 83. Visitations of Religious Houses in the Dioc. Linc. [1420-49], ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, i, 122.
  • 84. Farnham, Leics. Notes, v, 137.
  • 85. Colvin, White Canons in Engl. 401.
  • 86. Cal. Pat., 1446-52, 129.
  • 87. A. Hamilton Thompson, Premonstratensian Abbey of Welbeck, 96.
  • 88. Collect. Anglo-Premonstratensia, i, 102-4.
  • 89. Ibid. i, 102-4. Elected per viam inspirations. On the date, see Colvin, White Canons in Engl. 389.
  • 90. L. & P. Hen. VIII, iv (3), p. 2,698. Elias was probably the abbot who died in Mar. 1534: ibid. vii, p. 129.
  • 91. Ibid. vii, App., p. 635.
  • 92. Ibid, xiii (2), p. 502.
  • 93. B.M. Seals, lxvi, 59.