House of Austin nuns: The priory of St Leonard, Grimsby

Page 179

A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.

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The priory of St. Leonard, Grimsby, was probably founded some time during the reign of Henry II. The name of the founder is unknown, but the house was placed before 1184 under the protection of the Austin canons of Wellow, for in that year the nuns complained to Pope Lucius II that one of their brethren had by threats compelled them to sell some of their property in Ravendale. (fn. 1) The relations of the nuns and canons apparently became friendly again soon after, for, in 1232 and 1303 a canon of Wellow was chosen as warden of the priory. (fn. 2)

The house was a poor and obscure one. Its temporalities were only rated at 3s. in 1291. In 1296 the nuns had to beg alms to support themselves, (fn. 3) and in 1297 certain men were excommunicated for an unjust distraint upon their property. (fn. 4) Another licence to beg was granted in 1311, on the ground that their houses, corn, &c., had been consumed by fire. (fn. 5) Yet other licence to beg was granted in 1459 because their buildings had been burnt and their land inundated. (fn. 6) In 1394 they were excused from payment of a subsidy at the bishop's request, on account of their poverty. (fn. 7)

There are no records of episcopal visitations of this house, though doubtless such were held from time to time. There are notices in 1337 and 1356 of the absolution of nuns of Grimsby—one for apostacy, another for a breach of chastity. (fn. 8) In spite of its scanty revenue the priory was not suppressed in 1536; it lingered on till 15 September, 1539, when the prioress received a pension of £4, and the other nuns annuities of 30s. or 33s. 4d. each. (fn. 9)

The endowment of the priory consisted only of small parcels of land in the counties of Lincoln and York, with the churches of Grimsby, Little Coates, and Ravendale. (fn. 10) In 1291 the prioress was taxed only for 3s. (fn. 11) In 1534 the clear value of the priory was only £9 14s. 7d. including the churches of Little Coates and Ravendale (Randall). The Ministers' Accounts amount to £22 7s. 7d. (fn. 12)

Prioresses of St. Leonard's

Emma (fn. 13)

Agnes of Bradley, (fn. 14) died 1299

Maud of Graffham, (fn. 15) elected 1299, died 1309

Amice or Avice Franks, (fn. 16) elected 1309, occurs 1321

Alice of Alesby, (fn. 17) resigned 1370

Agnes of Humbleton, (fn. 18) elected 1370, occurs 1393

Eleanor Billesby, (fn. 19) elected 1409

Maud Beesby, (fn. 19) resigned 1465

Joan Saxby, (fn. 20) elected 1465, occurs 1490

Beatrice, (fn. 21) occurs 1507

Anne Mallet, (fn. 22) occurs 1529

Margaret Riddesdale, (fn. 23) last prioress

The pointed oval conventual seal (fn. 24) represents St. Leonard standing in an elaborately carved niche, with trefoiled canopy and tabernacle work at the side, in the right hand a pastoral staff, in the left hand a book. The inner edge of the field engrailed.


Cabled borders.


  • 1. Lans. MS. 207, B, fol. 219 d. At the election of Joan Saxby in 1465 the bishop called the priory 'of the Augustinian order.'
  • 2. Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Wells, and Memo. Dalderby, 58 d.
  • 3. Ibid. Memo. Sutton, 158 d.
  • 4. Ibid. 188 d.
  • 5. Ibid. Memo. Dalderby, 181 d.; and Dugdale, Mon. iv, 545.
  • 6. Linc. N. and Q. ii, 76.
  • 7. Ibid. Memo. Bokyngham, 47.
  • 8. Ibid. Memo. Burghersh, 385; Memo. Gynwell, 66 d.
  • 9. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (2), 173.
  • 10. Dugdale, Mon. iv, 545; Pat. 6 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 29.
  • 11. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.).
  • 12. Valor Eccles. (Rec. Com.), iv, 68.
  • 13. Lans. MS. 207 B, fol. 216 d.
  • 14. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Sutton, 28.
  • 15. Ibid.
  • 16. Ibid. Inst. Dalderby, 29; Lans. MS. 207 B, fol. 204.
  • 17. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Gynwell, 44.
  • 18. Ibid. and Lans. MS. 207b, 204.
  • 19. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Repingdon, 35 d.
  • 20. Lans. MS. 207 B, fol. 204.
  • 21. Ibid. 204.
  • 22. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 545.
  • 23. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (2), 173.
  • 24. Egert. Chart. 476.