Houses of Benedictine monks: The priory of St Leonard, Stamford

Pages 127-128

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

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If the priory of St. Leonard, Stamford, was indeed built upon the site of the monastery founded by St. Wilfrid in 658, it might claim to be the most ancient religious house in Lincolnshire, with the exception of Barrow. The identification is, however, very uncertain, and is supported only by documents of late date. The same authority—a manuscript of the fifteenth century, written under the direction of a prior of Durham who died in 1446— states that the house, destroyed in the Danish invasion, was refounded by William Carileph, bishop of Durham, with the co-operation of the Conqueror, in 1082, and by them bestowed upon the prior and convent of Durham. (fn. 1) The only thing that can be said with certainty is that it was from a very short time after the Conquest a cell of Durham.

The priors of the house were presented by the prior and convent of Durham, and instituted by the bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 2) They seem to have been very frequently changed, and a visitation of Bishop Alnwick, dated 1440, shows the reason why. In this year there were only two monks in the house. The prior, Robert Barton, stated that the income of the house was so small in proportion to its liabilities that it was difficult to make ends meet, and that was why the priors never wished to stay there. A former prior had undertaken to pay a pension of £6 a year to Crowland in exchange for the church of Edenham, and this was now a heavy burden on the house, and involved the loss of four small pensions due to it from other churches. The other brother, John Hexham, simply stated that they did not get up to mattins, being so few. (fn. 3)

The prior and convent of Durham continued to hold the cell until the dissolution. Its value in 1291 was £28; (fn. 4) in 1534 it was £25 1s.2½d., (fn. 5) while in the Ministers' Accounts the total given is only £7 10s. 9½d. (fn. 6)

Priors of St. Leonard's

Walter, (fn. 7) presented 1222

William Elvet, (fn. 8) resigned 1261

Geoffrey de Castro, (fn. 9) presented 1261, died 1262

William of Wearmouth, (fn. 10) presented 1262

John of Burford, (fn. 11) resigned 1272

William of Massam, (fn. 12) presented 1272

Nicholas, (fn. 13) died 1277

William de Rybus, (fn. 14) presented 1277

Peter of Seggefeud, (fn. 15) resigned 1221

Geoffrey of St. Botulf, (fn. 16) presented 1291, resigned 1292

Ingram of Chaton, (fn. 17) presented 1292, resigned 1293

Geoffrey of St. Botulf, (fn. 18) confirmed 1293, died 1302

Robert of Killingworth, (fn. 19) presented 1302

John Fossum, (fn. 20) resigned 1333

Robert de Cambehowe, (fn. 21) presented 1333, resigned 1338

Nicholas of Lusby, (fn. 22) presented 1338, resigned 1346

Robert of Halden (fn. 23) (or Hexham), presented 1346, resigned 1352

John of Langton, (fn. 24) presented 1352, resigned 1354

John de Castro Bernardi, (fn. 25) presented 1354, resigned 1366

Robert of Claxton, (fn. 26) presented 1366, resign'ed 1373

John of Billesfield, (fn. 27) presented 1373, resigned 1375

John of Hemingburgh, (fn. 28) presented 1375

John Swineshead, (fn. 29) presented 1419

Richard Barton, (fn. 30) S.T.B., presented 1440

John Garrard, (fn. 31) resigned 1443

John Forman, (fn. 32) presented 1443

John Manby, (fn. 33) resigned 1494

William Yondall, (fn. 34) presented 1494, resigned 1496

Robert Beattes, (fn. 35) presented 1496, died 1501

Henry Thewe, (fn. 36) S.T.B., presented 1501

Christopher Wyllie, (fn. 37) died 1530

Stephen Morley, (fn. 38) presented 1530

Richard Whelpdon, (fn. 39) occurs 1534


  • 1. Land for a monastery was certainly given to St. Wilfrid by Alcnfrid, son of King Oswy of Northumbria, at a place called Stamford (Bede, Eccles. Hist. bk. v, c. 19). The question is whether this was Stamford on the borders of Lincolnshire, or another town farther north. As Peck pointed out (Antiquarian Annals of Stamford, ii, 7 et seq.), it is not historically impossible that it may have been Stamford, Lincolnshire, because the battle of Windwaedfield was past, and Oswy was overlord of this district by 658, But there is no clear proof. The only authority, as it is said above, is the statement of Prior Wessington: ' In Stamforth is a cell in honour of St. Leonard, founded first by St. Wilfrid, afterwards by King William the Conqueror and William bishop of Durham' (Ibid. iv, 7).
  • 2. The bishop seems to have claimed the right of visiting this cell at an early date. There is a memorandum of Bishop Sutton dated 1292: 'Ingram de Chaton, prior of St. Leonard's, to have time till he can speak with the prior of Durham touching the visitation of the bishop' (Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Sutton, 12 d.). No other notices of visitation are preserved, however, except that of Bishop Alnwick.
  • 3. Visitations of Alnwick (Alnwick Tower), 82d.
  • 4. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.).
  • 5. Valor Eccles. (Rec. Com.), iv, 142.
  • 6. Dugdale, Mon, iv, 472.
  • 7. Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Wells.
  • 8. Ibid. Rolls of Gravesend.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Ibid.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Ibid. Inst. Sutton, 2.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. Ibid.
  • 18. Ibid.
  • 19. Ibid. Inst. Dalderby, 16 d.
  • 20. Ibid. Inst. Burghersh, 52.
  • 21. Ibid.
  • 22. Ibid. 76.
  • 23. Ibid. Inst. Bek, 23.
  • 24. Ibid. Inst. Gynwell, 53.
  • 25. Ibid. 65.
  • 26. Ibid. Inst. Bokyngham, 15d.
  • 27. Ibid. 57 d.
  • 28. Ibid. 73.
  • 29. Ibid. Inst. Repingdon, 102.
  • 30. Ibid. Inst. Alnwick, 83.
  • 31. Ibid. 91.
  • 32. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Alnwick, 91.
  • 33. Ibid. Inst. Russell, 34 d.
  • 34. Ibid.
  • 35. Ibid. Inst. Smith, 47.
  • 36. Ibid.
  • 37. Ibid. Inst. Longlands, 29 d.
  • 38. Ibid.
  • 39. Valor Eccles. (Rec Com.), iv, 142.