Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Thornholm

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

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'Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Thornholm', A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2, (London, 1906), pp. 166-168. British History Online [accessed 12 June 2024].

. "Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Thornholm", in A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2, (London, 1906) 166-168. British History Online, accessed June 12, 2024,

. "Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Thornholm", A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2, (London, 1906). 166-168. British History Online. Web. 12 June 2024,

In this section


The priory of Thornholm appears to have been originally founded by King Stephen; but the manor of Appleby, on which it stood, passed afterwards into the hands of John Malherbe, so that it soon ceased to reckon as a royal foundation. And in 1271-2 the prior acknowledged John Malherbe as founder, and asserted that the patronage of the house belonged to Hugh de Nevill of Cadney as descended from John's eldest daughter Mabel. (fn. 1) The patronage during the reign of Edward III was in the hands of William and Michael de la Pole. (fn. 2) The endowment of the house was never very large, but it may have supported twelve canons in early days: at the dissolution there were nine beside the prior.

In 1229 the prior secured the advowson of Bottesford church, (fn. 3) which had been for some time in dispute (fn. 4) against Simon de Vere. Towards the end of the thirteenth century the priory had fallen into debt, and was placed under the custody of one of the king's clerks. (fn. 5) In 1280 the prior had to complain of violence done to his property and his brethren by Geoffrey de Neville, who claimed free warren beyond the limits of his own demesne. (fn. 6) From 1292 onwards there were similar difficulties with members of the family of Redmere. (fn. 7)

In 1347 the taxation of the priory was reduced, after an appeal to the pope, on the ground that it had been placed too high in 1291. (fn. 8) It seems probable that this house suffered severely during the great pestilence. There was a vacancy before August, 1349, and the prior then elected died before Michaelmas. (fn. 9) In 1384 the priory was again under the king's custody, because of difficulties at the election of John de Castro, who was, however, finally confirmed in his office. (fn. 10) The prior and nine canons signed the acknowledgement of supremacy in 1534; (fn. 11) and the house was surrendered before Michaelmas, 1536. A pension of £20 was assigned to the prior; the canons received 20s. apiece and their only novice 10s. (fn. 12)

Except for the absolution of one or two apostates, (fn. 13) and the institution of priors, there is no notice of Thornholm in the episcopal registers before the visitation of Bishop Repingdon, between 1413 and 1420. The bishop exhorted the brethren, who had evidently been at strife amongst themselves, to peace and unity. He ordered a boy to be provided to serve the sick in the infirmary: accounts were to be more regularly rendered and repairs seen to. One brother, William Soleby, was to be cloistered for a year, and to fast on bread and water every other Friday during that time; his offence is not specified. (fn. 14)

At the visitation of 1440, Robert Neville, the prior, answered omnia bene; but the brethren had a good many complaints to make, to which the bishop gave careful attention. The prior was accused of harshness in correction, (fn. 15) of alienating the goods of the monastery on his own responsibility, of being too free in granting corrodies, especially to his own relations; necessary repairs were left undone, the common seal was kept under one key only, which the prior himself held. The clothing and food provided for the canons was insufficient, and they were roughly treated if they ventured to complain. They were not even allowed to solace themselves by making gardens.

The bishop thought so seriously of the matter that he postponed the examination of the prior until he could obtain fuller information. It was found that the house was considerably in debt, and the first of the bishop's injunctions provided for its better administration. A discreet secular was to collect rents and superintend repairs; another was to be cook. The prior was generally exhorted to be patient with his brethren and careful in administration of his revenues. The common seal was to be kept, as was customary in all monasteries, under three keys. The brethren were all exhorted to be faithful to their rule. No one was to be punished in public unless he showed himself incorrigible. The bishop kept watch upon the priory for the next two years after the visitation, and examined the prior more than once, to see that the injunctions were observed. (fn. 16) Nothing is recorded to the discredit of the priory in its last days.

The original endowment of this house cannot be exactly given, as there are no foundation charters extant. In the thirteenth century the canons held the churches of Appleby, Risby, Messingham, Blyton, Laughton, Cadney, Orby, (fn. 17) and for some time Bottesford; Scawby was appropriated in. the fourteenth century. (fn. 18) The temporalities of the priory were taxed in 1291 at £75 14s. 10½d., (fn. 19) but this was acknowledged a little later to be too high. In 1303 the prior held one knight's fee in Kirmington and one-half in South Ferriby. One fee in Waddingham and Stainton was held by him jointly with two seculars. (fn. 20) In 1346 he held half a fee in Appleby, one quarter in Raventhorpe, as well as the land in Kirmington, Waddingham, and Stainton. (fn. 21) In 1428 he held the same lands as in 1346. (fn. 22)

In 1534 the clear revenue of the priory was £105 13s. (fn. 23) The Ministers' Accounts amount to £149 12s. 6½d., including the rectories of Appleby, Orby, Cadney, Laughton, South Ferriby, Messingham, Risby with Scawby, and the granges of Messingham and South Ferriby. (fn. 24)

Priors of Thornholm

Walter, (fn. 25) occurs 1202-8

Andrew, (fn. 26) occurs 1226

Geoffrey, (fn. 27) occurs 1229

John of Sixhills, (fn. 28) elected 1262

Laurence, (fn. 29) occurs 1274

Thomas de Hedon, (fn. 30) occurs 1292, died 1307

Walter of Revesby, (fn. 31) elected 1307, occurs to 1320

Richard of Gainsborough, (fn. 32) occurs 1346, died 1349

William of Seagrave, (fn. 33) elected and died 1349

Roger of Belton, (fn. 34) elected 1349

John Wascelyn, (fn. 35) occurs 1365, died 1383

John de Castro, (fn. 36) elected 1383, resigned 1413

William Ashendon, (fn. 37) or Wrangel, elected 1413

Robert Neville, (fn. 38) occurs 1440-2

John Wroth, (fn. 39) occurs 1493

Thomas Tanfield, (fn. 40) occurs 1503 and 1510

Thomas Nower, (fn. 41) occurs 1529

George Clayton, (fn. 42) or Rotherham, elected 1529

A thirteenth-century seal, (fn. 43) with a counterseal of Prior Thomas, represents on a pointed oval obverse the Virgin, with crown, seated on a carved throne; in the right hand a sceptre fleury, on the left knee the Child, with nimbus; over his head an estoile wavy, her feet on a footboard.

The legend on a bevelled edge—


The reverse is a smaller oval counterseal, being the impression of an antique oval gem. Victory to the right reclining against a column, holding a spear and helmet, on the ground before her a shield.


The seal of Prior John (fn. 44) is a pointed oval representing the Virgin, with crown, in a canopied niche with tabernacle work at the sides, on the left arm the Child with cruciform nimbus, on the right an ecclesiastic kneeling in adoration. In base in a carved panel a shield, of arms:—a fretty, a canton.

S . . . . . . . ORNHOLM

The early thirteenth-century seal of Prior Walter (fn. 45) is the pointed oval impression of a gem, the prior, half length, lifting up the hands in prayer; in base two wavy lines of water.



  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 356 (from the Assize Roll) and Assize R. 483, m. 50 d.
  • 2. Inq. p.m. 40 Edw. III, No. 31; Pat. 7 Ric. 11, pt. ii, m. 24.
  • 3. Boyd and Massingberd, Abstracts of Final Concords, 225.
  • 4. It had been originally granted by Guy de Vere, grandfather of Simon; and in the minority of Simon was claimed by the crown. The suit was postponed until Simon should be of age; and then at the final concord it was decided in favour of the prior, though Simon was to present during his lifetime (Ibid. and Bracton's Note Book, case 1364).
  • 5. Pat. 3 Edw. I, m. 32.
  • 6. Ibid. 8. Edw. I, in. 15 d.
  • 7. See Pat. Rolls.
  • 8. Pat. 21 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 13; Cal, of Pap. Pet. i, 50.
  • 9. See list of priors.
  • 10. Pat. 7 Ric. II, pt. ii, m. 24.
  • 11. L. and P. Hen. VIII, vii, 1121 (55).
  • 12. Mins. Accts. 27-28 Hen. VIII, No. 166.
  • 13. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Dalderby, 186; ibid. Memo. Gynwell, 179.
  • 14. Ibid. Memo. Repingdon, 29. The date is limited by the resignation of John de Castro in 1413.
  • 15. It. was alleged as a proof of his cruelty that a sick canon was put to public penance in hall before canons and seculars for not making his confession to the prior, although he had received a licence to choose his own confessor. For the sake of the prior's credit, however, it should be added that the punishment was not so very terrible, though no doubt it was hard for the natural man to bear. He was served in the open hall with fish—in Easter week, when all his brethren around were rejoicing at the conclusion of a long course of red herrings and salted cod.
  • 16. Visitations of Alnwick (Alnwick Tower), 86 d.
  • 17. Pat. 21 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 13; and Cal. of Pap. Pet. i, 50.
  • 18. Pat. 20 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 32.
  • 19. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 69.
  • 20. Feud. Aids, iii, 134, 173, 175.
  • 21. Ibid. 226, 227, 236.
  • 22. Ibid. 277, 286, 307-9.
  • 23. Valor Eccles. (Rec. Com.), iv, 139.
  • 24. Mins. Accts. 27-28 Hen. VIII, No. 91.
  • 25. Boyd and Massingberd, Abstracts of Final Concords, 22, 72.
  • 26. Ibid. 194.
  • 27. Ibid. 225.
  • 28. Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Gravesend.
  • 29. Mins. Accts. 27-28 Hen. VIII, No. 166.
  • 30. Pat. 20 Edw. I, m. 28 d.; Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Dalderby, 90.
  • 31. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Dalderby, 90; Pat. 14 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 11 d.
  • 32. Pat. 20 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 32.
  • 33. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Gynwell, 106.
  • 34. Ibid.
  • 35. Harl. Chart, 45, A 7; Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Buckingham, 149.
  • 36. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Bokyngham, 149, 152. He was accused by three brethren of crimes not named, but the bishop examined the matter, and found it to be untrue. He resigned the next year, but was re-elected.
  • 37. Ibid. Inst. Repingdon, 136. He is called here William Ashendon of St. Frideswide, and was provided by the bishop at the request of the brethren. In the injunctions of Bishop Repingdon delivered soon after the prior is called William Wrangel; he may, perhaps, be another person.
  • 38. Visitations of Alnwick (Alnwick Tower), 86 d.
  • 39. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 356.
  • 40. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 356; and L. and P. Hen. VIII, i, 1097.
  • 41. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 356. He probably resigned in that year.
  • 42. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv (3), 2699. He was certainly the last prior—Mins. Accts. 27-28 Hen. VIII, No. 166—and had £20 pension. 'Thomas More,' who was receiving a pension of 76s. as prior in 1553, is probably the same as the 'Thomas Nower' who preceded George Clayton, and, as it seems, outlived him (Add. MS. 8102).
  • 43. Harl Chart. 45, A 1.
  • 44. Ibid. 44, A 2.
  • 45. Ibid. 45, A 4.