Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Torksey

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


'Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Torksey', A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2, (London, 1906), pp. 170-171. British History Online [accessed 19 June 2024].

. "Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Torksey", in A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2, (London, 1906) 170-171. British History Online, accessed June 19, 2024,

. "Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Torksey", A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2, (London, 1906). 170-171. British History Online. Web. 19 June 2024,

In this section


The priory of St. Leonard at Torksey was founded some time during the reign of Henry II and possibly by the king himself. (fn. 1) John de Balliol was patron of the house in the thirteenth century, (fn. 2) but in 1344 the advowson was granted by the king to John Darcy and his successors in tail male. (fn. 3)

The prior was accused in 1275 of having set up a court for himself at Torksey, to the prejudice of the king's court there; and appropriated to his house the assize of bread and ale, and enclosed more than 2 feet of the king's highway. (fn. 4) The priory was probably a small one, and had but few canons from the first. (fn. 5) They pleaded poverty in 1319, and were allowed to appropriate the church of St. Peter in consequence. (fn. 6) In 1323 the prior was accused of burning houses in Wold Newton and committing divers robberies and trespasses there; (fn. 7) and in 1342 his house was said to be 'greatly wasted by misrule'; (fn. 8) it was after an inquiry made at this time that the advowson was granted to John Darcy.

The prior signed the acknowledgement of supremacy in 1534 with five canons. At the dissolution (fn. 9) before Michaelmas, 1536, he received a pension of £5, and the canons the usual 20s. (fn. 10)

Except the notice of 'misrule' in 1342 nothing is known of the internal condition of the house (fn. 11) until 1440. In this year Bishop Alnwick held a visitation. No faults in morals were discovered, but it was complained that the prior 'began much building but finished nothing'; and the canons were not regular in attending choir. One brother, John Gowsell, though learned in the mason's craft, objected to having to superintend or assist in the repairs of the church and priory.

The bishop in his injunctions simply ordered that the brethren were not to eat or drink in Torksey unless they were serving its parish churches, and then only with respectable people. (fn. 12) In 1444, however, he deposed the prior for alienation of goods and mismanagement, which was bringing the house almost to ruin. (fn. 13)

In 1519 Bishop Atwater found everything in a satisfactory condition. The canons rose regularly to mattins, though at a somewhat late hour —six a.m.; they were not, however, able to sing any office except the 'Lady Mass' and vespers; all the other hours were said submissa voce, except on double feasts. (fn. 14) It was a very poor little house at this time, and had neither cloister nor dormitory: an order had been given in the general chapter of the previous year that these should be provided, (fn. 15) but it is uncertain whether this was ever carried out.

The endowment seems to have consisted of 498 acres of land in Torksey, with 500 tofts and the three churches of that vill, and also the church of North Restur of the gift of Stephen son of Herbert Chamberlain. (fn. 16) In 1291 the temporalities of the prior were taxed at £24 14s. 4d. (fn. 17) In 1534 the clear revenue of the house was only £13 1s. 4d. (fn. 18) The total in the Ministers' Accounts is £26 10s. 6d., including the churches of St. Mary and St. Peter Torksey. (fn. 19)

Priors of Torksey

John, (fn. 20) occurs 1234

Joel, (fn. 21) resigned 1290

William of Rasen, (fn. 22) elected 1290, resigned 1295

Geoffrey of Bekering, (fn. 23) elected 1295, deposed 1296

William of Rasen, (fn. 24) elected 1296, resigned 1316

Robert de Sandale, (fn. 25) elected 1316, occurs 1323

Henry of Thornborough, (fn. 26) resigned 1332

Henry of Buckingham, (fn. 27) elected 1332

Henry of Croyland, (fn. 28) resigned 1347

John Poignant, (fn. 29) elected 1347, occurs 1348

Robert of Willingham, (fn. 30) occurs 1353

Thomas Saxelby, (fn. 31) elected 1366, resigned 1374

John of St. Botho, (fn. 32) elected 1374

Roger Pacy, (fn. 33) resigned 1416

William Cottingham, (fn. 34) elected 1416, resigned 1417

Richard Ellay, (fn. 35) elected 1417, deposed 1444

Alan Dean, (fn. 36) resigned 1472

William Sutton, (fn. 37) elected 1472

Thomas Cawode, (fn. 38) elected 1486

John Coyell, (fn. 39) last prior, occurs 1534


  • 1. A confirmation charter of John dated 1200 says that the house was 'of our alms, and under our custody and protection,' and alludes to letters of 'Henry our father' conferring privileges.
  • 2. Close, 20 Edw. II, m. 5.
  • 3. Pat. 18 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 2.
  • 4. Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), i, 358.
  • 5. In 1200 they received a privilege not to be impleaded except before the king or his justices; and were thankful to have Geoffrey FitzPeter pay the palfrey which was the price for this concession (Rot. de Oblat. (Rec. Com.), 16, A° 1200).
  • 6. Pat. 13 Edw. II, m. 25. The church was not actually appropriated until 1386.
  • 7. Ibid. 16 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 7 d.
  • 8. Ibid. 16 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 28 d.
  • 9. L. and P. Hen. VIII, vii, 1216 (4).
  • 10. Mins. Accts. 27-28 Hen. VIII, No. 166.
  • 11. A canon was excommunicated for disobedience in 1295 (Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Sutton, 145 d.); and the next year the prior was 'absolved from his rule' for causes unknown (Ibid. 149 d.).
  • 12. Visitations of Alnwick (Alnwick Tower), 21.
  • 13. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Alnwick, 59 d.
  • 14. Visitations of Atwater (Alnwick Tower), 46.
  • 15. Cott. MS. Vesp. D. i, 66 d. The bells, lead, &c. were only worth £65, which looks as if the buildings were not large.
  • 16. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 425; Assize R. Linc. 503, m. 21 d.
  • 17. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 69, 312b.
  • 18. Valor Eccles. (Rec. Com.), iv, 131.
  • 19. Mins. Accts. 27-28 Hen. VIII, No. 91.
  • 20. Boyd and Massingberd, Abstracts of Final Concords, 261.
  • 21. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Sutton, 37 d.
  • 22. Ibid.
  • 23. Ibid. 39.
  • 24. Ibid. 49.
  • 25. Ibid. Inst. Dalderby, 97; Pat. 16 Edw. II, pt. 2, m. 7d.
  • 26. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Burghersh, 103.
  • 27. Ibid.
  • 28. Ibid, Inst. Gynwell, 104.
  • 29. Ibid. Close, 22 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 20 d.
  • 30. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 425.
  • 31. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Gynwell, 30 d.
  • 32. Ibid. Inst. Bokyngham, 140.
  • 33. Ibid. Inst. Repingdon, 129 d.
  • 34. Ibid.
  • 35. Ibid. 131; and Visitations of Alnwick.
  • 36. Sloane MS. 4937, fol. 267.
  • 37. Ibid.
  • 38. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 425.
  • 39. L. and P. Hen. VIII, vii, 1216 (4).