House of Austin canons (Arrouasian reform): The abbey of Bourne

Pages 177-178

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

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The abbey of Bourne was founded in 1138 by Baldwin, a younger son of Gilbert de Clare and brother of the first earl of Pembroke. (fn. 1) By the marriage of the founder's daughter with Hugh Wake the patronage of the house passed into the hands of the lords of Liddell, with whom it continued till the fourteenth century.

The foundation charter was made out to Gervase, abbot of St. Nicholas of Arrouaise, but it was not intended as a cell of that abbey; it was an independent house with an abbot of its own from the. first. The Arrouasian canons differed very little from other Augustinians, and sometimes abandoned at an early date the slight distinctions they originally had; but the abbots of Bourne retained to the last some tradition of independence, and kept up also some links of connexion with the abbey of Missenden in Bucks, which had a similar origin.

In 1311 and 1324 attempts were made by the king's escheator to claim this house as a royal foundation, but the Wakes were successful in proving their right. (fn. 2) It never attained any great wealth or importance; the original number of canons was probably twelve, who had dwindled after the great pestilence to seven (fn. 3); they were eleven again in the fifteenth century, and at the surrender there were nine besides the prior.

In 1401 the abbot acquired the possessions of the alien priory of Wilsford, by purchase from the abbot of Bec Herlouin (fn. 4); but it did not bring them much increase of revenue. In 1536 the revenue of the house was under £200, and it was accordingly dissolved, the abbot receiving a pension of £24, and the canons 20s., besides their wages and capacities. (fn. 5)

In 1309 the abbot complained of violence done to one of his canons by seculars. (fn. 6) In 1349 another abbot had some difficulties with his diocesan, which ended in his excommunication, but the bishop was obliged to invoke the secular arm to enforce the sentence. (fn. 7) In 1359 the abbot of Missenden, who had been guilty of tampering with the coinage, was imprisoned at Bourne. (fn. 8) The abbey does not seem to have been very happily ruled about this time. A canon of Bourne in 1368 received a licence from the pope to transfer himself to another house of the same order, on account of the injuries he had received from his own abbot (fn. 9); and it was noticed a little earlier that other canons had forsaken the abbey for the priory of Cottingham in Northamptonshire, which was also of the patronage of the Wakes. (fn. 10)

The injunctions of Bishop Flemyng in 1422 contain nothing but formal directions as to the maintenance of the rule. (fn. 11) The visitation of Bishop Alnwick in 1440 shows very little irregularity; the canons nearly all said omnia bene, but the prior said that they sometimes drank with their friends in the town of Bourne. A single case of apostacy was reported. (fn. 12) The report of Bishop Atwater in 1519 was again satisfactory. The brethren did not, however, observe the refectory, but ate habitually with the lord abbot; it was enjoined that henceforth some at least should go to the refectory. The bishop observed with approval that the abbot had ordered senior and junior canons alike to say their masses in regular order. Accounts; however, were not shown annually, and the sick needed better provision; the younger canons were exhorted to be more obedient to their seniors. (fn. 13)

About the same time the abbot of Bourne was summoned to a general chapter of the order, but declined to go, as it seems, on the ground of the Arrouasian origin of his house. (fn. 14)

Nothing is known of the last days of this monastery, except that one of its canons had to serve out capacities to his brethren and other ejected religious after the dissolution. (fn. 15)

The original endowment consisted of the churches of Bourne, Helpringham, Morton, East and West Deeping, Barholm, Stowe, South Hykeham, Skillington, East Wykeham (Est wic), Linc., and Thrapston, Northants; and lands in Bourne and Spanby, with mills and tithes of different kinds. (fn. 16) The churches of Bitchfield and Glatton were granted at an early date by other benefactors. (fn. 17) In 1291 the temporalities of the abbey in Lincolnshire and Rutlandshire were taxed at £42 11s. 9d. (fn. 18) In 1303 the abbot had a third of a knight's fee as well as one and a half bovates in Bourne (fn. 19); in 1346 a small fraction also in Scottlethorpe. (fn. 20) In 1534 the clear revenue of the abbey was £167 14s. 6½d., including the rectories of Bourne, Morton, Helpringham, Bitchfield, Barholm, and Stowe. (fn. 21) The Ministers' Accounts amount to £187 1s. 7¾d. (fn. 22); the bells, lead, &c., were worth £121 10s. (fn. 23)

Abbots of Bourne

David, (fn. 24) occurs about 1156

Baldwin, (fn. 25) occurs 1212 to 1218

Everard Gutt, (fn. 26) occurs 1224, resigned 1237

William of Ripton, (fn. 27) elected 1237

Robert de Hamme, (fn. 28) 1248, died 1260

Robert de Hasceby, (fn. 29) elected 1260, resigned 1275

William of Spalding, (fn. 30) elected 1275

Alan de Wauz, (fn. 31) died 1292

Thomas de Calstewith, (fn. 32) elected 1292, died 1313

William of St. Albans, (fn. 33) elected 1313, resigned 1314

William of Abbotsley, (fn. 34) elected 1314, died 1324

John de Wytheton, (fn. 35) elected 1324, died 1334

Simon of Walton, (fn. 36) elected 1334, died 1355

Thomas of Grantham, (fn. 37) elected 1355, died 1369

Geoffrey of Deeping, (fn. 38) elected 1369, occurs to 1406

William Irnham, (fn. 39) occurs 1440

Henry, (fn. 40) died 1500

Thomas Fort, (fn. 41) collated 1500

William Grisby, (fn. 42) died 1512

John Small, (fn. 43) last abbot, occurs 1534

The twelfth-century common seal (fn. 44) represents St. Peter with a nimbus, seated on a throne to the left, lifting up the right hand in benediction; in the left hand a key of early form placed over the left shoulder.


The pointed oval seal of Abbot John Small (fn. 45) shows the abbot standing in a canopied niche with tabernacle work at the sides, in the right hand a pastoral staff, in the left hand a book.

. . . . LUM: IOHANNIS: ABBATIS: DE: BRUN . . . .


  • 1. Foundation Chart. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 370; Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 160; and Peerage Studies, 75.
  • 2. Close, 4 Edw. II, m. 10, and 17 Edw. II. The patronage afterwards passed to the earls of Kent.
  • 3. Cal. of Pap. Letters, iii, 574 (1335).
  • 4. Cal. of Pap. Letters, v, and Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Repingdon, 122.
  • 5. Mins. Accts. 27-28 Hen. VIII, 166.
  • 6. Pat. 2 Edw. II, m. 2 d.
  • 7. Ibid. 24 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 9.
  • 8. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Gynwell, 116.
  • 9. Cal. of Pap. Letters, iv, 75. The inquiry into the matter was entrusted to the abbot of Missenden.
  • 10. Ibid. i, 245.
  • 11. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Fleming, 235 d.
  • 12. Visitations of. Alnwick (Alnwick Tower), 64.
  • 13. Visitations of Atwater (Alnwick Tower), 47. The house was £80 in debt.
  • 14. Cott. MS. Vesp. D. i, 66 d. He simply said that he was 'not of their chapter,' and the abbot of Dorchester (also Arrouasian) made a similar plea.
  • 15. Gasquet, Hen. VIII and the English Monasteries, ii, 450.
  • 16. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 371.
  • 17. Liber. Antiq. (ed. Gibbon), 7; Cal of Pap. Pet. i, 364.
  • 18. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 66b and 68b.
  • 19. Feud. Aids, iii, 166, 168.
  • 20. Ibid. 193, 210, 211.
  • 21. Valor Eccles. (Rec. Com.), iv, 103.
  • 22. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 371.
  • 23. Mins. Accts. 27-28 Hen. VIII, No. 166.
  • 24. Cott. MS. Vesp. C xx, fol. 91 d. Contemporary with Gilbert of Sempringham and Walo of Revesby.
  • 25. Boyd and Massingberd, Abstracts of Final Concords, 106, 126.
  • 26. Ibid. i, 173; Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Grosseteste.
  • 27. Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Grosseteste.
  • 28. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 370; Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Gravesend.
  • 29. Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Gravesend.
  • 30. Ibid.
  • 31. Ibid. Inst. Sutton, 7.
  • 32. Ibid.
  • 33. Ibid. Inst. Dalderby, 45; Pat. 8 Edw. II, i, m. 18.
  • 34. Ibid. Inst. Dalderby, 52; Close, 17 Edw. II, m. 24.
  • 35. Cal. of Pap. Letters, ii, 523.
  • 36. Ibid. and Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Gynwell, 62.
  • 37. Ibid.
  • 38. Ibid. Inst. Buckingham, 34 d.; Cal. of Pap. Letters, vi, 75.
  • 39. Visitations of Alnwick (Alnwick Tower), 64.
  • 40. Harl. MS. 6953, fol. 13.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. L. and P. Hen. VIII, i, 1802.
  • 43. Ibid. vii, 1024.
  • 44. B.M. Seals, lxvi, 86.
  • 45. Ibid. 87.