Houses of the Gilbertine order: The priory of Bullington

Pages 191-192

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

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The Gilbertine priory of St. Mary, Bullington, was founded as a double house between 1148 and 1154 by Simon, son of William de Kyme. (fn. 1) He gave as a site part of his park of Bullington, and part of his wood and lands on the north and east of the priory, the churches of Bullington and Langton, Hackthorn mill, lands for a grange at Faldingworth, and pasturage in Aldfeld for 600 sheep. (fn. 2) His son, Philip de Kyme, provided for the maintenance of seven canons his demesne land in Faldingworth, the churches of Spridlington and Winthorpe, and a moiety of Friskney. (fn. 3) He gave 20 acres in Huttoft for the clothing of the convent, (fn. 4) and for the farmery of the nuns the church of St. Albinus at Spridlington. (fn. 5) The prior and convent of Sempringham made over their lands at Skirbeck, near Boston, for the care of the sick, (fn. 6) and also granted for half a mark yearly the church of West Torrington, (fn. 7) of which St. Gilbert held the rectory. (fn. 8) Alexander de Crevequer granted 52 acres in Hackthorn, and common of pasture for 500 sheep. (fn. 9) He also united to Bullington the small Gilbertine priory, which his father had founded on the island of Tunstall. (fn. 10)

The numbers were limited by the statute of St. Gilbert to 100 nuns and lay sisters, and 50 canons and lay brothers. (fn. 11)

Throughout the thirteenth century the prior and convent continued to acquire both lands and churches. In 1248 they obtained a bull from Innocent IV enabling them to appropriate the church of Prestwold, worth 65 marks, because they had to maintain 100 women who, for lack of necessaries, suffered in health. (fn. 12) In 1254 the spiritualities were assessed at £100, the temporalities at £96 3s. 6d. (fn. 13) In 1277 a licence was obtained to appropriate in mortmain lands, tenements, or churches to the value of £40 a year, (fn. 14) the endowment was increased by small sums spread over many years, (fn. 15) but in 1291 the assessment of the temporalities had risen to £111 5s. 7½d. (fn. 16) In 1310 John Dalderby, bishop of Lincoln, allowed the prior and convent to appropriate the church of Ingham, because the house was burdened with 'a multitude' of nuns and lay sisters, the revenues were quite inadequate, and great expenses 'which ought to be still greater' were incurred in providing hospitality. (fn. 17) Yet the house had a large trade in wool, selling in the fourteenth century 18 sacks a year. (fn. 18)

In 1303 the prior held a knight's fee in Hardwick by Wragby, half a fee in Ingham, a quarter of the fee of Croft, Friskney, Burgh and Winthorpe, one-eighth of another in Burgh, a quarter of a fee in Fulletby and Oxcombe, one-thirtieth of another in Oxcombe, one-sixth in Redbourne, one-sixth and one-fortieth of one fee in Hainton, and one-twelfth in Lissington, one-eighth and one-fifteenth in Hainton, onetenth in Hackthorn, one-twelfth in Wragby, and one-eightieth of half a fee in Rand. In 1346 he also held half a fee in Torrington, and in 1428 three-quarters of a fee in Bilsby and Huttoft. (fn. 19)

Bullington, like the other Gilbertine houses, never recovered from the effects of the Black Death. The revenues from churches in Lincolnshire dwindled greatly; indeed in 1428 there were not ten persons domiciled in the parishes of Bullington (fn. 20) and St. Albinus, Spridlington. (fn. 21) For this reason the prior and convent suffered the church of St. Albinus at Spridlington to fall into ruin, and in 1417 they gladly consented to its union with the church of St. Hilary. (fn. 22) In 1448 they petitioned that their third of the church of Fulletby might be united to the remainder, as no rector would accept that portion on account of its great poverty. (fn. 23)

In 1449, just before the Wars of the Roses, they complained to the bishop of Lincoln of trespass and damage in ten of their granges, and prayed him to excommunicate the offenders in virtue of a bull of Innocent IV. (fn. 24)

The house was surrendered on 26 September, 1538, by the prior and nine canons, (fn. 25) the prioress and fourteen nuns were included with them in the pension list. (fn. 26)

In 1535 the net annual value of the property amounted to £158 7s. 11d. (fn. 27) Of this sum £91 6s. 2d. was drawn from the rectories of Hackthorn, Burgh in the Marsh, Winthorpe, West Torrington, Langton, Friskney, and Prestwold. All the granges and tenements were let, and the demesne at Bullington farmed by the prior and convent was only worth £5 a year.

In the hands of the crown bailiff four years later the property brought in £78; (fn. 28) however, the more valuable rectories, the site of the priory, and several of the granges had already been granted away. (fn. 29)

Priors of Bullington

Richard, occurs 1164 (fn. 30)

Henry, occurs 1199 (fn. 31)

Hugh, occurs 1215 (fn. 32)

William, occurs 1226 and 1235 (fn. 33)

Walter, occurs 1261 (fn. 34)

Gilbert, 1308 (fn. 35)

Robert Hotun, 1402 (fn. 36)

Henry, 1452 (fn. 37)

Thomas Ingilby, occurs 1522 (fn. 38)

Richard Bretton, 1529, (fn. 39) 1535, and 1538 (fn. 40)

Prioress of Bullington

Mary Sutton, occurs 1538 (fn. 41)

There are several seals of Bullington Priory. The first, (fn. 42) attached to a deed of the twelfth century, is in shape a pointed oval. It represents the Virgin seated, wearing a flat cap and dress with long sleeves, and holding the Child on her lap with her left hand, and in her right hand she has a flower. (fn. 43) The legend is SIGNUM COVENTUS SANTE MARIE DE BVLINGTVN.

An early chapter seal of the thirteenth century, (fn. 44) in shape a pointed oval, represents an ornamental fleur-de-lis. The legend is SIGILLVM DE BVLLINTVN.

A later chapter seal of the thirteenth century is a smaller pointed oval, and represents a bust in profile to the left, couped at the neck. (fn. 45) The legend is wanting.

A seal ad causas of the early fourteenth century is a pointed oval, and represents the Virgin crowned, and with a nimbus, seated in a canopied niche with tabernacle work at the sides, the Child on her left knee. In base, under a pointed arch, the prior is kneeling in prayer, to the right. (fn. 46) The legend is . . . PRIOR' ET CONVENTVS DE BOLINGTON AD CAUSAS.

A seal of Prior Walter of the middle of the thirteenth century is a small pointed oval, with an eagle displayed. (fn. 47)

The seal attached to the surrender represents the Virgin crowned, with the Child on her lap. (fn. 48)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. vii, 952.
  • 2. Dugdale, Mon. vii, 952.
  • 3. Add. MS. 6118, fol. 375v.
  • 4. Ibid. fol. 380v.
  • 5. Ibid. fol. 383.
  • 6. Ibid. fol. 393.
  • 7. Ibid. fol. 375v.
  • 8. Dugdale, Mon. vii, p. vi; cf. Arch. Journ. xxxiii, 183.
  • 9. Dugdale, Mon. vii, 953.
  • 10. Ibid. 953, 982.
  • 11. Ibid. xcvii, cap. 6.
  • 12. Cal. Pap. Letters, i, 258.
  • 13. Cott. MS. Claud. D, xi, fol. 278v.
  • 14. Harl. Chart. 43 D, 16.
  • 15. Ibid.
  • 16. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 70b.
  • 17. Harl. Chart. 43 H, 35.
  • 18. W. Cunningham, Growth of Engl. Industry and Commerce (ed. 1905), i, 635, at prices varying from 22 to 9½ marks a sack.
  • 19. Feud. Aids, iii, passim.
  • 20. Ibid. 311.
  • 21. Ibid. 331.
  • 22. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Repingdon, fol. 151 d, 171.
  • 23. Ibid. Memo. Alnwick, fol. 23.
  • 24. Harl. Chart. 43 I, 11.
  • 25. Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii, App. ii, 10.
  • 26. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. 233, fol. 134.
  • 27. Valor Eccles. (Rec. Com.), iv, 84.
  • 28. Dugdale, Mon. vii, 954.
  • 29. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (1), No. 651.
  • 30. Stowe MS. 937, fol. 145v.
  • 31. Add. MS. 6118, fol. 388v.
  • 32. Ibid. fol. 421.
  • 33. Add. MS. fol. 421, 407.
  • 34. Harl. Chart. 44 A, 43; 44 A, 44.
  • 35. Ibid. 44 B, 5.
  • 36. Ibid. 43 F, 12.
  • 37. Ibid. 44 B, 15.
  • 38. Linc. N. and Q. v, 36.
  • 39. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv (3), No. 6047.
  • 40. Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii, App. ii, 10.
  • 41. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. 233, fol. 134.
  • 42. Birch, Cat. of Seals, i, 467.
  • 43. Ibid. 468.
  • 44. Ibid.
  • 45. Ibid.
  • 46. Ibid.
  • 47. Ibid.
  • 48. .D. of Surrender (Aug. Off.), 24.