Houses of the Gilbertine order: The priory of Alvingham

Pages 192-194

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, Alvingham, was founded as a double house between 1148 and 1154, possibly by Hugh de Scotney or one of his tenants. (fn. 1) In a few years the convent possessed lands in Alvingham, Cockerington, and Calthorp, and the churches of St. Adelwold, Alvingham, and St. Mary, Cockerington, which stood in the same churchyard, within the precinct of the priory, and the churches of St. Leonard, Cockerington, Cawthorpe, Keddington, and Newton. (fn. 2) Hamelin, the dean, gave three parts of the church of St. Adelwold of Alvingham, the fourth part having been given by Roger Fitz Gocelyn. (fn. 3) In view of this endowment, St. Gilbert limited the number of inmates to eighty nuns and lay sisters, and forty canons and lay brothers. (fn. 4)

Before 1251 the prior and convent had granges at Alvingham, Cockerington, Grainthorpe, Keddington, Newton, Cabourne, Coningsby, and Swinfleet, (fn. 5) houses or rents in Lincoln, Louth, Boston, and Great Grimsby, and lands in several other townships in the county. (fn. 6) Like many other religious houses they profited by the embarrassment of lesser barons and knights, and in 1232 were able to purchase the greater part of the manor of Alvingham from John de Melsa, his father and mother, by paying off their debt of 87½ marks to certain Jews. (fn. 7)

Their claim to two parts of the church of St. Andrew, Stainton, involved them in a struggle with Robert Grosteste. (fn. 8) He revoked the appropriation made by his predecessor, (fn. 9) but in 1245 the prior's appeal to Innocent IV was finally successful. (fn. 10) The grant of the church of Grainthorpe by Brian of Yarborough (fn. 11) was disputed by his sons, but the suit was decided in favour of Alvingham in 1251. (fn. 12)

A wise compact with the neighbouring Cistercian house of Louth Park in 1174 provided against that most fruitful source of strife, the acquisition of lands. (fn. 13) It was agreed that neither house should hire nor acquire for a price cultivated or uncultivated lands without the consent and advice of the other. If the convent of Louth Park broke the contract the convent of Alvingham could take a third of the land for a third of the price paid. On the other hand, the convent of Louth Park could take two-thirds of the land of Alvingham for two-thirds of the price. The pact was to be kept in twenty townships in Lincolnshire.

In 1254 the spiritualities of the house were assessed at £56 13s. 4d., the temporalities at £53 17s. 4½d. (fn. 14) The number of small grants in Alvingham and Cockerington suggests that the prior and convent were popular with their neighbours, or at least very successful in inducing them to part with their land. In 1291 the temporalities had increased to £81 14s. 2½d. (fn. 15) The revenues were considerably augmented by the sale of wool, which averaged ten sacks a year at the beginning of the fourteenth century. (fn. 16)

In 1303 the prior held half a knight's fee in Newton, half in Keddington, one-quarter in Alvingham, and one-sixth of another, a quarter in Yarborough and Grimblethorpe, one-sixth in Swinhope, one-eighth and one-fortieth in Cockerington, one-twentieth in Tathwell. In 1428 he also held a quarter in Welton. (fn. 17)

In 1402 Boniface IX granted an indulgence for the chapel of the Virgin at the gate of the priory. (fn. 18)

The prior commented on the economic effects of the Black Death in a petition to Alnwick, bishop of Lincoln, in 1448. (fn. 19) The rectors of the church of Grainthorpe had ceased 'for frivolous reasons' to pay a pension of £10 a year, and the prior was anxious to exercise his privilege to appropriate the church, which was worth 47 marks. He pleaded that owing to floods, sterile lands, pestilence among sheep and cattle, and other sinister events in the past, the convent could not maintain its wonted hospitality. An appeal to Pope Paul II in 1465 resulted in a bull enabling the prior to hold some benefice in commendam on account of the great cost of hospitality. (fn. 20)

The house was surrendered on 29 September, 1538, by the prior and seven canons. (fn. 21) The prioress and eleven nuns were included with them in the pension list. (fn. 22)

In 1535 the clear yearly value of the property amounted to £128 14s. 10d. (fn. 23) Of this sum over £38 was drawn from rectories. The demesne lands farmed by the prior and convent were worth £20 a year. All the granges, lands, and tenements were let. The Earl of Northumberland unjustly held possession of a wood worth £10 a year.

Four years later, in the hands of the crown bailiff, the property brought in £131 16s. 5d., (fn. 24) and included the rectories of Alvingham, Cockerington St. Mary, Cockerington St. Leonard, Keddington, Grainthorpe, and Stainton, and granges, lands, and rents in those places, and at Yarborough, Stewton, South Somercotes, Wold Newton, Clee, Great Grimsby, Swinfleet, Flixborough, Normanby, Boston, Rasen, Louth, Lincoln, and elsewhere.

Priors of Alvingham

Geoffrey, occurs 1174 (fn. 25)

Reginald, occurs 1195 (fn. 26)

Martin, occurs 1208 (fn. 27)

Roger, occurs 1229 (fn. 28)

William of Freisby, 1232 (fn. 29) and 1240 (fn. 30)

Richard, occurs 1247 (fn. 31)

Alexander, occurs 1256 (fn. 32)

Ralph, occurs 1267 (fn. 33) and 1282 (fn. 34)

Thomas, occurs 1307 (fn. 35)

Gilbert, occurs 1309 (fn. 36)

William, occurs 1317 (fn. 37)

G. de Nesse, occurs 1340 (fn. 38)

Thomas of Brompton, occurs 1376 (fn. 39)

John Busby, occurs 1436 (fn. 40)

John Burton, occurs 1465 (fn. 41)

Robert Ingelby, occurs 1534 (fn. 42) to 1538 (fn. 43)

Prioress of Alvingham

Joan Barker, occurs 1538 (fn. 44)

A seal of the thirteenth century (fn. 45) is a pointed oval, and represents the Virgin, crowned, seated on a carved throne, with ornamental corbel; the Child on the left knee. The legend is—


A similar seal is attached to the surrender. (fn. 46)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. vii, 958.
  • 2. Dugdale, Mon. vii, 958.
  • 3. Misc. Laud MS. (Bodl. Lib.), 642, fol. 10.
  • 4. Dugdale, Mon. vii, 958.
  • 5. Ibid. vii, 960. The bull should be assigned to Innocent IV, not Innocent III. Robert was master 1225-51.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Ibid. vii, 958.
  • 8. Misc. Laud MS. (Bodl. Lib.), 642, fol. 3 v.
  • 9. Liber Antiq. (ed. A. W. Gibbons), 67.
  • 10. Misc. Laud MS. (Bodl. Lib.), 642, fol. 5.
  • 11. Ibid. fol. 96.
  • 12. Ibid. fol. 96 v. 98.
  • 13. Ibid. fol. 130 v.
  • 14. Cott. MS. Claud. D, xi, fol. 278 v.
  • 15. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 771, 325b.
  • 16. W. Cunningham, Growth of Engl. Industry and Commerce (ed. 1905), i, 635, the prices varying from 18 to 9 marks the sack, according to the quality.
  • 17. Feud. Aids, iii, passim.
  • 18. Cal. Pap. Letters, v, 574.
  • 19. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Alnwick, fol. 77 d.
  • 20. Ibid. Memo. Chedworth, fol. 74.
  • 21. Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii, App. ii, 7.
  • 22. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. 233, fol. 27
  • 23. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 58.
  • 24. Dugdale, Mon. vii, 961.
  • 25. Misc. Laud MS. (Bodl. Lib.), 642, fol. 130v.
  • 26. Ibid. fol. 146 v.
  • 27. Ibid. fol. 143 v.
  • 28. Ibid. fol. 146 v.
  • 29. Ibid. fol. 130 v.
  • 30. Ibid. fol. 128.
  • 31. Ibid. fol. 142 v.
  • 32. Ibid. fol. 142 v.
  • 33. Ibid. fol. 161 v.
  • 34. Ibid. fol. 162.
  • 35. Ibid. fol. 121.
  • 36. Ibid. fol. 41.
  • 37. Ibid. fol. 85.
  • 38. Ibid. fol. 137 v.
  • 39. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Bokyngham, fol. 144 d.
  • 40. Misc. Laud MS. (Bodl. Lib.), 642, fol. 118.
  • 41. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Chedworth, fol. 74.
  • 42. Misc. Laud MS. (Bodl. Lib.), 642, fol. 118.
  • 43. Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii. App. ii, 7.
  • 44. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. 233, fol. 27.
  • 45. B. M. Seals, lxvi, 80.
  • 46. Deed of Surrender (Aug. Off.), No. 3.