Alien houses: The priory of Burwell

Pages 238-239

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.


In this section


The alien priory of Burwell, for Benedictine monks, was probably built quite early in the twelfth century, during the first years of King Henry I. Ansgot of Burwell, (fn. 1) in his foundation charter, stated that after receiving hospitality from the holy and religious house of La Sauve Majeure (near Bordeaux) he determined to grant to the monks there, because of their great love and charity, the churches of Burwell with its chapel of Authorpe, Carlton, Muckton, and Walmsgate, with a bovate of land in Burwell. The charter was addressed to Robert bishop of Lincoln (1094-1123), and its probable date is about 1110. (fn. 2) Hugh FitzOsbert and his mother Adeliza, who granted a meadow in Carlton a little later, made out their charter to the 'brethren of Burwell,' showing that the priory was already built; Dame Adeliza herself placed the deed of gift on the altar of St. Saviour in the conventual church, on behalf of herself and her sons—'for the love of God, and in satisfaction for their sins.' (fn. 3)

About 1130 King Henry I ordered the sheriff of Lincolnshire, Reyner of Bath, to see that the monks of Burwell held their lands as they did in the time of Ansgot and of Humphrey d'Albini. (fn. 4) Ralf de la Haya son of Ralf confirmed all previous endowments, and added other gifts about 1150. (fn. 5) The monks seem to have suffered some loss during the exchanges of land which took place in the time of Stephen, and one of them sought out Robert de Haya in Normandy, and asked him for a new charter of confirmation. (fn. 6) Another benefactor was William d'Albini. (fn. 7) The patronage of the house passed afterwards to the lords of Kyme. (fn. 8)

The priory of Burwell was not in the strict sense an alien cell, as the duchy of Aquitaine, to which the parent abbey belonged, was under the rule of the kings of England until the conclusion of the Hundred Years' War; but as it belonged to a monastery on the other side of the channel it was always liable to be reckoned as alien property by mistake during the wars with France. In 1337 and 1342 it was thus seized, but its property was restored again when the prior pleaded that he was born of the king's allegiance, and no alien. (fn. 9) There was at that time apparently only one monk at Burwell in charge of the estates. In 1347 he pleaded for the remission of a charge of 60s. on the ground that he belonged to the duchy of Aquitaine, and that his house was greatly impoverished by those who had farmed it, and by payment of tithes. (fn. 10) The petition was granted for the time; but in 1386 the house was again seized, (fn. 11) and after the conclusion of the war it could no longer be reckoned as anything but an alien cell. In 1427, on the death of the prior, it was found that the site of the priory with dilapidated houses was worth nothing beyond reprises: 140 acres of arable land were worth 2d. an acre, the rectory 14s., the oblation at the cross of Burwell from 40s. to 2 marks, there were 76s. of annual rent, pensions from the churches of Authorpe and Walmsgate, and some meadow land, tithes of Burwell Wood, &c. (fn. 12) It was granted finally to the college of Tattershall. (fn. 13)

The value of the revenues of Burwell in 1371 was reckoned as £14 16s. 10d.; in 1387 as £15 13s. 2d. (fn. 14)

Priors of Burwell

Gilbert, (fn. 15) occurs before 1150

Adam, thirteenth century (fn. 16)

Amfred, (fn. 17) died 1293

Peter Pelata, (fn. 18) presented 1293, died 1314

John of Louth, (fn. 19) 1314 to 1317

Hugh de Vallibus, (fn. 20) presented 1317

John de Ponte, (fn. 21) presented 1324, died 1344

William Arnold of Calhavet, (fn. 22) presented 1344, occurs 1347

Peter de Monte Ardito, (fn. 23) occurs 1403, died 1418

Hugh de Lespurassa, (fn. 24) presented 1418

Peter de Monte Ardito (fn. 25) of 'Acquietan,' dead in 1427

All these were presented by the abbot of La Sauve Majeure, and instituted by the bishop. At the institution of Hugh de Vallibus a note is added, that no inquiry was made, as it was not customary.


  • 1. See Domesday translation.
  • 2. Round, Cal. of Doc. France, i, 448, No. 1239.
  • 3. Round, Cal. of Doc. France, i, 448, No. 1240.
  • 4. Ibid. 1241.
  • 5. Ibid. Nos. 1242, 1243.
  • 6. Ibid. No. 1244.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 1015. Gilbert d'Umfraville in the fourteenth century said it was of the foundation of his ancestors.
  • 9. Close, 11 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 41; ibid. 16 Edw. III. pt. ii, m. 13.
  • 10. Pat. 21 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 15.
  • 11. Ibid. 10 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 17.
  • 12. Add. MS. 6165, fol. 145.
  • 13. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 1015; Pat. 36 Hen. VIII, pt. xi, m. 39.
  • 14. Add. MS. 6164, fols. 411, 480.
  • 15. Round, Cal. of Doc. France, i, 449.
  • 16. Harl. Chart. 51 D. 24.
  • 17. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Sutton, 7.
  • 18. Ibid.
  • 19. Ibid. Inst. Dalderby, 54.
  • 20. Ibid. 68.
  • 21. Ibid. Inst. Burghersh, 11.
  • 22. Ibid. Inst. Bek, 12 d.
  • 23. Acts of the Privy Council (Rec. Com.), i, 190-3.
  • 24. Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Repingdon, 95.
  • 25. Add. MS. and 6165, fol. 145.