Religious Houses: House of Bridgettines

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1, Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, the Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes To 1870, Private Education From Sixteenth Century. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1969.

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'Religious Houses: House of Bridgettines', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1, Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, the Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes To 1870, Private Education From Sixteenth Century, (London, 1969), pp. 182-191. British History Online [accessed 19 June 2024].

. "Religious Houses: House of Bridgettines", in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1, Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, the Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes To 1870, Private Education From Sixteenth Century, (London, 1969) 182-191. British History Online, accessed June 19, 2024,

. "Religious Houses: House of Bridgettines", A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1, Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, the Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes To 1870, Private Education From Sixteenth Century, (London, 1969). 182-191. British History Online. Web. 19 June 2024,

In this section


7. SYON ABBEY (fn. 1)

The foundation of Syon Abbey at Isleworth in 1415 (fn. 2) brought to fruition plans for the introduction of the Bridgettine Order into England that had been in the mind of Henry, Lord FitzHugh (d. 1425), Constable of England and King's Chamberlain, (fn. 3) for over ten years. (fn. 4) In 1406 he had visited the mother-house at Vadstena in Sweden and granted the Order his manor of Cherry Hinton (Cambs.) if some of the community could be sent to form the nucleus of a house in England. (fn. 5) Although two Swedish brothers came in 1408, (fn. 6) the project made little headway until Henry V became interested in it and, after himself laying the foundation-stone of Syon in the presence of the Bishop of London on 22 February 1415, (fn. 7) issued the foundation charter on 3 March. (fn. 8)

Syon was the only monastery of the Order of St. Saviour, commonly known as the Bridgettine Order from its foundress St. Bridget of Sweden (d. 1373), to be established in England before the Reformation. (fn. 9) The Order lived under the Rule of St. Augustine, with St. Bridget's Rule of the Saviour as its constitutions. There were also Additions for each house based on those drawn up for Vadstena from her Revelationes Extravagantes. (fn. 10) Many of the unusual features of the new Order were noted by Walsingham. The community was to consist of 60 sisters, including the abbess, 13 priests, 4 deacons, and 8 lay brothers, corresponding to the 12 apostles, the 72 disciples, and St. Paul; they were to use wool, not linen; there was to be a common church, with the nuns' choir above that of the brethren; the convents must have sufficient endowment to maintain them without begging, after which they were to accept no further gifts; an audit was to be held every year on the eve of All Saints, and any surplus was to be distributed to the poor; the abbess, with the consent of the community, must choose the confessorgeneral, whom all the brethren must obey; and no one save doctors or workmen might enter the nun's enclosure. (fn. 11) Further details of the work of the Order were given by St. Antoninus, who recorded that the sisters carried on lucrative work for the common good and provided both for themselves and the brethren, whose duties included preaching on feast days and hearing confessions. (fn. 12)

The habit was grey. The most distinctive part of the nuns' costume was a white linen crown with bands across the top in the form of a cross upon which five small pieces of red cloth were sewn in honour of the five wounds of Christ. The brethren wore a red cross on their habit over the heart. (fn. 13) In choir the brethren chanted the office according to the diocesan use, but the sisters had a special office in honour of the Blessed Virgin based on St. Bridget's Sermo Angelicus and known as Viridarium Beate Marie. (fn. 14)

Shakespeare has immortalized the legend that the abbey was founded in expiation for the murder of Richard II, (fn. 15) but there is no reference to it in the foundation charter. Henry V simply stated that he was dedicating the new monastery to the glory of the most high Trinity, the most glorious Virgin Mary, and all saints, especially St. Bridget. The nuns and brethren were to dwell in separate courts in the same monastery. They were to celebrate divine service daily for the king during his lifetime and for the salvation of his soul after death, and also for his ancestors and all the faithful departed. The abbey was to be on a parcel of land of the demesne of the king's manor of Isleworth within the parish of Twickenham. It was to be called 'The Monastery of St. Saviour and St. Bridget of Syon' and the community were to have one seal for business transactions. Maud Newton was appointed abbess and William Alnwick confessor-general. On the resignation or death of the abbess the nuns were to have custody of the abbey's possessions without interference from the king or his heirs. Until the revenues had been made up to 1,000 marks a year the balance was to be paid from the Exchequer. Provision was made for a permanent endowment, mainly from the lands of the alien priories, and many of them were to come to Syon when the leases lapsed, including widely scattered properties which had belonged to St. Nicholas, Angers; Caen; Fécamp; Loders; Marmoutiers; Mont St. Michel; St. Bertin; St. Omer; and Séez. (fn. 16)

Henry V also sought papal confirmation for his new foundation. His supplica, drawn up before 1418, stated that he had endowed the monastery of Syon, with Maud Newton and William Alnwick in charge. He asked the Pope to permit these two and other religious to transfer to the new abbey, and also to allow Syon to receive laity and secular clergy until the numbers laid down by their Rule were complete. He requested confirmation of the privileges of the Bridgettine Order as granted during the schism by Urban VI and asked that they should apply to Syon. (fn. 17)

In August 1418 Martin V issued two bulls concerning Syon. Eximie devocionis was addressed to the King and confirmed the appropriation of the churches of Yeovil (Som.) and Croston (Lancs.) to the abbey. (fn. 18) Integre devocionis was directed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, and the Abbot of St. Albans, and authorized them to amend any error in the foundation of Syon and to admit to regular profession those who wished to enter the monastery so that an abbess and confessor could be elected. Moreover, the Pope gave permission for any member of an order of less strict observance to enter Syon. (fn. 19) A third bull, Sane sicut exhibita, issued by Martin V probably belongs to the same period, since some of its provisions were embodied in the Additions to the Rule drawn up for Syon about this time. Under its terms the abbey and all its possessions were to be under the protection of the Holy See and were to be free from all sentences of excommunication, suspension, and interdict except by special mandate of the Pope. However, the bishop of the diocese was to be the visitor as prescribed in the Rule and was also to confirm the election of the abbess and confessor-general. If the ordinary neglected this duty, the abbess and confessor-general might invite any bishop as visitor. (fn. 20)

These bulls were, indeed, issued at a time when the future of the whole Bridgettine Order was in considerable doubt, (fn. 21) but in 1419 the Pope decided in its favour and also granted Syon the privileges and indulgences conferred on the whole Order by the bull Mare magnum of 1413. (fn. 22)

In the meantime work on the buildings was proceeding. Safe conducts for the transport of stone from Yorkshire were sought in 1417 and 1421, (fn. 23) and some materials were brought from Sheen. (fn. 24) Recruitment also continued, as is shown by a licence for Margaret, anchoress of Bodmin, to enter Syon. (fn. 25) Moreover, almost as soon as the foundationstone had been laid, Henry V applied to Vadstena for further brothers and nuns to come to England to train the recruits. The mother-house agreed to this request, which was supported by Philippa, the King's sister and Queen of Sweden, and in May 1415 a party of four professed sisters, three postulants, one priest, and one deacon left Vadstena to join the two brothers already in England. (fn. 26) The task of moulding the new community proved to be one of great difficulty. Disputes arose over the performance of manual work by the choir sisters and over the claim of the English recruits to be fully professed. (fn. 27) Consultations were held with distinguished Benedictine and Cistercian theologians. One such meeting in 1416 was attended by the king himself as well as the whole community of Syon. This conference refused to agree to the proposal that the nuns should be released from domestic duties or to support Maud Newton's claim to be obeyed by the brethren. (fn. 28) Shortly afterwards Maud Newton (fn. 29) and William Alnwick retired, (fn. 30) although before his withdrawal Alnwick helped to draft the Additions to the Rule for use at Syon. (fn. 31) Letters of advice were sent from Vadstena in 1418. The brother who remained with the sisters in England was commended for his patience with their indiscipline. It was also stressed that the English recruits were not yet professed members of the Order. (fn. 32)

It was not until 1420 that the community was ready and the first profession at Syon took place. The Archbishop of Canterbury presided over the ceremony, at which 27 nuns, 5 priests, 2 deacons, and 3 lay brothers pronounced their vows. (fn. 33) Immediately afterwards Joan North was elected the first abbess and Thomas Fishborne the first confessorgeneral. The Bishop of London blessed and installed the abbess, and in the same year granted the brethren the powers of minor papal penitentiaries when hearing the confessions of the community or pilgrims. (fn. 34)

The community had little peace in which to settle into its routine. In 1422 the Pope again ruled against double orders and ordered the Bridgettine communities to separate. (fn. 35) Fishborne left at once for Rome and with difficulty secured exemption for Syon from this decree. (fn. 36) In England the accession of Henry VI meant application for confirmation of the abbey's charters. This was granted early in 1424, although without the exemption from taxes allowed by Henry V. (fn. 37) The community continued to grow, and in 1428 consisted of 41 sisters, 7 priests, a deacon, and 6 lay brothers. (fn. 38)

During the 1420s the abbess was occupied in gaining possession of the estates as leases lapsed or the grantees died. In 1424 lands at Isleworth and in Essex were handed over. (fn. 39) In 1428 the Prior of Lancaster died, and the abbess had to engage in long negotiations over the tithes and arrangements for the vicarage with the Archdeacon of Richmond before she finally secured possession in 1431. (fn. 40)

Further privileges were also obtained from Rome. In 1425 Martin V issued an important bull which, besides forbidding the abbess to alienate property without the majority consent and commanding her to see promptly to the needs of the brethren, granted the brothers the power to release penitents from vows of pilgrimage and to grant the Vincula indulgence to pilgrims visiting Syon. (fn. 41) In the same year the Pope also granted complete independence from Vadstena and freedom from the decrees of the general chapters of the Order, to which the abbey might send delegates or not as the abbess judged best. (fn. 42)

In 1426 the community decided that their original quarters on the site later known as Isleworth or Twickenham Park (fn. 43) were unhealthy and too cramped for their growing numbers. Preparations for a move began. The first stone of the new buildings was laid on 5 February in the presence of Cardinal Beaufort and the Duke of Bedford. (fn. 44) The duke also presented all the sisters of the first profession with rings and service books. (fn. 45) In June surveyors were appointed for the king's works at Isleworth with powers to requisition labour and materials. (fn. 46) The new buildings were ready for occupation by September 1431, when Syon petitioned the king for permission to move. (fn. 47) On 11 November the Archbishop of Canterbury solemnly re-enclosed the community, to which he also presented the vestments used during the ceremony. (fn. 48)

Although the buildings were occupied, repairs and improvements went on throughout the century. In 1443 the abbess obtained letters patent granting her freedom for ten years from molestation by the king's purveyors, who were not to remove building materials on the site or interfere with them on the highways. (fn. 49) Again in 1468 letters of protection were issued for the Mary of Caen carrying Caen stone for Syon. (fn. 50) The scale of the operations may be judged from the fact that between 1461 and 1479 the sum of £6,226 was spent on church, cloister, dormitory, chapter-house, and smithy. (fn. 51)

The most important part of the work was the new church, on which £4,138 had been spent by 1480. (fn. 52) During the building a serious difficulty arose. Syon was apparently following the plan used at Vadstena where the altar had been placed at the west end on account of the slope of the ground. (fn. 53) A sign of papal approval was sought for this because it was contrary to the custom in England. (fn. 54) The new church was completed and consecration took place on 20 October 1488. (fn. 55) This was a day of rejoicing in an otherwise sad year for the community, which had suffered severely from the plague, losing seven sisters and three brothers, including the confessorgeneral. (fn. 56)

Very little remains of the abbey buildings, which have been thoroughly reconstructed by later owners. (fn. 57) It is thought that part of one of the two original cloisters remains in the courtyard, and part of the 15th-century undercroft of the west range is incorporated in the west range of the house. (fn. 58) A carved stone reputed to have been a pinnacle over the gatehouse is still preserved by the present community. (fn. 59) An inventory taken at the Dissolution lists many of the rooms: domestic offices and store houses, rooms for officials such as the butler, receiver-general, and auditor, and guest chambers including one for the king. (fn. 60) Of the few surviving vestments the Syon cope is of outstanding workmanship. (fn. 61)

During the 1440s Henry VI's search for funds for his new foundations at Eton and Cambridge caused Syon great anxiety. Stringent inquiries were made into the titles of grants of lands of the alien priories made by Henry V. (fn. 62) As a result orders were given in June 1440 for an extent to be taken of St. Michael's Mount (Cornw.), as it was to be taken into the king's hands. (fn. 63) About the same time Syon also lost the manor of Tilshead (Wilts.), possessions in Spalding (Lincs.), and revenues of Corsham church (Wilts.). The abbey hastily sought confirmation of other possessions where there might be a flaw in the title, and in 1443 obtained letters patent concerning their property in Sussex and Gloucestershire. (fn. 64)

Henry VI showed his goodwill towards Syon in other ways. Complaints had been made in Rome that, owing to the conduct of the abbess, some of the brethren wished to leave the monastery and no recruits were coming forward to replace them. The Pope ordered the Archbishop of Canterbury to make inquiry, and, if necessary, take disciplinary action. (fn. 65) It was probably in connexion with this that the abbess complained that she had been wrongly cited before the archbishop's court, and she secured from the king exemption from the primate's jurisdiction. (fn. 66) Furthermore, in 1448 the king issued a charter granting extensive legal privileges to the abbey and its tenants. They were to be almost completely exempt from royal justice, the abbess holding all courts on her estates and taking all the profits of justice, whether administered in her own or in the royal courts, if any of her own tenants was concerned. (fn. 67)

Nevertheless Syon welcomed the accession of Edward IV, whose reign opened with the restoration of its lost estates. In 1461 the old charters were confirmed, with the exemption from taxes. (fn. 68) In 1463 the right to four tuns a year of Gascon wine, granted in the original endowment, was restored with arrears from the beginning of the reign. (fn. 69) In 1464 Parliament confirmed to Syon the charter of liberties of 1446–7, the letters patent issued in 1461–2, the Act of 1421–2 separating Isleworth from the Duchy of Cornwall, and all the privileges granted by Pope Martin V. (fn. 70) Finally, in 1465 the abbess procured a further charter confirming all her possessions and granting her licence to acquire further lands. (fn. 71)

Routine confirmations were obtained on the restoration of Henry VI in 1470, in 1486 after the accession of Henry VII, and from Henry VIII in 1512. (fn. 72) In 1513 the right to appoint a coroner at Isleworth (fn. 73) and in 1520 the exemption of Syon tenants from all tolls were confirmed. (fn. 74) In 1503 a minor adjustment took place when Syon gave up the original site of the abbey at Isleworth to Henry VII and received in exchange the advowson of Olney (Bucks.). (fn. 75) The only set-back was at Wolsey's visitation under his legatine powers in 1523, when the abbey had to pay £333. (fn. 76) This visit, made 'wrongfully and suddenly', was one of the charges brought against the cardinal after his fall from power. (fn. 77)

The scattered possessions presented complicated problems of management, and the administrative staff of Syon may be taken as an unusually complete and elaborate example of the usual system adopted by nunneries. (fn. 78) The business affairs of the abbey were the responsibility of the abbess, who delegated the administration to the treasuress and undertreasuress. (fn. 79) The nuns were advised and assisted in their work by a lay staff whose functions may be most clearly seen in the valuation of 1535. (fn. 80) At the head of the central staff was the chief steward. (fn. 81) Two distinguished men held this post early in the 16th century. Sir Richard Sutton, a lawyer in the Inner Temple, probably carried out his duties in person, since he had a room at Syon and took great interest in the Order. (fn. 82) Some time after Sutton's death in 1524 Thomas Cromwell held the office, although the actual work was performed by Thomas Watson, steward of the household and stewardgeneral of all the lordships of the monastery. (fn. 83) The central staff was completed by a receiver-general and an auditor and a clerk. (fn. 84)

Apart from a home farm at Isleworth, which was controlled through a bailiff by the cellaress and provided her with supplies in kind as well as money, most of the lands were farmed through bailiffs. (fn. 85) The lands in Middlesex were managed by the steward of Isleworth, assisted by a steward of the courts and a bailiff. In most counties a steward was in charge and supervised the work of the minor officials for each manor, but in some counties, such as Devon where the lands were extensive, two chief stewards were appointed. (fn. 86) The abbess also needed legal advice and a few scattered references suggest the existence of such a staff. In 1455 Robert Kent B.C.L. was appointed proctor of Syon in all suits. (fn. 87) Three doctors of laws, Thomas Jan, Richard Lichfield, and Walter Knightley, were prayed for as special benefactors because they had acted as advocates for the abbey without fee. (fn. 88)

Expenditure was in the hands of the obedientaries who, apart from the cellaress who had her own resources, drew their funds from and accounted for them to the treasuress. (fn. 89) At Syon the account rolls show that the Rule was followed strictly, no money being given to the sisters, but everything being provided by the officials responsible. (fn. 90) The chief of these were the cellaress, the chamberess, in charge of clothing for both the sisters and the brethren, and the sacrist. (fn. 91) The summary of the accounts drawn up for the fiscal year 1509–10 by the abbess and treasuress showed an income of £1,635 and expenditure of £1,275. The cellaress spent £974, the remainder going to the chamberess, sacrist, and 'various necessary expenses', leaving a surplus of £359. (fn. 92) The work of the cellaress, as revealed by her accounts, was of the most varied nature, partly farming, partly catering. She had not only to buy such items as bread locally and to deal with brewers in London, but also to send her agents to Oxford and Uxbridge to buy sheep and oxen. Livery had to be provided for the servants and payments had to be made for hedging and for attention to sick animals. Even the boats serving the ferry across the Thames came under her charge. (fn. 93) Among the officials helping her were the under-steward for the farm and the clerk of the kitchens for catering.

It was not only through its wealth and widespread lands that Syon became famous. The abbey was widely known for the Vincula indulgence and other pardons obtainable by pilgrims. The Pardon of Syon to be gained by pilgrims at Lammastide and Mid-Lent Sunday was publicized by the poet Audelay about 1426. His 'Salutation to St. Bridget' recounted how the saint originally obtained the indulgence for Vadstena and Henry V later gained the privilege for Syon. (fn. 94) Sermons at the abbey often mentioned these grants, and one composed by Simon Winter, one of the earliest members of the community, has been preserved. Expounding the text Tibi dabo claves regni caelorum (Matt. 16. 19) he first explained the doctrine of indulgences in general and then detailed those to be obtained at Syon. (fn. 95) An added attraction for pilgrims was the special faculty of the brethren for blessing rosaries, granted in 1500 by Pope Alexander VI. (fn. 96) The yearly offerings at St. Bridget's shrine were estimated at £6 13s. 4d. in 1535, the fourth highest in the country, although small compared with Walsingham's £260 or Canterbury's £32. (fn. 97) This, however, may have been a bad year, or else receipts were undervalued for the surveyors, as the figure in 1510 was nearly £29. (fn. 98)

Sermons at Syon were also an attraction. It was the duty of the brethren to expound the Gospel in the vernacular on Sundays and festivals, (fn. 99) and several of them must have been well fitted for this task since they held office as university preachers before entering Syon. (fn. 100) Several volumes of sermons composed by the brothers were in the library in addition to others which no doubt served as models. (fn. 101) Simon Winter himself composed a further book of sermons in English on indulgences as well as one on penance, besides sermons in Latin for Sundays and festivals. Thomas Bulde (d. 1476) wrote a similar work, and Brother Roger one in English. (fn. 102)

Besides sermons the brethren produced many spiritual treatises which, although primarily composed for the benefit of the nuns, enjoyed a wider circulation. The first of the authors among the brethren, Clement Maidstone, (fn. 103) formerly at Hounslow Priory, wrote on varied themes. His works included an account of Archbishop Scrope (fn. 104) and a volume of devotional works which was presented to Vadstena. (fn. 105) He also wrote several liturgical treatises, of which the most important was the Ordinale Sarum sive Directorium Sacerdotum. This proved to be a most useful work since, despite attacks by the Canons of Salisbury, nine printed editions were called for between 1487 and 1503. (fn. 106) Contemporary with Maidstone was the minor author Thomas Ismaelite, who wrote at least two devotional tracts, Speculum humilitatis and De Ortu Virginis et Miraculis Christi. (fn. 107) Two further works composed by brothers were a commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew by Nicholas, deacon of Syon, (fn. 108) and a manual of instructions for novices in English by Thomas Prestius. (fn. 109)

The introduction of printing gave the brethren the opportunity of reaching a wider public, as contemporary taste favoured devotional literature. (fn. 110) The first published work from Syon seems to have been A Profitable treatise to dispose men to be virtuously occupied by Thomas Betson and printed by De Worde in 1500. (fn. 111) Amid the troubles preceding the Dissolution and probably while he was seriously ill, and confessor-general, John Fewterer, translated the Mirror of Christ's Passion, issued by Pynson in 1534. (fn. 112) He obtained his working copy from and dedicated his translation to Lord Hussey, an opponent of Henry VIII's religious policy and guardian of Princess Mary. (fn. 113) Already in 1530 he and Agnes Jordan, the abbess, had commissioned the printing of the Mirror of Our Lady, which was a commentary on the sisters' office composed by a brother of the house. (fn. 114) William Bond wrote the Pilgrimage of Perfection, published by Pynson in 1526 and reissued by De Worde in 1531, and a Devout treatise for those that are timorous and fearful in conscience, published posthumously in 1534 by Fawkes with a second edition in 1535. (fn. 115) An anonymous Directory of Conscience by a father of Syon was published in 1527. (fn. 116)

By far the most prolific of the Syon authors was Richard Whitford, who often signed himself 'The Wretch of Syon'. (fn. 117) Three translations and six original works which appeared between 1514 and 1541 have been attributed to him. All were concerned with the monastic or the spiritual life and some ran to several editions. The translations were of a Commentary on the Rule of St. Augustine, the Martiloge, and a volume of extracts from the Revelations of St. Bridget. The original works were Work for householders, a treatise on the Eucharist which ran to seven editions, Daily Exercise or Experience of Death, Fruit of Redemption, Divers holy instructions necessary for the Health of a man's Soul, a version of the Jesus Psalter, and the Pipe or Tun of Perfection. (fn. 118)

There is a strong contrast between the type of literature produced by the brethren and the books available for study in their well-stocked library, although our knowledge of its contents is imperfect. (fn. 119) There were, however, more than 1,400 volumes of exegesis, theology, and canon law, kept up to date with printed works especially from continental presses, including Italian renaissance works. (fn. 120) Most of the books were gifts, many being brought by the brothers themselves on their profession and many being given by London clergy. (fn. 121) Five of the brethren gave 400 books between them and six others brought 30 to 40 each. (fn. 122) The value the community attached to its books may be seen by the good condition in which many are still to be found in their present homes. (fn. 123) Great precautions were taken against damage through age and use and arrangements were made for repairs and binding. (fn. 124) In gratitude to donors a special annual obit was decreed in 1471, when it was decided that the librarian should say a special office for the dead for Thomas Grant, his parents, and all donors to the brothers' and sisters' libraries. (fn. 125) Yet the brothers allowed others to use their books and possibly even to borrow them. (fn. 126) Certainly Thomas Gascoigne worked there and had a copy of St. Bridget's Canonization Process. (fn. 127) Occasionally indeed gifts of books were made. An Horae with Bridgettine additions was given to the Franciscans of Exeter (fn. 128) and in 1501 a printed volume of the Revelations was presented to John Doo of Fotheringhay College (Northants.) in return for prayers. (fn. 129)

This literary and intellectual activity was natural for the type of man who entered Syon. The brothers were more mature than the ordinary monastic recruit, since they could not be professed under the age of 25. (fn. 130) The main recruiting ground seems to have been among the secular clergy, often men who had held benefices in the London area, and, in the 16th century, among Cambridge graduates. (fn. 131) Three cases have been traced of brethren leaving the Order. Two of these were for health reasons and the third entered a mendicant order more suited to his temperament. (fn. 132)

A common intellectual interest of the brethren and sisters lay in the study of the works of Richard Rolle, whose concentration on the affections of the Saviour provided suitable material for meditation in the Order. The brothers had thirteen volumes of his works in their library, including the exuberant Melos, (fn. 133) while the sisters had an unknown number. In the 16th century Joan Sewell owned a copy of the Incendium, (fn. 134) and at least eleven other sisters owned books, mainly the works of Walter Hilton and similar devotional writings. (fn. 135) Yet the evidence of the Mirror of Our Lady, the translation of the Martiloge into English by Whitford, and the insertion of English rubrics into the Processional, suggests that although the sisters were well read in vernacular spiritual literature they may not have been so familiar with Latin and may have had difficulty in understanding the liturgy. (fn. 136)

The social standing of the nuns was exceptionally high. The choir sisters were drawn from the nobility, the gentry, and London merchant families, whilst the few lay sisters probably came from the London area. (fn. 137) No scandal has come to light about the abbey, save the early disputes between the sisters and brethren over obedience, and the unreliable reports of the commissioners shortly before the Dissolution. This may well be due to the comparative maturity of the novices, who had to be eighteen on profession, and to the system of training under which the postulant had to be sent away for a year after her application to make sure of her vocation before entering the enclosure. (fn. 138) The rule of strict enclosure seems to have been well observed. In 1416 the Swedish sisters had to be released from a rash vow that they would make a pilgrimage to Canterbury in thanksgiving for a safe passage to England. (fn. 139)

The same mixture of aristocratic and mercantile families found among the choir sisters appears also in a list of special benefactors in the Martiloge, (fn. 140) which contains a hundred names made up chiefly of groups of the nobility, royal officials, and London merchants. The list reflects Syon's influence in court circles which was maintained up to the Dissolution. Beginning with many who had played a part in the founding of the abbey, such as FitzHugh himself, Clifford, and Chichele, the roll ends with Syon in exile. For the inclusion of some names no reason at all is given, but many were included for gifts of money, ranging from £200 from Margaret, Duchess of Clarence, to five marks from Sir William Banes. Two made valuable gifts—Thomas Chandler gave a jewelled reliquary and William Hemming a missal worth ten marks. Some were monastic officials—Henry Normanton, auditor, who also gave £100, John Sprotte, and Thomas Muston, steward. (fn. 141)

Although not included among the special benefactors, other names are mentioned in the Martiloge for gifts and favours, whilst others who left bequests to the abbey, including even such a famous lady as Margaret Beaufort, were not mentioned at all. (fn. 142) There were, however, obits for Edward IV 'who restored possessions which had been taken away unjustly', Thomas, Earl of Derby (1435–1504), benefactor, and Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon (d. 1556), who gave £40 a year. (fn. 143)

In contrast to the lengthy list of benefactors, letters of confraternity seem to have been issued only rarely. The sole known case in favour of an individual was to John Talbot, 2nd Earl of Shrewsbury (1413–60). (fn. 144) Two other cases were of interchange of confraternity—in 1420 with St. Albans (fn. 145) and in 1455 with the Prior and community of Durham. (fn. 146) In 1536 the monastery of Syon was granted confraternity with All Souls College, Oxford, but there appears to be no record of a corresponding grant by Syon. (fn. 147)

Several devout lay people lived close to the enclosure in order to gain the spiritual ministrations of the brethren. In the early 16th century Sir Richard Sutton had as his confessor one of the brothers, Alexander Bell. (fn. 148) Lady Kingston, widow of the steward of Syon's manor of Minchinhampton (Glos.), occupied a chamber in the precincts. (fn. 149) At an earlier date Margaret, Duchess of Clarence, specially sought the guidance of Simon Winter and indeed obtained permission from Rome for him to leave the enclosure to minister the sacraments to her. (fn. 150)

Before Syon was implicated in the case of the Holy Maid of Kent, the intellectual atmosphere seems to have been tolerant and the community ready to follow the official policy over the king's matrimonial troubles. Richard Pace, an Imperialist, was apparently confined by Wolsey at Syon because he opposed the annulment suit, and in 1527 wrote from the abbey saying that he had changed his mind. (fn. 151) In 1528 a London citizen, Humphrey Monmouth, when accused of heresy because of certain books in his possession, pleaded that he had shown the works to the confessor-general who had found little wrong with them. (fn. 152)

The position changed in 1533. At the trial of Elizabeth Barton, the Holy Maid of Kent, it was stated that her 'revelations' had been shown to many at Syon, including the abbess, confessor-general, and Richard Reynolds. (fn. 153) This would be natural, as she was alleged to have been influenced by St. Bridget's writings and to have been supplied with some of the material of her visions by the Syon community. (fn. 154) Moreover Sir Thomas More had been told of her visit, had seen her in the chapel there, and later discussed her visions with the brethren, warning them against her. (fn. 155)

Syon had attracted the attention of the government, and the precincts were frequently invaded by royal officials. In January 1534 Stokesley, Bishop of London, and Mores, surveyor of Syon and a supporter of Henry VIII, were very anxious to secure the signatures of the community on a document concerning the marriage question. The first draft was duly signed, but the wording was not sufficiently explicit to secure the approval of the Council. Mores produced a second draft, but this time the brethren refused to sign and advised the sisters to follow the same course. (fn. 156)

In 1535 a further crisis developed. The central figure was the most renowned of the brethren, Richard Reynolds, (fn. 157) who was charged with treason and suffered along with the Carthusian priors in April and May. Although they pleaded that there was no malice in their denial of the royal supremacy, the prisoners were found guilty and sentenced. (fn. 158) Immediately after the verdict Cranmer wrote to Cromwell on 30 April marvelling that such a learned man as Reynolds should argue against the supremacy of the king and urging that, if this were the only issue, it would be better to convert him. (fn. 159) The plea was of no avail and on 4 May 1535 Reynolds and the other accused were executed. (fn. 160)

If Cromwell had hoped to secure submission by terror, he was disappointed. In July his visitor, Bedyll, reported that the sisters and most of the brethren were willing to conform but there were still two who refused and might have to be expelled. (fn. 161) By the end of the year opinion among the community had hardened against the government. Bedyll made a further visit in December and found opposition even among the sisters. (fn. 162) Many theologians were sent to persuade the brethren, but despite threats and promises, two of them, Whitford and Little, and a lay brother, Turlington, remained obdurate. (fn. 163) It may well have been about this time that another lay brother, Thomas Brownell, was imprisoned at Newgate. His death on 21 October 1537 is recorded as due to the squalor of the prison. Opposite his name the marginal note 'martyr' has been inserted in the Martiloge. (fn. 164)

In 1536, however, Syon was seemingly restored to favour, possibly because the disaffected had been expelled. In November the abbess was commissioned to take charge of Lady Margaret Douglas, later Countess of Lennox, who was bent on marrying against the wishes of the court. (fn. 165) Earlier in the year the brethren had been engaged in persuading the London Carthusians to agree to the royal supremacy, and Copinger reported to Cromwell that he thought he had been successful. (fn. 166) In September the secretary had a further opportunity of securing his grip on the abbey when he attended the election of Copinger as confessor-general. (fn. 167)

Again Syon's fortunes underwent a sudden change. In May 1538 Cromwell noted that Syon must be suppressed (fn. 168) and put into motion a scheme for gaining his object. The Bishop of London was charged with praemunire for using a papal formula at professions in 1537 and 1538 and with superstitious practices when blessing vestments at the abbey. (fn. 169) Stokesley replied immediately that since the statute he had used an amended formula and stressed the zeal he had shown in persuading the community to accept the king's supremacy. His plea was borne out by a Syon manuscript of the profession service which had the text amended with the formula 'quatenus illustrissimi regis et juribus regni non repugnat'. (fn. 170) Although the bishop was acquitted, Cromwell had made his point and was merely biding his time. Several times in 1539 he noted that Syon was to be suppressed by praemunire, (fn. 171) and more definitely in November 'among the houses to be suppressed is Syon'. (fn. 172)

The blow fell the same month. There is no surrender deed for the abbey and no official record of its suppression. Shortly beforehand many of the books in its library were removed. (fn. 173) In 1539 pensions were assigned for the community on a generous scale, (fn. 174) probably owing to the influential connexions of the sisters. Agnes Jordan, the abbess, was granted £200 a year, (fn. 175) but the confessor-general, Copinger, was already dead. (fn. 176) On the same day as the pensions were granted the community was expelled with its keys and seals. (fn. 177) Thus the 'most virtuous house of religion in all England' (fn. 178) was brought to a temporary end. With the exception of Amesbury (Wilts.), Syon was the last of the great nunneries to be dissolved. (fn. 179) In all, pensions were granted to 52 choir nuns (including the abbess), 4 lay sisters, 12 brothers, and 5 lay brothers. (fn. 180)

According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus, the principal possessions of the Abbey, besides its own site, were rents from Brentford, Heston, Isleworth, Sutton, Twickenham, Whitton, and Worton (Mdx.); the rectories of Chilham, Molash, and Throwley (Kent); rents and other payments from Aldrington, Brede, Charlton Ashurst, Ecclesden, Fishbourne, Littlehampton, Sompting, Steyning, Toddington, Warminghurst, Wiggonholt, and Withyham (Suss.); the manor of Cherry Hinton (Cambs.); the rectories of Martock and Yeovil (Som.); Olney rectory (Bucks.); rents and farms in Bothenhampton, Bradpole, Loders, and Upton (Dors.); rents and other incomes from Axmouth, Budleigh, Donnington, Harpford, Haderland (Otterton par.), Otterton, Sidmouth, and Yarcombe (Devon); Poulton rectory and pensions from the vicarages of Croston and Eccleston and rents from Lonsdale (Lancs.); pensions from Boothby, Navenby, and Spalding and the farm of Aungee fee (Lincs.); tenements in the parish of St. Benet near Paul's Wharf, London; rents in Avening, Cheltenham, Slaughter, and the manor of Minchinhampton (Glos.); Felstead lordship (Essex); the lands of St. Michael's Mount (Cornw.); Corsham rectory and Tilshead manor (Wilts.). There were also sundry small rents and other payments. The total income was £1,944 11s. 5d., expenses were £213 5s. (sic) and the net income £1,731 8s. 4d. (sic). (fn. 181) Syon was the richest of the non-Benedictine houses and the largest and richest of the nunneries. (fn. 182)

Some of these lands, including the abbey buildings and demesne at Isleworth, remained in the king's hands, while the rest were disposed of in small parcels. (fn. 183) In Devon, for example, Otterton, Axmouth, and Haderland were leased to court officials, while the remainder stayed in the king's hands. (fn. 184)

The community did not disperse after the Dissolution but, apparently in the hope that the schism was only a temporary matter, remained in groups until they could return to Syon. Abbess Jordan rented a farmhouse near Denham (Bucks.), and with her went nine of the community. (fn. 185) Another group, led by Catherine Palmer, went abroad, staying first at Antwerp and later at Termonde in Flanders until the restoration. (fn. 186) The accession of Queen Mary brought the fulfilment of their hopes. Naturally it took some time to gather together the scattered community, but some were enclosed by Cardinal Pole at Sheen in November 1556. (fn. 187) The official re-establishment of Syon was confirmed by the cardinal on 1 March 1557, (fn. 188) and in April letters patent were issued granting the site and more than 200 acres of land at Isleworth. (fn. 189) The community then consisted of 21 sisters and 3 brothers, with Catherine Palmer as abbess and John Green confessor-general. (fn. 190) A further grant of lands at Isleworth was made in January 1558. (fn. 191)

Meantime the work of refitting the buildings for monastic life had been going on, the cost being borne by Sir Francis Englefield who, through his wife, formerly Catherine Fettyplace, was related to two of the sisters. (fn. 192) The re-establishment was completed by the solemn enclosure of all who had rejoined by the Bishop of London, assisted by the Abbot of Westminster. (fn. 193) Both the queen and Cardinal Pole were rewarded for their favours by obits at the abbey. (fn. 194)

The community was not to remain long in enjoyment of its peaceful round. In May 1559 Parliament decreed the dissolution of the re-established monasteries, pensions being granted only to those religious willing to take the Oath of Supremacy. (fn. 195) Once again the community at Syon decided to continue its monastic life and it was arranged that the retiring Spanish ambassador, Feria, should take them and other religious abroad with him. (fn. 196) The community moved to Flanders, where it began a long exile in the Bridgettine house at Termonde. (fn. 197) Despite many difficulties and hazards it continued to exist in Flanders, France, and Portugal until its return to England in two groups, one in 1809 and the other in 1861, and it has been settled since 1925 at Marley, South Brent, Devon. (fn. 198)

Abbesses of Syon (fn. 199) (TO 1576)

Joan North, elected 1420; (fn. 200) died 1433 (fn. 201)
Maud Muston, elected 1433; (fn. 202) died 1447 (fn. 203)
Margaret Ashby, occurs 1448 (fn. 204) died 1456 (fn. 205)
Elizabeth Muston, died 1497 (fn. 206)
Elizabeth Gibbs, died 1518 (fn. 207)
Constance Brown, (fn. 208) elected 1518; (fn. 209) died 1520 (fn. 210)
Agnes Jordan, died 1545 (fn. 211)
Catherine Palmer, instituted 1557; (fn. 212) died 1576 (fn. 213)

Confessors-General of Syon (fn. 214) (TO 1557)

Thomas Fishbourne, (fn. 215) elected 1420; (fn. 216) died 1428 (fn. 217)
Robert Bell, elected 1428; (fn. 218) died 1460 (fn. 219)
Thomas Westhawe, (fn. 220) occurs 1472; (fn. 221) died 1488 (fn. 222)
Walter Falkley, died 1497 (fn. 223)
Stephen Saunders, (fn. 224) occurs 1498; (fn. 225) died 1513 (fn. 226)
John Trowell, (fn. 227) elected 1513; (fn. 228) died 1523 (fn. 229)
John Fewterer, (fn. 230) died 1536 (fn. 231)
John Copinger (fn. 232) occurs 1536; (fn. 233) died 1539 (fn. 234)
John Green, (fn. 235) instituted 1557 (fn. 236)

No common seal is known. The seal ad causas, which was in use as early as 1426 (fn. 237) and as late as 1529, (fn. 238) shows the Virgin, crowned, supporting the Child, with nimbus, seated beneath a canopy; she holds in her left hand a sceptre; at base under a four-centred arch a female figure (? St. Bridget) supports a king (? Henry V) in prayer; to the right a shield emblazoned with the arms of England, to the left a shield emblazoned with a cross. Legend, black letter:


The confessor-general's seal was round (diam. 17/8 in.), and showed Christ with cruciform nimbus rising three-quarter length from a rectangular tomb with a carved front. His right hand is raised in blessing and in His left hand is a long cross; at each side at back is a recumbent soldier. (fn. 239) Legend, black letter:



  • 1. V.C.H. Mdx. iii. 96–100.
  • 2. B.M. Add. MS. 22285, f. 14v. This is the Martiloge of Syon, and will hereafter be cited as such. It has been edited in part for the Henry Bradshaw Soc. by F. Proctor and E. S. Dewick. Cf. also R. Dunning, 'The muniments of Syon Abbey', Bull. Inst. Hist. Research, xxxvii. 103–11.
  • 3. Complete Peerage, v. 422.
  • 4. Cf. Margaret Deanesly, Incendium Amoris of Richard Rolle, 91 sqq., and D. Knowles, Rel. Orders in Eng. ii. 176 sqq.; T. Nyberg, Birgittinische Klostergründungen des Mittelalters, 69–77.
  • 5. Diarium Vadstenense, in Scriptores Rerum Suecicarum, i. 123.
  • 6. Ibid. 125.
  • 7. Martiloge, f. 14v.
  • 8. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 542.
  • 9. Dict. d'hist. et géog. ecclés. x, col. 728.
  • 10. Ibid. Rule and Syon Additions are in Aungier, Syon, 294–404; critical edition in Veronica R. Hughes, 'Syon Additions to the Rule of St. Saviour' (Liverpool Univ. M.A. thesis, 1952).
  • 11. V. H. Galbraith, St. Albans Chronicle 1406–20, 32. Annual distribution to the poor noted by T. Fuller, Church Hist. iii. 276.
  • 12. Divi Antonini Chron. tertia pars (1586), 797; Rot. Parl. v. 551.
  • 13. Rule of Our Saviour (priv. printed, Syon Abbey, n.d.), caps. iii, xi; cf. Francesca M. Steele, Story of the Bridgettines, 15.
  • 14. H. Schück, 'Två svenska Biografier från Medeltid', Antiqvarisk Tidskrift, v. 127; a modernized version of the office is in E. Graf, Prayers and Revelations of St. Bridget. An edition of the Syon Breviary and a full account of the Bridgettine liturgy is being prepared by A. J. Collins for the Henry Bradshaw Soc.
  • 15. Henry V, 4, i; cf. Knowles, Rel. Orders, ii. 176.
  • 16. Cal. Pat. 1416–22, 34sqq.; Rot. Parl. iv. 141, 243 sqq.; Aungier, Syon, 31, 39.
  • 17. Deanesly, Incendium, 131 sqq.
  • 18. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 544.
  • 19. Deanesly, Incendium, 137 sqq.
  • 20. Copied in Guildhall MS. 9531/9, ff. 139–40; cf. Syon Additions in B.M. Arundel MS. 146, ff. 25 sqq.
  • 21. Question discussed in W. Ullman, 'Recognition of St. Bridget's Rule by Martin V', Rev. Bénédictine, 1957, pp. 190 sqq.
  • 22. T. Höjer, Studier i Vadstena Klosters och Birgittinordens Historia, 179.
  • 23. Acts of P. C. (Rec. Com.) ii. 360 (1417); Cal. Pat. 1416–22. 397.
  • 24. E 364/56/B.
  • 25. Deanesly, Incendium, 136.
  • 26. Scriptores Rerum Suecicarum, i. 136. The priest was John of Kalmar who had already organized a monastery at Reval (ibid. 137).
  • 27. Diplomatorium Suecanum, iii, no. 2524. For similar disputes at Vadstena cf. Höjer, Studier, 26, and for position of lay sisters, L. Hollman, Den heliga Birgittas Revelaciones Extravagantes, 150.
  • 28. Deanesly, Incendium, 111.
  • 29. Her pension was granted in May 1417: Cal. Pat. 1416–22, 102.
  • 30. Amundesham Annales (Rolls Ser.), i. 27.
  • 31. Deanesly, Incendium, 111. The two surviving texts of these Additions are late-15th-cent. MSS.: B.M. Arundel MS. 146 for sisters, and St. Paul's MS. W.D. 24 for lay brothers; cf. Hughes, 'Syon Additions', xviii.
  • 32. Dip. Suec. iii, nos. 2521, 2522, 2524.
  • 33. Martiloge, f. 6v. For forms of profession cf. York Pontifical (Surtees Soc. lxi), p. xli, and St. John's Coll. Camb., MS. 11.
  • 34. Ellis, Original Letters, ii (1), 91, giving the date as 1421.
  • 35. E. Nygren, Lib. Privilegiorum Mon. Vadstenensis, 236. Text also in Revelationes Celestes S. Birgittae (1624 edn.).
  • 36. Scriptores Rerum Suecicarum, i. 143; H. Cnattingius, Studies in the Order of St. Bridget, i. 131–55.
  • 37. Höjer, Studier, 184.
  • 38. Cal. Pat. 1422–9, 205 sqq.
  • 39. Cat. Anct. D. ii. B 3819; i. B 1530.
  • 40. F. Madox, Formulare Anglicanum, f. 100; W. O. Roper, Materials for Hist. of Church of Lancaster, iii. 576.
  • 41. Cf. Cal. Papal Regs. xii. 340; Nygren, Lib. Priv. 277.
  • 42. Höjer, Studier, 193.
  • 43. Lysons, Environs of Lond. iii. 83; V.C.H. Mdx. iii, passim.
  • 44. Martiloge, f. 14v.
  • 45. Ibid. Dedication of Syon is noted in the Bedford Hours, cf. B.M. Qrly. iv. 63.
  • 46. Cal. Pat. 1422–9, 539.
  • 47. Rot. Parl. iv. 395.
  • 48. Martiloge, f. 10.
  • 49. Cal. Pat. 1441–6, 159.
  • 50. Aungier, Syon, 70.
  • 51. J. R. Fletcher, Story of the English Bridgettines, 28. This work, although published without critical apparatus, is based on full transcripts of sources now deposited at Syon Abbey, Devon.
  • 52. E. Power, Med. Eng. Nunneries, 92.
  • 53. J. Jorgensen, St. Bridget of Sweden, 233.
  • 54. Cal. Papal Regs. xiii. 789.
  • 55. Martiloge, f. 96.
  • 56. Thomas Westhaugh d. 1 June: ibid. f. 41 and passim.
  • 57. Lysons, Environs of Lond. iii. 87.
  • 58. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 86.
  • 59. At Marley. Reproduced in A. Hamilton, Angel of Syon, 85, and Fletcher, Eng. Bridgettines, 35.
  • 60. L.R. 2/112.
  • 61. Now in V. & A. Mus. It was not made at Syon, cf. Burlington Mag. vi. 278 sqq.
  • 62. Cf. Rymer, Foedera, x. 802.
  • 63. G. Oliver, Mon. Exon. 414.
  • 64. Cal. Pat. 1441–6, 234; cf. Aungier, Syon, 58, 68.
  • 65. Höjer, Studier, 258.
  • 66. Aungier, Syon, 58.
  • 67. Ibid. 60; Cal. Chart. R. 1427–1516, 91 sqq.
  • 68. Aungier, Syon, 68; Syon Ho., MS. D. xxiv. 2d.
  • 69. Cal. Pat. 1461–7, 175.
  • 70. Rot. Parl. v. 551 sqq.
  • 71. Cal. Chart. R. 1427–1516, 206.
  • 72. Aungier, Syon, 71; Hist. MSS. Com. Exeter, 433; L. & P. Hen. VIII, i, p. 567.
  • 73. Syon Ho., MS. D. xiv. 2 F.
  • 74. Hist. MSS. Com. 9th Rep. Plymouth Recs. 273.
  • 75. Aungier, Syon, 531; V.C.H. Mdx. iii. 96.
  • 76. Fletcher, Eng. Bridgettines, 31.
  • 77. L. & P. Hen. VIII, iv (3), p. 2551.
  • 78. Power, Med. Eng. Nunneries, 99.
  • 79. Rule of Our Saviour, cap. xii.
  • 80. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 424 sqq.; Aungier, Syon, 439 sqq.; cf. Power, Med. Eng. Nunneries, 99–100.
  • 81. Aungier, Syon, 445.
  • 82. L.R. 2/112; D.N.B. He paid for the printing of Orchard of Syon for the nuns.
  • 83. Aungier, Syon, 445.
  • 84. Ibid. 446.
  • 85. J. E. Thorold Rogers, Hist. of Agric. and Prices, iii. 2; Power, Med. Eng. Nunneries, 99, 136.
  • 86. Power, Med. Eng. Nunneries, 99, 136.
  • 87. Lancs. Rec. Off., DD. Cl. 1053.
  • 88. Martiloge, f. 72v.
  • 89. Power, Med. Eng. Nunneries, 136.
  • 90. Ibid. 137.
  • 91. Aungier, Syon, 392.
  • 92. S.C. 6/Hen. VIII/2184.
  • 93. Account for 1535/6 in S.C. 6/Hen. VIII/2283.
  • 94. 'Salutation to St. Bridget' in W. P. Cumming, Revelations of St. Birgitta (E.E.T.S.), pp. xxxi sqq.
  • 95. B.M. Harl. MS. 2321, ff. 17–62v.
  • 96. F. W. von Nettelbla, Nachtricht von eigenem Klöstern der Heiligen Schwedischen Birgitte (1764), 12.
  • 97. A. Savine, Eng. Mon. on Eve of Dissolution, 103.
  • 98. S.C. 6/Hen. VIII/2184.
  • 99. Rule of Our Saviour, cap. xiii.
  • 100. William Bond in 1509, cf. A. B. Emden, Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge to 1500, 72. Richard Reynolds in 1513, cf. Hamilton, Angel of Syon, 30.
  • 101. Mary Bateson, Syon Mon. Libr. Cat. passim. N. R. Ker, Medieval Libraries of Great Britain (2nd edn.).
  • 102. Ibid. 125, 126, 173, 181.
  • 103. Died 1456: Martiloge, f. 55. Cf. C. L. Kingsford, Eng. Hist. Lit. in Fifteenth Cent. 38.
  • 104. Printed in H. Wharton, Anglia Sacra, ii. 269 sqq. (of little historical value); cf. Kingsford, Eng. Hist. Lit. 38.
  • 105. Now Upsala Univ. Libr. MS. C. 159; cf. M. R. James, Wanderings and Homes of Manuscripts, 71.
  • 106. Tracts of Clement Maidstone and Ordinale Sarum sive Directorium Sacerdotum, both ed. by C. Wordsworth for Henry Bradshaw Soc.; Short Title Cat. nos. 17, 721–8.
  • 107. Aungier, Syon; T. Tanner, Bibliotheca BritannicoHibernica, 447.
  • 108. Prob. Nicholas Peyntor, d. 1473, cf. Martiloge, f. 326, and Bateson, Syon Cat. 235.
  • 109. 'Formula Novitiorum', now Camb. Univ. Libr. MS. Dd. 33. 65; Bateson, Syon Cat. xxxvi. He was pensioned in 1539; Aungier, Syon, 89; and died at Stanwell in 154 (4), B.M. Add. MS. 22285, f. 57 (an erasure).
  • 110. P. Janelle, L'Angleterre catholique, 15.
  • 111. Short Title Cat. no. 1978. He also drew up table of signs for use during times of silence, cf. Aungier, Syon, 405 sqq.; A. I. Doyle, 'Thomas Betson', Library, 5th ser. xi. 115–18.
  • 112. Short Title Cat. no. 10838.
  • 113. Hist. MSS. Com. 4th Rep. 410; G. Mattingly, Catherine of Aragon, 320.
  • 114. The Mirror of Our Lady, ed. J. H. Blunt (E.E.T.S.). Passages in text show that the author was a brother and not Thomas Gasgoigne as suggested by Blunt, cf. pp. ix, 164.
  • 115. Short Title Cat. nos. 3275, 3277.
  • 116. Ibid. no. 6904.
  • 117. D.N.B.
  • 118. Short Title Cat. nos. 13925, 17532, 23961, 25412– 26. The problem of the 'Jesus Psalter' is discussed by F. Wormald in Laudate (1936). For extracts from the Revelations see G. E. Klemming, Heliga Birgittas Uppenbarelser, 232.
  • 119. Bateson, Syon Cat. although earlier entries have been erased to make room for additions (ex inf. A. I. Doyle); Ker, Medieval Libraries, 184–7.
  • 120. Bateson, Syon Cat. passim.
  • 121. Ibid. pp. xv, xxiii sqq.
  • 122. Knowles, Rel. Orders, ii. 347.
  • 123. Opinion of N. R. Ker in notes now at Syon Abbey.
  • 124. R. J. Whitwell, 'An Ordinance for Syon Library', E.H.R. xxv. 121.
  • 125. Martiloge, ff. 4, 17v.
  • 126. Bateson, Syon Cat. p. x.
  • 127. Loci e Libro Veritatum, ed. J. Thorold Rogers, 170.
  • 128. Now Bodl. MS. Bodley 62.
  • 129. Lambeth Palace, 1500 91 (pr. bk.).
  • 130. Rule of Our Saviour, cap. xix.
  • 131. Opinion based on Martiloge and Camb. Grace Bks.; cf. Knowles, Rel. Orders, ii. 347.
  • 132. Cal. Papal Regs. viii. 174; xi. 151, 638.
  • 133. Hope E. Allen, Eng. Writings of Richard Rolle, pp. ix, lvi.
  • 134. Deanesly, Incendium, 79; and see N. R. Ker's notes now at Syon Abbey.
  • 135. Power, Med. Eng. Nunneries, 253–4.
  • 136. Ibid. 4, 10; J. Bazire and E. Colledge, Chastising of God's Children, 77.
  • 137. Aungier, Syon, 51.
  • 138. Rule of Our Saviour, caps. ix, xix.
  • 139. Reg. Chichele (Cant. and York Soc.), i, p. lxvii.
  • 140. Martiloge, ff. 70–72v.
  • 141. Ibid.
  • 142. Collegium Divi Johannis Evangelistae, 121.
  • 143. Martiloge, ff. 15, 39v, 56.
  • 144. Clerk Maxwell, 'Some Further Letters of Confraternity', Archaeologia, lxxix. 209.
  • 145. Reg. Abb. Johannis Whethamstede (Rolls Ser.), ii. 372.
  • 146. Durham Obituary Rolls (Surtees Soc.), 111, 118.
  • 147. J. Gutch, Collectanea Curiosa, ii. 268–72.
  • 148. Ibid. 532.
  • 149. L.R. 2/112.
  • 150. Cal. Papal Regs. viii. 63.
  • 151. L. & P. Hen. VIII, iv, p. 1472.
  • 152. Ibid. p. 83.
  • 153. Ibid. vi, p. 587.
  • 154. L. E. Whatmore, 'Sermon against the Holy Maid', E.H.R. lviii. 469.
  • 155. Corresp. of Sir Thomas More, ed. E. F. Rogers, 484, 486.
  • 156. L. & P. Hen. VIII, vii, pp. 8, 12.
  • 157. Cf. E. Graf, Blessed Richard Reynolds; Hamilton, Angel of Syon; Knowles, Rel. Orders, iii. 215.
  • 158. L. & P. Hen. VIII, viii, p. 213; 3rd Dep. Kpr's Rep. 237–9.
  • 159. L. & P. Hen. VIII, viii, p. 229.
  • 160. Ibid. p. 249.
  • 161. Ibid. p. 441.
  • 162. Ibid. ix, p. 332.
  • 163. Ibid.
  • 164. Martiloge, f. 60v.
  • 165. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xi, p. 406.
  • 166. Ibid. p. 197. Cf. Knowles, Rel. Orders, iii.213 sqq.
  • 167. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xi, p. 202.
  • 168. Ibid. xiii, p. 322.
  • 169. Ibid. p. 398.
  • 170. Ibid. p. 399; St. John's College. Camb., MS. 11.
  • 171. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xiv (2), p. 150.
  • 172. Ibid. p. 192.
  • 173. Bateson, Syon Cat. p. xvii.
  • 174. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xiv (2), p. 192.
  • 175. Ibid.
  • 176. See below p. 190, n. 40.
  • 177. Cf. Gesammelte Nachrichten über die einst bestandenen Klöster der hl. Birgitta, 161; E. L. Cutts, Dict. of Church of Eng. 96.
  • 178. Wriothesley's Chron. (Camd. Soc. N.S. xi), i. 109.
  • 179. H. T. Jacka, 'Dissolution of the English Nunneries', (Lond. Univ. M.A. thesis, 1917), 120.
  • 180. Aungier, Syon, 89. In 1518 the community included 56 sisters and 3 priests who were scrutineers at the election (ibid. 81).
  • 181. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 424–8.
  • 182. P. Hughes, Reformation in Eng. i. 2; Power, Med. Eng. Nunneries, 2.
  • 183. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xv, p. 53.
  • 184. J. Youings, Devon Monastic Lands, 9, 94, 108, 134.
  • 185. Abbess Jordan and several other nuns died at Southlands in Denham par. (Bucks.): Martiloge, ff. 25, 47, 58 (erasures). For Southlands see V.C.H. Bucks. iii. 257–8, and cf. R. H. Lathbury, Hist. of Denham, Bucks.
  • 186. Fletcher, Eng. Bridgettines, 37 sqq.
  • 187. Cal. S. P. Ven. 1556–7, 791.
  • 188. Original in muniments of Syon Abbey, Devon.
  • 189. Cal. Pat. 1555–7, 290 sqq.
  • 190. Ibid.
  • 191. Ibid. 1557–8, 295.
  • 192. Fletcher, Eng. Bridgettines, 41.
  • 193. Aungier, Syon, 97.
  • 194. Martiloge, f. 63v.
  • 195. Cal. S.P. Ven. 1558–80, 79.
  • 196. Ibid. 95, 105.
  • 197. R. Persons, 'Preface to Hist. of Wanderings of Syon', in Hamilton, Angel of Syon, 194.
  • 198. Fletcher, Eng. Bridgettines, passim.
  • 199. Martiloge, f. 2. Maud Newton, Abbess, hac vice, 1415–c. 17, is not included in the list in the Martiloge and has never been recognized as the first abbess by Syon: Dugdale, Mon. vi. 542; see p. 183.
  • 200. B.M. Cotton MS. Cleo. E. II, f. 352.
  • 201. Martiloge, f. 58.
  • 202. Guildhall MS. 9531/4, f. 45.
  • 203. Martiloge, f. 57v.
  • 204. Cal. Chart. R. 1427–1516, 91.
  • 205. Martiloge, f. 43.
  • 206. Ibid. f. 36.
  • 207. Ibid. f. 52v.
  • 208. Collectanea Topographia et Genealogia, i. 325–6.
  • 209. Guildhall MS. 9531/9, ff. 128v–30.
  • 210. Martiloge, f. 46v.
  • 211. Ibid. f. 25; P.C.C., F. 4. Alen; V.C.H. Bucks. iii. 260 gives the date on her tomb as 1544.
  • 212. Cal. Pat. 1555–7, 290–2.
  • 213. Martiloge, f. 68.
  • 214. Ibid. f. 2. William Alnwick, Confessor-General, hac vice, 1415–c. 1417–20, is not included in the list in the Martiloge and has never been recognized as the first confessor-general by Syon: Knowles, Rel. Orders, ii. 307–8; Dugdale, Mon. vi. 542; see p. 183.
  • 215. He was a monk of St. Albans who later became a secular priest; cf. Amundesham Annales (Rolls Ser.), i. 27; Cnattingius, Studies, i. 131–55.
  • 216. B.M. Cotton MS. Cleo. E. II, f. 352.
  • 217. Martiloge, f. 55v.
  • 218. Guildhall MS. 9531/5, ff. 69–72.
  • 219. Martiloge, f. 33.
  • 220. Emden, Biog. Reg. Cambridge, 630.
  • 221. P.C.C. Sperhauke, 19 Wattys.
  • 222. Martiloge, f. 41.
  • 223. Ibid. f. 55v.
  • 224. William Saunders, B.D., Confessor of Syon, is said to figure in a deed dated Syon, 1498 (Aungier, Syon, 110, n.), but the Christian name of Saunders, the confessor-general, seems certainly to have been Stephen.
  • 225. Aungier, Syon, 110, n.
  • 226. Martiloge, f. 33v.
  • 227. A. B. Emden, Biographical Register to the University of Oxford to 1500, iii. 1910; T. Wright, Letters relating to the Suppression of the Monasteries (Camd. Soc. xxvi), 44–46.
  • 228. Guildhall MS. 9531/9, f. 40v.
  • 229. Martiloge, f. 35v. Aungier's reference to him as alive in 1536 is an error for John Fewterer: Aungier, Syon, 533.
  • 230. Emden, Biog. Reg. Cambridge, 226–7.
  • 231. Martiloge, f. 57; no year is given in this reference to Fewterer's death but an underlying entry which has been erased but is still partly legible reads... vij Confessor generalis Anno dm 1536; since he was accounted the 7th confessor-general the erasure clearly refers to Fewterer; L. &. P. Hen. VIII, xi, p. 202.
  • 232. J. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, I. i. 396.
  • 233. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xi, p. 197. This letter, which is endorsed 'The confessor of Syon', is dated 23 Sept. 1536. Fewterer died 3 days later. He may already have resigned or the letter may have been endorsed after it was dated. It is also possible that Fewterer was incapacitated and that Copinger was acting in his place.
  • 234. Martiloge, f. 58. This notice of his death omits the year but an underlying erasure is partly legible and suggests that he died in 1539. The penultimate line ends 'ge =' and the last line reads '(neral) is Anno dni 1539'; and cf. Letters re. Suppression of Monasteries, 44–46.
  • 235. His name is 'N. Grene' in the list in the Martiloge and the entry is in a different hand. His death is not noticed in the obituaries in that book. He was probably the same person as the John Green who at the Suppression was a priest in Syon and who received the highest pension (£10) after David Curson (£15). He was still in receipt of his pension in 1555–6: Aungier, Syon, 99.
  • 236. Cal. Pat. 1555–6; 290–2.
  • 237. E 326/8121; Aungier, Syon, *106 and plate.
  • 238. E 326/11229.
  • 239. Aungier, Syon, *106 and plate.