Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Weybourne

Pages 404-406

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

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The Austin priory of Weybourne, or Waburn, was founded in the reign of King John by Sir Ralph Mainwaring, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and All Saints. It was at first subordinate to the priory of West Acre.

In 1228 a fine was levied between Rodland, prior of Weybourne and William Mainwaring (grandson of the founder), by which 30s. rent at Kessingland, Suffolk, was assigned to the former. (fn. 1)

The king's escheator in 1275 distrained on the prior and canons of Weybourne on account of the 60 marks they had returned to the executors of John de Hedenham, which they had had of John during his life, and by virtue of his office recovered from them 5 marks. (fn. 2) The taxation of 1291 gave the annual value of this priory at £15 10s. 1½d. Its chief endowment was the manor and church of Weybourne, but it had small possessions in thirty Norfolk parishes.

Roger de Geistweyt, who was admitted prior on 1 December, 1334, obtained licence from Edward III in 1338 for the alienation in mortmain to the priory of Weybourne, by Adam de Shyringham and John atte Eshe, of the advowson and appropriation of the church of Calkirk. (fn. 3) In 1346 licence was obtained for the appropriation of the church of East Beckham. (fn. 4)

Prior Roger de Hoxne occurs in 1309; on his death in 1314 a contest arose as to his successor between Henry the sub-prior and the canons of Weybourne and the prior and convent of West Acre. Weybourne claimed the right of choosing a prior out of their own canons, but the prior of West Acre asserted that the old use was for Weybourne to seek licence to elect from the superior house, and then to choose one of the West Acre canons. On the matter being left to arbitration, the right of choosing a prior out of their own canons or otherwise was granted to Weybourne for ever, but an annual pension of 7s. 6d. was assigned to the priory of West Acre. This covenant was confirmed by the bishop of Norwich in the early days of January, 1315, and was again confirmed by the pope in 1319. (fn. 5)

On the death of Prior Elyngham, in 1422, it was found that there were only two canons in the house, John Newbury and John de Laxfield. The number being insufficient for an election, the bishop collated the latter as prior. (fn. 6)

Bishop Goldwell visited Weybourne Priory on 25 August, 1494, and found there Prior Clement and three canons. One of the canons, Robert Coker, served the cure of East Beckham, and the church of Weybourne was sometimes served by the prior and sometimes by a canon. The canons were wont to receive 20s. as salary, but the prior had not paid the salary of William Williamson. The bishop found nothing worthy of reformation, and so dissolved the visitation, reserving power to make injunctions if he should afterwards think it necessary. (fn. 7)

When the house was finally visited in July, 1514, by Bishop Meke, there was only a prior and one canon. Canon William Herley said that by the foundation there ought to be seven canons or at the least three, but that now it was scarcely possible to sustain these three through the poverty of the house. The bishop enjoined the prior to pay annually to his brother canon the salary of 33s. 4d. (fn. 8)

John Frost was admitted prior on 15 June, 1526. On 16 July, 1530, the prior and single canon changed places, Canon Thomas Bulman being made prior and John Frost resigning to become canon. On 11 August, 1534, both prior and canon subscribed to the king's supremacy. (fn. 9)

The Valor of 1535, when John (sic) Bulman is entered as prior, gave the clear annual value of this small house as £28 7s. 2d.

The suppression commissioners of 1536 reported that the clear annual value of Weybourne was £24 19s. 6½d., with £5 11s. 9d. for the demesne land. They found there two religious persons 'of slaunderous name as ytt ys sayde and they require thier dispensacion.'

There were three other persons who had their living in the house, two of them having corrodies under the convent seal. The house was in decay, and the lead and bells worth £60. The movable goods were worth 57s. 2d. (fn. 10) The same commissioners certified on 16 February, 1537, that the goods and chattels contained in the inventory were sold to Thomas Pygeon for 66s. 8d. (fn. 11)

A full inventory taken later in the same year shows the poverty of the house. The chief ornament of the church was a copper-gilt cross with a silver crucifix. There was an old written missal, as well as 'a litill prynted masse boke.' Mention is made of three chambers, hall, buttery, parlour, kitchen, and brewhouse, all meagrely furnished. The live stock simply consisted of six swine. (fn. 12)

Immediately after its suppression, the priory, with the rectories of Weybourne and East Beckham, were granted to John Gresham, son of Richard Gresham, mercer of London. (fn. 13)

Thomas Bulman, the prior, obtained a pension of £4. (fn. 14) He was presented to the Norfolk rectory of Egmere in 1543.

Priors of Weybourne (fn. 15)

Roger de Hoxne, (fn. 16) occurs 1309, died 1314

John de Frenes, (fn. 17) elected 1315

Roger de Geistweyt, (fn. 18) elected 1334

John de Elyngham, (fn. 19) elected 1391

John de Laxfield, (fn. 20) elected 1422

Andrew Burgate, (fn. 21) resigned 1438

Walter Marlowe, (fn. 22) elected 1438

Henry Clement, (fn. 23) elected 1466

John Frost, (fn. 24) elected 1526

Thomas Bulman, (fn. 25) elected 1530, last prior

A cast of a late twelfth-century seal of this house (25/8 by 1¾ in.) shows the crowned Virgin standing, with book in right hand and fleur-de-lis in left. In the field on the left, a crescent. Legend:—

SIGILL' . . . E . . . BT . . DE WABURN . . . (fn. 26)

There is also another slightly different seal of thirteenth century date (2¼ in. by 1¾ in.), but very imperfect. (fn. 27)


  • 1. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. ix, 450.
  • 2. Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), i, 494.
  • 3. Pat. 12 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 27.
  • 4. Ibid. 20, Edwd. III, pt. ii, m. 15. According to a return made to the crown in 1416 of the appropriated churches of this diocese, with the dates of their appropriation, the church of Weybourne was appropriated in 1106 at the time of the foundation, East Beckham in 1344, and Calkirk in 1411 (Norw. Epis. Reg. viii, 129).
  • 5. Cal. Bodl. Charters, 226.
  • 6. Norw. Epis. Reg. viii, 76.
  • 7. Jessopp, Norw. Visit. (Camd. Soc.), 56.
  • 8. Ibid. 123.
  • 9. Rymer, Foedera (Rec. Com.), xiv, 519.
  • 10. Chant. Cert. Norf. No. 90.
  • 11. Suppression Papers, Exch. K. R. 835/45.
  • 12. P.R.O. Ch. Gds. R. Norfolk, 10/23.
  • 13. Aug. Off. Bks. ccix, fol. 110b.
  • 14. Ibid. ccxxxii, fol. 48.
  • 15. In the tenth volume of Norfolk Archaeology (1888) are papers on this priory and its remains by Rev. C. R. Manning and Rev. Dr. Jessopp.
  • 16. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. ix. 451.
  • 17. Ibid.
  • 18. Ibid.
  • 19. Norw. Epis. Reg. vi, 161.
  • 20. Ibid. viii, 76.
  • 21. Ibid. x, 16.
  • 22. Ibid.
  • 23. Ibid. xi, 159.
  • 24. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. ix, 451.
  • 25. Ibid.
  • 26. B.M. lxix, 50; Ackn. of Supr. (P.R.O.), 112.
  • 27. B.M. lxix, 51.