Alien houses: The priory of Sporle

Pages 463-464

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

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This small alien priory was founded early in the twelfth century as a cell of the Benedictine abbey of St. Florent, Saumur, in the diocese of Angers, and the province of Anjou.

The founder was Alan son of Flaald, who granted to the monks of St. Florent the church of Sporle (Sparlaicum) with all its tithes, the holding of a certain man, the land of two ploughs, one in Sporle and the other in Mileham, together with wood for building and firing, and pasture everywhere for their flocks with his own. He gave them the church free from all claims, specially from that of the monks of Holy Trinity, assigning to them 205. a year from his farm of Sporle. (fn. 1)

Pope Calixtus II, by bull of 18 February, 1123, confirmed to the abbey of St. Florent, among other English possessions, the church of St. Mary ' de Esparlaio' or Sporle. This was again confirmed by Pope Eugenius III in 1146. A bull of confirmation of Pope Adrian IV in 1157 names the church of St. Mary de Sparlio with the chapel of Little Pal grave and its appurtenances, and there is a similarly worded confirmation in a bull of Pope Urban III of 28 December, 1186. (fn. 2)

The taxation of 1291 gives the annual value of the temporalities in four Norfolk parishes as 8s. 6d., but the priory then held also the churches of Sporle and Palgrave.

An extent of the priory of Sporle, taken in 1325, certifies that the tithes of the rectory of Sporle were of the annual worth of £20, and the altar dues averaged 100s.; that the 617 acres of glebe of the church were worth 38s. 6d.; rents, 13s. 4d.; a portion of the tithes of Hunstanton, 40s.; of Great Ellingham, 13s. 4d.; of Estworm, 16s.; of Suchacre, 10s.; and of Mileham, £4. (fn. 3)

When the alien priories were taken into the king's hands in 1337 Edward III allowed the prior of Sporle to have the custody of his house on payment of 5 marks a year and 40s. as custody fee. (fn. 4)

Thomas Eliot, prior, resigned in 1345, and the king (on account of the war) presented John de Breidesdale. In 1349, a vacancy occurring through the plague, William de Leke succeeded. On 17 February, 1379 William Sporle, monk of the Benedictine priory of Castle Acre, was presented by the crown to the bishop of Norwich for admission and institution as prior of St. Mary's, Sporle, whereof the superior was the Benedictine abbot of St. Florent, by Saumur, a subject of France. The priory is described as being vacant by the death of John Codes, the late prior, and in the king's gift on account of the war with France. (fn. 5)

This priory was dissolved at the general suppression of the alien houses, decreed by the Parliament held at Leicester in 1424. In 1428 the spiritualities of the suppressed priory were valued at £32 6s., and the temporalities at 8s. 6d. It was assigned for life as part of the dower of Joan, queen-dowager of Henry VI, and soon after her death was granted, in 1440, by Henry IV towards the endowment of his college at Eton. This grant was confirmed by Edward IV in 1462. (fn. 6)

Priors of Sporle

John, (fn. 7) temp. Henry II

Alan Make, (fn. 8) appointed 1334

Thomas Eliot, (fn. 9) resigned 1345

John de Braidesdale, (fn. 10) appointed 1345

William de Leke, (fn. 11) appointed 1349

John Godes, (fn. 12) appointed 1361

William Sporle, (fn. 13) appointed 1379

Thomas de Methewold, (fn. 14) appointed 1385


  • 1. Round, Cal. Doc. France, i, 414.
  • 2. Ibid. i, 402 and 404.
  • 3. Add. MS. 6164, fol. 128.
  • 4. Cal. of Pat. 12 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 29.
  • 5. Cal. of Pat. 2 Rich. II, pt. ii, m. 24.
  • 6. Pat. I Edw. IV, pt. iii, m. 24.
  • 7. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf.
  • 8. Pat. 8 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 32.
  • 9. Norw. Epis. Reg. iv, 52.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Ibid. iv, 97.
  • 12. Ibid. v, 56.
  • 13. Pat. 2 Ric. II, pt. ii, m. 24.
  • 14. Ibid. m. 35.