Alien houses: The priory of Toft Monks

Pages 464-465

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.



Robert de Bellomonte, earl of Meulan in Normandy, and of Leicester in England, granted to the abbey of Préaux in Normandy, in the time of William Rufus, the manor of Toft, with the tithe of ' Cerlentone ' and ' Posteberies,' and the churches of those two towns, for the souls of King William and Maud his queen, and for the weal and prosperity of his son William, king of the English, and for the souls of his own parents, Roger and Adelina, and for himself and his brother Henry, and all his predecessors. The gift was allowed and confirmed by King William at Whitsuntide, when he held his court in his new hall at Wesminster. (fn. 2)

In the reign of Henry I, the earl renewed his gift of the manor of Toft with its appendages, adding sac and soc, tol and team, and infangentheofe and exemption from all exaction of dues. (fn. 3)

Henry II granted a charter of confirmation of their English possessions to the abbey of Préaux, including the gift of Roger de Bellomonte of the tithes of Cherlinton and the manor of Toft. (fn. 4)

Edward I in 1285 confirmed previous grants to the abbey, and added thereto the advowson of the churches of St. Margaret Toft, and St. Mary Haddiscoe, with other advowsons in other counties, and various lands. (fn. 5)

Two or three monks were placed here from the abbey at an early date, to look after this part of their English property, and to conduct divine service, their superior being termed prior. At the beginning of the reign of Edward I the prior of Tofts was prosecuted at the hundred court for obstructing the king's highway. (fn. 6)

The taxation roll of 1291 gives the annual value of the rents, mill, etc. at Toft pertaining to the abbey of Préaux as £40 16s. 10½d. (fn. 7)

An extent of the lands and tenements of the abbey of Préaux ' in villa de Monkstoft,' taken in 1325, estimated the capital messuage with fruits and herbs in the gardens, 300 acres of land, of which 86 were enclosed, and nine acres of meadow, of the annual value of £39 11s. 2¾d. The abbot of Préaux had also two parts of the tithes of the church of Toft Monks worth £13 6s. 8d. a year. (fn. 8)

Another inventory of 1337 returns the issue of the manor at £39 13s. 5d., and values the abbot's property at Toft at £77 17s. 1d, these sums being distributed over the furniture of the hall, ' Dispenserie,' chamber, kitchen, larder, bakehouse, &c. (fn. 9)

Considering the small size of this alien cell it is not surprising that very little history attaches to it beyond the records of its frequent seizure into the king's hands during wars with France, but in 1200 we find the prior of Toft acting with the abbots of Holm and St. Edmunds in deciding the claims of Honorius to the archdeacony of Richmond, and in 1327 the prior of Toft was acting as proctor in England for the abbot of Préaux. In that capacity he presented in March to the church of Spettisbury, Dorset, but the king directed the bishop of Salisbury to ignore the presentation until the courts had decided whether the vacancy had occurred before the date of February when Edward III had restored the advowsons, etc. of alien men of religion, which had been seized by the late king during the wars with France. (fn. 10)

When the war with France was in progress in 1390, Lewis de Clifford had the licence of the crown to acquire for life, with remainder to his son, the manor of Toft and other possessions of the abbey of Préaux in different counties, on condition that during the war with France at least £80 a year was paid to the king's exchequer, but the terms were modified later in the same year. (fn. 11)

On the suppression of the alien houses, Henry V annexed the revenues of the priory of Toft or Tofts to the Carthusians of Witham, Somerset, (fn. 12) but Edward IV transferred them in February, 1462, to the college of St. Mary and St. Nicholas (King's), Cambridge. (fn. 13)


  • 1. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. viii, 61-3; Dugdale, Mon. 1927; Taylor, Index Monasticus, 9.
  • 2. Round, Cal. Doc. France; i, 111. Blomefield, followed by others, wrongly assigns the date of this gift to the reign of Henry I.
  • 3. Ibid. i, 112.
  • 4. Chart. 13 Edw. I. m. 21, 4069, per inspex; cited Dugdale, Mon. vi, 1027.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), i, 540.
  • 7. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 114.
  • 8. Add. MS. 6164, fol 133.
  • 9. Chanc. Misc. bdle. 18, file 4, No. 13.
  • 10. Close, 1 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 9.
  • 11. Pat. 14 Rich. II, pt. i, m. 21; pt. ii, in. 46.
  • 12. Ibid. 1 Hen. V, pt. iii, m. 20.
  • 13. Ibid. 1 Edw. IV, pt. iii, m. 23.