A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1910.
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HOUSE OF CARTHUSIAN MONKS
5. THE PRIORY OF BEAUVALE
There is a fine register or chartulary of the Carthusian Priory of Beauvale compiled by Nicholas Wartre, who was prior of this house in 1486, which is in excellent preservation. (fn. 1) The foundation charter herein set forth shows that Nicholas de Cauntlow, lord of Ilkeston, Derbyshire, obtained licence of Edward III in 1343 to found a monastery of the Carthusian order in his park of Greasley for a prior and twelve monks, endowing it with 10 librates of land and annual rents thereto pertaining in the townships of Greasley and Selston, together with the park of Greasley and the advowson of the churches of Greasley and Selston. The charter recites that the founder did this for the glory of God and of the Virgin and of All Saints, for the furtherance of divine worship, and for the good estate of the king, of Archbishop Zouch, his most dear lord and cousin, of the Earl of Derby, of himself and his wife Joan, and William his son and heir, and of their souls when they should die, and also for all his progenitors and heirs. He gave the monastery that he had built (called Pulchra Vallis or Beauvale) in his park to God and the Holy Trinity, and to the prior and monks of the Carthusian order and their successors, together with 300 acres of land, 10 messuages, and 12 bovates in Greasley, and 13 messuages and 17½ bovates in Selston, with the villeins who held these lands in villeinage, and the advowson of the two churches. He further granted to the monks common of pasture for all manner of cattle throughout his demesnes, together with the rights of quarrying stone for their buildings, and taking marl to marl their lands in all the said places with the exception of his park of Kirkstall.
This charter was witnessed at Greasley on 9 December 1343 by an imposing company which included the Archbishop of York, the Bishops of Durham, Lincoln, and Lichfield, the Earls of Derby, Northampton, and Huntingdon, Sir John de Grey, Sir William Deincourt and Sir William de Grey of Sandiacre, knights, William son and heir of the founder, and William's son Nicholas. Another charter, to the like effect but in shorter terms, was sealed at the same time and place and witnessed by several knights of the district. (fn. 2)
In the year 1347, on 20 October, at Greasley, a further deed was executed, witnessed by the same bishops and earls, to the effect that Nicholas de Cauntlow and his heir gave additional lands and rents to the value of £20 per annum to the monastery in the towns of Selston, Watnall, Kinmark, (fn. 3) and Newthorpe. (fn. 4) Another early benefaction was the advowson of the church of Farnham, with an acre of land, by Sir William Malbis and others in 1344. (fn. 5)
Nicholas de Cauntlow the founder died in 1355, and there is entered in the chartulary a detailed account of the descent of his Derbyshire lands from the time of the Conquest. (fn. 6)
Hugh de Cressy of Selston and Cecilia his wife assigned to the priory in 1360 all their lands and tenements in Kimberley and Newthorpe, on condition of Hugh receiving from the priory £7 10s. during his life, and Cecilia £4 11s. if she survived him. (fn. 7)
Sir William de Aldburgh, for the soul of his lord Edward Baliol, King of Scotland, and for the soul of Elizabeth his wife, and for others his near kinsfolk, did in 1362 grant to the priory of Beauvale the hay of Willey in Sherwood. In the succeeding reign (18 Richard II) a chantry was founded in the conventual church for two of the monks to say mass for the souls of William de Aldburgh and Edward Baliol. The founders of this chantry were Isabel wife of Sir William de Ryther, and Elizabeth wife of Sir Brian Stapleton, who were the sisters of William de Aldburgh; each of them granted 40s. a year out of her respective moiety of the manors of Kirkby Overblow (Yorkshire) (fn. 8) and 'Kereby.' (fn. 9)
The chartulary sets forth with much detail copies of title deeds referring to bequests of land in Selston, Wandesley in Bagthorpe, Brinsley, Hucknall Torkard, Newthorpe, Cressy Fee, Watnall Chaworth, Brook, and Willey, all in Nottinghamshire. (fn. 10)
One of the most important of these grants was that of the manor of Etwall, Derbyshire. Sir William de Finchenden, kt., Richard de Ravenser, Archdeacon of Lincoln, and Nicholas de Chaddesden, Richard de Chesterfield, and Richard de Tissington, clerks, obtained licence from Edward III to grant this manor to Beauvale Priory (soon after its foundation), to pray for Sir William whilst living, and for his soul and that of his wife Blanche after death. (fn. 11)
Some forty folios are occupied with the setting out of the various papal privileges enjoyed by the priory. By far the greater part of these were common to the whole Carthusian order; but the bull of Clement VI names and confirms the special liberties granted to Beauvale on its foundation. (fn. 12)
The chartulary concludes with the setting forth in full of the various documents relative to the appropriation of churches to this monastery. (fn. 13) The archiepiscopal and royal assent of the appropriation of the churches of Greasley and Selston were obtained at the time of the first foundation of the house; 2 marks out of the rectory of Greasley and 1 mark out of the rectory of Selston were assigned as pensions to successive Archbishops of York, and 20s. and 10s. respectively to the Dean and Chapter of York. In the following year (1344) the resignation of the rectors of both Greasley and Selston was secured, and they were at once presented to medieties of the rectory of the church of East Keal, Lincolnshire. Vicarages were duly ordained for both parishes. In the case of Greasley a vicarage house was to be built, adjoining the church, on an area of 180 ft. by 100 ft.; the vicar was to receive all mortuaries and oblations, together with all small tithes valued at £10 a year, and the priory was to find bread, wine, lights for the high altar, and a parish chaplain or curate. The Selston vicar was to have a house on the king's highway, near the church, having an area of 154 ft. by 140 ft., and the mortuaries and oblations and the tithes of wool and lambs and all other small tithes of the value, according to inquisition, of 6 marks or £4.
The church of Farnham was appropriated in 1355, the archbishop securing a pension of 6s. 8d., and the dean and chapter 3s. 4d. The vicarage house was to include a hall, two suitable chambers, a kitchen, a stable, a bakehouse, and a barn for grain and hay. (fn. 14)
At the beginning of the chartulary are transcripts of ten royal charters, confirming the various benefactions afterwards recited. On the last folio, in a cursory hand, is the statement that this chartulary, compiled through the industry of Nicholas Wartre, recently prior of the house, extends from the foundation up to the year 1486; prayers are asked for the good estate of Nicholas during his life and for his soul after death. (fn. 15)
There are various deeds at the Public Record Office relative to this priory; the most interesting are the four here briefly cited:—
1. A licence by John de Grey, lord of Coddington, in 1358, to Robert Bernow and William Braydeston to grant to the Prior and Convent of Beauvale the manor of Kimberley with its appurtenances. (fn. 16)
2. A mining lease granted by the priory in 1397 to William Monyash of Costall and others of a coal mine in 'Kyrkestallavnd.' (fn. 17)
3. Release in 1404 by John Prior of St. Fremond, Normandy, to William Prior of Beauvale of all rights in the priory of Bonby, Lincoln diocese. (fn. 18)
4. Confirmation in 1462 by John Day, vicar of Selston and others, of the grant of a ninety-nine years' lease to the priory made by the late William Arnalde (in 1457) of all coal and right of digging for the same in Selston parish, and of all wood growing there to make 'punches and proppes,' paying 13s. 4d. a year so long as they obtain coal. (fn. 19)
There are numerous records of grants to this priory on the Patent Rolls of Edward III; but they need not be cited, as they refer to matters of which particulars are given in the chartulary.
In 1403 Henry IV granted to this house the alien priory of Bonby, Lincolnshire, with its advowsons, lands, rents, and services not exceeding the annual value of 18 marks. The Prior and Convent of St. Fremond, of which it was a cell, had granted Bonby (without licence) to the London house of Carthusians in 1390, but at that time Bonby was in the hands of Richard II on account of the war with France, and therefore that grant was void. The possessions of Bonby included the rectory of the parish church of that place, pensions of 13s. 4d. each from the churches of Saxby and St. John's Stamford, and the advowsons of the churches of Sts. Peter, John, Paul, and George, Stamford, and Saxby and Grafton. (fn. 20)
There is a highly interesting document extant dated 7 February 1422, whereby Dom Richard de Burton, Prior of Beauvale, covenants with Brother John de Bedysdale, of the Derby Do minicans, prior provincial of that order, for an intercommunion of prayers and devotions between the Carthusians and Dominicans, both in life and in death. (fn. 21)
Edward IV in 1462 granted to the Prior and Convent of Beauvale 24 marks yearly from the customs of the port of Kingston on Hull, in exchange for a grant of two tuns of the better red wine of Gascony at this port at All Saints tide, which had been made by Edward III. But in 1465 the charge of 24 marks a year on the Hull customs was exchanged for the like charge on the fee farm and increment on the town of Derby at the hands of the men or bailiffs of that town. (fn. 22)
The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1534 gave the annual value of this priory as £227 8s., and the clear value £196 6s. The appropriated churches at that time were those of Greasley and Selston, Nottinghamshire; Farnham, Yorkshire; Bonby and a pension from St. John's Stamford, Lincolnshire. The temporalities were chiefly in Nottinghamshire, but there was an income of £12 13s. 4d. from Etwall, Derbyshire, in addition to the £16 from the town of Derby. Among the outgoings was the payment of 27s. 4d. a year to Sir John Chaworth for the passage of coal over his lands. (fn. 23)
Maurice Chauncey's beautiful and pathetic account of the last days of the English Carthusians, who were practically unanimous in rejecting the supremacy of Henry VIII in matters ecclesiastical, makes special mention of the part taken by the superior of this Nottinghamshire house. (fn. 24) Soon after the king's new title of 'Supreme Head' had been formally adopted by the council, early in 1535, Robert Lawrence, the Prior of Beauvale, and Augustine Webster, Prior of Axholme, came to visit and consult with their brethren at the London Charterhouse. Lawrence had been a member of the London house, and had been transferred to Beauvale as its superior at the time, five years previously, when John Houghton, Prior of Beauvale, was summoned to take charge of the mother house of the English province. The three priors determined to forestall the visitations of the royal commissioners, and sought a personal interview with Cromwell; but the Lord Privy Seal, on learning the purport of their visit, refused to listen to any pleadings, and at once sent them from his house to the Tower as rebellious traitors.
A week later, namely on 20 April, the priors were interrogated before Cromwell, when they stoutly refused to take the oath of supremacy and reject the authority of anyone except the king over the Church of England. (fn. 25) Whilst in prison the three superiors were again closely examined; the depositions record their several opinions in much the same language. The Prior of Beauvale declared that he could 'not take our sovereign lord to be supreme head of the Church, but him that is by God the head of the Church, that is the bishop of Rome, as Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine teach.' (fn. 26)
Thereupon a special commission was appointed to try these three Carthusians, as well as a Brigittine monk of Syon who had been imprisoned on a like charge. On 26 April they underwent another examination in the Tower by Cromwell and other members of the Privy Council. On 28 April they were indicted before a jury on the charge of openly stating on the 26th that the king was 'not supreme head in earth of the Church of England.' Lawrence and his three companions pleaded not guilty to the novel charge of verbal treason. The verdict of the jury was deferred till the following day. (fn. 27)
The jury were unable to agree to condemn the four accused, notwithstanding the all-embracing nature of the statute, on the ground that they did not act 'maliciously.' The judges, however, instructed them that whoever denied the supremacy, did so 'maliciously,' and that the use of that word in the Act was 'a void limit and restraint of the construction of the words and intention of the offence.' On the jury still refusing to condemn them, Cromwell used violent threats against them, with the result that at last they found them guilty and received great thanks; 'but they were afterwards ashamed to show their faces, and some of them took great [harm] from it.' (fn. 28)
The prisoners were condemned to death and conducted back to the Tower. On 4 May Prior Lawrence of Beauvale, with his two fellow priors, as well as the Brigittine father and John Hale, vicar of Isleworth, were done to death at Tyburn, in the midst of a vast crowd, among whom were a great number of lords and courtiers. The condemned were all drawn to the place of execution in their respective habits, and everything seems to have been arranged to make their death an awful example of the king's power over the religious and ecclesiastics of his realm. To each of the victims, as he mounted the scaffold, a pardon was offered if he would accept Henry as supreme head of the Church, but all rejected the offer. The details of the execution were even more ghastly and revolting than was usual in executions for high treason. The cords used for the preliminary hanging were especially stout and heavy, in order to avoid the possibility of fatal strangling before the subsequent butchery could be achieved. Whilst life was still in them, they were ripped up in each other's presence, their bodies obscenely mutilated, their hearts 'cut out and rubbed into their mouths and faces,' and all this before the process of quartering was begun. (fn. 29)
Meanwhile the Carthusians of the mother house were treated with either blandishments or terrible threats in order to secure by any possible means their yielding to acknowledgement of the supremacy. The more obstinate of them were placed in prison, either in the Tower or in Newgate, heavily chained upright to posts under circumstances of diabolical cruelty. No wonder that under such a punishment several of them died. We need not be surprised that the general determination of the Carthusians to be true to their original vows gave way in not a few cases. A new prior was required to take the place in London of the martyred Houghton, who, it will be remembered, came from Beauvale. It was another monk of Beauvale, William Trafford, who was selected by Cromwell to fill the place. How he came to give way and submit to be thus cajoled cannot now be explained. The truerhearted of the London Carthusians quietly resented his intrusion. Chauncey (being himself, as he acknowledges, one of the partial timeservers) says of Trafford's brief period of administration that 'being deprived of a prior exterior to ourselves, every man's conscience was his prior.'
Trafford's submission is the more remarkable as he had been singularly bold in proclaiming his refusal to acknowledge the supremacy when Sir John Markham and other special commissioners visited Beauvale to 'take the value.' Trafford, as proctor of the convent, was then in charge, for the prior was in safe custody in the Tower, awaiting his trial. Addressing Markham on this occasion the proctor said, 'I believe firmly that the Pope of Rome is supreme head of the Church Catholic.' On the commissioners asking him if he would abide by his words, he replied 'Usque ad mortem.' He also went so far as to commit his words to writing, and Markham carried the paper away and left the monk to the special custody of the sheriff of the county. (fn. 30)
The clear annual value of this Carthusian monastery was just under the £200 which was the limit for the suppression of the lesser monasteries; but by paying the heavy fine of £166 13s. 4d. the monks of Beauvale obtained the doubtful privilege of deferring the evil day of their dissolution. This bargain was effected on 2 January 1537-8. (fn. 31) Thomas Woodcock had been appointed prior by the Crown on 16 December 1537. (fn. 32)
The surrender of this house, and of all its possessions in the counties of Nottingham, Lincoln, and Derby, took place on 18 July 1539. It received the signatures of Thomas Woodcock, prior, and of seven other monks, John Langdale, William Welles, Alexander Lowthe, Edmund Garner, Robert Gowton (proctor), Thomas Leyghton, and Thomas Wallis. The surrender was delivered to Dr. London, the king's commissioner, in the chapter-house. (fn. 33)
London, writing from Nottingham on 24 July, certified that he had granted the following pensions to the 'Charterhouse of Bew Vale':— Thomas Woodcock, prior, £26 13s. 4d.; John Langford, £6; W. Welles, A. Lowthe, E. Garnett, and R. Gowton, £5 6s. 8d. each; Nicholas Dookmer, T. Leyghton, and Thomas Wallis, £5 each. In addition to these, 40s. each was assigned to two lay brothers, Richard Wakefield and Richard Bynde, described as 'converse and aged men.' (fn. 34)
In another letter from London, dated 27 July and addressed to Cromwell, he tells the Lord Privy Seal that on visiting Beauvale for the surrender he found the prior in short gown and velvet cap ready for their coming, and the proctor of the house in like apparel next day. (fn. 35) Woodcock was evidently one of those timeserving monks chosen by Cromwell to be prior, to serve his own ends.
With regard to the eventual fate of the surviving Carthusians of Beauvale, we know of the survival of one till old age. Nicholas Dugmer (or Dookmer), a Beauvale monk, who eventually followed Prior Chauncey across the seas, died on 10 December 1575. (fn. 36)
There is a sulphur cast of an impression of the original seal of this priory at the British Museum. (fn. 39) It represents Our Lord seated in a canopied niche, with cruciform nimbus, lifting up the right hand in benediction, and holding in the left hand an orb surmounted by a long cross. At the base a monk kneels in prayer under a round-headed arch. Legend:—
S: COMUNE : DOMUS : BELLE : VALL' : ORD' : CAR. .
Priors of Beauvale
William, occurs 1404 (fn. 40)
B—, occurs 1412 (fn. 41)
Richard de Burton, occurs 1422, 1426 (fn. 42)
Thomas Metheley, occurs 1468 (fn. 43)
John Swift, occurs 1478 (fn. 44)
Thomas Wydder, occurs 1482 (fn. 45)
Nicholas Wartre, occurs 1486 (fn. 46)
Robert Lawrence, executed 1535 (fn. 47)
Thomas Woodcock, surrendered 1539 (fn. 48)