Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Shelford

A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1910.

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'Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Shelford', in A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2, ed. William Page( London, 1910), British History Online [accessed 14 July 2024].

'Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Shelford', in A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2. Edited by William Page( London, 1910), British History Online, accessed July 14, 2024,

"Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Shelford". A History of the County of Nottingham: Volume 2. Ed. William Page(London, 1910), , British History Online. Web. 14 July 2024.

In this section


Shelford Priory, a house of Austin Canons, was founded by Ralph Haunselyn or Hauselin, (fn. 1) in the reign of Henry II. In a suit between William Bardolf and Adam de Everingham in 1258 for the patronage of this priory, the former pleaded that his ancestor Ralph Hauselin, whose heir he was, in the time of the then king's grandfather founded the priory and enfeoffed it of all his lands in Shelford and elsewhere, and of the advowson of certain churches. Adam, on the contrary, asserted that Robert de Caus, his ancestor, was founder, because the canons presented a certain person to John de Birkin (Adam's grandfather), whose heir he was. The prior himself could not say who was patron, as he had one charter by which Ralph Haunselin founded the priory, another by which Robert de Caus gave lands to 'his monks (sic)' of Shelford, and a third recording a joint grant by Ralph and Robert. The litigants each held a moiety of the barony of Shelford, (fn. 2) but the jury decided in favour of Bardolf, declaring that Ralph Hauselin was the true founder. (fn. 3)

The Taxation Roll of 1291 sets forth the income of the house: in spiritualities, the church of Saxondale £4, part of the church of Muskham £10 13s. 4d., and pensions from the churches of Shelford, Burton Joyce, and Gedling £1 2s.; and in temporalities, in various parts of the county, £2 2s. 11d., making a total income of £37 18s. 3d. (fn. 4)

The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1534 shows a great rise in the annual value of this house; the gross income is entered at £151 14s. 1d., and the clear at £116 12s. 1¼d. The spiritualities were considerable, including the rectories of Shelford, Saxondale, Gedling, Burton Joyce, and North Muskham, Nottinghamshire; Elvaston, with the chapel of Ockbrook, Derbyshire; and Westborough, Rauceby, half the church of Dorrington, with several pensions from other churches in Lincolnshire. The temporalities were chiefly in Nottinghamshire, but also included rents at Weston, Elvaston, and Kirk Hallam, Derbyshire, and at Fulbeck and Lincoln, Lincolnshire. The heaviest outgoing was £10 a year to the chantry of Corpus Christi in the church of Newark; the sum of £2 6s. 8d. was also paid annually in alms to commemorate the founders, who are there set down as Ralph Hauselin and Robert Caus. (fn. 5)

There are various references to this priory in the earlier of the York registers. Archbishop Gray in 1230 confirmed to the Prior and Convent of Shelford several pensions out of Nottinghamshire churches, half a mark out of the mediety of the church of Gedling; half a mark from the church of Laxton; half a mark from the church of Burton-on-Trent, i.e. Burton Joyce; a stone of wax from the church of Kelham; and after the deaths of the then rectors of Gedling and Laxton, each of these churches to pay a mark as pension. (fn. 6)

On 4 November 1270 Archbishop Giffard instructed his bailiff at Southwell to deliver three oaks suitable for timber to the Prior of Shelford, out of his wood of Sherwood. (fn. 7)

In January 1270-1 the archbishop gave an award as to the right of pasturage in the field of Basford, about which there had been a fierce dispute between the priory of Shelford and the burgesses of Nottingham, the parties having bound themselves under oath to observe the award, under a penalty of 100 lb. of silver. The award was in favour of the burgesses, but the town had to pay the priory 30 marks for damages and expenses. (fn. 8)

Consequent on a personal visitation of Shelford Priory, the following injunctions or corrections were dispatched to the house on 4 June 1280:—The prior to discard all torpor both in spiritual and temporal affairs, and to rely on the counsel of his brethren; the sub-prior to restrict himself to his office, such as the joint custody of the seal; useless servants in granges to be removed; the rule of silence at stated times and places not to be infringed; worthless persons not to be allowed to eat and drink in the frater; no one to be admitted to the farmery save the doctors; no one to be allowed to drink or eat after compline, save in the presence of the prior and by his express licence, or in case of sickness; the sick to be better treated and fed, and alms (in kind) to be more safely kept; canons not to go out of cloister save for necessity or by express leave of the president; carols and chests with locks to be opened twice a year by the prior in the presence of a fellow canon, in order that the vice of private property might be expelled; no money to be paid for clothes, but they are to be allotted out of the common store; no little gifts or letters to be received without licence of the president, and these to be applied to the common use; and these injunctions to be read in full chapter at the beginning of each month. (fn. 9)

The visitation of Shelford Priory by Archbishop Romayne in 1280 produced the following injunctions: The prior to do his duty better, to refrain from indulgence in drink (a superfluis potacionibus se temperet), and to avail himself of the advice of his experienced and faithful servants, to frequent church and chapter at the proper hours, to correct excesses without favour, to sell no corrody without the diocesan's special licence, to feed with the convent, except at the advent of guests or for other reasonable causes, to correct the obedientiaries after a temperate fashion, to retain no waster nor quarrelsome person, and to take the advice of the convent on the expenditure of the house. The sub-prior was to obey the prior, to punish with discretion, and to abstain from all manner of business. The cellarer and the bursar to render their accounts yearly. Silence to be strictly observed at the appointed times and places; no gifts to be received but by leave; all canons to keep within the cloister, save by leave, which is to be freed from seculars and closed after compline; old clothes to be given to the poor without payment; the carols to be opened now and again, with the view of excluding private ownership; the sick to be better fed and tended, and the farmery kept clear of secular persons; the canons' boys returning from their exterior labour to be excluded from the farmery and to have their meals in a proper place in the common hall; and no seculars or unfit persons to enter the cellarer's buildings or the frater. These injunctions were to be read in full chapter thrice a year, in a distinct and intelligible voice. (fn. 10)

On 30 March 1289 Archbishop Romayne issued licence to the sub-prior and convent of Shelford to elect a new prior in the place of John de Nottingham, who had held the office for many years. (fn. 11) On 21 April the archbishop confirmed the election of Robert de Tytheby, canon and sacrist of Shelford, as prior. (fn. 12)

The mandate of the archbishop was addressed to the (rural) Dean of Retford 5 September 1293, ordering him to forbid the Prior and Convent of Shelford to use the divine offices in the parish church of Shelford, polluted by the shedding of blood, until it had been reconciled, and citing the prior to appear before him on 1 October, wherever he (the archbishop) might happen to be. (fn. 13)

The priory obtained the royal licence in 1310 to appropriate the moiety of the church of Gedling, which was of their patronage. (fn. 14)

Diocesan sanction was given in 1311 to the appropriation of the churches of Shelford and Saxondale and the mediety of the church of North Muskham to the priory of Shelford. (fn. 15)

The priory had licence from the Crown in 1316 to appropriate a moiety of the church of Westborough, which was of their advowson. (fn. 16)

From the dating of various entries on the Patent Rolls for 1317 and 1319 it would appear that Edward II made brief sojourns at Shelford Priory during those years.

Part of the income of the priory was derived from the sale of wool from sheep feeding on the demesne lands. In 1333 Crown licence was obtained for Godeking de Revele and Robert Stuffyn of Newark, merchants, to convey to the staples and thence export at will, notwithstanding the ordinance of the staples, wool purchased by them from the Prior of Shelford before the making of such ordinance. (fn. 17)

At the pleas of the forest held at Nottingham in 1335 the Prior of Shelford successfully maintained his rights in a wood at Gedling commonly called 'le Priors Parke.' Thomas de Birkin, soon after the foundation of the house, gave to the canons of the Blessed Mary of Shelford all his park of Gedling and the wood therein. (fn. 18)

In 1348, on payment of £20 to the Exchequer, the priory obtained the Crown licence for the appropriation of the church of Burton Joyce. (fn. 19)

In May of the following year confirmation was obtained of an indenture of Prior William de Leicester (who died of the plague a few months later) and the convent of Shelford, granting to John de Woodhouse, perpetual chaplain of the altar of Corpus Christi in the church of Newark, and to his successors, a yearly rent of 5 marks to pray for the souls of Alan Fleming of Newark and Alice his wife, their sons and daughters and others; for due payment the prior and canons bound their house and goods, and specially their manors of Saxondale and North Muskham. (fn. 20)

Confirmation was also obtained in June 1350 of an indenture of Prior Thomas de Chilwell and the convent of Shelford, binding themselves to pay yearly to the chapter of Lincoln £6 13s. 4d. to a chantry chaplain celebrating daily for the souls of Henry de Edwinstow, late canon, and his benefactors, in return for a welcome subsidy from the executors of Canon Henry's will. As a special security for this payment every prior of Shelford, within fifteen days of his appointment, was to swear on the Holy Gospels to observe the premises. (fn. 21)

In 1392 licence was obtained by John de Landeford, vicar, for the alienation in mortmain of a moiety of the church of Gedling, and by John Ward of Shelford for the alienation of three messuages, lands and rents in Shelford and Stoke Bardolph, co. Nottingham, and one messuage in Alvaston, co. Derby, to the Prior and Convent of Shelford. (fn. 22) In the following year licence was granted for further gifts of lands in Lowdham, Gunthorpe, and Caythorpe. (fn. 23)

The second half of the church of Westborough, co. Lincoln, was appropriated to Shelford in 1398. (fn. 24)

At the time of the death of Prior William de Kynalton and the succession of Robert Lyndby, in 1404, it was found that during the rule of the late prior, which had extended over a period of nearly forty years, the house had become indebted to the extent of 80 marks, the burden of the perpetual pensions amounted to £20, and the corrodies to a total of £40. The temporalities and spiritualities were declared to be of the annual value of £120. (fn. 25)

Shelford was subjected in 1536 to a visitation from Legh and Layton, who stated that three of the canons were guilty of unnatural sin and three others of incontinence, and that three desired release from their vows. They also stated that the girdle and milk of the Virgin and part of a candle which she is said to have carried at her purification were here venerated. The priory was further possessed of some of the oil of the Holy Cross and of St. Katherine. They estimated the annual income at £100, and the debts at £30. (fn. 26)

Archbishop Cranmer was not above asking favours of Cromwell out of the wreck of the monasteries. On 25 March 1536 he wrote from Lambeth to Cromwell:—'I desire your favor for the bearer, my brother-in-law, who is now clerk of my kitchen, to have the farm of the priory of Shelford, or of some other house in Notts, now suppressed.' (fn. 27)

In June 1536 the Crown granted almost the whole of the manors, advowsons, and other properties of the priory to Michael Stanhope for sixty years, at a rental of £20. The property is described as 'late of Henry Norres, attainted.' (fn. 28)

In November 1537 Michael Stanhope and Anne his wife obtained grant in tail male of the house and site of the suppressed priory of Shelford, with church, belfry, churchyard, 174 acres of arable land, 30 of meadow and 60 of pasture in Shelford, together with the common fishery. (fn. 29) Michael Stanhope was the second son of Sir Edward Stanhope of Rampton.

There is a cast from a 13th-century impression of the seal of Shelford Priory at the British Museum. (fn. 30) It is a pointed oval, displaying the Blessed Virgin, crowned and seated on a carved throne, beneath a canopy supported on slender shafts and with the Holy Child on her left knee. Remains of legend:—


Priors of Shelford

Alexander, occurs 1204 (fn. 31)

William, occurs c. 1225 (fn. 32)

John de Nottingham, occurs 1271, (fn. 33) resigned 1289 (fn. 34)

Robert de Tithby, 1289 (fn. 35)

Laurence, died c. 1310

Thomas de Lexinton, c. 1310 (fn. 36)

Robert de Mannesfield, 1315 (fn. 37)

William de Breton, 1320 (fn. 38)

William de Leicester, 1340 (fn. 39)

Stephen de Bassyngborn, 1349 (fn. 40)

Thomas de Chilwell, 1349 (fn. 41)

(Alexander de Insula, elected 1358) (fn. 42)

Roger de Graystock, appointed 1358 (fn. 43)

William de Kynalton, 1365 (fn. 44)

Robert Lyndby, 1404 (fn. 45)

William de Righton, 1408 (fn. 46)

Walter Cutwolfe, died 1459 (fn. 47)

John Bottesford, 1459 (fn. 48)

Richard Stokes, 1479 (fn. 49)

Robert Helmsley, 1491 (fn. 50)

Henry Sharp, 1498 (fn. 51)

Robert Dickson (fn. 52)


  • 1. Forms which represent the 'Alselin' of Domesday. In many printed records and some MSS. it is given as Hanselin.
  • 2. The Domesday fief of Geoffrey Alselin.
  • 3. Coram Rege, Mich. 14 Edw. II, m. 153.
  • 4. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 310, 310b, 312, 338.
  • 5. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), v, 162-3.
  • 6. York Epis. Reg. Gray, fol. 34.
  • 7. Ibid. Giffard, fol. 54.
  • 8. Nott. Bor. Rec. i, 50-3.
  • 9. York Epis. Reg. Giffard, fol. 137.
  • 10. Ibid. Romanus, fol. 71 d.
  • 11. Ibid. fol. 74.
  • 12. Ibid. fol. 74 d.
  • 13. York Epis. Reg. Romanus, fol. 82 d.
  • 14. Pat. 4 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 20.
  • 15. Harl. MS. 6970, fol. 238.
  • 16. Pat. 9 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 22.
  • 17. Pat. 7 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 2.
  • 18. Harl. MS. 4954, fol. 31, 39, 44.
  • 19. Pat. 22 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 7.
  • 20. Pat. 23 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 11.
  • 21. Pat. 24 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 6.
  • 22. Pat. 16 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 36.
  • 23. Pat. 17 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 10.
  • 24. Pat. 22 Ric. II, pt. iii, m. 16.
  • 25. Harl. MS. 6969, fol. 88.
  • 26. L. and P. Hen. VIII, x, 364.
  • 27. Ibid. 547.
  • 28. L. and P. Hen. VIII, x, 364.
  • 29. Pat. 29 Hen. VIII, pt. i, m. 33.
  • 30. Seal Casts, lxx, 36.
  • 31. See account of Welbeck Abbey below.
  • 32. Thoroton, Notts. i, 288.
  • 33. Nott. Bor. Rec. i, 50.
  • 34. Harl. MS 6970, fol. 106.
  • 35. Ibid.
  • 36. Thomas de Lexinton, elected by the canons on the death of Prior Laurence, was approved by Edward II and instituted by Archbishop William (died 1315); Coram Rege, Mich. 14 Edw. II, m. 153.
  • 37. Harl. MS. 6970, fol. 243.
  • 38. Harl. MS. 6972, fol. 16.
  • 39. Ibid. fol. 13.
  • 40. Ibid. fol. 18.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. Ibid. fol. 20. The archbishop appointed Roger de Graystock, quashing the election of Alexander as a persona inepta.
  • 43. Ibid.
  • 44. Ibid.
  • 45. Ibid. fol. 20.
  • 46. Ibid. fol. 24.
  • 47. Ibid. fol. 30.
  • 48. Ibid. fol. 37.
  • 49. Ibid.
  • 50. Ibid. fol. 37.
  • 51. Ibid. fol. 39.
  • 52. Harl. MS. 6969, fol. 136. 'Last prior.'