House of Austin canons: Priory of Brooke

A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 1. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.

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'House of Austin canons: Priory of Brooke', in A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 1, ed. William Page( London, 1908), British History Online [accessed 12 July 2024].

'House of Austin canons: Priory of Brooke', in A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 1. Edited by William Page( London, 1908), British History Online, accessed July 12, 2024,

"House of Austin canons: Priory of Brooke". A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 1. Ed. William Page(London, 1908), , British History Online. Web. 12 July 2024.

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The lands which formed the first endowment of the priory of St. Mary at Brooke were granted to the prior and canons of Kenilworth early in the 12th century, probably during the reign of Stephen and before 1153, by Hugh de Ferrars, then lord of the manor of Oakham. (fn. 1) His grant was confirmed by his brother William and his nephew Walkelin: and the latter, who was afterwards lord of Oakham, has in consequence sometimes been called the founder. (fn. 2)

It was a small priory from the first—Cellula de Broke it is often called in the Episcopal Registers —and only intended to support three canons. The priors were instituted by the Bishops of Lincoln, who had the right to visit the house. Its history during the 13th and 14th centuries is not very edifying. Priors were sent quite regularly from Kenilworth, but the poverty of the house made them wishful to resign on very small excuse; and the continual change of management did not tend to improve matters. Bishop Wells held a visitation in the last year of his episcopate; but the results of his inquiries are not recorded. (fn. 3) Bishop Sutton in 1298 wrote an urgent letter to the prior of Kenilworth, begging him to take some measures to secure better order. The prior of the cell was constantly absent, the house was so dilapidated and decayed that it was a scandal to the neighbourhood, and the revenues were so mismanaged that if something was not done soon the canons and their servants would have to beg their bread. The Prior of Kenilworth in answer assured the bishop that the picture was overdrawn, and asked him to wait at least till the next Michaelmas before taking any steps. The bishop was annoyed and would not promise; but he stayed his hand for a while all the same. (fn. 4)

The next year there was a fresh difficulty. Richard de Bremesgrave, the prior, had thought it sufficient to tender his resignation to his immediate superior at Kenilworth; but the bishop maintained that he alone could give the cure of souls to any man in his diocese, and that he alone could receive such resignation. Richard, safe home at Kenilworth, took no notice; and the bishop had to save his dignity by declaring him formally deposed for contumacy. (fn. 5) A new prior was then sent, but in a year he too retired to Kenilworth, protesting that he was neither able nor willing—nec valens nec volens—to cope with the difficulties of the situation. (fn. 6)

Stephen of Ketton, who was prior a few years later, had troubles of quite another kind. He got into difficulties with his own superior, and appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was recalled, with the two canons who were his companions, to the mother house, and placed under restraint; but the others escaped after a while, and carried a woeful tale to the pope. They said that they with Stephen had taken refuge in the monastery of Torksey, by permission of the bishop; and that they had been dragged away from before the high altar and imprisoned with great harshness. The pope committed the case to the Bishop of Ely; and ordered that if the facts were as stated all three canons of Brooke should be placed in some other monastery of the order. The results of the inquiry have not yet come to light, and it is quite possible that the story may have been much exaggerated. (fn. 7)

From this time onwards we know practically nothing of the history of the house: but the list of priors is carefully preserved in the Episcopal Registers. The last prior, Roger Harwell, involved his superiors in a good deal of difficulty. He had tried to secure for himself a handsome retiring pension, more than the abbot felt able to give him. Consequently, when the royal commissioners arrived in 1535 to visit the house, he represented it as an independent monastery, (fn. 8) and surrendered it to them of his own accord, securing a pension of £10. (fn. 9) Unfortunately the abbot had a year before promised a lease of it to a friend of Cromwell, and had entered upon a bond of 1,000 marks as security that the agreement should take effect. He wrote earnestly to Cromwell to help him, either by getting his rights renewed at Brooke, or by procuring him a release from the bond. (fn. 10) The answer is not recorded; but the abbot certainly did not get the priory back, for it was granted in the following September to Anthony Cope. (fn. 11)

The original endowment (fn. 12) seems to have included no more than the demesne land and assarts where the priory stood, with about 228 acres of wood. The Taxatio of 1291 showed the temporals of the prior in Rutland and Leicestershire to be worth £44 10s. 4½d., (fn. 13) which certainly ought to have maintained three canons: the Valor Ecclesiasticus stated the revenue as £40 clear. (fn. 14) In 1535 the commissioners said that the income of the house was £46 18s. 9½d.; there were eleven servants, and eight persons holding corrodies. The only canon in the monastery was the prior: the buildings were 'for the most ruinous.' Movable goods were valued at £51 10s. 2d.; there were no serious debts. (fn. 15)

Priors of Brooke

Ralf, (fn. 16) occurs 1180

Richard of Lichfield, (fn. 17) presented 1230, died 1243

John of Wotton, (fn. 18) presented 1243

Robert of Ledbury, (fn. 19) presented 1251, resigned 1285

Nicholas of Breedon, (fn. 20) presented 1285, resigned 1294

Richard de Bremesgrave, (fn. 21) presented 1294, resigned 1299

Richard of Ketton, (fn. 22) presented 1299, resigned 1300

John de Flore, (fn. 23) presented 1300, resigned 1302

Stephen of Ketton, (fn. 24) presented 1302

Richard of Ketton, (fn. 25) presented 1305

Robert of Pershore, (fn. 26) presented 1310

Henry Waleys, (fn. 27) presented 1346

Richard of Oxenden, (fn. 28) presented 1362, resigned 1366

Ralf of Towcester, (fn. 29) presented 1366, resigned 1375

Thomas de Farncote, (fn. 30) presented 1375

Robert of Leicester, (fn. 31) presented 1379, resigned 1385

Thomas Kidderminster, (fn. 32) presented 1385, resigned 1388

James of Coleshill, (fn. 33) presented 1388

Thomas Campden, (fn. 34) presented 1400

Richard Charlton, (fn. 35) presented 1400, died 1403

John Wyche, (fn. 36) presented 1403, resigned 1407

John Strech, (fn. 37) presented 1407, resigned 1425

William Shrewsbury, (fn. 38) presented 1425

Thomas Blakewell, (fn. 39) resigned 1433

Thomas Layton, (fn. 40) presented 1433, died 1453

Thomas Brayles, (fn. 41) presented 1453, resigned 1459

Richard Marston, (fn. 42) presented 1459, died 1487

William Unwyn, (fn. 43) presented 1487, resigned 1519

John Penketh, (fn. 44) presented 1519, resigned 1525

Richard Rogers, (fn. 45) presented 1525, resigned 1531

Robert Orwell, (fn. 46) presented 1531, died 1534

Roger Harwell, (fn. 47) last prior, presented 1534


  • 1. a Harl. MS. 3650 (Chartul. of Kenilworth) fol. 17 d. 75. The gift of Hugh de Ferrars is also referred to in Pat. 17 Edw. IV, pt. ii, m. 17. The date of the original grant must certainly be earlier than 1167, when, according to the Pipe Roll of that year, Walkelin de Ferrars had already succeeded his uncle as lord of Oakham. But it is probably earlier than 1153, for the name of '. . . de Novoburgo' is joined to that of Walkelin in the confirmation charter. The reference can scarcely be to anyone else than Roger de Newburgh, who died 1153. He had been lord of Oakham under Hen. I. (See Wright, Hist. of Rut. 95, and Dict. Nat. Biog.).
  • 2. Dugdale, Mon. vi (i), 233.
  • 3. Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Wells.
  • 4. Ibid. Inst. Sutton, fol. 64.
  • 5. Ibid. fol. 67.
  • 6. Ibid. Inst. Dalderby, fol. 102.
  • 7. Cal. of Papal Letters, ii, 77.
  • 8. 'A head house for anything we hear to the contrary,' the commissioners said in their report. Dugdale, Mon. vi (1), 233. L. and P. Hen. VIII, x, 1191.
  • 9. a Aug Off. Misc. Bk. 232, fol. 17.
  • 10. The abbot's letter, from Cott. MS. Cleop. E. IV, fol. 214, is printed in Wright, Hist. of Rut. 26. He speaks of 'the unjust and untrue behaviour of such my canon as I sent thither to have the governance and rule thereof; and for that he had not such profitable and commodious pension assigned and made sure unto him during his life as he and his council would and could devise and ask, hath intituled the king's highness . . . unto whole title and interest thereof.'
  • 11. Ibid. 27.
  • 12. a Two folios, relating to gifts in Belton and Martinsthorpe, remain of a chartulary of this priory; Exch. Eccl. Docts. bdle. 2, no. 9.
  • 13. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.) 66, 67.
  • 14. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 343.
  • 15. Dugdale, Mon. vi (1), 233, from the original report of the commissioners for this county. The prior was said to be of good living by report: and until recently there had been two other canons with him.
  • 16. Dugdale, Mon. vi (1), 233.
  • 17. Linc. Epis Reg. Rolls of Wells.
  • 18. Ibid. Rolls of Grosteste.
  • 19. Ibid. Rolls of Gravesend.
  • 20. Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Sutton.
  • 21. Ibid. Inst. Sutton, fol. 56 d.
  • 22. Ibid. fol. 67. Geoffrey of Whitwell was first presented, but the bishop instituted Richard of Ketton finally.
  • 23. Ibid. Inst. Dalderby, fol. 102.
  • 24. Ibid. fol. 104.
  • 25. Ibid. fol. 108 d.
  • 26. Ibid. fol. 119 d.
  • 27. Ibid. Inst. Bek, fol. 76 d.
  • 28. Ibid. Inst. Gynwell, fol. 142.
  • 29. Ibid. Inst. Buckingham, i, fol. 164.
  • 30. Ibid. fol. 202.
  • 31. Ibid. fol. 214.
  • 32. Ibid. ii, fol. 133.
  • 33. Ibid. fol. 146.
  • 34. Ibid. Inst. Beaufort, fol. 100 d.
  • 35. Ibid. fol. 102 d.
  • 36. Ibid. fol. 121.
  • 37. Ibid. Inst. Repingdon, fol. 228.
  • 38. Ibid. Inst. Fleming, fol. 72.
  • 39. Ibid. Inst. Gray, fol. 27 d.
  • 40. Ibid.
  • 41. Ibid. Inst. Chadworth, fol. 51 d.
  • 42. Ibid. fol. 62.
  • 43. Ibid. Inst. Russell, fol. 60 d.
  • 44. Ibid. Inst. Atwater, fol. 22 d.
  • 45. Ibid. Inst. Longland, fol. 96.
  • 46. Ibid. fol. 113.
  • 47. Ibid. fol. 115 d.