A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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'Houses of Carthusian monks: The priory of Hinton', in A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 2, (London, 1911) pp. 118-123. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/som/vol2/pp118-123 [accessed 29 February 2024]
HOUSES OF CARTHUSIAN MONKS
10. THE PRIORY OF HINTON
The foundation of the Charterhouse at Hinton was due to the devotion of Ela, Countess of Salisbury, and to her desire to fulfil her husband's wish. William Longespée (fn. 1) was supposed to have been the son of the fair Rosamund. He was certainly the natural son of Henry II, and in 1198 married Ela d'Evreux, daughter and heiress of Patrick, first Earl of Salisbury. On 7 March 1226 (fn. 2) Earl William died and was buried in the new cathedral church at Salisbury, which he had helped to build. During his lifetime he appears to have contemplated the foundation of a house of Carthusian monks at Hatherop in Gloucestershire, and had not only located there some monks, but had formally conveyed to them a small estate in Chelwood, and also made them an allowance of wood from the forest of Braden. When he died he did not forget them, but bequeathed certain jewels and cattle for their enrichment. Within a short time however the monks appealed to the widowed countess for further help since, as they stated, their endowment was insufficient for their maintenance.
The manors of Hinton and Norton had been granted by the Conqueror to Edward of Salis bury, (fn. 3) the sheriff of Wilts, and had descended to Countess Ela through her father; and in May 1232 she responded to the petition of the monks by conferring these manors upon them. The Laycock Register (fn. 4) says that on the same day in May she founded the house of Austin Nuns at Laycock in Wiltshire and the Carthusian House at Hinton. There are no early charters, and we are dependent on the register (fn. 5) of Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury for a copy of the foundation charter. It mentions Hatherop and Braden, and the manors of Hinton and Norton and the advowson of the church there. The deed is witnessed by Hubert de Burgh, and therefore it cannot be later than 1232, nor can it be earlier than 1229 when Robert Bingham, another of the witnesses, became Bishop of Salisbury.
Beyond the record of the increase of endowments and the lawsuits that were necessary at times to maintain their right to them, we know nothing of the early history of the monastery. (fn. 6) In the early days of the settlement of the monks at Hinton Bishop Jocelin, in 1262, had to arrange a dispute between the vicar of Hinton and the monks concerning the small tithes of the parish and the title to three acres of land. (fn. 7) The rectory and the advowson, though stated in the charter as granted to the monks, were in the hands of the bishop, and in 1342 (fn. 8) Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury conveyed the advowson and rectory of Hinton, said to belong to the see, to the Prior and convent of Hinton, and three years later (fn. 9) he also conveyed to them through Walter de Rodeney the advowson of Norton.
The documents copied into Bishop Ralph's register, (fn. 10) in addition to the foundation charter, include a confirmation by Bishop Jocelin in 1230, and a papal confirmation by Innocent IV in 1245, and papal charters of protection and confirmation of privileges from Clement IV in 1265 and 1266, John XXII in 1318 and Innocent IV in 1345.
In 1371 at a general chapter of the order held in London, John Luscombe or Luscote the prior was allowed to resign that he might be made 'rector' of the new Carthusian foundation at Smithfield, London. (fn. 11) In 1444 the priory shared in the grants made by Henry VI out of the property and revenues accruing to the Crown from the sequestration of the alien priories, and its yearly income was increased by a grant of 50 marks. (fn. 12)
Towards the end of the 15th century one of the monks of Hinton became famous as an ecstatic visionary. Brother Stephen, 'the admirable Stephen,' professed a devotion for St. Mary Magdalene. In Durandus' Chronicle of the Carthusian Order, (fn. 13) a work which preserves to us many anecdotes concerning the lives of prominent Carthusians, we are told that Stephen in a religious ecstasy seemed to be transported to the top of a mountain. Before him stretched a garden full of lovely flowers, and while he prepared to go forth and explore it he saw advancing towards him a lady of extreme beauty, from whose head the hair hung like golden glory, and from whose face streamed forth rays of sunlight. As he drew near the lady accosted him—' God keep thee, my lover, Stephen.' Then he threw himself at her feet, but recognizing his saintly patroness he took courage to speak to her.
The conversation, which is of the erotic style common to the age, goes on to say that he told his patroness that the wish of his heart was to be taken back into favour as was Stephen after his many sins. This Stephen was known as Stephen of Flanders, whose pardon through the intercession of the Magdalene was an incident often quoted in monastic religious works of the time. The conversation ends with his promise of his heart, and a pledge from him that he would inwardly rejoice at the Magdalene's blessedness and privileges.
Stephen of Hinton (fn. 14) died at Hinton at the very end of the 15th century.
As early as 1508 Edward, the third Duke of Buckingham, who was often wont to stay at his manor house of Thornbury in Gloucestershire, appears to have had some interest in Hinton, and on 9 May (fn. 15) of that year he paid a fee for a servant of the Prior of Hinton named Hoxton. The interest grew out of the duke's connexion with Nicholas Hopkins, a monk of the priory and vicar of the conventual church. Nicholas Hopkins was the duke's spiritual director, (fn. 16) and seems to have had a great influence over him, while on the other hand the duke seems to have had recourse to him for advice and to have placed great trust in his instructions. We find Hopkins writing to the duke (fn. 17) early in the century, to ask his help and interest on behalf of a poor child of fourteen years, an inmate of the priory, and begging him to provide for the boy's education until he should reach his twentieth year. The duke did so, and the boy Francis (fn. 18) was brought up at Oxford by the prior of St. John of Jerusalem, and as late as 1521 items of expenditure on his behalf appear in the duke's account book.
Meanwhile Hopkins had discerned the duke's most secret ambitions, and knowing his relationship to Henry VIII, is said to have predicted for him the succession to the throne. Hopkins had acquired some fame as one who uttered cryptic prophecies, and people were wont to resort to him for advice. When therefore in 1521 the duke (fn. 19) was summoned to London, his arrival was preceded by that of Nicholas Hopkins, whose favoured relationship to the duke had won for him the envy and enmity of Knyvet, the duke's surveyor, and Delacourt, the duke's chaplain. The fate of the duke was sealed. He had roused the jealous suspicion of Henry VIII and the resentment of Wolsey. Hopkins was sent to the Tower, and a careful search was ordered at Hinton for any papers of Hopkins' or concerning the duke which would provide evidence at the trial. The prior however and his fellow monks (fn. 20) were anxious that they should not be incriminated with their vicar, and wrote to the Lord Chamberlain (the Earl of Worcester) assuring him of the innocence of the monks and their readiness to do all in their power to search for papers. They hoped that their proctor who had gone up with him might be allowed to come home again, and that Hopkins might be sent to some other house of Carthusians, there to be punished for his offences. This letter was not only signed by the prior Henry, but in witness of the truth of his statement he caused all his fellow monks, eight in number, to sign it also, i.e. Hew Lakoq, Thomas Wellys, Robert Frey, Anton Ynglych, Thomas Flatcher, Wyllyam Stokes, Nicholas Lycchefeld and John Hartwell. The trial of the Duke of Buckingham is no part of the history of Hinton. Shakespeare, however, in the play of Henry VIII, refers twice to Hopkins—
Act i, Scene 2.
Surveyor. 'He was brought to this
By a vain prophecy of Nicholas Hopkins.'
King. 'What was that Hopkins?'
Surveyor. 'Sir, a Chartreux friar,
His confessor, who fed him every minute
With words of sovereignty.'
And again Act ii, Scene 1.
'. . . . that devil-monk
Hopkins, that made this mischief.'
The correspondence between the duke and Hopkins was stated to have gone on since 1512, and John Delacourt, the duke's chaplain, seems to have been his messenger in this intimacy. (fn. 21) Buckingham was executed on 17 May 1521 mainly on the evidence of his alleged conversations with Hopkins. (fn. 22)
Hopkins seems to have been kept in confinement and is said to have died soon after, broken hearted on account of the fate of his great and generous confidant.
The successor to Prior Henry in 1523 was John Batmanson, (fn. 23) a man of some note. In 1509 (fn. 24) he was sent as one of an embassy to Scotland to take the oath of James IV in confirmation of the treaty between England and Scotland and he was also one of the commissioners of the Scotch marches. In 1519 he entered the lists against Erasmus and wrote at the instigation of Dr. Lee, the Archbishop of York, against Erasmus' New Testament which he had published that year at Basel. In May 1520 Erasmus (fn. 25) wrote to Bishop Fox of Winchester protesting against Dr. Lee's bitterness, and said 'he has suborned a Carthusian of London John Batmanson by name, I think, a young man as appears by his writings altogether ignorant, but vain glorious to madness.' Afterwards Batmanson wrote a book against certain writings of Martin Luther, a work which has not come down to us but which was probably directed against Luther's De Captivitate Babylonica which appeared in 1521. His retirement to Hinton from 1523 to 1529 seems to have been a period of great literary activity, for during this time he is said to have written (fn. 26) On the Song of Songs, On the Proverbs of Solomon, On the Words of the Gospel Missus est Angelus, On the Identity of the Magdalen in the Gospels, On the Child Jesus amidst the Doctors in Jerusalem, and On Contempt of the World.
While Prior of Hinton Batmanson was appointed assistant visitor of the English province of Carthusians, and in 1529 he was called to London to become prior of the house at Smithfield, (fn. 27) where he died 16 November 1531.
While Batmanson was at Hinton another Carthusian there, Thomas Spencer, was engaged in writing a commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians and 'A trialogus between Thomas Bilney, Hugh Latimer and William Repps.' Spencer spent some years in study at Oxford, but he seems to have done his writing at Hinton and to have died there in 1529. (fn. 28)
Batmanson was succeeded as prior by Edmund Horde, another Carthusian whose influence during the few troublous years that preceded the Dissolution was very considerable. He was recognized as of some importance by the Government, but Cromwell seems to have distrusted him. The Act of Supremacy and the stand made by the English monarch against the encroachments of the papal curia do not seem to have been a serious offence to him, but there is evidence of his unwillingness to accept the statements which would have made Anne Boleyn rightful queen of England. When called upon in 1534 to acknowledge this succession he seems to have brought his monks round to accept it,— but only in such a way as saved him from punishment while it left him under suspicion. On 1 September 1534 (fn. 29) he felt it necessary to write directly to the king to assure him of his loyalty. He said he had received instructions 'by master Layton of your grace's pleasure concerning the subscrybyng and sealyng of a certeyn profession in wrytyng which I have sent unto your grace wyth as trew and feythfull hart and mynd as any yowr grace's subject lyvying,' and he also would have the king believe that 'durying my lyfe I woll sett forth fortifie and defend agaynst almen according to my bounden duetie,' the truth which the Act of Supremacy and Succession declared.
At Smithfield the monks were not so easily brought to submission, and some of them openly desired to consult ' the prior of Hinton, (fn. 30) Dr. Hourde,' and in July 1535 Dr. Lee, the Archbishop of York, recommended Cromwell to employ Horde—'a prior of their religion whom all the religious esteem for virtue and learning. They will give him more credence and rather apply their conscience to his judgment than to any other although of greater learning, especially if some other good father be joined with him.' The order of the vicar-general that the clergy should preach the doctrine of the Royal Supremacy was a serious obstacle in the way of Horde's obedience, and not till Cromwell had sent Sir Walter Hungerford to argue with him did he yield, writing immediately afterwards to Cromwell to commend himself to him and to say (fn. 31) —'if there in me be any qualities or hability to do you service I wolde be glad to do yt to the uttermoste of my little power soo fer forth as should beseeme a poore Religious preste to do.'
Probably it was at this time that Andrew Boorde, Carthusian of Smithfield, wrote to Cromwell (fn. 32) asking him to be a good friend to Dr. Horde, the Prior of Hinton, and wrote also to Horde (fn. 33) requesting his prayers and saying that if the prior at London would allow he would go and see him oftener.
Cromwell however distrusted the prior and did not employ him, though in July 1536 he received a letter from one of his agents then at Mountgrace which assured him—'if a commission was issued to Dr. Horde, (fn. 34) one of their religion, and one joined with him, there would be no stop and all of that Order in the north part will be inclinable.'
Meanwhile the dissolution of the monastery was drawing near. Hinton had escaped the confiscation of 1536 since the endowments which it had enjoyed were valued at a net £248 a year; but the monks were no longer suffered to manage their own estates. Sir Walter Hungerford was placed as steward of all their lands and already an application (fn. 35) had been received in 1537 by the Crown from Sir Henry Longe, who had been sheriff of Wiltshire 1536–7, for the chance of taking the estates on a fee-farm rent.
In January 1539 (fn. 36) Tregonwell and Petre arrived at Hinton, having already forced the Abbot and canons of Keynsham to yield up their house to the king, and they found Prior Horde less easy to move. His answers in effect were— 'that if the kinges majestie wold take his howse so it procedyd nott of his voluntary surrender he was contentyd to obey but otherwise he said his conscience wold nott suffer hym wyllingly to give over the same.' The visitors therefore seeing him in this frame of mind left him alone and waited till the morrow, but then they found him 'of the same mynd he was yesternight or rather more styff in the same.' So they attacked the monks and found only three who were prepared to surrender. The others clung to their prior and showed no signs of yielding, and as if to increase the trouble of the hour one Nicholas Balland began to defy them saying that the Bishop of Rome was 'the vicar of Christ and that he is and ought to be taken for supreme hedd of the churche.'
It was vain then for the prior to protest that Balland should not be taken seriously and that—'he hathe byn in tymes past and yett many tymes is lunatick.' Action such as that and incautious words like those that had fallen from his lips could be construed in a serious manner. The commissioners had been balked and could do no more, and they deferred any further attempt to accomplish the surrender until they had heard from Cromwell as to the best course to be taken.
When it was known in London that the Hinton Carthusians had resisted the commissioners the prior's brother Alan Horde, an advocate, wrote to him expressing astonishment at his temerity and doubtless warning him also of his danger. (fn. 37) To this the prior replied in words which show how serious he recognized the situation to be. He seems baffled by the amazing wickedness which should suggest so dishonest a course (fn. 38) —'brother I marvelle gretly that ye thynk soo; but rather that ye wolde have thought us lyghte and hastye in gevyn upe that thynge which is not ours to geve but dedicate to Allmyghte God for service to be done to hys honoure contynnuallye with other many good dedds of charytye which daylye be done in thys howse to our Christen neybors.'
On March 31 Tregonwell came again to Hinton, and now the prior and sixteen monks signed the deed of surrender.
Three months afterwards, on 4 June (fn. 39) Nicholas Balland was brought by John Clerke, a Somerset weaver and Roger Prygan, a Wiltshire fuller, before Sir Walter Hungerford on a charge that as they were drinking in a tavern Balland had come in and denounced the king's supremacy and upheld the authority of the pope. Balland was kept in confinement by Sir Walter Hungerford until he should hear from Cromwell. Possibly his prior was able again to shield him from the anger of the vicar-general, for he received his £6 13s. 4d. pension (fn. 40) with the other fifteen and the six lay brothers and was still in receipt of it in 1556 when Cardinal Pole's list was drawn up; when Queen Mary came to the throne he joined Prior Maurice Chauncy in the new Charterhouse at Sheen, and on her death left England and died at Bruges in 1578.
Edmund Horde, the prior, received the very large annuity of £44 and a cash gift of £11.
In Cardinal Pole's list (fn. 41) the names of Bowman, Balland, Hellier, Savage, Frye, Nelling and Bagecross appear and also that of the lay brother Howe.
A Fletcher was among the Carthusians who rallied round Prior Chauncy at Sheen. He may have been the Thomas Fletcher who signed the surrender at Hinton and was certainly dead in 1556. In 1571 Sir Francis Englefield (fn. 42) was dining with Prior Chauncy and his monks at Bruges and he told them that his tenants at Sheen had written to him to say that for nine nights together they had heard the monks whom Chauncy had buried at Sheen chanting the night offices and mysterious lights had been seen in the church. So interested were they, they wrote, that they brought ladders to look in through the windows, but then all light and sound vanished. Yet they were positive that among the voices they had distinctly heard the voice of Father Fletcher.
Immediately after the surrender Dr. Tregonwell sold part of the monastic buildings to Sir Walter Hungerford, and he complained afterwards how that when he was away in London Sir Thomas Arundell, who had been sent to survey the property, had sold and despoiled and quite carried away a great part of the church and other superfluous buildings which he, Sir Walter, had bought. (fn. 43) He hoped therefore that Cromwell would compel Arundell to recompense him for the damage that was done. He also complained that the back door of the prior's cell had been removed and the documents of the house had been abstracted and he knew not where they were. (fn. 44)
Henry III confirmed the grant of Hinton and Norton to the Carthusians in 1228 (fn. 45) and on 7 June 1239 granted them the same privileges as those enjoyed by their brethren at Witham, and this was repeated on 7 September 1240. (fn. 46)
The growth of the endowment belongs almost entirely to the 13th and 14th centuries.
In 1255 the prior obtained the grant of a yearly fair at Norton on the vigil, feast and morrow of the festival of St. Philip and St. James, and at Hinton for the feast of the Decollation of St. John the Baptist. (fn. 47) This was strongly opposed by the Prior and monks of Bath, who in 1273 complained that they lost 100s. yearly by reason of the fairs. (fn. 48) It was however confirmed by Edward I in 1293 and by Edward III in 1345 and extended in 1351 (fn. 49) to five days.
In 1259 (fn. 50) the monks gained from Henry III the right of free warren over their lands at Hinton and Norton, and in 1279 the prior proved his right on a grant from the foundress Countess Ela to inflict capital punishment in the two manors.
In 1275 (fn. 51) Henry, Earl of Lincoln, granted one knight's fee at Hinton to the prior in return for the prayers of the monastery, and so in 1300 (fn. 52) we find the prior and convent called upon to pay his assessment for the expenses of the Scotch war and the muster of the English army at Carlisle. This land was probably the hamlet of Midford. (fn. 53)
In the Taxatio of 1291 the temporalities of the priory are given as: Chewton £4 10s., Norton £12, Hinton £24 15s.
In 1322 (fn. 56) they secured from John Sobbury and Roger de Compton 35 acres for the endowment of a chaplain to perform service daily in the conventual church, and in 1407 (fn. 57) John Wykyng and Isabell Tanner founded a light in this church of the monks.
In 1363 (fn. 58) Edward III granted them a binn of wine in the port of Bristol to strengthen them the better to pray for his good estate.
At late as 1529 (fn. 59) the Longleat property which had belonged to the Augustinian priory of St. Radegund was given to Hinton by Lorenzo Campeggio the papal legate and cardinal Bishop of Salisbury.
In 1535 the possessions of the monks as recorded in the Valor Ecclesiasticus (fn. 60) amounted in yearly value to £262 13s., and out of this gross sum £13 12s. 10d. had to be deducted for pensions and eleemosynary grants for which the monks were only the agents and trustees.
The income was derived from the manors of Hinton and Norton as well as from rents at Midford, The Friary, Iford in Freshford, Woodwick, Lutecombe's mill, Peglinch near Wellow, White Ox Mead and Eckweek, 'Hopper,' 'Lemerslond,' Oldford, 'Greneworth' and Whitnell in the parish of Binegar, Westwood, 'Rewleigh' or Rawleigh near Farleigh, Longleat, Lullington and Beckington.
Priors of Hinton
Robert, occurs 1246–9 (fn. 61)
Peter, occurs 1272–5 (fn. 62)
John Luscote, resigned 1378 (fn. 63)
Adam, occurs 1391 (fn. 64)
Thomas Wyne, appointed 1403 (fn. 65)
William Whitby, occurs 1421 (fn. 66)
Thomas, occurs 1431 (fn. 67)
Richard, occurs 1442 (fn. 68)
William Marchall, occurs 1449 (fn. 69)
William Hatherles, occurs 1465, 1476 (fn. 70)
Edmund Storan or Storer, occurs 1477 (fn. 71)
John Iver, occurs 1478–9 (fn. 72)
Thomas Torburigenaci, occurs 1482 (fn. 73)
John Taylor, 1513–21 (fn. 74)
Henry Corsley, 1521–23 (fn. 75)
John Batmanson, 1523–29 (fn. 76)
Edmund Horde, 1529–39 (fn. 77)