Alien house: The priory of Stogursey

Pages 169-171

A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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The priory of Stogursey, or, as it should more correctly be called, Stoke Courcy, was an alien priory, an offshoot of the Benedictine Abbey of Lonlay in Normandy. It never became denizen and after the great war with France it was suppressed and its estates used for the endowment of the College of St. Mary of Eton. It arose out of a grant (fn. 1) made in the time of Henry I by William de Falaise and Geva his wife of the church of St. Andrew of Stoke to the church of St. Mary of Lonlay, 4 miles north-west of Domfront in Normandy.

This grant of William de Falaise was confirmed by Bishop Robert of Bath and must therefore be anterior to 1160. It included the tithes of the parish of Stoke, (fn. 2) two parts of the tithes of Williton, two parts of those of Lilstock, the whole tithes of 'Tientons' a church in Wales and the tithes of Tregnu there. This last gift however is said to have been made by Robert, son of William de Falaise. We also find Anketill the son of Herbert and Bencellina his wife (fn. 3) giving certain lands at Monkton and Honibere in Stoke parish to the monks of St. Andrew of Stoke and to their chapel of St. John the Evangelist adjoining the said parish of St. Andrew.

In 1204 Innocent III (fn. 4) confirmed to the prior and monks of St. Andrew, Stoke, the churches of Wootton, Lilstock, Holford and 'Kichestoh,' or Idstock, two parts of the tithes of Corniton, the whole of one inclosure at Combe, two parts of the tithes at Williton, two parts of the tithes at Lilstock, the right they possessed in the chapelry of the Castle at Stoke, the land of Tinelands, land at Breche with a new mill, (fn. 5) the patronage of the church of "Traiyn" in Wales, in Ireland all the churches and benefices of the lordship of John de Curci in Ulster except the castle of Maincove, ten carucates of land in Ardes, that is in the land of Maccolochan; in Dalboing in Hailo, that is the town and church of Arderashac and ten carucates of land and in Kinelmolan three carucates of land.

In the Taxatio of 1291, the priory is entered as an alien priory and in possession of the churches of Stogursey and Lilstock worth £30 yearly, a portion of the church at Wootton in the deanery of Dunster, a pension in the church of East Quantoxhead in the deanery of Bridgwater and temporalia in Stogursey and Charlton worth £4 2s. 6d.

In 1270 Bishop William Button II of Bath and Wells (fn. 7) cited Robert Abbot of Lonlay and late prior of Stoke Courcy to appear and answer a charge of maladministration of the property of the priory, sending various sums of money across the sea and burdening the foundation at Stoke with corrodies. For the sake of economy the bishop sent off to Lonlay three of the monks of Stoke to stay in the Norman abbey until an improvement in the condition of the priory estates allowed of their return. These corrodies were a constant source of trouble in all monasteries.

In 1309 Peter Abbot of Lonlay recalled Prior Vincent Tybout and presented to Bishop Drokensford (fn. 8) Peter de Grana for institution as prior. The bishop's official however reported that the recall of Prior Tybout without the consent of the diocesan was irregular. Ultimately we find that Grana was received and confirmed as prior.

Seven years afterwards Prior Peter (fn. 9) died and the abbey of Lonlay presented Giles Roussee a Frenchman. Bishop Drokensford thereupon ordered a commission of inquiry which returned that Roussee was properly presented and that the priory of Stoke was endowed with the churches of Stoke Courcy, Lilstock and the sinecure chapel of Durborough and that Roussee was a priest, forty years of age and of good conversation. So Giles Roussee became prior in July 1316. The appointment however was unfortunate. The new prior had no idea of economy and Bishop Drokensford, on application from Sir Robert Fitz Payne lord of the burgh of Stoke Courcy, sent down a commissioner to examine into the affairs of the house. The result of this commission was that the bishop in 1326 (fn. 10) was obliged to write to the Abbot of Lonlay to say that he found the priory impoverished, the prior and one monk, with some servants and useless folk, alone residing there and other monks living lecherously abroad. He also decreed that the sinning monks were to be sent back to Lonlay and no others were to be sent in their room until, by the bishop's and the patron's assistance, the affairs of Stoke were improved. In 1328 (fn. 11) Roussee was recalled as a wasteful administrator and Godfrey de Duc was sent as his successor. Bishop Drokensford on instituting him insisted on an oath to keep perpetual residence, and the three monks of the house swore obedience to their new prior.

The Crown however had already for some years past been active in limiting the power of these alien priories and stopping the impoverishment of English estates for the benefit of French abbeys, and in consequence Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury was obliged to look carefully after the alien priory of Stoke. In 1334 (fn. 12) he proceeded against Prior Godfrey for dilapidation of the goods of the priory and summoned him to appear before him and answer to this charge. Godfrey in reply appealed to Canterbury and the pope and the archbishop appointed the Abbot of Athelney and the rural dean of Taunton to inhibit the bishop from proceeding until the appeal had been heard. But the pope at that time was helpless to protect a French priory and the appeal to Canterbury failed, so Bishop Ralph (fn. 13) was able to take the necessary steps to protect the goods of the priory and place the buildings in fitting repair.

On 6 December 1341 (fn. 14) the prior was summoned before the Council and in March of the next year (fn. 15) we find Thomas Provost mentioned as the prior and to him was then committed the farm of the priory for £30 a year to be paid to the Crown and he was relieved of all share in the tenths and fifteenths that might be exacted so long as the priory lands were in the king's hands.

There seems to have been some reason for the frequent change of priors in the 14th century and perhaps it was an attempt on the part of the French abbey to gain profit by the new creations. In 1350 (fn. 16) William Hodierne a monk of Lonlay was sent in place of Thomas Provost, and two years later Hodierne had been recalled and John Gallardi had been sent.

In 1402 Bishop Bowett (fn. 17) appointed Richard Amys prior of Stoke as curate and custos of the parish church of Stoke Courcy on account of the age and infirmity of William Horton the perpetual vicar of Stoke.

Amys had been prior for some years, for in 1388 (fn. 18) as such he had produced a terrier of the possessions of the priory. This seems to have been a step towards the dissolution of the house. As early as 1347 Edward III had acted as patron of the churches (fn. 19) belonging to the priory, appointing to them as vacancies occurred and the monastic property was let on a yearly rent to the prior for the time being.

In 1399 (fn. 20) Richard Amys was recognized as prior when the temporalities were provisionally restored and in 1403 (fn. 21) an entry exists of the lease of the priory lands to Robert Vise, monachus, and Walter Sergeant for £25 6s. 8d. 'pro custodia prioratus de Stoke Curcy aliagenæ.'

The process of dissolution had now begun. On 18 February 1438 (fn. 22) John Chinall, king's esquire, received from the Crown a grant of £20 a year out of the issues of the alien priory of Stoke and in 1439 (fn. 23) there is a record of £25 a year paid from the same source to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. On 11 October of the next year, 1440, we have a statement of the endowments of the new college of St. Mary at Eton. The estates and the advowsons of the priory of Stoke Courcyare among the grants. (fn. 24) The house had clearly ceased to exist.

Robert Vise however still remained and in 1442 (fn. 25) he is mentioned as prior and as rector or custos of the parish church of Stoke Courcy cited John Vernay of Fairfield, a layman of the diocese of Bath and Wells, before the Archbishop of Canterbury to answer a complaint that at the time of High Mass in the parish church of Stoke after the vicar's sermon, he (John Vernay) had preached to the people in English using opprobrious terms and calling on the people to obey him rather than the prior or the vicar.

Priors of Stoke Courcy.

Geoffrey (fn. 26)

Gerin d'Alençon, occurs 1175 (fn. 27)

G., occurs 1219 (fn. 28)

Vincent, occurs 1260 (fn. 29)

Robert, occurs 1270 (fn. 30)

Vincent Tybout, recalled 1309 (fn. 31)

Peter de Grana, appointed 1309, (fn. 32) died 1316

Giles Roussee, appointed 1316, recalled 1328 (fn. 33)

Godfrey de Duc, 1328 (fn. 34)

Thomas Provost, occurs 1342 (fn. 35)

William Hodierne, appointed 1350 (fn. 36)

John Gallardi, appointed 1352 (fn. 37)

Richard Amys, occurs 1376 (?) 1402 (fn. 38)

Robert Vise, occurs 1405–42 (fn. 39)


  • 1. Stoke Cartulary, Eton College MSS.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Cal. Papal Letters, i. 17.
  • 5. The mill is that at Norham called Mervine's mill and was given by William de Curci. Stoke Cartul. Eton Coll. MSS. charter 6.
  • 6. Pope Nich. Tax (Rec. Com.), 198, 200.
  • 7. Stoke Cartul. Eton Coll. MSS.
  • 8. Drokensford's Reg. (Somers. Rec. Soc. i), 27.
  • 9. Ibid. 8, 9.
  • 10. Ibid. 261.
  • 11. Ibid. 287.
  • 12. R. of Shrewsbury's Reg. (Somers. Rec. Soc. ix), 174.
  • 13. Ibid. 182.
  • 14. Cal. Close, 1341–3, p. 358.
  • 15. Ibid. p. 488.
  • 16. Somers. Rec. Soc. Publ. x, 616.
  • 17. Bowet's Reg. (Somers. Rec. Soc. xiii), 30.
  • 18. Esch. Rolls, 49 Edw. III. p. 2 n. 4, pt. ii.
  • 19. R. of Shrewsbury's Reg. (Somers. Rec. Soc. x), 548.
  • 20. Rymer, Fædera, viii, 104; Cal. Pat. 1399–1401, p. 71.
  • 21. Recorda de Termino St. Mich. 6 Hen. IV.
  • 22. Cal. Pat. 1436–41, p. 140.
  • 23. Ibid. p. 304.
  • 24. Pat. 19 Hen. VI. pt. viii, m. 20. The details of the sequestration are given in Bishop Beckington's Register, fol. 12.
  • 25. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. ix, App. i, 355a.
  • 26. Stoke Courcy Cartul. Eton College MSS.
  • 27. Ibid.
  • 28. Cal. Wells D. and C. MSS. (Hist. MSS. Com.) i, 367.
  • 29. Stoke Courcy Cartul. Eton College MSS, last entry but one.
  • 30. Ibid.
  • 31. Somers Rec. Soc. Publ. i, 27.
  • 32. Ibid.
  • 33. Ibid. 8, 9.
  • 34. Ibid. 287.
  • 35. Cal. Close, 1341–3, p. 488.
  • 36. R. of Shrewsbury's Reg. (Somers. Rec. Soc. x), 616.
  • 37. Ibid.
  • 38. Bowet's Reg. (Somers. Rec. Soc. xiii), 30; Cal. Pat. 1399–1401, p. 71.
  • 39. Court R. 6 Hen. III; Stoke Courcy Cartul. Eton College MSS; Wells Epis. Reg. Beckington. fol. 12.