Houses of Benedictine nuns: The priory of Blithbury

Page 220

A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.

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A Religious house was established on the south bank of the Blithe at Blithbury in the parish of Mavesyn Ridware during the episcopate of Roger de Clinton (1129-48). This house, like that at Farewell founded at the same period, was at first for hermits or monks and was afterwards transformed into a nunnery. The founder was Hugh de Ridware or Malveysin who made two grants to Blithbury. By one of them he gave Blithbury to two monks there named Guthmund and Saxe; the bounds of the property ran from the oak at their gate to 'Holebrocke' and thence to the Blithe and from the river to 'Sichbrooke', with a wood and common pasture. (fn. 1) The other grant was to Guthmund, Saxe, and the nuns of Blithbury and gave them Blithbury with its appurtenances to hold in free alms for the service of God and St. Giles — an indication that the house was dedicated to St. Giles. The bounds were now given as running from 'Holebrock' to 'Sikebrock' and thence to 'Blaklake' and so to the Blithe, and the grant included the right to timber for the repair of the house. (fn. 2) It was witnessed by Bishop Roger who himself confirmed the holdings of the house, excused it from all synodal and episcopal dues, and granted an indulgence of 21 days to benefactors. (fn. 3)

William, son of the founder, in restoring to the house the lands between 'Blakelake' and the Blithe which he had taken from it, mentioned only the nuns. His son, another William, granted the nuns his share of Hammerwich, the other part of which they held already. (fn. 4) Meanwhile Rennerius, son of Edricht of Wolseley, granted his lands and woods at Gailey (in Penkridge) to the nuns at some date between 1158 and 1165; by 1189, however, Gailey had passed to the Benedictine nunnery at Brewood. (fn. 5) Like certain other nunneries Blithbury received gifts from King John of £2 in 1200 and 2 marks in 1204. (fn. 6)

There is evidence that soon after its foundation Blithbury was closely associated with the nuns at Brewood and that it was eventually absorbed by them. Mention has already been made of the transfer of Gailey from Blithbury to Brewood in the reign of Henry II. About 1170 the nuns of the two houses made an agreement with William de Ridware concerning land at Ridware which they held, apparently jointly. (fn. 7) About 1275 Mabel, Prioress of Brewood, with the consent of Alice, Prioress of Blithbury, granted half a virgate and some meadow in Little Pipe to Robert de Pipe; both prioresses sealed the grant. (fn. 8) References in 1306 to a lane at Blithbury leading versus nonales and in 1315 to the road versus monales (fn. 9) may indicate the continuing existence of the priory, but no trace has been found in later records. It seems likely that after having been closely associated with Brewood from the later 12th century Blithbury had been merged with it by the 14th century. Certainly the largest item in the revenues of Brewood in the 1530s was its income from land at Blithbury. (fn. 10)

By the end of the 18th century a farmhouse occupied the supposed site of the priory. Two buildings dismantled at that time were thought to have been part of the priory, one of them being identified as the chapel. (fn. 11)

The only prioress recorded is Alice who was in office about 1275. The seal attached to the deed of that date mentioned above was already lost at the end of the 18th century, (fn. 12) and no other impression is known.


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. iv. 160; S.H.C. 1939, 201. For the site see Shaw, Staffs. i. 203, 204, 205.
  • 2. Dugdale, Mon. iv. 160.
  • 3. B.M., Harl. MS. 2044, p. 100.
  • 4. Dugdale, Mon. iv. 160.
  • 5. Ibid.; S.H.C. ii(1), 244-5; see below.
  • 6. S.H.C. ii(1), 91, 96, 119, 123. Brewood was included in 1204.
  • 7. See below.
  • 8. S.H.C. 1939, 201-2.
  • 9. Shaw, Staffs. i. 204.
  • 10. See below p. 222.
  • 11. Shaw, Staffs. i. 204.
  • 12. Ibid. Blithbury is confused with Blythburgh in W. de G. Birch, Cat. of Seals in B.M.