A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.
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HOUSES OF BENEDICTINE MONKS
2. THE ABBEY OF BURTON
The earliest religious foundation at Burton is associated with St. Modwen, an Irish abbess who is said to have come to England in the 7th century. (fn. 1) She came to the Burton area with two companions and built two churches there, one on an island in the Trent that became known as Andressey, evidently because the church was dedicated to St. Andrew, and later another on the east bank of the river. After some years, most of them spent at Burton, St. Modwen returned to Ireland, leaving one of her companions at Andressey as abbess. The saint is supposed to have died in Scotland and to have been buried at Andressey; her bones were later translated to a shrine in Burton Abbey.
It is likely that any surviving religious house would have been destroyed during the Danish incursion into the area in the 870s. (fn. 2) At any rate it was a Benedictine monastery on a new site on the west bank of the Trent at Burton that was built at the beginning of the 11th century. The founder was Wulfric Spot, a king's thegn possibly descended from King Alfred, who owned extensive property in the Midlands and the area to the north-west. (fn. 3) The Annals of the abbey give 1004 as the date of foundation, and King Ethelred's charter of freedom and confirmation granted to the abbey in that year show it as already in existence; Matthew Paris, however, gives 1003 and John Brompton 1002. (fn. 4) On his death (which according to one source took place in 1010 as a result of a wound received at the battle of Ringmere) Wulfric was buried in the abbey cloister where his wife already lay. (fn. 5)
In his will Wulfric appointed the king as lord of the abbey and Archbishop Alfric and Alfhelm, brother to Wulfric, as 'guardians and friends and advocates'. He gave Dumbleton (Glos.) to the archbishop and 'Northtune' to Ufegeat, possibly his nephew, in the hope that each might 'the better be a friend and support to the monastery'. (fn. 6) The first abbot and monks came from Winchester — a connexion that was maintained for over a century and a half, seven of the first eight abbots being monks of Winchester. (fn. 7) The house was described as the monastery of St. Benedict and All Saints in royal charters of 1008 and 1012 (fn. 8) but as the abbey of St. Mary in Domesday Book. (fn. 9) Its dedication to St. Mary and St. Modwen occurs fairly frequently in the later 12th century, (fn. 10) and although there are occasional references to St. Mary alone in the 13th century, (fn. 11) the double dedication continued for the rest of the abbey's existence.
The community was never large; in fact the monks stated in 1310 that theirs was the smallest and poorest Benedictine abbey in England. (fn. 12) The earliest available figure is that given in the History of the Abbots which states that under Abbot Laurence (1229-60) there were 30 monks. (fn. 13) In 1295 there were 31 professed monks. (fn. 14) The numbers in the earlier 14th century were evidently between 15 and 30. (fn. 15) In 1377 there were 15 monks (including the abbot) and three novices (fn. 16) and in 1381 17 monks (including the abbot). (fn. 17) Nineteen monks took part in the election of Ralph Henley as abbot in 1433, including Henley himself. (fn. 18) Visitations of 1518, 1521, and 1524 show a community of respectively 17 monks and 3 novices, 15 monks and 5 novices, and 22 monks. (fn. 19) At the dissolution in 1539, however, the community seems to have numbered only 12: 7 monks, including a deacon and a novice, received pensions, while the abbot and probably 4 other monks were appointed to the new college at Burton. (fn. 20) The abbot's household in 1539 numbered 27. (fn. 21)
Burton was by far the most important of the Staffordshire religious houses. Its estates, lying in the main on either side of the Staffordshire-Derbyshire border in the Burton area but also extending further afield, produced a gross revenue in 1535 more than double that of the next richest houses in the county, Tutbury Priory and Dieulacres Abbey. (fn. 22) The abbot of Burton was not only a secular lord but also exercised an independent spiritual jurisdiction. He was a figure of some standing, regularly serving on papal and royal commissions and acting as a collector of clerical taxes within the diocese. (fn. 23) In 1257 he was summoned to the Great Council held at Westminster on the eve of the departure of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, newly elected King of the Romans. (fn. 24) He was regularly summoned to Parliament between 1295 and 1322; after that, however, he was not summoned again until 1532. (fn. 25)
The abbey's position on a main road by a rivercrossing automatically give it some importance. In the late 14th century the monks claimed that this situation involved them in hospitality for 'a multitude of passers-by'. (fn. 26) Among these visitors were many of the kings of England, the patrons of the abbey — one of the rooms in the abbey was still called the King's Chamber in the 16th century. (fn. 27) William I came on a visit to the shrine of St. Modwen; (fn. 28) Henry II was at Burton in 1155, (fn. 29) John in 1200, 1204, and 1208, (fn. 30) Henry III in 1235 and 1251, (fn. 31) Edward I in 1275 and 1284, (fn. 32) and Edward II in 1322 during the campaign against Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. (fn. 33) The royal treasure was lodged at Burton in 1186 en route for Chester in connexion with John's proposed mission to Ireland, (fn. 34) and in 1232 and 1235 the proceeds of taxes collected in Staffordshire were ordered to be sent to Burton. (fn. 35)
The Annals of Burton state that Wulfric gave the abbey all his paternal inheritance, worth £700. (fn. 36) Wulfric's will (fn. 37) does not substantiate this, but it does show that his endowment was extensive: in Staffordshire Burton, Stretton, Bromley, 'Bedintun' (evidently near Pillaton in Penkridge), Gailey, Whiston (in Penkridge), Darlaston (in Stone), Rudyard, 'my little land at Cotwalton [in Stone]', Leigh, Okeover, Ilam, Calton, Castern, and a hide at Sheen; in Derbyshire Winshill (now part of the borough of Burton), Sutton-on-the-Hill, Ticknall, Morley, Breadsall, Morton, Pilsley, Ogston, Wingfield, 'Snodeswic' (evidently near Morton), the 'little land' at 'Niwantune' (probably Newton Solney), and 'that land at Appleby [now in Leicestershire] that I bought with my money'; in Leicestershire land at Shangton and Wigston Parva and a hide at Sharnford in Wigston Parva; in Shropshire Longford, Stirchley, Romsley, Shipley, and 'Suthtune' (probably Sutton Maddock); in Warwickshire Weston-in-Arden, Burton Hastings, and Harbury. Other places whose identification is more uncertain were 'Actune' (possibly Acton Round in Shropshire) granted for two lives, 'Halen' (probably Halesowen, Worcs.), 'Niwantun at the Wich' (possibly Newton near Middlewich, Ches.), 'Tathawyllan' (possibly Tathwell, Lincs.), 'Ealdeswyrthe' (either Awsworth, Notts., or Aldsworth, Glos.), 'Alfredingtune' (either Alvington, Glos., or Alfreton, Derb.), and 'Eccleshale' (possibly Exhall, Warws., Ecclesall, Yorks W.R., or Eccleshall, Staffs.), and 'Waddune' (possibly Whaddon, Glos.). 'Waededun' has not been identified at all. The abbey was also given a reversionary interest in Elford and Oakley, both in Staffordshire, Wibtoft (Warws.), and 'Twongan' (either Tong, Salop., or Tonge, Leics.). Half the usufruct of 'Langandune' (probably Longdon, Staffs.) was assigned to the monks, and also the enjoyment 'of meat and of men and of all things' on the land of the bishop at 'Bubandune' (evidently Bupton, Derb.). Wulfric's lands between the Ribble and the Mersey and on the Wirral were left to Alfhelm and Wulfage 'on the condition that when the shad shoals come in, each of them give 3,000 shad to the monastery at Burton'; similarly Conisbrough (Yorks. W.R.) went to Alfhelm provided that the monks had a third of the fish every year. Finally Wulfric left the abbey 100 wild horses and 16 tame geldings 'and besides this all that I possess in livestock and other goods except those which I have bequeathed'. Most of these lands were mentioned in the royal charter of 1004 confirming Wulfric's endowment. (fn. 38)
Either Wulfric's intentions were never fully carried out, or else the abbey soon lost much of its original property, perhaps during the Danish Conquest in the early 11th century. At any rate many of the estates given by Wulfric were not in the abbey's possession at the end of the Confessor's reign, and what remained was confined to Staffordshire and Derbyshire. (fn. 39) In Staffordshire the losses had not been great, and the property there still included Burton, Stretton, Bromley, 'Bedintun', Whiston, Darlaston, Leigh, and Okeover; Ilam, Calton, and Castern, though not mentioned in Domesday Book, were held by the abbey in the early 12th century and may have been included under Okeover in the Domesday Survey. In Derbyshire only Winshill, Sutton, Ticknall, and Appleby remained. 'Ealdeswyrthe' and 'Alfredingtune' had been exchanged by Abbot Wulfgeat in 1008 with the king for Rolleston in Staffordshire, but Rolleston too had been lost by 1066. (fn. 40)
There were, however, several permanent additions to the Burton estates during the 11th century. In 1012 Abbot Wulfgeat bought Wetmore from the king. (fn. 41) Between 1042 and 1050 Edward the Confessor gave the abbey Willington and Stapenhill in Derbyshire, each apparently with a church; the lands at Brizlincote and Stanton, held by the abbey in the early 12th century, may have been included with Stapenhill. (fn. 42) Earl Leofric (d. 1057) gave part of Austrey (Warws.) to the abbey. (fn. 43) Coton-in-the-Elms (Derb.) was given by Earl Morcar, taken by William I, and restored by him while on his visit to Burton. (fn. 44) In addition William gave the abbey Cauldwell and Mickleover, both in Derbyshire; (fn. 45) the latter included the berewicks of Littleover, Findern, and Potlocks, and within the soc of the manor there lay Snelston, Bearwardcote, Dalbury, Hoon, Rodsley, Sudbury, Hilton, Sutton-on-the-Hill, and Rough Heanor (Henovera). (fn. 46) In the town of Derby he gave 2 mills, 3 houses, 13 acres of meadow, and apparently the church of St. Mary; by 1086 the abbot also enjoyed a share of the church-scot rendered to the king by the burgesses on the feast of St. Martin. (fn. 47) Branston in Staffordshire was held by Countess Godiva before the Conquest but had passed to Burton by 1086. (fn. 48) The abbey held 5 messuages in Stafford borough in 1086, (fn. 49) but there is no indication when it acquired them. It is likely that the abbey also held Horninglow, Anslow, and Field by this time, the first two as appendages of Wetmore and the third as part of Leigh; Horninglow and Field were among the abbey's possessions in the early 12th century, and Anslow appears by 1180. (fn. 50) In fact the Conquest seems to have benefited the abbey. The English Abbot Leofric died a few months after the Conquest, but there were English priors well into the 12th century. (fn. 51) It is also noteworthy that Burton was one of the few houses which did not hold by military service at the time of Domesday Book. (fn. 52)
The century following Domesday saw both gains and losses, and two abbots were expelled during this period for dissipating the lands and goods of the abbey — Abbot Geoffrey Mauland (Malaterra) in 1094 and Abbot Robert in 1159. (fn. 53) The gains included Stretton-on-Dunsmore (Warws.), which was given by Alan fitz Flaald probably during the time of Abbot Niel (1094-1114), (fn. 54) and Wolston nearby, which was given to Abbot Niel by Alan's widow Adeliza. (fn. 55) Land at Hampton in Blithfield was given by Meriet and land at Waterfall by Aschetill the sewer (dispensator); both gifts were probably made about 1120 since both occur in the later of the two surveys of the abbey's property, made respectively between 1114 and 1118 and between 1116 and 1127 or 1133. (fn. 56) Shobnall too appears in the second survey. (fn. 57) Tatenhill and Sheen had been added to the estates by 1185 when they occur among the possessions of the abbey as confirmed by Pope Lucius III. (fn. 58) Estates which were lost included Coton, alienated by one of the abbots, presumably Geoffrey Mauland, by the time of the two surveys. (fn. 59) 'Bedintun' disappears after the reign of Henry I, but it may have been absorbed into Pillaton (in Penkridge) with which it was associated and which the abbey held by the time of the first survey. (fn. 60) Calton, Waterfall, and Sutton had presumably been lost by 1185 since they do not appear in the papal confirmation.
A feature of the 12th century is the abbey's tendency to make more and more grants of its estates in perpetuity at fixed rents instead of the leases, often for two lives, common in the earlier part of the century. (fn. 61) The major 12th-century grants in perpetuity included: under Abbot Geoffrey (111450) Ticknall, (fn. 62) Rough Heanor, (fn. 63) and apparently the manor of Leigh with all its appurtenances except Field; (fn. 64) under Abbot Robert (1150-9) Okeover (fn. 65) and land at Horninglow; (fn. 66) under Abbot Bernard (1160-75) Stretton, Brizlincote, Willington (including the advowson), Darlaston, part of the property in Derby, Pillaton, (fn. 67) Wolston, and Strettonon-Dunsmore; (fn. 68) under Abbot Roger (1177-82) Potlocks and Anslow; (fn. 69) under Abbot Nicholas (1187-97) Field (fn. 70) and probably at this time Ilam and Castern. (fn. 71)
By 1185 the abbey was also in possession of numerous churches, chapels, and tithes. Although most of these are not mentioned until various times during the 12th century, the papal confirmation of 1185 seems to ascribe the majority to the gift of Wulfric Spot and the rest to that of William I. (fn. 72) Only in the case of Stapenhill and Willington is there evidence to the contrary, but in view of the early date of Wulfric's endowment it seems more than likely that the churches ascribed to his gift were in fact gradually founded on the estates that he had given to the abbey. (fn. 73) Burton itself is the only church which can be assumed to date from the original foundation — although even there the first record of provision for a priest to serve the parish dates from the early 12th century. (fn. 74) According to the History of the Abbots the churches at Stapenhill and Willington, stated by the papal confirmation to have been given respectively by Wulfric and William I, were given by Edward the Confessor. If so, Stapenhill was subsequently lost for early in the 12th century Geoffrey de Clinton, treasurer and chamberlain of the king, gave to Abbot Niel the church of Stapenhill and tithes in nearby Stanton in return for enfeoffment with the part of Stanton owned by Burton. (fn. 75) Pope Lucius mentions the church at Mickleover with its chapels at Littleover, Findern, and Potlocks, and also St. Mary's, Derby, as gifts of William I; churches at Mickleover and Derby both occur among the abbey's possessions in the first of the early-12th-century surveys, (fn. 76) although the three chapels are mentioned apparently for the first time about 1180 when Abbot Roger granted them with the church at Mickleover to John the priest. Churches at Bromley and Ilam were listed in the second survey, (fn. 77) and within half a century or so there were several chapels dependent on Ilam: Blore (where, however, the abbey's claim to the patronage was surrendered between 1180 and 1187 in return for an annual pension of 1 mark), Grindon (surrendered about 1183 for a pension of 14s.), Sheen, Okeover, and Cauldon. (fn. 78) The churches mentioned in a confir mation of the abbey's possessions by Bishop Peche (1161-82) included Leigh as well as Bromley, Ilam, Stapenhill, Willington, and Mickleover. (fn. 79) The advowson of Willington, however, was granted in heredity with the abbey's other rights there by Abbot Bernard (1160-75), (fn. 80) and the advowson of Leigh was granted away in return for a pension of 5 marks by Abbot Roger (1177-82). (fn. 81) Pope Lucius mentions three chapels dependent on Stapenhill at Drakelow, Heathcote, and Newhall (all in Derb.).
Burton also held many tithes by the 12th century, though not all by the gift of Wulfric as the papal confirmation of 1185 seems to imply. The tithes of Burton parish were doubtless held from an early date; by the early 12th century part had been assigned to the parochial chaplain. (fn. 82) The tithes of Stanton were granted to Abbot Niel by Geoffrey de Clinton as mentioned above. By the time of the first of the surveys the abbey had been given the tithes of Newton in Blithfield by Ralph fitz Urnoi or Urvoi in return for land at Hampton in the same parish; (fn. 83) the tenant of Willington manor owed tithes 'in all things' including horses; (fn. 84) and the abbey held all the tithes of Mickleover. (fn. 85) When Field was leased out by Abbot Geoffrey in 1116 the tenant had to give 'strict tithes for his soul in fruits or in cattle or in cheeses or in any other things' besides rent and service, and a similar stipulation was included in a lease of Potlocks also made by Abbot Geoffrey. (fn. 86) By the 1150s the abbey held the tithes of Newhall and Heathcote, and Abbot Robert then granted those of Stanton and Newhall and one-third of those of Heathcote to the priest at Stapenhill. (fn. 87) Tithes from Linton in Cauldwell were held by the time of Abbot Roger (1177-82) who granted them to the nearby church of Gresley (Derb.) in return for a pension of 2s. (fn. 88) Pope Lucius mentions the tithes of Sheen, 'Truelega' (perhaps Throwley in Ilam), 'Mosedene', part of Waterfall, and Drakelow in addition to those of Newton, Linton, Heathcote, and Newhall.
Although there were comparatively few important changes in the abbey's property subsequently, numerous acquisitions of lands, tithes, and money continued to be made. Among these were a salt-pit and salt-pan at Nantwich secured between 1189 and 1197, (fn. 89) Hunsdon (in Thorpe, Derb.) for which property at Wetmore was exchanged in 1242, (fn. 90) and further property at Austrey later in the century, including half the manor and the recognition of the abbey's claim to the advowson. (fn. 91) Assarted land at Callingwood was held by the later 13th century. (fn. 92) By about 1320 there was 'a place surrounded by a ditch' in Shobnall Park, the later Sinai Park, which was used as a retreat for monks undergoing bloodletting. (fn. 93) A house called 'Baconsyne' in the parish of St. Sepulchre without Newgate, London, was left to the abbey by John de Cauntebrigg, fishmonger of London, by will proved in 1377, subject to the life interest of his widow. It had passed to the abbey by 1394 and was known in the 16th century as 'the Abbot of Burton's House'. (fn. 94) The abbey was involved in numerous lawsuits to defend its possessions, both temporalities and spiritualities; a notable example is the litigation in connexion with the Austrey property in the late 13th and earlier 14th centuries. (fn. 95) The reasons given in 1382 to explain the abbey's poverty included 'lawsuits which it has been obliged to undergo'. (fn. 96)
The spiritualities also continued to increase, although St. Mary's, Derby, and some of the tithes mentioned in 1185 do not occur again. In fact the abbey was involved in extensive litigation in maintaining and enforcing its claims to tithe or payments in lieu. In 1250, for example, a dispute with the Rector of Hamstall Ridware over tithes from 'Lichlesaselis' claimed by the monks in right of their church of Bromley was settled in their favour; the rector was to pay a modus of 5s. and a pound of incense. By the 1290s, however, the monks had again gone to law to enforce payment. (fn. 97) Similarly they were suing the Rector of Blithfield in 1252 for tithes from Newton and Hampton; the dispute was settled in the abbey's favour but had broken out again by 1321. (fn. 98) By the 1530s, however, the Rector of Blithfield was paying the monks £1 a year. (fn. 99) The 5 marks due from the Rector of Leigh was another cause of litigation from the later 13th century to the end of the 14th century. (fn. 100) On the credit side, the churches of Ilam, Stapenhill, and Bromley were appropriated in the earlier 13th century. (fn. 101) By 1280 there was a chapel at Cauldwell, the fourth dependency of Stapenhill. (fn. 102) Having secured its claim to the advowson of Austrey the abbey was given royal licence to appropriate the church in 1287; in fact this did not take effect, and appropriation was not finally secured until the early 15th century. (fn. 103) Endowments of anniversaries, chantries, and lights in the abbey church were further increasing the revenues of the house from at least the 13th century. (fn. 104) In 1535 St. Modwen's Chapel at Andressey, which had been attracting pilgrims from an early date, had an income of £2 a year from offerings. (fn. 105)
The abbey estates included two boroughs, Burton and Abbots Bromley. (fn. 106) Burgage tenure was established at Burton by Abbot Nicholas (1187-97), but it was only under his successor, Abbot Melburne (1200-14), that royal licence 'to make a borough' was granted; in 1200 King John also granted a market and fair. Abbots Stafford (1260-81) and Packington (1281-1305) further enlarged the borough, the latter because of a great famine about 1286. A borough was established at Abbots Bromley by Abbot Richard de Lisle (1222-9) in 1222, also under royal licence; in 1227 Henry III granted a market and fair there.
The abbey enjoyed several other privileges. Henry I granted Abbot Geoffrey (1114-50) sac, soc, toll, team, infangentheof, and full jurisdiction for his court (curiam suam plenarie de omnibus rebus et consuetudinibus). (fn. 107) Stephen, Henry II, John, and Henry III confirmed many of these privileges, and Henry II added quittance of toll, passage, and pontage, and also free warren as the abbot's predecessors had held it in the time of Henry I. (fn. 108) At the Staffordshire quo warranto proceedings of 1293 the abbot successfully upheld his claim to view of frankpledge, fines for offences against the assize of bread and ale, free warren, gallows, waif, and infangentheof. (fn. 109) At the Derbyshire proceedings of 1330 he maintained his privileges in the manors of Mickleover and Stapenhill but had to pay a fine of 20s. to regain his right to infangentheof at Stapenhill; he had not been exercising this right there, and he was ordered to erect a gallows. (fn. 110) In 1468 the king confirmed existing privileges and added the right to goods of felons, fugitives and outlaws within the manor of Burton and its members and to various fines from tenants there; the abbot was to act as a justice of the peace in the town and the bailiff of Burton as king's coroner, and the abbot was to have return of writs; an extra fair at Burton was also granted. (fn. 111) This grant was confirmed by the Crown in 1488 and 1510. (fn. 112) In 1527 the abbey successfully maintained against the king its right to appoint its own coroner within the liberty of Burton. (fn. 113)
The abbey's main economic pursuit was the management of its estates. Granges had been established at Shobnall, Stapenhill, Stretton, and Winshill by 1325 and at Burton and Branston by 1327. (fn. 114) A grange at Newton (Derb.) is mentioned in 1391, (fn. 115) and one had been established at Hunsdon (Derb.) by the later 15th century. (fn. 116) Another existed at Findern at some unspecified period. (fn. 117) The granges at Stapenhill, Winshill, Hunsdon, and Findern were leased out in the 1520s and 1530s, (fn. 118) and the only other mentioned at that time was Shobnall which was still run directly by the abbey. (fn. 119) The monks were also involved in the wool trade by the late 13th century, and there was sheep-farming at Hunsdon Grange in the 15th century. (fn. 120) They were evidently engaged in the production of cloth by the early 1340s when Brother Robert of Stapenhill erected a fulling-mill at Burton. (fn. 121) The abbey was running its own quarry in the early 13th century, probably at Winshill. (fn. 122)
The abbey property as listed in 1542, after the transfer of most of it to the new college at Burton, (fn. 123) consisted of the manors of Burton and of Abbots Bromley with Bromley Hurst; Hunsdon Grange; rents from Pillaton, Whiston, Darlaston, Field, Leigh, Branston, Stretton, Wetmore, Anslow, Ilam, Okeover, Stapenhill, Newhall, Stanton, Drakelow, Cauldwell, Mickleover, Littleover, Findern, Willington, Potlocks, Ticknall, Derby, Austrey, Appleby, and property in St. Sepulchre's parish, London; the appropriated churches of Abbots Bromley and Ilam, tithes in Newton (in Blithfield), and pensions from Hamstall Ridware, Grindon, and Blore. (fn. 124)
In Domesday Book the abbey's estates were valued at £39 8s. 6d. (fn. 125) Three valuations are available for the 13th century: (fn. 126) £24 12s. 2d. in 1229, £42 12s. 6d. in 1254 (when some of the property was temporarily in the king's hands and so was not included), and £115 17s. 8d. in 1291. Since each apparently includes items not in the other two, proper comparison is not possible. Some indication of the increase in valuation, however, is given by the assessments of Burton church, which occurs on all three occasions: £7 6s. 8d. in 1229, £9 6s. 8d. in 1254, and £10 in 1291. In 1535 the abbey was the only house to be valued twice: at £357 1s. 3½d. (temporalities £271 16s. 3½d. and spiritualities £85 5s.) and then at £513 19s. 4½d. (temporalities £414 14s. 4½d. and spiritualities £99 5s.). Total disbursements in each case were £89 2s. o½d. (fn. 127) In 1541-2 the gross value of the former abbey's possessions was £646 17s. 3d. (fn. 128)
The officers of the abbey were those usual in larger houses — abbot, prior, subprior, precentor, sacrist, cellarer, kitchener, chamberlain, infirmarer, hospitaller, almoner, pittancer, and martyrologer. (fn. 129) By the mid 15th century there was a 'third prior', and the precentor, sacrist, and cellarer each had a deputy. By the 16th century one person often held several offices. The prior acted as chamberlain and pittancer. The precentor was also almoner and in 1518 held the further office of 'third prior', an office held by the sacrist in 1524.The hospitaller acted as infirmarer. The cellarer was priest in charge of St. Modwen's Chapel at Andressey and one of the chantry priests; the martyrologer was in charge of the other two chantries; the subchanter acted as keeper of St. Mary's Chapel. At the visitations of 1518 and 1521 there was some complaint about the duplication as it affected the cellarer and hospitaller. The office of abbot's chaplain occurs from the 13th century.
The abbot, though supreme ruler of the community, was expected to act to some extent in consultation with the chapter. Up to the time of Abbot Bernard (1160-75) the chapter witnessed many of the deeds of enfeoffment. (fn. 130) In 1306 the prior and chapter drew up a set of regulations covering various aspects of the life of the house, including the powers of the abbot. (fn. 131) He was not to appoint any obedientiary without consulting the prior and senior monks in chapter; he was not to alienate land or wood without the chapter's approval; he was to render an account of his administration once a year to the prior and two of the brethren. Nevertheless the first of the bishop's injunctions following the visitation of 1323 again had to stipulate that all common business such as alienations and elections must be subject to common deliberation and consent. (fn. 132) One of the complaints voiced at the bishop's visitation in 1422 was that the abbot did not hold regular chapter meetings, and the abbot himself stated that he did not render an annual account of receipts and that it was not required. (fn. 133) He had his own apartments on the west side of the cloister by the 14th century, with a separate kitchen for his household. (fn. 134) It was stated at the 1422 visitation that the abbot did not sleep in the dormitory or eat in the refectory. (fn. 135)
There was no formal division of revenues between abbot and convent, nor were the finances of the abbey centralized under a single obedientiary. Instead there were various main departments— chamber, kitchen, infirmary, almonry — each with certain revenues which were paid directly to it without any central control beyond the abbot's general supervision. (fn. 136) This system was taking shape in the late 12th century when Abbot Nicholas (1187-97) endowed the chamber and the kitchen; his successor Abbot Melburne (1200-14) confirmed the arrangement. Abbot Wallingford (1216-22) increased the endowment of the kitchen because 'the badness of the times' had rendered the existing endowment inadequate. Abbot Nicholas's grant to the chamber included skins, fleeces, and other materials and also mentioned a tailor, two servants in the tailor's shop, a shoemaker (corveisarius), and a woman who washed the clothes of the brethren; all these were assigned corrodies and wages. Further grants to both kitchen and chamber were made by later abbots and others. By 1295 the income of the chamber amounted to £16 8s. a year, and the abbot in that year issued an ordinance regulating the amounts issued to the individual monks and the spending of the rest by the chamberlain. By 1535 the kitchener received £8 6s. 8d. a year from property in Burton and elsewhere. Both kitchener and chamberlain had a lay representative outside the abbey who was a burgess of Burton and a person of standing.
The infirmary received a small endowment from Abbot Melburne, and other gifts followed; the infirmarer had a clerk of the infirmary under him by the mid 13th century. (fn. 137) The almonry was endowed for the maintenance of the poor and of pilgrims by Abbot Melburne who also mentions gifts from Herbert de Stretton. Abbot Wallingford not only made new grants to the almoner for the poor but assigned to the cellarer 300 loaves, 200 gallons of ale, and 600 herrings from the monks' kitchen, and 3s. 3d. from the sacrist to add to the alms distributed on the anniversary day of Wulfric Spot and his wife. Subsequent abbots and others made new gifts to the almoner, including a 'house of stone next to the church for the reception of the poor' given by Abbot Laurence (1229-60). By 1535 the almoner was in receipt of £8 a year from property in Burton; in addition £23 os. 11d. a year was being distributed to the poor in money, food, drink, and clothing, £19 8s. of it allegedly by the appointment of Wulfric Spot and the rest in accordance with the wishes of various abbots. The almoner too had his secular counterpart by the 13th century. (fn. 138)
The prior was given the chapel of St. Edmund by Abbot Richard de Lisle (1222-9) who had built and endowed it. By the early 14th century the prior had an income of £2 a year from property in Burton, which he still received in 1535. (fn. 139) The sacrist and the pittancer were in receipt of regular payments from the time of Abbot Laurence, (fn. 140) and the martyrologer had an income of £14 from property in Burton and elsewhere by 1535. (fn. 141)
Of the lay officials and servants the most important was the steward with his subordinate bailiffs. The first recorded steward is Hernald who witnessed a charter of Abbot Nicholas about 1190; in 1535 the office was held by George, Earl of Huntingdon, at a fee of £6 13s. 4d. and was presumably honorary by that time. (fn. 142) The keeper of the abbey gate also seems to have been of some standing. He occurs among witnesses of abbey charters and by the 1240s was provided with food and drink, fodder for his horse, a wage of half a mark a year, and 'a serving-man at the gate' who also received a corrody. The office was granted in heredity in 1247 to Walter son of Ralph de Shobnall, who surrendered his capital messuage and lands in Shobnall in return for the office and a burgage in Burton. (fn. 143) The maintenance of Burton Bridge was the abbey's responsibility, and a bridgekeeper occurs from at least the early 14th century and perhaps from 1284 when a monk was in charge of repair work then in progress. By the 15th century the keeper was a layman. (fn. 144) The ordinances of 1306 laid down that the abbot and obedientiaries were not to retain any servant who was obstinatum et irreverenter se habentem erga conventum. (fn. 145)
There were also numerous lay people enjoying a share in the spiritual and material life of the abbey, usually in return for a grant of all or part of their property; in fact Burton's early-12th-century records probably provide the earliest available examples of monastic corrodies. (fn. 146) At its simplest the association was a mark of friendship. At some time between 1114 and 1126 Robert de Ferrers, after a dispute with the monks over a grove, came to an agreement with them, 'pricked by the fear of God and admonished by the prayer and order of the king'; he promised to pay 20s. a year, and the monks gave him the grove and received him into their 'fraternity and society ... as friend and guardian of the church so that they should love him perfectly' and pray for him, his family, and his ancestors. (fn. 147) The system was also a means by which maintenance in old age or widowhood could be secured. In 1295 a widow, Maud, daughter of Nicholas de Shobnall, surrendered her hereditary keepership of the abbey gate with the privileges that went with it and received instead a daily grant of food and drink for life with grain, oats, hay, wood, and I mark a year. Her son was to have good food and clothing for 10 years according to his needs and afterwards was to serve the abbey, receiving due maintenance; if he was prevented from serving it by illness, he was still to receive food, drink, and clothing. (fn. 148)
The system could also involve a close association with the life of the abbey. (fn. 149) William of St. Albans, on receiving land at Stretton from Abbot Geoffrey (1114-50), was given the food and drink (procuratio) of one monk until he died or became a monk, when it was to pass to his wife. He occurs as a lay witness of abbey charters and in the 1150s became a monk at Burton. His son Reynold was debarred from inheriting the procuratio, but he was included as heir in the grant of the lands and duly succeeded to them. Subsequently Abbot Bernard (1160-75) granted part of the property to him in perpetuity and the rest to him and his heir. In 1166 Reynold too became closely associated with the abbey. In return for the surrender of the property granted to him by the previous abbot and for the service of his body, Reynold was to be received as a monk when he should so desire and meanwhile be provided with the food and drink of a monk. If he travelled far on the abbey's business he was to have expenses for himself, a squire, and horses, and if he was away on pilgrimage or some other distant business he could assign his corrody to someone else. He was free to take the religious habit anywhere, but 'if he wishes to submit himself to the yoke of religion with us, let him come to us with a third part of his goods when it shall please him'. Reynold is found witnessing abbey charters as a layman under Abbot Roger (1177-82).
From at least the early 14th century it was customary for the king to appoint a royal official to a corrody in the abbey, even though the Crown was wrong in claiming Burton as a royal foundation. In 1310 the monks were ordered by Edward II to provide Sir Thomas de Bannebury with food, drink, clothing, and a chamber within the abbey precincts for life as a reward for his long service to the Crown. The monks excused themselves on grounds of poverty; the king replied that the excuse was 'frivolous, untruthful, and inacceptable' and threatened to confiscate their temporalities. (fn. 150) The outcome is not known, but in 1315 the king ordered the monks to provide for Alice de Duffeld for life. (fn. 151) The following year aged members of the garrison at Berwick were assigned to various religious houses, and Nicholas of Derby was sent to Burton. (fn. 152) For the rest of the abbey's existence the Crown appointed a succession of royal servants and officials to this corrody, which was valued at £3 6s. 8d. in 1535. (fn. 153) Since the Crown regarded Burton as a royal foundation, from at least 1316 the abbey on the election of a new abbot had to provide a pension for a royal clerk of the king's nomination until the abbot appointed the clerk to a benefice; the amount of the pension in 1535 was 40s. (fn. 154)
Financial troubles are a constant feature of the abbey's history. As already seen two abbots were expelled early on for dissipating the property of the house, in 1094 and 1159. (fn. 155) The large-scale granting of property in fee instead of for lives during the 12th century has also been noted. (fn. 156) By 1225 the community sought to relieve the burden of debt by granting one of its manors in fee for 100 marks, binding itself under pain of excommunication not to cancel the grant; since the manor was worth 20 marks a year in rents, it subsequently regretted the transaction, and the Pope had to intervene in 1225 to put the matter right. (fn. 157) The appropriation of Abbots Bromley church at this period was allowed by the bishop because the abbey was 'weighted by great debts and altogether collapsed'. (fn. 158) It may be a sign of continuing financial problems that in 1295 Abbot Packington issued an ordinance regulating the expenditure of the chamber revenues and providing for three-yearly accounting by the chamberlain to a committee appointed by the abbot. (fn. 159) The ordinances of the prior and chapter in 1306 included provisions for annual accounting by the abbot and obedientiaries to the prior and certain other brethren specially appointed for the occasion. (fn. 160)
Troubles continued. In 1319 at the request of the community the king took the abbey into his protection because of its indebtedness and appointed a royal clerk as keeper of the house and its possessions for three years; the following year, however, the protection was revoked, again at the request of the community. (fn. 161) In 1323 the bishop forbade the granting of further corrodies and annuities without his permission and ordered the keeping of accounts by obedientiaries, removing several from office. (fn. 162) The abbey was allowed to appropriate Austrey church for 10 years from 1382 because the house was 'so impoverished through dearness of corn and mortality of cattle and lawsuits which it has been obliged to undergo that the monks can no longer maintain hospitality or even live decently'. (fn. 163) Two years later the house was once more taken into the royal protection 'on account of its oppression by rivals and the consequent diminution of divine service and works of charity', and Hugh, Earl of Stafford, and Ralph Bassett were appointed keepers; it was stated that this was to be without prejudice to the abbey in the future. (fn. 164) An example of oppression is provided by the powerful Sir John Bagot, to whom Abbot Southam (1366-1400) paid 30s. a year to be the 'friend of the house'; Abbot Sudbury complained that in 1402 Bagot, in order to force a larger bribe, had robbed the park at Abbots Bromley. (fn. 165)
The confusion seems to have been even worse during the 15th century. In 1400 the king pardoned the abbey all money due to the Crown as a result of the voidance following Abbot Southam's resignation 'because the abbey has been impoverished by the improvident governance of Thomas, late abbot'. (fn. 166) In 1414 the king once more took the house into his hands, blaming 'the bad governance of its abbots' and 'its notable dilapidation' for the fact that it 'is oppressed with annuities, pensions, and corrodies and debt, and its goods and jewels have been wasted and many of its manors, lands, and possessions improvidently demised at farm and otherwise alienated, and the abbot and convent are so troubled that divine worship and other works of piety are withdrawn'. The running of the house and its lands was committed to the prior and cellarer under the supervision of a commission of four outsiders. (fn. 167) The bishop's visitation of 1422 revealed no improvement. Debts amounted to £100. No accounts were kept by abbot, chamberlain, or pittancer, and Abbot Sudbury stated that he had found no inventory of goods when he was elected in 1400 and had made none himself. Complaints were made that the abbot, besides being negligent in his administration, was selling the goods of the house and supporting his own relatives. The bishop committed the administration of the goods to the cellarer and his own sequestrator and ordered the restoration of alienated property, an inquiry into all servants of the abbey, and the drawing up of an inventory, a rental, and a full account of pensions and corrodies. (fn. 168) Early in 1424 the abbey, having again been taken into the king's hands, was put under the control of a group of commissioners for a year. (fn. 169) Indeed the confusion of its affairs may well have been the reason for Abbot Sudbury's resignation later in 1424. (fn. 170) In 1433 the house was still impoverished, and the Crown appointed Humphrey, Earl of Stafford, and four others as keepers for seven years. (fn. 171) Among the charges leading to Abbot Henley's suspension in 1454 (see below) were alienation of property and general extravagance. (fn. 172) The new privileges bestowed by the royal charter of 1468 were granted 'in consideration of the intolerable things which the abbey daily sustains', (fn. 173) and in 1498 the bishop after a visitation was again ordering the proper keeping and presentation of accounts by the abbot and obedientiaries. The cellarer was a particular offender and was suspended from all office for a year; the replacement of the existing sacrist was also ordered. (fn. 174) At the visitations of 1518, 1521, and 1524, however, there was no complaint about the financial state of the house; it was in fact stated in 1524 that the abbot and officials rendered accounts every Lent. (fn. 175)
Information about the spiritual state of the house is confined mainly to the last 200 years of its existence. Standards in the later 12th century were evidently high enough to satisfy the austere Abbot Bernard (1160-75) who had resigned the abbacy of Cerne (Dors.) 'because of the great embellishments of the same house'. (fn. 176) The picture that emerges later, however, is of a house that was frequently as unsound spiritually as it was financially; in fact, as already seen, financial confusion was sometimes blamed for the low spiritual standard. At the bishop's visitation of 1323 the abbot was found to be lax in imposing punishments, and two monks were described as much given to frequenting forbidden places in lay company. To guard against ignorance the bishop ordered the papal 'constitutions' to be read twice a year in chapter. (fn. 177) The period of Abbot Sudbury (1400-24) was one of particular disorder. In 1407 he and several others of the community received royal pardon for numerous acts of violence, thefts, and ravishings during the previous few years. Sudbury himself was also declared guilty of having on Christmas Day 1404 'in his chamber at Burton ravished Margery, the wife of Nicholas Taverner'. (fn. 178) At the bishop's visitation in 1422 Sudbury was accused of failing to hold regular chapter meetings, inflict proper punishments, eat in the refectory, and sleep in the dormitory. The suspicion was voiced that he spent the greater part of Sunday with women, and the bishop in fact found him guilty of adultery with two women. Laxity was in fact general: attendance at services was slack, and the monks often ate and drank in the town with friends — the abbot was again mentioned as a particular offender in both instances. Two women of ill-fame stayed within the precincts of the monastery, and dogs, hawks, and horses were kept for hunting. (fn. 179)
Despite the bishop's injunctions laxity continued. In 1454 Abbot Henley was suspended by the bishop after a visitation that revealed not only his maladministration but his habitual absence from divine service and night office, his gaming, and his drunkenness. He resigned in 1455 and was granted a pension of 20 marks. (fn. 180) In the 1460s it was reported that a common whore from Lichfield had gone several times to Burton 'and there admitted the monks to carnal copulation'. (fn. 181) In 1498 the bishop forbade the frequenting of 'taverns and other suspect places' in Burton by the monks and the keeping of hunting dogs within the precincts of the abbey, a fault of which the cellarer confessed himself guilty. The abbot was not only to see that the abbey gates were shut at the proper times but also to prevent women from having frequent access to himself and the monks and to have the locks of the outer doors changed. (fn. 182) Yet the abbot at this time was William Flegh (1493-1502), who is the only one of the abbots listed in the chronicle to be noted for his good life; the writer also stated that he left the house in a good state. (fn. 183) No serious troubles were revealed at the visitations of 1518, 1521, and 1524, (fn. 184) and about 1530 the subprior of Burton was on the waiting list for admission to a new cell that was being founded by the Carthusian monastery of Mount Grace (Yorks. N.R.). (fn. 185)
On the credit side are the chantry and similar foundations originating from within the community, particularly in the 15th century. It had early on been a custom for mass to be celebrated daily for the souls of deceased abbots, priors, and benefactors, but the practice had lapsed by the time of Abbot Melburne (1200-14). He revived it and endowed a chaplaincy for the purpose with the food and drink of one monk and 10s. for vestments from the offerings of pilgrims. With the consent of the chapter he also assigned 10s. rent from burgages in Burton 'for the redemption of his soul and for an obit'. (fn. 186) Abbot de Lisle (1222-9), a monk of Bury St. Edmunds who returned there as abbot in 1229, built and endowed a chapel of St. Edmund in the abbey church during his time at Burton. (fn. 187) About the mid 13th century a daily mass was instituted in the new chapel of St. Mary in the church. (fn. 188) A daily mass was founded in 1292 for the souls of Sir Richard de Draycott and his son Richard in return for the many benefits received from Sir Richard. (fn. 189) In 1349 Abbot Ibstock gave lands and rents to endow an anniversary for himself, (fn. 190) and in 1386 another was instituted for Reynold of Ibstock, a monk of Burton, in recognition of his gifts of property and goods. (fn. 191) Abbots Southam, Sudbury, and Bronston each endowed a chantry and an obit. (fn. 192) Abbot Bronston also founded the weekly Jesus Mass and endowed the singers of a mass in St. Mary's Chapel, including apparently boy choristers. (fn. 193) A daily mass was instituted in 1488 in this chapel in memory of James Norres, his wife Alice, and her second husband William Prudhom in consideration of many benefits received from James, who was buried in the chapel. (fn. 194) In 1518 three chantries were mentioned: Abbot Bronston's, that of Norres and Prudhom, and one founded by a Nicholas Ward. The last was either the monk of that name who was nearly elected abbot in 1430 or the Nicholas Ward who was professed a monk at Burton in 1433 and was kitchener under Abbot Flegh (14931502). (fn. 195) A fourth chantry was founded by Abbot Bene (1502-1530 or 1531). (fn. 196) By 1547 there was a brotherhood of priests in Burton church stated to have been endowed by several benefactors to pray for their souls; the number of priests varied between two and four. (fn. 197) This may perhaps represent the survival of the former monastic chantries. Another sidelight on 15th-century observance at Burton is the permission, granted in 1459 by the Pope in answer to a petition from the abbey, for the occasional celebration of mass even before daybreak, provided matins was over; this was for the benefit of the large number of laymen who went to the church before daybreak in order to hear mass. (fn. 198)
In the intellectual sphere the abbey's most notable achievement lay in its Annals which run from the foundation to 1262. Though not of great local interest, they are a particularly important source for the political history of the 13th century. (fn. 199) For the history of the house itself the account of St. Modwen's life and miracles written by Abbot Geoffrey (1114-50), who sent to Ireland for material, and the History of the Abbots are important sources. (fn. 200) A list dating from the late 12th century of the books owned by the abbey contains 78 titles, several of them works in Anglo-Saxon. (fn. 201) In 1309 the Burton archives were used for a certification of the date of the election of Roger Meuland as Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield. (fn. 202)
Burton, however, was a consistent defaulter in the duty of sending monks to study at a university. Defaulters were reported at four Benedictine chapters between 1343 and 1426, and Burton is the only house included on each occasion. (fn. 203) On the other hand Abbot Sudbury, himself a bachelor of canon law, (fn. 204) assigned a yearly pension out of the Austrey revenues to a scholar at Oxford. The terms of the arrangement seem to suggest that the abbey was already paying £7 10s. 4d. to a scholar as a charge on various endowed departments of the house. By 1535 £10 a year was being paid to Gloucester College, the Benedictine house at Oxford. (fn. 205)
At the visitation of 1524 there were complaints that the abbey had no instructor in grammar and that the books in the refectory were in a bad state of repair. (fn. 206) Abbot Boston (1531-3), however, was a doctor of theology, (fn. 207) and in 1535 one of the community was a bachelor of divinity. (fn. 208)
As a normal Benedictine house Burton Abbey was subject to episcopal visitation, despite its claim in 1257 to be exempt, (fn. 209) and a few such visitations are recorded from the 14th century. (fn. 210) Abbot Henley challenged the bishop's right to visit Burton and appealed to the archbishop. In 1454, however, in Lichfield Cathedral he acknowledged his error and recognized the bishop's right. (fn. 211) The bishop was notified by the king of royal assent to the election of new abbots so that he could institute, (fn. 212) and in 1329 the king referred a disputed election to the bishop who made his own choice between the two candidates. (fn. 213) In 1412 the prior and other monks secured the bishop's support in a dispute with the abbot over privileges, (fn. 214) while at the election of a new abbot in 1430 the bishop imposed his own candidate, a monk of St. Albans, in opposition to the majority who favoured one of their own number. (fn. 215)
The abbot, however, exercised a peculiar jurisdiction in the parishes of Burton, Abbots Bromley, and Mickleover. In the late 11th or early 12th century the bishop granted that the mother-church of Burton should not pay customs for consecrated oil or 'any parochial thing' nor send any man or woman to chapters and synods but that it should hold its own court for all causes; nor was the chaplain of Burton to pay any custom or exaction to the Archdeacon of Stafford. The only qualification, 'so long as justice is not wanting', presumably implies a right of appeal to the bishop. This episcopal grant was confirmed by Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury (1139-54), by his successor, Thomas Becket, by Walter Durdent, Bishop of Coventry (1149-59), by the Archdeacon of Stafford about 1180 and again in the early 13th century, by Archbishop Langton in 1215, and by Archbishop Pecham in 1280, who stated that the chaplain of Burton paid nothing to the bishop except 3s. for Peter's pence. (fn. 216) The bull of Pope Lucius III in 1185 confirmed existing liberties and recognized Burton's right of presenting clergy to its churches, of receiving bodies for burial within the abbey, of celebrating mass during a national interdict, and of sanctuary; the bishop was to grant chrism, holy oil, consecration of altars and churches, and ordinations. (fn. 217) The Archdeacon of Stafford in confirming the privileges of Burton parish about 1180 added the exemption of Bromley and Ilam from attendance at chapters and synods, (fn. 218) but in 1293 the abbot paid procurations to the archdeacon in respect of both. (fn. 219) Bromley, however, was included in the abbot's exempt jurisdiction by the 14th century. (fn. 220) By the 1270s the abbot was exercising a jurisdiction in the parish of Mickleover to the exclusion of the Archdeacon of Derby, although in 1295 the bishop in confirming the exemption ordered the abbot to pay 3s. a year to the archdeacon. (fn. 221) The abbot presumably had the right of parochial visitation within his peculiar, but there is little record of the functioning of his jurisdiction. (fn. 222)
Burton had to fight for the maintenance of these privileges. In the mid 13th century the bishop was complaining to the Pope that the abbot was usurping episcopal rights. (fn. 223) In the 1270s the jurisdiction in Mickleover had to be defended against the Archdeacon of Derby, and, though the abbot had the support of the papal judges and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the dispute dragged on. As seen above the bishop attempted a settlement in 1295 but evidently without success since in 1298 the Pope again intervened. (fn. 224) In 1324 there was a similar dispute between the abbot and the Archdeacon of Stafford over the abbot's jurisdiction in Burton and Abbots Bromley; the abbot's rights were recognized by a later archdeacon about 1350. (fn. 225) In the 1320s the bishop himself challenged the abbot's rights in the parishes of Burton, Bromley, and Mickleover, and the suit went to Canterbury and then to the Pope who in 1333 appointed judges to settle it; the result seems to have been in the abbot's favour. In the meantime the abbot complained to Canterbury about the bishop's infringement of the abbey's privileges by using or attempting to use Burton church for general ordinations; the dispute was cited to the archbishop's court in 1325 and again in 1333. There was also a dispute between the abbot and the bishop over the appropriation of Stapenhill; in 1326 this too was cited on appeal to the archbishop's court. In 1367 the bishop was evidently again challenging the abbot's exempt jurisdiction, and he visited Burton parish in 1390. (fn. 226) In 1378 the Archdeacon of Derby was summoned before the Court of Arches to answer the abbot's charge of interference with his jurisdiction in Mickleover. (fn. 227) By the 1530s the abbot was paying procurations to the bishop for Burton, Abbots Bromley, and Mickleover as well as for Ilam and Austrey; he also paid procurations to the archdeacon for Abbots Bromley and to the bishop for visitations of the abbey. (fn. 228) The abbot's probate jurisdiction in Burton eventually passed with the abbey's property to the Pagets, who continued to exercise it until 1858. (fn. 229)
The dissolution of Burton was foreshadowed at the election of 1533 following the promotion of Abbot Bronston to be Abbot of Westminster, the highest office known to have been attained by any monk of Burton. Bishop Lee, under instructions from Cromwell, went to Burton in June with Richard Strete, Archdeacon of Derby, and David Pole, the vicar general, and so 'sped the election' that the community agreed to leave the choice of a new abbot to the bishop and the archdeacon, stipulating only that one of themselves should be chosen before 1 August. Cromwell's original candidate seems to have been 'the monk Baylye', but William Edys, the 'third prior', was appointed. (fn. 230)
Early in 1538 Francis, Lord Hastings, wrote to Cromwell to point out that Burton Abbey lay 'very convenient' for him, adding that he would have asked for it earlier but for an attack of measles. (fn. 231) Later the same year the Crown tried to secure the tithes of Austrey for a royal official, but the abbot replied to Cromwell that the income was 'so necessary to our house that we cannot do without it'. (fn. 232) At the same time Sir William Bassett, of Meynell Langley (Derb.), removed the statue of St. Modwen, defaced its tabernacle, and forbade further offerings; he sent the statue to Cromwell by Francis Bassett, his brother, a servant to Cranmer. (fn. 233) In February 1539 Dr. John London was at Burton, (fn. 234) and on 14 November the abbot and community surrendered their house and its possessions to Dr. Thomas Legh. (fn. 235) Pensions ranging from £6 13s. 4d. to £2 were assigned to 7 monks: 5 priests, a deacon, and a novice. The abbot and probably four remaining monks became members of the new college at Burton which was already being planned, though it was not actually founded until 1541. (fn. 236) Robert Heathcote, one of the deacons, and Humphrey Cotton, the novice, were recorded as in receipt of their pensions when they died in 1552 and 1563. (fn. 237)
The abbey precincts occupied an area bounded on the east by the River Trent and on the west by the present High Street and Lichfield Street. (fn. 238) The church stood at the northern end of the site on ground now occupied by part of the Market Place and by the 18th-century church of St. Modwen. The cloister and the conventual buildings lay immediately south of the church, an area now largely covered by the late-19th-century market hall. Further to the south and west was a walled courtyard with an outer court beyond. (fn. 239) The latter was approached from the west through the gatehouse. South-east of the cloister and next to the river was a detached building thought to have been the infirmary.
Apart from limited excavations of the later 19th and early 20th centuries and a few surviving architectural features (fn. 240) the main evidence of the monastic layout is provided by a plan of the church and cloister, probably drawn in the mid 16th century. (fn. 241) The church is known to have been divided into an upper and a lower church, that is, a monastic east end or choir and a non-monastic nave to the west, although the plan does not indicate any clear demarcation. It shows transepts on either side of the chancel with a tower above the crossing. A tower is also marked at the west end between two smaller transepts or porches. The nave extends westwards beyond the tower, and it has been suggested that this projection may have been a galilee or large western porch. (fn. 242) An engraving of the church from the south-west by Wenceslas Hollar in 1661 (fn. 243) does not entirely agree with the earlier plan, but some of its discrepancies may be due to inaccurate drawing. The chancel has apparently disappeared, having fallen into ruin after the dissolution, (fn. 244) but a south transept is shown, ending in an ornate gable which has angle turrets and may be of late-13th-century date. There is a polygonal central tower as well as an embattled north-west tower with tall traceried windows. Any westward extension of the nave has either disappeared or is hidden by trees. It has been suggested that the curious fenestration of the south wall of the nave may be due to a lowering of the aisle roof after the dissolution, and the consequent exposure of a Norman triforium which was afterwards glazed. (fn. 245) The row of five arches, each enclosing a pair of round-headed openings, may represent such a triforium; the clerestory and embattled parapet above appear to be of later medieval date.
It is possible to trace the history of several of these features. The early-11th-century church seems already to have been divided into an upper and a lower church. (fn. 246) In 1114, at the end of his abbacy, Abbot Niel began building at the western end of the church, and his successor Geoffrey (1114-50) erected an elegant (speciosum) tower, roofed with lead, over the choir. (fn. 247) The nave shown by Hollar presumably dates from this period. The east end was remodelled in the late 13th and earlier 14th centuries. The chancel was rebuilt under Abbot Packington (1281-1305), and the work was evidently completed about 1293. A new high altar was dedicated by Abbot Burton (1305-16) at the end of 1305, and Abbot Brykhull (1340-7) was responsible for a great window over the high altar. (fn. 248) The belltower (clocharium) mentioned in 1340 as adjoining the market-place (fn. 249) is presumably the north-west tower of the church, and this is probably the tower mentioned early in the 14th century. (fn. 250) Abbot Ibstock (1347-66), possibly while he was still almoner, rebuilt the northern side of the lower or parish church; Abbot Southam (1366-1400) recast the three great bells in the tower of the lower church. (fn. 251) Under Abbot Sudbury (1400-24) Richard Creyhton while sacrist carried out some work in stone in the chancel and reroofed the lower church; Richard Babe as prior and sacrist was responsible for some stone work in the tower of the upper church and also for new stalls in the choir. (fn. 252) Under Abbot Henley (1433-55) the tower of the lower church was completed and a bell placed in it. (fn. 253) In 1474-5 the tower of the upper church collapsed, causing extensive damage in that part of the building. Abbot Feld promptly repaired the damaged walls, rebuilt one of the four pillars of the choir and the arch between the upper and lower church, erected a new high altar with steps to it, reroofed the upper church, and began a new tower. (fn. 254)
There were several side chapels and altars in the church. The altar of Holy Cross is mentioned in the early 13th century and again in 1254. (fn. 255) Abbot de Lisle (1222-9), having come from Bury St. Edmunds, built and endowed a chapel of St. Edmund. This was repaired by Prior Richard Lythum shortly before 1428 when the bishop granted an indulgence to all who said prayers and masses there for the dead, and especially for the souls of Richard and his parents. (fn. 256) The chapel of St. Mary was begun under Abbot Laurence (1229-60), and in 1254 money was assigned to the sacrist for the maintenance of a lamp before the altar of St. Mary; probably about the same time a further gift was made for a candle before the statue of St Mary during the celebration of her daily mass. The chapel was evidently completed during the time of Abbot Stafford (1260-81) when Prior Michael 'made' it. It was the most important of the chapels, with its daily mass, its own keeper and, by the 15th century, its own singers; in 1535 its revenue from endowments was £4 a year. (fn. 257) The altar of St. Nicholas is mentioned in 1254, (fn. 258) and in 1305 Abbot Burton dedicated the altars of the Apostles and the Martyrs; ex-Abbot Southam was buried in the chapel of the Martyrs in 1401. (fn. 259) The chapel of the Confessors was built by Abbot Longdon (1329-40), and ex-Abbot Sudbury was buried there in 1425. (fn. 260)
Some time after the foundation of the abbey the remains of St. Modwen were transferred there from the nearby island of Andressey in the Trent. (fn. 261) A shrine was built in the abbey; decorated with gold, silver, and jewels, it was 'satis preciosum' by the time of Abbot Leofric (1051-66), who despoiled it to buy food for the poor during a famine. (fn. 262) William I visited the shrine. (fn. 263) It was rebuilt early in the 15th century by Prior Babe. (fn. 264)
Andressey, however, remained sacred to the memory of St. Modwen. A chapel of St. Andrew there was dedicated by the bishop early in the 13th century and endowed by Abbot Melburne. (fn. 265) It had its own keeper, (fn. 266) and in 1535 its income from offerings was £2. (fn. 267) It was rebuilt by Abbot Feld (147393) and was by then known as the chapel of St. Modwen. (fn. 268) It was evidently here that the statue of St. Modwen was kept 'with her red cow and her staff which women labouring of child in those parts were very desirous to have with them to lean upon and to walk with it'. (fn. 269)
Doors from the upper and lower church gave access to the cloister, (fn. 270) which the 16th-century plan gives as 100 feet square. (fn. 271) Some rebuilding of the cloister was carried out in 1431, beginning 'at the corner against the almonry' — probably the northwestern corner. Bishop Heyworth's gifts to the abbey at his death in 1446 included £40 for building the cloister. The chapter-house led off the east walk and was rebuilt by Abbots Longdon (1329-40) and Brykhull (1340-7); traces have been found of the doorway and also of burials inside the building. The doorway to the south (which still survives) probably led into the parlour. (fn. 272) According to the 16thcentury plan the east range continued southwards beyond the line of the cloister, presumably to accommodate the dorter on the first floor; a stairway shown at the east end of the south walk presumably gave access to it. It is not clear whether the plan depicts the east range at the same level throughout. The dorter is shown separated from the south transept of the church by three 'chambers'. These chambers may be intended to represent the sacristy, chapter-house, and parlour, or, alternatively, rooms above them, and this part of the east range was evidently roofed separately from the dorter. (fn. 273) The dorter is shown with six cells along each side and what is presumably the rere-dorter at its south end. The frater occupied the south range. The west range was given over to the abbot's rooms; Abbot Ibstock (1347-66) added the abbot's private chamber between the great hall and the 'outward' chamber, while Abbot Feld (1473-93) erected what was described as the Abbot's Chamber. (fn. 274) The 'house of stone next to the church' given to the almoner by Abbot Laurence (1229-60) for the reception of the poor probably stood in this area.
In 1428 Abbot Mathew began building the southern part of the abbey gate on the west of the precinct opposite the end of the present New Street. (fn. 275) Abbot Henley (1433-55) built the northern part. (fn. 276) The bases of these two parts were noted at the end of the 18th century by Stebbing Shaw, who also recorded that formerly the gate had 'a lofty handsome arch'; the remains of the gate were demolished in 1927. (fn. 277) Abbot Burton (1305-16) erected 'a long building by the gates of the abbey', and in 1326 his successor Abbot Bromley assigned it to the chamberlain for use by the brethren as a common chamber. (fn. 278)
'The great hall by the water of the Flete' built by Abbot Bromley was probably part of the infirmary near the Trent. (fn. 279) Remains of medieval building in this area are incorporated in the house now called The Abbey. They include what is thought to have been a chapel which originally had a large pointed window at each end; a range at right angles to it was found in the late 19th century to be a partly timberframed structure with an open roof. (fn. 280)
Abbots (fn. 281)
Wulfgeat, by 1004, died 1026.
Brihtric, succeeded 1027, died 1050.
Leofric, arrived 1051, died 1066. (fn. 282)
Brihtric, succeeded 1066 or 1067. (fn. 283)
Geoffrey Mauland (Malaterra), succeeded 1085, expelled 1094.
Niel, succeeded 1094, died 1114.
Geoffrey, succeeded 1114, resigned 1150. (fn. 284)
Robert, succeeded 1150, deposed and expelled 1159.
Bernard, arrived 1160, died 1174 or 1175. (fn. 285)
Robert, returned 1176, died 1176 or 1177. (fn. 286)
Roger Malebranche, elected 1177, died 1182. (fn. 287)
Richard, succeeded 1182, died 1187. (fn. 288)
Nicholas, succeeded 1187, died 1197. (fn. 289)
William Melburne, arrived 1200, died 1214. (fn. 290)
Roger the Norman, elected 1214, died 1216. (fn. 291)
Nicholas of Wallingford, elected 1216, died 1222. (fn. 292)
Richard de Lisle (de Insula), elected 1222, elected Abbot of Bury St. Edmunds 1229. (fn. 293)
Laurence of St. Edward, elected 1229, died 1260. (fn. 294)
John of Stafford, elected 1260, resigned 1281. (fn. 295)
Thomas of Packington, elected 1281, died 1305. (fn. 296)
John of Burton, alias of Stapenhill, alias Fisher, elected 1305, died 1316. (fn. 297)
William of Bromley, elected 1316, died 1329. (fn. 298)
Robert of Longdon, appointed by the bishop in 1329 after a disputed election, died 1340. (fn. 299)
Robert de Brykhull, elected 1340, died 1347. (fn. 300)
John of Ibstock, elected 1347, died 1366. (fn. 301)
Thomas of Southam, elected 1366, resigned 1400. (fn. 302)
John Sudbury, B.Cn.L., elected 1400, resigned 1424. (fn. 303)
William Mathew, elected 1424, resigned 1430. (fn. 304)
Robert Ownesby, imposed by the bishop 1430, resigned 1433. (fn. 305)
Ralph Henley, elected 1433, resigned 1455. (fn. 306)
William Bronston, elected 1455, died 1473. (fn. 307)
Thomas Feld, elected 1473, died 1493. (fn. 308)
William Flegh, elected 1493, died 1502. (fn. 309)
William Bene, elected 1502, died 1530 or 1531. (fn. 310)
William Boston, D. Th., elected 1531, elected Abbot of Westminster 1533. (fn. 311)
William Edys, appointed 1533, surrendered the abbey in 1539. (fn. 312)
The earliest known seal of the abbey is that in use under Abbot Geoffrey (1114-50), depicting what may be intended as a view of the church from the west; there are two flanking towers and what may be the tower over the crossing. (fn. 313) No legend has survived.
The seal in use by the early 13th century and until at least 1284 is a pointed oval, 31/8 by 2½ in. (fn. 314) It depicts a woman, probably the Virgin, crowned and seated on a throne formed by a church with four towers; she holds a book in her left hand and a fleur-de-lis in her right. Legend, lombardic:
SIG[I]LLUM SANCTE MARIE D[E] [B]URTONA
An impression of the 1220s has as reverse an oval counterseal, 15/8 by 11/8 in., depicting the head and shoulders of St. Modwen. Legend, lombardic:
The common seal in use in 1493 is a pointed oval, about 1½ by about 1 in. (fn. 315) It depicts the Virgin seated with the Child on her left knee, and in the base the head and left arm of a man, probably an abbot, under a canopy. Legend, lombardic:
... ET CO ... E ... U ...