Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Letheringham

Page 108

A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1975.

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There is not much to be learnt about the small priory of Austin canons at Letheringham, dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin. It was a cell of the priory of St. Peter's, Ipswich, served by three or four canons, over whom was a prior who was appointed from time to time by the mother house; but the prior held the office for life, the appointment being confirmed by the bishop.

William de Bovile, apparently towards the close of the twelfth century, gave his tithes at Letheringham to the monastery of St. Peter's, Ipswich, whereupon they established here a priory. The Boviles held the manor of Letheringham with the advowson of the priory for many generations until 1348, when the lordship and advowson passed to Sir John de Ufford, in trust, for the use of Margery, daughter and heiress of Sir John Bovile. Margery married for her second husband Thomas Wingfield, and hence the Wingfields held this property until long after the dissolution. (fn. 1)

The taxation roll of 1291 shows that the total income of this priory was then £12 11s. 0¼d., £8 being the value of the appropriated church of Charsfield, and the greater part of the remaining income from temporalities coming from lands at Letheringham. (fn. 2)

A two-days' fair on the vigil and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin was granted to the priory in 1297 to be held at Letheringham. (fn. 3)

John, duke of Norfolk, and Katharine his wife, gave the advowson of the church of Hoo to this priory in 1475, and in 1482 the canons obtained licence to appropriate it. (fn. 4)

The Valor of 1535 gives the total clear annual value of this priory as £26 18s. 5d.; the temporalities amounted to £7 16s. 9d., and the spiritualities (including the rectories of Letheringham, Charsfield, and Hoo) to £19 1s. 8d. (fn. 5)

The Suffolk commissioners for appraising the value of the goods and chattels of the condemned smaller monasteries visited Letheringham on 24 August, 1536. The whole was valued at £7 2s. 10d. (fn. 6)

The actual date of the suppression of the house was 7 February, 1536-7. (fn. 7)

William Basse, the prior, was assigned a pension of £5. (fn. 8)

On 20 October, 1539, a grant was made to Sir Anthony Wingfield of the site and possessions of the priory, with the rectories of Letheringham, Charsfield, and certain tithes in Asketon. (fn. 9)

Priors of Letheringham

Richard de Hecham, (fn. 10) 1307

Richard de Sancto Edmundo, (fn. 11) 1316

William de Bhi Thornham (sic), (fn. 12) 1357

Stephen Capel, (fn. 13) resigned 1399

John Bresete, (fn. 14) 1399

Thomas de Hadley, (fn. 15) 1407

William Woodbridge, (fn. 16) 1420

William Keche, (fn. 17) resigned, 1443

William Noel, (fn. 18) 1443

Robert Kenynghall, (fn. 19) 1462

John May, (fn. 20) 1473

Henry Wortham, (fn. 21) died 1497

Robert Hadley, (fn. 22) 1497

William Basse, (fn. 23) 1506

William Clopton, (fn. 24) 1510

William Basse, (fn. 25) occurs 1535

There is a fine fragment of the oval seal of this house attached to a charter of 1495; it bears the Blessed Virgin seated in a carved niche. Legend:—

. . . LL: CŌE: PORIS: ET: CON . . . . (fn. 26)


  • 1. Tanner, Notitia, Suff. xxxi; Page, Hist. of Suff. i, 116-17. Leland says the founder was Sir John de Bovile (Coll. i, 62).
  • 2. Pope Nich. Tax (Rec. Com.), 27b, 117, 124, 124b, 125b, 126, 128, 128b.
  • 3. Chart. 25 Edw. I, No. 19.
  • 4. Tanner, Notitia, Suff. xxxi, citing Norw. Epis. Reg. xii.
  • 5. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 423-4.
  • 6. Proc. Suff. Arch. Inst. viii, 101.
  • 7. Gairdner, Hist. of Church of Engl. in 16th Cent. 421.
  • 8. Misc. Bks. (Aug. Off.), ccxxxii, fol. 58.
  • 9. Ibid. ccxi, fol. 5b.
  • 10. Norw. Epis. Reg. i, 26. Dates of election.
  • 11. Ibid. i, 65.
  • 12. Ibid. v, 19.
  • 13. Ibid. vi, 245.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Ibid. vii, 4.
  • 16. Ibid. viii, 55.
  • 17. Ibid. x, 48.
  • 18. Ibid. x, 48.
  • 19. Ibid. xi, 133.
  • 20. Ibid. xii, 1
  • 21. Ibid. xii, 198.
  • 22. Ibid.
  • 23. Ibid. xiv, 13.
  • 24. Tanner, Norw. MSS.
  • 25. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii.
  • 26. Add. Chart. 15755.