Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Herringfleet

Pages 100-101

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

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The priory of St. Olave, Herringfleet, was founded for Austin canons by Roger FitzOsbert, near the ancient ferry across the River Waveney about the beginning of the reign of Henry III. The founder assigned to the monastery 40 acres of land in Tibenham; he did not die until 1239, and willed that his body should be buried in the priory church. Peter, the founder's son, gave to the canons the advowson of Witlingham. Both Peter and his wife Beatrice, who died respectively in 1275 and 1278, were also buried in the canons' church. (fn. 1)

In 1314 John son of Sir Ralph Nunoion, knt., granted the patronage of the priory of St. Olave to Peter Gernegan, (fn. 2) and in 1410 the advowson was granted to Margaret, wife of John Gernegan. (fn. 3) There are various other grants relative to the transference of this priory patronage to Sir John Hevyngham, knt., in the reign of Henry VI, (fn. 4) but in 1491 the patronage was restored to the family of Gernegan by Sir John Hevyngham, Sir Henry Bryan, and others. (fn. 5)

The churches of Herringfleet and Hales, Norfolk, were appropriated to St. Olave's at an early date. St. Peter's, Burgh, was appropriated by leave of the bishop about 1390, but in 1403 the appropriation was resigned, a small pension being reserved to the priory. (fn. 6)

The taxation of 1291 shows that the priory then held the rectories of Herringfleet and Hales, and a pension from the church of Bonewell, yielding a total in spiritualities of £14 13s. 4d. The temporalities in Suffolk and Norfolk at the same time brought in £12 14s. 0¼d., giving a total income of £26 17s. 4½d. (fn. 7)

According to the Valor of 1535 the gross receipts from the temporalities were £15 13s. 8½d. but the clear value was only £13 3s. 11d. The spiritualities included the rectories of Herringfleet and Hales, together with a pension from the church of Burgh, yielding a clear annual value of £5 2s. 7½d. There are evidently some omissions from the details of this return, as the net income is returned at £49 11s. 7d. (fn. 8)

Licence was granted in 1377 by the crown, on payment of ten marks, to Edmund de Carlton, chaplain, and four others, to alienate to the priory of St. Olave property in Ashby and Herringfleet, for finding a lamp to be kept burning before the high altar in the priory church, and for performing the offices of the dead at the anniversaries of the five donors. (fn. 9)

The priory of St. Olave was visited by Archdeacon Goldwell on 30 January 1493, as commissary for his brother the bishop. Thomas Bagot the prior and five canons were severally examined, with the result that William Cokke was pronounced to be quarrelsome, and the prior reported for not showing the accounts of the house to the canons. The canons complained that they were scarcely able to live. (fn. 10)

The next recorded visitation was held in July, 1514, by Bishop Nykke. Prior William Dale stated that he rendered an account yearly to the senior canons; that the canons were obedient; and that he had recently purchased certain lands of the annual value of £10 14s. 10d., and paid for them. Robert Starys, the sub-prior, said that they did not rise for mattins at midnight, but at 5 o'clock; that they did not sing the offices save on festivals and Sundays; and that their number was incomplete because of the insufficiency of income. The six other canons gave unqualified praise to the condition of the house. The bishop enjoined on the prior and canons that they were to furnish him with a sufficient dispensation from the apostolic see for not observing the rule of rising at midnight for mattins, and ordered the canons to observe (entire) silence in cloister and quire on all Fridays. (fn. 11)

The next recorded visitation was held by the suffragan Bishop of Chalcedon in July, 1520. It was attended by Prior Dale and five canons. The prior was ordered to produce a statement of accounts and an inventory at the Michaelmas synod. The testimony of the canons was unanimous as to the good religious conditions of the house. (fn. 12)

The visitation of June, 1526, attended by the same prior and five canons, was entirely satisfactory. (fn. 13) Prior Dale and the like number of canons appeared at the last visitation of Bishop Nykke, in June, 1532, when the statements were unanimously good, and the visitor reported that there was nothing to amend. (fn. 14)

The Suffolk commissioners appointed to take the inventories of the smaller monasteries visited St. Olave's on 26 August, 1536. In the quire of the church they found a silver pyx, two silver chalices, a copper cross, two candlesticks of latten on the high altar, an alabaster 'table,' and a linen altar-cloth worth £4 2s. 10d. Other plate included a pair of censers with a ship of silver. There were but few vestments. The furniture of the various chambers, the hall, the parlour, pantry and kitchen was but ordinary.

The cattle and implements of husbandry were valued at £12 1s., and the corn at £11 13s. 4d. The total of the inventory only amounted to £27 0s. 9d. (fn. 15)

This house was suppressed among the smaller monasteries on 3 February, 1536-7. (fn. 16) On the 8th of the ensuing March a pension of ten marks was granted to William Dale, the last prior; (fn. 17) evidently no credence was given to the coarse report made against him by Legh and Leyton in their notorious comperta of a few months' earlier date. (fn. 18)

The site of the priory and its possessions were assigned to Henry Jernyngham on 1 March, 1537-8. (fn. 19)

Priors of Herringfleet

William, (fn. 20) occurs 1273

Benedict, (fn. 21) occurs 1301

Thomas de Norwich, (fn. 22) elected 1308

William Dale, (fn. 23) occurs 1309

John de Norwich alias Tybenham, (fn. 24) elected 1329

Philip de Porynglond, (fn. 25) elected 1341

John de Porynglond, (fn. 26) died 1354

John de Surlyngham, (fn. 27) elected 1354

Roger de Haddiscoe, (fn. 28) occurs 1370

William de Holton, (fn. 29) resigned 1371

Henry de Brom, (fn. 30) elected 1371

John de Hanewell, (fn. 31) elected 1391

John Wyloughby, (fn. 32) elected 1402

William Dald, (fn. 33) occurs 1403

John Welles, (fn. 34) elected 1430

Thomas Bagot, (fn. 35) elected 1480

William Dale, (fn. 36) occurs 1514, last prior

The thirteenth-century seal of this house represents St. Olave, king and martyr, crowned and seated on a throne, with an axe in the right hand and an orbs mundi in the left. Legend—

S' . . . MUNE . EC . . . . . AVI . DE . HERLINGEFLE . . . . . RI . . A (fn. 37)


  • 1. Suckling, Hist. of Suff. i, 15; Dugdale, Mon. vi, 660.
  • 2. Bodl. Chart. Suff. 1036.
  • 3. Ibid. 1079.
  • 4. Ibid. 1086, 1102, 1105, 1106, 1113.
  • 5. Ibid. 1134.
  • 6. Norw. Epis. Reg. vi, 340.
  • 7. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 83b, 84, 93, 97b, 103, 103b, 104, 104b, 107b, 113, 116b, 124, 126, 126b, 127.
  • 8. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 412.
  • 9. Pat. 1 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 3.
  • 10. Jessopp, Visit. 38-9.
  • 11. Ibid. 129-31.
  • 12. Ibid. 177.
  • 13. Ibid. 216.
  • 14. Ibid. 284.
  • 15. Proc. Suff. Arch. Inst. viii, 85-7.
  • 16. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xii, pt. i, 510.
  • 17. Misc. Bks. (Aug. Off.), ccxxxii, fol. 49b.
  • 18. L. and P. Hen. VIII, x, 364.
  • 19. Misc. Bks. (Aug. Off.), ccx, fol. 23b.
  • 20. Suckling, Hist. of Suff. i, 15.
  • 21. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. ix, 417.
  • 22. Norw. Epis. Reg. i, 31.
  • 23. Add. MS. 19098, fol. 158.
  • 24. Norw. Epis. Reg. ii, 29.
  • 25. Ibid. iii, 45.
  • 26. Ibid. iv, 155.
  • 27. Ibid.
  • 28. Add. MS. 19098, fol. 158.
  • 29. Norw. Epis. Reg. vi, 9.
  • 30. Ibid.
  • 31. Ibid. vi, 164.
  • 32. Ibid. vi, 288.
  • 33. Bodl. Chart. Suff. 203.
  • 34. Norw. Epis. Reg. ix, 40.
  • 35. Ibid. xii, 78.
  • 36. Jessopp, Visit. 130.
  • 37. B. M. Cast, lxxi, 114.