Alien houses: Priory of Blakenham

Pages 152-153

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section



Walter Gifford, earl of Buckingham, gave the manor of Blakenham to the great Benedictine abbey of Bec in the reign of William Rufus. (fn. 1)

As this was an estate of some importance and must have required supervision, it is probable that it was placed in the charge of one or two monks who would have their chapel and offices at the manor house in early days; but it was some time before Blakenham is named as a distinct alien priory or cell. For a long time it was under the charge of the prior of Ruislip, Middlesex, against whom in 1220, and again in 1225, this manor of Blakenham was claimed by Thomas Ardern. For a time the manor was held by the crown in consequence of these disputes; but eventually full seisin was given to the prior of Ruislip as representing the abbey of Bec. (fn. 2)

Subsequently this manor was under the control of the prior of Okeburne, the chief representative and proctor of the abbot of Bec. The taxation of 1291 names a portion of 40s. out of the rectory of Great Blakenham due to the prior of Okeburne. (fn. 3) In 1325 the manor was held by the same prior. (fn. 4)

A curious point arose in 1339 in connexion with this manor, as held by an alien power during the time of the war with France. Robert de Morle, admiral of the fleet from the mouth of the Thames northward, claimed from John de Podewell, bailiff of the manor of Blakenham, an armed man to set out to sea in the king's service. Whereupon the prior of Okeburne appeared before the council, asserting that he already found two men to serve the fleet at Portsmouth, and if this further charge was laid on him, he asked to be discharged from the custody of the priory, as he would be unable to pay the farm rent due to the king. The council, on deliberation, considered that it would be to the king's harm if the priory was resumed by the crown, and therefore orders were issued to the admiral superseding the exaction of a man from Blakenham. (fn. 5)

After the dissolution of the alien priories, the former possessions of the abbey of Bec at Blakenham came to Eton College, through Henry IV, in 1460.

Among the grants of Edward IV to William Westbury, the provost, and to the college of Eton in 1467, occurs 'the priory or manor of Blakenham, co. Suffolk, sometime parcel of the alien priory of Okeburne.' (fn. 6)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 1002, where the charter is cited from the original at Eton College.
  • 2. Close, 4 Hen. III, m. 15; 12 Hen. III, m. 11.
  • 3. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 115.
  • 4. Mins. Accts. 18 Edw. II, bdle. 1127, No. 4.
  • 5. Close, 13 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 41 d.
  • 6. Pat. 7 Edw. IV, pt. iii, m. 13.