Alien houses: Priory of Stoke by Clare

Pages 154-155

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

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Earl Alfric, son of Withgar, who lived in the reigns of Canute, Hardecanute, and Edward the Confessor, founded the church or chapel of St. John Baptist in the castle of Clare, and therein placed seven secular canons. This church, with all its endowments, was given by Gilbert de Clare, in 1090, to the Benedictine monastery of Bec in Normandy, of which it became a cell, and thus remained until the year 1124, when Gilbert's son Richard removed the foundation to Stoke, where it eventually reverted to a collegiate establishment. (fn. 1)

The fourteenth-century chartulary (fn. 2) opens with confirmation charters of Henry II, Richard I, John, and Henry III, including a grant of a Thursday market at Stoke, and a yearly fair of three days at the feast of St. John Baptist. The various charters of Gilbert, earl of Clare, the founder, and of his son and grandson, are set forth, whereby the monks, in addition to lands, mills, fishing, and pasturing rights, held the advowsons of the churches of St. John and St. Paul, Clare, and the churches of Cavenham, Foxhall, Hunston and Bures, Crimplesham, Gazeley, Winham, Birfield, Ash, and Woching. (fn. 3) The ordination of the vicarage of Gazeley, at the time when the church was appropriated to the priory, is duly set forth under date of 12 July, 1286. (fn. 4)

An undated letter of Roger, earl of Clare, solemnly presents to the house certain relics (not specified) which he entrusts to the monks, both cleric and lay, to be by them carefully preserved with the greatest reverence. (fn. 5)

The confirmation charters of the Bishops of Norwich and London and the Archbishop of Canterbury, from 1090 to the end of the reign of Henry III, cover several folios. (fn. 6) These are followed by several papal confirmations, and by an indulgence from Pope Innocent exempting them from any provision of benefices. (fn. 7)

Amid a very large number of grants of land, rents, &c., mostly of small value, occur the gifts of the church of Bradley by Richard the son of Simon, of the church of Little Bradley by Albrinus son of Ercald, of the church of Little Bunstead by William de Helium, of the church of Bunstead by Robert de Helium, and of the church of Stamborne by Robert de Grenville, with various confirmations. (fn. 8) The taxation roll of 1291 shows that the priory at that time held, in addition to churches, temporalities in seventeen Suffolk parishes of the annual value of £30 14s. 7½d.; it had also considerable lands and rents in Essex, and a small amount in Norfolk, yielding a total income of £53 13s. 3d.

In 1305 a quit-claim was executed in favour of this priory of the advowson of the church of Little Barton by Mildenhall. (fn. 9)

Prior John Huditot died in 1391; whereupon Robert bishop of London and William prior of Okeburne, authorized by Pope Boniface IX to act for the abbot of Bec in the case of dependent English houses, presented Richard de Cotesford, an English monk of that house, to the Bishop of Norwich, to be prior, with the assent of the king as patron, by reason of the minority of the son and heir of the Earl of March. (fn. 10)

Richard II, in 1379, made a grant during pleasure, to his uncle, Thomas de Woodstock, earl of Buckingham, of £60 a year from the farm of this alien priory during the wars, to help to maintain his rank as an earl, (fn. 11) and among grants made from the alien priories' estates to the crown in June, 1395, towards the king's expenses in the war with France, was the year's issues and profits of the priory of Stoke by Clare of the value of £60. (fn. 12) In the following month, however, the friends of this priory managed to secure from the crown a charter of denization, but only on condition of the very heavy fine of 1,000 marks being paid to the abbot of Westminster, to be expended solely on the new works of St. Peter's Church. This sum was to be paid at the rate of 200 marks a year until discharged. The grant of denization stated that Richard de Cotesford, the then prior, was of English birth, and provided that the convent of monks was henceforth to be exclusively drawn from those of English birth, and that no tribute of any kind whatever was to be paid to any foreign abbey. (fn. 13)

The independent position secured for this priory had but a brief existence; twenty years later the priory was dissolved in favour of a college. (fn. 14)

Priors of Stoke By Clare

Nicholas, (fn. 15) occurs 1174

John de Havelen, (fn. 16) temp. Hen. II

Hugh, (fn. 17) occurs 1198, 1202

Richard, (fn. 18) occurs 1222

John, (fn. 19) occurs 1247, &c.

Henry de Oxna, (fn. 20) appointed 1325

Peter de Valle, (fn. 21) appointed 1367

John de Huditot, (fn. 22) died 1391

Richard de Cotesford, (fn. 23) appointed 1391

William de Sancto Vedasto, (fn. 24) appointed 1395

William George, (fn. 25) appointed 1396

William Esterpenny, (fn. 26) appointed 1396


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. (1st ed.), i, 1005-9; Tanner, Not. Mon. Suff. xiv.
  • 2. Cott. MS. App. xxi. There is an abstract of its contents in the Davy MSS. (Add. MS. 19103, fols. 136-205).
  • 3. Chartul. 21-5, 29, 33, 36.
  • 4. Ibid. 35.
  • 5. Ibid. 44.
  • 6. Ibid. 70, fols. 32-4. These are in a different hand; ibid. 70-137.
  • 7. Ibid. 138-143.
  • 8. Ibid. 270, 274, 280, 285, 296, 309.
  • 9. Pat. 33 Edw. I, pt. 2, m. 9.
  • 10. Ibid. 15 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 1.
  • 11. Ibid. 3 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 40.
  • 12. Ibid. 18 Ric. II, pt. ii, m. 9.
  • 13. Pat. 19 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 8.
  • 14. See the account of the college of Stoke by Clare.
  • 15. Newcourt, Repertorium, ii, 501.
  • 16. Cott. MS. Aug. xxi, 365.
  • 17. Ibid. 16, 17, 18.
  • 18. Ibid. 14.
  • 19. Ibid. 11-12, 13, 42.
  • 20. Norw. Epis. Reg. ii, 6.
  • 21. Ibid. v, 80.
  • 22. Pat. 15 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 1.
  • 23. Norw. Epis. Reg. vi, 161.
  • 24. Ibid. vi, 212.
  • 25. Ibid. vi, 223.
  • 26. Ibid. vi, 228.