Houses of Benedictine monks: Priory of Hoxne

Pages 76-77

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

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A small religious house existed at Hoxne in pre-Norman times, dedicated in honour of St. Athelbright; it is mentioned in the will of Bishop Theodred II, in 962. Probably it formed part of the bishop's manor of Hoxne, for Bishop Herbert, of Norwich, founded here a cell in 1101, in connexion with the great Benedictine cathedral priory, which Ralph, the sewer, rebuilt from the ground. (fn. 1)

Bishop Herbert's charter granted the parish church of St. Peter, Hoxne, and the chapel of St. Edmund, king and martyr, to the monks of Norwich, and the cell and priory were removed to the immediate vicinity of the historic chapel under Bishop de Blunville, who was consecrated in 1226. Bishop Roger de Skarning in 1267 consecrated a churchyard for the priory. The house consisted of a prior, removable at will by the prior and convent of Norwich, and seven or eight monks. The monks kept a school for the children of the parish, and supported or boarded two of the scholars. (fn. 2)

Blomefield names various benefactions. The chief of these was the manor, with the chapel of Ringshall, granted to this priory by the mother house in 1294. Luke, the parish chaplain of Ringshall, made a return on oath that the chapel was a free chapel belonging to the prior of Norwich, who assigned it to his cell of St. Edmund at Hoxne; that it was endowed with thirty-two acres of land, and two parts of all the tithe corn and hay of the ancient demesnes of Sir Richard de la Rokele and Robert de la Wythakysham and their tenants in Ringshall; and that the tithes were then of the value of 30s. per annum.

In 1313 Robert Guer, chaplain, had the whole of the endowments of Ringshall assigned him for life, paying 30s. a year to Hoxne priory, serving the chapel thrice a week, and keeping the houses in repair.

Gilbert, bishop of Orkney, as suffragan of Norwich, granted a forty days' indulgence to all persons making a pilgrimage to the image of St. Edmund in the priory chapel of Hoxne, and making offerings for the repairs of the chapel.

Although Hoxne priory was allowed to hold property granted to it independently of the mother house of Norwich, the priors of Hoxne were bound to make annual returns to Norwich of their accounts. Among the obedientiary rolls preserved in the cathedral there are a large number of the annual accounts of this cell. They extend from 1395 to 1399, and from 1407 to 1410; and there are thirty others at irregular intervals, the last one being for the year 1534.

In the time of Henry VI the annual value of the lands and rents of this cell was returned at £27. The commissioners of the Valor of 1535 made no return of the priory of Hoxne, contenting themselves with stating that it was a cell of Norwich under Nicholas Thurkill, the prior, and that the accounts would be included in those of the cathedral priory. (fn. 3)

This priory obtains occasional mention in wills. In 1375 John Elys, rector of Occold Magna, left 3s. 4d. to the repairs of the chapel of St. Edmund, and a rood of meadow-land near Hoxne Bridge in perpetual alms. Bishop Brown of Norwich, by will of 1445, gave forty marks to the reconstruction of the chapel. (fn. 4)

William Castleton, the last prior and first dean of Norwich, in view of the coming dissolution, alienated the property of the cell to Sir Richard Gresham, recalling the monks to Norwich. For this act he was pardoned by the king on 1 April, 1538; the patent sanctioning this transfer declared the clear annual value of the cell to be £18 1s. (fn. 5)

Priors of Hoxne (fn. 6)


Richard de Hoxne


William de Acle

John de Shamelisford

Geoffrey de Norwich, 1411

Nicholas de Kelfield, 1424

John Eglington, 1430

William Mettingham, c. 1428

John Elmham, c. 1438

John Eston, 1441

John Eshgate, 1452

Robert Gatelee, 1453

John Eston (again), 1453

Robert Bretenham, c. 1460

Simon Folcard, c. 1473

Nicholas Berdney, c. 20 Edw. IV, 1480

Robert Swaffham, removed 1492

John Attleburgh, 1492

Thomas Pellis, 1509

Stephen Darsham, 1523

Nicholas Thurkill, 1535


  • 1. Proc. Suff. Arch. Inst. vii, 41.
  • 2. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. iii, 607-10. Blomefield had access to a chartulary of Hoxne, which was then (1743) in the hands of Mr. Martin of Dalgrave, and from which he took his information as to the succession of the priors and the gifts of benefactors. This chartulary cannot now be traced.
  • 3. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 461.
  • 4. Proc. Suff. Arch. Inst. vii, 42.
  • 5. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), 652.
  • 6. This list is the one drawn up by Blomefield (iii, 609-10) from the lost chartulary, &c.; he was not able to fix the dates or order of the first five.