Houses of Benedictine monks: Priory of Rumburgh

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

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'Houses of Benedictine monks: Priory of Rumburgh', in A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2, ed. William Page( London, 1975), British History Online [accessed 20 July 2024].

'Houses of Benedictine monks: Priory of Rumburgh', in A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2. Edited by William Page( London, 1975), British History Online, accessed July 20, 2024,

"Houses of Benedictine monks: Priory of Rumburgh". A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2. Ed. William Page(London, 1975), , British History Online. Web. 20 July 2024.

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The priory of Rumburgh was founded between 1064 and 1070 by Ethelmar, bishop of Elmham, and Thurstan, abbot of St. Benet at Holme, and supplied with a few monks, with Brother Blakere at their head, from that Benedictine foundation. (fn. 1) These monks are named in the Domesday Survey as being then twelve in number.

Some time in the reign of Henry I, either Stephen, the second earl of Richmond and Bretagne, or his son Alan, the third earl, gave this priory as a cell to the abbey of St. Mary, York. (fn. 2) In the charters relative to this gift the priory church of St. Michael's, Rumburgh, is described as in possession of the churches of Wisset, Spexhall, Holton, and South Cove, with other lands, tithes, and woods; to these the earl added the Norfolk churches of Banham and Wilby with all their appurtenances. It was definitely laid down in Earl Alan's charter that the prior and monks of Rumburgh were to be appointed by the abbot and convent of York, and were to be removable at will.

This injunction was always observed down to the dissolution. The abbot appointed the prior of this cell, which was jointly dedicated in honour of St. Michael and St. Felix, and removed him at will. The unusual practice in such a case was also invariably observed of presenting each successive prior to the Bishop of Norwich for his sanction, although the priory could not be considered a benefice. Owing to the frequent recall of these priors, the number recorded in the diocesan institution books is abnormally large.

The taxation roll of 1291 shows that the income of the priory was then £35 5s. 11¾d. Of this sum £10 12s. 11¾d. was from lands or rents in different parishes, whilst the spiritualities that made up the remainder were portions from the rectories of 'Canburgh', North Tuddenham, Barnham, Swaffham, Chediston, Sibton, Spexhall, South Cove, Wicks, and Ryburgh, in Norwich diocese; and from those of Bassingburne, Little Abington, and Lynton, in Ely diocese. (fn. 3)

An attempt was made by the Earl of Richmond, in 1199, on the appointment of John de Acaster to be prior of Rumburgh, to claim the position of patron to that cell. But on an inquisition being held, the jury returned that the lords of Richmond never had custody nor seisin of the cell of Rumburgh during vacancies. (fn. 4)

Rumburgh was one of those small priories included for suppression, in favour of Cardinal Wolsey's great college at Ipswich, in the bull of Clement VII, dated 14 May, 1528. (fn. 5)

On 11 September, 1525, Dr. Stephen Gardiner, at the commission of Cardinal Wolsey, and under his seal, arrived at Rumburgh, and there in the convent declared to the prior and monks, with the authority of the pope and the king, the suppression of the house, assigned the goods both movable and immovable to Wolsey's college at Ipswich, and ordered that the religious should enter other monasteries of the same order. Thomas Cromwell and others were present as witnesses. (fn. 6) On the news reaching York, Edmund, abbot of St. Mary's, wrote, on 24 September, complaining that among the goods taken away from Rumburgh by the commission were certain muniments belonging to the monastery of York, which had lately been sent there for reference in a dispute between the abbey and men of worship in Cambridgeshire. He also begged that the priory might be allowed to remain a member of their monastery as it had been for three centuries. The rents of the cell were little more than £30 a year, and the abbot and his brethren were quite willing to give instead 300 marks to the college. (fn. 7)

However, in March, 1528-9, the abbey felt compelled to execute a formal release and quitclaim of the priory of Rumburgh to the cardinal's college. (fn. 8)

On the cardinal's downfall, Rumburgh priory and its property reverted to the crown and was granted to Robert Downes, who had licence, on 1 April, 1531, to alienate it to Thomas, duke of Norfolk. (fn. 9)

A survey of the site of the monastery taken soon after its suppression, wherein the dimensions of the different buildings are set out, states that 'there ys a seynt in the churche of Rumburgh called Seynt Bory, to the which there is moche offeryng uppon Michelmasday of money and cheses.' (fn. 10)

Priors of Rumburgh (fn. 11)

Blakere, c. 1070 (fn. 12)

John de Acaster, 1199 (fn. 13)

William de Tolberton, 1308 (fn. 14)

Matthew de Ebor, 1311 (fn. 15)

James de Morlound, 1316 (fn. 16)

William de Touthorp, 1319 (fn. 17)

Geoffrey de Rudston, 1322 (fn. 18)

Adam de Sancto Botulpho, 1331 (fn. 19)

William de Newton, 1331 (fn. 20)

John de Maghenby, 1332 (fn. 21)

Roger de Aslakby, recalled 1343 (fn. 22)

John de Manneby (? Maghenby again), 1347 (fn. 23)

Alexander de Wath, resigned 1347 (fn. 24)

Richard de Burton, 1347 (fn. 25)

John de Gayton, recalled, 1357 (fn. 26)

John de Martone, 1357 (fn. 27)

Richard de Appilton, 1361 (fn. 28)

Thomas Lastels, 1370 (fn. 29)

John de Garton, 1373 (fn. 30)

Nicholas Kelfeld, recalled 1392 (fn. 31)

Thomas de Helmeslay, 1392 (fn. 32)

William de Dalton, 1394 (fn. 33)

John Selby, 1405 (fn. 34)

William Hewyk, 1407 (fn. 35)

Thomas Ampulforth, 1412 (fn. 36)

Thomas Staveley, 1417 (fn. 37)

Thomas Gasgyll, 1426 (fn. 38)

William Esyngwold, 1428 (fn. 39)

Thomas Goldesburgh, 1439 (fn. 40)

Thomas Bothe, 1448 (fn. 41)

Hugh Belton, recalled 1464 (fn. 42)

John Ward, 1464 (fn. 43)

John Brown, 1478 (fn. 44)

Richard Mowbray, 1483 (fn. 45)

Walter Hotham, 1484 (fn. 46)

John Lovell, 1492 (fn. 47)

Walter Hotham (again), 1492 (fn. 48)

Thomas Burton, 1495 (fn. 49)

William Skelton, 1497 (fn. 50)

Richard Wood, 1498 (fn. 51)

John Ledell, 1507 (fn. 52)

Launcelot Wharton, 1523 (fn. 53)

John Halton, 1525 (fn. 54)


  • 1. Cott. MS. Galba, E. ii, fol. 59 (Reg. of St. Benet's).
  • 2. In Bishop Everard's charter the foundation is ascribed to Earl Alan, but in a charter of Geoffrey bishop of Ely, to Earl Stephen. Both charters are given in Dugdale, Mon. iii, 612. There is a small roll of charters relating to this cell at the British Museum (L. F. C. ix, 9); they are eleven in number, and include that of Stephen earl of Richmond, several episcopal confirmations, and references to the church of Banham.
  • 3. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 85b, 87, 117, 118b, 119, 121, 126, 126b, 127, 131, 266b, 267, 267b.
  • 4. Harl. MS. 236, fol. 55.
  • 5. Rymer, Foedera, xiv, 240.
  • 6. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, 4755.
  • 7. Cott. MS. Cleop. E. iv, 46.
  • 8. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, 5353 (5), 5354.
  • 9. Pat. 23 Hen. VIII, pt. i, m. 17.
  • 10. Dugdale, Mon. v, 615. Possibly St. Birinus, of Dorchester.
  • 11. The dates are those of appointment unless otherwise stated.
  • 12. Cott. MS. Galba, E. ii, fol. 59.
  • 13. Harl. MS. 236, fol. 55.
  • 14. Norw. Epis. Reg. i, 28.
  • 15. Ibid. i, 44.
  • 16. Ibid. i, 66.
  • 17. Ibid. i, 78.
  • 18. Ibid. i, 95.
  • 19. Ibid. ii, 41.
  • 20. Ibid. ii, 46.
  • 21. Ibid. ii, 49.
  • 22. Ibid. iii, 72.
  • 23. Ibid.
  • 24. Ibid. iv, 66.
  • 25. Ibid.
  • 26. Ibid. v, 22.
  • 27. Ibid.
  • 28. Ibid. v, 49.
  • 29. Ibid. vi, 8.
  • 30. Ibid. vi, 21.
  • 31. Ibid. vi, 168.
  • 32. Ibid.
  • 33. Ibid. vi, 192.
  • 34. Ibid. vi, 329.
  • 35. Ibid. vii, 5.
  • 36. Ibid. vii, 54.
  • 37. Ibid. viii, 22.
  • 38. Ibid. ix, 15.
  • 39. Norw. Epis. Reg. ix, 32.
  • 40. Ibid. x, 29.
  • 41. Ibid. xi, 14.
  • 42. Ibid. xi, 146.
  • 43. Ibid.
  • 44. Ibid. xii, 61.
  • 45. Ibid. xii, 99.
  • 46. Ibid. xii, 104.
  • 47. Ibid. xii, 156.
  • 48. Ibid. xii, 162.
  • 49. Ibid. xii, 180.
  • 50. Tanner, Norw. MSS.
  • 51. Ibid.
  • 52. Ibid.
  • 53. Ibid.
  • 54. Norw. Epis. Reg. xiv, 199.