Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Wangford

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

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'Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Wangford', in A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2, ed. William Page( London, 1975), British History Online [accessed 13 July 2024].

'Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Wangford', in A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2. Edited by William Page( London, 1975), British History Online, accessed July 13, 2024,

"Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Wangford". A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2. Ed. William Page(London, 1975), , British History Online. Web. 13 July 2024.

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A small priory of Cluniac monks was founded at Wangford, as a cell of the important priory of Thetford, before the year 1160. There is some confusion as to the founder and the precise date; but from early deeds cited by Gardner it would appear that Weever's statement as to the founder being 'one Ansered of France' is correct. Sir Geraline de Vernuns gave to God and the church of St. Peter, Wangford, and the monks there serving God, whatever his father Anteredus had granted them, namely the church of Reydon with the chapel of Rissemere (afterwards Southwold), the water-mill and dam at Reydon, and an acre of land near the dam for its repair. The witnesses show that this deed was circa 1200. Another somewhat conflicting early charter by Richard FitzWilliam confirms to God and St. Mary and the monks of Thetford the gifts of his grandfather Dodo and his father William, of the church of St. Peter, Wangford, and the chapel of St. Mary, Rissemere. (fn. 1)

The taxation of 1291 shows that the benefactions to the priory had been fairly numerous. The prior held lands and rents in Wangford and adjacent parishes of the annual value of £12 1s. 11½d., and also a mill at 'Surgueland,' worth 20s. a year. The spiritualities included Reydon with its chapel, and Stoven, and these appropriations were worth £22 a year. The total income of the priory, exclusive of the tithes of Wangford itself, was thus £35 1s. 11½d. (fn. 2) An extent of the lands, tenements, churches, rents, and other temporalities pertaining to the priory of Wangford, taken by order of the crown in 1370, (fn. 3) shows a slight increase of about £8, but the Valor of 1535 showed a considerable drop in the value of the temporalities, which only brought in a clear annual sum of £5 5s. 7d.; the spiritualities, however, brought the total clear income up to £30 9s. 5d. The prior then held the rectories of Wangford, Reydon cum Southwold, Covehithe (North Hales), and Stoven, with portions from the churches of Stoven and Easton Bavents. (fn. 4)

The prior of Wangford was appointed by the pope in 1226, to be a joint papal commissioner with the great abbot of Westminster and the archdeacon of Sudbury in an important dispute as to the tithes of the church of Walpole. (fn. 5)

The hundred jury of 1275 declared that William Giffard, the sheriff, had taken Reginald, prior of Wangford, by violence from the court of Master Philip of Wangford, contrary to peace, had imprisoned him for a week in the castle of Norwich, and did not release him until he had paid an unjust fine of seven marks. (fn. 6)

The Cluniac houses were all reckoned as alien during the wars with France, and were taken into the hands of the crown. In October, 1307, Edward II appointed John de Benstede and William Inge to the custody of the lands and possessions of the priory of Thetford, with its cells of Wangford and Horkesley, to apply the rents and issues to the discharge of the debts of the house, reserving a reasonable sustenance for the religious of the mother house and its cells. (fn. 7) In the December of the following year protection was granted for one year to Martin, prior of Wangford, who was going beyond the seas on the king's service, (fn. 8) and in 1310, Prior Martin had renewed protection granted him, as he was staying beyond the seas on the king's service. (fn. 9)

Edward III in 1327 granted to the prior of Wangford, amongst a large number of priors of alien houses, the right to resume control over his possessions, which had been taken from him by the late king during the wars with France, saving the advowsons of benefices, and saving also the apport or tribute to the parent house of Cluni. (fn. 10)

Edward III took the priory of Wangford again into his hands by reason of the war with France, and committed the custody of it to William de Cusance, king's clerk and treasurer, to whom, in February, 1342, the £30 rents of this priory were assigned, in recompense for the losses he had sustained during the war. (fn. 11)

In November, 1393, the prior of Wangford paid 100 marks to the crown, and obtained from Richard II a full grant of denization, in consideration of the poverty of the priory lately committed to his (the prior's) custody at the yearly rent of £10, and of its being ruled henceforth by trueborn Englishmen, and that the prior had paid no yearly pension to the king's enemies as other alien priors had. (fn. 12)

Walter, prior of Wangford, about 1402, sued the pope for the appropriation of the vicarage of North Hales (Covehithe) to that priory, without the knowledge or consent of the prior and convent of Thetford, in whose name the suit ought to have been made, and the pope 'so far as was in him,' appropriated the vicarage to Wangford. The vicarage was at that time void by the resignation of one Peter Braunche, and after that resignation Henry IV presented a clerk because the priory of Wangford had no royal licence for the appropriation, but on 18 June, 1402, the king granted that the clerk presented was to hold the vicarage of North Hales for this turn, but that afterwards Thetford priory was to hold the advowson and patronage as before, as Thetford was able to show that Wangford was only a cell, and the prior removable at will. (fn. 13)

The report of the visitors from Cluni as to their houses of English foundation, drawn up about 1405, stated that Wangford priory, a cell of Thetford, had two daily masses, both with song; the number of the brethren was fixed by some at five, and by others at only four. (fn. 14)

Thomas duke of Norfolk, writing to Cromwell in March 1537, stated that the small cell of Wangford had gone to ruin by the misuse of those to whom it had been committed, and the prior of Thetford had thought good to call home his monks and let the cell to farm. He had offered to lease it to the treasurer of the duke's household, provided he could do so lawfully and with Cromwell's favour. (fn. 15) In the following April, William, prior of Thetford, wrote to Cromwell, who had written to the prior for the assignment of Wangford cell to one Mr. Felston, begging the visitor general to take no displeasure, for he and his brethren had already granted a lease to Mr. Rouse, treasurer of the Duke of Norfolk, their patron. (fn. 16)

The surrender of Wangford was included in that of Thetford, which was signed on 16 February, 1539-40, as related under Thetford. (fn. 17)

The site of this priory and all its possessions were assigned to the Duke of Norfolk on 9 July, 1540. (fn. 18)

Priors of Wangford

John, occurs 1218 (fn. 19)

William, occurs 1249 (fn. 20)

Reginald, occurs 1275 (fn. 21)

Martin, occurs 1308 (fn. 22)

Walter, occurs 1402 (fn. 23)

John, occurs 1536 (fn. 24)


  • 1. Gardner, Hist. of Dunwich, &c., 254; Weever, Funeral Monuments, 762; Leland, Coll. i, 162; Tanner, Notitia, Suff. xliv.
  • 2. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 104b, 114b, 119, 126, 126b, 127.
  • 3. Add. MS. 6164, fol. 422.
  • 4. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 438.
  • 5. Cal. Pap. Reg. i, 113-14.
  • 6. Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), ii, 149.
  • 7. Pat. 1 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 18.
  • 8. Ibid. 2 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 17.
  • 9. Ibid. 3 Edw. II, m. 5.
  • 10. Close, 1 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 22.
  • 11. Pat. 16 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 38.
  • 12. Ibid. 17 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 13.
  • 13. Pat. 3 Hen. IV, pt. ii, m. 12.
  • 14. Duckett, Vis. of Engl. Clun. Found. 41.
  • 15. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xii (1), 711.
  • 16. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xii, pt. i, 836.
  • 17. Rymer, Foedera, xiv, 666.
  • 18. Pat. 32 Hen. VIII, pt. iv, m. 3.
  • 19. Add. MS. 19803, fol. 66.
  • 20. Ibid. 67b.
  • 21. Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), ii, 149.
  • 22. Pat. 2 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 7.
  • 23. Pat. 3 Hen. IV, pt. ii, m. 12.
  • 24. L. and P. Hen. VIII, x, 1257 (2).