Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Reigate

Pages 105-107

A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1967.

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The small priory of Reigate was founded for Austin canons (fn. 1) at the beginning of the thirteenth century by William de Warren, Earl of Surrey, and Isabel his wife. It was dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Cross. The founder died in 1240. The chief of its temporalities were the priory manor of Reigate and the manor of Southwick in Sussex, together with various tenements and rents in the parishes of Reigate, Horley, and Burstow. (fn. 2) The taxation of 1291 gave the annual value of the temporalities of this priory as £9 5s. 8d., of which 6s. 8d. came from Felthorpe in Norfolk.

William Sebem and Ralph Hosier, two London citizens and benefactors of the order, took upon them the religious habit under Prior Adam about 1298. (fn. 3)

R. de Froyle resigned his office of prior after a long rule on 15 March 1309. He was allowed an annual pension and a chamber in the house, which grant was however resisted by his successor until the necessary episcopal pressure had been applied. (fn. 4)

An order was made by the king on the treasurer and barons of the exchequer in June 1310 acquitting the master (called prior in the privy seal) and brethren of the hospital of the Holy Cross of Reigate of 55 marks that had been demanded of them in part payment of a debt of 100 marks, in which they were bound to the late Adam de Stratton as sureties of William de Radeweld. (fn. 5) From the title of the hospital here given, as well as in one or two early evidences, it seems obvious that part of the original scheme of this small priory was the maintaining of the poor and sick by brethren of the Austin rule.

Confirmation was made in mortmain in October 1328 of divers grants to the prior and canons of Holy Cross, Reigate, namely a messuage and land at Reigate, by the Earl of Surrey; a quit claim of 3s. yearly rent in Nutfield, by Sir Ralph de Cobham; and a water mill at Wonham with a pond and water course in East Belchworth, and 26s. 8d. yearly rent there by Roger de London of Reigate. (fn. 6)

Licence was granted in 1334 for the alienation in mortmain by the prior and convent of Lewes to the prior and convent of Reigate of the advowson of the church of Dorking and for the appropriation of the church by the latter. (fn. 7)

A considerable bequest of a messuage, mill, and about 170 acres of land, meadow, and wood in Burstow and Horley was made to this priory in September 1334 to find two of the canons to celebrate daily for the souls of Alan de Warwick and Emma his wife and all the faithful departed. (fn. 8)

Prior Timberden died in 1337; in September of that year John atte Greth was elected by his brother canons. This election was at first vacated by the bishop on the plea of uncanonical form, but John atte Greth was eventually collated to the office by the bishop as in the case of a lapse, he being held to be suitable for the position. (fn. 9) The same process was gone through in the following election. (fn. 10)

Licence was granted on 8 July 1345, at the request of Queen Philippa, for the alienation in mortmain by John de Mickleham to the prior and convent of Reigate of the advowson of the church of Mickleham and for its appropriation by the convent. (fn. 11) On the resignation of Prior Scoteney in 1367 the sub-prior and canons invited Bishop Wykeham to appoint a successor, and his choice fell on John Kente, canon of Heringham Priory, Sussex; the formal licence of Richard Lord Arundel, the patron of the priory having been first obtained, the election was confirmed on 9 December. (fn. 12)

On 14 October 1374, during the vacancy on the death of Prior Kente, Bishop Wykeham issued his mandate to the sub-prior and convent forbidding them to allow parishioners to attend mass and other offices in the conventual church to the neglect of their parish church under pain of excommunication. At the same time a monition was issued to the parishioners to frequent mass at their parish church; they were charged with going on Sundays and festivals to an early mass at the priory church, and before that was scarcely over hurrying off to spend their time in drinking booths or in other profane and dishonourable occupations. (fn. 13)

On 20 November 1374 Richard Warnham, the prior elect, appeared before William Lozynge, the bishop's chancellor, with brothers Roger atte Watere of Dorking, John Mertsham and John Combe, canons of Reigate, bringing a certificate of Warnham's election. The chancellor declared the election void through a defect in form, but, by virtue of his power as bishop's commissary, appointed Warnham prior in the room of Kente deceased. (fn. 14)

In July 1377 the bishop issued his commission to the prior of Merton to hold a visitation of Reigate Priory (fn. 15); but there is no record of any injunctions following the visitation.

Prior Warnham died on 31 May 1395, when the chapter's choice fell on John Yakesley, with the assent of the Earl of Arundel and Surrey as patron. The bishop however once again found the election bad in form and annulled it, but on 14 August appointed Yakesley prior on his own authority. (fn. 16)

Prior Yakesley resigned his office in June 1397. The proceedings at the deferred election of his successor in this small priory are set forth at length in the episcopal registers and are worth citing.

On Saturday, the morrow of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (15 September 1397), being the day three months after the resignation of Yakesley, the sub-prior and brethren met in the chapter-house, by virtue of a precept from Lord William Arundel, patron of the house, in the presence of the scrutineers, Robert de Spaldyng and Robert Bucke, nominated by the king for that purpose, and this is what then took place: The first to enter the chapter-house was John Combe, the sub-prior. He did not vote, but said, 'Some of my brethren are men of good condition and of judgment unimpeached,' and went out. The next was John Lawrence, and he voted for William Holm. The next was John Tanrygge, and he voted for John Combe. The next was William Holm, and he voted for John Lawrence, and so did Robert Bychet. Then the sub-prior came back and said he should vote for the brother who had the most votes, provided he was a member of the house and of good conversation. This result was then announced and written on three billets (cedulæ), one of which was sent to Sir William Arundel; another was retained by Robert Spaldynge, and the third remained at the priory. According to this John Lawrence was elected with three votes, but the sub-prior and canons agreed to petition the bishop to admit which of the candidates he in his discretion thought best. The result was that the bishop annulled the election of Lawrence, and on 5 November appointed the sub-prior, John Combe. (fn. 17)

Prior Combe died in 1415. The Winchester institutions are unfortunately missing from 1415 to 1447. In 1449 the priory was vacant, for on 27 September Bishop Waynflete appointed Henry Swetenham, a canon of Norton in Cheshire, to act as temporary administrator. (fn. 18) The appointment of the priors of this house was, so far as there is evidence, either by lapse or deputation, left to the bishop.

In 1512 the priory was vacant and the numbers of the brethren reduced, for which reasons the bishop collated to the vicarage of Dorking, which was in their gift. (fn. 19)

The clear annual value of the priory in 1535 was £68 16s. 7d. In that year there were three canons in residence in addition to the prior. The monastery was suppressed on the feast of St. Anne, 26 July 1536, (fn. 20) John Lymden, the prior, obtaining a pension of £10. (fn. 21) The three canons possibly at once obtained benefices; at all events they received no pensions.

Priors of Reigate

Adam, (fn. 22) circa 1298

R. de Froyle, (fn. 23) resigned 1309

Walter de Timberden, elected 1309, (fn. 24) died 1337

John atte Greth, collated 1337, (fn. 25) resigned 1341

John de Pyrie, collated 1341, (fn. 26) 1349

Robert de Scoteny, elected 1349, resigned 1367

John Kente, collated 1367, (fn. 27) died 1374

Richard Warnham, collated 1374, (fn. 28) died 1395

John Yakesley, collated 1395, (fn. 29) resigned 1397

John Combe, collated 1397, (fn. 30) died 1415

John Hervest, resigned 1452

Henry Swetenham, collated 1453, (fn. 31) resigned 1459

John Morton, collated 1460, resigned 1468

John de Aspley, collated 1468 (fn. 32)

Alexander Shott, circa 1496

William Major, occurs 1517, resigned 1530

John Lymden, elected 1530, (fn. 33) surrendered 1536


  • 1. Stevens and others are mistaken in calling this a house of Crutched Friars.
  • 2. Manning and Bray, Hist. of Surrey, i. 294-302: Dugdale, Mon. vi. 517-9.
  • 3. Cox's Magna Britannia, iv. 448.
  • 4. Winton. Epis. Reg., Woodlock, ff. 104, 116b, 147.
  • 5. Close, 3 Edw. II. m. 4.
  • 6. Pat. 2 Edw. III. pt. ii, m. 18.
  • 7. Pat. 8 Edw. III. pt. ii, m. 34.
  • 8. Ibid. m. 24.
  • 9. Winton. Epis. Reg., Orlton, i. f. 65.
  • 10. Ibid. i.f. 101b.
  • 11. Pat. 19 Edw. III. pt. ii, m. 26.
  • 12. Winton. Epis. Reg., Wykeham, i. f. 7.
  • 13. Ibid. iii. f. 115b.
  • 14. Ibid. i. f. 5b.
  • 15. Ibid. iii. f. 155b
  • 16. Ibid. i. f. 252.
  • 17. Kirby's Wykeham's Registers (Hants Record Soc.), i. 212-3.
  • 18. Winton. Epis. Reg., Waynflete, ii. f. 5.
  • 19. Ibid. Fox, iii. f. 8b.
  • 20. L. and P. Hen. VIII. ix. 798.
  • 21. Aug. Misc. Books, vol. ccxxxii. f. 28b.
  • 22. Cox's Mag. Brit. iv. 448.
  • 23. Winton. Epis. Reg., Woodlock, f. 104, 116b, 147.
  • 24. Ibid. 111.
  • 25. Ibid. Orlton, i. f. 65b.
  • 26. Ibid. i. f. 101b.
  • 27. Ibid. Wykeham, i. f. 7.
  • 28. Ibid. i. f. 5.
  • 29. Ibid. i. f. 252.
  • 30. Kirby's Wykeham's Registers (Hants Rec. Soc.), i. 212-3.
  • 31. Winton. Epis. Reg., Waynflete, ii. ff. 47b, 48, 96.
  • 32. Ibid. ii. f. 160, etc.
  • 33. Winton. Epis. Reg., Wolsey, f. 63b.