A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1967.
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HOUSE OF CLUNIAC MONKS
2. ABBEY OF BERMONDSEY
The priory of St. Saviour's, Bermondsey, was founded in the year 1082 for monks of the Cluniac order by Alwin Child, a citizen of London. (fn. 1) It was not however till some years later that a colony from the important house of St. Mary, Charité-sur-Loire, arrived to take possession of the new settlement. The four monks, Peter, Richard, Osbert and Umbald, who arrived on 16 April 1089, (fn. 2) are said to have been brought over through the instrumentality of Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 3) Peter was appointed the first prior.
The various rent charges in the city of London, which Alwin their founder had assigned to the monks were augmented by the gift of the manor of Bermondsey (fn. 4) by William Rufus. This manor, the nucleus of all future possessions, was retained by the convent in uninterrupted possession till the year 1417, when, a writ of 'Quo Warranto' being brought against them, they were successful in obtaining a verdict in their favour. (fn. 5) Other gifts quickly followed, many of which are recorded in the foundation charter of Rufus confirming the manor of Bermondsey and church of St. Saviour 'to the monks of Caritate.' Among them may be mentioned the manor of 'Bridesthorn' with lands in 'Widon' and in Hardwicke, and a rent charge of 10s. a year out of a mill at Sutton, the grant of Wynebald de Baalun, sold later by the convent in order to purchase the manor of Richmond in Bengeo, Herts, for which they gave 160 marks; the church of Hardwicke with tithes of Easington in the county of Gloucester, a moiety of the manor of Upton, Berks, with advowson and tithes of the church granted by the same benefactor. (fn. 6) The advowson of the church and tithes of Ampney Crucis in Gloucestershire were granted to the brethren by Odo de Tirone, a knight of Wynebald's, in 1092, and in the same year the manor of Preston (fn. 7) near Yeovil in Somerset by Ansger Brito, also a knight of this same donor. (fn. 8) Robert Bluet, the chancellor, in 1093, when he was appointed to the see of Lincoln, bestowed on the monks of Bermondsey the manor of Charlton in Kent, and in this same year a manor in Little Hallingbury in Essex was granted to them by Geoffrey Martel by the consent of Geoffrey de Mandeville, with tithes of Alferton in Great Dunmow. (fn. 9) The manor of Cowick, now called Quickbury, in Essex, was added to the endowment in 1098 by Richard Guet. (fn. 10) When Alwin Child died in 1094 (fn. 11) he had ample grounds for confidence in the security and future prosperity of the foundation so richly endowed.
The affection and respect displayed towards the order of Cluny by the Norman kings and their descendants was especially marked in the case of Henry I. and he was regarded by the abbots of Cluny as one of their most generous patrons and friends. (fn. 12) He confirmed to St. Saviour's, Bermondsey, the donations of Rufus and his followers, to which had been added other gifts: the advowson of the rectory of Fyfield in Essex by Maud, the wife of Asculf, and Graald her son, with a confirmation of the tithes granted by Roger, knight of John Fitz-Waleran, in 1094, (fn. 13) the gift by Nigel de Mandeville of lands in Balham, (fn. 14) the advowson of the rectory of Inglishcombe in Somerset by Hawise de Gurnay, wife of Roger de Baalun, and the manor and advowson of the church of Kingweston bestowed on the convent in 1114 by Mary, the wife of Eustace, count of Boulogne, and sister of Queen Maud, her husband confirming the gift 'for the repose of her soul' in the following year. (fn. 15) The king himself granted by charter out of his domain Rotherhithe, Dulwich, a hide of land in Southwark, (fn. 16) and the manor of Waddon in Croydon, (fn. 17) and in the year 1132 the advowson of the churches of Shorne and Cobham. (fn. 18) The brethren also received the royal licence for the exchange of the manor of 'Andretesbury' granted to them by Ivo de Grentmaisnil for the manor of Widford, Herts, (fn. 19) and for other gifts within and without the city of London, including a grant by Thomas de Ardern and his son of the church of St. George, Southwark, with tithes of corn in Horndon and lands belonging to London Bridge. (fn. 20)
During his reign Stephen granted to the brethren 40s. rent out of Southwark (fn. 21) Grove, a member of the manor of Wantage, (fn. 22) and the advowson of the church of Writtle, Essex. (fn. 23) In 1141 they obtained a charter giving them considerable liberties and immunities, that they should possess their lands quit of suits and quarrels, shire and hundred, and should hold their court with right of soc, sac, tol, theam, and infangnethef, with all free customs within and without the burgh. (fn. 24) Other gifts during the same reign were the church of St. James of Derby by Waltheof son of Sweyn confirmed by the king in 1140 (fn. 25); the manor of Warlingham in Surrey by William de Waterville and Robert his son (fn. 26); the moiety of Greenwich, afterwards called Deptford, by Walchelin de Mamynot, (fn. 27) and 6,000 herrings out of his manor of 'Erchelawis,' with one acre of land by Alan Pirot. (fn. 28)
Henry II. (fn. 29) granted to the prior and convent rights of free warren throughout all their lands in Surrey, (fn. 30) in 1159 confirmed to them the advowson of the rectories of Camberwell, Bengeo, Warlingham with chapelry of Chelsham, Fyfield and Beddington, (fn. 31) and in 1174 the church of Birling in Kent, the gift of Walchelin de Mamynot. (fn. 32) Further grants of land and charters of privileges were obtained in succeeding reigns. (fn. 33) In 1213 Prior Richard, with the consent of his convent, built an almonry or hospital for lay brethren and boys against the wall of the cellarer's building in honour of St. Thomas the Martyr. It was arranged that the almoner should pay the cellarer 10s. 4d. at Michaelmas towards the expense. Like the rest of the Cluniac monasteries the hospital was to be exempt from all Episcopal jurisdiction. (fn. 34) The taxation roll of 1291 shows that Bermondsey was a wealthy foundation with widely scattered possessions. The temporalities were valued at £228 19s. 8½d. yearly, and included lands or rents in the dioceses of Rochester, London, Lincoln, Chichester, Salisbury, Bath and Wells, Winchester and York. The spiritualities worth £50 3s. 4d. per annum were in the dioceses of London, Lincoln, Norwich, Salisbury, Bath and Wells, Winchester, Worcester, and Ely. (fn. 35)
Sundry suits involving their title in lands were brought against the prior and convent at different times. The most important, that of the Crown in 1417 for their possession of the manors of Bermondsey, Preston and Stone, has been already referred to. (fn. 36) In 1247 Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, released his claim to the advowson of the church of Camberwell, a grant made to the priory by William, Earl of Gloucester, in the reign of King Stephen, and subsequently disputed by his descendants. (fn. 37) In 1272 a protracted suit commenced between the prior of Bermondsey and the abbot of Hyde concerning a division between the lands of the priory in Warlingham and the abbot's lands in Sanderstead. (fn. 38) The dispute was still in progress in January 1274-5, when the abbot appointed representatives in his suit before the king against Henry the Prior and Walter le Bailif de Warlingham, William Atteful of Warlingham and others, on a plea of trespass, and was not then terminated. (fn. 39) The forfeiture of Adam de Stratton in 1277-8, to whom the convent had demised much land, led to many petitions to Parliament after the restoration of the property to the priory from the tenants of the evicted party and from his brother Henry de Stratton, who claimed the restitution of a bond for a pension of 40s. made to him by the prior and convent of Bermondsey, which had been included among the deeds of his brother taken into the king's custody at the time of his ejection. (fn. 40) In 1293 a plea of the prior against the exercise of the king's right to present to the church of Camberwell during a vacancy came before the Court of Chancery. The prior stated that his immediate predecessor had presented a certain Geoffrey de Wytelbyri to the vicarage of Camberwell, being of the advowson of the priory. Before Geoffrey's institution the prior died, and the priory came into the king's hands, whereupon the king, ignoring the former presentation, presented his clerk to the same. The prior held that this presentation was to the prejudice and disinheritance of the priory, and supplicated the king to revoke it. The case however being tried in full council it was found that the king had acted within his prerogative and that of his predecessors, and the Bishop of Winchester was ordered to admit his presentee. (fn. 41)
The relations of the brethren with their tenants and neighbours were not always of the happiest description; scuffles were not unknown and complaints were lodged of rough treatment on the part of the monks. A commission was appointed by the Crown in March 1303 to inquire into the complaint of seven of the tenants of the manor of Waddon, Surrey. It was alleged to have been ancient demesne, and whereas the king had ordered the prior not to exact from the tenants of that manor any other customs or services than they were accustomed to perform when the manor was in the hands of the king's progenitors, yet Prior Henry with Brother Bartholomew de la Douse and others by night plundered the goods of Robert le Wylde to the value of £100 and others in proportion. (fn. 42) There was a further statement of these charges in 1304, but the result is not known. In November 1317 Henry Spigurnel and Geoffrey de Hertelpole were deputed to hold a commission on the complaint of Simon de Stowe that Peter, prior of Bermondsey, had with others broken into his house at Southwark, assaulted him, and carried away his goods. (fn. 43) Again, the following May, Hugh le Despenser the elder stated that Peter and Brother Bartholomew de la Douse, of whom complaints had already been made, had robbed him of goods at Bermondsey. (fn. 44) Unfortunately the result of the judicial enquiry into these doings is never given. The religious had also complaints to make of robbery and marauding expeditions on the part of their neighbours. In April 1284 a great outrage was committed at the priory. Certain persons made forcible entry there, broke open the doors of the prior's chamber and the chests and coffers there, carried away £68 in money together with silver vessels and jewels of gold to the value of £40, and imprisoned the prior himself, Eymon his chaplain, and John de Fyfhyde his yeoman. (fn. 45) A commission was instituted to make due enquiry, but with what success is not known. The parson of the church of Ludgershall, Bucks, was at one time found guilty of taking the corn of the prior of Bermondsey. (fn. 46) A convenient means for reprisal and for exhibiting ill-will towards the priory lay in the fact that its position rendered it always open to the danger of inundation from the Thames unless the dykes and ditches which protected it were well guarded and maintained. In 1313 a commission was appointed to investigate the complaint of the prior of Bermondsey that certain persons at Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Camberwell and Peckham, had cut and carried away his corn growing on the lands lately assigned to him in these places. Revenge was probably the motive for this depredation, for in the evidence it appeared that in order to recoup the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the prior of Bermondsey, who had suffered much loss and damage through the flooding of their lands from the Thames, and to compensate them for the charges which they had incurred in repairing the breach of the wall and bank near Bermondsey, the lands of those individuals who were bound to assist in such repair, and had refused, were delivered over to the bishop and prior until they should be satisfied in these expenses. (fn. 47) In the year 1346 the prior complained that Alan Ferthyng of Southwark and twelve others broke and threw down his close and dykes at Bermondsey, and dug so much in his several soil there that by the throwing down and digging 140 acres of meadow were inundated, and the profit thereof entirely lost to him. Added to which they felled his trees and carried them off with other goods, and assaulted his men and servants, so that he lost their services for a great time. (fn. 48) On one occasion the contumacy displayed by the prior and brethren led to their excommunication by the Pope. In December 1363 Urban IV. confirmed to Gregory de London, layman, gold embroiderer of the pope's household, a mandate of Alexander IV., ordering the dean of St. Paul's to command 15 marks a year to be paid to him by the prior and convent of Bermondsey. As they did not pay the money the dean issued a sentence of interdict, and cited them to appear within three months, and on their disregarding this, by authority of papal letters, he excommunicated and suspended the prior, sub-prior, cellarer, sacristan and convent. Again citing them, Gregory himself having appeared, the case was heard by the Bishop of Palestrina, and in the rebellious absence of the other party, judgment was given in his favour. The priory was condemned in costs and to remain excommunicate till they had made full satisfaction. (fn. 49)
Appeals were constantly made by creditors of the house in order to get their claims settled, for, in marked contrast to the importance enjoyed by Bermondsey, its vast possessions and imposing rent roll, are the accounts of its struggle with dire poverty from the twelfth century onwards, ever hampered by debt and threatened with destitution. In addition to the losses they suffered by the flooding of their lands in the low-lying district surrounding Bermondsey and the economic causes which impoverished all religious foundations during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the policy of the Cluniac order itself seems to have contributed to that want of good government which might have overcome, or partially overcome, these natural difficulties. It was the aim of Cluny to keep dependant houses in entire subjection to the parent house, and to regard their heads merely as the nominee of the abbot of Cluny, or in the case of Bermondsey of the prior of La Charité, to which house it was immediately subject, to be appointed, suspended and recalled at will. (fn. 50) From the year 1134, when the fourth prior died, to 1184, during which time eleven priors had borne rule, only one died at his post; and this short term of office which marked the government of the convent was aggravated by the mortality among its heads in certain years, (fn. 51) caused no doubt by the damp and unhealthy situation of the monastery. (fn. 52) When the frequent absence of the prior beyond seas at the parent house, and the many occasions on which on his appointment he received letters of protection from the king to last for a period generally of six months, and occasionally of a year, eighteen months or even two years, are taken into consideration, it is difficult to discover what opportunity there was for good administration.
The earliest reference to Bermondsey in the extant original records of Cluny occurs in connection with the chapter general held at Cluny 1237-8. (fn. 53) The financial condition of the house was at that time so deplorable— bordering on bankruptcy—that it was considered advisable to appoint a special delegate to immediately represent them. Brother Geoffrey (fn. 54) was accordingly commissioned by the convent of St. Saviour to state in terms of abject humility and distress that their house for the last three years had been suffering grievously from lessened tithes, seasons of dearth, and every kind of disaster, and to implore aid, as they were at present a spectacle to both king and kingdom and almost utterly consumed by poverty. (fn. 55) It is noticeable that there is an entire absence of scandal in connection with Bermondsey, and that investigation into the causes of this financial distress led to no worse discovery than the lack of government of the material goods of the house and a want of forethought in not discerning that perpetual alienation of property, which so many priors resorted to in order to stave off present difficulties, only rendered the burden more intolerable for their successors. Like other Cluniac foundations the house claimed to be exempt from episcopal jurisdiction and was visited by those appointed for the task at the annual chapter general. In 1262 John, prior of Gassicourt, and Henry, prior of Bermondsey, under the authority of Ives de Poyson, twenty-fifth abbot of Cluny, held a visitation of the English Cluniac houses. It was found on enquiry at Bermondsey that all devotional offices were most properly and becomingly performed, that the rule of silence and the correction of abuses were rigidly fulfilled, and that almsgiving and hospitality were carried out according to established custom. There were thirty-two monks and one lay brother in residence. The debts of the house at that time amounted to 266 marks. (fn. 56) The number of inmates (fn. 57) varied very much with the fortunes of the house; later the standard number sank much below thirty-two. At the next visitation, 1275-6, the number of the brethren had fallen to twenty; the debts of the house amounted to 1,000 marks of silver, in addition to an annuity of £100 to be paid to one of the king's chaplains and his successors in perpetuity and the alienation of several manors belonging to the priory. With regard to its internal condition the visitors, John, prior of Wenlock, and Arnulf, equerry to the lord abbot, stated that 'before our coming the visitors of the prior of La Charité visited and corrected what was amiss.' (fn. 58) In January 1275-6 the custody of the house was committed to the prior of Wenlock during the king's pleasure on account of its inability to meet its debts; (fn. 59) this was followed by the resignation of Prior Henry de Monte Mauri and the death of two successors in the same year. The report of the next visitors of the priory shows that matters had become much worse. The prior of Mont-Didier in France and the prior of Lenton, the delegates in 1279, reported that 'the state of this house is simply deplorable.' The number of the brethren, which should have been thirty-two, had sunk to eighteen, and on being asked the reason for this diminution the prior answered that the convent was overwhelmed with debt, and on that account, owing to the orders of the diocesan and the wish of the abbot, some of the brethren had been withdrawn. The prior acknowledged that the debt of the house originally amounted to 700 marks and was now 2,300 marks. The visitors severely reprimanded him for the increase, particularly as the number of monks had been reduced during the past four years. It also appeared that since the time that Prior Henry had temporary charge of the convent for a year and a half, he (Prior John) had sold a property called Ompton, for which he had received 500 marks. Also he had received from Adam de Stratton 700 marks to be distributed over a term of seven years for a wood called Chavor; they reported that there was something underhand about this transaction. He had also sold other wood to the value of 600 marks and had alienated other estates. The brethren were living correctly, observing their rule and performing becomingly their sacred and devotional offices. The necessaries for the subsistence of the fraternity in grain and stock were sufficient until the time of the next harvest. The visitors summed up the prior's financial delinquencies by reporting that on succeeding, he had found the house indebted to the amount of 300 to 400 marks, that during the time when Prior Henry was in charge things went from bad to worse, that Prior John had augmented the convent's pecuniary obligations to 2,300 marks on his own showing and admission, that he had entirely made over to Adam de Stratton four manors, in return for which Adam was only under obligation to reduce the convent debt by 1,500 marks. (fn. 60) The monastery was taken under the king's protection in 1284 at the request of the prior of Coulanges, proctor general of the prior of La Charité, who at the same time received letters of safe conduct to visit and correct excesses of houses of the order. (fn. 61)
An inundation of the Thames on 18 October 1294, which submerged the lands of the brethren and broke the embankment at Rotherhithe, (fn. 62) must have considerably added to their embarrassments, and in the following year the king placed the monastery in the custody of David le Graund on account of its debts, with instructions for repairing the breach at Rotherhithe. (fn. 63) William de Carleton, who succeeded to the custody in 1296, received a licence to demise the lands of the priory in Birling and Charlton, Kent. (fn. 64) Edward II. granted the prior and convent exemption during pleasure from contribution to the king's use at the prayer of Queen Isabel on the occasion of a similar disaster in 1309. (fn. 65) Nearly two years previously the prior had received a royal request for the loan of two good carts and horses to be at Westminster early on St. Stephen's day to help to carry the equipment or the king's household to Dover. The king engaged to pay the costs of the men leading the carts and of the horses in going and returning. (fn. 66) Edward II. made some attempts at managing the affairs of this distressed house; his efforts though well-intentioned were not always judicious, and did not succeed in advancing its fortunes. In April 1310 he wrote to the abbot of Cluny with a request that at his next chapter general he would provide Brother Peter de Sancto Laurentio, monk and almoner of the priory of Bermondsey, with a fitting priory of his order in England. (fn. 67) This request being apparently productive of no result, he wrote again two years later on the death of Prior Henry to urge the appointment of Brother Peter to Bermondsey, (fn. 68) to whom the temporalities of the priory were restored on 28 October 1312. (fn. 69) During his rule licence was obtained from the king to appropriate the church of Chelsham with the chapel of Warlingham, for which privilege the convent paid a fine of 40 marks. (fn. 70)
Prior Peter de Sancto Laurentio died in 1319 and so did Geoffrey de Delviz who followed him, (fn. 71) to whom succeeded another Peter who proved a very difficult subject to both king and superior. (fn. 72) The prior of La Charité evidently distrusted him from the outset, but the king, whose favour Peter had secured, requested him to abate the suspicion and malevolence that he had of his subordinate prior of Bermondsey and gave instruc tions to his clerks not to meddle further with the custody of the issues of the house, which had been delivered to them at the request of the prior and convent on account of debt, (fn. 73) in the hope that the prior would so rule that religion and alms might be properly maintained. (fn. 74) Such hope was short-lived however, for in the following month, November 1320, the king wrote to the prior of La Charité begging him to recall the prior of Bermondsey, and to abstain from sending another prior until the king had informed him of some circumspect and industrious man, at the same time acknowledging that he had been mistaken in his judgment of Peter, but that at the time he was not so cognisant of the convent's affairs. The defaulter should be wholly excused in disobeying the voidance of him made by the prior of La Charité at his chapter general as the king was responsible for that action. (fn. 75) Meantime the custody of the priory was granted to the provost of Wells and John de Lodelowe, sub-prior of Bermondsey, with the usual instructions as to applying the revenues towards the discharge of its debts. (fn. 76) The prior of La Charité having replied in a pleasant manner the king wrote again the following spring to thank him for his agreeable answer, and to nominate John de Cusancia, monk of Lewis, a wise and circumspect man supported by the protection of powerful friends, to the vacant position, expressing a hope that the spiritualities and temporalities of the house might be reduced to a better state by John's regular and wholesome example, wise solicitude and circumspect diligence. (fn. 77) Peter however was not so easily disposed of, probably calculating on the vacillating nature of the monarch he applied to influential neighbours with such success that not long after, the king was persuaded to retain him 'by the request of the mayor and certain citizens of London,' and to restore the custody of the house into his hands. (fn. 78) According to the Annals in 1321 death closed his further career. (fn. 79)
In January 1323-4 an order was issued for the arrest of Walter de Suto, then prior of Bermondsey, and two of the monks on the grounds that they had knowingly harboured in the priory certain rebels against the king, James de Darytone, Percival his brother, and Peter de Monte Martini and others from 6 December 1322 until 23 January 1322-3, and permitted them to depart. (fn. 80) The accused were committed to the Tower, and the priory again was committed to custodians. (fn. 81)
The following April 1324 John de Cusancia, the king's former nominee, received the temporalities. (fn. 82) The sheriff of Surrey was directed to set at liberty the prior of Bermondsey and his monks recently arrested as aliens and to restore all goods and possessions, the prior engaging to send none out of the realm nor leave the kingdom without the king's special licence. (fn. 83) When the priory of Lewes became void in the same year John de Cusancia and James his brother, prior of Prittlewell, were suggested by the king to the abbot of Cluny as suitable presentees to the Earl of Surrey, patron of the priory of Lewes, for him to make choice of either according to ancient custom. (fn. 84)
In the year 1327 a dispute arose between the prior of Bermondsey and Walter de Duluyd who claimed to be prior. The king was again moved to interfere, and having declared the waste and impoverishment of the house by the indiscreet rule of former heads, he committed the custody of it to two of his clerks, by whose advice and counsel Prior John was to appropriate the profits to the benefit of the house, the payments of its debts and the maintenance of the brethren. All persons were at the same time prohibited from lodging therein or carrying away anything without the consent of the custodians. (fn. 85) Brother Walter seems to have obtained an opportunity to state his case, for shortly after the king himself wrote to La Charité detailing the circumstances of his story and requesting the prior to put him in possession of the priory, again representing the fallen condition of the house owing to the want of good government. (fn. 86) The following year a more happy state of things prevailed, and the custodians were withdrawn, peace having been established between Walter and the prior. (fn. 87) But the story of sordid struggle still runs on, and in 1332 the house 'greviously burdened by debt,' incurred through the neglect of late priors, and 'other misfortunes,' was again taken under the king's protection. (fn. 88) Discontent with their government was at this time very general in English Cluniac houses. (fn. 89)
Bermondsey was sequestrated as an alien priory in August 1337, and the prior appointed custodian. The king ratified the lease made by John de Cusancia of the appropriated church of Shorne within the diocese of Rochester for five years so as to better ensure payment of the farm of the custody, (fn. 90) which amounted to £100. (fn. 91) In 1338 the convent probably suffered from another inundation of their property, as it is recorded that in March of that year the king granted the prior respite until Michaelmas for the payment of the £100 due, in consequence of the damage suffered by the priory suddenly and without their fault. (fn. 92) In an undated petition addressed to the king which may probably be assigned to this time, the brethren state that, in addition to the impoverishment of the house, involving the alienation of property so that what remained was barely sufficient to sustain them, a tide of the 19 February had destroyed their ditches and dykes, and done much damage to their property, consequently they begged for the payment of the £100 to be remitted. (fn. 93) The prior and convent received a discharge from the exactions of the Earl of Surrey, who as keeper of the maritime lands in Sussex called on them to provide four men-at-arms and archers by virtue of their lands in that county. It was proved however that the farm paid to the king for the custody of the priory included such lands. (fn. 94)
Alienation of the priory estates went on apace and heavy debts accumulated during the long adminstration of John de Cusancia. (fn. 95) In 1340 the prior and convent were bound in a large sum of money to William de Cusancia the king's clerk, which they were unable to pay on account of the 'intolerable charges' daily incumbent upon them in keeping in repair the breach of Bermondsey, (fn. 96) Edward III. granted a licence for the convent to appropriate the church of Beddington in the year 1347 and to acquire lands and tenements to the value of £20. (fn. 97) In 1373 began the rule of the most successful administrator of the priory of Bermondsey. Richard Dunton, the first Englishman to hold the office of superior, secured a charter of denization for the monastery in 1381 by the payment of a fine of 200 marks, (fn. 98) and from that date on wards the house, while remaining true to the Cluniac rule, ceased to owe temporal allegiance to the abbey of Cluny, or the priory of La Charité, and became a conventual chapter electing its own superior.
In 1401 a petition was addressed to Henry IV. in favour of the priors of Crespi and Dampierre about to visit the Cluniac foundations in England. (fn. 99) Confidential instructions were sent to the agents in respect of their mission, and they were warned to be very cautious at Bermondsey, and to seek the advice of Brother Thomas de Bermondsey rather than of the prior, 'who knows nothing.' (fn. 100) Several years later the abbot refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the prior of Lewes, vicar-general of the order, when cited by him for a visitation, and the king supported his refusal and prohibited any attempt to hold the visitation at Bermondsey. (fn. 101) This occurred in 1432-4 and is the last recorded attempt of a formal visitation of Bermondsey, although a statement drawn up as to the numbers of the religious in houses of the English and Scotch Cluniac foundations at the beginning of the fifteenth century seems to have formed part of a visitation report. We learn from it that the constituted number of the monks was then twenty-four, that there were five masses celebrated daily, three with music and two low masses, although there were formerly six daily celebrations. Hospitality, almsgiving, silence and all other monastic obligations and duties, as enjoined by rule, were well observed. (fn. 102)
The great conventual church so long building had been dedicated in January 1338-9 in honour of St. Saviour with the high altar in honour of St. Saviour, the Blessed Virgin and All Saints. At the same time had been dedicated three other altars by Peter Bishop of Corbavia, who occasionally acted as suffragan of London, Winchester and Canterbury: the altar of Holy Cross, the altar 'Drueth' in honour of the Blessed Virgin and St. Thomas the Martyr, and the altar by the door of the monks' cemetery in honour of St. Andrew, St. James and all the Apostles. (fn. 103) Prior Dunton had the nave of the church covered with lead in 1387 and placed new glass windows in the presbytery; the high altar and morning altar (fn. 104) he decorated with gilded reredoses. (fn. 105) During the rule of Abbot Thetford in 1430 the cloister of the convent was re-roofed with slate. (fn. 106) The prospects of the priory seemed considerably brighter during the successful rule of Prior Dunton (fn. 107); he resigned in 1390 and was succeeded by John Attilburgh, under whom Bermondsey was erected into an abbey by Pope Boniface IX. at the request of king and prior. Almost immediately on his elevation, however, John Attilburgh, the last prior and first abbot of Bermondsey (1390-9), obtained a dispensation in 1397 from Boniface IX. to hold a benefice with cure, in addition to the priory, in consideration of the great quantity of money that he spent against schismatics and rebels of the Roman church. He acted as president of the chapter-general of the order in England. In 1399 the abbot resigned in order to become Bishop of Athelfeld. (fn. 108) On his resignation the convent granted him a pension of 40 marks for food and clothing, but subsequently refused payment, and the matter was brought before the Roman Court. (fn. 109) Following on the election of his successor Henry Tompston early in 1400, (fn. 110) the abbey was found so over-burdened by the bad government of the late abbot, that it was committed to the custody of the king's delegates (fn. 111) and a commission was appointed by the archbishop to inquire into the charges made against John Attilburgh of illicitly alienating the property of his late charge, (fn. 112) an order having been issued for his arrest. (fn. 113) The conduct of the ex-abbot as delegate of the abbot of Cluny in England, together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and prior of Thetford, (fn. 114) points to a rather rough and overbearing disposition. (fn. 115)
Of the rule of the abbots who followed John Attilburgh there is little to tell. The administration of the abbey by Henry Tompston was commended by the prior of Lewes in a letter addressed to the prior of St. Martin des Champs. (fn. 116) In 1475, in return for their release of a rent of 18s. in the Stileyard, London, which was to be given up to the merchants of the Hanse the abbot and convent were relieved from the future charge of any corrody or sustentation granted by the king or any of his successors. (fn. 117) John Marlow, abbot of Bermondsey, died in 1516, it was said of the plague. (fn. 118) When elaborate preparations were made to do honour to the Emperor Charles V. on his visit to England in 1522, the abbot of Bermondsey was one of the six English abbots nominated to attend upon 'my Lord Legate at Dover.' (fn. 119) On the resignation of Robert Shuldham in 1525 the convent as a mark of favour allowed him to make choice of his successor, Robert Wharton, to whom the temporalities were restored on 1 October 1525. (fn. 120) To William Vaughan, D.C.L., king's chaplain, was assigned the pension which a new abbot was bound to give to a clerk of the king's nomination. (fn. 121)
The Valor of 1535 returned the clear annual value of the abbey at £474 14s. 4¾d.
In June 1536 Robert Wharton was promoted to the vacant see of St. Asaph, the king sanctioning his holding the abbey in commendam. (fn. 122) The bishop apparently lent himself to the surrender of the abbey, which was accomplished on 1 January 1537-8. His compliance did not go unrewarded and he received the large pension of £333 6s. (fn. 123) Richard Gale the prior was granted £10, Thomas Gaynesborow, prior of Derby, £7, the sub-prior and three other monks £6 each, four other monks £5 6s. 8d. each, and two others much smaller sums. (fn. 124)
The work of despoliation had already begun. A special object of veneration since 1117 had been an ancient crucifix found close to the Thames in that year (fn. 125) and placed in an honourable position in the conventual church to which it drew many pilgrims. (fn. 126) The sixteenth century diary of a citizen of London, under an entry of 24 February 1538, describing the Bishop of Rochester's sermon on that day at Paul's Cross, and the destruction there of the Kent 'Roode of Grace,' adds: 'There was the pictor of Saynte Saviour that had stood in Barmsey abbey many yeres in Southwarke takyn down.' (fn. 127)
John Husee wrote to Lord Lisle 21 March, 'pilgrimage saints goeth down apace,' and instanced Our Lady at Southwick, the Blood of Hales, St. Saviour's and others. On the following day he wrote to Lady Lisle and stated that the image of St. Saviour's as well as others had been taken away. (fn. 128)
That life and colour which is inseparably connected with Bermondsey must be sought elsewhere than in the somewhat sordid recital of debt and mismanagement. As a condition of the grant of the manor this foundation of the king's progenitors was supposed to incorporate within its buildings a residence for the use of the sovereign if he should call for it. From this condition may have sprung the custom of bestowing here distressed queens and individuals important enough to call for some measure of supervision. As early as 1140 William, Earl of Mortain, after a stormy career, retired to the monastery and took the habit of the monk. (fn. 129)
Katherine, the widow of Henry V., passed the remainder of her life within the convent, and Elizabeth, queen of the Yorkist monarch Edward IV., was condemned by an order in Council in 1486 to forfeit all her lands and goods and be confined in Bermondsey Abbey, where she died. William de Ramsey or de Scotia, who during the reign of Edward III. received letters of safe conduct for himself and his attendants during their sojourn in England, was placed in 1377 under the care of the prior of Bermondsey for a year, until his health should be re-established and he could return to Scotland. (fn. 130)
Many of the benefactors of this favoured house were buried within its walls: Adelaide or Adelize, wife of Hugh de Grentmaisnil and mother of Ivo; Mary, sister of Queen Maudand wife of Eustace, Count of Boulogne, from whom the brethren obtained the manor of Kingweston. Walchelin de Mamynot is said to have died here.
The king exercised his prerogative to present boarders to the prior and convent for life maintenance. In 1313 William de Topclyve, who had long served the king, was sent by Edward II. to receive the necessaries of life in food and drink in place of Thomas le Long, (fn. 131) and on his death the convent received William Bale. (fn. 132)
The Earls of Gloucester, early benefactors of the priory, also claimed the right to receive maintenance within the monastery when they should be at Bermondsey. (fn. 133) Ralph, Earl of Stafford, who had married Margaret daughter and heiress of Hugh de Audley, Earl of Gloucester, died in 1372 seized of a lodging within the priory. (fn. 134)
The Bishop of Winchester formerly claimed of this house, though itself exempt from diocesan visitation, annual procuration for one day when visiting that part of the diocese. In 1276 this claim was revived and resisted, and a compromise was at length effected whereby the prior and convent agreed for themselves and their successors that on the first coming of a bishop to Bermondsey after his installation they would meet him in procession and in lieu of entertainment pay him that year at his own house in Southwark 5 marks and every succeeding year 2½ marks. Further that whenever the bishop should go beyond seas, the prior and convent would meet him on his return in procession. (fn. 135)
The size and importance of the monastery made it at an early date suitable for large assemblies and councils of state. The large council said to have been held by Henry II. at Bermondsey during Christmas 1154, when the nobles discussed the affairs of the kingdom and the prospects of peace, (fn. 136) was probably held at the convent itself as being the only building of sufficient magnitude on that side of the river for such a purpose. On St. Calixtus day 1249 a chapter of the Benedictine order was held here at which several measures for the reformation of the order received consideration. (fn. 137) Here in the reign of Henry I. many of the magnates of the kingdom having taken the cross met to deliberate on the order of their journey, (fn. 138) and Robert de Chance, queen's clerk, was consecrated Bishop of Carlisle in 1258 by the Bishops of Salisbury and Bath. (fn. 139)
This contact with English political events and proximity to the centre of vast and important life lends more lustre to the abbey of Bermondsey than can be found in the record of its internal history.
Priors of Bermondsey
Peter, (fn. 140) 1089, died 1119
Herebran, (fn. 141) 1119, died 1120
Peter, (fn. 142) 1120
Walter, (fn. 143) died 1134
Clarembald, (fn. 144) 1134, made first abbot of Faversham 1148
Robert of Blois, (fn. 145) 1148, resigned 1155
Roger, (fn. 146) 1156, made abbot of St. Owen 1157
Adam, (fn. 147) 1157, made abbot of Evesham 1161
Geoffrey, (fn. 148) 1161, resigned 1163
Peter, (fn. 149) 1163, resigned 1166
Raynold, (fn. 150) 1166, resigned 1167
Roger, (fn. 151) 1167, made abbot of Abingdon 1175
Robert de Bethleem, (fn. 152) 1175, resigned 1176
Werric, (fn. 153) 1176, made abbot of Faversham 1178
Bertrand, (fn. 154) 1178, died 1184
Constantine, (fn. 155) 1184, died 1186
Henry de Soilly, (fn. 156) died 1186
Adam, (fn. 157) died 1186
Henry, (fn. 158) 1186, made abbot of Glastonbury 1189
Richard Norman, (fn. 159) 1189, died 1201
Hugh, (fn. 160) 1201, died 1210
Richard, (fn. 161) 1210, transferred to Wenlock 1221
Hugh, (fn. 162) died 1221
Geoffrey, (fn. 163) 1221, died 1222
Odilo, (fn. 164) died 1222
Hugh, (fn. 165) died 1222
Odilo, (fn. 166) died 1223
Haymo, (fn. 167) died 1223
Hugh, (fn. 168) 1223, died 1225
Gilbert, (fn. 169) 1225, died 1226
Hugh, (fn. 170) died 1226
William, (fn. 171) 1226, died 1227
Josbert, (fn. 172) 1227, died 1229
Bernard, (fn. 173) died 1229
Aymo, (fn. 174) 1229, died 1231
Hugh, (fn. 175) 1231, died 1234
Peter, (fn. 176) 1234, died 1240
Humbert (Ingelbert or Gilbert), (fn. 177) 1240, died 1245
Roger, (fn. 178) 1245, died 1247
Imbert, (fn. 179) 1247, died 1253
Hamon, (fn. 180) died 1253
Simon, (fn. 181) 1253, died 1255
Hamon, (fn. 182) 1255, died 1258
Gwicard, (fn. 183) 1258, transferred to Wenlock 1265
John de Chartres, (fn. 184) 1265, died 1273
Henry de Monte Mauri, (fn. 185) 1273, resigned 1276
John, (fn. 186) died 1276
Peter, (fn. 187) died 1276
John, (fn. 188) 1276, died 1278
Peter de Monte Sancti Vincentii, (fn. 189) 1278, died 1283
Robert, (fn. 190) 1283, died 1285
Henry Northam orde Bono Villar, (fn. 191) 1285, died 1288
John Norman, (fn. 192) 1288, died 1290
William de la Charité, (fn. 193) died 1290
Peter, (fn. 194) died 1290
Henry, (fn. 195) 1290-3
William la Charité, (fn. 196) 1293
Peter de Sancto Simphoriano, (fn. 199) 1297, died 1298
Henry, (fn. 200) 1298-1312
Peter de Sancto Laurentio, (fn. 201) 1312, died 1319
Geoffrey de Delviz, (fn. 202) died 1319
Peter, (fn. 203) 1319, died 1321
Walter, (fn. 204) died 1321
Henry, (fn. 205) 1321, transferred to Wenlock 1323
Walter, (fn. 206) 1323-4
John de Cusancia, (fn. 207) 1324, resigned 1359
John de Caroloco, (fn. 208) 1359, died 1363
Peter de Tenolio, (fn. 209) 1363, died 1372
Richard Dunton, (fn. 210) 1372-3, resigned 1390
John Attilborough, (fn. 211) 1390-9
Abbots of Bermondsey
John Attilborough, made Bishop of Athelfeld, 1399
Henry Tompston, 1400, died 1413 (fn. 212)
Thomas Thetford, 1413, died 1432 (fn. 213)
John Bromley, 1432, resigned 1473 (fn. 214)
John Marlow, 1473, died 1516 (fn. 215)
R(obert) Shuldham, 1516, resigned 1525 (fn. 216)
Robert Wharton, (fn. 217) 1525-38
Imperfect impression of eleventh century circular seal (fn. 218) representing the Saviour seated, with right hand raised and left hand holding a book. Legend: SIGILLUM SCI SAL . . . .
Thirteenth century prior's seal, (fn. 219) attached to a document of 1266; small oval, representing the Flight into Egypt; with tonsured head in base under trefoiled arch. Legend: SIGI . . . ORIS . BERMUNDESEYE.
Another thirteenth century oval prior's seal, (fn. 220) representing the Saviour seated under a trefoiled canopy, with sun on right and moon on left; in base a tonsured head. Legend: . . . ORIS . S . . . BMONDSE . . . On the reverse a small circular counterseal of seated Virgin and Child. Legend: MATER . DEI . MEMENTO . MEI.
There is an imperfect impression of a fine pointed oval (fn. 221) thirteenth century seal attached to a document of 1439: Obverse—Our Lord seated, with right hand uplifted in blessing, and orb in the left; the field a semé of stars. Reverse—The small figure of our Lord transfigured in a vesical frame of clouds, with hands uplifted.
The fourteenth century circular seal (impression (fn. 222) attached to document of 1356) bears: Obverse—Our Lord transfigured on the mount between Moses and Elias. In the base the half lengths of Sts. Peter, James and John. Legend: —SIGILL' : ECCL'IE : SCI : SALVATORIS : DE Bermundeseye. Reverse— A small circular counterseal, bearing our Lord, half length, with right hand raised in blessing and holding the orb in the left. Legend: + EGO : SUM : VIA : VERITAS : ET : VITA.
Fine circular fifteenth century seal; (fn. 222) good impression attached to foundation charter of Henry VII. chapel at Westminster. Obverse— Our Lord, with uplifted hands, transfigured in rays of glory, with half-length of Moses and Elias emerging from the clouds; the field semé with stars, and the sun and moon on each side of our Lord. Below are the three disciples seated in natural attitudes. Legend: SIGILLUM COMMUNE MONASTERII SANCTI SALVATORIS DE Bermondesey. Reverse. Our Lord seated on a rainbow, with right hand blessing, and orb in left. Demi-angels on each side bearing arms of France and England, and England respectively; the field semé with stars, and sun and moon below the shields. Beneath the rainbow are five half lengths, the mitred crozier bearing abbot and four of the monks. Legend:—SALVE NOS XPE SALVATOR PER VIRTUTEM SANCTI CRUCIS.