Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Lewes

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


'Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Lewes', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 2, (London, 1973), pp. 64-71. British History Online [accessed 19 June 2024].

. "Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Lewes", in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 2, (London, 1973) 64-71. British History Online, accessed June 19, 2024,

. "Houses of Cluniac monks: Priory of Lewes", A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 2, (London, 1973). 64-71. British History Online. Web. 19 June 2024,

In this section



William de Warenne and Gundrada his wife within ten years of the Conquest, to which they owed their possession of the rape and town of Lewes, determined to found a monastery in that town, and while the idea was still in their minds set out on a pilgrimage to Rome, but when they came into Burgundy they found that travelling was unsafe on account of the war between the pope and the emperor. They therefore turned aside to the great abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul at Cluny, and were so struck with the high standard of religious life maintained there that they determined to put their proposed foundation under Cluny, and accordingly desired the abbot to send three or four of his monks to begin the monastery. He, however, would not at first consent—fearing that at so great a distance from their mother-house they would become undisciplined. At last, after the king himself had added his entreaties to the founder's, the abbot sent Lanzo and three other monks to England in 1076. To the small community thus introduced William de Warenne gave the church of St. Pancras in, or rather outside, Lewes, which he had lately rebuilt in stone, with the land surrounding it called 'the island,' and land at Falmer and Balmer and his Norfolk manor of Walton, and other gifts sufficient to support twelve monks. Prior Lanzo, however, was recalled to Cluny and remained there so long that William had serious thoughts of transferring his Lewes foundation to Marmoutier; but at last he obtained from the abbot both the return of Lanzo and the promise that in future the abbey would elect one of their best monks to the post of prior of Lewes.

The endowments of the priory grew apace, the founder giving the tithes of all his lands with special rights in his fisheries and market of Lewes, and adding the church and manor of Castle Acre in Norfolk where he proposed to found a monastery, as was afterwards done, to be under that of Lewes. After his death in 1089 his successors, earls of Surrey and Warenne, continued to enrich the house of St. Pancras. To attempt to deal fully with all the grants is impossible. The second earl of Warenne gave or confirmed to the monks all the nine churches of Lewes, and nine or ten other Sussex churches, eleven in Yorkshire, including those of Halifax and Wakefield, seven in Norfolk, St. Olave's in Southwark, and others elsewhere. In addition to these Ralph de Chesney, at the time of the dedication of the priory church (c. 1095), gave five more churches in Sussex, and Walter de Grancurt four in Norfolk. An idea of the ecclesiastical patronage exercised by this priory in Sussex may be gathered from the map facing p. 8, and their temporalities were on a corresponding scale, so that in 1291 the Sussex property of the house was valued at £227 11s. 2d., and that in other counties at £560 13s. 8d., making a total of £788 4s. 10d. (fn. 2) Certain manors and churches were alienated from time to time, but others were also obtained, and by the time of the dissolution the priory's income stood at £1,091 9s. 6¾d., from which £171 5s. had to be deducted for outgoings. (fn. 3)

The priory of St. Pancras was most fortunate in having as its first head Lanzo, a man of preeminent piety, whose noble example made his monastery of Lewes famous as an abode of spiritual excellence and its monks models of devotion, courtesy, and charity. (fn. 4) For thirty years the saintly prior ruled the convent, dying on Easter Monday, 1107, after a brief illness, completing in his death that pattern of affectionate and devout humility which he had consistently upheld in his life. (fn. 5) His successor, Hugh, appears to have continued the tradition of the priory for devotion, charity, and liberal hospitality, (fn. 6) and was selected in 1123 by Henry I to be first abbot of the king's new foundation at Reading, (fn. 7) whence he was promoted to the archbishopric of Rouen in 1130, (fn. 8) his successor at Lewes following him in the abbacy of Reading in that year. (fn. 9) Another Prior Hugh, a man of great piety and honour, was elected to Reading in 1186, (fn. 10) and raised to the abbacy of Cluny in 1199. (fn. 11) He was therefore abbot at the time of the great dispute between Cluny and the earl of Warenne over the patronage of the priory.

Lewes Priory was apparently vacant early in 1200, and the abbot of Cluny appointed one Alexander thereto. Hameline, earl of Warenne, refused to accept this nomination, claiming that the patronage of the priory lay with him; and in this he was apparently supported at first by some of the monks, who maintained that with the exception of paying 100 shillings yearly to the abbot they were independent of the motherhouse, and had the right of free election. (fn. 12) On an appeal to the pope a decision was given in favour of the abbot, and the monks were ordered to obey his nominee. The earl not only appealed against this decision, but violently seized the priory's possessions in Yorkshire and Norfolk, and even placed armed guards at the gate of the priory to prevent the monks from sending messages to Cluny; all pilgrims and travellers desirous of enjoying the hospitality of the priory were cross-examined to find out if they were carrying letters from the abbot before they were allowed to enter, and when the abbot put the church of Lewes under an interdict the earl retorted by threatening to starve the monks if they observed the interdict. The archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Chichester and Ely were appointed by the pope to decide the case, and the abbot of Cluny himself came over to England and met the representatives of the monks and of the earl, and apparently agreed to a truce until the question should be settled by law; but when the abbot, accompanied by the commissioners' representatives to see that he did nothing to predjudice the earl's case, came to Lewes and Castle Acre he was ignominiously repulsed by the earl's men. This happened a second time, but at last the papal commissioners succeeded in inducing both sides to accept a peace with honour. (fn. 13) Even then the abbots of Battle and Robertsbridge, appointed to instal Alexander as prior, were turned back by Warenne's men; but shortly afterwards, in June 1201, the quarrel was brought to an end. (fn. 14) The terms of the agreement were that in future when a vacancy occurred the monks and the earl of Warenne should send representatives to Cluny to announce the fact, and the abbot should then nominate two suitable candidates, of whom the earl's proctors should choose one, who should at once enter upon the office of prior. (fn. 15) This arrangement continued to hold good on all future occasions, although in 1229 Pope Gregory IX declared it void, and vested the right of appointment solely in the abbot of Cluny. (fn. 16)

When the commissioners of the abbot of Cluny visited Lewes Priory in 1262 they reported that the spiritual condition of the house was very satisfactory, the services duly performed, alms administered, and the brethren well cared for. (fn. 17) The material prosperity of the priory was also notable, for while most of the English Cluniac houses were deeply in debt Lewes had a balance on the credit side. Disaster, however, came upon the monastery two years later, when in May, 1264, it was made the quarters of King Henry's army, its courts and very altars defiled by the licentious soldiery, and its buildings injured by the attacks of Montfort's men, the church itself being set on fire, and with difficulty saved from destruction. Added to this there was internal strife which ended in the sub-prior and nine monks being sent out of the convent in 1266 to do penance in other houses for conspiracy and faction. When, however, Prior William de Foville died in 1268 he left the priory free of debt, but in 1279, (fn. 18) although the lives of the monks were still conscientious and honourable, the temporal state of the priory was desperate. A debt of 4,000 marks had been reduced to 2,800, but another 250 marks was owing for the building of the church, and as much for stocking the manors, for payment of which the silver vessels of the house were pledged, and another 100 marks were due for wool paid for by merchants but not delivered. There was also a threatened deficiency of all necessaries from the time of Lent to the next harvest. The stock on the priory manors was greatly depleted, 100 marks were owing for wine, and the yearly payment to the mother-house of Cluny was £100 in arrear.

In short the house of Lewes is in such a state that it will scarcely be able to pull through, and if it can it will not be for twenty years, so those hold who know the facts; by what means and through whose action it has been brought down to such a lamentable condition is sufficiently well-known, according to the common report of reliable witnesses. (fn. 19)

Some idea of the manner in which the priory had suffered by the appointment of foreigners whose care for the house was limited to making as much as possible out of its revenues may be gathered from the letter of Archbishop Peckham to the abbot of Cluny upon the vacancy occasioned by the promotion of Prior John de Thyenges to a continental priory in June 1285. (fn. 20) The archbishop begins by expressing his particular affection for the priory of Lewes under whose shadow his boyhood had been spent, and from whose inmates he had received honour and comfort. Then he points out how needful it is that priors shall be appointed who will revive the virtues of devotion, hospitality, and charity, and set good examples, and who will present to their benefices pastors in truth and not robbers; adding that though he is now an old man, when he looks back he can scarcely remember a case in which the prior and convent exercised due heed in appointing a man to the care of souls. Secondly, the prior must be one who will use the revenues of the church for its good and not his own, and at the same time be ready to secure the favour of the leaders of the nobility and church by all honourable means. He especially urges the need of propitiating the earl of Warenne, and suggests that if he should ask for the appointment of an English-speaking prior it would be well to agree, adding that it would be easy for the abbot to find such by inquiry of his agents in England.

The vacancy on this occasion seems to have been filled by another foreigner, John of Avignon, who had possibly already been presented when Peckham wrote, but on the next occasion of a vacancy the abbot appears to have remembered the archbishop's suggestion, as an Englishman, John of Newcastle, became prior in 1298.

In 1288 the spiritual condition of Lewes is noted as satisfactory, and the number of monks is given at thirty-nine. According to the list of English Cluniac houses made in 1405, (fn. 21) there ought to be thirty-six monks at Lewes, 'though according to some there was not anciently any fixed number, but sometimes there were forty and sometimes fifty'; the latter number was attained in 1279, and the visitors reported in 1306 that there used to be sixty monks there, though at that date there were only thirty-three, (fn. 22) and in 1391 the number had again risen to fifty-eight. (fn. 23) The earl of Warenne's statement in 1240 that there were a hundred monks in the priory (fn. 24) may be taken as an exaggeration. At the time of the dissolution the number had fallen to twenty-four.

Meanwhile matters went from bad to worse, and in 1292 it was reported that Lewes was so involved in debt that there was no hope that it could recover unless it were speedily assisted, and the abbot was requested to consider what had best be done. (fn. 25) The Close Rolls bear out this state of affairs in their entries of acknowledgements of debts to Italian merchants and others made by the prior. (fn. 26) Next year, when the prior was over at Cluny, the abbot was advised, in face of the ruin which threatened Lewes, to take security from him that he would consult the best interests of the convent; but in 1294, although the house was thus deeply involved, the prior was only paying off 50 marks yearly, and the abbot had to write threatening to proceed against him if he were not more industrious in clearing off the debt, (fn. 27) and a similar injunction was addressed in 1299 to the newly appointed prior. (fn. 28) By 1301 the monastery was reported to owe about 22,000 marks in money and wool. (fn. 29) Earl Warenne, in 1312, apparently endeavoured to assist the priory's recovery by taking a bond from the prior, John de Monte Martini, that he should not injure or alienate the goods of the house. (fn. 30) This action, however, may have been taken in connexion with some personal quarrel between the earl and prior, as in 1314 the king had to issue a special prohibition to the earl's bailiff of Reigate from doing any violence to the priory, whither he had gone with armed force. (fn. 31) This same year, 1314, some improvement was at last visible, and the visitors reported to the abbot that the debt had been reduced from 4,000 marks to £2,000, the buildings had been restored and fresh built, and certain lands and money payments recovered from Earl Warenne. (fn. 32) But misfortune still attended the prior's best efforts, and in 1317 Lewes was burdened with debt on account of 'the unjust arrest' of the prior and the lack of corn and provisions which it was the prior's duty to provide; it was also charged with many pensions or corrodies. (fn. 33) The Close Rolls of this and the following year confirm this latter statement (fn. 34) by their mention of various persons sent by the king to be quartered upon the convent, and a good example of a burdensome corrody is that for the surrender of which William de Echingham received from the monks £100 in 1307. (fn. 35)

Upon the death of Prior John de Monte Martini in September, 1324, the king wrote to the abbot of Cluny setting forth that the priory was one of the most noble in the realm, and that it was essential that its head should be one whose loyalty could be relied upon, and requesting that he would nominate to the earl's representatives James de Cusancia, prior of Prittlewell, or John his brother, (fn. 36) formerly a monk of Lewes and now prior of Bermondsey. (fn. 37) Owing, however, to the war between France and England, and the consequent closing of all ports, the earl was not able to send proctors to Cluny, and the pope, taking advantage of this, and possibly also of Earl John de Warenne's ill-fame with the church, appointed Adam of Winchester to the priory. He secured the king's support by granting the advowsons of Dewsbury and Wakefield to the younger Despenser, (fn. 38) and received the temporalities from Earl Warenne, to whom they had been granted during the vacancy. Towards the end of 1325 the abbot, apparently considering the pope's nomination irregular, summoned Adam to Cluny. The king at once forbade his going, (fn. 39) and he was accordingly arrested by the warden of the Cinque Ports at Dover while trying to cross. (fn. 40) King Edward further sent a letter to the abbot explaining that Adam had been labouring carefully for the improvement of the state of the priory, which was much wasted by the carelessness and bad government of past priors, and that it would be most prejudicial to the priory if he were called away to deal with the question of the patronage of the monastery. (fn. 41) In April, 1327, the earl sent his representatives to Cluny, as a result of which Peter de Joceaux was elected. His position was disputed by Adam, the late prior, who was silenced by his former patron the pope in 1329. The pope, however, endeavoured to introduce John de Courtenay, a monk of Tavistock, and brother of the earl of Devon, as prior, to which the king opposed a firm resistance. (fn. 42) The prior of Christ Church, Canterbury, was suspected of supporting John de Courtenay, but replied that he had never so much as heard of him. (fn. 43)

Peter de Joceaux held the office of prior for some sixteen years, and appears to have governed well and faithfully. In 1334 he found it necessary to address a stern rebuke to the various Cluniac houses under his authority in England; (fn. 44) from this letter we learn that many of the members of the subordinate houses, no doubt taking advantage of the confusion at the superior house of Lewes, had been guilty of great irregularity and excesses for which some had been condemned by the council at Cluny to suffer perpetual imprisonment. It also appears that when Peter became prior he found that all the plate and other articles provided for the service of the refectory had been stolen or alienated during the late troubles, so that in order to raise funds to replenish the refectory he passed an ordinance that every subordinate prior should pay within one year of appointment 20s. if conventual, and 13s. 4d. if non-conventual, to the refectorarian.

Upon the death of Peter de Joceaux Edward III wrote to Earl Warenne pointing out that in the past the priory had been much reduced by the action of its priors in squeezing money therefrom to send to Cluny, and now the abbot was reported to intend to present certain aliens suspect to the king and defamed for dilapidations in other places where they had presided; the earl is therefore desired not to present any suspected or unsuitable person to the priory. (fn. 45) Accordingly, about the end of 1344 John de Jancourt was appointed. He appears to have been a man of influence, as he was sent on a diplomatic mission to the kings of Jerusalem, Sicily, and Hungary in 1345. (fn. 46) At the same time the king's fears at the time of his election were justified, for in 1346 John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, was ordered to place such custody upon the priory of Lewes and its possessions as might ensure its revenues being devoted to the needs of the monks, as the king had heard that the goods had been wasted by the prior, who had sent all he could collect to France. (fn. 47) The earl executed the royal mandate so thoroughly that the king had to cancel his orders, as when he sent for the prior to come to Calais he could not obey because the earl would not let his men and servants who should accompany him leave the priory. (fn. 48) In 1347 he was one of the two proctors to treat with the duke of Austria for the proposed marriage of the duke's son and King Edward's daughter. (fn. 49) During the Black Death, in 1349–50, this prior disappears, and therefore probably fell a victim to that pestilence, from which this house, in common with practically all others, appears to have suffered severely. (fn. 50)

From 1286 onwards the priory of Lewes had been liable to have its possessions seized when there was war with France, although the monks pleaded that they sent no money to Cluny beyond 100s. yearly, settled upon the abbey by the founders. (fn. 51) In 1337 the prior had to pay as much as 500 marks yearly for custody of the priory and its lands. But at last, in 1351, Edward III granted a charter of denization to Lewes and its subordinate priories of Castle Acre, Prittlewell, Stanesgate, Farley, and Horton. The payment of 100s. to the motherchurch continued to hold good during peace, and the abbot appears to have claimed other dues as well, till in 1480 the connexion was finally cut by a bull of Sixtus IV, releasing the priory of St. Pancras from all subjection to Cluny. (fn. 52)

Prior John de Caroloco showed that he at least was no alien, but an Englishman in something more than name, by heading the resistance to the force of French that landed at Rottingdean in 1377; and although he and the other leaders of his levies were captured and carried off, they inflicted such losses upon the invaders that they withdrew disheartened. The heavy ransom which the monks had to pay for their prior, coupled with the burning of their crops, the capture of their serfs, and losses by inundation of the sea, induced the pope in 1391 to consent to the appropriation of the churches of West Hoathly, Patcham, and Ditchling with the chapel of Wivelsfield, valued at 80 marks, the priory itself being then worth 1,600 marks. (fn. 53) The parish church of Horsted Keynes, not worth more than 26 marks, (fn. 54) was also appropriated in 1402, and that of Feltwell in Norfolk, not worth more than 55 marks, in 1398. (fn. 55) It would seem that such appropriations were more to the advantage of the monastery than of the parishioners; for in 1426 the people of West Hoathly, Patcham, and Ditchling complained that since the appropriation of their churches the buildings had fallen into ruin, divine service and parochial administrations had been neglected, and the hospitality shown to the poor by the former rectors had been withdrawn. (fn. 56)

The great inconvenience of the system by which Cluniac monks could only make their profession to the abbot of Cluny was much felt in England about the beginning of the fifteenth century. The labour and expense of taking candidates to Cluny was great, and the visits of the abbots to England were infrequent; it is recorded that when Abbot Ardruin came to Lewes in 1350 he received the profession of thirty-two monks. During the wars with France neither of these alternatives was possible, and consequently the Cluniac houses became full of men who had been monks all their lives, but had never made their profession. To remedy this it was proposed to convert Lewes Priory into an abbey, giving the abbot power to admit novices to the ranks of the professed. This proposal was warmly supported by the countess of Arundel, acting under the influence of Prior John de Burghersh, 'a man of true religion and earnest for the good of his monastery and the Cluniac order,' but apparently ambitious, as the abbot's agent in England writes caustically that 'if all priors were as anxious to be bishops as he of Lewes all priories would be raised to the state of cathedral churches.' The abbot refused to raise Lewes to the rank of an abbey, but granted the required privilege of professing monks, in 1410. (fn. 57)

John Burghersh retired on a pension about 1414, but subsequently endeavoured to have his resignation annulled as extorted by violence. The reason for his forced resignation may probably be seen in the fact that the priory had become indebted to the extent of over 3,200 marks; his successor, Thomas Nelond, cleared off this debt and restored and added to the buildings within the boundaries of the monastery and on the manors, which were terribly decayed. When Prior Nelond died in 1429 an agreement was made for the daily performance of mass for his soul and those of his brother John Nelond and Margaret his wife, for which the sub-prior was to receive 10 marks issuing from the churches of Walton and St. Olave of Southwark. Two other priors are recorded in 1480 as commemorated by anniversary feasts with ringing of the great bell, (fn. 58) these being Hugh de Chyntriaco and John de Caroloco, and with them were classed William Laxman, 'special benefactor,' and Peter Tonell.

In 1445 the patronage of the priory was vested in Edmund Lenthale as son of one of the sisters and co-heirs of Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey, and successor to the Warenne title. He therefore wrote to the abbot mentioning the death of prior Robert Amicellis and requesting the appointment of John Danyel, chamberer of St. Pancras, in whose praise he spoke most highly; the convent at the same time sent a similar letter in favour of their chamberer; but the abbot saw fit to ignore these requests and to appoint Nicholas Benet, prior of Castle Acre, to the post. Benet, however, declined to accept the appointment, which was then conferred upon John Danyel. (fn. 59) When the latter died in 1464 the priory was given to Thomas Attewelle, chamberer of Lewes, at the desire of the convent and of the duke of Norfolk and lord Abergavenny, joint patrons. (fn. 60)

When Cardinal Wolsey obtained papal authority to suppress certain small monasteries and unite them with his newly founded college at Oxford, one of the houses thus suppressed was Stanesgate, a cell of Lewes, which was therefore surrendered by the prior and convent of St. Pancras in 1526. (fn. 61) Three years later one of the items of the indictment against Wolsey was that he had obtained bulls appointing him legate, by virtue of which he had appointed a vicar to the church of Stoke Guildford, in Surrey, although the prior of Lewes was the rightful patron. (fn. 62)

The first steps towards the suppression of the priory were taken in the autumn of 1535 when the king's faithful dog, Richard Layton, was sent forth to nose out corruption in all the monasteries of the realm. In August he was at Farley, where, according to his own account, he found unspeakable abominations, which, 'as appears by the confession of a fair young monk, a priest late sent from Lewes,' were also prevalent at the mother-house of Lewes. He adds, 'I have matter sufficient to bring the prior of Lewes into great danger, "si vera sint quae narrantur." ' (fn. 63) Layton's account of his proceedings at Lewes in October is well known as a typical instance of the royal visitor's high-handed action; he reports to Cromwell:—

At Lewes I found corruption of both sorts, and what is worse, treason, for the subprior hath confessed to me treason in his preaching. I have caused him to subscribe his name to it and to submit himself to the king's mercy. I made him confess that the prior knew of it, and I have declared the prior to be perjured. That done, I laid unto him concealment of treason, called him heinous traitor in the worst names I could devise, he all the time kneeling and making intercession unto me not to utter to you the premises for his undoing; whose words I smally regarded, and commanded him to appear before you at the court on All Hallows Day, wherever the king should happen to be, and bring with him his subprior. When I come to you I will declare this tragedy to you at large, so that it shall be in your power to do with him what you list. (fn. 64)

But the end was not yet, and for two years the priory dragged on a harassed existence. Towards the end of 1536 the prior had to endeavour to stave off Cromwell's imperious demand for the manor of Swanborough, (fn. 65) and he was also required to find forty men to aid in suppressing the rebellion in the North. (fn. 66) At last, on 16 November, 1537, the priory of St. Pancras was surrendered (fn. 67) by the prior, Robert Crowham, who received a prebend of Lincoln Cathedral and a promise of a share in the goods of the priory. (fn. 68) The twentythree monks and eighty servants received small pensions and gratuities, and the priory and all its lands were granted to Thomas Cromwell, earl of Essex. (fn. 69)

Priors of Lewes

Lanzo, 1077-1107 (fn. 70)

Hugh, 1107-23 (fn. 71)

Anker (fn. 72) or Aucher, 1123-30 (fn. 73)

? Arnald, died 1139 (fn. 74)

William, c. 1150 to c. 1164 (fn. 75)

Osbert, c. 1180 (fn. 76)

Hugh, resigned 1186 (fn. 77)

William, occurs 1195 (fn. 78)

Alexander, 1201 (fn. 79)

Humbert, occurs 1202-7 (fn. 80)

Stephen, c. 1217-20 (fn. 81)

Hugh, c. 1220 to c. 1234 (fn. 82)

Albert occurs 1236, (fn. 83) died 1244 (fn. 84)

Guichard de la Osaye, (fn. 85) 1244-8 (fn. 85)

William Russhelin, Ruisselun, 1248-56 (fn. 86)

William de Foville, 1257-68 (fn. 87)

Miles de Columbiers, 1268-74 (fn. 88)

Peter de Villiaco, May-November, 1275 (fn. 89)

John de Thyenges, 1276-84 (fn. 90)

John of Avignon, 1285-98 (fn. 91)

John of Newcastle, 1298-1301 (fn. 92)

Stephen de Sancto Romano, 1302 to c. 1305 (fn. 93)

John de Monte Martini, c. 1309-24 (fn. 94)

Adam of Winchester, 1325-7 (fn. 95)

Peter de Joceaux, 1327-44 (fn. 96)

John de Janicuria, Jacourt, 1344-9 (fn. 97)

Hugh de Chyntriaco, 1349-62 (fn. 98)

Gerald Rothonis, occurs 1363 (fn. 99)

John de Caroloco, Cherlew, (fn. 100) c. 1366-96 (fn. 101)

John Ok, 1397-1409 (fn. 102)

John Burghersh, 1409-14 (fn. 103)

Thomas Nelond, 1414-29 (fn. 104)

Robert Amicellis, (fn. 105) Auncell, (fn. 106) c. 1429-44 (fn. 107)

Nicholas Benet, 1445 (fn. 108)

John Danyel, (fn. 109) 1445-64

Thomas Atwelle, 1464, (fn. 110) occurs 1486 (fn. 111)

John Ashdowne, occurs 1506 (fn. 112)

Robert Croham, occurs 1526-37 (fn. 113)

The early seal is described (fn. 114) in 1411 as 'a round seal on which is a man waving a sword in his hand to cut off the head of a youth kneeling near him.' No perfect example of this is known, but such fragments as remain (fn. 115) show that the drawing reproduced in Suss. Arch. Coll. vol. ii, is inaccurate as regards details.

This seal was replaced probably early in the fifteenth century by a very elaborate circular seal 2 in. in diameter. Obverse: a king seated, with crossed legs, in a canopied niche, taking hold of his beard with the right hand; in the left hand a long sword, the point upwards. On each side, in a smaller niche similarly canopied, a courtier; outside these, in still smaller canopied niches, on each side an attendant, wearing a cap-shaped helmet and holding a mace. Outside these, tabernacle work. In base, under a four-centred arch, ornamented with quatrefoiled ball-flowers, St. Pancras, kneeling to the left, receiving martyrdom by the sword of an executioner. Behind the saint a scroll inscribed: s' PANCRATI.' On the masonry at each side of this arch a shield of arms: left chequy, WARENNE; right quarterly, 1, 4, a lion rampant, FITZALAN; 2, 3, WARENNE. On the plinth or string-course below the canopied niches and above the arch the inscription:— MARTIRIALE DECVS TRIBUIT MICHI CESARIS IRA. Legend:—


Reverse: A carved Gothic chapel standing on cliffs with waves at their bases, and having three niches on the front, one at the right hand side, a turreted spire, ornamented roof, and a cross at each gable end. The four niches contain each a saint, full-length. Those in the middle of the seal are: left, the Virgin crowned, the Child on the right arm; right, St. Pancras, as a priest, tonsured, in the vestments of a Cluniac prior, in the right hand a pastoral staff, in the left hand a book. Those at the sides are: left, St. Peter, with keys; right, St. Paul, with sword. Along the plinth the inscription:— MARTIR PANCRATI PER TE : SIMUS : RELEUATI. In the field over the chapel small stars, and on each side is a pierced cinquefoil. Inner edge engrailed. (fn. 116) Legend:—



The following seals of priors are known:

STEPHEN (1219). Pointed oval: The prior seated on a throne, reading a book, to the left. In the field on the left a crescent. (fn. 117) Legend:—


John De Thyenges. Pointed oval: The prior, holding a book, standing in a niche with pointed trefoiled arch, crocketed and pinnacled, supported on slender shafts. On each side in the field a small square panel, divided into a chequer of four pieces in allusion to the armorial bearings of WARENNE, the founder. (fn. 118) Legend:—


John De Monte Martini. Small circular (¾ in.): St. Pancras kneeling to right, soldier with uplifted sword behind him (probably a reduced facsimile of the early conventual seal (fn. 119) ). Legend:—


Hugh De Chyntriaco. Oval: Prior standing in an elaborate gothic niche. (fn. 120) Legend:—

. . FRIS · VGONIS · DE . . . . S . .

John De Caroloco, attached to a deed by his predecessor Peter de Joceaux. (fn. 121) Oval: In a carved niche, Christ (?), seated, right hand uplifted, a small cross in left hand; below, a monk kneeling to left. Legend:—

S· FR. IOHIS. DE CvILO . . . .

John Ashdowne. Oval: In a gothic niche; an upright figure draped about the middle and holding a staff in each hand. (fn. 122) Legend:—

. . . . LEWEN . . . .


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. v, 1–21; Suss. Arch. Coll. ii, iii, xxxv; Duckett, Chart. and Rec. of Cluni, and Visitations of Order of Cluni; Cott. MSS. Vesp. F. xv, is a fine chartulary of great interest and importance. A large collection of original charters relating to the priory once formed Chapter House Book B / B 5, but has now been broken up, and scattered amongst the Anct. D., Ser. A, in the P.R.O.; fortunately a large part of this collection was abstracted in Suss. Arch. Coll. xxxv, before its dispersal.
  • 2. Taxatio (Rec. Com.), passim.
  • 3. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 332.
  • 4. W. Malmesbury, Gesta Pontif. (Rolls Ser.), 207.
  • 5. Suss. Arch. Coll. iii, 194.
  • 6. See charter of Bp. Ralph, Cott. MSS. Vitell. E.x. fol. 182.
  • 7. Flores Hist. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 49.
  • 8. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 222.
  • 9. Rec. of Cluni, i, 58 n.
  • 10. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 244.
  • 11. Ibid. 252.
  • 12. Rec. of Cluni, i, 86–92.
  • 13. 'Fuit pax ad honorem utriusque partis.'
  • 14. Rec. of Cluni, i, 99.
  • 15. Ibid. 92–3.
  • 16. Rec. of Cluni, i, 186–7.
  • 17. Ibid. ii, 122.
  • 18. Suss. Arch. Coll. ii, 29.
  • 19. Rec. of Cluni, ii, 143.
  • 20. Reg. Epist. J. Peckham (Rolls Ser.), 902–4.
  • 21. Rec. of Cluni, ii. 208.
  • 22. Ibid. 279.
  • 23. Cal. Papal Let. iv, 396.
  • 24. Ibid. i, 186.
  • 25. Rec. of Cluni, ii, 246.
  • 26. Close R. 16 Edw. I, m. 9 d.; 18 Edw. I, m. 9 d.; 20 Edw. I, m. 13 d.; 2 Edw. II, m. 12 d.
  • 27. Rec. of Cluni, ii, 249.
  • 28. Ibid. 259.
  • 29. Ibid. 267.
  • 30. Anct. D., A 10262.
  • 31. Close R. 7 Edw. II, m. 5 d.
  • 32. Rec. of Cluni, ii, 302.
  • 33. Ibid. 316.
  • 34. Close R. 10 Edw. II, m. 11 d.; 12 Edw. II, m. 19d.
  • 35. Printed in Suss. Arch. Coll. ii, 15.
  • 36. Close R. 18 Edw. II, m. 34 d.
  • 37. Ibid. m. 26.
  • 38. Close R. 19 Edw. II, m. 32 d.
  • 39. Ibid. m. 19 d.
  • 40. Ibid. m. 18 d.
  • 41. Ibid. m. 17 d.
  • 42. Rymer, Foed. (Rec. Com.).
  • 43. Lit. Cantuar. (Rolls Ser.), i, 317.
  • 44. Cott. MSS. Vesp. F. xv, fol. 162.
  • 45. Close R. 18 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 17 d.
  • 46. Rymer, Foed.
  • 47. Close R. 20 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 13.
  • 48. Ibid. m. 6.
  • 49. Pat. R. 21 Ed. III, pt. iv, m. 8.
  • 50. Gasquet, The Great Pestilence, 115.
  • 51. Close R. 11 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 30 d.
  • 52. Rec. of Cluni, ii, 92.
  • 53. Cal. Papal Let. iv, 396.
  • 54. Ibid. v, 548. Here called the church of 'Horste de Keynes, alias Bryctesley.'
  • 55. Ibid. 153.
  • 56. Ibid. vii, 145.
  • 57. Rec. of Cluni, i, 200–210.
  • 58. Mins. Accts. 1023, No. 30.
  • 59. Rec. of Cluni, ii, 61–5.
  • 60. Ibid. 87.
  • 61. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv, 2340.
  • 62. Ibid. 6035.
  • 63. Ibid. ix, 42.
  • 64. Ibid. 632.
  • 65. Ibid. xi, 214, 373, 448.
  • 66. Ibid. 580.
  • 67. Ibid. xii (2), 1101.
  • 68. Suss. Arch. Coll. iii, 205.
  • 69. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), 384.
  • 70. See above.
  • 71. Rec. of Cluni, i, 58.
  • 72. Bracton, Note Book (ed. Maitland), 248.
  • 73. Rec. of Cluni, i, 58.
  • 74. The Annales record the death of ' Prior Arnald' this year, but it is not certain that he was prior of Lewes; Suss. Arch. Coll. ii, 24; iii, 195.
  • 75. Witnessed Reg. of Warenne's charter granting merchant guild to Lewes (Cott. MS. Nero, C. iii, fol. 190); occurs in charter of 1154 and other deeds; Suss. Arch. Coll. iii, 195.
  • 76. Was prior while Richard was archbishop of Canterbury (1174–84), and Alexander III pope (died 1181); Cott. MS. Vesp. F. xv, fol. 71. Prior 'O.' was party to a deed witnessed by Countess Isabel (de Warenne) and Philip her brother; Anct. D., A 2389.
  • 77. Elected to Reading this year; Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 244.
  • 78. Feet of F. (Suss. Rec. Soc.), No. 2. He confirmed to Thomas the clerk the chapel of Lordington by consent of Bishop Seffrid (1180–1204). Thomas died in 1229; Bracton, Note Book (ed. Maitland), 350.
  • 79. Rec. of Cluni, i, 99.
  • 80. Feet of F. (Suss. Rec. Soc.), No. 60 (given in error as Hubert); Cott. MS. Vesp. F. xv, fol. 284.
  • 81. Feet of F. (Suss. Rec. Soc.), Nos. 140–4. During progress of a suit in Trinity term 1220 the prior was summoned to Cluny and caused to resign; Bracton, Note Book (ed. Maitland), 1395.
  • 82. Occurs in 1224; Feet of F. (Suss. Rec. Soc.), No. 189. Also in 1230; Anct. D., A 217; and in other charters as late as 1234; Suss. Arch. Coll. iii, 195.
  • 83. Cott. MS. Vesp. F. xv, fol. 154.
  • 84. Suss. Arch. Coll. ii. 24.
  • 85. Ibid.; in 1248 he contested payment of tithes to Cluny.
  • 86. Suss. Arch. Coll. ii, 25, 27; iii, 196.
  • 87. Ibid. ii, 27, 29; iii, 197.
  • 88. Ibid.; he became prior of Vezelay.
  • 89. Ibid.; became prior of St. Martin, Paris.
  • 90. Ibid. ii, 31, 35; iii, 198.
  • 91. Ibid.; upon his death his breviary, cope, and palfrey, were sent to the abbot of Cluny according to the custom of the order; Duckett, Rec. of Cluni, i, 112.
  • 92. Details of his election are given, ibid. 112–14; Suss. Arch. Coll. ii, 37; iii, 198.
  • 93. Ibid. The last reference to this prior is in April, 1305, when he was setting out for Rome and appointed attorneys to act during his absence; Pat. 33 Edw. I, pt. i, m. 7.
  • 94. His name first appears in a deed of 2 Edw. II; Cott. MS. Vesp. F. xv, fol. 90. His death occurred before 24 September, 1324; Close 18 Edw. II, m. 34 d.
  • 95. Intruded by the pope, see above.
  • 96. Ann. Lewenses (Dep. Keeper Rep. xlvi, App. ii, 66); he apparently died abroad, as he was buried at Baume, a Cluniac abbey in Besançon.
  • 97. See above, and Suss. Arch. Coll. iii, 201.
  • 98. Ann. Lewenses, loc. cit.
  • 99. Simon, bishop of London, had faculty to receive oaths of fealty to the apostolic see from Gerald Rothonis, prior of Lewes, nuncio designate to the king on matters concerning the papal camera; Cal. Papal Let. iv, 2.
  • 100. Cott. MS. Vesp. F. xv, fol. 8.
  • 101. Ann. Lewenses record his death in 1396 'anno prioratus xxviii,' but this must be an error, as he was certainly prior in 1366; Cal. Papal Let. iv, 25.
  • 102. Ann. Lewenses (Dep. Keeper's Rep. xlvi, App. ii, 67). He had been prior of Castle Acre.
  • 103. Ibid.
  • 104. The date of his death is given on his brass in Cowfold church as April 1429, but Ann. Lewenses give 1422, which is evidently wrong, as he was commissarygeneral of the abbot of Cluny in 1427; Pat. 5 Hen. V, pt. i, m. 12.
  • 105. So in Duckett, Rec. of Cluni, ii, 37–58.
  • 106. This is the reading usually given, e.g. Ann. Lewenses, loc. cit.; Suss. Arch. Coll. iii, 203.
  • 107. His election being irregular was renewed in 1432; Rec. of Cluni, ii, 38. In 1444 he caused the great chartulary, now Cott. MS. Vesp. F. xv, to be compiled. On his death, December, 1444, he was buried before the altar of St. Mary Magdalene; ibid. 64.
  • 108. Resigned before taking office; see above.
  • 109. Duckett, Rec. of Cluni, ii, 87; Ann. Lewenses, loc. cit.
  • 110. Ibid.
  • 111. P.C.C. Milles, fol. 5.
  • 112. Mon. v, 6.
  • 113. Ibid.
  • 114. Rec. of Cluni, i, 214.
  • 115. P.R.O. Seals, SC. 67, 68.
  • 116. B.M. lxxii, 87, 88.
  • 117. B.M. lxxiii, 89.
  • 118. B.M. lxxii, 90; the letters o R of 'prioris' and E N of 'Lewensis' are conjoined. Beaded borders.
  • 119. P.R.O., S.B. 101.
  • 120. Ibid. SC. 66.
  • 121. Ibid. 67.
  • 122. Cal. Robertsbridge Charts. No. 398*.