Houses of Augustinian canons: Priory of Shulbred

Pages 81-82

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

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The priory of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Eustace, and the Holy Cross of Shulbred, or Woolynchmere, was probably founded by Ralph de Arden, who in 1200 bought 2 hides of land in 'Wlenchemere,' and in 1207 had the priory of 'Wlenchemere,' with all its possessions during the king's pleasure. His descendant, another Ralph de Ardenne, sold the advowson of the priory to William Percy in 1239 for 65 marks; and it accordingly remained in the hands of the Percies until December, 1459, when Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland, granted it to Waynflete, bishop of Winchester, who probably contemplated appropriating it to his college of Magdalen, Oxford. (fn. 2) The priory, however, came again into the possession of the Percies, and was retained by them till its dissolution.

The original endowment appears to have consisted of lands in Linchmere and Mid Lavant, but when William Percy acquired the patronage he added a mill and rents in Tillington and Petworth, in return for which the prior undertook to maintain five canons to celebrate divine service for the souls of William and his heirs, the right of presenting a fit clerk whenever a canon died being reserved to William and his heirs. It was probably by William Percy's influence that Bishop Ralph de Neville (1227-43) appropriated to the priory the church of Shulbred, with the consent of the abbey of Séez, of whose church of Cocking it appears to have been a daughter. A few small additions were made to the endowment, but the total value of the temporalities in 1291 was only £10 15s.

The advowson of the church of Up Marden was obtained from Lewes Priory in 1340, and next year the Nonae rolls show that Shulbred then held property in Linchmere, Easebourne, Yapton, Walberton, and Mid Lavant. In 1354 Edward St. John gave them the church of Mid Lavant, but it was subsequently found that he could produce no charter or other evidence of having purchased it from the priory of Lewes, so that the convent had to re-acquire it of the priory in 1358, when the bishop granted them leave to appropriate the church, the reason given being their poverty, due to the death of many of their servants in the great pestilence of 1350. The chapel of Linch and manor of Rawmere were also in their possession, and the Valor of 1535 shows a gross income of £79 15s. 6d., or, after deduction of all reprises, £72 15s. 10½d. clear.

The history of the house begins in 1263 with a complaint (fn. 3) made by Godfrey Aguillon that whereas his father John Aguillon on his deathbed left 8s. rent and 100s. in money, so that his executors should place Godfrey in the priory of Shulbred, in accordance with an agreement made with John then prior, predecessor of the present prior, by which the prior was to have the said rent and money, to keep Godfrey for seven years at school training for orders of clergy, and then either to receive him as a canon or return to him the rent and money; yet the prior had neither received him nor returned the money to him. At the end of the same century, in 1299, the priory was visited by Archbishop Winchelsey, who found that the prior had been very wasteful in the consumption of the woods belonging to it, and issued an order that more care should be observed in future. The next year, however, saw the election as prior of Robert de Glottyngs, a man of powerful connexions but of evil life, who had recently been deposed from the priory of Hardham by the archbishop for adultery and other grievous offences. (fn. 4)

A certain Reynold of St. Albans was sent by the king to be quartered upon the priory in 1317, but with the exception of this incident and the fact that in 1380 there were six canons besides the prior there is nothing to record until 1404, when, upon the resignation of William Harethorn, John Coldell, sub-prior, was elected by the convent—then consisting of himself, the late prior, and four canons, two other canons having been absent in apostasy for some years. When visited in 1441 by Bishop Praty's commissary, nothing was found to need correction; there were considerable debts of long standing, but there was every prospect of their soon being cleared off. Nor did the visitation of Bishop Story in 1478 show more than minor irregularities, the only injunctions issued being for the keeping of silence and the avoidance of taverns, and that the common seal should be kept under two keys, of which the prior should have one and the senior canon the other. General injunctions similar to those sent to the priory of Boxgrove (q.v.) were issued to this priory in 1518, and indicate a certain laxity of rule.

In 1519 this obscure house was honoured by the appointment as prior of John Young, suffragan of London, under the title of bishop of Gallipoli, and dean of Chichester. That so eminent a man should have paid more than occasional visits to Shulbred is improbable, and he only retained even the nominal headship of the priory for a short time, resigning in the spring of 1521 to become warden of New College, Oxford. (fn. 5)

At a visitation held in 1524 the prior and three canons were present, three others being absent, possibly officiating as parochial clergy, and no irregularities were found; and the same was the case in 1527, except that the prior stinted his brethren in food and stipends. Yet we learn from a letter of Layton's written in 1535 that about this time the bishop of Chichester endeavoured to suppress this monastery, but was prevented by the patron, the earl of Northumberland; there seems no reason to doubt the truth of this statement, though little charity is required to disbelieve the foul accusations brought against the canons in the same letter.

When the house was finally dissolved in 1536 the prior received an annuity of £10, while the larger pension of £12 was awarded to William Burrey, a former prior, then resident at Tortington.

Priors Of Shulbred (fn. 6)

John, occurs 1242-9

Henry, occurs 1256

Thomas de Heriton, occurs 1299

Robert de Glottyngs, elected 1300 (fn. 7)

Roger, occurs 1320 (fn. 8)

John, occurs 1373 (fn. 9)

William Harethorn, occurs 1380, resigned 1404

John Coldell, elected 1404

Thomas Clune, occurs 1478

Nicholas Feversham, resigned 1519

John Yonge, elected 1519, resigned 1521

William Burrey, elected 1521, occurs 1524

George Walden, occurs 1529, last prior


  • 1. For further details and references see paper by E. L. Calverley, in Suss. Arch. Coll. xlvii, 1–34.
  • 2. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. viii, 266.
  • 3. Assize R. 912, m. 12 d.
  • 4. Cant. Archiepis. Reg. Winchelsey, fol. 138b.
  • 5. His history is most carefully traced by Mr. Calverley, and his monumental effigy is reproduced in Druitt, Costume from Brasses.
  • 6. From Suss. Arch. Coll. xlvii, 34.
  • 7. Cant. Archiepis. Reg. Winchelsey, fol. 138b.
  • 8. Assize R. 938, m. 22.
  • 9. Cal. Papal Let. iv, 186.