Alien houses: Priory of Monks Kirby

Pages 129-131

A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.

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Geoffrey de Wirche, in the year 1077, made large grants of land and tithes to establish at Monks Kirby (then called Kirkbury) a cell or priory of Benedictine monks under obedience to the abbey of St. Nicholas at Angiers. For the founding of the priory he gave the church of Kirkbury, which he had found ruinous and had rebuilt in honour of the Blessed Virgin and St. Denis, with all its ornaments, and the two priests Francis and Osgot, with their possessions, together with two parts of the tithes of his five manors of Newbold, Wappenbury, Telhoore, Crick (Northamptonshire), and Melton (Leicestershire), the five mills of these manors, and the third part of the tithe of the isle of Axholm. (fn. 1) Nigel de Albini, who was lord of these manors, temp. Henry I, confirmed these grants to the monks, and they were again confirmed and augmented by his grandson Nigel de Mulbray. (fn. 2)

In 1217 Walter, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, when visiting the archdeaconry of Coventry, confirmed to the prior and monks of Kirby the parish churches of Kirby and Newbold and a pension of 40s. from the church of Withybrook, and of 20s. and a pound of wax from the church of Wappenbury. (fn. 3)

A somewhat remarkable covenant of peace or concord was drawn up in 1256, in the church of Arbury, witnessed by the rector of that church, the vicar of Kirby, and others, between Philip Pantulf, clerk, and Dominus Defensor, prior of Kirby. From this document it appears that there had been several suits between the two parties because Philip had joined with his sister Maud, widow of Geoffrey de Craft, in slandering the prior and his men, by charging him with the death of the said Geoffrey, and with bringing about the wounding of Philip and the putting him in prison at Warwick through the action of the sheriff's officers. Philip, however, in this concord stated that he was now better informed and knew that what had taken place was by command of the king; he consequently submitted and pledged himself to take no further action against the prior in any court, Christian or secular, and that if he should do him any damage to the extent of half a mark he should pay him ten, and gave sureties for the performance of his oath. (fn. 4)

In 1266 Henry III granted the priory a weekly Wednesday market and a fair of three days at the feast of St. John Baptist. (fn. 5)

The Taxatio of 1291 gave the annual value of the temporalities of this priory in the deanery of Coventry as £41 17s. 4d. and the temporalities in Leicester archdeaconry as £7 8s. 2d. The appropriated churches of Monks Kirby and Newbold were respectively worth £21 6s. 8d. and £12 13s. 4d. a year, and a pension of 20s. from the church of Wappenbury is also named. (fn. 6)

Edward I granted the priory in 1305 free warren in all their demesne lands and view of frankpledge of all their tenants; at the same time the weekly market was changed at the monks' request from Wednesday to Tuesday. (fn. 7)

Monks Kirby, though an alien house, was expected to receive one of the royal pensioners. In June, 1316, Robert de Karliolo was sent to the prior and convent to receive the necessaries of life in place of William de Ponton deceased. In October Robert was transferred, and the crown appointed Richard de Gloucester, who had long served the king, in his place. (fn. 8)

In 1325 Edward II committed the custody of this house to the prior, for a fixed rent to be rendered during the war, five persons being mainpernors or security for the prior. In the following year three of these mainpernors were accused by the prior of collecting the profits of the house for their own use, and others were appointed in their place. (fn. 9)

Bishop Northburgh caused this priory to be visited, with the result that serious irregularities came to light, which formed the subject of a series of injunctions. The episcopal ordinance is undated, but appears to have been about the year 1330. In addition to the usual endorsement of the rule as to silence, the non-admission of women, the due observance of divine service, and other like points, the following particular orders were made:— That the brethren, including the prior, were to have all their meals together in the refectory, excluding seculars; that one monk of approved and honest life should be deputed to choose the meat and to see to the needs of the sick; that the prior should sleep in the dormitory with the brethren and was not to be excused the canonical hours; that four servants (familiares) of the house, whose names are set forth, and who were of incorrigible life, were to be expelled the house within fifteen days of the receipt of the ordinance; that Adam German, who had acted as steward for the prior, was to be expelled within five days, and another good man put in his place who was capable of rendering a fit account; that the vicar of the church of Kirby, a former domestic servant of the prior's, was to be forbidden the house, save for reasonable cause, and not to be received at table; and that no corrodies, liveries, or pensions be granted without express episcopal licence. The bishop made serious complaints of the neglect of the duty of hospitality to the poor owing to the grievous waste of the goods of the house, and ordered the immediate appointment of an almoner. Accounts were to be rendered annually before the convent by the obedientiaries, and the necessities of the monks, who had suffered from the neglect of the prior, duly provided for in accordance with the faculties of the house. (fn. 10)

In February, 1330, William, prior of Monks Kirby, going beyond the seas, had letters patent for nominating attorneys until midsummer. (fn. 11)

Letters patent were issued to the prior of Monks Kirby in 1333 to the effect that the grant from that house of 40s. as a contribution towards the expense of the marriage of Eleanor, the king's sister, to the count of Gueldres, should not prejudice their house as a precedent. (fn. 12)

In 1354 Bishop Northburgh commissioned one of the monks of the priory to administer the goods of the house on account of the prior's wastefulness. (fn. 13)

In February, 1359, Pope Innocent VI declared the Benedictine priory of Monks Kirby void, because Oliver de Desertis had obtained the priory of Vieux Belesme, in the diocese of Sées, of the same order, and appointed William de Granteriis, prior, who was ready to resign the priory of Gilion in the diocese of Vienne. (fn. 14)

In 1360 the prior and monks of Monks Kirby, supported by 'the clergy and people of the city and diocese of Lichfield,' addressed the following petition to Pope Innocent:—

Whereas Christ has wrought many miracles in honour of His Mother in the church of the said priory, which is old and in danger of ruin, they pray for relaxation of seven years and seven quadragenae of enjoined penances to penitents who visit the said church on the four feasts of the Blessed Virgin, and at Easter and Pentecost, and give a helping hand to the fabric.

The prayer was granted, but only for the usual period of one year and forty days. (fn. 15)

In 1376 the custody of the priory was granted to Sir Cannon Rubursard, or Robsart, to hold during the wars with France, by a yearly payment of £40. (fn. 16)

An extent of the priory's property at Monks Kirby in 1380 gave the annual value as £34 2s. 4d. The items included two mills, one being a wind mill, and the other worked by horse-power, which were of the annual value of £4. (fn. 17)

An inquisition of 1387 gave the annual value of the whole property of the priory as £165 12s. 2½d. The jury reported the damage done to the property as amounting to £8 6s. 8d. When William Stoneley was prior (for about twenty years) the dilapidation of one grange amounted to £5. During the time that Sir Cannon Rubursard had farmed the priory, damage had been done to the fishpond within the priory precincts to the extent of 66s. 8d. The buildings of the priory itself were in good repair. (fn. 18)

In 1390 the monks executed a lease, in consideration of a large fine, of all their lands to Sir Cannon Robsart for twenty-five years, but the abbey of Angiers, finding themselves set aside, addressed themselves to Thomas Mowbray, earl of Nottingham, and offered to release their interest in the priory and its possession to him on easy terms. The earl having obtained leave in 1396 to found a Carthusian house at Epworth, or elsewhere within the Isle of Axholm, Lincolnshire, procured letters patent to enable him to secure from the abbey and convent of Angiers their priory of Monks Kirby, with all its manors, advowsons, and pensions, and to grant them for ever to the Carthusians. (fn. 19)

The situation is more fully explained in the Papal Letters. In 1396 Pope Boniface IX issued his mandate to the archbishop of York to grant licence, &c., if he found the circumstances with regard to this priory to be as stated. A statement had been made to Urban VI, on behalf of the earl of Nottingham, that the number of the monks at Kirby Priory, founded by his progenitor for seven monks, and subjected to the monastery of St. Nicholas, Angiers, had long not been maintained, and only two monks resided (besides the prior); that the rule was not observed; that the goods were not expended for pious uses; that on account of the dissolute life of the prior and French monks living there, and of their servants, who were at discord with the English, and on account of the wars between the two realms, the buildings were partially falling; and that the earl desired the priory to be turned to better uses—Urban VI had ordered the bishop of Lichfield to transfer the house to the Carthusians; but on the earl's recent petition saying that no step had been taken to carry out that mandate, Boniface ordered the archbishop to grant him licence, with King Richard's assent, to found on the island of Morholm (sic), in the diocese of Lincoln, a Carthusian house, and to transfer to it the priory of Monks Kirby, and to appropriate to it the churches of Belton and Epworth in that island in the earl's gift. The Carthusian house was to consist of a prior and twelve monks. (fn. 20)

But no sooner did Henry IV come to the throne than favour was again shown to the alien priories, and on 29 December, 1399, the patronage and advowson of those religious houses which had pertained to the abbey of St. Nicholas, Angiers, were restored to that house. The custody of the priory of Monks Kirby was restored to John Godinier the prior, on condition of his paying to the king the apport due to the abbey of Angiers when there was war with France. (fn. 21)

Henry V, on the contrary, reverted to the policy of Richard II, and the Carthusians of the isle of Axholm were once more put in possession of this priory and its property, and that action was confirmed by Edward IV. (fn. 22)

Priors of Monks Kirby

Richard de Cornwall, temp. Hen. II (fn. 23)

Dominus Defensor, occurs 1251-85 (fn. 24)

John, 1314 (fn. 25)

Peter Francis, 1314 (fn. 25)

William Eisnelle, 1326 (fn. 26)

William de St. Clement, 1335 (fn. 27)

Maurice Aubere, 1350 (fn. 28) -3 (fn. 29)

Oliver de Desertis, 1353 (fn. 30)

William Stoneley, 1358 (fn. 31)

John Godinier, 1399 (fn. 32)


  • 1. Dugdale, Warw i, 75; Mon. vi, 9. The Dom. Surv. names two priests at Kirkbury.
  • 2. Harl. Chart. 53, G. 55.
  • 3. Madox, Formulare Anglic. xxi.
  • 4. Ibid. clviii. The document concludes with the following remarkable provision on the part of Philip:— 'Nolo tamen quod ego Philippus et fidejusores mei pro aliquo peccato carnali cum aliqua parochiana predicti prioris a me commisso, per presentem litteram obligatoriam predicte priori obligemur.'
  • 5. Pat. 1 Hen. IV, pt. v, m. 2, per inspectionem.
  • 6. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 73, 256.
  • 7. Chart. R. 33 Edw. I, m. 15, 63.
  • 8. Close, 9 Edw. II, m. 4d.; 10 Edw. II, m. 23d.
  • 9. Ibid. 19 Edw. II, m. 9.
  • 10. Lich. Epis. Reg. Northburgh, ii, fol. 33-4.
  • 11. Pat. 4 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 41.
  • 12. Ibid. 7 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 17.
  • 13. Lich. Epis. Reg. Northburgh, fol. 137b.
  • 14. Cal. Papal Pet. i, 311, 338.
  • 15. Ibid. i, 351.
  • 16. Fin. Rot. 50 Edw. III, m. 16.
  • 17. Add. MSS. 6164, fol. 357.
  • 18. Ibid. 498.
  • 19. Pat. 19 Ric. II, pt. ii, m. 2; 20 Ric. II, pt. ii, m. 14.
  • 20. Cal. of Papal Let. iv, 537.
  • 21. Pat. 1 Hen. IV, pt. ii, m. 3.
  • 22. Pat. 3 Hen. V, pt. ii, m. 39.; 8 Edw. IV, pt. iii, m. 6.
  • 23. a Cott. Chart. xi, 10; Harl. Chart. 53 G. 55.
  • 24. b Add. Chart. 7542.
  • 25. Lich. Epis. Reg. Langton, fol. 39.
  • 26. Ibid. Northburgh, i, fol. 20.
  • 27. Ibid. fol. 28b.
  • 28. Ibid. fol. 53b.
  • 29. a Add. Chart. 21388.
  • 30. Lich. Epis. Reg. Northburgh, fol. 57b.
  • 31. Ibid. Stretton, fol. 1b.
  • 32. Pat. 1 Hen. IV, pt. ii, m. 13.