Houses of Benedictine monks: Priory of Coventry

Pages 52-59

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

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Leofric, earl of Chester, and Godiva his wife founded the great Benedictine monastery of Coventry in 1043, it being consecrated on 4 October by Archbishop Eadsige. The church was dedicated to the honour of God and His Blessed Mother, and also of St. Peter the Apostle, and of the Holy Virgin St. Osburg and of All Saints. It was endowed by the founder with one-half of the town in which the monastery was situated, and with twenty-four lordships, fifteen of which were in this county, four in Leicestershire, two in Northamptonshire, and one each in Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and Cheshire. Among the witnesses to this foundation charter were Edward the Confessor, the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of Worcester and Lichfield, the abbots of Winchcombe and Pershore, and the earls Godwin, Harold, Siward, and Ordgar. The king confirmed to this abbot and his successors sac and soc and toll and all other liberties. (fn. 1)

To this Pope Alexander added that the house should not be subject to any diocesan bishop or any other judiciary authority, but that the monks should have free liberty to elect their abbot from their own congregation. (fn. 2) All these privileges were afterwards confirmed by William the Conqueror, and by several of his immediate successors. (fn. 3)

The chronicle of Prior Godfrey tells us that there were twenty-four monks at its first foundation under Leofwine, the first abbot. (fn. 4) Several of the early chroniclers tell of the extraordinary enrichment of the church with gold and silver. Godiva is said to have lavished upon it her dearest treasures, and even at the point of death gave a rich chain of precious stones to be put about the neck of the image of Our Lady. (fn. 5) It was further honoured by an exceptionally valuable relic, namely, the arm of the great St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo, which was placed in a silver shrine. (fn. 6)

The lands recorded as pertaining to the church of Coventry at the time of the Domesday Survey are more in number than those recorded in the foundation charter, and do not entirely coincide with them; but to this reference has already been made. (fn. 7)

The seat of the bishopric of this division of Mercia, which had been transferred from Lichfield to Chester soon after the Conquest, was brought to Coventry by Robert de Limesey, who was bishop from 1086 to 1121. Leofwine, the first abbot of Coventry, was consecrated bishop of Lichfield in 1053. (fn. 8) Leofric, nephew of the founder, is said to have been the second abbot, and to have held this and three other abbeys in commendam with his great abbey of Peterborough. (fn. 9) A second Leofwine, or Lewin, was the next ruler of the monastery. He was abbot at the time of the Synod of London in 1075. (fn. 10) Upon his death, which occurred towards the end of 1094, Bishop Robert de Limesey obtained from the king the custody of this monastery. (fn. 11) By the authority of a bull from Pope Pascal II, dated 18 April, 1102, the seat of the bishopric was formally transferred to Coventry; (fn. 12) henceforth the bishops of the diocese, whether resident at Lichfield or Coventry, were considered the titular abbots of the monastery, its working head having the simple title of prior, as was the case with all the English Benedictine monasteries attached to cathedral churches.

In 1143 the monks of the priory were for a time dispossessed of their church and monastic buildings, which were turned into a fortress during the strife between the earl of Chester and Robert Marmion. (fn. 13)

During the rule of Prior Lawrence this house entered into friendly relations with the Cluniac monks of Daventry. The priory granted them in the year 1150 the churches of Cold Ashby and West Haddon in Northamptonshire, and certain lands in those parishes, together with benefits of the church of Winwick; and as an acknowledgement of this Daventry was to pay yearly to Coventry at Christmas a pound of incense. (fn. 14) It was, too, under this prior that Ralph, earl of Chester, granted the monks leave to carry as much timber as two carts going twice daily (save on festivals) could convey from his woods for repairing buildings, for making fences, and for supplying fuel. Ranulph Blundeville, when he was earl, gave the monks, in lieu of one of the two daily cart-loads of wood, 280 acres of waste in Eccleshall and Keresley, with liberty to inclose. Earl Ralph also granted them a charter confirming them in the possession of the chapel or church of St. Michael, Coventry, with all tithes and other rights within his fee. In his days, also, came about the founding of the hospital of St. John Baptist, which was so closely connected with the priory. (fn. 15)

Prior Lawrence died on 29 January, 1179. A difficulty arose as to the right of appointment of his successor, and it was not until the middle of the year 1183 that Moyses, chaplain of the archbishop of Canterbury, was elected as eighth prior. Gerard la Pucelle was then bishop of Coventry, and Hugh Cyvelioc earl of Chester. By both bishop and earl the priory was supported and received confirmation grants.

Throughout the latter part of the twelfth and early part of the thirteenth century, we find that the bishop owed the service of fifteen knights, and the prior that of ten knights, for their lands. (fn. 16) In 1229 the prior made fine with the king for the scutage of his ten knights for service in the expedition of Poitou. (fn. 17)

With the appointment of Hugh Nonant to the bishopric in 1188 serious troubles began. The bishop laid claim to the priory on the ground that the demesne and barony had been conferred upon him, together with the bishopric. He succeeded in procuring from Richard I in 1189 a grant of the right to institute and appoint the priors, (fn. 18) and we find that in 1190-1 the priory was in his hands. (fn. 19) Moreover, he obtained from Prior Moyses a surrender of the house, which was executed at Reading in the presence of the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of London and Rochester. He then held a synod in the priory church, when he made such grave charges against the monks, that they attacked him with violence, and one of them broke his head with a processional cross. Hugh thereupon lodged a formal complaint as to this outrage before William, bishop of Ely, who was not only papal legate, but practical regent of the kingdom during the absence of Richard at the crusades.

He obtained a decree for expelling the monks and for placing secular canons in their place. This decree he rapidly carried into execution, (fn. 20) and appealed to the pope to sanction his action. After some delay the necessary consent was secured, and the bishop carried everything before him with a strong hand. On 27 March, 1198, Bishop Hugh died at the abbey of Bec, vested in a Benedictine habit, and, according to the monkish chroniclers, expressing much sorrow for his treatment of the Benedictines of Coventry. (fn. 21) In the same year that vigorous prelate, Innocent III, succeeded to the papacy. Fresh representations were made to him as to the case of Coventry, and he speedily reversed the decision of his predecessor. In June, 1198, he issued his mandate to the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of Worcester and Lincoln, and the abbot of Tewkesbury, to restore Moyses, the prior, and the Benedictine convent to the monastery of Coventry, from which they had been ejected by the bishop of Chester, by virtue of letters obtained on false pretences from Pope Clement. The bishop and the secular canons were to make satisfaction, and all gifts of churches, leases, or alienations were to be cancelled. (fn. 22) Prior Moyses did not, however, live to enjoy this restoration, for he died at Rome 16 July following.

The successor of Hugh Nonant in the bishopric was Geoffrey Muschamp, who had been consecrated bishop on 21 June, 1198. Certain difficulties naturally arose between him and the reconstituted monastery, and in February, 1199, the pope ordered the bishops of Lincoln and Winchester and the abbot of St. Edmunds to hear and decide the cause between the bishop and the monks of Coventry. (fn. 23)

Joybert, who succeeded Moyses and had been prior of the three Cluniac priories of Daventry, Wenlock, and Bermondsey, (fn. 24) proved a good administrator, and procured from King John various confirmations and extensions of their previous privileges. Bishop Muschamp died on 6 October, 1208, and the monks of Coventry elected their prior as his successor. The canons of the Lichfield chapter, however, nominated Walter de Gray, (fn. 25) one of their number, to the vacant bishopric. King John put every possible obstacle in the way of a settlement of the difficulty: the papal legate advised the withdrawal of both candidates and the election of William de Cornhill; this solution was accepted, but he was not consecrated until January, 1215. (fn. 26) These were difficult times for the priory, for the monks found it impossible to please both pope and king.

In January, 1029, Pope Innocent III issued his mandate to the prior and convent of Coventry to proceed to the election of a bishop, notwithstanding, as he says, the repeated prevarications of the king: if they did not do so he would himself appoint, and punish them for their disobedience. The king at the same time received a concurrent letter. (fn. 27) When the monks obeyed this injunction and elected Joybert, the king seized the priory of Coventry during the vacancy; and when Joybert's election to the bishopric proved impossible, he had to pay a fine of 300 marks to the crown before he was allowed to resume the office of prior.

Bishop Cornhill died on 19 August, 1223, whereupon the Coventry monks elected Geoffrey their prior to the vacant see. The chapter of Lichfield, however, refused to acquiesce, and the election was set aside. Pope Honorius III interfered, and Alexander Stavenby was consecrated bishop of Coventry and Lichfield at Rome on 14 April, 1224. (fn. 28)

The strife between the two chapters of Coventry and Lichfield as to their respective rights in the election of a diocesan was maintained from 1224 to 1227, and gave occasion for a variety of papal commissions. (fn. 29) In 1228 the two chapters agreed that the right of electing to the bishopric should belong to each alternately, provided that the prior of Coventry should always have the first voice. (fn. 30) In 1255 the monks of Coventry and the canons of Lichfield agreed that in any future election of a bishop the number of electors of each chapter should be equal. This prolonged and costly litigation was a most serious tax on the resources of the priory.

After the death of Prior Geoffrey in 1245 the monks foolishly resolved to join issue with their diocesan, and refused to admit him as visitor. Gregory IV, in January, 1236, (fn. 31) issued a mandate to the bishop, treasurer, and chancellor of Lincoln, wherein he recited that the monks of Coventry had refused to admit their bishop as visitor, and that in consequence they had been suspended, and then placed under an interdict which they did not observe. The monks had urged against the bishop that he did not produce papal letters authorizing the visitation, that he was accompanied by secular and suspect persons, and that he called himself bishop of Lichfield and not of Coventry as his predecessors had done. Moreover they alleged that there was a question pending between them before papally appointed judges in regard to the obedience due from them to the bishop, in contempt of which the bishop issued his suspension and interdict. The pope further recited that he had committed the cause to the prior of St. James, Northampton, but that it was found impossible to terminate the matter in England, and that therefore it had been heard before the cardinal of St. Nicholas, in Carcere, on whose relation the pope ordered that the suspension and interdict should be sustained until the prior and convent admitted the bishop as visitor. The Coventry monks were condemned in costs, which amounted to 80 silver marks. The Lincoln officials were to see to this judgement being carried out. (fn. 32) This sentence was further strengthened on 16 February, when a papal mandate was issued to the monks of Coventry ordering them to pay such due obedience to their bishop as is shown by the prior and convent of the cathedral churches of Worcester, Winchester, and Ely, unless within four months any reasonable objection could be shown. (fn. 33) The monks seem to have shortly afterwards shown signs of submission, as on 18 April, 1236, Pope Gregory IX issued a mandate suspending them for two months, but remitting what further penalties they had incurred. (fn. 34) Towards the close of the year they petitioned their bishop for absolution. (fn. 35)

At the death of Bishop Stavenby, however, there was a renewed dispute between the two chapters as to his successor; the point being that the candidate selected by the monks refused to take office, and the Lichfield chapter objected to their making a second choice. But at length they agreed on the selection, in 1240, of Hugh Pateshull. (fn. 36)

As the upshot of a somewhat similar dispute the monks appear to have quarrelled with Bishop Weseham, who was appointed by the pope in 1245, for in August they obtained papal dispensation for having celebrated whilst under sentence of excommunication and interdict from their bishop. (fn. 37) The dispute lingered on till 1249, when the priory petitioned him to visit the house and receive the profession of their novices. The bishop consented, and sixteen of the monks were shortly afterwards professed. (fn. 38)

In 1221 Pope Honorius III granted protection to the prior and convent of Coventry, with confirmation of all their possessions in the counties of Warwick, Worcester, Gloucester, Northampton, and Leicester. (fn. 39) Their Warwickshire property then included the monastery and churches in Coventry, with 'Harenhall,' 'Delme,' and Willenhall, belonging to that town; Fillongley, Sowe, the land of Binley (Billeney), Southam, Hardwick, Honington, with all churches, tithings, and other appurtenances of the said manors; Hallaton, Offchurch, and Wasperton, with the churches in them, the tithes, a salt-pit in Droitwich (Wick) and the wood of Packwood; land called 'Hollands' in Charlecote and its other appurtenances; Frankton, Birdingbury, and Grandborough, with the churches in these manors; the church of Ryton with the land belonging to it; Leamington, Chesterton, the lands of Harbury, Napton, Shuckburgh, Cubbington, and dwellings in Warwick. The monastery were to elect a prior on any vacancy, according to the agreement made between them and Walter, late bishop of Coventry, in the presence of Pope Eugenius.

Towards the end of Prior Roger's rule, 1248, the pecuniary state of the priory had been brought so low, mainly through their legal expenses, that there was some fear of the dispersion of many of the convent. In these circumstances the monks sought the aid of the abbey of Darley, Derbyshire, with whose canons they had long been on friendly terms; the result was that Darley received a considerable number of the Coventry monks until the stress of circumstances should be overcome. This led to future interchange of courtesies between the two houses on commercial lines; Coventry supplying Darley with needles and soap, and Darley in their turn supplying Coventry with saddles and bridles. (fn. 40)

The monks also found support in other directions.

On 14 February, 1227, the prior and monks of Coventry were granted in perpetuity a weekly market on Wednesdays at their manor of Southam (Suham) and a yearly fair at Coventry on the feast of St. Leger and the seven following days. (fn. 41)

On 8 March, 1239, the market day was altered to Monday and the fair to the feast of St. George the Martyr and the seven following days. (fn. 42) On 30 July, 1257, they were granted a weekly market on Thursday at their manor of Packington, Leicestershire, and a yearly fair at Southam on the vigil, feast, and morrow of St. Peter and St. Paul. (fn. 43)

In 1256 Sir Roger de Montalt and Cicely his wife granted to the priory all their rights in the wide manor of Coventry, with the advowson of the church of St. Michael and its chapels and a warren recently granted them by the king, for the yearly rent of £100, and a payment of 10 marks to the nuns of Polesworth. The grantors also reserved to themselves their mansion and park at Cheylesmore, with the adjacent dwelling of the Franciscans, the lepers' house of Spon, and the homages of Sir Gilbert de Segrave, the earl of Warwick, and others. (fn. 44) Subsequently Henry III helped to rehabilitate the priory by granting them various additional privileges, such as free warren on all their manors, and the tithes of all their demesne lands, together with the appropriation of certain churches. (fn. 45)

The taxation roll of 1291 shows that the annual income of the priory in temporalities in the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield was £171 16s. 1¾ d., in that of Worcester £20 2s. 4d., and in Lincoln £32 3s. 7½d. The spiritualities in Coventry and Lichfield were £78 6s. 8d., and in Worcester £3 10s. The total income was £305 18s. 9¼d. (fn. 46)

In October, 1332, the priory obtained licence to impark 246 acres of waste land and wood held by them in the manor of Newland, and 436 acres in the manor of Whitmore. (fn. 47)

A commission was appointed in 1334 to inquire into charges made against the prior of having acquired lands, rents, and advowsons of churches and hospitals in Coventry and adjoining towns without licence in mortmain; also with using divers liberties, such as view of frankpledge, in these towns without warrant; and likewise with cutting down woods pertaining to Queen Isabel, in right of the manor of Cheylesmore. (fn. 48)

In 1462, the year after his election, Prior Deram prevailed with the city authorities to remove that part of the city wall which then ran between the priory and the minster pools beyond. In 1466 licence was granted to Thomas Moston and two others on paying the substantial fine of £7 to alienate to the prior and convent a messuage, 3 virgates, 20 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow, and 20 acres of meadow in Frankton, and a messuage in Coventry. (fn. 49)

The Valor of 1535 gave the clear annual value of this priory as £808 4s. (fn. 50) Among the receipts there is mention of the offerings made in honour of St. Modwen at the chapel dedicated to that virgin saint at Offchurch, which averaged £10 a year. The yearly distribution of obligatory alms to the poor by the priory averaged £33 18s. 6d.

Coventry had its full share of royal pensioners. William atte Halle was sent by Edward II, whom he had long served, to the priory of Coventry for sustenance in March, 1309. In the following month Peter Marow was sent on a like errand. (fn. 51) In March, 1312, Hugh de Titemersshe, mason, who had long served the king, was sent to the priory to be provided with necessaries of life and a fitting chamber for the rest of his days. (fn. 52) In April 1326, Edmund le Fisshere was sent to the priory to take the place of Peter Marow, deceased: (fn. 53) and in August of the same year Peter le Pavour took the place of Edmund le Fisshere, deceased. (fn. 54)

On 20 November, 1329, William de London, yeoman of the king's saucery, was sent to the priory, to take the place of Peter Marow, deceased, as a king's pensioner. (fn. 55) But in December Prior Henry and the convent obtained letters patent releasing them from the obligation to maintain this pensioner, for it appeared upon satisfactory evidence that the convent gave such maintenance of their grace and courtesy, and that it was not of right. (fn. 56)

The question of the sustenance of royal pensioners was again raised in 1334, on the priory granting life sustenance to Philip de Preston, as a matter of grace at the king's request, although two royal pensioners were then living. Letters patent were granted to the effect that they should not be charged with the sustenance of any other in the lifetime of these three, nor after their death with more than one, which they admitted was the king's right. (fn. 57)

Richard Rede, yeoman of the guard, obtained a grant of a corrody in the monastery of Coventry on 18 April, 1513. (fn. 58) A little later, according to custom, the king imposed another of his servants, Richard Byg, on the monastery to receive a corrody. (fn. 59) On 16 June, 1517, when John Webbe the sub-prior and the chapter petitioned for a congè d'èlire in consequence of the death of Prior Impingham, the king nominated William Sharpe, clerk, to the pension which the prior elect of Coventry was bound to give to the king's nominee until he be promoted to a competent benefice. (fn. 60)

On the resignation of Prior Webbe in 1527, Thomas Stanley, one of the king's chaplains, was appointed to the pension due from the prior elect. (fn. 61)

Concession was made in 1251, by Pope Innocent IV, to the prior of Coventry and his successors to use the ring at all times and places, save in celebrating the sacrament of the altar. (fn. 62)

In 1283 the priory was visited by Bishop Roger de Longespée. (fn. 63) Soon after his appointment as prior, in 1322, grave charges were made against Henry Irreys. In the early winter of 1323, Richard le Latoner and sundry other men of Coventry visited one John de Nottingham of that city, who pretended to be a necromancer, stating that they could not live because of the harsh conduct towards them of Prior Henry, who was instigated by the king, the earl of Winchester and his son, and certain officers of the monastery. They promised the necromancer £20 if he would kill the king and the prior and the others, and £15 to Robert le Mareschall, who seems to have been Nottingham's assistant. Robert turned king's evidence and said that they had received a large share of the money, as well as seven pounds of wax and two ells of canvas, of which they made seven images, namely one for the king, another for the prior, a third for the earl, a fourth for his son, a fifth for the cellarer of the priory, a sixth for the prior's steward, and a seventh for one Richard Sowe. Nottingham and his assistants began their incantations on the Monday after St. Nicholas (6 December) in an old house half a mile out of Coventry and continued at intervals until the Sunday after the Ascension. On 4 May, 1314, about midnight, John delivered to Robert Mareschall a feather sharpened at one end, and told him to thrust it into the forehead of the image of Richard Sowe 2 in. deep, by which they would prove what could be done to the other. Robert obeyed, and the next morning visited Sowe and found him raving and crying 'Harrou' and knowing no one. Thus he continued some days, but on John removing the feather out of the forehead of the image and putting it in the heart, Sowe died. Some of the alleged offenders appeared at the trial, but were found not guilty. (fn. 64) It would appear that as a result of this failure to convict, certain charges were made against the prior, which were sufficiently grave to cause him to appeal to Rome. For Pope John XXII issued his mandate in April, 1324, to the abbot of Barlinges and two colleagues to inquire touching the charge of simony, perjury, and sortilege, charged against Henry, called 'Houwhel,' prior of Coventry, and to proceed against him canonically. (fn. 65) Judgement must have gone in favour of the prior, for soon after this date he was discharging the usual functions of his office.

Prior William Irreys fell a victim to the Black Death in 1349. In March, 1364, the pope authorized Prior Greneburgh to dispense six of his monks to be ordained priests in their twenty-second year, so many Benedictines having died of the plague. (fn. 66) Again, in June, 1365, a similar faculty was granted, and for a like cause. (fn. 67)

In 1356, during William of Dunstable's tenure of office, an elaborate extent and rental of the priory was drawn up. (fn. 68) In 1391, the year following his election, Prior James de Horton entered into a composition with the parishioners of Holy Trinity, covenanting to rebuild the chancel of their church, which had become ruinous. The chancel was to be extended 24 ft. to the east, and was afterwards to be maintained at the joint charge of the parish and priory.

On 6 October, 1404, and throughout the ensuing week the Parliament known (by lawyers) as the Lack-learning Parliament, because of the exclusion of lawyers, was held in the great hall of the priory; it was celebrated for the directness of the attacks then made on the temporalities of the Church. There was another remarkable gathering in the priory during Prior Crosby's term of office. A requisition from the clergy of the diocese was presented to Bishop Burghill in 1410, asking that the memory of St. Osburg, the virgin saint of the seventh century, whose nunnery had stood upon the same site as the priory, and in whose honour the priory was jointly dedicated, might be specially observed. It was claimed that many weak and infirm people visiting her tomb within the priory church had recovered. Whereupon the bishop summoned a synod of clergy of the archdeaconry of Coventry to be held in the priory church on 13 October of that year, at which it was determined that henceforth her birthday should be solemnized as a double festival yearly throughout the archdeaconry. (fn. 69)

Reference has already been made to the attempt of Prior Crosby to stop the ecstatic preaching of John Grace the hermit in 1423, which eventually resulted in the preacher being confined in the city gaol. (fn. 70)

During his term of office, Prior Richard Nottingham had the honour of entertaining Henry VI as his guest from 21 to 29 September, 1450. In 1467 Edward IV and his queen kept Christmas at the priory. Prior Coventry entertained Henry VII and his queen there on St. George's Day, 1487. The king and queen attended service in the cathedral church of the priory, when the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of Winchester, and other lords spiritual and temporal were present. Towards the close of Prior Coventry's term of office, the young Prince Arthur, then twelve years old, was his guest, and sojourned at the priory from 6 to 11 October, 1498. Again, in 1511, Henry VIII and his first queen visited Coventry and were entertained as usual at the priory.

During the term of office of Prior John Webbe, namely in 1517, the last royal visit was paid to the priory; the Princess Mary came in that year to see the plays, and stayed two days at the priory, receiving at her departure 100 marks.

Prior Wyford died on 31 October, 1537, and on the following day the sub-prior and chapter petitioned the king for congé d'élire. On 17 November Roland Lee, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, wrote to Cromwell supporting the prayer of the priory. At last, on 22 December, Henry gave the desired permission for an election. (fn. 71) On 2 March, 1538, the royal assent was given to the election of Thomas Carnswell as prior of Coventry, then vacant by death. (fn. 72) Sir Francis Brian had promised Cromwell a reward so soon as this person was secure in the priory. (fn. 73) From the terms in which Dr. London the visitor writes of Carnswell, it is obvious that he had merely taken the office to facilitate a 'surrender,' and thus secure a handsome pension for the briefest possible service.

In 1538 one Humphrey Reynolds, of Coventry, a yeoman of the crown, upon whom had been bestowed valuable property of the suppressed priory of Studley, put forth a scheme of reform for Coventry Priory, which might also be applied in other places. He stated that the black monks of that city could spend little less than £1,000 in rents, and yet the bishop had £300 of their best lands. Few monks were maintained, and yet they owed nearly £1,000. He proposed that the revenue should be spent in supporting twenty monks, priests; the abbot to meddle only with his brethren and not with temporalities. The abbot or prior to have 40s. in ready money yearly, the sub-prior 20s., and every monk 6s. 8d. The rest of the income, according to this extraordinary scheme, was to be used in keeping up a great lay establishment, including a head captain or justice of the peace at a wage of £46 13s. 4d., a petty captain at £24, an attorney and a steward each at 25 marks, and a receiver, a marshal, a physician, fifteen gentlemen, fifteen yeomen, fifteen grooms, and fifteen pages, at various salaries. (fn. 74)

On 8 January, 1539, the mayor and aldermen warned Bishop Roland Lee that Dr. London was in their city and about to destroy the cathedral church, to the great defacing of the town and the inconvenience of the inhabitants. They implored him to write to the king and procure its continuance, and to London to stay his hand till he should hear of the king's further pleasure. The bishop forwarded the city's remonstrance to Cromwell on 12 January, and strongly urged that the cathedral church might at least be spared, 'as it is my principal see and head church,' and asking that the city might have the benefit of its being changed to a college church like Lichfield. But all was of no avail. (fn. 75)

On 15 January, 1539, Thomas Carnswell, prior, Richard Bernaculum, sub-prior, and eleven other monks signed the surrender of the monastery, yielding it up to the notorious London. On gaining possession of the cathedral church he forwarded to his master an original inventory of the relics at the priory, which was a matter of moment to the spoilers in consequence of the valuable shrines or cases in which many of them were inclosed. These were of the usual nature, the only one calling for notice being the 'arme of Saynt Augustyne in sylver,' which has been already referred to. (fn. 76) At the end London writes contemptuously:—' And among these reliques your lordships shall fynde a peece of the most holy jawe-bone of the asse that kylld Abell with dyverse like.' (fn. 77)

On 20 February the pension list was confirmed. The prior as the reward for his complacency received the extraordinarily large pension of £133 6s. 8d., being about £2,500 a year according to present money value; the sub-prior's pension was £13 6s. 8d. whilst those of the other monks varied from £6 13s. 4d. to £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 78)

The failure of the effort to secure the beautiful cathedral church from destruction has already been recorded. The site was granted to John Combes and Richard Stansfield.

Abbots of Coventry

Leofwine, (fn. 79) about 1043-53


Leofwine II or Lewin, about 1070-94 (fn. 80)

Priors of Coventry

Burwyng (fn. 81)






Lawrence, occurs 1144, (fn. 82) died 1179 (fn. 83)

Moyses, elected 1183, deposed about 1189 (fn. 83)

Joybert, appointed 1199, died 1216 (fn. 83)

Geoffrey, (fn. 84) appointed 1216, died 1235

Roger de Walton, elected 1235, resigned 1248

William de Brithwaulton, elected 1248, (fn. 85) resigned 1280

Thomas de Pavy, elected 1281-2, (fn. 86) died 1294

Henry de Leicester, elected 1294, (fn. 87) occurs 1318 (fn. 88)

Henry Irreys, elected 1322, (fn. 89) died 1342

William Irreys, sacrist, elected 1342, (fn. 90) died 1349

William de Dunstable, elected 1349, (fn. 91) died 1361

William de Greneburgh, elected 1361, (fn. 92) died 1390

James de Horton, elected 1390, (fn. 93) died 1396

Roger Cotton, elected 1396, resigned 1398 (fn. 94)

Richard Crosby, elected 1398, died 1437 (fn. 95)

Richard Nottingham, elected 1437, died 1453 (fn. 96)

John Shotteswell, elected 1453, died 1461 (fn. 97)

Thomas Deram, elected 1461, (fn. 98) died 1481

Richard Coventry alias Shaw, elected 1481 (fn. 99)

William Pollesworth, elected 1500, (fn. 100) died 1516

John Impingham, elected 1516, (fn. 101) died 1517

John Webbe, elected 1517, (fn. 102) resigned 1527

Thomas Wyford, elected 1527, died 1537

Thomas Carnswell, elected 1538, (fn. 103) surrendered 15 January, 1539

The priory seal is pointed oval: the Virgin enthroned, with the Child. Legend:—


This occurs with a smaller pointed oval counterseal of Prior Geoffrey; the prior with book and pastoral staff.


The counterseal of Thomas Wyford, prior in 1536, is a smaller pointed oval; Noah's ark on the waters. Legend:—



  • 1. Chart. R. 19 Edw. II, m. 3, No. 31; Add. Chart. 28675; Dep. Keeper's Rep. xxix, App. 30; Thorpe, Dipl. Angl. 351-4. A fair English abstract of the early charters and subsequent benefactions is given in Dugdale, Warw. i, 57-63. See also Dugdale, Mon. iii, 177-202; and Mr. Fretton's paper, 'The Benedictine Monastery and Cathedral of Coventry,' in Trans. of Birmingham and Midland Inst. (Arch. Section), 1876, pp. 19-38. The chartulary of Coventry is at the Record Office, Exch. K.R. Misc. Bks. vol. xxi.
  • 2. Coventry Chartul, fol. 5.
  • 3. Chart. R. 22 Edw. III, m. 5, No. 6; Harl. Chart. 43, C. 10; Add. Chart. 11205.
  • 4. Add. MSS. 32100, fol. 51.
  • 5. William of Malmesbury, Gest. Pontif. Angl. (Rolls Ser.), 311.
  • 6. It bore an inscription to the effect that Archbishop Egelnoth, returning from Rome, had purchased it at Pavia for a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold; William of Malmesbury, Gest. Regum Angl. (Rolls Ser.), i, 224, and Gest. Pontif. Angl. (Rolls Ser.), 311.
  • 7. V.C.H. Warw. i, 304-6.
  • 8. Angl.-Sax. Chron. (Rolls Ser.), 154.
  • 9. Ibid. 173.
  • 10. Wilkins, Concilia, i, 367.
  • 11. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 40.
  • 12. Dugdale, Warw. i, 101.
  • 13. Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 177.
  • 14. See the account of the priory of St. Augustine, Daventry; V.C.H. Northants, ii, 110.
  • 15. Infra, Hospital of St. John Baptist.
  • 16. Red Bk. of the Exch. (Rolls Ser.), i, 26, 30, and passim.
  • 17. Close, 13 Hen. III, m. 3.
  • 18. Mag. Reg. Alb. Lichfield (Salt Soc.), vi, pt. ii, 125b.
  • 19. Red Bk. of the Exch. (Rolls Ser.), i, 74.
  • 20. Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 380; Flor. Hist. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 106; Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), i, 23, 54, 56, 189; ii, 64, 67, 194, 247, 251; iii, 27; iv, 44, 49, 387, 389.
  • 21. Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 443-4; Walter of Coventry, Mem. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 120-1.
  • 22. Cal. of Papal Let. i, 2.
  • 23. Ibid. i, 5.
  • 24. Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 445.
  • 25. Ibid. ii, 531.
  • 26. Walter of Coventry, Mem. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 218.
  • 27. Cal. of Papal Let. i, 32.
  • 28. Stubbs, Epis. Succession, 38.
  • 29. Full details will be found in the Mag. Reg. Alb. Lich. (Salt Soc.), vi, pt. ii, 193b-95b. See also Cott. Chart. xiii, 26.
  • 30. See Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. (Rolls Ser.), iii, 145.
  • 31. Cal. of Papal Let. i, 150.
  • 32. Ibid.
  • 33. Ibid. i, 151.
  • 34. Ibid. i, 153, 219.
  • 35. Mag. Reg. Alb. Lich. (Salt Soc.), vi, pt. ii, 164.
  • 36. Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. (Rolls Ser.), iii, 541.
  • 37. Cal. of Papal Let. i, 218.
  • 38. Mag. Reg. Alb. Lich. (Salt Soc.), vi, pt. ii, fol. 196.
  • 39. Cal. of Papal Let. i, 84-5.
  • 40. MS. penes S. Roper, cited in Dugdale, Mon. iii, 100.
  • 41. Cal. of Chart. R. i, 6.
  • 42. Ibid. 242.
  • 43. Ibid. 472.
  • 44. Anct. D. (P.R.O.), A. 4464.
  • 45. Chart. R. 41 Hen. III, m. 4; 51 Hen. III, m. 8.
  • 46. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.).
  • 47. Pat. 6 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 16.
  • 48. Pat. 8 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 25d.
  • 49. Pat. 6 Edw. IV, pt. ii, m. 23.
  • 50. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 52.
  • 51. Close, 2 Edw. II, m. 13 d. and m. 8 d.
  • 52. Ibid. 5 Edw. II, m. 9 d.
  • 53. Ibid. 19 Edw. II, m. 9 d.
  • 54. Ibid. 20 Edw. II, m. 12 d.
  • 55. Ibid. 3 Edw. III, m. 5 d.
  • 56. Pat. 3 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 5.
  • 57. Pat. 8 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 20, 17; Close, 8 Edw. III, m. 26 d.
  • 58. L. and P. Hen. VIII, i, 3913.
  • 59. Ibid. ii, 2577.
  • 60. Ibid. ii, 2489, 2574, 2575, 3401.
  • 61. Ibid. iv, 3622 (16).
  • 62. Cal. of Papal Let. i, 268.
  • 63. Mag. Reg. Alb. Lich. (Salt Soc.), vi, pt. ii, fol. 255.
  • 64. Lansd. MSS. ccxc, fol. 553-6.
  • 65. Cal. of Papal Let. ii, 237.
  • 66. Cal. of Papal Let. iv, 39.
  • 67. Ibid. iv, 47.
  • 68. Stowe MS. 795, fol. 61-116.
  • 69. Lich. Epis. Reg. Burghill, fol. 209.
  • 70. See 'Eccl. Hist.' p. 20.
  • 71. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xii (2), 1010, 1106, 1311 (36).
  • 72. Pat. 29 Hen. VIII, m. 28.
  • 73. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xii (1), 30.
  • 74. Ibid. xiii (2), 1198.
  • 75. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (1), 34, 57, 69.
  • 76. See above, p. 52.
  • 77. Egerton MS. 2603, fol. 26. Cf. the extraordinary relics preserved at St. Mary's College, Warwick, below, p. 128.
  • 78. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. ccxxxiii, fol. 118.
  • 79. Add. MS. 32100, fol. 51.
  • 80. a Add. Chart. 11205.
  • 81. The first six names are from the Chartulary of Coventry in Staunton Collection, fol. 25.
  • 82. Angl. Sacra, i, 463.
  • 83. See above.
  • 84. Rot. Litt. Pat. (Rec. Com.), i, 190.
  • 85. Pat. 8 Edw. I, m. 19, 15.
  • 86. Ibid.
  • 87. Ibid. 22 Edw. I, m. 24, 23.
  • 88. a Add. Chart. 21237.
  • 89. Ibid. 16 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 7.
  • 90. Ibid. 16 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 35, 30, 5.
  • 91. Ibid. 23 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 28; Lich. Epis. Reg. Northburgh, fol. 49.
  • 92. Pat. 35 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 12; Lich. Epis. Reg. Stretton, fol. 8.
  • 93. Pat. 14 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 32; Lich. Epis. Reg. Le Scrope, fol. 7.
  • 94. Lich. Epis. Reg. Le Scrope, fol. 11.
  • 95. Ibid. Burghill, fol. 6.
  • 96. Pat. 15 Hen. VI; Lich. Epis. Reg. Heyworth, fol. 39 d.
  • 97. Pat. 33 Hen. VI.
  • 98. Ibid. 1 Edw. IV, pt. iii, m. 12; Lich. Epis. Reg. Hales, fol. 12b.
  • 99. Pat. 21 Edw. IV, pt. i, m. 6; pt. ii, m. 9.
  • 100. Lansd. MS. 963, fol. 55; Lich. Epis. Reg. Arundel, fol. 205b.
  • 101. L. and P. Hen. VIII (ii), 2489, 2574, 2575, 2899.
  • 102. Ibid. 3400, 3401, 3464, 3529.
  • 103. Pat. 29 Hen. VIII, m. 28.
  • 104. Stowe Coll. Repingdon Chart.
  • 105. Cott. Chart. v, 27; Dugdale, Mon. iii, pl. xvii.