Houses of Benedictine monks: Priory of Alvecote

Pages 61-62

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

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Alvecote, which was a member of Seckington, was, with Shuttington, granted by William Burdet, in the year 1159, to the Benedictine monks of Great Malvern, upon condition that they should by Michaelmas send two of their convent to serve the church of Alvecote, and that in the following year they should add two more. It was further agreed, in the presence of Lawrence, abbot of Westminster, Robert, abbot of St. Albans, and Gregory, abbot of Malmesbury, that so soon as the building of a monastery at Alvecote was completed, more monks should be received therein, according to its capacity, on the advice of the abbot of Westminster and other religious persons; and that the prior of Alvecote should always be appointed by the prior of Great Malvern.

Dugdale tells the story current in his time, as to the cause of the foundation of this little monastery. It was said that William Burdet, a valiant and devout man, joined a crusade to the Holy Land; that his steward, in his absence, in vain solicited his lady, whereupon on his master's return he accused her of incontinence; that the knight believing the slander stabbed her; and that afterwards, discovering the truth, he founded this priory as an act of expiation. Dugdale states that in his days, when the priory church of Alvecote was still standing, the founder's grave was in an arch of the wall on the north side, covered by a 'plain free stone curiously embossed with the sculpture of a large cross.' (fn. 1)

The priory had but few benefactors; an early one was Robert de Bramcote, who gave a meadow called Bramcote meadow. (fn. 2)

The taxation of 1291 gave the annual value of the priory's property at Alvecote as £7 9s. 2d, (fn. 3) which included a mill worth 14s. a year, a dovecote 1s. 6d., and fishing rights 3s. The priory also held 8s. in temporalities in the diocese of Lincoln. (fn. 4) This latter entry probably refers to the grant of half a virgate of land and a watermill at Ratcliffe, Leicestershire, left by William Burdet, the grandson of the founder.

After a period of about two centuries, the church and conventual buildings of this little priory were sorely in need of restoration. Through the favour of the king, the monks of Alvecote were able to resort to exceptional means to procure the necessary funds. Protection was granted by Edward III in January, 1334, to the prior and brethren of the house of St. Mary, Alvecote, and their attorneys and proctors, collecting alms in churches for the repair of their church and cloister. (fn. 5)

Richard de Malverne, prior of the cell of Alvecote, was admitted to the cure and administration of the church of Shuttington, appropriated to that cell, on the presentation of the prior of Great Malvern, on 19 July, 1341, it being vacant by the death of William de Beaulis, the last prior. (fn. 6)

Leland, writing in the time of Henry VIII, states that there were four monks in this cell. (fn. 7)

When the Valor of 1535 was taken, the clear annual value was returned as £28 5s. 2d. (fn. 8) The appropriate rectory of Shuttington was of the annual value of 72s. (fn. 9) A pension of 60s. was paid to the prior of Malvern.

The commissioners of 1536 delivered a privy seal to 'William Umberleye, prior of Alvecote, who allegeth his house to be a celle to the monastery of Myche Malverne,' on 25 July, ordering him to appear before the chancellor and council of the Court of Augmentations within fourteen days. (fn. 10)

After the suppression of Great Malvern, the site and possessions of the cell of Alvecote were granted by the crown in January, 1543, to Lord Chancellor Audley. In June of the same year he had licence to alienate it to Joan Robynson, widow, late wife of George Robynson, deceased, mercer of London. (fn. 11)

Priors of Alvecote

William de Wikwane, resigned 1282 (fn. 12)

William de Beaulis, appointed 1315 (fn. 13)

Richard de Malverne, occurs 1341 (fn. 14)

William Sutton, occurs 1535 (fn. 15)

William Umberleye, occurs 1536 (fn. 16)


  • 1. Dugdale, Warw. ii, 1129; Mon. iii, 454-6.
  • 2. Dugdale, Mon. iii, 455.
  • 3. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 256a.
  • 4. Ibid. 67b.
  • 5. Pat. 8 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 42.
  • 6. Lich. Epis. Reg. Northburgh, i, fol. 37 d.
  • 7. Leland, Collectanea, i, 62.
  • 8. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 74.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. cliv, 155.
  • 11. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xviii (1), 100, 802.
  • 12. Elected prior of Great Malvern in that year: Reg. Epist. Peckham (Rolls Ser.), 751.
  • 13. Lich. Epis. Reg. Langton, fol. 16.
  • 14. Ibid. Northburgh, ii, fol. 37b.
  • 15. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 74.
  • 16. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. cliv, 155.