Houses of Benedictine nuns: Priory of Henwood

Pages 65-66

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

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In the beginning of the reign of Henry II, when Walter Durdent was bishop of Chester (1149-1161), Ketelberne de Langdon founded a priory for Benedictine nuns, dedicated to the honour of St. Margaret, in his lordship of Langdon, in the parish of Solihull. It was built near a fair spring lying to the east of Langdon, and was at first termed Estwell. He granted to the nuns considerable lands at Langdon, with free court and all customs and liberties, with pasturage and pannage, together with the right of taking timber for building their church and dwellings from the woods of Langdon, and leave to erect a mill on any suitable site opposite his own lands. After a time it came to be called Heanwood or Henwood,' by reason of the tall oaks there growing, the word bean in our old English signifying high.' (fn. 1)

In 1228 Pope Gregory IX granted the nuns confirmation of their tithes in Solihull and the rest of their possessions, including a virgate of land in Radbourne, and the advowson of that church, which had been appropriated to them by leave of Bishop Geoffrey Muschamp (11981215). (fn. 2)

The abbot and convent of Westminster bestowed on the priory in 1305 fifteen acres of their waste in Langdon by Solihull. (fn. 3) In connexion with this it may be noticed that on the appointment of Margaret Curzon as prioress in 1310, (fn. 4) and on subsequent occasions the abbot of Westminster is named as the patron of the house, but the election was in the hands of the sisters, merely requiring his confirmation.

The prioress and nuns of Henwood obtained licence in 1327 to acquire in mortmain land and rent to the yearly value of £70. (fn. 5) On 13 February, 1330, licence was granted, covered by the licence of 1327, to Richard le Fevre to grant a yearly rent of 20s. 3d., together with messuages and land of the annual value of 10s. 8d. in various Warwickshire parishes, to the prioress and nuns of Henwood. (fn. 6)

Richard II, in 1399, granted the advowson of Charlton-on-Otmoor, Oxfordshire, to the priory. (fn. 7) In the same year Henry IV conferred on them the advowson of the church of Everdon, Northamptonshire. (fn. 8) In 1404 Pope Innocent VII sanctioned the appropriation of both these churches, in a bull which is given in full in the Monasticon. (fn. 9) From this it appears that the church of Bickenhill, Warwickshire, had been appropriated to this house at its first foundation. Due care was to be taken to assign proper stipends for the vicars of the two appropriated churches, and also for the assistance of the poor of the two parishes. It also appears from the bull that the priory, which at that time had twelve nuns, was in great poverty.

The Black Death wrought much havoc in the priory. On 19 August, 1349, there was no prioress, ' and of fifteen nuns which lately were there, three only reman.' Lady Joan Fokerham, one of the three sisters, was appointed prioress in the following month. (fn. 10)

Alice Higford was prioress in 1535, when the Valor Ecclesiasticus was taken. The clear annual value of this priory was only £21 2s. 0½d. Bread was distributed annually to the poor on Maundy Thursday to the value of 4s. (fn. 11)

The commissioners of 1536 reported that the priory of Black Nuns of Henwood was of the annual value of £23 14s. 3d. The religious with the prioress numbered six ' and one other somtyme priores ther of thage of iiiixx and viii (88) years and upwards'; they were all of good conversation and living. They were further reported as very content to delyver unto us the said priorie to the kynges our sovereigne lords use wher uppon we toke the same and discharged the Nones ymmediately.

There were seven dependants, namely, one priest, one yeoman, two hinds, and three dairy women. The house was 'ruynous and in moche decaye,' but there were 'iii little manuelle Belles' worth 20s. The stocks and goods were worth £24 5s. 1d., and there were 60 acres of wood. The debts of the house amounted to £27 18s. 10d. (fn. 12)

Joan (? Alice) Hygford, the prioress, had a grant made of the very small pension of £3 6s. 8d. on 3 December, 1536. (fn. 13) She was living and drawing her pension in 1553. (fn. 14)

In 1540 the site and the possessions of the priory were sold to John Higford by the crown for the sum of £207 5s. (fn. 15)


Maud, occurs late Henry III (fn. 16)

Katherine Boydin, resigned 1310 (fn. 17)

Margaret Curzon, elected 1310, (fn. 18) resigned 1339

Millicent de Fokerham, elected 1339, (fn. 19) died 1349

Joan Fokerham, appointed 1349 (fn. 20)

Joan de Pickford, died 1392 (fn. 21)

Eleanor de Stoke, elected 1392 (fn. 21)

Joyce Middlemore, instituted 1439 (fn. 22)

Alice Waring, occurs 1460 (fn. 23)

Elizabeth Pultney, occurs 1498 (fn. 24)

Alice (Joan) Higford, occurs 1535-6

The thirteenth-century seal is a pointed oval: St. Margaret, with nimbus, standing on a dragon and piercing his head with a long cross; in the left hand a book. In the field on the left a lily-flower. Legend:—



  • 1. Dugdale, Warw. ii, 950. Dugdale cites from the foundation charter exipso autographo, penes Wil. Spooner de Henwood, armig. an. 1636.
  • 2. Dugdale, Warw. ii, 695.
  • 3. Pat. 33 Edw. I, pt. ii, m. 3.
  • 4. Lich. Epis. Reg. Langton, i, fol. 35 d.
  • 5. Pat. 1 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 7.
  • 6. Pat. 4 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 42. In the calendar of the Patent Rolls there is a mis-spelling of Kynewod for Hynewod or Henwood.
  • 7. Pat. 22 Ric. II; pt. i, m. 11.
  • 8. Pat. 1 Hen. IV, pt. iii, m. 30.
  • 9. Dugdale, Mon. iv, 212-13.
  • 10. Lich. Epis. Reg. Northburgh, fol. 52.
  • 11. Valor. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 79.
  • 12. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. cliv, 139.
  • 13. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks; ccxxxii, 40.
  • 14. Add. MSS. 8102.
  • 15. Pat. 31 Hen. VIII, m. 5.
  • 16. a Cott. Chart, xxi, 18.
  • 17. Lich. Epis. Reg. Langton, i, fol. 35b. The bishop directed the abbess and convent of Polesworth to receive her to dwell there. Ibid.
  • 18. Ibid.
  • 19. Ibid. Northburgh, ii, fol. 34b.
  • 20. Ibid. fol. 52.
  • 21. Ibid. Le Scrope, fol. 7b.
  • 22. Ibid. Heyworth, fol. 37.
  • 23. Reg. of the gild of Knowle.
  • 24. Ibid.
  • 25. B.M. lxxiii, 14.