A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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HOUSE OF CARTHUSIAN MONKS
12. THE PRIORY OF ST. ANNE, COVENTRY
William, lord Zouch, of Harringworth, having a desire in 1381 to found a house of Carthusians near Coventry, obtained from Sir Baldwin Freville 14 acres of land at Shortley, in the suburbs of the city. Death, however, prevented him from personally accomplishing his object, but, when dying, he desired his heirs to pay 100 marks per annum for that object until they had procured as much in churches appropriated to the house. Lord Zouch procured three monks from the Charterhouse, London, to begin the new foundation, Robert Palmer, John Netherby, and Edmund Dalling. These three arrived at Coventry on the eve of St. Andrew, 1381, and associated with themselves three monks from the monastery of Beauvale, Nottinghamshire, and four more who were then newly professed of this order. They took up their abode in the hermitage of St. Anne, and there tarried for seven years. (fn. 1)
Lord Zouch died in Lent, 1382, but his good work was promptly taken up by some of the citizens. Richard Luff, who had been mayor 1380-1, in conjunction with John Botoner, his fellow citizen, made the handsome gift of 400 marks towards the building of the church and cloisters and three cells on the east side of the cloister next the chapter-house. John Holmeton, of Sleaford, gave £180 towards the structure of the quire. Margaret Byri, of Newark, gave £20 for building the fourth cell on the east side of the cloister, and also presented the house with the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah with glosses. The money for the fifth cell, being the utmost on the east side, was found by Lady Margery Tilney, who also gave £10 for the east window of the quire. The sixth cell, being the first on the south side, was built by John Bokyngham, bishop of Lincoln; and the seventh, next to it on the same side, by Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. (fn. 2)
One of the main principles of the Carthusian order was that each monk lived apart by himself in a cell or chamber of two or three rooms. There each one lived severally, his victuals being supplied him through a hatch by a lay-brother. The convent only met in quire and chapter.
On 18 March, 1382, Richard II granted in mortmain to John de Netherby, appointed prior of a house of the Carthusian order to be founded in a field called 'Shortleyfeld,' within the liberty of Coventry, and to the monks there, 14 acres of land in that field, extending from a footpath towards London on the east, to a stream called Shirebourn on the west, and from a ditch on the south to a mill called 'Burstall milne' on the north. (fn. 3)
The king granted licence on 18 November, 1382, to the newly founded Carthusian priory, which had no possessions besides the plot of land they inhabited, to hold appropriations of churches of the clear annual value of £100 beyond the portions assigned to the vicars. (fn. 4)
On 24 November, 1384, grant in free alms was made to the prior and convent of St. Anne, Coventry, of the advowson of the church of Walton-upon-Trent, Derbyshire. This grant was, however, surrendered and cancelled, because the king granted them licence to acquire from the abbot and convent of Aunay, Normandy, the alien priory of Limber (Lincolnshire) with the advowson of the vicarages of Limber and Kirtlington (Oxfordshire), and Mears Ashby (Northamptonshire), and the other possessions of the priory at the yearly rent of 25 marks, during the continuance of the war. These possessions were finally sold to the Carthusians by the abbey of Aunay in 1393. (fn. 5)
Richard II, returning from Scotland in September, 1385, tarried at Coventry. At the special instance of his consort, Queen Anne, the king, with his own hands, laid the foundation stone of the church in honour of St. Anne at the east end of the quire, stating publicly in the presence of his magnates and of the mayor and citizens of Coventry that he would be the founder of it and bring it to perfection.
Thereupon others were fired to continue the work. The eighth cell, being the third on the south side, was constructed with £20 bequeathed as a legacy by Adam Botoner, who had been mayor of Coventry in 1374, 1378, and 1385. The ninth, next to it, was the work of Sir Nigel Loryng, by the procurement of Robert Braybrook, bishop of London. The tenth, being the first in the west corner, was constructed with £20 out of the goods of William Tilney, assigned for that purpose by John Holmeton, his executor. The eleventh was the gift of John Morton, canon of Lichfield. (fn. 6)
In November, 1386, the crown granted licence to the Carthusians of Coventry to hold the appropriation of the church of Ecclesfield, Yorkshire, which had been recovered in the late reign from the abbot and convent of St. Wandregisil, in Normandy. (fn. 7) Further licence was granted by the crown in March, 1387, to the prior and convent to hold advowsons and other spiritual possessions of religious aliens in England to the clear annual value of £50, in addition to the £100 of yearly value already granted, which sum had proved insufficient to maintain the monks and their servants; so that the full number of a prior and twelve monks of that order might be supported at Coventry to pray for ever for the good estate of the king and for his soul, and those of his ancestors after death. (fn. 8)
In 1391 Richard II granted them the manor of Edith Weston, Rutland, formerly held by the abbey of St. George's, Bosherville, Normandy. (fn. 9) In 1393 they had licence to purchase from the abbot of SS. Sergius and Bachus, Normandy, the manors of Swavesey, and Dry Drayton, Cambridgeshire, with the advowson of the church of Swavesey, excepting 65 marks annually due to the wardens and scholars of King's Hall, Cambridge. (fn. 10) In 1397 the Carthusians of Coventry had leave to purchase of the monks of St. Pierre sur Dive, Normandy, the priory of Wolston, Warwickshire, and from the abbey of St. Severus, Normandy, their cell in Lincolnshire, termed the priory of Haugham. (fn. 11) The king in 1398 granted them full protection, and the privileges in the election of priors and all other particulars enjoyed by the Charterhouse of London, together with complete exemption from taxation. (fn. 12) Finally, in 1399, Richard II still further showered his benefactions on this house. He released them from the payment of 65 marks yearly to the scholars of Cambridge, upon condition of providing for twelve poor scholars within their precincts, between the ages of seven and seventeen. He granted also to them the alien priories of Wootton Wawen, Warwickshire; Loders, Dorsetshire; and Long Bennington, Lincolnshire. (fn. 13) But most of this last three-fold grant was resumed by the crown on the accession of Henry IV. (fn. 14)
Henry VII was also a benefactor. In 1494 he licensed the appropriation to these Carthusians of the Northamptonshire rectory of Potterspury, and that of Eymond in Shropshire, on condition of daily prayer for the good estate of the king, his queen, their children, and his mother, and celebrating a weekly mass of the Holy Ghost during the king's life, and a solemn yearly obit for his soul after his departure. (fn. 15)
The Carthusians generally were disposed to stand out in 1534 against the king's supremacy. The priors of four of the Charterhouses, Coventry, Richmond, Hull, and Mount Grace went to Edward Lee, archbishop of York, for counsel; he managed to persuade them all to submit, although the last two, as the archbishop said in a letter to the king of January, 1526, were 'sore bent rather to die than to yield to this your royal style.' (fn. 16)
The Valor of 1535, when John Bocher was prior, gave the annual value of the ten appropriated churches held by the Carthusians and pensions from three others as £229 15s. 4d. These were the rectories of Ecclesfield and Sheffield, Yorkshire; Limber Magna and Haugham, Lincolnshire; Edith Weston, Rutlandshire; Mears Ashby and Potterspury, Northamptonshire; Kirtlington, Oxfordshire; and Swavesey, Cambridgeshire. There were, however, many outgoing pensions; the support of the twelve poor scholars cost £30 a year, and other alms £14 10s., so that the clear annual value was reduced to £131 6s. 4d. (fn. 17)
The commissioners of 1536 returned the annual value of the priory as £201 7s. 6¼d. They found twelve religious with the prior, all priests, 'in virtue, contemplation, and religion excellent'; all desired, if the house was dissolved, to be sent to other houses of their religion. There were twenty-one dependants, namely, three 'converses' (lay-brothers), six yeomen servants, and twelve children brought up gratuitously in virtue and learning. The lead, bells, and buildings were worth £89 7s. 6¾d., the house being in very good repair. The stocks and stores and movable goods were worth £31 18s. 5d., and there were 7½ acres of wood. The debts amounted to £90 5s. 5d., of which £60 was owing to the king for first-fruits. (fn. 18)
The priory of St. Anne obtained, however, an exemption from the first suppression of houses under £200, under letters patent dated 6 July, 1537, and John Bochard was re-appointed prior. (fn. 19) In the accounts of the Court of Augmentations for 1537-8 appears the payment to the crown of the sum of £20 from the Carthusians of Coventry for the continuance of their monastery. (fn. 20)
In January, 1537, the Carthusians got into trouble for having sheltered for a time Thomas Kendall, vicar of Louth, accused of complicity in the Lincolnshire rising. He came to them, stating he was from Oxford, and beneficed near Colchester, and sought to be received into their religion. They declined to receive him, but he remained for a time in Coventry practising physic, sometimes lodging in their house, and sometimes in the city. He sent letters to Louth without their knowledge, and this led to his arrest on the night of Christmas Eve when they were at rest. Ten of the monks set their hands to a declaration of their entire innocency in a statement forwarded to Cromwell, and Kendall, in his examination at the Tower, supported their statement, alleging his belief that the Carthusians would not have received him had he said he came from Louth. (fn. 21)
The Charterhouse of Coventry stood on 14 acres of ground, for which the monks paid a rent to Coventry Priory of 14 groats. They had no other possessions save the appropriated churches. They were true to their rule, for 'outward they had no commodities.' London, writing to Cromwell in January, 1539, said that he found but twenty nobles' worth of goods in the whole house at his taking an inventory; but that God had so exposed their crafty dealing that he was able out of that which he eventually recovered to give each brother 40s. for clothing, pay the servants' wages, give each brother 'his whole cell, saving the house and a vestment,' pay all debts, and yet have 200 ounces of plate over, whereas at his coming he found less than 40 ounces. In another letter he claimed to have reformed 'the good father of the Charter-house' for his crafty and double dealing in spoiling his house before the visitor's arrival, and asked that his pension might be confirmed, as he had so completely got the better of him. On January 16 the surrender was taken, signed by John Bochard, prior, William Abel, vicar, and six others. Prior Bochard had a pension of £40; John Todde, who was blind and old, and Robert Bolde, who was very old and infirm, had each £6 13s. 4d. To two others were assigned pensions of £6, and to five others £5 6s. 8d. There was one other friar, Richard Wall, who had written certain 'dangerous letters' which had been forwarded to Cromwell; him London imprisoned at Coventry and reserved his pension until he had further instructions. (fn. 22)
The site was granted by the crown in 1543 to Richard Andrews and Leonard Chamberleyn. (fn. 23)
Priors of St. Anne, Coventry
John de Netherbury, appointed 1381 (fn. 24)
Robert, 1392 (fn. 25)
William, occurs 1436 (fn. 26)
Robert, 1459 (fn. 25)
Thomas, c. 1497-1504 (fn. 25)
The seal of this house is a pointed oval: on the left the Virgin, standing crowned, the Child on the right arm, in the left hand a sceptre; on the right St. Anne, a book in the right hand, in a carved niche with trefoiled canopy, crocketed, and pinnacled, with tabernacle work at the sides; the corbel or bracket ornamented with a string-course, enriched with ball-flowers and foliage.
S': COE: DOM': S[BE: ANNE: CO] UĒTR: ORDĪS: CARTUSIĒR (fn. 29)