Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Arbury

Pages 89-91

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section


The Austin priory of Arbury (Erdbury or Ordbury), in the parish of Chilvers Coton, dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin, was founded early in the reign of Henry II by Ralph de Sudley. The original endowment consisted of the church of Chilvers Coton, with two virgates of land that belonged to it; six other virgates of land, a wood, and other possessions in the same parish; lands and a meadow at Sulingfen; the church of Dassett, and 200 acres and other possessions in that parish; and a hide of land at Radway. The canons were also granted timber for building purposes, and wood for fuel, and pannage throughout the founder's demesne lands. (fn. 1) Another early benefaction was the church of Weston under Wetherley, but the donor's name is not known. (fn. 2)

In 1291 the temporalities of the house amounted to £14 14s. 1d. (fn. 3)

There are two charters of Roger, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield at the Bodleian, dated July, 1390, at Bishop's Itchington, relative to the composition by the prior and convent of Arbury for the appropriation of the church of Chilvers Coton. (fn. 4)

John de Sudley, in 1318, granted the priory two messuages, one toft, 8 acres of land, 7 acres of meadow, and 7s. 8d. in rents in his lordship of Dàssett and Chilvers Coton. (fn. 5) In 1341 Sir Thomas de Astley obtained licence to alienate to the canons a messuage and 36 acres of land in Wolvey to sustain a chaplain to be found by them to celebrate daily mass in the priory church for the good estate of Thomas, Elizabeth his wife, and Alice and Andrew de Astley, and for their souls after death. (fn. 6)

In 1413 the priory made considerable purchases of lands in Nuneaton, Attleborough, Chilvers Coton, &c., and the reversion of the manor of Stockingford from the canons of Leicester, after the death of Hugh de Silburn. (fn. 7)

In 1444 the priory obtained licence from Henry VI for the alienation of other property to them up to the value of 100 marks a year, and in the following year acquired the appropriation of the church of Westleigh in Lancashire. (fn. 8)

In 1235 Pope Gregory IX commissioned the prior of Dunstable and certain colleagues to visit the regular churches of the diocese of Coventry. At this visitation one scandal was brought to light. At Arbury the visitors found only five canons in the priory of Arbury; they were leading a dissolute life with one Hugh as their prior, without rule, under cloak of the Arroasian order. Thereupon the pope advised the bishop of Coventry, Alexander de Stavenby, to establish there the rule of St. Augustine. To this the bishop consented, and took the necessary action, which was confirmed by the pope in January, 1236, in a letter addressed direct to the prior and canons of Arbury. (fn. 9) Alexander de Stavenby's first step was to write to the abbot of Darley, near Derby, desiring him to send some of his convent to Arbury for a time, to instruct and guide them in the true Austin rule. (fn. 10)

In 1322 the prior reported himself to the bishop as insufficiens ad regimen, and wished to resign; whereupon the diocesan appointed Ralph de Holbeche to hold an inquiry. (fn. 11)

Later in the same year the bishop addressed a mandate to the official of the archdeacon of Coventry, or to the dean of Arden, to inquire into the validity of the election of John de Borebach, prior elect, before confirming it. The appointment was duly confirmed in October. (fn. 12)

Bishop Northburgh visited the deanery of Stoneleigh in 1334, when he found the prior of Arbury, as rector of Weston, at issue with the vicar; he adjusted their rights by a new ordination of the vicarage. (fn. 13)

In December, 1336, Bishop Stretton forwarded to the prior and convent certain decrees consequent on a visitation of the previous June. In consequence of the admission of the prior that he had sold timber, and had also appointed officials of the house without the consent of the brethren, it was ordered that all business should henceforth be considered and decided in chapter. The prior and other administrators were ordered to make at least an annual return of their accounts to the whole convent; the common seal was to be kept in a chest with three locks; the food in the infirmary was to be of suitable quality; the prior was exhorted to watch over his brethren and to set them a good example; and the decrees were to be read in chapter the day after their receipt. (fn. 14)

The Valor of 1535 (fn. 15) returned the clear annual value of the priory at £94 6s. 1d. The house distributed in alms yearly £3 17s.

The commissioners of 1536 certified the annual value as £100 5s. 5¼d. They reported that there were six religious with the prior, of whom five were priests and one a novice professed: 'all of good conversation and lyvyng and desier yf the house be suppressed to be sent to some other howse of ther Religion.' There were twenty-six dependants, namely nine yeomen, five hinds, two dairy-women, two corrodians by convent seal, six impotent persons and children 'fownd of almes,' and two persons having fees extraordinary. The bells, lead, and buildings were worth £125 12s. 8¼d. and the house was in good repair. The stocks, stores, and movable goods were worth £74 17s. 11d., and there were 177 acres of wood, worth £46 18s. 8d. The debts of the house were £50 18s. 11d. (fn. 16)

George Gifford, a busy agent of Cromwell in the Midlands and one of these Warwickshire visitors, wrote to his master from Henwood Nunnery on 3 August, 1536, reporting that they had surveyed the Warwickshire houses of Polesworth, Maxstoke, and Arbury. As to Arbury, he stated that the land was set at 16d. an acre, and the pasture was mostly heath or very dry grass, howbeit there was a fair house and well watered. He added the significant statement that they had surveyed all the houses within the limits of their commission, and he had seen none other, but that they were promised to such as he thought his suit would not prevail against. (fn. 17) On the 23rd of the same month Gifford wrote again begging that Arbury might be assigned to him. (fn. 18) But his pleadings were in vain, for Arbury on its suppression was granted amid an abundance of other church property to Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk. (fn. 19) His co-heiress Margaret, wife of John Kersby, sold it to Sir Edmund Anderson, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, temp. Elizabeth. He totally demolished the church and conventual buildings, erecting from the material a 'very fair structure in a quadrangular form.' The prior obtained an annuity of 20 marks. (fn. 20)

Priors of Arbury

Adam, occurs 1203 (fn. 21)

Albin, c. 1228 (fn. 22)

Hugh, occurs 1235 (fn. 23)

Simon Corbet, occurs 1282 (fn. 24)

William de Bloxham, 1315 (fn. 25) -22 (fn. 26)

John de Borebach, appointed 1322 (fn. 27)

John de Southam, appointed 1329 (fn. 28)

Robert de Merston, resigned 1379 (fn. 29)

William de Hulles, appointed 1379 (fn. 29)

John Wykeley, occurs 1417 (fn. 30)

William Cotton, appointed 1439 (fn. 31)

William Woodcock, resigned 1456 (fn. 32)

John Bromley, appointed 1456 (fn. 33)

Richard Hawford, died 1477 (fn. 34)

John Wright, appointed 1477 (fn. 34)

Thomas Hey, occurs 1480, (fn. 35) died 1484 (fn. 36)

William Cokkes, appointed 1484 (fn. 36)

Thomas Dawkins, appointed 1507 (fn. 37)

William Clement, appointed 1512 (fn. 38)

Thomas Dygle, occurs 1535 (fn. 39)


  • 1. The foundation charter is given at length in Dugdale, Mon., from the original in the Court of Augmentations.
  • 2. Dugdale, Warw. ii, 1075.
  • 3. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 256.
  • 4. Cal. of Chart. and Rolls, 686.
  • 5. Pat. 11 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 10.
  • 6. Pat. 15 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 6.
  • 7. Pat. 1 Hen. V, pt. i, m. 12.
  • 8. Pat. 23 Hen. VI, pt. ii, m. 21; 24 Hen. VI, pt. i, m. 27.
  • 9. Cal. Papal Let. i, 149. Arroasia, or Aridagamantia, otherwise Arouaise, in the diocese of Arras, was an Austin house, founded in 1090, which had special papal privileges granted to it in 1186 and 1197.
  • 10. Dugdale, Warw. Ex. vet. Cod. MS. penes S. Roper, ar.
  • 11. Lich. Epis. Reg. Northburgh, ii, fol. 4.
  • 12. Ibid. fol. 7, 18.
  • 13. Ibid. ii, fol. 32.
  • 14. Ibid. Stretton, fol. 50b.
  • 15. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 56.
  • 16. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. eliv, 135.
  • 17. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xi, 227.
  • 18. Ibid. xi, 353.
  • 19. Pat. 30 Hen. VIII, m. 8.
  • 20. Dugdale, Warw. ii, 1075.
  • 21. a Le Neve's Indexes (P.R.O.), xxiv, 5.
  • 22. b Anct. D., A. 5785.
  • 23. See above.
  • 24. a Add. Chart. 47567.
  • 25. Lich. Epis. Reg. Langton, fol. 39b.
  • 26. Ibid. Northburgh, ii, fol. 4 d.
  • 27. Ibid. i, fol. 18; ii, fol. 7, 20 d.
  • 28. Ibid. i, fol. 22 d.
  • 29. Ibid. Stretton, fol. 27.
  • 30. a Add. MS. 36907, fol. 26.
  • 31. Lich. Epis. Reg. Heyworth, fol. 38.
  • 32. Ibid. Boulers, fol. 23b.
  • 33. Ibid.
  • 34. Ibid. Hales, fol. 26.
  • 35. a Anct. D., B. 2404.
  • 36. Lich. Epis. Reg. Hales, fol. 30.
  • 37. Ibid. Blyth, fol. 10 d.
  • 38. Ibid. fol. 11.
  • 39. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 56.