Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Studley

Pages 94-97

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

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About the beginning of the reign of Henry II Peter Corbezon (afterwards called Peter de Studley from his changed residence) transferred to Studley a priory of Austin Canons that he had founded at Wicton, Worcestershire. The founder endowed the house with the churches of Wicton, of Studley and Coughton in this county, and of Salperton in Gloucestershire, with half the town of Wicton, three houses in Worcester, two furnaces of salt at Wiche (Droitwich) and the tithes of all the rest of his salt there, and 100 acres of his demesne land at Salperton. After their transference to Studley the generous founder added the church of 'Audburne' and the chapel of Dornston, the site for the priory and other lands, woods, and a mill at Studley, and 200 acres of his demesne at Salperton. (fn. 1)

These considerable endowments of the founder were much wasted and mismanaged, so that in the time of Peter Corbezon, the son of the founder, who transferred the patronage of the house to William de Cantilupe, there were but three canons resident at Studley Priory. The pious care, however, of the new patron caused the house again to flourish, for William de Cantilupe bestowed on the priory considerable possessions in Shotswell, (fn. 2) and granted them the privilege of free election of their priors, only stipulating that licence to elect at a vacancy was to be asked of him and his heirs, and also his assent to the choice of the canons. He further provided that, although the custom in English monasteries was for the patron to have custody (that is to take the temporalities) during vacancies, the sub-prior and cellarer should have the custody on the part of the patron, first seeking powers of administration from William or his heirs; but that no secular officer nor the bishop should have ought to do with such custody. (fn. 3)

William de Cantilupe, who succeeded his father of the like name, gave the canons lands in Aston Cantlow to the value of £10 per annum for the support of a hospital for impotent folk at the monastery gates. He also granted them 20s. rents out of lands at Snareston, Leicestershire, with rights of pasture. The church of Hempston, Devonshire; certain assarts with his park at Shelthull; the church at Aston; and certain lands in the village of Trent, Somersetshire. (fn. 4) He also obtained a charter for the canons from Henry III in 1242 of some importance, whereby their woods within the forest of Fakenham were declared free for themselves, and none of the king's foresters were in any way to intermeddle, or press for hospitality or entertainment, which was only to be given of the priory's own good will. (fn. 5) The pressure that foresters brought to bear upon some of the religious houses of this county, of Northamptonshire, and of Hampshire was often felt to be a heavy burden on the religious.

In 1262 Eva de Cantilupe, widow of the second William de Cantilupe, gave lands to the annual value of 100s., and 20s. in rents, within her manor of Loddiswell, Devonshire. (fn. 6)

The Valor of 1291 gave the annual value of the temporalities of the priory in Worcester diocese as £11 14s. 3d.; in Coventry and Lichfield £3 16s. 6d.; and in Bath and Wells (Trent) £4. In spiritualities they held the church of Dornston—£2 13s. 4d., and portions from three others, amounting to £2 6s. 8d., all in the diocese of Worcester. (fn. 7)

John de Hastings, one of the heirs of George de Cantilupe, in November, 1296, assigned in mortmain to the prior and convent of Studley the advowson of the church of Aston Cantilupe, or Cantlow, in exchange for land there of the yearly value of £13. (fn. 8) There had been some irregularity in the former bequest of this advowson, and Queen Eleanor, who had the wardship of John de Hastings, recovered it, in his right, earlier in this year. Though the canons purchased the advowson, they parted with it in 1493 to Maxstoke Priory. (fn. 9)

The canons were visited by Bishop Giffard in 1269. On 25 July, 1284, they were again visited by the same prelate, when he preached to the clergy and laity of the house from the text 'Omnis edificatio constructa crescit in templum sanctum in Domino.' He remained that day at Studley at the cost of the house, but on the Wednesday he tarried there at his own charge, visiting on that day the nuns of Cokehill over Worcestershire border. As a result of this visitation the prior and convent received a mandate from the bishop not to pledge their property without the consent of the diocesan. There is record of another visitation of Studley by Giffard in 1300, when he preached from 'Fratres tuos visitabis si recte agant.' (fn. 10)

In July, 1307, Adam de Honnburne (alias Tessull), the prior, obtained from the papal nuncio, through the prior of Worcester, a dispensation on account of defect of birth, to hold his office; for he was illegitimate, being the child of a deacon and an unmarried woman. (fn. 11)

The canons began to rebuild their conventual church about the beginning of the fourteenth century; it was consecrated in June, 1309, by John of Monmouth, bishop of Llandaff, acting as suffragan to the bishop of Worcester. (fn. 12)

The Sede Vacante register of the priors of Worcester (1301-1435) contains the record of numerous visitations of this house by the prior or his commissaries. These visitors found nothing to reform save on the first two occasions. Prior John de la Wyke visited Studley in person on the Monday before the feast of the Annunciation, 1307, and a few days later, after his return to Worcester, he forwarded a letter to the prior and convent of Studley relative to certain matters requiring correction.

First that the prior in the correction of the brothers and rebuking the excesses of the same should take care to have more discretion than he was wont lest the lukewarmness of the discipline should in the future increase the reason for laxity ('dissolutionis materiam amplificet in futurum'); also that none of the brothers in the frater distribute or send out of the monastery any of the remains of their food to anyone, without the knowledge of the president, to the prejudice of alms, nor do anything to the detriment of alms; also that the time of religious service be more properly observed by more strictly keeping silence than is wont, according to the rule of St. Augustine and to the approved custom of the place; also the same prior of Worcester at his visitation absolved brother Thomas de Wateleye, who for his disobedience and other excesses had for a long time been kept in prison, he having shown signs of contrition. (fn. 13)

The commissaries of the prior of Worcester visited Studley in January, 1313. Early in the following month, as a result of their report, Prior John de la Wyke issued his mandate to the prior and convent of Studley instructing them, under pain of the greater excommunication, to remove Adam Wyberd from the office of cellarer, and not to restore him to that office within two years, and then not without the consent of all the brothers; and to insist on a half-yearly return of the receipts and expenses of his office from whomsoever they elected cellarer in Adam's place. (fn. 14)

There was some considerable discord here in 1319, for in August of that year Bishop Cobham committed the entire charge of everything at the monastery to Walter de Stoke, rector of Welford, in the interests of peace, and at the same time wrote to the prior and convent saying that if they showed themselves rebels to his commissary, they would be cited to appear before him within three days at his manor of Bredon. The prior, Robert de Holland, retired for a time to the priory of Horsley, but in the following March he was recalled by his diocesan to the rule of his monastery. (fn. 15)

The bishop of Worcester in 1350 commissioned the archdeacon of Worcester and another to inquire into the state of this priory, and as to the alleged excesses of some of the canons and ministers; the result was a restraint on their waste of goods, which continued in force until February, 1351. (fn. 16)

In April, 1350, Thomas de Warwick, canon of Studley, obtained licence from Pope Clement VI to return to his monastery, he having left it without leave the previous July in order to go to Rome for the indulgence of the year 1350. Mandate was at the same time issued to the neighbouring abbot of Alcester and two colleagues to see that this licence to return was complied with by the prior and convent of Studley. (fn. 17)

During the short vacancy in the Worcester episcopate in the year 1364 John de Evesham, prior of Worcester, visited Studley in person. On his arrival on 20 May he found many assembled with bows and other weapons forcibly to resist his entrance; but eventually, through threat of excommunication, he was permitted to enter and exercise his jurisdiction in the chapterhouse, meat and drink being provided as procuration. (fn. 18) No reason is given in the register for this violent opposition.

At the ordination held at Worcester by the bishop of Emly in September, 1434, three canons of this house, John Syllull, John Morton, and William Selston were admitted at the same time to the sub-diaconate and the diaconate. (fn. 19)

On 6 August, 1534, John Yardley, prior, William Dalam, sub-prior, and seven other canons of this house signed in the chapter-house their acknowledgement of the king's supremacy. (fn. 20)

The Valor of 1535 gave the annual value of the six churches appropriated to the priory as £88 18s., they were the churches of Studley and Coughton, Warwickshire; Hempston Magna, Devonshire; St. Peter's, Droitwich, Worcestershire; and Dornston and Salperton, Gloucestershire. The total clear annual value was declared as £117 1s. 5½d. £21 was reserved for the annual use of the hospice, and £4 was bound to be spent yearly in alms to the poor. (fn. 21)

Prior Yardley wrote a pitiful letter to Cromwell on 14 March, 1535. The vicar-general, after his usual fashion, endeavoured to secure a valuable farm for one of his friends about court, Francis Grant. The prior wrote that the farm of Skillis was the chief of their demesne and never let. Their poor house was maintained by husbandry, and if this farm was taken from them they could not live. With some dignity he reminded Cromwell that he was their visitor, and the king accepted as their supreme head, and therefore he trusted that he would have pity upon them and suffer them to live. (fn. 22)

The commissioners of 1536 gave the annual value of this priory as £141 4s. 9½d. They found eight religious with the prior, 'all priests of good conversation and lyvyng wheroff ii desier to have capacities.' There were thirty dependants, namely six yeomen, twenty hinds, four dairy-women, and one corrodian. The bells, lead, and buildings were worth £76 3s. 4d.; the house was a proper house and in good repair. The stocks, stores, and goods were worth £122 13s. 10d.; and there were 113 acres of wood. The debts amounted to £122 0s. 4d. (fn. 23)

John Yardley, the prior, obtained a pension of £15. (fn. 24)

The site of the house and the manor of Studley were granted to Sir Edmund Knightley shortly after its suppression. (fn. 25)

Priors of Studley

Fromund, temp. Stephen (fn. 26)

Nicholas, occurs 1221 (fn. 27)

Roger, temp. Henry III (fn. 26)

John de Wytenhull, c. 1291 (fn. 26)

Adam de Honnburne alias Tessull, occurs 1307 (fn. 28)

Robert de Holland, appointed 1319 (fn. 29)

Robert de Langdon, died 1339 (fn. 30)

John le Souche, appointed 1339 (fn. 30)

John de Gorcote, died 1371 (fn. 31)

John de Evesham, appointed 1372 (fn. 31)

William Hay, appointed 1407 (fn. 32)

Robert Wynley, appointed 1431 (fn. 33)

Richard Skytt alias Upton, appointed 1449

Thomas Bedull, 1450

Richard Woode, 1454

Thomas Attwode, occurs 1493-1520

John Yardley, 1520-36 (fn. 34)


  • 1. Chart. R. 1 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 2. Inspection and confirmation charter to the canons of Studley.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. These concessions and immunities were ratified by William Whittlesey, bishop of Worcester, when he visited the priory in 1364. Worc. Epis. Reg. Whittlesey, fol. 12.
  • 4. Inspection, Chart. 1 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 2; Harl. Chart. 47 G. 37.
  • 5. Chart. R. 26 Hen. III, m. 8.
  • 6. Chart. R. 46 Hen. III, m. 3.
  • 7. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 203, 17-220, 230, 237, 256.
  • 8. Pat. 24 Edw. I, m. 1.
  • 9. Dugdale, Warw. ii, 746.
  • 10. Giffard's Reg. (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 6, 244, 525.
  • 11. Sede Vac. Reg. (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 92.
  • 12. Worc. Epis. Reg. Reynolds, fol. 12.
  • 13. Sede Vac. Reg. (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 126.
  • 14. Ibid 144.
  • 15. Worc. Epis. Reg. Cobham, fol. 38, 39.
  • 16. Worc. Epis. Reg. Thoresby, fol. 8, 42.
  • 17. Cal. Papal Let. ii, 383.
  • 18. Sede Vac. Reg. (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 220.
  • 19. Ibid. 442.
  • 20. Dep. Keeper's Rep. viii, App. ii, 107.
  • 21. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 86.
  • 22. L. and P. Hen. VIII, viii, 391.
  • 23. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. cliv, 155
  • 24. Ibid. ccxxxii, fol. 41b.
  • 25. Dugdale, Warw. ii, 746.
  • 26. These three names are given by Dugdale, Warw. ii, 746.
  • 27. a Le Neve's Indexes (P.R.O.), xxiv, 8.
  • 28. Sede Vac. Reg. (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 92.
  • 29. Worc. Epis. Reg. Cobham, fol. 38.
  • 30. Ibid. Bransford, ii, fol. 16b.
  • 31. Ibid. Lynn, fol. 21.
  • 32. Ibid. Peverell, fol. 2.
  • 33. Ibid. Polton, fol. 93b.
  • 34. a The last five names are given by Dugdale, Mon. vi, 185.