Houses of Austin canons: St Sepulchre, Warwick

Pages 97-99

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

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On the north side of the town of Warwick, on the site of a former parochial church of St. Helen, Henry de Newburgh, the first earl of Warwick after the Conquest, began, in the year 1109, to erect the priory of St. Sepulchre, the occasion thereof being, by the recourse of diverse pilgrims in great devotion to the Holy Land (the Christians prevailing much about that time) who solicited the earl to erect a monastery, in imitation of those canons regular there instituted in the church of the Holy Sepulchre of our Blessed Saviour; which canons used the like habits that other regular canons did, adding only a double red cross upon the breast of their cope, this being the first house of that peculiar order, either in England, Wales, Scotland, or Ireland. (fn. 1)

After the fall of Jerusalem in 1188 this special order began to decay, and eventually most of their lands and revenues were transferred to the order of friars of the Holy Trinity or Trinitarians, for the redemption of captives, who had a house at Thelsford in this county. The prior and canons of St. Sepulchre's, Warwick, were not, however, thus absorbed, but became indistinguishable from ordinary Austin houses of canons regular.

Roger, the son of the founder, completed his father's work, the church and churchyard (for the burial of the canons only) being consecrated by Simon, bishop of Worcester (1125-51).

Among the chief early benefactions were the churches of Snitterfield and Haselor; lands at Claverdon, Solihull, Upton, and Lighthorne; a stone house and grounds in Warwick; and the church of St. Clement Danes, London, with certain lands and rents. (fn. 2)

In May, 1280, the king granted for life, with the assent of his brother Edmund, to the bishop of Llandaff to have his inn in the inn of the canons of the order of the Holy Sepulchre of Warwick, which was opposite St. Clements, without the Bar of the New Temple, whenever he came to London. (fn. 3)

The Taxation (fn. 4) of 1291 gave the annual value of the temporalities of the house of St. Sepulchre as £4 3s. The spiritualities then consisted of portions or pensions from the following churches:—St. Nicholas, Warwick, 2s., St. Mary's, Warwick, 6s. 8d., Snitterfield, 13s. 4d., Pillerton, 5s., and Butlers Marston, 13s. 4d.

The prior and canons in 1323 exchanged the advowson of St. Clement Danes and their property in that parish with Walter Stapleton, bishop of Exeter, for eight acres of land at Snitterfield and the appropriation of that church. (fn. 5)

The sheriff of Warwick was ordered in July, 1324, to cause the prior of St. Sepulchre to have seisin of eight acres of land in Hatton, as the king learnt by inquisition taken by the escheator that Joan Mordak, who was hanged for felony, held them of the prior, and that they had been in the king's hands for a year and a day. (fn. 6)

The appropriation of the church of Greetham, Rutland, the advowson of which had been granted to this priory temp. Henry III, was sanctioned in the reign of Edward III. (fn. 7)

The priory was visited by Bishop Giffard in 1269. In 1284 the prior withdrew without reasonable cause, whereupon the bishop appointed brother William de Bereford, one of the canons, to take charge of the priory until his return; the bishop wrote at the same time to the earl of Warwick telling him of the departure of the prior and of the temporary appointment. The sub-prior and other canons were enjoined meanwhile to give obedience to William de Bereford. (fn. 8) In 1285 a mandate from Pope Alexander, addressed generally to archbishops, bishops, abbots, &c., to excommunicate laymen and suspend clerics who laid violent hands on the brothers of St. Sepulchre, Warwick, or carried away their goods, was transcribed in the episcopal registry. (fn. 9) A letter from the bishop to Prior William de Bereford in 1289 appointed Hugh called Tankard to act as his coadjutor. (fn. 10) The priory was again visited by the bishop on 27 January, 1290. (fn. 11) On 25 March, 1290, the bishop wrote to the earl of Warwick, as patron of the priory, acquainting him with the election of brother Hugh de Brekes, formerly canon of Kenilworth, by the brothers, as their prior. (fn. 12)

As the result of a visitation in 1303, the canons were inhibited from alienating their goods as they had been doing. (fn. 13)

The visitation of the priory of St. Sepulchre by the prior of Worcester or his commissaries during the vacancy of the see is recorded on five different occasions in the Sede Vacante register (1301-1435), but nothing was noted worthy of reformation. The mandate for the visitation of 1339 requested that the names of the brethren should be forwarded before the visitation was held. The certificate of the prior and convent of St. Sepulchre showed that their number was then nine, namely:—William de Wilton, prior, William de Wigornia, sub-prior, John de Wigornia, sacrist, and William de Coderugg, Richard de Kyngton, Henry de Wylmeleygton, Richard de Kekyngwych, John de Kyngeslone, and Robert de Coderugg. (fn. 14)

In 1512 Bishop Silvester de Gigliis visited his diocese by commission. The prior and convent of St. Sepulchre refused admission to the vicargeneral, but the official of the court of Canterbury decided against the priory, and submission was made in the following year to the jurisdiction of the vicar-general. (fn. 15)

On 8 November, 1513, Prior Itchington resigned his office. In consequence of some irregularity Bishop Silvester de Gigliis committed the administration and custody of the house, on 4 February, 1514, to Thomas Atwode, prior of Studley, for the term of six months.

Robert Radford, a canon of the house, was appointed prior on the death of William Hervey, in February, 1535. (fn. 16) The Valor of that year gives his name by error as Henry Radford. The clear annual value was declared as £41 10s. 2d. No charities are mentioned. (fn. 17)

On 3 September, 1535, the earl of Derby wrote to Cromwell, having heard that the priory of St. Sepulchre, Warwick, was to be suppressed. He desired certain information and was evidently strongly averse to the proposal, as he asked what were the best means to be used to stay such action. (fn. 18) The private accounts of Thomas Cromwell for this year show that he accepted £13 6s. 8d. from the prior of Warwick. (fn. 19)

The commissioners of 1536 gave the annual value as £42 7s. 4½d. They found three religious with the prior 'all priests of good conversation and living by reporte,' all desiring to continue or be transferred. There were eight dependants, namely two yeoman servants, three corrodians, one having living by promise and two others having fees extraordinary by convent seal. The lead and bells were worth £12 10s., and the house was in good repair. The stocks, stores, and goods were worth £8 6s. 2d., and there were 3½ acres of wood worth 50s. The debts of the house amounted to £133 14s. 9d. (fn. 20)

On the suppression of his house Prior Radford obtained the small pension of £5. (fn. 21)

The site of the house was granted amid much like spoil to Thomas Hawkins. (fn. 22)

Priors of St. Sepulchre, Warwick (fn. 23)

Ralph, temp. Henry II

Thomas, c. 1190 (fn. 24)

Richard, 1260

Robert de Breyles, 1270

William de Bereford, appointed 1284 (fn. 25)

Hugh de Brekes (Brok), appointed 1288 (fn. 26)

Paul de Stonleye, appointed 1293, (fn. 27) occurs 1303 (fn. 28)

William de Coterugge, occurs 1329 (fn. 28)

Guy de Herferton, 1332

William de Wilton, occurs 1339

Peter de Warwick, 1349, died 1402 (fn. 29)

John Stanford, appointed 1402 (fn. 30)

John Alcester, died 1432 (fn. 31)

John Warwick, appointed 1432 (fn. 31)

Thomas Streech, resigned 1473 (fn. 32)

Robert Wotton, appointed 1473, (fn. 32) resigned 1493 (fn. 33)

John Itchington, appointed, 1493, (fn. 33) resigned 1513

William Hervey, appointed 1515, died 1535

Robert Radford, appointed 1535 (fn. 34)

The twelfth-century seal shows the Holy Sepulchre as a long chest with pent roof ornamented with lozenge diaper and standing on four feet. On the lid a patriarchal cross upstanding. Below the chest, the sacred monogram IHC. In the field on each side, a tower with an arcaded façade of three long round-headed arches, the spire having a trefoiled window, and topped by a cross. Legend:—


The seal of prior William de Coterugge bears St. John Baptist, with the Agnus Dei on a plaque; before him on the right a kneeling prior.

. . . . KE . . . . . . (fn. 36)


  • 1. Dugdale, Warw. i, 454 ex Hist. MS. J. Rous.
  • 2. Dugdale, Warw. i, 456.
  • 3. Pat. 8 Edw. I, m. 19.
  • 4. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 218.
  • 5. Pat. 17 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 31; Close, 18 Edw. II, m. 39.
  • 6. Close, 18 Edw. II, m. 38.
  • 7. Wright, Rutland (1686), p. 67.
  • 8. Giffard's Reg. (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 246, 250.
  • 9. Ibid. 261.
  • 10. Ibid. 335.
  • 11. Ibid. 339.
  • 12. Ibid. 349.
  • 13. Worc. Epis. Reg. Gainsborough, fol. 3.
  • 14. Sede Vac. Reg. (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 281.
  • 15. Worc. Epis. Reg. Silvester de Gigliis, 94, 1046.
  • 16. L. and P. Hen. VIII, viii, 291 (44).
  • 17. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 86.
  • 18. L. and P. Hen. VIII, ix, 262.
  • 19. Ibid. ix, 478.
  • 20. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. cliv, 147.
  • 21. Ibid. ccxxxii, fol. 42.
  • 22. Pat. 38 Hen. VIII, m. 3.
  • 23. Dugdale, Warw. i, 456.
  • 24. a Harl. Chart. 83 A. 4.
  • 25. Giffard's Reg. (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 250.
  • 26. Ibid. 349.
  • 27. Ibid. 397.
  • 28. Anct. D., B. 1103.
  • 29. a Add. Chart. 21415.
  • 30. Pat. 3 Hen. IV, pt. ii, m. 1.
  • 31. Pat. 4 Hen. IV, pt. i, m. 20.
  • 32. Worc. Epis. Reg. Polton, fol. 126b.
  • 33. Ibid. Carpenter, ii, fol. 48.
  • 34. Ibid. Morton, fol. 49b.
  • 35. L. and P. Hen. VIII, viii, 291 (44).
  • 36. B.M. lxxiii, 29; Dugdale, Mon. vi, 602.
  • 37. Add. Chart. 21415.