A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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10. THE PRIORY OF MAIDEN BRADLEY
Manasser Biset, steward of Henry II, was a landowner in five counties in 1158-9, (fn. 1) and his main interests lay in Hampshire and Wiltshire and at Kidderminster (Worcs.). Before 1164 he founded a hospital for leper women a mile north of the village of Bradley in south-west Wiltshire, and gave to it the manor of Bradley, which had been brought to him by his wife, Alice. (fn. 2) He added the reversions of the churches of Rockbourne (Hants) and Kidderminster. (fn. 3) Walter son of Osmund granted a mill to the lepers of Bradley before 1166, in a deed witnessed amongst others by Adam, Manasser's clerk. (fn. 4) Henry II confirmed Manasser's gifts in at least three charters, probably before 1164 and in 1169 and 1170, and granted freedom from forest fines and assarts. (fn. 5) Roger of Gloucester, Bishop of Worcester (116479), Richard of Dover, Archbishop of Canterbury (1174-84), and Manasser's son, Henry Biset, also confirmed the grants. (fn. 6) The parish church of Bradley had earlier been granted to Nutley Abbey (Bucks.), (fn. 7) and before Manasser's death, which occurred about 1176, (fn. 8) a chapel was dedicated at Bradley for the hospital, without prejudice to the rights of Nutley Abbey in the parish church. (fn. 9) Rivalry between the two churches led to disputes between Nutley and Bradley: the Dean of Wylye was ordered to intervene in 1274, (fn. 10) and the dispute was still unsettled in 1483. (fn. 11) The church of Rockbourne was released to the canons of Breamore (Hants) about 1188 for a rent of £5 a year; (fn. 12) but that of Kidderminster was appropriated to Maiden Bradley, probably by Henry de Soilli, Bishop of Worcester (1193-5). (fn. 13)
Manasser's son, Henry Biset, succeeded him as patron of the hospital. He gave to it land worth 10s. a year and a rent of £5 at Burgate, in Fordingbridge (Hants). (fn. 14) His sister Margaret built herself a house in the court of the hospital; gave to it services and rents in Wishford and Burton in Mere, a rent of 6s. 6d. in Kidderminster, and a piece of land called 'Wulsiscroft' in Bradley; and obtained for it a grant from Henry III of freedom to collect wood in the forest of Selwood, and of £3 6s. 8d. out of the farm of Brampton in Devon. (fn. 15) John Biset, grandson of Henry and justice of the forests, died in 1241 leaving three daughters, and was buried at Bradley. (fn. 16) With John, his widow, and successors, the hospital contended for the advowson of Kidderminster church, which it finally secured in 1336. (fn. 17)
A series of gifts from other benefactors can be traced, in many cases, to the Biset influence. William Marshal, the elder, Earl of Pembroke, who died in 1219, released to the poor women of Bradley 2 knights' fees which Manasser and Henry Biset owed to him, reserving a yearly payment of £1. (fn. 18) William Longespée, in his will dated 1225, left the house of Bradley 100 ewes and 10 cows. (fn. 19) Roger le Bigod, 4th Earl of Norfolk, grandson of Pembroke and ward of Salisbury, granted common of pasture in Marston Bigott Wood in Nunney (Som.). (fn. 20) In and before 1226-7 Sir Ralph de Auxeville gave the Worcestershire manors of Comberton and Oldington in Kidderminster, with the tenants and their issue, for the souls of his lord, Henry Biset, and others, and partly in consideration of the payment of his ransom of £66 13s. 4d. (fn. 21)
In a charter of 1204 King John took the house, which by this time had grown into a priory as well as a hospital, (fn. 22) under his protection and granted certain privileges, (fn. 23) and in 1213 he gave the hospital a fair at Bradley on the vigil and feast of St. Matthew. (fn. 24) Henry III granted a charter of confirmation in 1227 for the possessions but did not mention the fair. (fn. 25) He confirmed the gifts made by the Bisets and Ralph de Auxeville; also of a virgate in Bishopstrow by Robert Mauduit and property at Tarrant (Dors.) by his wife Agnes; of a virgate in Rockbourne by William Crespyn; of property in Homington by Geoffrey de Neville; of property in North Tidworth by Roger la Suche; of a virgate in Hampstead Marshall (Berks.) by Halenald de Syfrewarst; of properties in Orcheston and Gurston by Cecily, daughter of William Sewale; of land, a messuage and pasture at Chisenbury in Enford by Richard de la Folie, and of a hide in Compton in the same parish, by Richard the chaplain.
Henry III's licence (fn. 26) to stub, till, and inclose 50 acres of heath in Yarnfield, a tithing of Bradley across the Somerset border, involved the hospital in prolonged litigation with the Charterhouse of Witham (Som.), its neighbour in Selwood. As a result of many local inquiries, it was found that the hospital had held all Bradley manor, including Yarnfield, and that Henry II, when he founded Witham, and allowed the Carthusians to inclose 'le Holt' in Yarnfield, did not compensate the hospital. (fn. 27) The quarrel was begun in 1226, (fn. 28) and a settlement was not reached until 1280. (fn. 29) Other minor benefactions continued. In 1225 the prior exchanged lands in Bradley with William and Ralph de Aungers; (fn. 30) the prior and convent, probably as part of the transaction, released to Ralph their common of pasture on Fox Hill. (fn. 31) Robert le Norrais quitclaimed to the prior in 1229 1½ virgate in Yarnfield for 6s. 8d. (fn. 32) One Wulfric gave a burgage in Kidderminster, held by a rent of 1s. a year, (fn. 33) and Alfred the fuller, who died about 1235, granted rents of 1s. and 1s. 7d. in Kidderminster 'from the place where the hospital used to be'. (fn. 34) Hugh of Wells, Bishop of Lincoln, is said to have left a legacy to the lepers' house of Selwood at the same time; (fn. 35) and in 1239 Robert Bingham, Bishop of Salisbury, proclaimed an indulgence for visitors to certain altars in the hospital chapel. (fn. 36) Robert de Torenne gave a rent of 1s. due from ½ acre of land on which the millpond of Langham in Southwick discharged. (fn. 37)
John Biset's three daughters married respectively Richard (or Robert) de Rivers, John of Wotton, and Hugh de Plessis, and Wotton's son John took the name of Biset. Each family maintained an interest in the hospital, and the Rivers continued the feud over the advowson of Kidderminster. In 1267 John de Rivers gave a man named Hugh in the Grove, with his issue and the lands which he held. (fn. 38) John de Rivers and his father, in agreement with the Wottons and the Plessis, gave their third of Kidderminster manor and regranted the church in 1269-70. (fn. 39) John Wotton or Biset, for his part, gave to the prior and hospital in 1303 certain free men and villeins in Kidderminster, in return for men and their lands given by his ancestors in Burgate; (fn. 40) and in 1307 his widow obtained as part of her dower a rent of 2s. 6d. in Kidderminster due from the prior. (fn. 41) The will of William de Plessis, whose connexion with Hugh is not known, was 'ordinated' by the Prior of Bradley. (fn. 42) In 1286 the prior and convent made an agreement with his executors, granting confraternity and an anniversary to William and obtaining the release of £21 10s. of 'old currency' deposited with the hospital. (fn. 43)
Henry III granted timber from Gillingham Wood for the church tower in 1245, (fn. 44) and in 1267 a Monday market at Bradley. (fn. 45) In 1270 Queen Eleanor confirmed John de Rivers's grants of a third of Kidderminster manor, of the church there, and of the land and person of a villein; she wrote to the local escheator in September, when she and the king were at Marlborough, asking for his help in these matters. (fn. 46) John of Heytesbury, prior in 1260-86, had secured property at Tothill in Westminster; and Eleanor persuaded the king to grant in 1271 that the prior and convent should hold their houses in Tothill quit of all livery of the king or his officers, and that the royal household should not be lodged there without the convent's consent. (fn. 47)
Edith Mason gave a house and other property in Kidderminster about 1248. (fn. 48) John of Waterleigh gave a burgage in Marlborough in 1259. (fn. 49) In or after 1250 Richard de Cruce gave ½ acre in Yarnfield called 'la churchelse'. (fn. 50) In 1260 William of Rodden granted a messuage and ½ carucate at Grendon, in Frome, in return for an obit and £1 11s. 6d. a year for his life. (fn. 51) In 1265 the daughters of Hereward of Newnham granted land at Newnham in Sutton Veny, to be held until 12 crops had been received. (fn. 52) Geoffrey Husee gave property in North Marden (Sussex) and Chichester, of the dower of Dame Maud Dymmok. (fn. 53) John of Heytesbury, the prior, was superintendent in 1268 of the will of Geoffrey's wife Cecily, who left her body to be buried in the hospital and bequeathed to it two horses or 2 marks. (fn. 54) Peter of Boxsted, appointed chief steward in 1267, gave property in Frome (including an alder-bed), and Yatton Keynell, and 4d. a year for St. Mary Magdalen's light in the church. (fn. 55) In 1270 John and the brethren and sisters granted fraternity to William of Swallowcliffe; they agreed (on penalty of £26 6s. 8d. for the fabric of Salisbury Cathedral) to add a tenth priest for a daily mass, for which William had assigned a carucate of land at Baycliff in Horningsham. (fn. 56) Between 1269 and 1285 Roger la Zouche confirmed his father Sir Alan's gift of a rent of £5 out of land in the Biset Manor of North Tidworth, and the convent granted a chaplain to celebrate for the souls of Sir Alan and his wife. (fn. 57)
In 1273 the prior and convent obtained a messuage and 22 acres in Baycliff in return for two life corrodies on the scale of the daily commons which the brethren received (two loaves, two gallons of ale, and a dish of 'provisions'); a messuage and a carucate in North Tidworth; and property in Purton and in Beckington and West Hatch (Som.). (fn. 58) They agreed with John de Aungers in 1277 that he and his heirs should be free of toll in Bradley market, and that the goathouse which he had built might stand; in return he quitclaimed two paths and a place 'de la Pleystret' of Bradley where the market was. (fn. 59) A chaplain of Heytesbury released to the priory in 1277 his claims in 2 burgages in the same Pley street. (fn. 60) Edith, daughter of Robert de Homington, had licence in 1290 to grant to the prior and convent a messuage and 6 bovates in Homington which she held of them by service of £1 a year and suit at the prior's court every three weeks; (fn. 61) and in 1298 she released to them her right in a tenement in Homington. (fn. 62)
Prior John le Fry resigned in 1306, and Sir John de Rivers acted as patron for the election of his successor. (fn. 63) Fry and two other early 14thcentury priors were remembered by pittances. (fn. 64) But the hospital was now poor, and becoming poorer, despite the accumulation of small endowments; it was excused from paying papal tenths and procurations under Bishop Simon of Ghent; (fn. 65) Henry of Bradley released in 1319 his inherited corrody and hospitalities within it; (fn. 66) in 1320-3 indulgences were obtained from the Bishop of Salisbury and two suffragans, and authority was given by the former to change the anniversary of the consecration of their church from St. Matthew's day to 1 October. (fn. 67) The canons were still accumulating holdings in Yarnfield: an important gift by Walter Aleyn in 1309; (fn. 68) another from Richard Bricz in 1317, on condition of finding a canon or chaplain to celebrate daily in their chapel; (fn. 69) and access to common of pasture in 1333, by agreement with John Penston. (fn. 70)
Edward III, in 1335, confirmed Manasser Biset's grant of the two churches, and gave to the prior and convent in 1336 a general licence for the acquisition of lands to the value of £10 a year. (fn. 71) In 1337 he authorized grants of a messuage, land, meadow, and 6s. rent in Great Corsley, Warminster, and Smallbrook in Warminster by William of Littleton, and of 6 messuages, land, and wood in Maiden Bradley and Hill Deverill by John Daniell, chaplain, and Reginald the Palmer. (fn. 72) John of Marshton and John of Homington had licence in 1361 to grant property worth £2 3s. 8d. a year at Frome Branch and Rodden both in Frome, (Som.), at Shaftesbury, and at Corsley, Whitbourne in Corsley, Maiden Bradley, and Little Horningsham; and John of Marshton had further licence in 1369 to grant a house worth £1 a year and a rent of 6s. in Bristol, for a candle before St. Mary's altar in the priory church on all feast days. (fn. 73) Other property at Corsley had been given earlier by William of Corsley. (fn. 74) About 1340 Nicholas of Oldington released to the prior a messuage in Oldington, and a messuage in Kidderminster was acquired; (fn. 75) in 1349 John of Warselegh granted lands at Oldington. (fn. 76) Thomas Poulton, Bishop of Worcester, left the hospital £1 in 1342. (fn. 77) In 1339 and 1347 the king excused the canons from finding two men-at-arms for coast defence. (fn. 78)
In the last two centuries the stream of acquisitions dwindled to a trickle. In 1381 for £13 6s. 8d. paid by Thomas of Erlestoke, chaplain and parson of Fisherton de la Mere, (fn. 79) the canons had licence to grant £6 13s. 4d. a year from lands in Homington to a chaplain who should celebrate daily in St. Thomas's Church, Salisbury, for the souls of three citizens of Salisbury and others. (fn. 80) In the same year they lent £66 13s. 4d. to Sir John atte Wode. (fn. 81) Philip de la Mare of Nunney (Som.) had licences in November 1390, for £6 13s. 4d. paid by the canons, to cede to them property worth £1 6s. 8d. a year in Maiden Bradley, Baycliff, Hill Deverill, and Little Horningsham; in December 1390, with Sir Matthew Gurney's leave, to grant an acre of land in Fisherton de la Mere and the advowson of the church; and in 1394, for £13 6s. 8d. which he paid, to cede to a chaplain in Nunney church a rent of £6 13s. 4d. which the prior and convent had granted to him out of Maiden Bradley priory and manor, in exchange for Fisherton manor. (fn. 82) The appropriation of Kidderminster church was recovered in 1399-1401. (fn. 83) In 1402 John Gawen and others had licence to grant land in Hill Deverill worth 13s. 4d. and the reversion of a messuage and land in Maiden Bradley and Yarnfield, worth 3s., in satisfaction of £1 a year under the general licence of Edward III. (fn. 84) The canons obtained in 1444 a further general licence, which apparently they were not able to use, and in 1449 a widely drawn charter of privileges. (fn. 85) They were allowed the goods and chattels of felons; quittance of suits of tourns; assay and assize of bread, wine, ale, and other commodities; quittance of collecting, levying, and receiving tenths and other clerical taxes; quittance of toll, pannage, and other imposts; free warren in all their demesne lands; and all privileges granted by the king's ancestors in his forest of Selwood.
As has been said, Bradley, originally founded as a home for leper women, very soon became a priory as well. According to Leland, (fn. 86) the secular priests who at first staffed the hospital were replaced by a prior and Austin canons by Hubert, Bishop of Salisbury (1189-93). However, Hubert's exemplification of the charter of Jocelyn, his predecessor, does not confirm this. (fn. 87) Henry II's first charter referred simply to the lepers of Bradley, (fn. 88) whilst that of Roger, Bishop of Worcester (1164-79), mentioned the lepers and their servants. (fn. 89) By 1201, however, there was a prior at Bradley, (fn. 90) and thenceforth the house was normally described as 'the sisters, prior and brethren'. Robert of Wykehampton, Bishop of Salisbury, visited the priory in 1274 and issued regulations for the profession and clothing of the women and for the discipline of the canons and lay brothers. (fn. 91) In 1301 John le Fry, then prior, set aside rents amounting to over £11 a year for clothing the priests, lay brothers, and sisters, with exact regulations of materials, colours, and renewals. (fn. 92) The chamberlain was responsible for the spending of this money, and a number of his accounts survive. (fn. 93) He also managed the tannery which belonged to the priory. In 1325 there were about 15 sisters, the prior, 10 priests, and 4 to 6 lay brothers. (fn. 94) The Bishop of Salisbury had written in 1321 allowing the profession of 3 women who had been admitted as sisters before his inhibition, but adding that for the future his inhibition held good. (fn. 95) It is possible that he intended in this way to close Maiden Bradley as a leper hospital. Leprosy had already declined in England, and it may well be that the sisters gradually died out. The canons lasted until the end. There were apparently 9 priest-canons before 1270 and 10 thereafter; (fn. 96) there were 10 or 12 in 1326-30 in addition to the prior, (fn. 97) and 10 under prior Edward of Frome (1376-89); (fn. 98) but in 1279, and again in 1381, the canons engaged secular priests to fulfil some of their obligations. (fn. 99) In 1465 there were 5 priest-canons, of whom 3 held offices, (fn. 100) and at the Dissolution there were 5 with 2 novices. (fn. 101)
Separate revenues were assigned to the sacrist and the pittancer, as well as to the chamberlain, before 1365. (fn. 102) Early 14th-century accounts of these officials are preserved, but by 1465 there were only a sub-prior, cellarer, and sacrist. (fn. 103) The priors were elected by the canons from amongst their own number, on the patron's congé d'élire, and presented by the patron for institution by the bishop. None of them was outstanding; two metropolitical visitations were not followed by serious reform, and control by the General Chapter of the Black Canons was evaded. (fn. 104) The priory was visited by William Courtenay, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1390, despite the Bishop of Salisbury's protest against a visitation of his diocese; (fn. 105) and in 1423 by Henry Chichele, who referred to it as one of the four houses in the diocese 'exceptionally needing correction and reformation both in spiritual and in temporal matters'. (fn. 106) Robert of Ashton, who was elected prior in 1429, died in 1443 at Venice on his way to the Holy Land. (fn. 107) Two priors, Edward of Frome and Robert Jakes, presented themselves to the distant church of Kidderminster. Edmund Lambard in 1493 left bequests of money to the canons individually. (fn. 108) There is no record of books belonging to the priors or to the priory, except for a cartulary of the Kidderminster property which is preserved in the British Museum. (fn. 109) In 1400 one John Hyket was accused of breaking into the prior's house and taking 20 lb. of tallow (price 20d.), 4 white loaves (panes), a small bag, and 2 lb. of candles (price 12d.) of the prior's goods. (fn. 110)
Corrodies existed by 1260, (fn. 111) and two corrodians were in residence at the Dissolution; but Maiden Bradley as a 'poor hospital' was not expected to receive superannuated servants of the Crown. The stewards appointed in 1267, 1355, 1365, and 1380 (fn. 112) lived in, and their contracts referred to esquires and clerks. They received a white loaf and a flagon of ale daily, a robe each year, and candles in winter. The last chief steward, Sir William Stourton, received a salary, but his help was probably only invoked in time of trouble. The auditor and the receiver-general of 1535 no doubt had offices in the priory. The hired servants of 1535, sixteen to eight religious, (fn. 113) had succeeded to the duties of the lay brothers. The small and widely scattered estates of the priory were managed in the 14th century by collectors and farmers, a large number of whose accounts survive. (fn. 114) They show mixed farming on the demesne lands, and a negligible production of wool, except at Homington, where in Henry VI's reign the priory's farmer was apparently a woman, Alice Gyles. (fn. 115) From the 13th century the Worcestershire properties were managed as separate undertakings. (fn. 116) Later, as with other houses, many estates were let on long leases.
As to the layout of the priory buildings there seems to be no evidence, except for the mention of the steward's chamber over the gate in 1380. (fn. 117) Some traces of the buildings still survive, however, at Priory Farm. These comprise a gatehouse range forming part of the southern boundary of the enclosure and a smaller structure projecting into the courtyard near its west end. (fn. 118) The walls are of roughly coursed rubble with freestone quoins and dressings. Both buildings are of two stories and retain door and window openings which appear to date from the late 15th or early 16th century. It is possible that parts of the external wall of the gatehouse range are older. The gateway itself has a four-centred arch, now blocked, and lies near the east end of the building. Above this is a large upper chamber of three bays which retains its open medieval roof. This is of the arch-braced collar-beam type with curved wind-braces below the purlins. Farther west the upper floor was evidently divided into smaller rooms and here the roof trusses have tie-beams and king posts. On the courtyard side two doorways at first-floor level give access to the upper range. In one case traces of a stone stair remain. Beside the other door a curious hooded stone basin projects externally. It appears to have been connected to ducts or pipes in the thickness of the wall, but its function is obscure. At the south-west corner of the smaller building is a stone newel stair approached at ground-floor level by a doorway with a four-centred head. The gable end facing the courtyard retains part of a stone finial. The bases of original boundary walls are still in existence on the north and east sides of the enclosure, the latter forming part of a modern milking shed. At the west end of the gatehouse range a block of masonry about 9 ft. from the ground suggests the springing of a large stone arch. This may indicate the position of one of the more important buildings of the priory. Otherwise these have entirely disappeared.
By 1360 the patronage of the priory had descended from the Biset heiresses to Sir Edmund Husee, and his elder daughter carried the advowson by marriage into the family of Hungerford. (fn. 119) In spite of the losses which this Lancastrian family suffered in the 15th century, the patronage remained with them; it was settled in 1490 on Mary Hungerford, then the wife of Sir Edward Hastings, and it belonged at the Dissolution to her son, George, Earl of Huntingdon. (fn. 120) Two priors, William of Westbury and Richard Jennings, ruled in succession from 1465 to 1535; the former sustained, in his generation, the credit of the house. He complained to George Neville, Lord Bergavenny, of the behaviour of his officers in Kidderminster, and Bergavenny duly rebuked them. (fn. 121) He and his canons were remembered generously in the wills of his godfather, the chaplain of Homington church; of John Mompesson, and of his tenant and neighbour, Edmund Lambard. (fn. 122) He had in 1483 a papal dispensation to wear an amice trimmed with grey fur in the priory, notwithstanding the constitutions of Otto and Ottobon. (fn. 123) His successor left a different name.
Richard Jennings had received priest's orders in December 1505, and he was prior in 1510. (fn. 124) In 1513 he was accused of assault on a neighbour; (fn. 125) from 1515 to 1520 he held the vicarage of Kidderminster; (fn. 126) and in 1518 he was threatened with a visitation on behalf of the General Chapter of the Austin Canons. (fn. 127) He let many of the priory's estates for lives, or for terms of 51 to 97 years. (fn. 128) He pawned plate to the tenant of the mill at Bradley, and sued him and was sued in return. (fn. 129) In 1531-2 he received £205 3s. 5d. on the priory account, and spent £270 19s. 5½d. (fn. 130) Richard Layton wrote to Cromwell in 1535 an account of Jennings's six children and of his papal licences for self-indulgence. (fn. 131)
The return of endowments rendered in 1535 (fn. 132) showed estates in Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex, and Worcestershire, with a gross income of £198 18s. 8d. and fixed charges of £18 8s. 4d. The priory was therefore dissolved under the Act of 1536. The County Commissioners raised the estimate of clear income by nearly £20 and drew a less unflattering picture of the canons; they valued the lead and bells, the movable property, and the great woods and coppice at £268 3s. 4d. in all; they found £191 13s. 10d. owed by the priory, and £54 2s. 8d. owing to it. (fn. 133) Jennings obtained £48 11s. 7d. from the income of 1535-6 for household expenses since Michaelmas 1535, and for himself the rectory of Shipton Moyne (Glos.). (fn. 134) The future Duke of Somerset obtained the house, site, and manor of Maiden Bradley in 1537, and the future Duke of Northumberland the Kidderminster property in 1545; (fn. 135) Agostino, the Venetian doctor who betrayed Wolsey and took service with the king, held Beckington Manor for several years. (fn. 136)
Priors of Maiden Bradley
Andrew, occurs 1201-c. 1210. (fn. 137)
Hugh, occurs 1225-33. (fn. 138)
William, occurs 1235. (fn. 139)
Ralph, occurs 1238-c. 1248. (fn. 140)
John of Heytesbury, occurs 1260-86. (fn. 141)
John le Fry, occurs 1298-1306. (fn. 142)
John of Tilshead, elected 1306. (fn. 143)
William of Welewe, elected 1325, occurs 1334. (fn. 144)
Henry of Frome, occurs 1335. (fn. 145)
John of Wells, occurs before 1348. (fn. 146)
Thomas of Tidcombe, elected 1349, occurs to 1355. (fn. 147)
William of Frome, elected 1361, occurs to 1373. (fn. 148)
Edward of Frome, 1376-89. (fn. 149)
Robert Jakes, 1389-1429. (fn. 150)
Robert of Ashton, 1429-43. (fn. 151)
William Mercer, elected 1443, occurs to 1449. (fn. 152)
Edmund Dyer, died 1465. (fn. 153)
William of Westbury, elected 1465, occurs to 1504. (fn. 154)
Richard Jennings, occurs 1510-36. (fn. 155)
A 12th-century conventual seal, (fn. 156) pointed oval and measuring 3 by 2 in., shows a building of masonry with a central tower over a round-headed doorway. The tower has a conical roof and steeple surmounted by a ball and cross. There is a cross over each gable-end. The legend reads:
SIGILLUM · CONVENTUS · SBE · MARIE · DE · BRADELEGA ·
The seal (fn. 157) of a Prior John of the 13th century is a pointed oval about 1¾ by 1½ in. It shows the Virgin crowned and enthroned in a canopied niche with the Child on her left knee. A figure, possibly of a saint, stands on her left. In the base under an arch is the prior praying. The legend is
+ S' PRIORIS · ET · PCURATORIS DE MAYDEN BRADLEG'
A 14th-century pointed-oval seal (fn. 158) measuring 2½ by 1½ in. shows the Virgin seated in a canopied niche with the Child on her left arm. In the base under a carved ogee arch is a kneeling bishop with mitre and staff. To the left between two shields of arms there appears to be an escutcheon within an orb of martlets. The inscription reads:
SIS · PATRONA · PIA . . . MON . . . VIRGO MAR . . .
This is no doubt the authority for the coat of arms attributed to the prior. (fn. 159)
The heater-shaped conventual seal, (fn. 160) measuring about 1 in. across and used in 1383, shows armorial bearings which may be one of the Biset coats: azure a bend argent.
A document of 1535 carries the round seal of the prior, Richard Jennings. The legend runs:
S' RICARDI P'ORIS DE M . . . B L
Between the B and the L is a shield which appears to bear the arms attributed by Matthew Paris to John Biset. (fn. 161)
The Museum at Devizes has casts of the first three, and of the seal of Lawrence the millward, in a collection formed by Mr. Scanes.