Alien houses: Priory of Upavon

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.

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'Alien houses: Priory of Upavon', in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3, ed. R B Pugh, Elizabeth Crittall( London, 1956), British History Online [accessed 14 July 2024].

'Alien houses: Priory of Upavon', in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3. Edited by R B Pugh, Elizabeth Crittall( London, 1956), British History Online, accessed July 14, 2024,

"Alien houses: Priory of Upavon". A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3. Ed. R B Pugh, Elizabeth Crittall(London, 1956), , British History Online. Web. 14 July 2024.

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At the time of Domesday the church of Upavon, together with 2½ hides there, was held by the Norman abbey of St. Wandrille de Fontenelle (Seine-Inférieure). That abbey of black monks, established near Caudebec on the Seine more than 400 years earlier, already held a number of other churches in England, including four given to it by the Conqueror, for love of his chaplain, Guncard, who had become a monk there. (fn. 1) By 1141 the abbey held churches in five counties, (fn. 2) and it was probably in the 12th century that it established two cells in England, one at Ecclesfield (Yorks.) (fn. 3) and the other at Upavon. In the time of King John the abbey's holdings in Whitchurch, Sherston, and Wilsford were given to the Bishop and Cathedral of Salisbury. (fn. 4) At the same time the church of Upavon was made into a prebend of Salisbury, the Abbot of St. Wandrille being received as a canon of Salisbury with the prebend of Upavon. (fn. 5) In 1226 this prebend was valued at 20 marks. (fn. 6) In the same year the proctor of the abbot, probably the Prior of Upavon, excused himself from attendance at Salisbury, (fn. 7) and two years later it was stated that the foreign canons of Salisbury were not summoned to the election of the new bishop. (fn. 8) In later times the same monks were called indifferently priors of Upavon or proctors of the Abbot of St. Wandrille, (fn. 9) but the only evidence of the presence of either abbot or prior at Salisbury is that the prior held some houses in the close there in 1289. (fn. 10)

In the 13th century, when the abbey drew 200 livres revenue from England, (fn. 11) it had a large number of monks living away, both in England and Normandy. (fn. 12) Archbishop Rigaud of Rouen complained on several of his visitations of St. Wandrille that the abbot did not visit his priories often enough. (fn. 13) However, in 1258 he discovered that the abbot had gone to England with three monks. (fn. 14) In 1285 the abbey reduced its holdings in England by exchanging two churches there for lands at Rogerville near the abbey, held by the priory of Bradenstoke. (fn. 15) In 1294 the priory of Upavon was valued at £32 8s. yearly, and its goods at £40 9s. 8d. When next it was taken into the king's hands in 1324 the movables had fallen to £25 3s. in value. (fn. 16) The detailed inventories show two horses for the monks to ride, two beds, three tables, the sparse fittings of their chapel, their pots and pans, livestock, and store of grains. This was apparently a poor priory with a small demesne farm and but few livestock, including less than 100 sheep in 1294. By this time the priory lands in Upavon had come to be called a manor, and the nearby church of Charlton had been appropriated to it, in spite of the fact that the manor of Charlton was held by another Norman abbey. The Prior of Upavon presented vicars to the churches of both Upavon and Charlton. (fn. 17)

Under Edward III the priory was repeatedly taken into the king's hands and handed back to a succession of priors, who normally paid £20 a year for holding their own. (fn. 18) However, in 1378 many alien religious were expelled from England, and amongst them went three monks of St. Wandrille, Lawrence Mahete, William Blaunk, and John Bourdet. (fn. 19) Henceforth the priory was farmed by a succession of exchequer clerks for the same rent of £20 on condition that they provided for the celebration of divine service at Upavon and the maintenance of the priory. (fn. 20) During the Hundred Years War presentations to both churches were made by the king whether the priory was in the hands of the prior or of the exchequer clerks. (fn. 21) From 1409 the annual rent was enjoyed by Queen Joan. (fn. 22) In 1423 the priory of Upavon was granted to the Austin canons of Ivychurch in exchange for certain rights in Clarendon Park, and Ivychurch held it until the Dissolution, when the prior there, as successor of the Abbot of St. Wandrille in the prebend of Upavon, was still finding a vicar for the service of Salisbury Cathedral. (fn. 23)

Priors of Upavon

Robert de Bella Aqua, occurs 1262. (fn. 24)

Gilbert de Carcutt, occurs 1289. (fn. 25)

John de Milleville, occurs 1306. (fn. 26)

William de Santa Genovesa, occurs 1308, 1319. (fn. 27)

Richard le Provost, occurs 1337, 1341. (fn. 28)

William de Frevill, Fraunvill, occurs 1342, 1346, 1350. (fn. 29)

William Ponhier, occurs 1352. (fn. 30)

Robert Abbot, Labbe, occurs 1361, died 1368. (fn. 31)


  • 1. Eccl. Doc. ed. Hunter (Camden Soc. 1840), 57.
  • 2. F. Lot, Études critiques sur l'abbaye de St. Wandrille, 129, 139; Eccl. Doc. ed. Hunter, 58.
  • 3. V.C.H. Yorks. iii, 388–9. The priory at Brimpsfield attributed to St. Wandrille in V.C.H. Glos. ii, 102, was really a cell of St. Étienne de Fontenay near Bayeux; see Dugd. Mon., Reg. Simon de Gandavo (Cant. & York Soc.), and B.M. Add. MS. 6164, as cited there.
  • 4. Eccl. Doc. ed. Hunter, 55-59; Fasti Eccl. Sar. ed. Jones, ii, 191; Reg. of St. Osmund (Rolls Ser.), i, 229–33.
  • 5. Cal. Doc. France, ed. Round, 62.
  • 6. Reg. of St. Osmund (Rolls Ser.), ii, 71.
  • 7. Ibid. ii, 61.
  • 8. Ibid. ii, 104.
  • 9. e.g. William de Frevill, in E 401/383, under 24 Oct. and 13 Mar.
  • 10. Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. i, 346.
  • 11. Lot, Études sur l'abbaye de St. Wandrille, 193.
  • 12. Reg. visitationum archiepiscopi Rothomagensis [Eudes Rigaud], ed. T. Bonnin, 430, 471, 516, &c.
  • 13. Ibid. 111, 134, 637.
  • 14. Ibid. 325.
  • 15. Lot, Etudes sur l'abbaye de St. Wandrille, lxxvi, n. 6.
  • 16. E 106/2/2 and 3, 106/8/26.
  • 17. Reg. Simon de Gandavo (Cant. & York Soc.), 682, 704; Phillipps, Wilts. Inst. 16.
  • 18. Cal. Fine R. 1347–56, 326; 1356–68, 147, &c.
  • 19. C 76/61, m. 6.
  • 20. Cal. Fine R. passim.
  • 21. Cal. Pat. 1345–1405, passim; Phillipps, Wilts. Inst. 45, 48, 64, 90, 102.
  • 22. Cal. Pat. 1408–13, 86.
  • 23. Ibid. 1422–9, 106; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii, 96.
  • 24. Close R. 1261–4, 106.
  • 25. Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. i, 346.
  • 26. Reg. Simon de Gandavo (Cant. & York Soc.), 682.
  • 27. Ibid. 322, 704; Phillipps, Wilts. Inst. 16.
  • 28. Cal. Close, 1337–9, 163; 1339–41, 243; 1341–3, 360; Cal. Fine R. 1337–47, 35; E 372/194.
  • 29. Cal. Pat. 1340–3, 389; E 401/383; E 372/194, 204, &c.
  • 30. Cal. Fine R. 1347–56, 326; E 372/204.
  • 31. Cal. Fine R. 1356–8, 147, 388.