Houses of Benedictine nuns: Priory of Marrick

Pages 117-118

A History of the County of York: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1974.

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The priory of Marrick was founded at the beginning of the reign of Henry II by Roger de Aske. (fn. 1) The foundation charter is addressed to Archbishop Roger, who was consecrated in 1154, but as the archbishop's charter of confirmation says that the founder made the grant with consent of Conan, Earl of Richmond, the foundation cannot have been earlier than 1165, when Conan became seised of the earldom of Richmond. (fn. 2)

The founder granted the church of St. Andrew (fn. 3) of Marrick, with a carucate of land there. Earl Conan (fn. 4) confirmed the gifts of Roger de Aske, and those of other of his barons (barones mei).

Roger de Aske, (fn. 5) son of Conan, and grandson of the founder, confirmed the grants of his grandfather and father, and added other lands. Besides other lands in Marrick, the convent received many donations in most of the adjoining villages and also the hospital known as the Spital on Stainmoor, which was given by Ralph son of Ralph, lord of Moulton, and which continued in the possession of the convent till the Dissolution, the nuns paying a chaplain there £4 13s. 4d. according to the foundation of Conan, Earl of Richmond. An alphabetical list of these is given by Burton, (fn. 6) and the charters relating to them and other gifts have since been printed in full. (fn. 7)

The priory was in the archdeaconry of Richmond, the records of which are mostly defective. A visitation was held in 1252, during the archiepiscopate of Walter Gray, but whether by the archbishop or by the archdeacon is not evident. Both the archbishop and the Archdeacon of Richmond appear to have held episcopal visitations of the monasteries in Richmondshire. (fn. 8)

The ' inquisition ' was held on Tuesday before the feast of St. Denys 1252, and 'articles' were sent for the observance of the nuns, most of which are of the usual general nature. (fn. 9) The prioress was to be affable to her nuns, treat them kindly, correct their excesses privately in chapter, and inflict for equal faults the same punishments, lest those whom she most loved she might spare most and oppress others. She was to give leave to none to go out unless the sickness of friends or some other worthy reason demanded it, and then only in company with a prudent and mature nun, and a time for return was to be fixed under a severe penalty. The nuns were not to sit with guests or anyone outside the cloister after curfew (ultra coverfu), nor for long, unless the guests arrived so late that it was impossible to serve them sooner, nor was a nun to remain alone with a guest after others had left. The guests were not to stay more than one night, as the means of the house barely sufficed for the maintenance of the nuns, sisters, and brethren.

No woman or man was to be admitted except with the bishop's licence. If any woman or man were admitted, that person Would be expelled from the house, without hope of mercy, and the prioress would be deposed, and any other nuns who agreed would be condemned to fast on bread and water for two months, Sundays and festivals excepted. No girls or women were in future to be taken as boarders or to be taught without special licence, but as many secular women might be employed as were required for such work as it was not decorous for the nuns or sisters to do.

No corrody whatever was to be sold in future without consent. The whole number of oxen, cows, horses, and stock of every kind was to be entered in two rolls, one of which was to remain with the convent, and the other with the custos of the house, who had been appointed to look after the outside business and guardianship of the granges, so that the property of the house might be apparent at any visitation.

No letters were to be sealed with the common seal, except by consent of the whole convent, or at least of the wiser part, and of the master. Sales of wool and of stock were forbidden, except with consent of the master.

Nothing further is known of the history of Marrick till the period of the Dissolution. For some unknown reason, by Letters Patent, dated 9 September 1536, (fn. 10) it was exempted from dissolution with the other lesser monasteries, but on 17 November 1540 it was surrendered by Christabella Cowper and sixteen nuns. The clear annual value in the Valor Ecclesiasticus (fn. 11) was £48 18s. 2d., and among the reprises are certain alms distributed, viz. to the poor on Maundy Thursday, 16s. 8d., and on the same day given to the poor at the gates of the monastery, in accordance with the charters of the church of Downholme and of Thomas Horneby and others, £4 1s. 1d.; similar alms yearly given to weak and sick persons coming to the priory building, according to the charter of Adam de Kyrkby, 12s.; also 11s. 6½d. a year to poor folk at the obit of Roger de Aske the founder; 38s. 4d. at the obit of Hugh Magnaby and Geoffrey de Forcett, benefactors; and 10s. at the obit of Thomas Richardson—the whole amounting to £9 4s. 8½d., a large sum for so small a monastery. The prioress received a pension of 100s. (fn. 12) and the other nuns pensions varying in amount from 66s. 8d. to 20s.

Prioresses (fn. 13) of Marrick

Agnes, (fn. 14) c. 1200

Alina, c. 1280 (fn. 15)

Isabella Surrais, occurs 1250, 1257, 1263

Margaret, occurs 1282

Alice de Helperby, occurs 1293

Juliana, occurs 1298

Margaret, occurs 1321, 1327 (fn. 16)

Elizabeth de Berden, occurs 1326, 1333

Elizabeth, 1351 (fn. 17)

Maud de Melsonby, occurs 1376

Elizabeth, occurs 1391

Agnes, occurs 1400, 1406, (fn. 18) 1413

Alice de Ravenswathe, occurs 1433, 1449

Cecilia Metcalf, occurs 1464, 1498, died 1502

Agnes Wenslawe, occurs 1502, died 1510

Isabella Berningham, occurs 1511, died 1511

Christabella Cowper, occurs 1530


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 244.
  • 2. Misc. Topog. et Gen. (1838), v, 100.
  • 3. Several deeds speak of the church of St. Mary and St. Andrew, and some of St. Mary alone. It is possible that the uncertain double dedication may have arisen from the nuns' church and the parish church being under the same roof. The same uncertainty of dedication occurs in the case of Nunkeeling.
  • 4. Coll. Topog. et Gen. v, 102.
  • 5. Ibid. 103.
  • 6. Burton, Mon. Ebor. 269-71.
  • 7. Coll. Topog. et Gen. (1838), v, 101-24, 221-38, where will also be found a facsimile of a most interesting ground plan of the monastic church and buildings taken at the time of the Dissolution.
  • 8. A visitation of Nun Monkton in 1397 by Thomas Dalby, Archdeacon of Richmond, is recorded in Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 194.
  • 9. The late Mr. T. M. Fallow omitted the reference to this visitation, and search has failed to discover it.
  • 10. Coll. Topog. et Gen. v, 238.
  • 11. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), v, 237. The return is signed by Richard Baldwyn ' magister ibidem ' which, taken in connexion with the allusions to and important position of the master in the articles of 1252, points to the conclusion that the master was a permanent officer at Marrick.
  • 12. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 246.
  • 13. From the list in Misc. Topog. et Gen. v, 239, where in each case the proofs are given.
  • 14. Coll. Topog. et Gen. v, 253;' Cott. MS. Nero D. iii, fol. 22.
  • 15. Anct. D. (P.R.O.), B. 3682.
  • 16. a Plac. de Banco, Hil. 7 Edw. III, m. 24 d.
  • 17. Assize R. 1129, m. 17 (probably the same as E. de Berden).
  • 18. Baildon's MS. notes.