Houses of Benedictine nuns: Priory of Yedingham

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

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'Houses of Benedictine nuns: Priory of Yedingham', A History of the County of York: Volume 3, (London, 1974), pp. 127-129. British History Online [accessed 12 June 2024].

. "Houses of Benedictine nuns: Priory of Yedingham", in A History of the County of York: Volume 3, (London, 1974) 127-129. British History Online, accessed June 12, 2024,

. "Houses of Benedictine nuns: Priory of Yedingham", A History of the County of York: Volume 3, (London, 1974). 127-129. British History Online. Web. 12 June 2024,

In this section


The priory of Yedingham, sometimes called that of Little Mareis, (fn. 1) from the site on which the house was built, was founded before 1163 (fn. 2) by Helewise de Clere.

In 1239 (fn. 3) a compact was entered into between John, Prior of Guisborough, and Emma, Prioress of Yedingham, and their respective convents, that Guisborough should give the nuns 4 oxgangs of land in Sinriington, with tofts, crofts, &c., the nuns paying the canons yearly 15s. at Sherburn, and undertaking to support the chapel of St. Michael at Sinnington, and other buildings for the better entertaining the canons when there, with clean litter, candles, and fuel; and to have mass celebrated in St. Michael's chapel thrice a week. This was not the parish church, but a chapel north of it.

On 16 August 1241 (fn. 4) the church of Yedingham was consecrated by Gilbert, Bishop of Whithern, suffragan of Archbishop Gray, in honour of the most blessed Virgin Mary, at the instance of Emma de Humbleton, the prioress, and the convent. The bishop granted an indulgence of 100 days to those present, and directed that the anniversary should be kept as a perpetual festival, with an indulgence of forty days to those who came to it. It is not quite clear whether this was the church of the monastery, or the parish church.

On 1 March 1279-80 (fn. 5) Archbishop Wickwane appointed Robert de Brus of Pickering to the custody of the house of the nuns of Yedingham and its temporalities, hoping that he might by his diligence, God helping, be able to supply the defects of the poor servants of Christ serving God there.

Monitions forbidding nuns of different houses to take anyone to their habit without special licence from the archbishop are commonly met with in the injunctions issued after visitations. Records of the granting of any such licences are very rare, but on 23 March 1309-10 (fn. 6) Archbishop Greenfield wrote to Yedingham about one Agnes de Daneby, whose honest conversation he approved, and he permitted the prioress and convent to receive her ad habitum et velum. Her age is not given, but she is alluded to as puella.

At his visitation of Arthington Archbishop Greenfield dealt with the case of Isabella de Berghby, which is fully described in the account of that house. There is nothing said there as to sending her away from her house, but on 28 September 1312 (fn. 7) the archbishop wrote to the nuns of Yedingham that at his recent visitation of the house of Arthington, of their order, (fn. 8) he had found Isabella de Berghby had acted contrary to the honesty of religion, and he therefore sent her to them for a season, to undergo penance.

In 1314 (fn. 9) Archbishop Greenfield allowed the prioress and convent to receive Alice daughter of Roger de Wyghton to the habit of the conversae in their monastery; at the same time very strictly enjoining them that no sister conversa was, on any account, to be allowed to wear the black veil on her head, but was to use a white veil. In this entry the lay sisters are called conversae, and sorores conversae, whereas elsewhere they are usually called sorores (fn. 10) only, in contradistinction to the nuns (designated dominae or moniales) on the one hand, and the conversi, or lay brothers, on the other. The conversi seem to have been attached to most of the nunneries. (fn. 11)

In 1314 Archbishop Greenfield held a visitation of Yedingham, (fn. 12) and issued a series of injunctions to the nuns. No nun was to be absent from service ' propter occupacionem operis de serico.' Going to and from the kitchen through the cloister, by secular men and women, was on no account to be allowed. The prioress was to depute a mature and honest nun to shut the doors round the cloister at proper hours, and if that nun was negligent, she was to correct and chastise her. The parlour of the house was on no account in future to be used by lay people. The prioress was to be careful that none pf the nuns made themselves conspicuous as to their girdles, or other ornaments. Rebellious nuns were to be openly corrected before the convent and not secretly, for that was agreeable with divine and human law. The sick were to be tended according to their needs, and as the means of the house allowed. (fn. 13) The prioress was not to be too rigid nor too gentle, but was to mingle oil with wine in making corrections. The usual injunctions were, given as to limiting exeats to fifteen days, and not selling corrodies, &c., or taking boarders without special licence. Richard de Breuse, kt., who through his wife Alice had become patron, conceded to the nuns the right to choose a prioress upon each vacancy, who was to be presented to the patron for the time being, and also to the archbishop, and he and his wife renounced all personal claim in the choice of a prioress. (fn. 14)

In 1494 Innocent IV granted the prioress and convent the right of electing a discreet priest to be their confessor. (fn. 15)

Two entries only occur in the Taxation in 1291, the temporalities of the house in the archdeaconry of Cleveland (£35 18s. 2d.) and the church of Yedingham (£6 13s. 4d.). (fn. 16) On 29 July 1456 (fn. 17) Archbishop Booth granted an indulgence of forty days to all penitents who contributed to the reparation of the conventual church and of the buildings of the priory of Yedingham, which on account of the notorious poverty of the house were ruinous: some had actually fallen, and others threatened.

A grant was made 14 July 1530 to Thomas Stokall, priest, of the ' parish priestshipp' of Sinnington, and in December 1538 the reversion of the same was granted to Thomas Hew, priest, immediately after Sir Robert Stokall, who then held the same. The latter, it may be added, still held the post in 33 Henry VIII, and in the account of John Beckwith, receiver, the rent of the rectory of Sinnington is set down at £5 18s. 4d., besides £4 the stipend of Robert Stokall, curate. (fn. 18) It is evident from these grants that Sinnington must have been a donative in the absolute gift of the house of Yedingham.

There are a great many other leases and grants, dating from about 1350 to the Dissolution, belonging to Yedingham among the Conventual Leases at the Record Office; one especially, dated in the chapter - house of Yedingham 12 May 1352, (fn. 19) is of interest. It is a grant made from Alice Pykering, prioress, and the convent of Yedingham of a yearly corrodium moniale, given in return for an unspecified sum of money to Emma daughter of Nicholas Hert of Westerdale. She was to receive, among other benefits, each week seven conventual loaves of wheat, 3½ lagenas of the convent ale, and to be provided with flesh, fish and cheese from the kitchen, like a nun of the house, and was to share in all small pittances like a nun. Further, she was to have ten sheep, and ten ewes with lambs till the time of their separation, at the convent's charge and in their pasturage. A certain building called ' le chesehouse,' with solar and cellar, was assigned her to dwell in, and in return she promised to work faithfully as long as she could, ' circa lacticinia (fn. 20) infra dictam domum del' chesehouse,' according to the orders of the prioress and cellaress. When, however, ' amplius laborare non poterit causa senectutis vel infirmitatis,' then the convent was to grant Emma Hert an honest place for her bed and other belongings in their house que vocatur le sisterhouse, for the rest of her life.

At the Dissolution (fn. 21) there were nine nuns besides Agnes Bradrigge, aged forty-one, the prioress, who received a yearly pension of £6 13s. 4d.; two of them received yearly pensions of 40s., and the others of 26s. 8d. They are described as 'all of good maner of liffyng,' and against each name, except one, the word ' religion' is written in the margin, indicating an intention to remain in their vows.

When an inquiry was made as to the payment of pensions, the return {7 Edward VI) (fn. 22) for the North Riding says Agnes 'Braddreges' and Agnes Butterfield ' appeared not,' Joan ' Horton ' ap peared with her patent, Anne Paycok appeared not, Elizabeth Ferman appeared with her patent, and Jaine Foster appeared with her patent, ' and is behynde for a holle yere at Michelmas last past.'

Prioresses of Yedingham

Sibil, (fn. 23) 1219

Beatrix (fn. 24)

Emma de Humbleton, 1241 (fn. 25)

Gundred, 1280 (fn. 26)

Margaret Scard, (fn. 27) 1290 (fn. 28)

Alice, (fn. 29) 1300 (fn. 30)

Alice, 1335 (fn. 31)

Joan Percehay, 1348 (fn. 32)

Margaret de Lutton, (fn. 33) died 1345

Alice de Pickering, elected 1352 (fn. 34)

Gundreda (fn. 35)

Margaret de Ulram, resigned 1405 (fn. 36)

Margaret, 1439 (fn. 37)

Idonia, 1445 (fn. 38)

Isabella Heslerton, (fn. 39) 1457, died 1499

Cecilia Dew, confirmed 27 March 1499 (fn. 40)

Joan Tonnstale, confirmed 1507 (fn. 41)

Elizabeth Whitehead, (fn. 42) confirmed 1521

Agnes Bradrigge, confirmed 16 February 1525 (the last prioress) (fn. 43)

The circular 12th-century seal, (fn. 44) 15/8 in. in diameter, shows our Lady standing and crowned, and holding a fleur de lis and a book: of the legend only . . . . E SBE M remains.


  • 1. So called e.g. in 'Fee Farm Roll, Aug. Off.' cited by Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 277, no. xii; also ' moniales de Parvo Marisco ' confirmation of Henry II, Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 275, no. ii, &c.
  • 2. This limit of date is ascertained as John, Treasurer of York, is a witness. In 1163 he became Bishop of Poitiers; Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 275, no. ii.
  • 3. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 273.
  • 4. Ibid. 275, no. iii.
  • 5. York Archiepis. Reg. Wickwane, fol. 12b, 115.
  • 6. Ibid. Greenfield, i, fol. 96b.
  • 7. Ibid. ii, fol. 93.
  • 8. The expression 'of your order' should be noted. Arthington was a Cluniac house, Yedingham Benedictine.
  • 9. York Archiepis. Reg. Greenfield, ii, fol. 105.
  • 10. ' Le sisterhouse ' at Yedingham is spoken of in the grant to Emma Hert, quoted later.
  • 11. Many instances occur, as at Arden, Marrick, Swine, and several other nunneries in the county.
  • 12. York Archiepis. Reg. Greenfield, ii, fol. 101.
  • 13. Earlier in the same year the archbishop had granted licence to Margaret de Shyrburn, one of the nuns ill of dropsy, that a secular girl, Maud de Meteham, who used to wait upon her, but who had had to leave on attaining the age of twelve, might return, and serve her as before, and that for the sake of improving her health she might with honest company visit her friends and relatives; York Archiepis. Reg. Greenfield, ii, fol. 104b.
  • 14. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 275, no. iv; Burton, Mon. Ebor. 286.
  • 15. Burton, Mon. Ebor. 286.
  • 16. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 274.
  • 17. Conventual Leases (P.R.O.), Yorks. no. 1096.
  • 18. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 278.
  • 19. Conventual Leases (P.R.O.), Yorks. no. 1075, 1079.
  • 20. Lacticinia, milk foods, cheese, &c.
  • 21. Suppression P. (P.R.O.), ii, 76, 81.
  • 22. Exch. Accts. bdle. 76, no. 24.
  • 23. Baildon, Mon. Notes, i, 229.
  • 24. Guisborough Chartul. ii, 306.
  • 25. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 275.
  • 26. Fine R. Trin. 8 Edw. I, fol. 60-110.
  • 27. Burton, Mon. Ebor. 287.
  • 28. Baildon, ut supra.
  • 29. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 275.
  • 30. Baildon, ut supra.
  • 31. Conventual Leases, Yorks. no. 1063. Dugdale says (Mon. Angl. iv, 275) that Alice died in 1331. If so, the next prioress bore the same name.
  • 32. Test. Ebor. i, 53.
  • 33. Burton, ut supra.
  • 34. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 274. Alice was prioress in 1358; Conventual Leases, Yorks. no. 1080.
  • 35. Burton, ut supra, possibly the same as Gundred, misplaced here.
  • 36. Burton, ut supra.
  • 37. Baildon, ut supra.
  • 38. Burton, ut supra.
  • 39. Was prioress 1457. Conventual Leases, Yorks. no. 1088.
  • 40. York Archiepis. Reg. Rotherham, fol. 165.
  • 41. Burton, ut supra. She was prioress in 1512, Conventual Leases, Yorks. no. 1093.
  • 42. A nun of Yedingham. York Archiepis. Reg. Wolsey, fol. 81, admitted to Corpus Christi Guild, York, 1523, and here she is called Isabella: Reg. Corpus Christi Guild (Surt. Soc.), 201.
  • 43. A nun of Yedingham. York Archiepis. Reg. Wolsey, fol. 81.
  • 44. Cat. of Seals, B.M. 3607, lxxv, 21.