Houses of Cistercians nuns: Priory of Hampole

Pages 163-165

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

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The priory of Hampole, of Hanepole, was founded about 1170 (fn. 1) by William de Clarefai and Avice de Tany, his wife, (fn. 2) whose gift and that of the churches of Adwick and Melton were confirmed by Archbishop Roger (1154-81), which gives a limit to the date of the foundation.

Roger, the son of Ralph de Tilli and Sibilla de Clarefai, confirmed to the nuns all the grants and concessions of his grandmother, Avice de Tany, and his mother Sibilla, as his brother Ralph had also by his charter confirmed them to the nuns.

In 1331 (fn. 3) William son of William, lord of Sprotbrough, confirmed in detail the gifts of his ancestors and other benefactors to the nuns of Hampole in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. The nunnery, according to Burton, (fn. 4) who has given a short and imperfect list of the places where the nuns had property, stood in a pleasant vale lying east and west, in a fine country on the high road leading from Wakefield to Doncaster. In his time there were some slight remains of the monastic buildings.

According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus (fn. 5) the gross annual revenue was £83 6s. 11d., and the clear value £63 5s. 8d.

In 1267 (fn. 6) Archbishop Giffard wrote to the prioress to receive no one as nun or sister without his special leave, as the number then in the house exceeded its means.

In the following year (fn. 7) a custos of the house is mentioned, but no name given.

In February 1275-6 (fn. 8) the archbishop directed the nuns with those of the other Cistercian houses to choose their confessors from the Friars Minor, in spite of an inhibition of the abbots of the order. His successor, Archbishop Wickwane, in 1280 (fn. 9) appointed Richard, vicar of Wath, to the charge and custody of the house in spiritual and temporal affairs, and in 1283 (fn. 10) commissioned the Prior of Nostell to visit Hampole, but there is no record of the visitation itself.

The custody of the house was committed in 1308 (fn. 11) by Archbishop Greenfield to Roger, vicar of Arksey, and on 14 June (fn. 12) in the same year he issued injunctions to the prioress and nuns, in general terms. No nun, except the hostilaria, was to eat or drink in the guest-house, unless with worthy people, no secular persons were to sleep in the dormitory, and nobody was to be admitted to the habit of nun, sister or conversus, without the archbishop's special licence. In July 1311 (fn. 13) he wrote to the prioress and convent that he had lately heard, from certain trustworthy persons, that the nuns did not eat in common in their refectory, but separately in divers chambers and other places; he therefore ordered that they were to have their meals together, unless perchance any one was ill, or otherwise legitimately hindered. In 1312 (fn. 14) the archbishop, having at a recent visitation found that Hampole was heavily burdened by debts, had ordered that no liveries or corrodies were to be granted without leave. He had, however, learnt that the prioress had received a certain little girl (puellulam), (fn. 15) by name Maud de Driffeld, niece of the Abbot of Roche, and another named Jonetta, her own niece, at the instance of Dominus Hugh de Cressy her brother, that after a time they might be admitted to the habit and profession of nuns of the house, and moreover had sold or granted corrodies very burdensome to the house; the archbishop ordered diligent inquiry as to these matters. If they were found as stated, then the nuns were to be forbidden to receive Maud and Jonetta to the habit of nuns in any manner whatever, until they heard otherwise.

On 28 February 1312-13 (fn. 16) Agnes de Pontefracto, a nun of the house, was elected prioress, and on 7 March (fn. 17) following Custance de Cressy, nun of the house, was transferred to Swine, propter varias inobediencias. It seems pretty clear, from what had occurred, that Custance de Cressy was the refractory prioress who had been removed and Agnes de Pontef racto elected in her place. In 1314 (fn. 18) the archbishop granted licence to the nuns to have William de Calverleye, of the order of Friars Minor, as their confessor.

In the week before Pentecost in the same year, Archbishop Melton visited Hampole, and as a result, but not till 5 December following, he sent on a series of injunctions. (fn. 19) The house was found to be heavily in debt, and he exhorted all to be economical, and with the help of their discreet custos, or master, to strive to be relieved of their debts. All contained in his predecessor's decretum, as well as that in his own, was to be observed, and the whole read in chapter. The prioress and subprioress were enjoined that they were to correct and even chastise nuns who used new-fashioned narrow-cut tunics and rochets, contrary to the accustomed use of their order, whatever might be their condition or state of dignity, and henceforth all the nuns were to use uncut garments of the old fashion, long time observed in the house, to the honour of religion. The archbishop also ordered that all the irregular clamides of the nuns, to wit those of black colour, should be removed within half a year, and that in future they should use clamides of russet colour according to the old fashion of the house and institutes of the order; and four scapulars were to be provided for the nuns whose duty it was to wait on the convent at dinner (in prandio).

No secular servants were to sleep in the dormitory, nor were any brethren of religious orders, relatives of the nuns, to be allowed to spend the night in the inner guest-chamber of the house. No male children over five years of age were to be permitted in the house, as the archbishop found had been the practice. The prioress was exhorted to show no personal favouritism. Joan de Vernour was to have a room in the outer court of the house for her abode, which the convent had granted her for her life. Writing to the Dean of Doncaster, on 14 July 1324, (fn. 20) the archbishop directed him to make Thomas de Raynevill undergo the penance imposed upon him for committing the sin of incest with Isabella Folifayt, nun of Hampole. The penance was that on a Sunday, while the major mass was being celebrated in the conventual church of Hampole, Thomas de Raynevill was to stand, wearing a tunic only and bare-headed, holding a lighted taper of a pound weight of wax in his hand, which after the offertory had been said he was to offer to the celebrant, who was to explain to the congregation the cause of the oblation. Also that on two festivals more penitencium he should be beaten (fustigetur) round the parish church of Campsall. The Dean of Doncaster was to see that this penance was performed, and was to report how the culprit had conducted himself during it. Evidently it was not carried out at the time, for on 16 August 1326 (fn. 21) the archbishop repeated the direction for its performance.

On 1 January 1353 (fn. 22) Archbishop Thoresby issued a commission to inquire into the state of the house, which, according to the public report, through unwise rule and other causes, was in such a condition of financial collapse that the dispersion of its nuns was threatened, unless it could be quickly and generously assisted. What was discovered was to be corrected and reformed, and if reasonable cause demanded it, the prioress was to be deposed, and another elected.

On 8 December 1358 (fn. 23) the archbishop wrote to the prioress and convent on behalf of Alice de Reygate, one of their nuns, who, with weeping countenance, had prostrated herself at his feet, confessing that she had broken the vow of her profession and been guilty of immorality with an unmarried man. The archbishop directed that she was to be received back more penitentis, but was not to wear the black veil. She was to take the last place in the convent, and receive daily disciplines in chapter, until he saw good to order otherwise.

On 20 August 1411 (fn. 24) Archbishop Bowett held a visitation of Hampole, and sent on 20 October a long series of injunctions. Several are of a general character, exhorting the prioress and her nuns to charity one with another and the due observance of their rule; the prioress to use circumspection in regard to the recreations of the nuns, now summoning one and then another, and in making corrections not to be a malicious acceptor of persons. She was to punish and chastise so that the punishment of one might be a continual fear of the others, and if any proved incorrigible, or resisted her, she was to certify the name of that nun without delay to the archbishop, ' ut ipsa juxta ipsius demerita debite castigetur.' All the nuns were exhorted to obey the prioress, without reluctance or murmuring. None having any complaint against the prioress were to ignore the archbishop's authority and call in the aid of any secular or regular power. Any wishing to complain, if another sister joined with her, was to have access to the archbishop, the necessary expenses being given to her by the prioress. If the prioress refused her leave for this, or delayed it beyond- three days, she and her nun associate were to have access to the archbishop without incurring a charge of apostasy. (fn. 25) Any receiving gifts or legacies from friends were at once on returning to reveal them to the prioress. No person, secular or religious, greatly suspected, was to hold any colloquy with any of the convent, &c.

The archbishop enjoined the prioress in virtue of her vow of obedience, that Alice Lye, her nun who held the office of hostilaria, or anyone who succeeded her in office, should henceforward be free from entering the rooms of the guests to lay the beds, but the porter should receive the bedclothes from the hostilaria at the lower gate, and when the guests had departed he should give them back to her at the same place. All the nuns were enjoined not to allow any seculars, or religious men, or their own servants, or relatives or others of the male sex, to pass the night in the inner guest-house, or within the inner doors of the house. And none of the nuns, the prioress excepted, were to retain any one, clerk or layman, serving them, but having dismissed such for the avoiding of scandal, they might get a worthy woman, not suspected, who should serve and minister to them.

The secular servants of the house, and the corrodarii, who attracted to them other secular persons from the country by whom the house was burdened or the nuns disturbed, were to be forthwith removed and were not to be allowed to enter the door without special leave of the prioress, sub-prioress, or cellaress, and if these corrodarii were otherwise introduced for the day the livery of the introducer was to be withheld. Nor were secular corrodarii to remain in the house, except for the hour of receiving the livery, unless they had needs for their continuous stay there. The prioress was not to allow any of the corrodarii or others to retain suspected women with them in the house. The portions allowed the nuns were to be augmented according to the means of the house, with the consent of the majority and wiser part of the convent. The prioress was to take efficient action with all speed to recover the pension of 40s. due from the church of Greetwell in Lincoln diocese, and also the rental of 50s. due from John Fitz William, lost through neglect.

On 10 September 1426 (fn. 26) Archbishop Kemp licensed brother John Wotton of the order of Friars Minor to hear the confessions of the nuns of Hampdle.

Among the leases granted by the nuns of Hampole is an indenture dated 6 September 1516, (fn. 27) by which ' dame Agnes Ynse prioresse wt all the hoyll convent assent in the monastery of owr blessed lady of Ampull of ye order of cysternencis' granted to Sir William Percy, brother of the Earl of Northumberland, then dwelling at Sutton upon Derwent, ' for to be steward of owr forsaid howse tennamentes and landes for ye terme of ye for sayd Syr William Percy knyghtes lyfe.' Sir William was to keep the courts for the convent and their tenants were to be at his command. For his work as steward the convent agreed to pay him 20s. a year.

A list of the nuns at the time of the Dissolution (fn. 28) is headed by the name of Isabella Arthingtpn the prioress, aged fifty, and Joan Gascowyne the sub-prioress, aged sixty. There were twelve others whose ages ranged from, fifty to two aged nineteen. Against each, is written ' religion,' and it is said ' all be of good conversation.'

Prioresses of Hampole

Denise, occurs 1284 (fn. 29)

Custance de Cressy, resigned 1312 (fn. 30)

Agnes de Pontefracto, elected 1312, (fn. 31) died 1319-20 (fn. 32)

Margaret de Hecke, elected 1319-20 (fn. 33)

Maud, occurs 1348 (fn. 34)

Elizabeth Fairfax, succeeded after 1380 (fn. 35)

Elizabeth, occurs 1392-1414 (fn. 36) (as Isabel 1406) (fn. 37)

Agnes, occurs 1433 (fn. 38)

Alice, occurs 1433, 1439 (fn. 39)

Margaret Banastre, died 1445 (fn. 40)

Margaret Normanville, confirmed 1445, (fn. 41) resigned 1452 (fn. 42)

Agnes Clarel, confirmed 1452 (fn. 43)

Elizabeth Rawdon, resigned 1483 (fn. 44)

Isabella Wheteley, confirmed 1483, (fn. 45) resigned 1503-4 (fn. 46)

Elizabeth Arley, confirmed 1503-4, (fn. 47) resigned 1512 (fn. 48)

Agnes Ynche, elected 1512 (fn. 49)

Isabella Arthington, confirmed 1517 (fn. 50)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. v, 486.
  • 2. Ibid. 487, no. ii.
  • 3. Ibid. no. iii.
  • 4. Burton, Mon. Ebor, 264.
  • 5. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), v, 43.
  • 6. Archbp. Giffard's Reg. 20.
  • 7. Ibid. 160.
  • 8. Ibid. 295.
  • 9. York Archiepis. Reg. Wickwane, fol. 28.
  • 10. Ibid. fol. 172.
  • 11. Ibid. Greenfield, fol. 70b.
  • 12. Ibid. fol. 108b.
  • 13. Ibid. ii, fol. 54.
  • 14. Ibid. fol. 58.
  • 15. The reception of girls of tender age as future nuns is indicated in a licence from Archbishop Greenfield in 1310 to the Prioress and convent of Hampole to receive Elena daughter of the late Reyner Sperri, citizen of York, eight years of age and ' bone conversacionis et vite,' as a prospective nun (ibid. fol. 30). A licence to take a young girl, Agnes de Langthwayt, as a boarder was granted to Hampole by Archbishop Greenfield in 1313 at the instance ' nobilis viri Ade de Everyngham.' (Ibid. fol. 730.)
  • 16. Ibid. ii, fol. 62.
  • 17. Ibid. fol. 63b.
  • 18. York Archiepis. Reg. Greenfieid, ii, fol. 85b.
  • 19. Ibid. Melton.
  • 20. Ibid. fol. 162b.
  • 21. Ibid. fol. 166b.
  • 22. Ibid. Thoresby, fol. 15b.
  • 23. Ibid. fol. 103.
  • 24. Ibid. Bowett, fol. 101.
  • 25. That is, they might go out of the monastery without leave of the prioress, or even against her order, that they might lay their complaint before the archbishop, and yet not be charged with apostasy.
  • 26. York Archiepis. Reg. Kemp, fol. 28.
  • 27. Conventual Leases, Yorks. (P.R.O.), no. 279.
  • 28. Suppression P. ii, fol. 176. It is entitled ' Prioratus sive domus monialium beate Marie de Hampall ordinis sancti Augustini et de regula sancti Benedicti Cistercien.'
  • 29. a Cott. MS. Nero D. III, fol. 58b.
  • 30. Perhaps deprived, York Archiepis. Reg. Greenfield, ii, fol. 62, 63b.
  • 31. Ibid. fol. 62.
  • 32. Ibid. Melton, fol. 137b.
  • 33. Ibid.
  • 34. Baildon's MS. Notes.
  • 35. Burton, Mon, Ebor. 265.
  • 36. Baildon's MS. Notes (perhaps the same as the preceding.)
  • 37. Ibid.
  • 38. Ibid.
  • 39. Baildon, Mon. Notes, i, 84.
  • 40. York Archiepis. Reg. Kemp, fol. 406b.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. Ibid. W. Booth, fol. 376.
  • 43. Ibid.
  • 44. Ibid. Rotherham, i, fol. 41b.
  • 45. Ibid.
  • 46. Ibid. Savage, fol. 36.
  • 47. Ibid.
  • 48. Ibid. Bainbridge, fol. 27b.
  • 49. Ibid.
  • 50. Ibid. Wolsey, fol. 36.