Houses of Cistercians nuns: Rosedale Priory

Pages 174-176

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

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The priory of Rosedale was founded in the reign of Richard I by Robert, the son of Nicholas de Stuteville, and was under the invocation of St. Mary and St. Lawrence. (fn. 1)

An inspeximus by Edward II of King John's charter confirming the founder's grant (fn. 2) and enumerating a number of other donations is set out by Burton. (fn. 3)

On 17 October 1306, (fn. 4) in consequence of a visitation, Archbishop Greenfield issued injunctions to the prioress and convent. Most were of the usual character, as to the due observance of the rules of the order. Charity was to be cultivated, corrections made in chapter without favour, the nuns not to quarrel, the infirmary to be kept from the going to and fro of seculars, and confessors were not to be indiscriminately chosen by the nuns, but two brothers of the order of Friars Minor were to be chosen, and their names submitted to the archbishop.

On 22 August 1310 (fn. 5) Archbishop Greenfield ordered an inquiry as to certain unspecified articles urged against the prioress. The nuns and conversi were to be sworn and examined privately, all secular persons being removed from their presence. The accounts of the prioress, from the time of her administration, as well as those of the bailiffs and other officials and servants bound to render accounts were to be examined, and the prioress was ordered to render to the commissioners full and complete accounts from the time of her promotion, as well as a statement of the then position of the house, and a further letter was sent by the archbishop to the sub-prioress and nuns, telling them to render an account of the house to the commissioners, as it was when the prioress took office and as it was at the time he wrote. Evidently the charge was one of maladministration. Whether the charges proved against her were those of wilful wrongdoing or merely of incompetent management, Mary de Ros resigned the office of prioress sentiens se impotens, and on 30 September (fn. 6) the archbishop directed the sub-prioress and convent to elect 'aliam idoneam et honestam de vestri monasterii gremio monialem in priorissam,' but before any election was made Mary de Ros died, and on 1 January 1311 the king, as patron during the minority of Thomas Wake, granted the nuns leave to elect a new prioress. (fn. 7)

Another visitation of the house was held on Saturday, 28 September 1315, (fn. 8) as a result of which Archbishop Greenfield issued another set of injunctions. A certified statement, showing the credit and debit accounts of the house, was to be sent to the archbishop before the feast of St. Nicholas. The prioress was to see that the defects in the roof of the cloister and other buildings were repaired, alms were to be only given to the poor as the means of the house allowed. An elderly nun of good fame and honest conversation was to have charge of the cloister keys, the sick were to be duly tended, and any nun disobedient and rebellious in receiving correction was for each offence to receive a discipline from the president in chapter and say the seven penitential psalms with the litany, and if still rebellious, the archbishop would impose a more severe penance.

The archbishop forbade all to accept presents from anybody, or give any, except with the consent of the prioress. Under pain of the greater excommunication no nun was to cause a girl or boy to sleep, under any consideration, in the dormitory, and if any nun broke this command the prioress, under pain of deposition from office, was to signify her name to the archbishop without delay. All nuns of the house were forbidden to wear mantles or other garments of a colour or shade different from those accustomed to be worn by. religious, and no unprocessed sister was to wear the black veil.

The prioress and sub-prioress were ordered not to allow puppies to enter the quire or church, which would impede the service and hinder the devotion of the nuns. Those nuns who were allowed out to visit their parents or friends were to return within fifteen days, and no corrodies were to be granted, or boarders, &c., received without the archbishop's special licence.

On 17 May 1321 (fn. 9) Archbishop Melton wrote to the Prioress and convent of Handale, that he was sending to them Isabella Dayvill, nun of the house of Rosedale, vestri ordinis, who, contary to the honesty of religion, had apostatized. She was to undergo her appointed penance in their house, was to be last in the convent, was to talk to no one, secular or religious, and not to go out of the precincts of the monastery. Every Friday she was to fast on bread and water, and every Wednesday to abstain from fish, and on each of those days was to receive a discipline in chapter from the hands of the president.

On 21 November 1322, (fn. 10) owing to the ravages of the Scots, the monastery of Rosedale suffered so severely that the nuns Were dispersed, and the archbishop wrote to Nunburnholme to receive Alice de Rippinghale, to Sinningthwaite to receive Avelina de Brus, to Thicket to receive Margaret de Langtoft, and to Wykeham on behalf of Joan Crouel, nuns of Rosedale; and it is noted that another nun, Eleanor Dayvill, entered the house of Hampole, with letters from the queen. If Isabella Dayvill was still at Handale this would account for six nuns, and as there is no mention of the prioress it is probable that she, and probably another nun to keep her company, were able to remain at Rosedale. This would bring up the number to eight, and it appears that another nun, Joan de Dalton, had been previously sent away, for the archbishop (3 June 1323) (fn. 11) ordered that she should be re-admitted. This would account for nine nuns belonging to Rosedale, and that is believed to have been the number usually forming the convent. From the date of Joan de Dalton's re-admission it is evident that the dispersion of the nuns did not extend beyond six months.

In 1326 (fn. 12) Brother Adam, late a conversus of this house, with tears and prayers, kneeling before the prioress and convent in the presence of witnesses, asked forgiveness for his many offences against the convent and sought release from his vows and profession. They released him from the profession of obedience he had made in their house to God, Blessed Mary, and Blessed Lawrence, he on his part renouncing all right he had in the house of Rosedale, and this they notified to the archbishop.

In a taxation of Rosedale in 1378-9, (fn. 13) eight nuns are named, including Joan Colvyle the prioress. On 1 September 1534 Archbishop Lee dealt with the case of Joan Fletcher, (fn. 14) who had been professed as a nun at Rosedale and was subsequently appointed prioress of the neighbouring nunnery of Basedale. That office she had resigned to avoid deposition, and she was sent back to Rosedale by the archbishop to undergo the penance he had imposed upon her. But as she had shown no sign of repentance the archbishop wrote to the Prioress and convent of Rosedale to send her to Basedale again, which house she once ruled as prioress, that where she was not ashamed to sin, there she might lament her misdeeds. The archbishop speaks of Basedale and Rosedale as houses of the order of St. Benedict, and the question has been mooted as to whether Rosedale was a Cistercian or a simple Benedictine house. In at least three places in the Registers Rosedale is definitely stated to be Cistercian, (fn. 15) and in one instance, indeed, as of the order of St. Augustine. (fn. 16) This may be compared with the description of Hampole in the Suppression Papers, (fn. 17) ' prioratus sive domus monialium beate marie de Hampall ordinis sancti Augustini et de regula sancti Benedicti Cisterciensis,' and of Kirklees as ' ordinis sancti Barnardi et de regula sancti Benedicti Cisterciensis, (fn. 18) and Arthington as ' domus monialium Clunieneis ordinis sancti Benedicti.' (fn. 19)

At the time of the suppression there were eight nuns besides the prioress. The house was supervised on 7 June and suppressed on 17 August 1535. The nuns, at the time of the suppression, employed twelve men and boys. There were two small bells in the ' campanile,' valued together at 10s., of gilt plate a chalice and three maser bands are reckoned, weighing 24 oz., and of plate parcel-gilt there was a chalice and a goblet with a [? cover] weighing 21¾ oz. (fn. 20)

Prioresses of Rosedale

Alfreda, occurs 1246 (fn. 21)

Juliana, occurs 1252 (fn. 22)

Isabella Waloue, occurs 1281 (fn. 23)

Mary de Ros, resigned 1310 (fn. 24)

Joan de Pickering, confirmed 1310-11 (fn. 25)

Isabella Whiteby, resigned 1336 (fn. 26)

Elizabeth de Kirkeby Moresheved, confirmed 1336 (fn. 27)

Joan Colvyle, occurs 1378-9 (fn. 28)

Isabel de Lomley, occurs 1399 (fn. 29)

Katherine de Thweng, before 1410 (fn. 30)

Alice Gower, occurs 1413 (fn. 31)

Margaret Chambirlayn, resigned 1468 (fn. 32)

Joan Bramley, elected 1468 (fn. 33)

Margaret Ripon, died 1505 (fn. 34)

Joan Badesby, appointed 1505 (fn. 35)

Matilda Felton, confirmed 1521 (fn. 36)

Mary Marshall, confirmed 1527 (fn. 37)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 316.
  • 2. Ibid. 317, no. i.
  • 3. Burton, Mon. Ebor. 378, 379.
  • 4. York Archiepis. Reg. Greenfield, i, fol. 87.
  • 5. Ibid. fol. 100b.
  • 6. Ibid. fol. 101.
  • 7. Cal. Pat. 1307-13, p. 301.
  • 8. York Archiepis. Reg. Greenfield, i, fol. 107b.
  • 9. York Archiepis. Reg. Melton, fol. 238.
  • 10. Ibid. fol. 240.
  • 11. Ibid. fol. 241.
  • 12. Ibid. slip between fol. 244 and 245.
  • 13. Subs. R. 63, no. 11. In 1291 the old taxation was £22, the new £5: Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 325. In 1527 the clear annual value was £25 0s. 5d. (Subs. R. 64, no. 303), and according to Valor Eccl. (v, 144), £37 12s. 5d.
  • 14. Yorks. Arch. Journ. xvi, 431.
  • 15. York. Archiepis. Reg. Geo. Nevill, fol. 102b; Wolsey, fol. 62, 86b. On 29 Sept. 1290 Archbishop Romanus sent Elizabeth Rue, nun of Swine, to Rosedale vestri ordinis.
  • 16. Ibid. Thoresby, fol. 134b.
  • 17. Suppression P. ii, fol. 176.
  • 18. Ibid. fol. 189.
  • 19. Ibid. fol. 227. In all cases the Benedictine rule was that professed with certain ' reforms.' Cistercian abbots in their oaths of canonical obedience used the phrase 'secundum regulam sancti Benedicti.'
  • 20. K.R. Aug. Views of Accts. bdle. 17.
  • 21. Feet of F. file 38, no. 11 (Trin. 30 Hen. III).
  • 22. Ibid. file 44, no. 79 (Mich. 36 Hen. III).
  • 23. York Archiepis. Reg. Thoresby, i, fol. 134b.
  • 24. Ibid. Greenfield, i, fol. 101.
  • 25. Ibid. fol. 102.
  • 26. Ibid. Melton, fol. 262.
  • 27. Ibid.
  • 28. Subs. R. 63, no. 11.
  • 29. Cal. Pat. 1399-1401, p. 155.
  • 30. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 317.
  • 31. Baildon, Mon. Notes, i, 188.
  • 32. York Archiepis. Reg. G. Nevill, fol. 100.
  • 33. Ibid.
  • 34. Ibid. Savage, fol. 65.
  • 35. Ibid.
  • 36. Ibid. Wolsey, fol. 61b.
  • 37. Ibid. fol. 86b a nun of Appleton.