Houses of Grandimontines: Priory of Grosmont

Pages 193-194

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

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About 1200 Joan Fossard, wife of Robert de Torneham, gave to the prior and brothers of the order of Grandmont (fn. 1) a mansion in the forest of Egton, arid land which was to extend along the River Esk for 7 'quarantans,' and towards the hill for 3½ 'quarantans,' measured by a rod of 20 ft. The brothers were to have 200 acres of land round their house, with the. woods, and timber for building and other requirements, and a toft at Sandsend. This charter was confirmed by her husband, who made an additional gift of land, and both charters were confirmed by King John in the fifteenth year of his reign (1213-14). (fn. 2)

On 13 April 1228 (fn. 3) Archbishop Gray confirmed to the prior and brothers of the order of Grandmont the grant of the advowson of the church of Lockington, made by Robert de Torneham and Joan his wife, daughter of William Fossard, and afterwards by Peter de Mauley and Isabella his wife, with licence of the pope.

Peter de Mauley III, grandson of the forenamed, in 1294 (fn. 4) made a new grant of the mill, &c. of Egton, to Roger de Creswell, corrector of the order of Grandmont in Eskdale, and the brothers of the same place belonging to the English nation, imposing an obligation that they were to have two more chaplains who were to celebrate daily in their church of St. Mary, for his and his wife's and other of his relations' and ancestors' souls, and yearly to commemorate his father and mother and Nicholaa his wife.

Burton (fn. 5) states that the house was peopled from an 'abbey' in Normandy, but does not give any authority for the statement, and although possibly the first brethren came from a Grandimontine priory in Normandy, it seems that in 1294 the brothers were Englishmen, and the fact that the head, who bore the designation of 'corrector,' (fn. 6) was Roger de Gresswell (or of Cresswell) looks as if the brothers had, perhaps, at that time come from the cell at Craswall, in Herefordshire, which, like that of Grosmont, was originally dependent on one of the Grandimontine houses in Normandy. In 1394-5 the Abbot of Grandmont obtained licence from Richard II to sell the advowson and property of the priory of Eskdale (as it was called) to John Hewit alias Serjeant, and thereupon, says Burton, (fn. 7) it seems to have become a prioratus indigena.

There is a good deal of obscurity attached to the Grandimontine order, founded in 1076 by St. Stephen de Muret, and its rules and customs. Their houses in Normandy and Anjou were richly endowed by the English kings. The members of the order wore the black cassock with a large scapular. St. Stephen denied that his religious were monks, canons, or hermits. Mabillon ranks them as Benedictines, others among Augustinians. Hélyot denies both assertions. (fn. 8)

The house at Grosmont seems, from the manner in which the members are spoken of, to have continued to belong to the order, and though indigenous would probably be in connexion with the abbey of Grandmont, much as the Cistercians were with their head house abroad. After the suppression of the two other alien priories of the order at Adderbury and Craswall, Grosmont would be the only Grandimontine house in England, and it is a matter for regret that nothing is known as to its subsequent history or internal affairs.

On 24 February 1387 (fn. 9) Pope Urban VI directed the Abbot of Whitby to make inquiry concerning the action of the Prior and convent of 'Gramont' in Eskdale of the order of 'Grandemont' in the diocese of York. The pope had heard that they and their predecessors had made alienations of their properties and rights to the grave injury of the house. The abbot was to see that any such alienations thus unlawfully made were revoked.

In 1527 (fn. 10) the clear annual value of the priory of Grosmont was returned at £14. According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus (fn. 11) the gross value was then only £14 2s. 2d., and the clear annual value £12 2s. 8d.

At the time of the suppression the house was described as 'Prioratus sive domus fratrum vocatorum Boni Homines, beate Marie de Grande Monte.' (fn. 12) Five names are given: Brothers James Egton (aged 68), Lawrence Birde (50), William Semer (36), Edmund Skelton (36), Robert Holland (31).

There is a note, 'Md. to remember Sir William Knagges, sometyme a fryer in the seid house of Gromont, to help hym to some yerely pension or lyvynge for his cosyn his sake, att Beacham.' Mention is also made of Sir John Banks, late prior eighteen years past. (fn. 13) The entire charges upon the monastery are given as alms bestowed for the founders four times a year, viz. on Good Friday, Easter Even, the vigil of Pentecost, and on Christmas Eve, 26s. 8d. a year; also given to the poor on the four principal obits of the founders annually to the value of 13s. 4d. (fn. 14)

At the inquiry as to the payment of pensions in 1553, (fn. 15) the commissioners stated, as to Grosmont, that James Ableson, whose pension was £4, 'did not appear.' Edmund Skelton, pension 66s. 8d., and Robert Holland, with the same pension, appeared. No such name as 'Ableson' appears in the list of members of the house, and the probable explanation is that James Egton, whose name heads the list of brothers in the first list, is the same person as James Ableson named in the second. (fn. 16)

Priors of Grosmont

Roger, occurs 1287 (fn. 17) (prior)

Roger de Cresswell, occurs 1294 (corrector) (fn. 18)

William Whitby, occurs 1469 (fn. 19)

John Banks, circa 1518 (fn. 20)

James Egton, alias Ableson, occurs 1536 (fn. 21)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 1025. There were several Grandimontine priories (but no abbey) in Normandy, but it was to the one abbey of the order near Limoges (then only a priory) that the gift was made, though Grosmont became a cell to a house of the order in Normandy. The mother-house of Grandmont became an abbey in 1318, and was annexed to the See of Limoges by a bull dated 6 August 1772, when the order was also suppressed; Le Clergé de France, par M. L' Abbé Hugues du Tems, Paris 1775, iii, 319.
  • 2. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 1025, no. 1.
  • 3. Archbishop Gray's Reg. (Surt. Soc.), 22.
  • 4. Atkinson, Cleveland, Ancient and Modern, i, 202 n.
  • 5. Mon. Ebor. 275.
  • 6. In 1229 'the prior and brethren of Grandimont in Eskedale' are spoken of (Archbishop Gray's Reg. 29). In 1301 Archbishop Corbridge addressed a notice of visitation 'magistro sive priori,' the two latter words being an interlineation (York Archiepis. Reg. Corbridge, fol. 24b).
  • 7. Mon. Ebor. 275.
  • 8. Christian and Ecclesiastical Rome (Monastic Section), 190.
  • 9. B.M. Harl. Chart. 43, A. 47.
  • 10. Subs. R. bdle. 64, no. 303.
  • 11. Valor Eccl. v, 86.
  • 12. Suppression P. ii, 162.
  • 13. Ibid 171.
  • 14. These would be those imposed in 1294 by Peter de Mauley III for his father and mother and his wife Nicholaa, with no doubt his own obit, added after his death.
  • 15. Exch. K.R. Accts. bdle. 76, no. 24.
  • 16. Atkinson, Hist. of Cleveland, Ancient and Modern, 203 n. From the position of his name and his larger pension, it is not improbable that he was prior at the time of the surrender.
  • 17. Guisborough Chartul. (Surt. Soc.), ii, 154.
  • 18. Atkinson, Cleveland, Ancient and Modern, i, 202 n. Possibly the two Rogers were the same person.
  • 19. Baildon, Mon. Notes, i, 72. He is called prior. Probably when the house became independent and ceased to be a cell the corrector gave place to a prior.
  • 20. Suppression P. ii, 162.
  • 21. Ibid. 171.