Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Healaugh Park

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

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'Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Healaugh Park', in A History of the County of York: Volume 3, (London, 1974) pp. 216-219. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]

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The priory of Healaugh Park originated in a hermitage in the wood of Healaugh. (fn. 1) Bertram Haget granted to Gilbert, a monk of Marmoutier, and his successors, the hermitage land in the wood of Healaugh and other cleared spaces of ground there, as defined by certain bounds set out in his charter. (fn. 2) Geoffrey Haget, his son, confirmed to God, St. Mary, and the church of St. John de Parco, and to the monk Gilbert and his successors dwelling there, the lands and woods as his father's charter had defined them. (fn. 3) Among the witnesses to this charter was Abbot Clement [of St. Mary's, York], who succeeded in 1161 and died in 1184. (fn. 4) The date, therefore, must be between those limits, which makes the original foundation of the hermitage considerably earlier than has usually been supposed.

In 1203 (fn. 5) Henry, Prior of Marton, and the convent of that house, quitclaimed any right they might have over the hermitage in the park of Healaugh. Bertram Haget had four daughters, one of whom, Alice, inherited Healaugh. She married John de Friston, and their daughter Alice married Jordan de Santa Maria, and with him, circa 1218, (fn. 6) definitely established the Augustinian Priory at the place where the earlier hermitage had existed. By their charter (fn. 7) they granted to God, St. John the Evangelist of Healaugh Park, and William, prior, and canons there, the site of the monastery and other lands and rights. William, the first prior, was installed on the feast of St. Lucy (13 December) 1218. He was prior for thirteen and a half years, and died in 1233. (fn. 8) Very soon after its foundation the priory received from Alan de Wilton a grant of the hospital of St. Nicholas juxta Yarm, (fn. 9) of which, probably, he was the founder. The hospital remained in possession of the priory till the Dissolution, the convent sending one of its canons to take charge of it.

Their other possessions, of considerable extent though not of much value, are set out in alphabetical order by Burton. (fn. 10) Their twochurches were Wighill (adjoining Healaugh), given before 1288, (fn. 11) and Healaugh, granted to them about 1398 (fn. 12) and appropriated in 1425. (fn. 13) They also had at one time a moiety of the church of Leathley, to which they presented, (fn. 14) and at the Dissolution were receiving a pension from that church. (fn. 15)

In the Valor Ecclesiasticus (fn. 16) the total revenues of the house were returned at £86 6s. 6d., the reprises being £19 2s. 7d., leaving a clear annual revenue of £67 3s. 11d. only.

Archbishop Wickwane visited Healaugh on 11 May 1280 and issued the following injunctions. (fn. 17) The rule of St. Augustine and the statutes of Godfrey, his predecessor, were to be read (recitari) at the beginning of each month, and observed. Habits and shoes were to be given to each member by a common minister of the house, as required, and the distribution of money [for their purchase] abandoned. The canons were not to be sent out singly, or permitted to remain in the service of great people. They were not, especially after compline, to drink with guests outside the cloister or elsewhere, and were forbidden to walk about in the adjacent woods or other places, unless of necessity, and with the leave of the president. No corrodies or other wasteful burdens for the house were to be granted. Silence was to be decently observed, and the accounts made up yearly. Flesh meat was not to be eaten by the strong and healthy members, against the requirements of the rule, on the second and fourth ferias of the week. A sub-prior was to be appointed without delay, and the canons were on no account to receive any female as a guest or to stay at the house without the archbishop's special licence. Trouble appears to have arisen a few years later, and in 1294 (fn. 18) Archbishop Romanus instructed his official to terminate certain contentions between the prior and some of the canons.

Archbishop Greenfield in 1307 (fn. 19) found the house burdened with corrodies and annuities beyond its means, and much impoverished by sales of land.

Archbishop Melton visited Healaugh in 1320, (fn. 20) on which occasion he ordered his predecessor's decretum to be read in chapter and diligently observed. As he found the monastery heavily charged with debts, pensions, corrodies, and liveries, the prior and all the officials were to use all possible moderation. The sick canons were to be properly treated according to the character of their illnesses, and an elderly and discreet canon was to have charge of them. Divine service was to be devoutly celebrated according to the different seasons, and canons in priests' orders were not to surcease from the celebration of masses.

All the money, without any deduction, was to be handed to two bursars who, according to the direction of the prior, would spend it on the needs of the house. No one was to retain any servant who was burdensome to the house, useless, or who was defamed of the vice of incontinence or any other crime. Their manor at Yarm was held on condition of celebrating for the souls of the founders, and also for hospitality; this was to be done as hitherto.

All the canons were enjoined that if they had any of the goods of the house they should return them to the prior and help to recover any lost goods. The secrets of the chapter were not to be revealed. A chamberlain was to be appointed who would provide the canons with clothes and habits as funds allowed.

William de Marisco had given the house two carucates of land in Marston and Hoton for a daily chantry for his soul in their house, and this chantry was to be performed, and they were bound to find two tapers on festivals throughout the year in the chapel of Hoton for the souls of William de Marisco and his wife.

The prior, sub-prior, cellarer, and other officials having administration of the goods of the house were to be careful that their fellow canons were properly provided with meat and drink.

The visitation resulted in the resignation, on the day following, (fn. 21) of William de Grymston, the prior, which was made in full chapter before the archbishop and his clerks, and at the same time Henry de Shepeley, the sub-prior, also resigned. After this, the canons all voted for Robert de Spofford, the cellarer, except himself. He was thereupon installed, and Brother Richard de Bilton was elected sub-prior, and Brother Stephen de Levyngton, cellarer.

Four years later Stephen de Levyngton and another canon, Nicholas de Cotum, appear in a very bad case of immorality. The archbishop, writing to the prior on 13 September 1324, (fn. 22) said that to the scandal and shame of their order and habit, 'in carne enormiter sunt collapsi.' He therefore enjoined a severe penance upon them. They were continuously to keep convent, quire, refectory, dormitory, and chapter, unless hindered by sickness, were to take the lowest place in the convent, not to go outside the precincts of the monastery in any way, or hold conversation with women. Each Wednesday and Friday they were to receive a discipline in chapter from the president, and on each of those days to say the seven penitential psalms with the litany before the altar of the Blessed Mary. Each week they were to say one psalter, and every Wednesday to fast with one service of fish and vegetables, and every Friday in like manner to fast on bread and ale only; and they were to hold no administration or office in the house.

It is certainly surprising that the next entry in the archbishop's, register should record, on 12 August 1333, (fn. 23) the admission of Stephen de Levyngton to the office of prior on the death of Robert de Spofford.

In 1344 (fn. 24) Archbishop Zouch, regarding the wasted condition of the priory, burdened by debt and other ills owing to careless government, directed, once again, that no alienations, &c., were to be made without his special licence. Matters do not seem to have improved, for just ten years later an indulgence was granted for forty days by Archbishop Thoresby, in 1354, (fn. 25) to those who helped the house, which, poorly endowed, had its buildings dilapidated, and its stock reduced by pestilence. In 1380-1 (fn. 26) there were six canons besides the prior. In 1401 (fn. 27) Boniface IX granted an indult to the Augustinian Prior and convent of St. John the Evangelist's, Healaugh Park, who by the institutions and customs of their order were bound to wear sandals (ocreas), to wear, in future, shoes. On 5 May 1460 (fn. 28) Archbishop W. Booth notified the sub-prior and convent that he had accepted the resignation of Thomas Cotyngham, their prior, and directed them to elect a successor. They elected William Berwyk, vicar of Wighill, and a canon professed in their house. The archbishop, however, wrote to Christopher Lofthouse, canon of Bolton, (fn. 29) stating that he had heard of the pretended election of Berwyk, and had annulled and quashed it, and with the licence of the Prior and convent of Bolton he appointed him Prior of Healaugh. Why the archbishop took this action does not appear, nor how the canons of Healaugh received it, but Christopher Lofthouse was installed on 22 May 1460, and was prior for more than thirteen years, 'et furatus est bona hujus domus.' (fn. 30) However, William Berwyk succeeded Lofthouse, and the chartulary recording his name as prior says, 'qui fuit vicarius de Wechall et canonicus de nostra propria domo verus'; and of William Bramman, vicar of Healaugh, who in 1475 succeeded Berwyk, it is said 'et erat canonicus proprius in hac domo rasus.'

Upon Thomas Cotyngham's resignation (fn. 31) the archbishop assigned him the following provision: He was to have a chamber at the south end of the nave of the conventual church, which was to be divided into two rooms for his habitation, as well as a specified allowance of food, and a servant; and further the archbishop decreed that, if the said Brother T. Cotyngham wished, he was to use a chamber which he was wont to occupy at the time of the synods, at York, and the moiety of a stable within a certain mansion of the convent opposite the cemetery of the Friars Preachers of York. He was, in addition, to receive 10 marks in money yearly.

In 1534 Archbishop Lee visited Healaugh Park, and his injunctions to the prior and canons on that occasion have been printed. (fn. 32) All were to obey the rule of St. Augustine strictly, the prior was directed to see that the cloister doors were closed and locked immediately after compline, and not reopened till six o'clock in the morning in summer, or seven in winter, the keys being safely kept. No corrodies, pensions, or fees (feoda) were henceforth to be granted, or granges let without the archbishop's licence, and the prior was not to let lands or pastures, or cut or sell wood, without the consent of the whole convent. No one was to be professed, nor any other person permitted to reside within the precincts of the monastery, without the archbishop's licence. The prior was in no manner to admit women to his company except in the presence of two of the canons, who could hear and see what took place, and the same regulation was to apply to the canons. Those who broke this rule would be deemed guilty of incontinence. The infirmary, which threatened to fall into ruin, was to be repaired before Michaelmas.

On 30 November 1519 (fn. 33) Peter the Prior and the 'monastery' of Healaugh Park granted to Sir John Fountaunce, 'broder of ye same howse,' 'yar parsonegh in Helaugh wt a laith, a kowhowse, wt all ye lande, closys, medow, wode, and pastur, wt ye appurtenances thair unto belongyng, after ye deseise of Sir Thomas Pendreth, now incumbent' &c., for thirty-one years, paying to the prior and convent £3 yearly, and on 14 May 1520 (fn. 34) John Fountaunce, canon of Healaugh Park, O.S.A., was instituted by Cardinal Wolsey to the vicarage of Healaugh, vacant by the death of Thomas Penreth. On 8 March 1530 (fn. 35) Richard, prior, and the convent agreed to pay Richard Stryan, 'vychar of Helaghe,' £6 a year, and granted him 'one toft and one croft callyd ye vychareg, wt all other smalle dewtes belongyng to ye chyrche of Helaghe, yt ys to say dirige grotis, weddyng grotis, wt all other dewtes pertenyng to ye same, as hay the beyn customyde to ye curet.' On the other hand, Richard Stryan, who was clearly a secular clerk, covenanted 'never for to clame, ne intytyll, no chanonyshall dewty, nor devydent, of ye sayde pryor, convent, nor of yr successors, nor promocyon, ne vote in ye chapter howse, nor to mell of no conventuall consell, from ye day of ye makyng herof, vnto ye terme of hys lyffis ende.'

The house was visited by the commissioners on 9 June 1535 (fn. 36) and suppressed on 9 August following. There were then five canons besides the prior, Richard Roundale, and eight servants, boys, and other workmen. In the account of Leonard Beckwith for a year from Michaelmas 1535, the revenue is set down at £114 10s. 10d., and four bells are accounted for, valued at £13 6s. 8d.

Priors Of Healaugh Park (fn. 37)

William de Hamelech, 1218, died 1233

Elias, 1233, resigned 1256

John Nocus, 1257, resigned 1260

Hamo de Ebor, 1260, resigned 1264

Henry de Quetelay, 1264

Adam de Blide, 1281

William de Grymston, 1300

Robert de Spofford, 1320

Stephen Levyngton, 1333

Richard, (fn. 38) 1357

Thomas de Yarom, 1358

Stephen Clarell, 1378 (fn. 39)

John Byrkyn, 1423, resigned

Thomas York, 1429 (fn. 40)

Richard Areton, 1435 (fn. 41)

Thomas Botson, 1437 (fn. 42)

Thomas Cotyngham, 1440

Christopher Lofthouse, 1460

William Berwyk, 1471

William Bramman, 1475

William Ellyngton, 1480

Peter Kendayll, (fn. 43) confirmed 1499

Richard Roundale, confirmed 1520 (fn. 44)

The 13th-century seal (fn. 45) is a vesica showing the prior standing on a carved corbel. Legend:—



  • 1. Burton, Mon. Ebor. 281.
  • 2. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 438, no. i.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. See above, p. 111.
  • 5. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 438, no. ii.
  • 6. Ibid. 438, 439, no. iv, v.
  • 7. Ibid. 439, no. v.
  • 8. Cartul. de Parco Helagh (Cott. MSS. Vesp. A, iv), fol. 1b.
  • 9. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 636, no. ii.
  • 10. Burton, Mon Ebor. 281-4.
  • 11. Ibid.
  • 12. Pat. 21 Ric. II, m. 36.
  • 13. Lawton, Coll. Rerum Eccl. 63.
  • 14. Archbishop Gray's Reg. (Surt. Soc.), 29, 40; Archbishop Giffard's Reg. (Surt. Soc.), 32.
  • 15. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 441, no. x.
  • 16. Valor Eccl. v, 8.
  • 17. York Archiepis. Reg. Wickwane, fol. 24b, 134.
  • 18. Ibid. Romanus, fol. 46.
  • 19. Ibid. Greenfield, fol. 63.
  • 20. York Archiepis. Reg. Melton, fol. 142.
  • 21. Ibid. fol. 137b.
  • 22. Ibid. fol. 168.
  • 23. Ibid. fol. 195b.
  • 24. Ibid. Zouch, fol. 17.
  • 25. Ibid. Thoresby, fol. 17.
  • 26. Subs. R. bdle. 63, no. 12.
  • 27. Cal. Papal Letters, v, 498.
  • 28. York Archiepis. Reg. W. Booth, fol. 15b.
  • 29. Ibid.
  • 30. Cott. MS. Vesp. A. iv; the list of priors begins fol. 1b.
  • 31. York Archiepis. Reg. W. Booth, fol. 16b.
  • 32. Yorks. Arch. Journ. xvi, 438.
  • 33. Conventual Leases, Yorks. (P.R.O), no. 309.
  • 34. York Archiepis. Reg. Wolsey, fol. 49.
  • 35. Conventual Leases, Yorks. (P.R.O.), no. 303.
  • 36. K.R. Aug. Views of Accts. bdle. 17.
  • 37. This list is taken from the Chartulary, fol. 1b (Cott. MS. Vesp. A. iv). The list in all cases where it can be checked by the Registers seems correct, and is, no doubt, full. It contains dates of election, &c., and. by whom confirmed and installed.
  • 38. His name, as tenth prior, has been added in fainter ink at a later period.
  • 39. 'Fuit prior per xlv annos, novem menses et tres dies.'
  • 40. 'Stetit per sex annos, et postea depositus fuit.'
  • 41. 'Stetit in prioratu per annum et tres menses et translatus est ad Gisburn.'
  • 42. 'Stetit in prioratu quasi per duos annos et translatus est ad Bolton.'
  • 43. The prior who caused the Chartulary with the list of priors to be written. Confirmed 27 May 1499: York Archiepis. Reg. Rotherham, i, fol. 138.
  • 44. The last prior, confirmed 29 March 1520. York Archiepis. Reg: Wolsey, fol. 53.
  • 45. Egerton Chart. 516.