Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Warter

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 Warter', in A History of the County of York: Volume 3, (London, 1974) pp. 235-238. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]

In this section


The priory of Warter was founded in 1132, (fn. 1) by Geoffrey Fitz Pain, otherwise Trusbut, who conferred upon it the church of Warter and 6 bovates of land in the fields of that place.

Geoffrey, (fn. 2) son of William Trusbut, confirmed and supplemented the gifts of his predecessor, and his brother Robert (fn. 3) Trusbut, by a separate charter, conceded the grants of Geoffrey Fitz Pain and Geoffrey Trusbut, and added to them the church of All Saints, Melton.

All these grants were confirmed by Henry III, (fn. 4) and in 1245 (fn. 5) by Pope Innocent IV. The pope, in addition, granted that clerks or laymen fleeing from the world might be received ad conversionem, and retained without dispute. Any of their brethren, having made profession in their church, might not leave without the prior's licence, save for a more ascetic life (artioris religionis). The chrism, holy oil, consecrations of altars or basilicas, the ordinations of clerks, the canons were to receive from the diocesan bishop. In time of a general interdict they might (suppressa voce and the bells not rung) celebrate divine service with closed doors, excommunicate and interdicted persons excluded. No one was to build an oratory in their parish without their leave and that of the diocesan.

Robert de Ros, (fn. 6) patron or the priory in 1279, having seen the charters of his ancestors, confirmed them to God and the church of St. James of Warter, and John the prior, and the canons.

In other ways, and from other benefactors, the priory obtained property in a considerable number of villages. (fn. 7)

In 1277, (fn. 8) to save it from ruin, Archbishop Giffard annexed the hospital of St. Giles at Beverley to Warter, with consent of the chapter of York and the brothers of the hospital, ordering that the priests and conversi then in the hospital should in future abide there or at Warter, according to the ordinance of the prior and convent.

The prior and canons also obtained possession of the churches of Askham, Clifton, and Barton in the diocese of Carlisle, which were confirmed to them by Innocent IV. Also the churches of Melton, and a portion of Ulceby in Lincolnshire. They also had, at one time, besides Warter, the churches of Lund, Wheldrake, and Nunburnholme in Yorkshire; but in 1268, (fn. 9) when the archbishop appropriated Lund to the priory, the patronage of Wheldrake and Nunburnholme was ceded to the archbishop and his successors.

In 1358 (fn. 10) Archbishop Thoresby ordained, in regard to Warter, that one of the canons should be the vicar, and have a competent portion allowed him among his brethren.

Henry III (fn. 11) granted the prior and canons a market at Warter, and a fair on the feast of St. James; but the latter was forbidden by the king in 1328, on account of certain murders committed at it.

On 21 December 1245 Innocent IV granted an inhibition to the Prior and convent of Warter, that no one should oblige them to pay tithes of wool and milk, demanded contrary to apostolic privileges, to rectors of parishes in which the beasts of the monastery were pastured.

Archbishop Wickwane on 14 December 1280 (fn. 12) wrote to John de Queldrike that as he, considering his feebleness and incapacity, had tendered his resignation of the priorship, which he had laudably exercised for some time, desiring to spend the rest of his life in contemplative leisure and divine services, in peace from the turbulent waves of the age, he, the archbishop, accepted the resignation. A notice was sent to the sub-prior and convent to elect a successor, and this was followed by a letter from the patron, R. de Ros, (fn. 13) to the archbishop, relating that John de Thorp had been elected, and that quantum in nobis est he had admitted him to office, and humbly and devotedly asked the archbishop ' eundem ad regimen dicti prioratus benigne si placet admittere velitis.' This is one of the few instances in Yorkshire in which the patron of a religious house appears as taking part in an election. The archbishop in this case annulled the election as irregular, but on account of John de Thorp's qualifications for the office, which he enumerated, appointed him prior. (fn. 14)

In the summer of 1280 (fn. 15) the archbishop held a visitation of the house, and no injunctions were sent quia omnia bene se habuerunt—a pleasing and most unusual entry. Eight years later, however, in 1288, (fn. 16) Archbishop Romanus sent one of the canons, Ingeram de Munceus, to Kirkham, with a letter to the prior and convent, ordering them to admit and keep him in their house, as the archbishop hoped that their holy conversation might reform his morals.

On 13 October 1291 (fn. 17) the archbishop confirmed a provision which had been made by Robert de Brunneby, the sub-prior, and the convent, for their prior, John de Thorp, whose labours are highly spoken of. He was to have a chamber on the south side of the infirmary, with a chapel, cellar, and garden attached to it, 20 marks a year, and his portion of bread and ale. To these the archbishop added in his decretum, after visiting Warter, that as an acknowledgement of his vigilance and labours, and in response to his just request, he was dispensed from taking his meals in the refectory, sleeping in the dormitory, or rising for matins, except at his own inclination.

The visitation had revealed everything in good order, as the archbishop stated in the decretum alluded to above, dated 23 February 1292-3. (fn. 18) All was well, 'nec apud vos, benedictus Altissimus, quicquid corrigendum reperimus.' There was one exception, and that related to Brother Simon de Skyrna, who had voluntarily confessed in the presence of the whole convent, before the archbishop, that he had sinned against John de Thorp the prior. His correction was left to the prior, who, having God before his eyes, was to enjoin on him a salutary penance. If Simon de Skyrna did not devoutly undergo it, or conform himself in charity to the others, the archbishop would, on hearing an evil report of him, speedily remove him elsewhere.

In the following year (fn. 19) the archbishop had to deal with the complaint of a number of the parishioners that they were unlawfully compelled by the prior to make an offering in the parish church of Warter on the feast of All Saints. It was alleged that Godfrey, Archbishop of York, had directed this. Archbishop Romanus held an inquiry in porticu dicte ecclesie, on Wednesday, the feast of St. Matthew the Apostle, 1293, the complainants and a ' multitude ' of the parishioners being present. Briefly, it was found that Archbishop Godfrey never issued the supposed order. The parishioners admitted that they would freely make the offering, and the archbishop decided that it was to be regarded as their voluntary act, and not made under compulsion.

In the year 1300 (fn. 20) the patron of the priory, William de Ros, and others, complained to Archbishop Corbridge that certain manslaughters had been committed in the village of Warter by the canons' men, and that they were providing for the homicides with the goods of the house. The archbishop at once ordered them not to receive or defend or provide for the homicides out of the goods of their house, which were for their use and that of the poor.

In 1380-1 (fn. 21) the Prior of Warter was taxed at 29s. 8d., and there were ten canons each taxed at 3s. 4d.

On 1 July 1388 (fn. 22) John Claworth, sub-prior, and John Hemyngburgh, Robert Takell, and Richard de Beverley, canons of the house, were appointed administrators in the place of William Tyveryngton, who was suspended from office owing to his notorious waste of the property of the house, and for other reasons. Shortly after this, Archbishop Arundel took up the rule of the diocese, and on 21 November 1388 the suspended prior resigned. The election of his successor took place on 11 December following, (fn. 23) when, after mass of the Holy Ghost, the canons, twelve in number, proceeded to the election by way of scrutiny, the three scrutators being John Claworth, the sub-prior, John de Hemyngburgh, and William de Tyveryngton, the late prior. All voted for John de Hemyngburgh, except himself, and he was declared duly elected, and was thereafter confirmed and installed. It was his second term of office, and he resigned again in 1302, (fn. 24) when Robert Takell succeeded him.

William York, vicar of the parish church of Warter, was elected prior on 1 March 1453, (fn. 25) in succession to Robert Hedon, who had resigned. Five years later (16 August 1458) (fn. 26) Archbishop William Booth suspended William York from the priorship owing to his waste of the goods of the house, and appointed John Stranton the sub-prior and John the cellarer temporary custodians of the goods of the priory.

Archbishop Kemp in 1440 had forbidden all abbots, priors, or others to sell, without the special licence of their diocesans, within the province of York, any wood, fallen or not. Public report, however, had it that William York had sold trees that had not fallen, as well as those that had, at 'Setonwoddes, Seynt, Loy Woddes, and Brokhirst,' belonging to the priory, in no small quantity, so that the woods themselves were nearly destroyed. Besides this, he had sold various trees recently growing within the precinct of the priory. Houses, moreover, and buildings belonging to the priory, through his neglect and carelessness had fallen to the ground. His general dilapidation of the property had been to the grave injury of the house, and the archbishop peremptorily cited him to show cause why he should not be deposed from office. The result was that York ' renounced' the priorship, and on 13 October (fn. 27) the archbishop sent a monition to him that he was to remove himself within three days from the priory, and was not to molest the prior or his brethren. A concurrent order was sent (fn. 28) to William Spenser, the new prior, that he was to remove William York within three days from the priory, retaining the monastic belongings which he had, but allowing him to keep his own. He was to be kept from consorting with the brethren, lest by his malice and evil ambition he should make the sheep who were whole dissatisfied, overthrow the monastery, and bring to naught the observance of religion. He was, however, granted on 25 November (fn. 29) a pension of 8 marks a year for his maintenance, and on 8 December the archbishop granted him letters testimonial, and a licence to study at any university. In this way, it seems, Warter got rid of him.

In 1526 (fn. 30) the clear annual value was returned at £118, and according to the Valor Ecclesiasticus, (fn. 31) £144 7s. 8d.

In 1534 Archbishop Lee included it among the houses which he visited. The injunctions which he then issued have been printed, (fn. 32) and only a brief summary is needed here. The first portion of the injunctions were of a general character. These include, however, a direction that immediately after compline the cloister doors were to be locked and the keys kept by the prior or some discreet brother deputed by him, and were not to be unlocked until 6 o'clock in the morning in summer, and 7 in winter. A more important injunction forbade the prior, or any canon, to talk to women except in the presence of two other canons who could witness what was said and done. Any who infringed this restriction would be held guilty of incontinence. May this be charitably taken to explain some of the cases of incontinence (which are common) as being technical in character, rather than actual breaches of the moral law?

The special injunctions to Warter directed that the canons were to sleep in the dormitory, each in his own appointed bed. They were to eat together in the refectory, on common food, and were not to use belts adorned with gold or silver, or wear gold or silver rings, and were not to go out without the prior's leave, and the prior was only to grant leave for good reason. The prior was to hold an inquiry twice a year to prevent private proprietorship, and once a year was to render an account of all receipts and expenses to the convent.

There were ten canons at the Dissolution, and the priory and its entire property was granted in 1536-7 to Thomas, Earl of Rutland, so that there was no time for returning to the Court of Augmentation the annual account. (fn. 33)

Priors of Warter (fn. 34)



Richard (abbot)

Yvo (abbot), occurs 1132 (fn. 35)

Nicholas, occurs 1206 (fn. 36)

Richard, occurs 1209 (fn. 37)

Thomas, occurs 1223, (fn. 38) ruled six years

Ranulph, occurs 1229, (fn. 39) ruled six years

John Leystingham, occurs 1235, (fn. 40) ruled six months

John de Dunelm, occurs 1236, (fn. 41) ruled eight years

Robert de Lund, succeeded 1249, (fn. 42) ruled fifteen years

John de Queldrike, succeeded 1264, (fn. 43) ruled sixteen years

John de Thorp, succeeded 1280, (fn. 44) ruled thirtythree years

Richard de Welwyk, succeeded 1314, (fn. 45) ruled forty-four years

Robert de Balre, succeeded 1359, (fn. 46) ruled four years, resigned (fn. 47)

William de Ferriby, confirmed 1364, (fn. 48) ruled sixteen years

Henry de Holm, succeeded 1380, (fn. 49) ruled three years, died

John de Hemyngburgh, 1383, (fn. 50) first time ruled one and a half year

William de Tyveryngton, 1385, (fn. 51) ruled four years, deposed and expelled

John de Hemyngburgh, confirmed 11 Dec. 1388, (fn. 52) second time, ruled two and a half years, died (fn. 53)

Robert Takell, elected 1392, (fn. 54) ruled seventeen years

Thomas Ruland, succeeded 1410, (fn. 55) ruled ten years seven months, resigned

William Warter succeeded, occurs 1423, (fn. 56) ruled twenty-five years, died (fn. 57)

Robert Hedon, confirmed 1445, (fn. 58) ruled eight years nine months, resigned (fn. 59)

William York, elected 1453, (fn. 60) 'renounced' priorship and expelled, (fn. 61) ruled four years

William Spenser, succeeded 1458 (fn. 62)

John Preston, confirmed 1483, (fn. 63) died (fn. 64)

Thomas Bridlington, confirmed 1495, (fn. 65) resigned (fn. 66)

Thomas Newsome, elected 1498, (fn. 67) died 1526 (fn. 68)

William Holme, confirmed 1526 (fn. 69)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 297.
  • 2. Ibid. 299, no. ii.
  • 3. Ibid. no. iii.
  • 4. Ibid. no. iv.
  • 5. Ibid. no. ix.
  • 6. Ibid. no. vii.
  • 7. Burton, Mon. Ebor. 381-4.
  • 8. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 301, no. xii. The annexation of the hospital was confirmed by the king. Chart. R. 14 Edw. I, no. 39.
  • 9. Burton, Mon. Ebor. 384.
  • 10. Burton, Mon. Ebor. 383.
  • 11. Ibid. 384 n. In 38 Henry III (1253-4), Robert, Prior of Warter, was summoned to show why he raised a certain market and fair in Warter to the injury of the free market and free fair of the Earl of Albemarle in Pocklington. The prior relinquished the market in Warter, and in return the earl granted the prior and his successors leave to hold a fair each year on the feast of St. James in the said vill. Feet of F. file 47, no. 14 (Mich. 38 Henry III).
  • 12. York Archiepis. Reg. Wickwane, fol. 174b.
  • 13. Ibid. There is also a curious entry, marked in the margin ' pro speciebus emendis,' in Archbishop Wickwane's register. It is a grant, addressed by J. de Queldrike, the prior, on 14 March 1279-80, to the sub-prior and convent, of 30s. a year to buy spices with, for improvement in singing the psalms. Ibid. fol. 118 and 118b.
  • 14. York Archiepis. Reg. Wickwane, fol. 174b.
  • 15. Ibid. fol. 135.
  • 16. Ibid. Romanus, fol. 62.
  • 17. Ibid. fol. 65 and 66.
  • 18. Ibid. fol. 66.
  • 19. Ibid. fol. 67b.
  • 20. Ibid. Corbridge, fol. 33.
  • 21. Subs. R. (P.R.O.), bdle. 63, no. 12.
  • 22. York Archiepis. Reg. Arundel (sed. vac.), fol. 2 [the registers sed. vac. before Arundel's rule are contained in his register, not in the ' Sede Vacante' volume].
  • 23. Ibid. Arundel, fol. 12.
  • 24. Ibid. fol. 35.
  • 25. Ibid. W. Booth, fol. 68.
  • 26. Ibid. fol. 198b.
  • 27. Ibid. fol. 20 3b.
  • 28. Ibid.
  • 29. Ibid. fol. 114.
  • 30. State Papers (P.R.O.), 1526 (return by Brian Higdon).
  • 31. Valor Ecct. v, 126.
  • 32. Yorks. Arch. Journ. xvi, 445.
  • 33. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 298.
  • 34. In the Monasticon (Mon. Angl. vi, 298, no. i) is a document entitled ' De prima fundatione ejusdem et de Successione Priorum,' which gives a list of the priors with certain notes about them, and the lengths of their rule, &c., ending with William Spenser (elected 1458). The list, so far as it can be checked with the registers, seems fairly correct. The third and fourth are called abbots, but on what ground is not explained. It should be noted that there is no place for Robert, who is said, in the ordinary lists, to have become prior in 1271. He is not named in the ' Successio,' and the Register of Archbishop Wickwane (fol. 174b) is explicit that John de Thorp immediately succeeded John de Queldrike, between whose names Robert has been thrust.
  • 35. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 297.
  • 36. Baildon, Man. Notes, i, 210.
  • 37. Ibid.
  • 38. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 297.
  • 39. Ibid.
  • 40. Ibid.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. Ibid.
  • 43. Ibid.
  • 44. York Archiepis. Reg. Wickwane, fol. 174b.
  • 45. Ibid. Greenfield, ii, fol. 123.
  • 46. Ibid. Thoresby, fol. 200.
  • 47. Ibid.
  • 48. Ibid. fol. 211.
  • 49. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 297.
  • 50. Ibid.
  • 51. Ibid.
  • 52. York Archiepis. Reg. Arundel, fol. 13.
  • 53. So in ' Successio ' (Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 299, no. i), but in Arundel's Register, fol. 35, it is said that Robert Takell was elected on the resignation of John de Hemyngburgh.
  • 54. York Archiepis. Reg. Arundel, fol. 35. In Mr. Baildon's MS. Notes the Christian name is altered from Robert to John (Takell). Robert is the name in every case in which it occurs in the registers, is also that in the ' Successio,' and as ' Robert Takyll, Prior of St. James, Wartre,' he occurs, Cal. Papal Letters, v, 230. Pardon to Robert Takell, Prior of Warter, and John Etton his fellow canon, who were in the field in the company of Richard, late Archbishop of York, against the king, 10 Aug. 1409; Cal. Pat. 1405-8, p. 55.
  • 55. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 297.
  • 56. Baildon, Mon. Notes, i, 210.
  • 57. York Archiepis. Reg. Kemp. fol. 403.
  • 58. Ibid.
  • 59. Ibid. W. Booth, fol. 389.
  • 60. Ibid.
  • 61. Ibid. fol. 203b. (His resignation, ibid. fol. 112b.)
  • 62. Ibid. fol. 113.
  • 63. Ibid. Rotherham, i, fol. 43.
  • 64. Ibid. fol. 89b.
  • 65. Ibid.
  • 66. Ibid. fol. 155.
  • 67. Ibid.
  • 68. Ibid. Wolsey, fol. 84b.
  • 69. Ibid.