Houses of Austin nuns: Priory of Moxby

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


, 'Houses of Austin nuns: Priory of Moxby', in A History of the County of York: Volume 3, (London, 1974) pp. 239-240. British History Online [accessed 25 May 2024].

. "Houses of Austin nuns: Priory of Moxby", in A History of the County of York: Volume 3, (London, 1974) 239-240. British History Online, accessed May 25, 2024,

. "Houses of Austin nuns: Priory of Moxby", A History of the County of York: Volume 3, (London, 1974). 239-240. British History Online. Web. 25 May 2024,

In this section



The nunnery of Molseby, or Moxby, to use the modern form of the name, originated in the foundation by Bertram de Bulmer of a double monastery for canons and nuns of the Augustinian order at Marton, either at the end of the reign of Stephen, or the beginning of that of Henry II. (fn. 1) The canons and nuns did not long continue under the same roof, and Henry II gave the adjacent territory of Moxby to the nuns, whither they removed before 1167. (fn. 2) The nuns continued to follow the Augustinian rule, (fn. 3) and their house and chapel were under the invocation of St. John the Evangelist.

The nuns obtained the church of Whenby, which was formally appropriated to them by Archbishop Wickwane in 1283. (fn. 4)

On 16 March 1267-8 (fn. 5) Archbishop Giffard directed the Prior of Newburgh to visit the prioress and nuns. Archbishop Wickwane (fn. 6) in like manner commissioned Magr. Thomas de Grimeston, his clerk, to visit the nunnery in December 1281. On 14 December 1289 (fn. 7) Archbishop Romanus appointed William, vicar of Thirkleby, as master of the nuns of Molseby, and on 8 May 1294 (fn. 8) he committed the custody of the nunnery to Master Adam Irnepurse, vicar of Bossall.

The next we hear is that Sabina de Apelgarth, (fn. 9) one of the nuns, had apostatized. Robert Pickering, acting as vicar-general of Archbishop Greenfield, Wrote on 24 April 1310 to the prioress and convent instructing them to receive her back, as she was returning in a state of penitence.

On Tuesday before the feast of St. Nicholas 1310 (fn. 10) Euphemia the prioress, feeling no longer capable of ruling the house, resigned, and on 12 December, Alice de Barton, a nun of the house, was elected prioress.

As a result of a visitation in 1314, (fn. 11) Archbishop Greenfield ordered that before the feast of All Saints each year a full account of the income and expenditure should be made. No nuns in good health were to be in the infirmary, while the sick were to be tended as their illnesses needed and means allowed.

No corrodies, &c., were to be granted, or boarders or girls over twelve taken without special licence. In a subsequent letter of 12 August (fn. 12) the archbishop appointed Brothers Benedict de Malton and Thomas de Hustwayt, Friars minors, confessors to the nuns. Archbishop Melton held a visitation of the house on 5 May 1318, (fn. 13) and the next day sent a decretum to the nuns. No fresh debts were to be incurred, especially large ones, without the consent of the wiser portion of the convent and the archbishop's special licence. As to the bread and ale called "levedemete," which the Friars minors were accustomed to receive from the house, if it was owed to them, it was to be given as due; if not, it was not to be given without the will of the president.

Nuns who ought to keep convent were to do so. They were to enter and leave the dormitory together. The cloister doors were to be well kept by day, and locked in good time at night, the prioress or sub-prioress having secure charge of the keys. The nuns were not to go out of the precincts of the monastery often, and were not at any time to wander about the woods, nor eat or gossip with brothers or other seculars.

The prioress was to take her meals in the refectory, and be more frequently in the convent than she had been, unless sickness hindered her. She was to have a nun of honest conversation associated with her, within and outside the monastery, and a waiting-maid. She was to conduct herself piously, without offensive rancour, nor was she to follow her own will, but to make use of the counsel of her sisters.

Nuns and other circumspect servants and guardians were to be appointed in granges and offices, for the benefit of the house. Relatives were not to visit the nuns for a longer period than two days. Until the archbishop directed otherwise, Sabina de Apelgarth was to be removed from all offices she held, to keep convent continuously, at divine service, and not to go out of the monastery on any account. No one convicted of incontinence, or de lapsu carnis, was to remain in office.

In 1322 (fn. 14) came the dispersion ot the nuns, owing to the raid of the Scots. On 17 November Sabina de Apelgarth and Margaret de Neusom were sent by the archbishop to Nun Monkton, Alice de Barton, the prioress, to Swine, Joan de Barton and Joan de Toucotes to Nun Appleton, Agnes de Ampleford and Agnes de Jarkesmill to Nunkeeling, and Joan de Brotherton and Joan Blaunkfront (fn. 15) to Hampole. (fn. 16)

The dispersion cannot have lasted long, for on 24 January 1325 (fn. 17) Joan de Barton appeared before the archbishop, and for certain lawful reasons resigned. The reason for resignation is apparent from a penance enjoined upon her for having been guilty super lapsu carnis with the chaplain, Laurence de Systeford. (fn. 18) The details of the penance imposed upon her, as to fasting and prayers, are in accordance with what was usual in these cases. She was to be shut up in a room by herself, and on no account to go outside the convent precincts for a year, and not to wear the black veil. The penance is dated 3 September 1325.

A visitation held in March 1327-8 (fn. 19) resulted in a series of injunctions to the nuns. As the house was heavily in debt, corrodies, pensions, &c., were not to be granted without the archbishop's special licence. Some of the necessary buildings were ruinous and unroofed, especially the bake-house, brew-house, &c. These were to be repaired as soon as possible.

The nuns for the future were to wear mantles, tunics, and other garments, according to the statutes of the rule.

Sabina de Apelgarth, for ' certain reasons,' until the archbishop ordered otherwise, was to be removed from all office and administration in the house, she was to keep convent in divine service, at fit times and places, and not to go outside the doors, nor was she to send or receive letters, &c. Joan Blaunkfront's penance was relaxed.

This decretum was followed on 26 March (fn. 20) by the confirmation of a new prioress (Joan de Toucotes) in place of Sabina de Apelgarth, whose misconduct had led to her removal from office by the archbishop. (fn. 21)

On 16 January 1423 (fn. 22) Alice Dautry, who had been prioress for twenty-six years, resigned owing to feebleness of body, and Joan Lassels was unanimously elected her successor per modum inspiracionis Spiritus Sancti by Emma de Holdernesse, sub-prioress, Alice Goldesburgh, Alice Dautry, Margaret Grene, Agnes Hancotes, Alice Moreton, Agnes Butteler, and Margaret Skypton. nuns of the house.

The house was supervised by the commissioners on 28 May 1536 and suppressed on 4 August following. (fn. 23) There were then eight sisters, and Elizabeth Warde, one of the nuns, held a corrody granted her by the prioress and convent for life. The commissioners gave her 66s. 8d., for which sum she released all claim she had in the corrody. She was impotens et surda, and in consideration of her poverty and feebleness the money was paid over to a certain honest man, who then and there pledged his faith to take care of Elizabeth Warde for life.

Among other payments made was that of 4d. to two men for the carriage of the evidences of the late priory to the house of a certain ' Magister Moyses.'

Prioresses of Moxby

Euphemia, occurs 1304-5, (fn. 24) resigned 1310 (fn. 25)

Alice de Barton, confirmed 1310, (fn. 26) occurs 1322 (fn. 27)

Joan de Barton, resigned 1324 (fn. 28)

Sabina de Apelgarth succeeded, (fn. 29) resigned 1328 (fn. 30)

Joan de Toucotes, confirmed 1328 (fn. 31)

Elizabeth Nevill, (fn. 32) died 1397 (fn. 33)

Alice Dautry, confirmed 31 Jan. 1397-8, (fn. 34) resigned 1423 (fn. 35)

Joan Lassels, confirmed 1423-4 (fn. 36)

Alice Moreton, died 1465 (fn. 37)

Margaret Skipton, elected 1465 (fn. 38)

Agnes de Tute, confirmed 1475 (fn. 39)

Philippa Jennyson, confirmed 1530-1, (fn. 40) last prioress


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 566.
  • 2. Burton, Mon. Ebor. 268. Moxby was about a mile and a half south of Marton. After the separation of the two houses, they appear to have had very little connexion with each other.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Archbishop Giffard's Reg. (Surt. Soc.), 54.
  • 6. York Archiepis. Reg. Wickwane, fol. 350.
  • 7. Ibid. fol. 50.
  • 8. Ibid. fol. 57b.
  • 9. Ibid. Greenfield, ii, fol. 92b.
  • 10. Ibid. fol. 101b.
  • 11. Ibid. fol. 100b.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Ibid. Melton, fol. 226.
  • 14. Ibid. fol. 240.
  • 15. Pope Clement VI, 18 July 1345, gave orders for Joan Blankefrontes, Augustinian nun of Molseby, who had left her order, to be reconciled to it. Cal. Papal Letters, iii, 188.
  • 16. On a slip between fol. 241 and fol. 242 is the original letter from the Prioress and convent of Munketon (Nun Monkton), of the order of St. Benedict, to Archbishop Melton acknowledging the archbishop's letter as to the reception of two nuns of Molseby of the order of St. Augustine.
  • 17. York Archiepis. Reg. Melton, fol. 244.
  • 18. Ibid. fol. 244b.
  • 19. Ibid. fol. 248b.
  • 20. Ibid. fol. 248b.
  • 21. Though in the decretum her ' removal' from all office is spoken of, it is said in the entry of the confirmation of her successor's election that she resigned. Probably she was constrained to do so. York Archiepis. Reg. Melton, fol. 248b, 249.
  • 22. Ibid. fol. 324b.
  • 23. For these particulars see K.R. Aug. Views of Accts. bdle. 17. In 1527 the clear annual value of the house was returned at £33 15s. (Subs. R. [P.R.O.], bdle. 64, no. 303). According to the Valor Eccl. v, 87, it was only £26 2s. 10d. On 24 July 1475 Robert Shirwyn, pewterer, of York, bequeathed to Katherine his sister, a nun of Moxby, 6s. 8d.; and to the house of the nuns ' in vasis electris' to the value of 10s. Reg. York. Wills, iv, fol. 91.
  • 24. Pat. 32 Edw. I, m. 27.
  • 25. York Archiepis. Reg. Greenfield, ii, fol. 101b.
  • 26. Ibid.
  • 27. Ibid. Melton, fol. 240.
  • 28. Ibid. fol. 244.
  • 29. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 566; and see above.
  • 30. York Archiepis. Reg. Melton, fol. 248b.
  • 31. Ibid.
  • 32. ' Was the next prioress,' Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iv, 566.
  • 33. York Archiepis. Reg. sed. vac. fol. 215.
  • 34. Ibid.
  • 35. Ibid. fol. 324b.
  • 36. Ibid.
  • 37. Ibid. fol. 456.
  • 38. Ibid.
  • 39. Ibid. G. Nevill, fol. 172.
  • 40. Ibid. sed. vac. fol. 607.