A 1614 map of Earl Sterndale

1614 map of Earl Sterndale

Earl Sterndale is part of the parish of Hartington Middle Quarter in the Derbyshire Dales.  It was created as an ecclesiastical parish from a chapelry in 1763.  It’s church, St Michael’s and All Angels, has the distinction of being blown up by the Luftwaffe with a stray bomb in 1941.

I’m posting about Earl Sterndale today because I came across this 1614 map in a file of documents – it’s a random find and to be honest it has no reference on so I don’t even know which book it was taken from by whoever copied it. It’s a reminder though that whilst I tend to teach history in a neat linear pattern that history itself is much more untidy. The fields shown are a mixture of open strip farming and enclosed land. Enclosure was something that began more or less in the thirteenth century and escalated until at the end of the eighteenth century farming practises and land ownership wrought wholesale enclosure.

Records indicate that the farms around Earl Sterndale were largely monastic granges belonging to Basingwerk Abbey, Flintshire, Wales.  The abbey was a Cistercian foundation and it’s lands including the granges near Earl Sterndale were sold following the Dissolution of the Monasteries.   Basingwerk was a lesser monastery with an income of less that £200 per year.  It is perhaps not surprising that Basingwerk Abbey held property and the rights to churches in other parts of Derbyshire including Glossop.   But it’s not completely a monastic story – again history tends to be taught or written about in neat units but the distribution, in this case literally on the land, tells of different administration systems abutting one another and in some cases overlapping.

Within the medieval Manor of Hartington, of which Earl Sterndale was part land belonged in part to the Duchy of Lancaster – the land in Earl Sterndale once having been in the holding of the de Ferrers’ Earls of Derby until the 6th earl fell foul of Henry III and the land was given to Henry III’s second son – Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster. edmund’s great grand daughter Blanche (the daughter of Henry Grosmont the 1st Duke of Lancaster) married John of Gaunt – for those of you who like to make links.

Meanwhile the manor of Hartington of which Earl Sterndale was part worked on the three field open system where strips of land were allocated to various tenants (villeins).  Rent was paid along with labour for the lord.  In addition to which part of the manor functioned as demesne land which was farmed on behalf of the Duchy of Lancaster itself rather than the income all coming from tenants.  By the fourteenth century sheep had become an important part of the venture for the Duchy – as it was for the Cistercian granges. I’ve read elsewhere that as the Black Death plotted it’s course in 1348 demsesne farming was abandoned in the parish of Hartington; it being more profitable to rent land out.

It’s also worth noting that the village of Earl Sterndale held common grazing rights to a portion of land adding yet another dimension to the equation of who held the land.

The map of 1614 pictured above demonstrates that the three field system with its open strips didn’t suddenly stop here at the end of the medieval period nor was the dissolution of the monasteries sufficient to bring about total enclosure. It is  evident that strip farming around Earl Sterndale continued into the seventeenth century – although there is also evidence of enclosure in the form of Mr Thomas Nedham’s land.  Enclosure when it finally came was at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

words words words 3- monastic habits

Sorry can’t resist the very bad pun. How many words pertaining to monasteries can you identify – could be architectural or to do with monastic life and roles?

History Jar Challenge 13

Fair Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II by Dante Gabriel Rosetti. In 1174 Henry II acknowledged his relationship with Rosamund having probably turned to her when Queen Eleanor was pregnant with the couple’s final child – John. She retired to Godstow Nunnery where she had been educated in 1176. Fable says that Henry hid his mistress from Queen Eleanor in a maze at Woodstock but that Eleanor found her and offered her a choice between a dagger and a bowl of poison. Rosamund drank the poison. The story does not appear before the fourteenth century. rosamond’s tomb was moved from inside Godstow Church on the orders of Hugh of Lincoln but the tomb itself was only finally lost with the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Royal mistresses since 1066, this week, if you please. We’ll leave Elizabeth I’s romantic attachments to one side and Queen Anne’s as well. Some monarchs are remarkably discreet, others less so. Henry VII for example was not known for his mistresses – but his account book reveals payment to “dancing girls” …they may just have been dancing. Other mistresses have achieved notoriety and in the case of Henry VIII’s mistresses, in many instances, the Crown itself. You may find yourself dealing with potentially bigamous monarchs as well this week. Good luck.

History Jar picture quiz 1 – answer – The Alfred Jewel

The first image in the History Jar’s new quiz is, of course, the Alfred Jewel which can be found in the Asmolean Museum in Oxford. The words around the end of the jewel read, “Alfred ordered me to be made.” The jewel is the ornate end of an aestel -that’s a pointer to you or me. The socket formed by the dragon’s head at the bottom of the jewel is where the ivory pointer would have sat.

The jewel was found a few miles from Athelney Abbey in Somerset in 1693 when it was ploughed up. Athelney Abbey is very near the site where King Alfred made his counter attack against the Great Viking army in 878. The king had been forced to retreat into the marshes in 877 and built a fort near Athelney before launching his counter attack.

Asser, who was Alfred’s chaplain, described the site as being a small island. And it was Alfred who is often credited with the founding of Athelney Abbey. However, there is a distinct possibility that there was already some sort of monastic foundation on the site as the name and the charter suggest enlargement rather than foundation.

William of Malmesbury writing later describes the abbey as poor but that the Benedictine brothers who lived there loved solitude. By the fourteenth century the quiet and solitude seems to have turned Athelney into a retirement home for royal pensioners. The archives contain a protest from the monks about Gilbert de Reagan who had been sent to the abbey to live as a pensioner. The monks replied that there were already two aged servants of the king living at the expense of the abbey.

In 1314 the abbey was used a prison for another Benedictine, William de Walton, who according to the Bishop of Lincoln, had been very wicked and should be kept locked in fetters in his cell at all times. Eventually William was returned to Peterborough Abbey, where he originally came from, as he had escaped a couple of times much to the consternation of the Athelney brothers.

In 1349 the plague hit the abbey killing two abbots in swift succession.

By 1536 the abbey was in debt to the Crown to the tune of £33 but that might have been because in 1497 the abbot had supported Perkin Warbeck against Henry VII and the abbey had been fined 100 marks. Cromwell’s commissioner found the abbot and his eleven monks to be leading good lives but on the 20th February 1539 the abbey surrendered.

https://www.ashmolean.org/alfred-jewel Follow the link for a closer look at the Alfred Jewel.

‘Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Athelney’, in A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1911), pp. 99-103. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/som/vol2/pp99-103 [accessed 5 June 2020].

The History Jar History Challenge 5 – monastic houses

Roche Abbey

It was much easier to set the question than to produce the answer. Nor does it help that I’m losing track of the days of the week – I’m now functioning on today, yesterday, tomorrow and a shrug of the shoulders.

I hope that this challenge encouraged you to think of some of the places that you’ve visited and read about. I began with the challenge of 23 monastic houses – one for each letter of the alphabet with XYZ counting as one rather than 3 – I struggled for a little while with O. How did you all do? The only reason that I’ve got Quarr on the Isle of Wight is because I’ve visited it. Rather than produce a second separate list I’ve added as many abbeys and priories as I can against each letter of the alphabet – that is not to say that there are 625 of them. If you have them all then all I can say is “How lovely to meet you Mr Cromwell.”

A = Armathwaite, Appleby, Abbotsbury (there’s a huge monastic barn at this site), Alnwick, Abingdon, Axholme, Athelney, Amesbury, Alvingham, Aylesford and Arden. Anglesey Abbey in Camridgeshire was not in actual fact an abbey – it was more of a hermitage. As with Calke Abbey in Derbyshire it was retrospectively enlarged by its secular owners!

B = Brinkburn, Bermondsey, Blakeney, Baysdale, Bolton, Burscough, Blyth, Breadsall, Beauvale, Buckland, Bardney, Barlings, Battle, Beaulieu, Brooke, Bayham, Binham, Bamburgh, Boscobel, Boston, Bungay, Barking, Bath, Beauvale, Beauchief, Bridlington, Bury St Edmunds, Birkenhead, Boxgrove and Byland.

C= Carlisle, Chester, Calder, Cartmel, Conwy, Cardigan, Carmarthen, Cardiff, Clifford, Chepstowe, Cannington, Canonsleigh, Cranbourne, Creake, Canons Ashby, Crowland, Cirencester, Canterbury, Coggeshall, Coventry, Croxton, Clare and Chatteris.

D = Droitwich, Dunster, Dunkerswell, Denny, Dorchester, Dieulacresse, Deeping St James, Dover (x2) Dunstable and Durham.

E = Easby, Egglestone and Evesham.

F = Furness, Forde, Fountains and Faversham,

G= Gisborough, Glastonbury, Gloucester, Garendon, Great Malvern, Great Yarmouth and Godstow

H= Holmecultram, Hornby, Hailes, Haughmond, Hexham, Hurley and Horsham.

I= Ingham and Isleham

J= Jarrow and Jervaulx

K= Kersal, Kirkham, Kirkstall, Kirkstead, Kidwelly and Kennilworth

L= Lancercost, Lytham, Lack, Lenton, Lewes, Lilleshall, Lindisfarne, Leicester and Leominster

M= Malmesbury, Maxstoke, Meaux, Monk Bretton, Monkwearmouth, Mount Grace, Much Wenlock, Milton Abbas, Minster-in-Sheppey and Morville

N= Norton, Netley, Norton, Newark, Nun Monkton and Newstead.

O= Owston

P= Penrith, Pershore, Prittlewell, Plymouth and Peterborough

Q= Quarr (Isle of Wight)

R= Rievaulx, Roche, Ramsey, Romsey, Reading, Repton, Richmond, Rosedale, Royston and Rufford

S= St Bees, St David’s, Seton, Sawley, Selby, Shap, Swine, Sherbourne, Syon House and Shrewsbury

T= Thornhome, Titchfield, Tavistock and Tupholme.

U= Upholland and Usk.

V= Vale Royal, Vale Crucis

W= Warrington, waltham, Watton, Waverley, Whitby, Wymondham, Welbeck, Wetheral, Wigmore and Winchester.

X,Y,Z = York (x2) and Yedingham.

This is clearly not a complete list so if you have any others don’t forget to add them to your tally. If you have more than 50 then you are doing very well indeed!

I shall now have no excuse not to update the History Jar list of abbeys and priories. I started sometime ago but never finished, unlike Thomas Cromwell’s commissioners who did a very speedy job indeed.

https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/religious-houses-lands-1000-1530/

Ordinance Survey produced a two volume map (a north and a south sheet) showing monastic houses in 1950. This is not in publication at the moment. There was also a Jackdaw folder produced about the Dissolution of the Monasteries. One of the documents was a map of the monastic houses of England and Wales.

The Abbey Explorer’s Guide by Frank Bottomley contains a comprehensive gazetteer of monastic houses. There is also a book by English Heritage on Abbeys and Priories.

Store cupboard of quotes week 5

Martin Luther on beer drinking

As always you are more than welcome to add relevant quotes via the comments box. This week’s quotes are very loosely about all things monastic.

  1. “My imagination is a monastery and I am a monk.” The author of this quote was prone to writing odes about urns and autumn days.
  2. “Living in a monastery, even as a guest rather than a monk, you have more opportunities than you might have elsewhere to see the world as it is, instead of through the shadow that you cast upon it.”  The protoganist of this novel is call Odd and it’s writer is an American known for science fiction, horror and fantasy.
  3. Francis Grose describes this abbey as “undoubtedly light and elegant, it wants that gloomy solemnity so essential to religious ruins.” History and literature remembers the abbey much better from the lines written by a romantic poet better associated with the Lake District. Where is the abbey and who is the poet?
  4. “Her passion for ancient edifices was next in degree to her passion for Henry Tilney– and castles and abbeys made usually the charm of those reveries which his image did not fill.” Which author penned these words mocking the gothic novel and which fictional abbey is the title of the book where you can find Henry Tilney?
  5. “Here grandeur triumphs at its topmost pitch In gardens, groves, and all that life beguiles; Here want, too, meets a blessing from the rich, And hospitality for ever smiles: ” The romantic poet who wrote these lines at the beginning of Milton Abbey ended his days in a “mad house.” Who is he?
  6. Who says “Get thee to a nunnery?”
  7. “What ? did not regret, he found grave difficulty in remembering to confess.” Which well-known fictional monk located during The Anarchy has difficulty in remembering to confess and who was his prolific creator?
  8. “They told of dripping stone walls in uninhabited castles and of ivy-clad monastery ruins by moonlight, of locked inner rooms and secret dungeons, dank charnel houses and overgrown graveyards, of footsteps creaking upon staircases and fingers tapping at casements, of howlings and shriekings, groanings and scuttlings and the clanking of chains, of hooded monks and headless horseman” The writer of The Woman In Black.
  9. “The day has come not only to abolish forever those unnatural laws, but to punish, with all rigour of the law, such as make them; to destroy convents, abbey, priories and monasteries and in this way prevent their ever being uttered.”  He nailed his ideas to the cathedral door at Wittenburg.

10. Let me take this other glove off
As the vox humana swells,
And the beauteous fields of Eden
Bask beneath the Abbey bells.
Here, where England’s statesmen lie,
Listen to a lady’s cry.

Gracious Lord, oh bomb the Germans,
Spare their women for Thy Sake,
And if that is not too easy
We will pardon Thy Mistake.
But, gracious Lord, whate’er shall be,
Don’t let anyone bomb me.

What is the title of this poem and who wrote it?

And finally just to keep you thinking – how many novels/series can you identify that feature a monk or nun as its main protagonist?

History Jar History Challenge 5 – Monasteries dissolved by Henry VIII

Roche Abbey in South Yorkshire

This week I am sticking with an ecclesiastical theme. In 1529 there were more than 800 monastic houses in England and Wales. By 1547 when Henry VIII died there were none left thanks to Thomas Cromwell’s organised approach to the administrative processes that dissolved them between 1536 and 1540. The first wave of suppressions came in 1536 with the dissolution of smaller monastic houses valued at less than £200 per year. Having said that many, particularly the nunneries, received a stay of execution because there was nowhere else for the inhabitants to go. The Second Act of Suppression followed in 1539 which saw all monastic houses whatever their size or value being closed. By 1540 fifty monastic houses a month were being suppressed and dismantled.

I’m not expecting you to list all of them! Indeed, 200 of the monastic houses were friaries which brings the number down to a more modest 625. Of those, 200 were nunneries.

Firstly can you list 23 of the monastic houses – one for each letter of the alphabet with XYZ counting as one rather than 3?

And secondly how many can you name? I’m not totally sure how many I can think of, so its a bit of a challenge for me as well. You do have a slight head start as my post about cathedrals listed former abbey churches which were turned into cathedrals at the time of the Reformation.

Have you checked out the History Extra website? It’s the home of the BBC History Magazine so contains some interesting articles as well as a podcast and information about historical tv and film. Here’s a link to get you started – it’s about clerical abuses of the kind that Thomas Cromwell’s commissioners were looking for as they set off to compile the Valor Ecclessiasticus.

https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/monks-sex-drink-gamble-history-pope/

Garendon Abbey

Garendon Hall

Garendon Abbey in Leicestershire was founded in 1133 by Robert, Earl of Leicester.  It was a daughter house of Waverley, the earliest Cistercian monastery to be established in England. As well as holding land in Leicestershire it extended its grand holdings into Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire – Roystone Grange near Ashbourne was gifted to the monks by Adam de Harthill.

By 1225 the abbot had obtained permission to export wool to Flanders which is typical of the order and a reminder of the great Cistercian houses in Yorkshire. The monks weren’t always the best example of monastic chastity or sobriety – one of the abbots was married and another had a bit of a drink problem. Abbot Reginald was murdered in 1196 according to the Monastic Anlicanum. By the reign of Edward III the abbey had got itself into severe financial difficulties and seems to have been harbouring robbers.

By 1535, the year in which Cromwell sent his commissioners to the monastic houses of England and Wales, Garendon was worth less than £160 p.a. There was also the matter of three monks wishing to escape their vows and two more being deemed guilty of unnatural vices. There were only 14 monks at the time. However, they were also providing a home for old people and children. This didn’t save it from dissolution the following year.

Lady Katherine Manners after the death of her husband – the Duke of Buckingham

The estate and it’s buildings were granted by Henry VIII to Thomas Manners, the Earl of Rutland. He paid £2,356 5s 10d for his new property. Garendon remained in the hands of the Earls of Rutland until 1632 when it formed part of Lady Katherine Manners dowry. She was the sole surviving heir of the 6th Earl. She ended up married -by trickery- to the Duke of Buckingham. https://thehistoryjar.com/2018/01/20/witchcraft-scandal-and-the-duke-of-buckingham/

Katherine’s son sold Garendon in 1683 to Ambrose Phillipps, a successful London barrister.

I have posted about Garendon before: https://thehistoryjar.com/2016/11/14/garendon-abbey-granges-and-a-spot-of-drunkenness/

Roystone ended up in the hands of Roland Babington. Roland was born in Dethick along with his brother Thomas. Thomas tried to secure land from Beauchief Abbey in Sheffield upon its dissolution. Thomas’s descendent is the more famous Sir Anthony Babington.

Croxden Abbey, Staffordshire

DSC_0016In 1176 the Cistercians arrived in Cotton but three years later relocated to nearby Croxden.  The land was given by Bertram de Verdun, the lord of nearby Alton.  He was concerned not only for his own soul but also for those of his predecessors and also his descendants. Bits of Alton Castle (not open to the public) date to the twelfth century so are also part of Bertram’s building schemes.   Croxden is the oldest of Staffordshire’s Cistercian houses.  There were twelve monks and their abbot, an English man known as Thomas of Woodstock. They acquired endowments in Staffordshire, Leicestershire and in Hartshorne in Derbyshire amongst other locations from Bertram.  The land at Hartshorne was known as Lees and measured as a carucate. A carucate is of Norse origin and it signifies the amount of land that can be ploughed by one plough team of eight oxen in a season. Carucate is my word of the day! The monks also held Riston and Trusley in Derbyshire.

DSC_0015The choice of Croxden fits with the site selection that is almost uniform to Cistercian monasteries:

  1. by a river – River Churnet.  Usually the monks looked for a bend in the river where they had been granted land.  This method of siting the monastery meant that on most occasions the land was level and that there was agricultural land nearby as well as the opportunity for fish and the creation of fish ponds.
  2. in a valley (aren’t most rivers in a valley or on a plain?)
  3. remote – Staffordshire moorlands.

The Cistercians arrived in England in 1128 in Waverley.  Their foundations demonstrate a simplicity of design in harmony with the idea of obedience to their conformity to the Rule of St Benedict.  Most Cistercian churches for example have a “square” end of the kind that most medieval parish churches exemplify.  However, Croxden doesn’t.  It has an apse- not that much remains aside from the footprint and it has been separated from the main body of the church by the road that was driven through the village after the suppression of the monasteries.  I don’t think that any Cistercian Church survives in tact – possibly because of their habit of building in the middle of nowhere, thus there benign population in need of a parish church at the time of the dissolution – but I could be wrong.

DSC_0017The other feature of Croxden’s architecture to often appear in commentaries is the abbot’s lodging.  The first lodging appears between 1270 and 1290 but the following century Abbot Richard rebuilt a much more splendid dwelling – demonstrating the inevitable shift from poverty and simplicity.

 

In 1199 they  received lands in Ireland from King John  – the following year the abbot persuaded him to swap the lands for an annual annuity of £5.  In 1205 this was swapped again for land in Shropshire and in 1287 it was swapped for Caldon Grange near Leek.

DSC_0025.jpg

The thirteenth century saw Croxden at its most prosperous.  There may have been as many as forty monks at one time.  Revenues came from sheep and charcoal burning.  As a result there was extenisve building work as well as other purchases in William of Over purchased a house in London for £20.00.  However, the fourteenth century saw significant changes. As well as the Hundred Years War, Edward II and the Scottish levy there was also the fact that the abbey lost their key patrons.  The de Verdun family had supported them from the time of their foundation but in 1316 the last male of the family died so the title and estates were inherited by Joan de Verdun and her husband Thomas de Furnivalle.  He didn’t appear to understand the role of a patron and instead insisted on stabling his hoses and hounds at the abbey – not to mention the necessity of the abbey feeding seven of his bailiffs every Friday.  He also confiscated livestock and a cart.  Alton became a no go area resulting in the monks barricading themselves into Croxden for sixteen weeks beginning in March 1319. Eventually matters settled down – in 1334 Joan was buried at Croxden when she died in childbirth.  Stone coffins remain in the apse of the ruins.

 

In 1349 the plague arrived in Croxden.  It is recorded in the abbey’s chronicle but not how many of the monks succumbed.  Let us not forget famine and sheep moraine to add to the general joy of the fourteenth century.

 

Aside from the local bigwigs there was also the issue of dodgy royalty and the Scottish wars of independence. In 1310 the Crown required loans for a Scottish expedition and the abbey also had duties with respect to its landholdings.   In 1322 for example the abbot was taken to court for refusing to pay his share for the maintenance of  foot soldiers. By 1368 the abbey owed £165.  Nor did it help that the church roof had been releaded and the abbot’s house rebuilt (nice to know he got his priorities right.)  The following year the section of the abbey adjoining the church collapsed.  The list of problems facing the abbey continued to be chronicles.  There were also floods and storms.  By 1381 the abbot was in charge of six monks.

 

Somewhere along the line – the abbey was able to acquire more land on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border. Hulton Abbey sold  90 acres of waste ground at Bradnop in the middle of the fourteenth century.  They also managed to acquire Sedsall. In 1402 they gained a house in Ashbourne from Henry Blore.  All these transactions are recorded in the form of royal licences.  Despite these new land acquisitions Croxden struggled to maintain its former wealth and it probably didn’t help that there were a series of law suits.

 

The visitation of 1535/36 valued them at less than £200 a year so they should have been suppressed with the smaller monasteries but the abbot paid a fine of £100 for a licence to continue.  Their income placed them as 67thout of  75 Cistercian houses according to Knowles and Hadcock cited in Klemperer. None the less in August 1538 Archbishop Cranmer wrote to Cromwell asking for a commission to be sent to Croxden, and on 17 September Dr. Thomas Legh and William Cavendish received the surrender of the abbey from the abbot and twelve other monks. One of the reasons that Cranmer was so interested in the fate of Croxden was because the much of the site of Croxden including the watermill was leased to his servant Francis Bassett (who assisted with the destruction of St Anne’s Well in Buxton.) In 1545 the estate was sold to the Foljambe family.

 

As for the monks, they all received their pensions. One of them became the vicar of Alton and he was still in receipt of his pension during the reign of Queen Mary.

 

Cromwell was always on the look out for tales of naughty monks but it seems that for much of Croxden’s history aside from the land deals and court cases that the abbots ran a tight ship. Tompkinson records that when in 1274 a lodger called Thomas Hoby was killed in a fight between grooms the entire household of the abbot’s servants were dismissed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA.

 

The Victoria County history details its landholdings:  the manor and grange of Oaken, Lee Grange in Crakemarsh, and granges at Musden, Caldon, and Trusley; lands and rents in Croxden, Combridge, Great Gate, Ellastone, Alton, ‘Whytley’ in Leek, Onecote, Cotton, Dog Cheadle, Uttoxeter, Denstone, Calton, Caldon, Stafford, Orberton (in St. Mary’s, Stafford), Walton (Staffs.), Ashbourne, Doveridge, Derby, Hartshorne, Thurvaston (in Longford), Langley (Derb.), Burton Overy, Tugby, Mountsorrel (in Barrow-upon-Soar and Rothley, Leics.), Casterton, Stamford, Misterton (? Leics.), London, and ‘Sutton Maney’; the appropriated churches of Croxden, Alton, and Tugby and the tithes of Oaken, Lee, Musden, Caldon, and Trusley Granges; and a ‘wichehouse’ in Middlewich and Hungarwall smithy in Dog Cheadle.   The list doesn’t include the mills and fish ponds nor the saltpan in Cheshire by which method the monks added to their self sufficiency.

 

G C Baugh, W L Cowie, J C Dickinson, Duggan A P, A K B Evans, R H Evans, Una C Hannam, P Heath, D A Johnston, Hilda Johnstone, Ann J Kettle, J L Kirby, R Mansfield and A Saltman, ‘Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Croxden’, in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3, ed. M W Greenslade and R B Pugh (London, 1970), pp. 226-230. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol3/pp226-230 [accessed 30 July 2018].

 

William D. Klemperer  Excavations at Hulton Abbey, Staffordshire 1987-1994

Tomlinson, John L. (2000). Monastic Staffordshire. Leek: Churnet Books

 

 

Brinkburn Priory and the monks who weren’t quite quiet enough!

BrinkburnBrinkburn is an Augustinian Priory.  Usually I’m not terribly keen on buildings that have been restored during the Nineteenth Century.  The Victorians were not always terribly sensitive in the changes that they made.  However, in this instance the priory church is a truly splendid thing.

Augustinian monasteries, as a rule, were always smaller than their Benedictine and Cistercian counterparts.  Exceptions include Carlisle and Hexham.  The twelfth century was the apex of the monastery building period in England and Brinkburn fits nicely into the timeframe being founded in the early 1130s, during the reign of Henry I, by William Bertram.

The first prior came from Pentney Priory in Norfolk.  In addition to their riverside  dwelling which can be accessed down a tree dappled hill the monks also owned approximately 3500 acres nearby.  They had other pastureland elsewhere in Northumberland as well as buildings in Newcastle including an inn. Pilgrim Street in Newcastle is supposed to have gained its name from the pilgrims who lodged there. They came to worship at Our Lady’s chapel at Jesmond.  There was also a Franciscan Friary where there were supposed to be relics of St Francis.   In the copy of a grant of a house to Brinkburn Priory in Northumberland, dated 1292, this street is called Vicus Peregrinorum.  In 1564, after the Dissolution of the monasteries the inn, or one of the inns on the street, was mentioned for coining false money.  In any event whilst the canons at Brinkburn may have not had the huge amount of acres of their Cistercian counterparts they knew how to turn a profit as in addition to the inn they also owned a shop in Corbridge.  More traditionally  they gained income from bequested  advowsons, that is to say the right to appoint the priest, at Felton and Longhorsely.

 

brinkburn2

So far, so straight forward.  Unfortunately Brinkburn is north of Newcastle and it became apparent during the reign of Edward II that living anywhere near the Scottish border wasn’t necessarily a very good idea. In 1315 Robert Bruce destroyed Brinkburn and its thirteen canons had to flee their home and beg for their bread.

The story goes that on one occasion the Scots raided as far south as Brinkburn but the priory was spared because of a thick fog.  The raiders passed them by.  The canons being a grateful sort of bunch rang the bells to give thanks to God and in so doing directed the Scots to priory. The canons having realised that ringing the bell wasn’t necessarily the smartest move they could have made had fled to the other side of the River Coquet.  The story continues to say that as the Scots burned the priory the bell which had summoned them ended up in the river – I’m not sure if this was as the result of the fire or some enterprising Scottish person trying to remove them for their scrap value.  In yet another version of the story it was the monks who hid the bell in the river – presumably not wanting one of their number to ring it anymore.  And finally, the poor monks were so strapped for cash that they sold the bells to the Bishop of Durham but when they moved the bells up the hill one of them ended up in the river.  Take your pick!

The canons must have been delighted by the news that the Scots had been defeated at the Battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346.  Unfortunately three years later the Black death arrived and killed half of Northumberland. Things really seem to have gone from bad to worse for the canons.  During the early years of the Fifteenth century they suffered from reiver cattle raids and in 1484 the Scots turned up again and having stripped the place burned it to the ground.  Then there was the murder. In 1521 Richard Lighton, one of the Canons, was killed by Humphrey Lisle in a property dispute.

When Cromwell’s visitors arrived the priory was valued at only £69 so it was suppressed in 1536.  There were only six canons left at that time. After the dissolution Brinkburn changed hands several times.  On two occasions, Brinkburn’s owners lost their heads.  For a fair portion of the time the property was in the hands of the Fenwick family.  Eventually it passed into the hands of Richard Hodgson.  His son did some demolition work on the old manor house which contains the west range of the monastery.  The manor house he rebuilt was designed to be a picturesque building so much of the monastic masonry remains in situ.

The style of the church, for those folk who like to know these things, is somewhere between Norman and Gothic – the correct term is transitional.

 

Eneas Mackenzie, ‘The present state of Newcastle: Streets within the walls’, in Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827), pp. 160-182. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/newcastle-historical-account/pp160-182 [accessed 6 July 2018].

English Heritage (2003) Brinkburn Priory