Bourne Archive: FNQ: Spalding Priory Latest edit 26 Apr 2010

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Fenland Notes and Queries. Edited by Rev. W.D. Sweeting, Rector of Maxey.

Part 41. April 1905.

This quarterly periodical took the form of a forum in which people sent in questions about the history, ecology and so on of the Fens and the region’s environs and others replied with some sort of answer. Some ‘answers’ seem to have been spontaneous, so qualifying as ‘notes’.

[This article is by R.M.G. Notes in the smaller type are by RJP]

1102. --- Spalding Priory. --- I have put together a short account of the notices about Spalding Priory that appear in the Chronicon Angliæ Peterburgense. This chronicle was printed by Sparke early in the 18th century: but a more careful and exact transcript was published by the Caxton Society, under the editorship of Dr. Giles, in 1845. Unfortunately there is no index to this, so that a reader who desires to collect all the entries on a particular subject has to go through the whole book.

A.D. 1052. --- Priory of Spalding took its beginning from six monks, taken from Crowland, by Thoraldus brother of Godiva, Countess of Leicester. He assigned to them sufficient lands from his manor for their support. The establishment was a cell of Crowland.

A.D. 1059. --- Wulfketyl, Abbot of Crowland, at instigation of Earl Algar, granted to his cell at Spalding, to enable the monks to shew proper hospitality, his wooden chapel there, with certain rents: and the Earl also considerably enriched them.

A.D. 1074. --- William I., and his two sons, William II. And Henry I., at the insistence of Ivo Tailbois, confirmed to the monks of Spalding all their property, and in particular the manor of Spalding with all its appurtenances.

It does not appear in the chronicle, but we learn from other sources, that the connection with Crowland only lasted about fifteen years. Ivo Tailbois “drove the Crowland monks back to their own abbey, and introduced some monks from the Benedictine Priory of St. Nicholas, at Angiers, in France.” [Paper by Dr. Cammack printed amongst transactions of the Lincolnshire Architectural Society, 1851.]

A.D. 1229. --- Simon appointed Prior.

A.D. 1232. --- The first agreement (compositio prima) made between Constantius, Abbot of Angiers, and Simon, Prior of Spalding.

A.D. 1252. ---Death of Prior Simon. He had been at first a “dative” Prior. [That is, he was appointed (and was liable to be removed) by the Abbey of Angiers. Compare the word “donative,” in the English ecclesiastical law.] But his good management and the kind offices of Bishop Hugh II., of Lincoln, [Hugo Wallis or Hugh of Wells, Bishop of Lincoln from 1209 to 1235; immediately before Robert Grosseteste.] and of Ranulfus, Earl of Chester and Lincoln, an agreement was come to (as before mentioned) with the foreign abbey. It seems that the monks of Spalding had certain grievances. It was agreed at Brampton, near Huntingdon, that in future the Priors should receive institution from the Bishop of the diocese, and should have a fixity of tenure in their office (immobiles permanentes). The next Abbot, James, wished to upset this agreement, and went to Spalding, and attempted to depose Simon. The matter was submitted to the papal court, and discussed for fifteen days; at the end of which time the second agreement was drawn up. Upon the Prior’s undertaking to pay an annual tribute of £40 to the abbey of Angiers, and to maintain four monks (mora quatuor monachorum), this agreement was confirmed at Lyons. Originally the Abbot of Angiers had appointed the Priors, and also the Deans of the church [who were these?], and when these latter were removed from their offices they were accustomed to raise all the money they could and then go abroad and spend it. Simon thus freed his priory from grievous oppression, and recovered many lost privileges. His own country tenants, who had been giving themselves airs (superborum rusticorum suorum adversus eum colla erigentium) he overcame by mere force of character. He enriched the priory, built houses, reconstructed the church, built a cloister, dormitory, infirmary, prior’s lodging, and guest house. He invited the King himself to a banquet in London, with his Earls and Barons, and bestowed many gifts among the nobles to secure the acceptance of the invitation. The Bishop of Lincoln disliked the high position Simon had attained, and strove, but unsuccessfully, to remove him. Many other good actions of his are here not written down. He was Abbot for 23 years, and died in a good old age. He buried in the church he had built, and was succeeded by John, the Almoner of the house, a native of Spalding, A.D. 1253, --- Abbot John was confirmed in his appointment by Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln.

A.D. 1274. --- Abbot John died. An opposition had been made to his election quia detrimentum patiebatur in natalibus; but he answered the objection by producing a legitimation from the Pope. While almoner he had purchased lands, built houses and a chapel, made a garden, planted a vineyard and orchards, and supplied food to the poor. As Prior, he bought a wood in Kesteven, and lands (to be devoted to his anniversary). He established his claim for certain services and customs from his tenants (sokemannos) in Pinchbeck [Grid ref. TF2425], Weston [TF2925], and Moreton [TF0924], which they had refused. After being Prior 21 years he went to France, and as he was returning died at S. Denys. [This is probably the Basilica of Saint Denis which, like Spalding Priory, was a Benedictine house.] His Body was Brought to Spalding and buried before the altar of his church. Some lands, which had been unjustly acquired by the stewards of the house, he redeemed, presumably by paying the value to the heirs of the original owners. The manor of Whaplode was constituted by him. He was succeeded by William of Littleport, A.D. 1278. A long standing suit between the Abbot of Crowland and the Prior of Spalding was brought to and end in London. The Abbot paid the prior 500 marks for all jurisdiction and claim which he had over the marshes.

A.D. 1293. --- Death of William of Littleport. More particulars are given of the suit between Crowland and Spalding. William claimed, as a right of his church, 110 acres of wood, and 1760 acres of marsh, within the precincts of Crowland, lying in Moulton, Weston and Spalding, of all of which his predecessor Wazinus, a “dative” Prior, had been seised. These rights were given up to Crowland for a sum of money, here said to have been 550 marks. The settlement seems to have included the counter claim of the Abbot of Crowland for a messuage and carucate of land in Spalding, and 12 acres of land in Wiberton. With this money the Prior gloriously adorned the conventual church. To the fabric he appropriated the tithe of wood at Weston. The right of presentation to the church of Weston, formerly belonging to the priory, but through negligence lost, he recovered from Pope Honorius, notwithstanding the opposition of the Bishop of Lincoln. [This will have been either Benedict (Richard of Gravesend) or Oliver Sutton.] The tithe of wood and flax at Spalding, once assigned to the Sacrist, but diverted by the last two Priors to their own use, he re-assigned to the Sacrist, with the assent of the convent, any balance unspent to be devoted to the fabric. He acquired many lands and tenements. At his own expense he erected goodly buildings in the court of the priory, and at the manors of Coldbech, New Hall and Whaplode. He recovered many rights that had been in abeyance, and also a messuage and 107 acres on Bolingbroke, unjustly alienated. Many other good deeds are recorded of him. He was buried in the middle of the choir, before the steps of the high altar. Clement of Hatfield, succeeded him.

A.D. 1318. --- Prior Clement died. His character was expressed by his name. He adorned the chapel at Wickham, enriched the manor there and manor-house, and planted trees. He improved Thornholm manor, constructed a barn at Golwiw (?), and a new chamber for the Prior. He acquired lands and revenues at Obthorpe from Ranulfus Drinkdregges, and assigned them together with some houses at Boston which he rebuilt, to the Pittancer of the house. He granted sundry relief to the monks, including a solatium (half-holiday ?) three days a week. He provided new trenchers for the refectory.

[A pittancer allots and accounts for pittances; that is small doles of food. (OED) A solatium or solacium is a consolation or comfort. It is the word which gives us ‘solace’. (Handford & Herberg)]

A.D. 1322. --- Death of Prior Walter de Halton. Although old when he was appointed he freed the houses of debts of £1100 sterling. He built at great cost a hall and building adjoining, for rest and recreation. He made an annual payment to the Chamberlain for each monk: bought land at Weston, called Bishoptoft, and assigned it to the Pittancer: reformed some abuses: acquired much property in Pinchbeck and Spalding. In the time of Edward II., during the French war, the property of alien houses had been seized, as though they were under the dominion and authority of the King of France, by the King’s writ; and it cost great labour and expense to get the property restored: but this had been done, with the help of Ebulo le Strange, Earl of Lincoln, [Ebulo married Alice de Lacy, Countess of Lincoln and Salisbury in 1348. She was the daughter of Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln.] at a special court of the Chancellor, Treasurer, Barons of the Exchequer, and others of the council. He successfully resisted the encroachments of Thomas de Wake, who even sent an armed force, in the marsh and elsewhere, injuring men and cattle, and damaging the property. He was prior for 14 years, and was succeeded by Thomas de Nassington.

A.D. 1353. --- Thomas de Nassington died. He had been chosen because of his good character by the saner portion (saniori parte) of the convent: but the election was disputed by James de Haghem, who asserted that he had been elected by four of the monks. But the opposition failed.

R. M. G.

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