Houses of Augustinian canons
The priory of Breedon


Victoria County History



W.G. Hoskins (editor) assisted by R.A. McKinley

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'Houses of Augustinian canons: The priory of Breedon', A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 2 (1954), pp. 8-10. URL: Date accessed: 23 November 2014.


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Breedon first became the site of a monastery in the 7th century, when a colony of Medeshamstede was established there. Little is known of this ancient religious house, though its presumed importance is shown by the elevation of one of its abbots, Tatwine, to the see of Canterbury in 731. The monastery ceased to exist during the Danish invasions of the 9th century. (fn. 1)

At an unknown date under Henry I the parish church of St. Mary and St. Hardulph at Breedon was given to the Augustinian Priory of St. Oswald at Nostell (Yorks.) by Robert de Ferrers, later 1st Earl of Derby. (fn. 2) Canons were established at Breedon by 1122. (fn. 3) A cell of Nostell was presumably then in existence, so that the date of the foundation of Breedon Priory must lie between the foundation of Nostell, c. 1109-14, (fn. 4) and 1122. The endowment of the priory, as given in the earliest charter of which the terms are known, consisted of Breedon church, (fn. 5) with its subordinate chapels of Worth ington and Staunton Harold, 4 virgates of land, with some other property and tithes, in Breedon parish, revenues from Stapleford (Leics.), Crakemarsh (Staffs.), and West Leake (Notts.), and land at Heathcote, in the Derbyshire Peak. (fn. 6) These possessions received no very important additions during the course of the priory's existence. Lands at Cole Orton (Leics.) were granted to the house before 1160, (fn. 7) and several minor gifts of land in and near Breedon were made in the 12th and early 13th centuries. (fn. 8) The priory was granted pasture rights in the Peak, in augmentation of its original possessions there, by William, Earl of Derby, about 1200, (fn. 9) and by Henry, Earl of Lancaster, in 1333. (fn. 10) Land at Saxby (Leics.) was obtained in place of the priory's revenue from Stapleford. (fn. 11) In 1291 the spiritualities of the house were assessed at £33. 6s. 8d., and its temporalities at £8. 2s. (fn. 12) Another estimate, made apparently at about the same date, put the true value of the priory's spiritualities at £100. (fn. 13)

The priory throughout its existence continued to be a cell of Nostell, and always remained very small. About 1220 it was stated that there were five canons at Breedon, with the apparent implication that this was the usual number, (fn. 14) and in 1441 the canons numbered only three. (fn. 15) A very close connexion was always maintained between Breedon and its mother house in Yorkshire. In the 13th century it was stated that Breedon Priory only contained canons sent there from Nostell. (fn. 16) The canons of Breedon were entitled to participate in the conduct of affairs at Nostell, (fn. 17) while in the 13th century it was the Prior and Convent of Nostell who presented to the patron of Breedon Priory two canons, from whom the patron chose one to be Prior of Breedon. (fn. 18) The Prior and Convent of Nostell, on the other hand, agreed not to remove the priors of Breedon without due cause, and not to disturb the cell's possessions. (fn. 19) An attempt by Gervase, Prior of Breedon, to obtain independence from Nostell was a failure, and led to Gervase's resignation in 1244. (fn. 20) So far as is known, no canon of Breedon Priory ever held the cure of souls of Breedon parish church. (fn. 21) Bishop Alnwick, visiting the priory in 1441, found that it was in debt, while the church and the priory buildings were dilapidated. (fn. 22) One of the three canons then at Breedon was suspended for failing to appear, (fn. 23) and some years later another canon was in jail at Leicester awaiting trial. (fn. 24) In 1518 Breedon parish church was again in need of repair, though as it was the nave and porch which were dilapidated at this time, the responsibility may have rested on the parishioners rather than on the canons. (fn. 25)

In 1535 the clear yearly income of Breedon Priory was estimated at £24. 10s. 4d. (fn. 26) In the following year it was reported that there was no convent at Breedon. The priory was apparently then occupied only by the prior, who had a stall at Nostell, and a voice in affairs there. (fn. 27) Breedon was surrendered, with Nostell's other possessions, in November 1539. (fn. 28) In the First Minister's Account the net yearly value of the priory lands was stated to be £32. 4s. 7d. (fn. 29) In 1553 the clear yearly value of the property formerly belonging to the priory in Leicestershire alone was estimated at £31. 3s. 4¼d. (fn. 30)

Priors of Breedon

Elias, occurs between 1153 and 1160. (fn. 31)
Thomas, occurs late 12th century. (fn. 32)
William, occurs about 1170-80. (fn. 33)
Ralph, occurs between 1175 and 1207. (fn. 34)
Gervase, presented 1223, (fn. 35) resigned 1244. (fn. 36)
Walter of Stokes, presented 1245. (fn. 37)
T., occurs before 1253. (fn. 38)
Thomas of Acomb, occurs 1288, (fn. 39) died 1293. (fn. 40)
William Wyles, presented 1293, (fn. 41) occurs 1299. (fn. 42)
Robert of Pontefract, presented 1314, (fn. 43) died 1324. (fn. 44)
John de Insula, presented 1324, (fn. 45) elected Prior of Nostell, 1328. (fn. 46)
William Buttrebuske, presented 1328, (fn. 47) occurs 1341. (fn. 48)
Richard, occurs 1348. (fn. 49)
Adam, occurs 1384, (fn. 50) elected Prior of Nostell, 1385. (fn. 51)
Robert of Qwyxlay, occurs before 1393. (fn. 52)
Adam, presented, for the second time, 1393, (fn. 53) died 1402. (fn. 54)
William of Altofts, presented 1402. (fn. 55)
John Amyas, presented 1411. (fn. 56)
William Horbury, presented 1422, (fn. 57) occurs 1439. (fn. 58)
James Byrtby, presented 1439, (fn. 59) resigned 1449. (fn. 60)
Stephen Melsymby, presented 1449. (fn. 61)
William Yorke, presented 1450, (fn. 62) died 1472. (fn. 63)
John Hyndrewell, presented 1472, (fn. 64) died 1495. (fn. 65)
John Emley, presented 1495, (fn. 66) died 1503. (fn. 67)
Richard Bretaynger, presented 1503, (fn. 68) died 1513. (fn. 69)
John Brydell, presented 1513, (fn. 70) died 1524. (fn. 71)
Robert Harrop, (fn. 72) presented 1524, (fn. 73) occurs 1535. (fn. 74)
Thomas Clarke, occurs 1529 (fn. 75) and 1536, (fn. 76) died 1537. (fn. 77)
Henry Huntingdon, presented 1537. (fn. 78)

The small oval seal (fn. 79) of Prior Adam, measuring ⅞ by ¾ in., depicts a figure in a long robe (possibly St. Peter) holding a pair of keys. The legend is now broken away. According to Dugdale, (fn. 80) however, it was once possible to read the words:



1 F. M. Stenton, 'Medeshamstede and Its Colonies', Hist. Essays in Honour of James Tait, 317-18; A. W. Clapham, 'The Carved Stones at Breedon on the Hill', Archaeologia, lxxvii, 219.
2 John Rylands Libr., Manchester, Latin MS. 222, f. 30a; Nichols, Leics. iii, 696.
3 L. Delisle, Rouleaux des Morts, 314; cited D. Knowles, Religious Houses of Medieval Engl. 81.
4 A. Hamilton Thompson, Bolton Priory, Introduction, pp. 23-27.
5 Appropriated by 1220: Rot. Hugonis de Welles, ed. W. P. W. Phillimore, i, 252.
6 Dugd. Mon. vi, 97; Nichols, Leics. iii, 697; B.M. Cott. MS. Vesp. E. xix, f. 125; John Rylands Libr., Manchester, Latin MS. 222, f. 28a.
7 John Rylands Libr., Manchester, Latin MS. 222, f. 34b. Confirmed either by Robert, 1st Earl of Derby, or by Robert, 2nd Earl, who died before 1160: ibid., f. 28a; Nichols, op. cit. iii, 697.
8 See the deeds printed by Nichols, op. cit. iii, 698701, from John Rylands Libr., Manchester, Latin MS. 222.
9 Ibid., f. 28b; B.M. Cott. MS. Vesp. E. xix, f. 125a; Nichols, op. cit. iii, 697.
10 Nichols, op. cit. iii, 698; John Rylands Libr., Manchester, Latin MS. 222, ff. 32a, 32b; B.M. Cott. MS. Vesp. E. xix, f. 125a.
11 John Rylands Libr., Manchester, Latin MS. 222, ff. 28a, 28b, 33a, 33b.
12 Tax Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 64, 67, 317.
13 John Rylands Libr., Manchester, Latin MS. 222, f. 9; W. E. Lunt, Valuation of Norw. 148.
14 Rot. Hugonis de Welles, i, 252.
15 Visitations of Religious Houses in the Dioc. of Linc. [1420-49], ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, ii, 40.
16 Rot. Roberti Grosseteste, ed. F. N. Davis, 441.
17 L. & P. Hen. VIII, x, p. 497; see also a MS., now in the custody of the trustees of the late Lord St. Oswald at Nostell, entitled 'De Gestis et Actibus Priorum Monasterii Sancti Oswaldi de Nostell', f. 50a. For a description of this MS., see W. T. Lancaster, 'A 15th Century Rental of Nostell Priory', Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lxi, 108.
18 Nichols, Leics. iii, 697.
19 Ibid.
20 Rot. Roberti Grosseteste, 424, 440-2; Cal. Close, 1237-42, 449.
21 Nichols, Leics. iii, 689, lists Walter de Stokes, later Prior of Breedon, as a vicar of Breedon, but no evidence is cited for Walter's inclusion in the list of vicars.
22 Visitations in Dioc. Linc. [1420-49], ii, 40-42.
23 Ibid.
24 Cat. Pat., 1446-52, 534.
25 Visitations in Dioc. Linc., 1517-31, ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, i, 28.
26 Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 177.
27 L. & P. Hen. VIII, x, p. 497.
28 Ibid. xiv (2), pp. 195, 240. Not in 1540, as Dugd. Mon. vi, 91.
29 S.C. 6 / Hen. VIII / 7313, m. 75.
30 W. G. D. Fletcher, 'Unpublished Doc. Relating to Leics.', Assoc. Arch, Soc. Rep. and Papers, xxiii, 245-8.
31 Desc. Cat. of Derbys. Charts., ed. I. H. Jeayes, 68, 243.
32 Doc. Illustrative of Social and Econ. Hist. of Danelaw, ed. F. M. Stenton, 310.
33 Dugd. Mon. iv, 221; Regesta Pontificum Romanorum, ed. P. Jaffé, ii, p. 353.
34 Nichols, Leics. iii, 866; John Rylands Libr., Manchester, Latin MS. 222, f. 30b.
35 Rot. Hugonis de Welles, ii, 290.
36 Rot. Roberti Grosseteste, 424.
37 Ibid.; B.M. Cott. MS. Vesp. E. xix, f. 126a.
38 John Rylands Libr., Manchester, Latin MS. 222, f. 38b.
39 Ibid., f. 35b.
40 Rosalind Hill, 'Bishop Sutton and the Inst. of Heads of Religious Houses in the Dioc. of Linc.', E.H.R. lviii, 209.
41 Ibid.
42 Cal. Pat., 1292-1301, 468.
43 Nichols, Leics. iii, 694.
44 Cal. Pat., 1321-4, 415.
45 Ibid.
46 John Rylands Libr., Manchester, Latin MS. 222, f. 11b.
47 Ibid.
48 Ibid., f. 64b.
49 Cal. Pat., 1348-50, 177.
50 E. 326/6 8108.
51 W. Burton, Mon. Eboracensis, 311.
52 De Gestis . . . Priorum Monasterii . . . de Nostell', f. 53a. On this MS., see n. 17 above.
53 Ibid.
54 Ibid.
55 R. Somerville, 'D. of Lane. Presentations, 13991485', Bull. Inst. Hist. Research, xviii, 66.
56 Visitations in Dioc. Linc. [1420-49], ii, 126.
57 Ibid. i, 162.
58 Hist. MSS. Com., Hastings, i, 34.
59 Bull. Inst. Hist. Research, xviii, 66.
60 Visitations in Dioc. Linc. [1420-49], i, 162.
61 B.M. Cott. MS. Vesp. E. xix, f. 126b.
62 Ibid.
63 Linc. Reg. Rotherham, Inst., f. 63a.
64 Ibid.
65 B.M. Cott. MS. Vesp. E. xix, f. 126b.
66 Ibid.
67 Linc. Reg. Smith, Inst., f. 277b.
68 Ibid.
69 Linc. Reg. Attwater, Inst., f. 7a.
70 Ibid.
71 Linc. Reg. Longland, Inst., f. 128b.
72 Or Garope.
73 Linc. Reg. Longland, Inst., f. 128b.
74 Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 176.
75 John Rylands Libr., Manchester, Latin MS. 222, f. 1b. It is difficult to explain the appearance of Clarke as prior at a time when Harrop was apparently prior, and it seems that either the date given in Latin MS. 222 must be inaccurate or, less probably, that Harrop was no longer prior when the Valor Eccl. was compiled.
76 L. & P. Hen. VIII, x, p. 497.
77 Linc. Reg. Longland, Inst., f. 144b.
78 Ibid.
79 E. 326/3 8108.
80 Dugd. Mon. vi, 97.