Houses of Augustinian canons
The abbey of Owston


Victoria County History



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

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'Houses of Augustinian canons: The abbey of Owston', A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 2 (1954), pp. 21-23. URL: Date accessed: 20 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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The abbey of St. Andrew at Owston was founded, before 1161, (fn. 1) by Robert Grimbard, whose foundation charter provided that the canons of Owston should live according to the rule of Haghmon Abbey (Salop). (fn. 2) Haghmoh seems to have followed the usual form of the rule of St. Augustine, and there is no reason to suppose that Owston was not an Augustinian house of the usual type. (fn. 3) The only endowments mentioned in the foundation charter are the vill and church of Owston. (fn. 4) In addition, the abbey acquired before 1166 the churches of Burrough, King's Norton, and Slawston (Leics.), North Witham (Lines.), and Tickencote (Rut.). (fn. 5) Henry II granted the church of Medbourne (Leics.) to the canons of Owston, but the church was only to pass to them on the death of the incumbent. The canons never seem to have been able to exercise their right of presenting to Medbourne, and after Henry III had refused in 1253 to confirm the advowson to them, their rights in the church were lost. (fn. 6) A moiety of the advowson of Withcote (Leics.) was given to the abbey by Walter of Norton, probably in the late 12th century. (fn. 7) In 1203 the Abbot of Owston laid claim to the advowson of Gumley, but was forced to give way. (fn. 8) It seems unlikely that during the 13th century the canons of Owston themselves served any of the parish churches in the gift of the abbey. About 1220 the church of Owston itself was being served by a secular clerk, who ate at the canons' table. (fn. 9)

Owston obtained some modest additions to its early endowments. Slawston church was appropriated before 1258, (fn. 10) and the church of King's Norton in 1340-1. (fn. 11) The manor of Muston (Leics.) was obtained, probably in or shortly after 1341, as the endowment of a chantry in the conventual church. (fn. 12) About the same date Robert de Golville granted the manor of Normanton (Leics.) to Owston in return for the abbey's undertaking to find two secular chaplains to celebrate at Bytham Castle. (fn. 13) Despite its rank as an abbey, however, Owston remained one of the smaller and poorer Augustinian houses.

When the abbey was visited by Bishop Alnwick in 1440 no serious faults were disclosed, though one of the fifteen occupants was out of his wits. The poverty of the house is shown by the statement, made at this visitation, that its net revenues amounted to only £40 yearly, and that it was a hundred marks in debt. (fn. 14) At another visitation, in 1518, it was said that the canons were in the habit of drinking and gossiping after compline, but no more serious defects were found. At that time it was permissible for Owston parish church to be served either by a secular clerk or by a canon. (fn. 15) In 1526, and again in 1530, the parish church was in fact being served by a canon of the abbey. (fn. 16) The record of a visitation of 1528 shows that there was then a certain amount of friction amongst the canons, while the abbot complained that women came into the abbey. It was further said that there were only four priests in the house, and the abbot was ordered to increase the number of canons by four. (fn. 17)

The Abbot of Owston, with eleven canons, acknowledged the royal supremacy over the Church in 1534. (fn. 18) In the next year the abbey's clear yearly income was assessed at only £161.14s. 2d, (fn. 19) and the house was therefore listed amongst the smaller religious houses. (fn. 20) It was reported in 1536 that there were in the abbey only the abbot and six canons, of whom one was very old and one mad. All desired to give up monastic life. The buildings of the house were well constructed but in an unfinished state. (fn. 21) The abbey was dissolved in 1536, the abbot receiving a pension of £18. (fn. 22) The First Minister's Account shows a total net revenue of £86. 0s. 3¾d. (fn. 23)

Abbots of Owston

Odo, occurs in or before 1161. (fn. 24)
Edward, occurs 1183-4. (fn. 25)
Ralph, occurs 1202. (fn. 26)
Richard, admitted 1236. (fn. 27)
Peter of Leycestre, elected 1241, (fn. 28) died 1264. (fn. 29)
William of Flamstead, elected 1264, (fn. 30) died 1268. (fn. 31)
Ivo of Cosseby, elected 1268, (fn. 32) resigned 1280. (fn. 33)
John Chaumberleyn, elected 1280, (fn. 34) resigned 1284. (fn. 35)
Ivo of Cosseby, elected 1284, (fn. 36) resigned 1286. (fn. 37)
Robert of Lincoln, elected 1286, (fn. 38) died 1289. (fn. 39)
Ernald of Slawston, elected 1289, (fn. 40) died 1298. (fn. 41)
Richard of Bokesworth, elected 1298, (fn. 42) died 1316. (fn. 43)
Robert of Staunford, elected 1316, (fn. 44) resigned 1322. (fn. 45)
William of Braunston, elected 1322. (fn. 46)
John of Kibbeworth, occurs 1344, (fn. 47) died 1355. (fn. 48)
William of Cottesmore, elected 1355, (fn. 49) resigned 1401. (fn. 50)
Robert of Nouesle, elected 1401, (fn. 51) resigned 1421. (fn. 52)
William Kilpesham, elected 1421, (fn. 53) died 1467. (fn. 54)
Robert Kirkeby, elected 1467, (fn. 55) resigned 1481. (fn. 56)
Henry Medban, elected 1481, (fn. 57) occurs 1497. (fn. 58)
John Belton, admitted 1504, (fn. 59) resigned 1520. (fn. 60)
John Slawston, last abbot, elected 1520. (fn. 61)

A 13th-century seal (fn. 62) of the abbey is a large vesica, 2⅝ by 1¾ in., representing the crucifixion of St. Andrew by two executioners. Above the saint is a hand, in the attitude of blessing, coming out of clouds, between a sun and a moon. In the base an abbot with his crosier kneels before an altar. The legend is:


Of Abbot Nouesle's seal (fn. 63) only the upper half has survived. It shows an abbot standing in a niche, holding a crosier and a book. When complete, the seal must have been an oval, measuring about 1¾ by 1⅛ in.


1 Gifts to the abbey were confirmed by Abp. Theobald of Cant, who died in 1161: Doc. Illustrative of Social and Econ. Hist, of Danelaw, ed. F. M. Stenton, 316-17.
2 Dugd. Mon. vi, 424; Nichols, Leics. ii, App., 145.
3 Owston is referred to as an Augustinian house in a charter of Robert de Chesney, Bp. of Linc: Dugd. Mon. vi, 424.
4 Ibid.; Nichols, Leics. ii, App., 145.
5 See the confirmation charter by Robert, Bp. of Linc., in Nichols, op. cit. ii, App., 145, and Dugd. Mon. vi, 424. The grantor must be de Chesney, not Grosseteste, as the wording of the charter implies that it was granted in Grimbald's lifetime. It is uncertain by whom these chs. were granted. There is a copy of a charter of Grimbald granting North Witham ch. to Owston, but Ernald de Bosco also granted half the advowson of North Witham to the abbey: Dugd. Mon. loc. cit.
6 Cal. Chart. R., 1226-57, 420-1; Abbrev. Plac. (Rec. Com.), 105; Bracton's Note Bk., ed. Maitland, ii, 231; Nichols, op. cit. ii, App., 146.
7 G. F. Farnham and A. Hamilton Thompson, 'Hist, of the Manor of Withcote', Assoc. Arch. Soc. Rep. and Papers, xxxvi, 130-1; Rot. Hugonis de Welles, i, 268.
8 Abbrev. Plac. (Rec. Com.), 41.
9 Rot. Hugonis de Welles, i, 275.
10 Reg. Antiquissimum of the Cath. Ch. of Linc., ed. C. W. Foster, ii, 103.
11 Cal Pat., 1338-40, 546; 1340-3, 230.
12 Nichols, Leics. ii, App., 146, no. 12. A doc. concerning the transfer of the manor to Owston is dated 1371: Hist. MSS. Com., Rutland, iv, 15-16. It may have been drawn up long after the transfer had taken place. The abbey's lands in Muston were sold in 1493: Nichols, op. cit. ii, App., 146-7.
13 Ibid. 146; Hist. MSS. Com., Rutland, iv, 16.
14 Visitations in Dioc. Linc. [1420-49], ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, iii, 264-5.
15 Visitations in Dioc. Linc., 1517-31, ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, iii, 44.
16 Ibid, iii, 45, n. 4; A. P. Moore, 'Proc. Eccl. Cts. in the Archdeaconry of Leic.', Assoc. Arch. Soc. Rep. and Papers, xxviii, 153.
17 Visitations in Dioc. Linc., 1517-31, iii, 45-47; in 1528 there were ten in the abbey, including the abbot.
18 L. & P. Hen. VIII, vii, p. 472.
19 Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 158.
20 L. & P. Hen. VIII, x, p. 515.
21 Ibid., p. 496.
22 Ibid, xiii (1), p. 575.
23 S.C. 6/Hen. VIII/1825, mm. 12-17.
24 Doc. Illustrative of Hist, of Danelaw, 316-17.
25 B.M. Campb. Chart, xv, 2; Add. Chart. 6104(2).
26 Farnham, Leics. Notes, iii, 106.
27 Cal. Pat., 1232-41, 151; Rot. Roberti Grosseteste, ed. F. N. Davis, 388. Ric. was previously precentor of Oseney.
28 Cal. Pat., 1232-41, 256, 259.
29 Rot. Ric. Gravesend, 144.
30 Cal. Pat., 1258-66, 387.
31 Ibid., 1266-72, 217.
32 Ibid., 219.
33 Ibid., 1272-81, 374; Cal. Fine R., 1272-1307, 127.
34 Cal. Pat., 1272-81, 378.
35 Ibid., 1281-92, 146.
36 Ibid. 147.
37 Ibid. 229.
38 Ibid. 230, 234.
39 Ibid. 312.
40 Ibid. 314; Rosalind Hill, 'Bishop Sutton and the Inst. of Heads of Religious Houses in the Dioc. of Linc.', E.H.R. lviii, 209.
41 Cal. Pat., 1292-1301, 364.
42 Ibid. 372.
43 Ibid., 1313-17, 470.
44 Ibid. 480.
45 Ibid., 1321-4, 51.
46 Ibid. 83.
47 Ibid., 1343-5, 214.
48 Ibid., 1354-8, 193.
49 Ibid. 201.
50 Ibid., 1401-5, 18.
51 Ibid. 25, 27.
52 Visitations in Dioc. Linc. [1420-49], i, 91-92.
53 Ibid, i, 91-92; iii, 264.
54 Cal. Pat., 1467-77, 23.
55 Ibid. He is said to have been prior of Kirkeby, and to have been an Augustinian, but cannot have been Prior of Kirby Bellairs. See list, p. 26.
56 Cal. Pat., 1476-85, 280.
57 Ibid. 288. Formerly Prior of Bradley.
58 Hist. MSS. Com., Rutland, iv, 15.
59 E. 326/12544.
60 Visitations in Dioc. Linc., 1317-31, iii, 45; L. & P. Hen, VIII, iii, p. 375.
61 L. & P. Hen. VIII, iii, p. 375; Visitations in Dioc. Linc., 1517-31, iii, 45; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 158.
62 B.M. Seals, lxvi, 75.
63 Ibid. 74.