Houses of Augustinian canons
Kirkby Bellairs


Victoria County History



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

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'Houses of Augustinian canons: Kirkby Bellairs', A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 2 (1954), pp. 25-26. URL: Date accessed: 23 November 2014.


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10. KIRBY BELLAIRS (fn. 1)

The first step towards the foundation of Kirby Bellairs Priory was taken in 1316, when Sir Roger Beler (fn. 2) granted 4 messuages, 4 virgates, and certain revenues, all at Kirby Bellairs, to a chaplain, who. was with a second chaplain provided by himself to celebrate daily in the chapel of St. Peter at Kirby, for the souls of Roger Beler, his wife Alice, and others. (fn. 3) This modest chantry was soon enlarged. In 1318 or 1319 Roger granted to the chantry the manor of Buckminster, the advowson of Kirby Bellairs, (fn. 4) and other property, (fn. 5) In 1319 the chaplains were granted exemption from aids, tallages, and other royal levies. (fn. 6) The chantry also acquired twothirds of the advowson of Clipston (Northants.) (fn. 7) and the advowson of Stapleford (Leics.), with licence to appropriate Stapleford church. (fn. 8) As established in 1319 the chantry, with these additional endowments, was to consist of a warden and twelve chaplains. (fn. 9) Thirteen separate freehold benefices were created for the warden and chaplains, and the patronage of the benefices was divided between several, patrons, of whom the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln were the most important. (fn. 10) Careful regulations were made for the common life of the warden and chaplains, (fn. 11) and for the celebration of the divine offices. (fn. 12) After Roger Beler's murder, in 1326, (fn. 13) difficulties arose through the continual changes which took place amongst the chaplains disturbing the orderly celebration of services, and in 1359 the college of secular clergy was transformed into an Augustinian priory, with a prior and twelve canons. (fn. 14) The regular canons would, of course, be unable to leave their house in the way that the secular canons had been able to do. Roger Beler's heirs were the patrons of the priory. (fn. 15)

The priory was granted licence, in 1363, to transfer its share of the advowson of Clipston to the Hospitallers, and at the same time the priory was authorized to appropriate the church of Buckminster, which was acquired from the Hospitallers in exchange for Clipston. (fn. 16) The appropriation was duly carried out. (fn. 17) In 1392 royal licences were obtained for the alienation to Kirby Bellairs of the advowson of Garthorp, with some other property, (fn. 18) and in 1412 licence was similarly granted for the priory to acquire the advowson of Twyford, and to appropriate the church. (fn. 19) The rectories of both Twyford and Garthorp were subsequently appropriated. (fn. 20)

When visited by Bishop Alnwick in 1440, the priory was found to be in a satisfactory state; the bishop only found it necessary to correct minor faults in the canons' dress and in their celebration of the divine offices. There was then the full number of thirteen canons, including the prior, in the house. (fn. 21) In 1511 the prior and convent were authorized to declare indulgences and collect gifts, as their monastery was in great decay and its buildings had been destroyed by fire. (fn. 22) When the priory was visited by the bishop's commissary in 1518 the buildings still needed repair. At the same time the sub-prior was found to be possessed of private property, two of the canons were suspected of immorality, and there were complaints about the food provided for the canons. (fn. 23) At another visitation, ten years later, it was disclosed that the canons were in the habit of going out of the priory singly to take exercise. (fn. 24) In 1536, however, it was reported that the prior and the eight (fn. 25) canons of the house were all of good conversation, though two wished to return to secular life, and that the priory buildings were in good repair. (fn. 26) As the clear yearly revenue was assessed at little more than £140 in 1535, (fn. 27) the priory was dissolved, with the other small monasteries, in 1536; the prior obtained a pension of £17. (fn. 28) One of the canons of Kirby Bellairs went to Launde, (fn. 29) which as one of the larger religious houses continued to exist for some time. The First Minister's Account shows a total net revenue of £50. 3s. 11½d. (fn. 30)

Wardens of The College

William Spigurnel, first warden, (fn. 31) occurs 1319. (fn. 32)
John Cosyn. (fn. 33)
John of Kirby, died 1338. (fn. 34)
Edmund of Coston, presented 1338, (fn. 35) died 1359. (fn. 36)
Roger Wiseman, presented and removed, 1359. (fn. 37)

Priors of Kirby Bellairs

Roger of Cotes, appointed 1359. (fn. 38)
Alexander Thurgarton, occurs 1416, died 1418 or 1419. (fn. 39)
Henry Dalby, elected 1419, (fn. 40) occurs to 1444. (fn. 41)
William Leicester, resigned 1461. (fn. 42)
William Burton, elected 1461, (fn. 43) died 1480. (fn. 44)
William Kirby, elected 1480, (fn. 45) died 1488. (fn. 46)
Richard Sewstern, elected 1488, (fn. 47) died 1526. (fn. 48)
Thomas Kirby, elected 1526. (fn. 49)
William Kyrkeby, last prior, occurs 1534 and 1535. (fn. 50)

Two seals of the priory, both of them vesicas of the 14th century, are known. One (fn. 51) shows St. Peter, the patron saint of the house, wearing a mitre and seated on a canopied throne. The saint's right hand is raised in blessing, while in his left he holds the keys. In the lower part of the seal is a shield bearing the arms of Sir Roger Beler, the founder. The seal measures 2½ by 1½ in. The legend reads:


The other seal (fn. 52) shows a standing figure holding a staff and book, with the legend:


The seal measures 1⅜ by 1 in.


1 For an account of the coll. of secukr clerks at Kirby, see A. Hamilton Thompson, 'The Chapel of St. Peter at Kirkby-upon-Wreak', T.L.A.S. xvi, 130212.
2 For his career, see D.N.B.
3 Cal. Pat., 1313-17, 438; T.L.A.S. xvi, 153-65.
4 Kirby Bellairs ch. was appropriated almost at once: ibid, xvi, 144, 149, 192-3.
5 Ibid, xvi, 135, 167; Cal. Pat., 1317-21, 392; Farnham, Leics. Notes, iii, 113.
6 Cal. Pat., 1317-21, 340.
7 Ibid., 1321-4, 355.
8 Ibid., 1324-7,158; Farnham, Leics. Notes, v, 365. Stapleford was appropriated by 1335: Cat. Anct. D. ii, B1927.
9 T.L.A.S. xvi, 143; Dugd. Mon. vi, 512; Cal. Chart. R., 1341-1417, 164-5.
10 T.L.A.S. xvi, 144.
11 Ibid. 171-5.
12 Ibid. 177-80.
13 Cal. Pat., 1324-7, 250, 283; Farnham, Leics. Notes, iii, 117-18.
14 Cal. Chart. R., 1341-1417, 164-5; T.L.A.S. xvi, 150-1, 207-12. The first prior was a former Prior of Owston Abbey: Hen. Knighton, Chron. (Rolls Ser.), i, 432.
15 Cal. Close, 1381-5, 173;, ibid. 1389-92, 393; Farnham, Leics. Notes, iii, 123-4, 126.
16 Cal. Pat., 1361-4, 351.
17 Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 149.
18 Cal. Pat., 1391-6, 140-1, 151.
19 Ibid., 1408-13, 409.
20 Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv. 139.
21 Visitations of Religious Houses in the Dioc. of Linc. [1420-49], ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, ii, 164-8.
22 L. & P. Hen. VIII, i (and ed.), p. 473.
23 Visitations in Dioc. Linc., 1517-31, ed. A. Hamilton Thompson, ii, 174-5.
24 Ibid. 176.
25 In 1534 there had been 9 canons, besides the prior: L. & P. Hen. VIII, vii, p. 473.
26 Ibid. x, p. 496.
27 Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 149.
28 L. & P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), p. 575.
29 Ibid. xiii (2), p. 470.
30 S.C. 6/Hen. VIII/1825, mm. 3-8.
31 T.L.A.S. xvi, 194.
32 Cal. Pat., 1317-21, 394.
33 Cal. Close, 1369-74, 2; Farnham, Leics. Notes, iii, 121. The dates of this warden's rule are unknown.
34 T.L.A.S. xvi, 194.
35 Ibid.
36 Ibid. 195.
37 Ibid. 195, 209.
38 Ibid. 209.
39 Visitations in Dioc. Linc. [1420-49], i, 164; Farnham, Leics. Notes, iv, 147.
40 Ibid.
41 Cat. Anct. Deeds, ii, B3241.
42 Linc. Reg. Chedworth, Inst., f. 100a.
43 Ibid.
44 Linc. Reg. Russell, Inst., f. 80b.
45 Ibid.
46 Ibid., f. 92a.
47 Ibid.
48 Linc. Reg. Longland, Inst., f. 136b.
49 Ibid.
50 L. & P. Hen. VIII, vii, p. 473; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 149.
51 B.M. Seals, lxvi, 54.
52 Ibid. 55.