122. THE PRIORY OF WELLE OR WELL HALL IN GAYTON (fn. 1)
William de Streis, about the year 1081, bestowed the manor of Welle and the advowson
of the church of St. Nicholas on the abbey of
St. Stephen, Caen. The abbey established here
a small priory or cell of Benedictine monks. The
grant of the manor and church and other privileges was confirmed by William II, Henry II,
and Richard I.
Herbert and Ralph occur as priors of this cell
about the beginning of the thirteenth century.
In 1275 the prior was found to hold the
manor of Welle in free alms, with gallows, free
warren, waif and stray, and assize of bread and
beer. (fn. 2)
About this time the priory or cell of Welle
was united with the small Essex priory of Panfield, which was also a cell of St. Stephen's, Caen.
The prior was termed the prior of Panfield and
Welle. Under this double designation the priory
was found in the taxation of 1201 to hold in
temporalities in Norfolk, meadow land in West
Acre of the annual value of 3s., rents in Ashwicken
£1 2s. 11d., rents in Leziate £3 17s. 8d., and
rents, lands, mills, court perquisites in Gayton
£23 9s. 2d., yielding a total of £28 12s. 9d. In
addition to this the annual value of the appropriated rectory of Gayton was declared at £16.
In 1325 an extent or survey of the jury was
taken by royal command. The jury declared
that the abbot of St. Stephen's, Caen, was rector,
and that the rectory was worth 24 marks per
annum. The total value of the manor and church
was £35 2s: 0½d.; but the prior of Castle Acre
received therefrom 11 marks, leaving the clear
amount at £27 13s. 6½d. (fn. 3)
During the wars with France the prior of these
two cells paid in 1334 to Edward III. thirty-four
marks annually for the farm of the priories. On
14 December, 1373, the king granted the custody of Panfield and Welle to Sir Hugh Fastolf
so long as the war continued, on the payment to
the crown of £40 per annum and £10 per
annum to a certain monk or prior there residing.
The custodian was to perform all customary
duties incumbent on the priories and to keep the
houses in good repair.
In July, 1379, a grant was made by Richard II,
with the assent of the council, to Thomas de
Woodstock, earl of Buckingham, the king's uncle,
of £ 1,000 a year to maintain his rank as earl.
This large sum was taken from the farms of
various alien priories in the king's hands on
account of the war; £40 of this amount was
the rent paid by the custodian of the joint priories
of Panfield and Welle. In June of the following
year it was ordered if the earl of Buckingham
died in the next expedition against France the
executors of his will should receive the like sum
for one year to discharge his debts. (fn. 4)
In 1381 Richard II granted the custody of.
this priory to Sir John Devereux and Mary his
wife and Joan their daughter, for their lives.
After the suppression of the alien priories by
the Parliament of Leicester, Henry V in 1415
granted the priory and manor and rectory of
Welle or Welles to the renowned warrior, John
Woodhouse, to be held by the service of a rose
on Midsummer Day.
On 10 March, 1469, Edward IV granted
Welles Priory to the dean and canons of the
free chapel of St. Stephen within the Palace of
Westminster, (fn. 5) with whom it remained till the
dissolution of that college in 1548, when it
was granted to Osbert Mundeford and Thomas