24. THE PRIORY OF LA GRAVE OR GROVEBURY
The manor of Leighton was granted by
Henry II. to the abbess and convent of Fontevraud in 1164 (fn. 1) ; and it is probable that a
house was built there for a cell of the order,
not very long after. A prior is first mentioned in 1195–6, and is then called the prior
of Leighton (fn. 2) ; the name of La Grave or
Grava does not appear till late in the reign of
Henry III. (fn. 3) The dedication of the church
is unknown. The prior of Leighton had a
good deal of trouble with his tenants on the
subject of feudal services during the thirteenth
century, which involved him in suits before
the Curia Regis from 1213 to 1290. (fn. 4) William
de Lyencourt, who was prior of La Grave
during the latter part of the century, was a
person of some importance; he was proctor
general or the abbess of Fontevraud in
England, (fn. 5) and had some journeys to take
in this capacity, (fn. 6) for which he had to seek
safe conducts from the king.
Both the mother house at Fontevraud (fn. 7)
and the priory of Almesbury (fn. 8) in England,
where the king's mother and daughter had
made their profession, (fn. 9) were in great poverty
at this time, but there is no mention made
of poverty at La Grave. Its history in the
fourteenth century is a little difficult to
trace; in 1316 the manor was stated to be
the property of the abbess of Fontevraud,
but 'now in the hand of the Princess
Mary,' (fn. 10) and in 1349 the pope wrote a
letter to King Edward III., asking him to
allow the abbess and convent to regain possession of the house of La Grave, of which
they had been despoiled. (fn. 11) It seems however
to have returned to its original position as a
cell of Fontevraud, for it was reckoned in
the next century among the alien priories,
and granted in 1438 to Eton College; and
a few years later, in 1481, its property was
transferred to the dean and canons of
Windsor. (fn. 12)
The original endowment of the house
was simply the royal manor of Leighton,
with land belonging to Walter Pullan, worth
32s. (fn. 13) Some smaller gifts of land in Edlesborough, (fn. 14) and Stewkley (fn. 15) (Bucks) and in
Studham (fn. 16) were added later. The value of
the manor in Leighton in 1291 was £32
6s. 8d.; and other temporalities of the priory
in the deanery of Dunstable amounted to
£2 2s. 2d. (fn. 17) In 1302 (fn. 18) the abbess of Fontevraud held one knight's fee in Stewkley;
in 1316 (fn. 19) the manor of Leighton, and half a
fee in Studham; in 1346 (fn. 20) only half a fee in
The names of only two priors remain:—
Nicholas, (fn. 21) occurs 1258 and 1263;
William de Lyencourt, (fn. 22) occurs 1283,
||Round, Cal. of Doc. France, i. 377; Dugdale, Mon. vi. 1085. The charter was confirmed
by John (Chart. R. [Rec. Com.], i. pt. 1, 72b,
which states that the manor of Leighton was worth
||Cur. Reg. R. 6 Rich. I. No. 5; Feet of F.
(Rec. Com.), 7 Rich. I. p. 3. It would seem
that the cell was founded between 1189, when the
manor of Leighton was apparently held directly
by Fontevraud, and 1195–6, the first date of a
Anct. Deeds (P.R.O.), D. 222. He is called
the prior of Leighton as late as 44 Henry III. (Cur.
Reg. R. 168, n. 2 in dorso).
||These difficulties between him and his men
belong to the general ecclesiastical history of the
county; they also serve to clear him from blame
for the murder of a lay brother of Dunstable, killed
by 'the men of the prior of Grava' in 1259 in defence of the rights of his church (Ann. Mon. [Rolls
Series], iii. 213). The property of the two priories
lay in the same neighbourhood, and such a quarrel
might easily arise without the knowledge of the
head of either house.
||Pat. 25 Edw. I. m. 18d.
||Ibid.; Pat. 15 Edw. I. m. 4.
||Pat. 20 Edw. I. m. 28, where it states they had
only the blackest of bread to eat on Fridays.
||Ibid. 21 Edw. I. m. 18.
Ann. Mon. (Rolls Series), iii. 326 (in the year
||The daughter of Edward I. at Almesbury
(Feud. Aids, i. 21).
Cal. of Pap. Letters, iii. 39–40.
||Dugdale, Mon. vi. 1085 and Pat. 20 Edw. IV.
||Dugdale, Mon. vi. 1085.
||Pat. 9 Edw. I. m. 3. Licence for alienation
in mortmain of 6½ acres in Edlesborough.
Feud. Aids, i. 82.
Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.)
Feud. Aids, i. 82.
||Ibid. 128. It was at this time that the abbess
said she had been despoiled of the priory.
Anct. Deeds (P.R.O.), D. 222, 331.
||Pat. 11 Edw. I., 15 Edw. I., 25 Edw. I.