House of Cluniac monks
The priory of Tickford or Newport Pagnel


Victoria County History



William Page (editor)

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'House of Cluniac monks: The priory of Tickford or Newport Pagnel', A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 1 (1905), pp. 360-365. URL: Date accessed: 17 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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The priory of Tickford was not the only house of this order in Buckinghamshire; but it was the only one which survived the suppression of alien priories and became indigenous, during the course of the Hundred Years' War. It was certainly one of the earliest monasteries founded in this county, if not actually the first (fn. 1) ; but the date of foundation cannot be exactly fixed. There is a charter in existence, witnessed by Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury, and therefore not later than 1154, (fn. 2) which recounts the gifts of Gervase Paynel, then living, and also of his father Ralf and his grandfather Fulk, the founder of the house; and this seems to bring it very near the beginning of the twelfth century. Fulk Paynel is said to have been the son of Ralf Paynel, (fn. 3) who appears in the Domesday Survey and was founder of the priory of Holy Trinity at York near the close of the eleventh century.

Tickford Priory was originally a cell to the Abbey of Marmoutier at Tours (fn. 4) ; and this connection was a source of much difficulty during the thirteenth century. Very little is known of the history of the house during the twelfth century, except the names of a few priors, attached to documents of no great importance. (fn. 5) But early in the thirteenth century the question of jurisdiction came to the front, and the difficulty had reached an acute stage between 1220 and 1230. (fn. 6) It will perhaps be not unprofitable to describe its course and final settlement with some detail, as the exemption of Cluniac monasteries was not so clearly established and understood as that of the Cistercians and other orders of later date.

In 1220 Hugh of Wells, Bishop of Lincoln, visited the priory as diocesan and installed William, a monk of the house, as prior in the place of Hugh, who had just resigned. (fn. 7) This was probably resented by the Abbot of Marmoutier as an infringement of his rights; but he was not in a position at that time to assert any claim against the bishop, as the priory itself was in rebellion against his authority, and under the leadership of Prior William, protested against the payments exacted by the parent abbey from its cells. William was compelled to resign and to leave the house altogether in 1228, and some of the monks were imprisoned, because they would not accept a certain charter offered to them by the abbot; but soon afterwards a composition was made, which secured to Marmoutier the rights of visitation and correction, but remitted all payments which had hitherto been required of the English monks. (fn. 8)

In consequence, however, of these difficulties, no successor had been appointed at William's resignation; and after six months the bishop collated John of Colne, a monk of Spalding. (fn. 9) When John resigned in 1233, the bishop came to the priory again, and had some very serious faults to find with the monks. He said the rule was so badly kept that the house was a scandal to other religious, and the number of monks was not even half what it should be. He enjoined them to keep their rule better in future, and to receive twelve more monks during the following year. (fn. 10) This would suggest that the proper number was about twenty. (fn. 11)

During the episcopate of Robert Grossetête, the Abbot of Marmoutier complained to the pope that the bishops of Lincoln were exceeding their rights: by excommunicating monks of Tickford, contrary to the privileges of the order, and also interfering in the administration of the priory. William, Cardinal of St. Eustace, was appointed to inquire into the matter, and gave sentence for the bishop against the abbot in 1249. (fn. 12) There was a long vacancy again in 1270 at the death of a prior, and the bishop was again obliged to nominate a monk to fill the office. (fn. 13) About 1278 there were troubles of a different kind, which led to a final settlement of the whole question of jurisdiction. Simon de Reda, who was prior from about 1275 to 1291, seems to have been a most unfit person to rule a monastery; but when disorders broke out in the house he contrived for a while to represent himself as the injured party. In June 1278 Reginald de Grey was ordered to take the priory into the king's hands and imprison all those monks who had lately, under the leadership of one who had been excommunicated for his excesses, attacked the priory, imprisoned the prior and wasted the goods of the monastery. The ringleader of the malcontents was to be brought to Windsor Castle, and the sheriff was ordered to see this mandate carried out. (fn. 14) Nothing however was done until September, when a commission of 'oyer and terminer' was issued, to do swift justice on all those, both men and women, who continued to trouble the prior, and to bring to an end divers appeals and pleas that were pending with reference to the same matter. (fn. 15) It seems that Simon de Reda was reinstated, but the disturbances continued, and in 1290 Bishop Sutton came to visit the priory and to find out what was really amiss. (fn. 16) His visitation was however resisted by some of the monks, whom he excommunicated in consequence. The Abbot of Marmoutier again complained to the pope, who appointed fresh delegates (fn. 17) ; but in the meanwhile it became obvious that the prior of Tickford was himself the cause of the recent scandals, and he was deposed on the gravest of charges—waste of goods, evil living, and homicide. (fn. 18) Before a new prior could be installed it was desirable that the Abbot of Marmoutier and the Bishop of Lincoln should come to a clear understanding of their respective rights; and they agreed to meet at the Old Temple in London. There was a long but not unfriendly discussion: the abbot appealed to the privileges of his order, and exhorted the bishop to 'show his respect for the Apostolic See' by recognizing them. Oliver Sutton, whose very real respect for the Apostolic See was shown a few years later by his obedience to the Bull 'Clericis laicis,' had however the decision of 1249 in his favour. Finally it was agreed that the visitation and correction of the priory belonged properly to the abbot alone; the bishop would in future accept the priors presented to him for consecration 'without examination, difficulty or delay,' and they should swear canonical obedience to him salvis privilegiis praefati monasterii praesentibus et futuris; and the only procuration which the bishop could claim was that which was due at the installation—none must be asked at any other time. In return for this the church of Sherrington, hitherto appropriate to the priory of Tickford, was to be granted to the bishop. (fn. 19)

In accordance with this agreement Bishop Sutton came to the priory in the same year and was received by the new prior, Geoffrey called Villicus, at the door of the cloister in solemn procession, and was reverently censed: he afterwards sang mass and preached in the conventual church.

This was the end of one difficulty, and for a while we may hope there was some measure of quiet within the monastery. But there were other troubles to face in the century which followed. Some time before 1311 the charters and muniments of the priory were destroyed by fire, and had to be confirmed afresh by letters patent. (fn. 20) A few other entries in the Close and Patent Rolls of this period give an idea of the great difficulty there must have been in maintaining the regular life in an alien priory during the wars with France. As early as 1324 this monastery was in the king's hand, and its prior under subjection to the official keeper of the lands of aliens, (fn. 21) who was ordered in this year 'to cause the prior of Tickford, who was in his custody by the king's order, to be brought before the King's Bench on 11 November to prosecute an assize concerning the advowson of one tenth of the chapel of Yardley, and to deliver the necessary expenses from the priory.' (fn. 22) In the same year a survey of the monastery was taken by the king's orders, (fn. 23) and showed that the number of monks was seriously diminished; there were only eight besides the prior. It seems too that an effort had been made to free the house from debt by selling corrodies; there were at this time two chaplains, eight men and one woman who received board, and possibly lodging also, at the expense of the priory. (fn. 24) The priors too at this time were foreigners, sent direct from Marmoutier, and by no means always men of high character. William de Menevere in 1329 was accused of taking the goods of John Kimble of Filgrave. (fn. 25) The vicar of Newport Pagnel complained in 1340 that Fulk de Champaigne, then prior, with two others, had lately besieged his house at Tickford, had broken the doors and windows, when he tried to escape had insulted, beaten and wounded him, and threatened to burn the house over his head if he returned. (fn. 26) This prior, or his successor, died in the year of the Great Pestilence, which probably lowered still further the numbers and resources of the priory.

The lands and revenues of aliens were again in the king's hand during the reign of Edward III., and Tickford was farmed out for twenty-three years (fn. 27) : it was in the same condition in the time of Richard II. It must have been extremely difficult to maintain the ordinary discipline of the house while its revenues were administered by secular officials, whose only interest was to secure some margin of profit for themselves, after paying the rent due to the king. It was indeed sometimes hard to know who was the real head of the house. In 1386 the farmer and chaplain appointed at Tickford by letters patent succeeded in disseising John Dvien, recently elected prior, on the ground of an ordinance of Parliament dated 1 Richard II., expelling all aliens except priors who had a title for life. On the occasion of the king's journey to Scotland, when he lodged in the monastery, John Dvien however managed to lay his complaint before Richard himself, and was restored to office and allowed to hold the priory instead of the other farmers, at a rent of 40 marks a year. (fn. 28) It is not surprising, under such conditions as this, to find notice of 'waste, destruction and other defects' in this house. (fn. 29) Nor was John Dvien, it must be owned, a man who was likely to help his brethren to regain a higher standard of life. He was charged in 1398 with trying to obtain tithes from the Rector of North Crawley on false pretences; the case was proved against him, and he was condemned to pay the costs; but he refused to accept the sentence and appealed finally to Rome, only to be condemned again. In 1400 he and his convent were threatened with excommunication if they still refused to give up the tithes and pay the costs, and James, bishop of Ploek, was to invoke the secular arm against them if necessary. (fn. 30)

From the reign of Henry IV. onwards the priory ceased to be immediately subject to Tours; and the priors were thenceforward nominated by the prior of Holy Trinity, York, as proctor-general of the Abbot of Marmoutier. (fn. 31) Once indeed in 1499, (fn. 32) at the death of William Pemberton, the abbot wrote and appointed a monk of St. Peter's, Westminster, in his place; but no notice was taken of his letter. The delegates who visited all the Cluniac monasteries in England in 1450 mention Tickford by name, but it is doubtful if they really came to this priory: they reported that it was immediately subject to the priory of Lewes, which was not the case, and also that it contained sixteen monks, which seems improbable at this time. (fn. 33)

Thomas Broke, who was elected in 1503, had been previously Prior of Snelshall. The last prior surrendered the house to Wolsey 5 February, 1524, (fn. 34) that its revenues might be applied to the support of the new college at Oxford, and received a pension of £10 a year. (fn. 35) The five monks who remained were given 6s. 8d. each as 'reward,' (fn. 36) but it is uncertain whether this was a regular pension or only paid to them at their dismissal. Probably they entered other houses of religion.

The original endowment of this house comprised the demesne land at Tickford with other small parcels of land in this county and Northamptonshire, and several churches: Newport Pagnel with the chapels of Little Linford and Little Crawley; Chichely, Broughton, and half North Crawley, Willen, Astwood, Bradwell, Sherrington, and the chapel of Petsoe in this county; Aston, Warwicks, with three dependent chapels; Barnack and Botlingdon, Northants. Most of these were given by various members of the family of Paynel before 1154. (fn. 37) Broughton and North Crawley had passed out of the possession of this monastery by the thirteenth century, and Sherrington was granted to the bishops of Lincoln in 1291. William Paynel (fn. 38) gave the monastery the churches of Bridgewater and 'Hynnespill' in the diocese of Bath in 1224, but they were lost some time later as well as the two churches in Northamptonshire, before the house was dissolved. At the time of the Taxatio the priory was valued £104 16s. 3¾d., (fn. 39) of which only £15 15s. 3¾d. were in temporalities. £89 1s. includes the revenues of all the churches, which were not of course by any means clear profit. The survey of 1325 gives a total of £70 1s.; there were pensions to be paid out of this amounting to £18 10s., besides ten corrodies in kind. (fn. 40) In 1302 the prior held one tenth of a knight's fee in Chichely and one eighth in Hardmead (fn. 41) : in 1346 he had one fee in Chichely, one eighth in Bradwell, and one eighth in Hardmead. (fn. 42) At the dissolution of the house in 1524 its total issues amounted to £57 11s. 4d. (fn. 43) ; the bells and lead were worth £33 6s. 8d., and the moveable goods only £5 4s. (fn. 44) The Ministers' Accounts however give a total of £122 19s. 7d. (fn. 45)

Priors of Tickford

Robert de Bohun, (fn. 46) occurs 1187

Walter, (fn. 47) occurs 1199

Bernard, (fn. 48) occurs 1200

Hugh, (fn. 49) resigned 1220

William, (fn. 50) elected 1220, resigned 1232

John de Colne, (fn. 51) elected 1232, resigned 1233

Robert Hamelyn, (fn. 52) elected 1233

Oliver, (fn. 53) occurs 1255 and 1259

Gilbert, (fn. 54) occurs 1262

Bartholomew, (fn. 55) died 1270

Reginald de Cossam, (fn. 56) elected 1270

Simon de Reda, (fn. 57) occurs 1275, deposed 1291

Geoffrey Villicus, (fn. 58) elected 1291, resigned 1302

William de Menevere, (fn. 59) elected 1302, resigned 1332

Fulk de Champaigne, (fn. 60) elected 1332, died 1349

William de Tanqueterre, (fn. 61) elected 1349

John de Garry, (fn. 62) occurs 1352 and 1355

John de Fresney, (fn. 63) occurs 1362

Francis Quatresoulz, (fn. 64) elected 1363

William Daunay, (fn. 65) elected 1365

John Dvien, (fn. 66) occurs from 1383 to 1416

Thomas Chace, (fn. 67) occurs 1419

John Carlell, (fn. 68) occurs 1431, died 1434

Robert Blythe, (fn. 69) elected 1434

Thomas Derneton, (fn. 70) elected 1464, resigned 1468

William Kirkby, (fn. 71) elected 1468, resigned 1475

William Pemberton, (fn. 72) elected 1475, died 1499

William Eynsham, (fn. 73) elected 1499, resigned 1501

Thomas Yorke, (fn. 74) elected 1501, resigned 1503

Thomas Broke, (fn. 75) elected 1503

Thomas Parker, (fn. 76) occurs at the dissolution, 1524

Pointed oval seal of late fourteenth century taken from an impression in gutta-percha gilded, (fn. 77) represents the Blessed Virgin with crown seated in a niche with tabernacle work at the sides. The Holy Child with nimbus is on her right knee, in her left hand she holds a sceptre fleur-de-lizé. In base in a niche with round-headed arch an ecclesiastic is kneeling, turned three-quarters to the left, in prayer. Legend: SIGILLŪ: CŌIE: DOMUS: BEATE: MARIE: DE: TYKFORD.


1 The priory of Ivinghoe may perhaps have been a little earlier: but its date of foundation is as uncertain as that of Tickford.
2 Round, Cal. of Doc. France, i. 444. It is a charter of Robert de Chesney, bishop of Lincoln. Reference was made to the same charter and others of Fulk and Gervase Paynell and of Henry II. in some inspeximus charters of Hubert archbishop of Canterbury, dated 1224 (Harl. MS. 2188, f. 125).
3 T. P. Bull, History of Newport Pagnel, 28. Several references to the external history of this priory are taken from this book; but the author had obtained nothing from the Lincoln Registers except the names of priors.
4 Round, Cal. of Doc. France, i. 444.
5 Feet of Fines (Rec. Com.), i. 187, 190. Fulk Paynel seems to have placed one of his nephews in the priory. A charter of his is witnessed by Helias, monk, nephew of Fulk Paynel. Harl. MS. 2188, f. 125d.
6 During the same ten years the prior of Newport was involved in a long suit relative to the church of Aston, Warwickshire, and the chapel of Yardley appendant thereto. In 1220 the chapel of Yardley was claimed by the abbot of Alcester, Ralf de Limesy, Giles de Ardington and the prior of Newport. The first two owned their claim to be unfounded, and the chapel was finally awarded to Giles till he should come of age: but he quitclaimed it to the prior. In 1230 the prior claimed the church of Aston, in virtue of a charter made by Thomas de Ardington, grandfather of Giles, and confirmed by Silvester, bishop of Worcester. The charters were pronounced to be false, and it was proved that the prior had not presented to the church in the time of Thomas de Ardington or his son Henry. So Giles de Ardington recovered seisin. Bracton's Note Book, iii. 347-8, and ii. 337. But Hubert, archbishop of Canterbury, in 1224 appears to have confirmed a charter of Gervase Paynel granting to the priory the church of Aston with the chapels of Yardley, Bramwig, and Overton (Harl. MS. 2188, f. 125). It had also been confirmed by Stephen Langton (ibid. 125d), and was confirmed again by Ralf de Somery when he married Hawise, heiress of the Paynels (ibid.). It belonged to Tickford in 1291, but was again disputed between 1324 and 1331; and was finally reckoned as part of the property of the priory at the dissolution (L. and P. Henry VIII. iv. 2167).
7 Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Hugh of Wells.
8 Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), iii. 109.
9 Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Hugh of Wells. It is simply said here that William had resigned: the chronicler of Dunstable explains that this was not a voluntary resignation, and that he was sent into exile.
10 Ibid.
11 In 1450 it was noted that the number should be sixteen. Sir G. F. Duckett, Charters and Records of the Abbey of Cluni, ii. 213.
12 Cal. of Pap. Letters, i. 257.
13 Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Gravesend.
14 Pat. 6 Edw. I. m. 19 and 9.
15 Ibid. m. 6d.
16 Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Sutton, 2.
17 Cal. of Pap. Letters, i. 521.
18 Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Sutton, 108d-114.
19 Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Sutton, 100d-116.
20 Pat. 5 Edw. II. pt. 1, m. 14.
21 Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Sutton, 117d.
22 Close, 18 Edw. II. m. 27. This chapel and the church of Aston were now claimed by the prioress of Catesby: the prior recovered one third of the advowson of the church in 1331. Pat. 5 Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 4.
23 Dugdale, Mon. v. 204-5.
24 The account of these corrodies is interesting, as tending to show that the monks of mediaeval England fared on the whole neither more nor less luxuriously than ordinary citizens of the middle class—that is to say, of the class from which most of them came, during the thirteenth and until the sixteenth century. If the fare provided in the refectory of the convent had been much poorer than was customary in this class of life, the secular chaplains and vicars who served their appropriate churches would scarcely have been expected to take their meals ordinarily with the monks, and to regard this board as part of their stipend: if the food had been better and more costly than that eaten by ordinary citizens, the monks themselves would not have been so ready to grant corrodies for life to their lesser benefactors. Bread and beer are constantly mentioned as the staple diet of the monks. See the account of Dunstable Priory in the V.C.H. Beds, i. 375. Nearly all these pensioners at Tickford received a loaf of bread and a gallon of conventual beer daily: one had in addition four dishes of meat every week, another a robe every year: in one case it is expressly stated that a monk's corrody was granted in satisfaction of a debt of 25s.
25 Pat. 2 Edw. III. pt. i., m. 34d.
26 Pat. 14 Edw. III. pt. i., m. 20d. These last are merely accusations, and may not of course have been actually proved.
27 Bull, History of Newport Pagnel.
28 Pat. 10 Richard II. pt. i., m. 36.
29 Ibid. 9 Richard II. m. 40d.
30 Cal. of Pap. Letters, v. 93-4, and 271-2.
31 Linc. Epis. Reg.
32 Bull, History of Newport Pagnel, 80; from Bodleian Library, Bucks Charters, 59.
33 Sir G. F. Duckett, Vísitations of English Cluniac Foundations, 43. In the same author's Charters and Records of the Abbey of Cluni the words are debent esse sexdecim, which is probably the correct form of the statement made by the visitors.
34 L. and P. Henry VIII. iv. 1137.
35 Ibid.
36 Ibid. 6222.
37 Round, Cal. of Doc. France, i. 444; and the confirmation charter given in Dugdale, Mon. v. 202, and dated 1187.
38 Harl. MS. 2188, f. 125d.
39 Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.). A survey of the manor taken 22 Edw. I. amounts to £141 15s. 2d. (Dugdale, Mon. v. 204-5).
40 Ibid. v. 205.
41 Feud. Aids, i. 104.
42 Ibid. 130, 132.
43 L. and P. Henry VIII. iv. 6788.
44 Ibid. 6222.
45 Dugdale, Mon. v. 206.
46 Charter of Fulk Paynel; Dugdale, Mon. v. 202.
47 Ibid.
48 Feet of Fines (Rec. Com.), i. 187, 190.
49 Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Hugh of Wells.
50 Ibid.
51 Ibid.
52 Ibid.
53 Feet of F. 19 Hen. III. 13.
54 Dugdale, Mon. v. 201.
55 Ibid.
56 Linc. Epis. Reg. Rolls of Gravesend. Dugdale's list has Reginald de Bernewell also, occurring 3 Edward I.; who is probably the same person.
57 Pat. 6 Edw. I. m. 19, etc.
58 Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Sutton, 117d.
59 Ibid. Inst. Dalderby, 176. His name is spelt in two or three different ways.
60 Ibid. Inst. Burghersh, 341.
61 Ibid. Inst. Gynwell, 240.
62 Dugdale, Mon. v. 202.
63 Ibid.
64 Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Bokyngham, 409.
65 Ibid. 410d (William de Alneto).
66 Pat. 9 Richard II. m. 40d, etc., and Bull, History of Newport Pagnel, 97.
67 Dugdale, Mon. v. 201.
68 Ibid. and Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Gray, 49.
69 Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Gray, 49.
70 Ibid. Memo. Chadworth, 64.
71 Linc. Epis. Reg. Inst. Chadworth, 155.
72 Ibid. Inst. Rotherham, 106.
73 Ibid. Inst. Smith, 365d.
74 Ibid. 367.
75 Ibid. 373.
76 L. and P. Hen. VIII. iv. 1137 (18). Thomas Broke is given by Dugdale and Brown Willis as the last prior, it is possible that he may be identified with Thomas Parker, who occurs at the dissolution of the house.
77 B. M. Seals, xxxv. 194.