A Priory Revealed

by Lionel Green

A Priory Revealed, which bears the subtitle – ‘using material relating to Merton Priory’ – draws upon a wide range of primary and secondary sources in order to describe, in a most accessible way, the organisation and life of not only Merton Priory, but Augustinian houses elsewhere in the British Isles. However, the focus of attention throughout the book is always on Merton, its buildings; its life; its organisation; its personalities; and the important part played by the priory on the national stage during the Middle Ages.

Surprisingly, but very successfully, Lionel begins with a ‘prologue’ describing in lively detail the demolition of the priory church and conventual buildings in 1538, following the surrender of the house to Henry VIII’s commissioners. These scenes of destruction are followed by an introduction that takes the reader back to the origins of the monastic idea in the early years of the 4th century AD. The story is continued with the foundation of the Augustinian order in the 5th century; its eventual introduction into England; and the foundation by Gilbert the Norman in 1114 of an Augustinian community at Merton. The first two chapters recount what is known about Gilbert, and subsequent chapters cover such subjects as the priory precinct and its buildings; the Augustinian canons; the office of the prior; the educational role of the priory; the monastic day; the internal administration of the priory; the administration of the granges; and the surrender of the priory. Each of the sections, although quite short, is packed with detailed information, nearly every statement being backed by a reference to its source, necessitating the use of no fewer than 350 footnotes. The comprehensive index is also an important feature of the book.

A Priory Revealed is very well illustrated, with more than 60 photographs, maps, and line drawings. The definition of most of the photographs, both early and recent, is remarkable, given that they are printed on the same paper as the text. This is an excellent book of which the author and everyone else concerned can be proud.

(extracted from a review by John Pile published in Merton Historical Society Bulletin 157 – March 2006)


A Priory Revealed

using material relating to

Merton Priory

Cover illustration: A roof boss from Merton priory,
discovered during excavations at Nonsuch palace

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone

Luke 20:17

A roof boss is the keystone of the vaulting ribs supporting a groined roof. This
example is 4 foot (1.2m) in diameter and weighs 4½ cwt (230kg). The four main rib
sections are 1 ft (30cm) square, with four smaller ribs. The purpose of the keystone
is to weight the ribs and prevent them from rising or collapsing. Because of the
greater length of the diagonal cross rib, the top of the arch was flatter , which required
a boss of sufficient breadth to bear on the shaped stones at the top of the curves.

The decoration includes the stems of vine leaves in two rows intertwined. Between
the leaves and tendrils are bunches of fruit. The background is coloured red and the
leaves and berries gilded. The hole in the centre of a large flower was presumably for
hanging a chandelier.

Natural foliage began to appear in decorations about 1250 following conventional
trefoil leaves but came to an end by 1320. The introduction of lierne vaulting in 1350
increased the number of bosses required but their quality diminished.

Mark Samuel, formerly stone specialist at MoLAS, has kindly provided further
information. The boss is dated to somewhere between 1290 and 1325 on the basis
of its mouldings, and is thought to be contemporary with the eastern arm of the
priory. The joints were re-cut during repairs in the 1390s.

transverse rib
longitudinal ridge rib
ridge rib
diagonal cross rib

The cover illustration is reproduced by courtesy of the Museum of London (ref. CL02/8783)

A Priory Revealed

using material relating to

Merton Priory



in association with



Published by
in association with

© Lionel Green 2005

ISBN 1 903899 52 4

Printed by intypelibra
Units 3/4 Elm Grove Industrial Estate
Elm Grove, Wimbledon SW19 4HE


List of illustrations …………………………………………………………………………………… vi
List of tables ……………………………………………………………………………………………. vii
Acknowledgements ………………………………………………………………………………….. ix
Prologue……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 1
Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 5
1 Gilbert the Founder …………………………………………………………………………………… 9
2 Gilbert the Norman …………………………………………………………………………………. 13
3 Early Buildings………………………………………………………………………………………… 17
4 Augustinian Canons ………………………………………………………………………………… 19
5 The Prior ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 25
6 Centre of Learning ………………………………………………………………………………….. 29
7 Daughter Houses …………………………………………………………………………………….. 33
8 The Monastic Day …………………………………………………………………………………… 35
9 Administration Within …………………………………………………………………………….. 39
10 Administration Without ………………………………………………………………………….. 45
11 The Precinct …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 51
12 Hospitality ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 65
13 Royal Visitors …………………………………………………………………………………………… 73
14 Endowments ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 77
15 A Local Landlord (by Peter Hopkins) ………………………………………………………. 81
16 A Glimpse of Greatness ………………………………………………………………………….. 85
17 Pastures New …………………………………………………………………………………………… 97
18 The Beginning of the End ……………………………………………………………………. 101
19 A Priory Laid Bare …………………………………………………………………………………. 105
Epilogue …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 109
I List of the priors of Merton …………………………………………………………………. 111
II Chronology of important events at Merton priory……………………………… 112
III Disasters – famine, fire, plague, and storm ………………………………………… 113
IV Unreliable evidence ……………………………………………………………………………….. 115
Monastic Glossary …………………………………………………………………………………. 117
Original sources of information and abbreviations ……………………………. 118
Notes and references …………………………………………………………………………….. 119
Index ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 125


List of illustrations

A roof boss from Merton priory,discovered atNonsuch palace………………….cover
Drawing of the roof showing position of the boss …………………………………………… ii
Detail from a modern street map, with the outline of the precinct …………………. viii
How the priory lay …………………………………………………………………………………………….. x
The seal of 1241 ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 3
19th-century drawing of the chapel at Merton ‘Abbey’ ……………………………………… 4
Merton priory tile designs………………………………………………………………………………….. 7
St Mary’s church, Merton Park – chancel roof …………………………………………………… 8
The parish church that Gilbert built, from a view by Wm. Ellis 1793 ………………… 9
Detail from John Rocque’s Map of 16 miles around London 1745 ………………….. 10
Foundation arch of infirmary building …………………………………………………………….. 12
Marble head discovered in 1797 when a portion of the precinct wall collapsed ….. 15
Plan of the 12th-century priory church……………………………………………………………. 16
Conjectural perspective view of the early priory church ………………………………….. 17
The new silver seal of 1197 ……………………………………………………………………………… 18
Merton priory tile designs ………………………………………………………………………………… 20
An Augustinian canon in the 16th century ………………………………………………………. 21
Funeral of abbot Islip of Westminster 1532, and a lead coffin from the priory ….. 23
Fused thoracic vertebrae from Merton priory compared with healthy vertebrae … 24
An Augustinian teacher ……………………………………………………………………………………. 28
Map showing location of daughter houses ………………………………………………………. 33
The call to prayer …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 35
Kalendar ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 36
Broken 14th-century floor tile depicting part of a chain of dancers ………………… 42
Excavation of the medieval mill and the 15th-century tile kiln ………………………… 44
Upton Grange …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 47
West Barnes Farm ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 48
Conjectural plan of the precinct at the Dissolution …………………………………………. 50
Gatehouse c.1900; excavations at Gatehouse site in 2000…………………………………. 53
Floor of the nave 1988 ……………………………………………………………………………………. 55
Probable extent of the claustral buildings in the 14th century …………………………. 56
Chapter house excavations in 1978, and plan of burials in the chapter house ….. 57
Hearth from one of the partitioned rooms in the infirmary…………………………….. 60
Abbey House c.1830 and the arch discovered there, now at St Mary’s, Merton … 61
Early 20th-century photographs of surviving sections of the priory wall………62-3
Tile kiln discovered during excavation of the Gatehouse site 2000 ………………….. 64
Consecration of St Edmund Rich by Roger le Noir, bishop of London, 1234 … 65
Hubert de Burgh seeks sanctuary at Merton priory………………………………………….. 66
Hunting scenes on tile fragments found at Merton priory ……………………………….. 71

Two views of the monastic drain uncovered in 1990 ……………………………………….. 72
Henry III, from his tomb in Westminster abbey ………………………………………………. 73
Mummers wearing animal masks, and Henry VI – a choice of crowns ……………. 75
Part of the surviving precinct wall, looking west, 1990 ……………………………………. 78
Map showing properties belonging to Merton priory in and around Merton …… 80
Map of north-east Surrey, showing location of properties belonging to the priory … 84
Becket – his consecration as archbishop and his assassination …………………………. 85
Two columns from the Statute of Merton 1236 ………………………………………………. 87
Walter de Merton’s tomb in Rochester cathedral ……………………………………………… 88
Edward I presiding over the House of Lords…………………………………………………… 90
Two Templars on a single horse……………………………………………………………………….. 92
Knights Templar ……………………………………………………………………………………………… 93
Three burial types within the chancel of the Priory church ……………………………… 96
Tile fragments found at Merton priory …………………………………………………………… 100
Signatures of the last canons of Merton ………………………………………………………… 103
Possible lead smelting hearth discovered at Merton priory in 1976 ………………… 105
Female head and lion gargoyle, both from Nonsuch palace……………………………. 106
‘An Impression of Nonsuch’ ………………………………………………………………………….. 107
Worked stone from Merton priory found in the footings of Nonsuch palace … 108
Apse of the chapter house; flooring slabs in the cloisters; north wall of the church . 110
Skeleton found in the chapter house excavations …………………………………………… 114
Lt. Col. H F Bidder, his excavation, and the unveiling of the memorial plaque 116
The arms of Merton priory………………………………………………………………….back cover

List of Tables

Number of brethren at Merton priory …………………………………………………………….. 20
The daughter houses of Merton priory founded between 1120 and 1149 ……….. 34
Priors of Merton attending provincial chapter meetings ………………………………….. 41
Expenditure accounts for properties 1383-1392 ………………………………………………. 49
Corrodies ……………………………………………………………………………………………………..68-69
Henry III’s charters attested at Merton ……………………………………………………………. 74
Churches appropriated to Merton priory in the 12th century…………………………… 76
Manors and mills in the possession of Merton priory ……………………………………… 79
Movement of canons of Merton between priories ………………………………………….. 98
Elections of last priors and remaining canons …………………………………………………. 99
Important leases …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 100
Inventories of the monastic treasure of dissolved monasteries in 1535 …………. 104
List of the priors of Merton ………………………………………………………………………….. 111
Chronology of important events at Merton priory ………………………………………… 112
Disasters …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 113-114





Detail from a modern street map, with the outline of the priory precinct superimposed
(Reproduced by permission of Merton Design Unit, London Borough of Merton)


The most significant acknowledgement is to Alfred Heales in gratitude and admiration.
He compiledThe Records of Merton Prioryat the end of the nineteenth century. His records
cover the whole period of the priory’s existence and consist of a thousand entries,mostly
of the thirteenth century, and form the basis of this book. To produce this outstanding
store of information without any errors would have been improbable, and learned critics
have revealed embarrassing misdatings, duplications, as well as transcription and
translation mistakes. Many of the charters of prior ‘E’ were ascribed to Eustace (12491263),
but belong to Egidius or Giles (1222-1263). In the year of publication Heales was
suffering a terminal illness and not able to amend any of the misunderstandings.

Another outstanding contribution to the early history of the priory was the transcription
and summary of the Historia Fundationisby the American scholar, Prof. Marvin Colker,
together with his publication on the life of Guy of Merton (d.1124). His kind gift to me
of copies of the published work has been of inestimable value.

Thanks must also go to those who have dug to extract information from below
ground. These include Col. H F Bidder (1921/2), Dennis Turner (1962/3), Scott
McCracken (1976-78, 1983), Penny Bruce and Simon Mason (1986-90) and David
Saxby (1992-2001). I am grateful to Dennis, Scott and David for reading, and
commenting on, a draft of this book. All plans drawn of the priory in this book have
been from small-scale popular plans and are conjectural. We await with patience the
publication of the full site report by MoLAS. Meanwhile, I have found useful the two
joint publications on the priory by MoLAS and the London Borough of Merton.

It is a pleasure to acknowledge the careful reading and helpful criticism by the editorial
committee of the Merton Historical Society (Judith Goodman, Peter Hopkins, Eric
Montague and Tony Scott). Their comments have reduced inaccuracies and made the
story more readable. I cannot fully express my gratitude to Peter Hopkins (chairman)
who encouraged me to complete a task I started long ago. His boundless patience in
the preparation for publication over a long period is appreciated. I take full
responsibility for any errors which remain.

Acknowledgement is due to many for permission to reproduce illustrations:- M Biddle
and Nonsuch Palace Excavation Committee (106), Bodleian Library, Oxford (36),
British Library (87), J Goodman (53), P Hopkins (80, 84), London Borough of Sutton
(106), J S McCracken (42, 57, 114), Merton Library & Heritage Service (4, 61, 62-3, 116),
R Miller (108), MoLAS (20, 44, 53, 57, 64, 96), Museum of London (cover), National
Archives (103), W J Rudd (23, 60, 105, 110, back cover), D Saxby (44, 53, 64), Society
of Antiquaries (15, 23), Surrey Archaeological Society (7, 57, 71, 100, 114), D Turner
(7), Wimbledon Society (9, 61, 62-3). Every effort has been made to trace copyright
holders, and I apologise to any who may have been omitted.

Finally, my thanks to Merton Historical Society and Merton Priory Trust for agreeing
to publish this book.

Lionel Green. October 2005


How the priory lay


Savacentre hypermarket

0 510 20

40 50 metres


The year is 1537. Imagine for a moment that in the community is a cathedral-like
church which was there in the days of parents, grand-parents and their forebears.
This was a monastery which was the centre of activity of almost every family. All
had a part to play in a working complex of buildings and farms.

Rumours began to circulate that the monastery was to be closed, and gossip tells of
the king wishing to pull down everything. Cardinal Wolsey, with the Pope’s blessing,
closed 21 understaffed monasteries between 1525 and 1529. This precedent “made
all the forest of religious foundations in England to shake, justly fearing that the
King would finish to fell the oaks, seeing the cardinal began to cut the underwood”.1

In July 1531 an Augustinian priory at Aldgate in London was suppressed. It was
similar in size and importance to Merton, with a tower housing a ring of nine bells.
It was to be demolished and “then was the priory church and steeple proffered to
whomsoever would take it down and carry it from the ground, but no man would
undertake the offer”.2

The owner of Aldgate, Sir Thomas Audley, decided to realise the value of the stone,
timber, lead, iron etc., and employed his own workmen, who “with great labour,
beginning at the top, loosed stone from stone, and threw them down, whereby the
most part of them were broken, and few remained whole, and those were sold very
cheap for all the buildings then made in the city were of brick and timber. At that
time any man in the city might have a cart-load of hard stone for paving brought to
his door for 6d or 7d [2½p or 3p] with the carriage”.2

In March 1537 it was the turn of Lewes priory to be demolished. The work was
entrusted to an Italian engineer, Giovanni Portinari, who brought 17 workmen from
London. The agent of Thomas Cromwell remarked that “these are men exercised
much better than the men that we find here in the country”. 3 The agent continues
“Now we are plucking down a higher vault borne up by four thick pillars 14ft 1
from side to side and 45 ft [14m] in circumference…and that we brought from
London…3 carpenters, 2 smiths, 2 plumbers and one that keepeth the furnace.
Everyone of these attendeth to his own office. Ten of them hewed the walls about,
among which there were three carpenters; these made props to underset where others
cut away, the others broke and cut the walls”. 3 This referred to the 32 pillars
supporting the roof, which rose to the height of 63 ft (19.2m) from the ground.4

The high cost of this operation may have saved other monasteries from complete

Gothic buildings were easy to demolish. Each arch depended on support of a
neighbour. A miner could dig under one of the crossing piers, shoring up with
timber as work progressed. A fire lit within the shoring would sink the pier, and all


the arches above it would collapse. Adjoining arcades, deprived of their abutment
would fall, bringing down the heavy vaults they had safely carried for centuries.4

In the spring of 1538 two men rode into Merton to visit the priory. One was
Christopher Dickenson, master bricklayer, and the other William Clement, master
carpenter. They were on their way from Hampton Court to the king at Greenwich
Palace carrying building plans for royal approval. These were for new palaces at
Oatlands and Nonsuch, and they called at Merton to assess suitable material to be
removed for the king’s use at Nonsuch. They went on to the proposed site at
Cuddington in order to set out work and confirm requirements.5

The Surveyor-General of the King’s Works was James Needham, but the works
group for Surrey was based at Hampton Court under the control of Richard Benese.
He was a leading surveyor and a canon of Merton from before 1530. Whilst at
Merton he wrote a book on surveying in 1537, which passed through five editions.
He was present in the chapter house on 16 April 1538 and witnessed the surrender
of the priory into the king’s hands.

Merton was now suppressed, and demolition began immediately. There would have
been countless workmen and craftsmen employed at the priory, but would they be
willing to destroy the work of their own hands? All strata of society had difficult
decisions to make. Principles could so easily be forgotten, especially where there
was a family to feed and no prospect of other employment.

Dickenson and Clement, the earlier visitors to the priory, were to supervise the
salvage work and the conveyance of materials to Nonsuch,6 and the building accounts
of Nonsuch begin with payments for two clerks on 22 April 1538.7 Fifty carters
were employed from Cheam, Clapham, Cuddington, Malden, Merton, Mitcham,
Morden, Putney, Sutton, Tooting, Wandsworth, and Wimbledon. Each received eight
pence (3p) for a ton load for the four-mile (6.4km) journey.8 At first the stone was
thrown indiscriminately into carts which travelled as fast as the rough roads would
allow. These deliveries, in early May, were mainly of worked stone which went into
the foundations of the new palace, being unsuitable for use above ground.9 This
included sculptured heads, fruit and animals.

When the roof of the priory church fell, one of the early 14th-century keystones
(bosses) survived the crash almost intact. Despite its weight (4½ cwt, 230 kg) it was
hoisted on to a wagon and carted to Nonsuch where it was incorporated into the
new palace.

By July 1538, 2,719 tons (2762 tonnes) of stone had been conveyed from Merton.
Thereafter the loading decreased, with only 924 tons (938 tonnes) between July and
September, suggesting that the bulk of the demolition was completed by July.10


Day after day the smoke and dust pervaded the district, visible from the surrounding
hills. Tears must have been shed as the villagers of Wimbledon, Morden, Mitcham
and Tooting witnessed the collapse of the tower, so familiar as part of the view
from Wimbledon and St Mary’s church; from Ridgway and Cannon Hill; from Morden
and St Lawrence’s church; from Pollards Hill; and from Tooting Bec. That which
had dominated the view for centuries was no more.

When the tower of Merton fell the bells would have broken into portable pieces for
transportation to the foundries, to be cast into cannon for the new coastal castles.

The remains of the priory church thereafter were lost to sight. The land needed
time to make it suitable for farming. The sedge withered from the ponds and no
birds sang.

It would be another 360 years before Colonel Bidder and his gardener revealed the
true size and extent of the priory of Merton. Excavations have continued since the
1920s, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s by the Surrey Archaeological Society and the
Museum of London and a full site report will be published shortly by MoLAS. For
this reason little archaeological information will be found in these pages.

But what was the priory of Merton? How did it begin? What was its purpose? What
did it achieve? What effect did it have on its locality? These are some of the questions
this book seeks to answer as the different aspects are examined and the priory is

The seal of 1241
as depicted in
History of
Surrey Vol III
(1882) p.185


19th-century drawing of the surviving chapel at Merton ‘Abbey’ by Richard Simpson
(reproduced from the collection of Simpson Papers by courtesy of Merton Library and Heritage Service)

‘Remains of the CHAPEL


Everyone seeks peace. Peace within ourselves – in families – with neighbours – in
the world. Early Christian ascetics sought peace with God. They wished to attain a
higher spiritual life by retiring to remote spots where they lived as hermits11 in rigorous
self-discipline and a life of unceasing prayer to ‘the author of peace and lover of

In AD 305 St Anthony the anchorite drew together a number of hermits in Egypt
to form a community. The idea found its way to Rome, where Christians were living
together in the catacombs.12

About AD 529 Benedict founded his monastery at Monte Cassino near Naples, and
drew up rules of behaviour. When pope Gregory I sent Augustine and his companions
to England in 596, they set up a monastery at Canterbury which followed the Rule
of St Benedict. Other monasteries were founded in Anglo-Saxon England and all
followed the Benedictine Rule. Many became centres of learning and art.

The Norman period brought a new epoch in monasticism. It started in Burgundy
after an immense abbey had been founded at Cluny in 909 which had a great influence.
Daughter houses were set up, and all followed a more elaborate code of living. In
1077 (or 1081), William de Warenne founded Lewes Abbey with monks from Cluny.
Again in Burgundy, several monks of the community of Molesme sensed a fall in
standards set by the Benedictine Rule and moved to a new site in 1098, to follow a
stricter way of life. The new site was at Cîteaux (Latin – Cistercium). But it was to be
another 30 years before the first English Cistercian house was founded at Waverley,
Surrey, to be followed by Rievaulx and Fountains in Yorkshire.

The Augustinian Order takes its name from another St Augustine (d.430), of
Hippo, a bishopric on the North African coast (now Bône, Algeria). The Order
followed a rule based upon a letter containing spiritual advice for a house of nuns in
order to restore concord there in about AD 423.

Like other Orders, the Augustinians observed the seven canonical Hours in church
and the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity. This meant obedience to their
superior, sharing all things, accepting celibacy and fasting.

Amongst other duties, they gave alms to the needy, provided hospitality to travellers
and interceded for the souls of benefactors. It was probably the brevity and vagueness
of the rule that marked the success of the Order.

The Order was not an enclosed order, i.e. members could with permission mingle
with the outside world. All professed members were priests, and were able to serve
parishes and hospitals in their care. They also had a duty to oversee their estates and
be self-supporting.


St Augustine held the view that God made an ideal world and man should imitate
and reflect this. In the early days of monasticism every action was related to God
and linked to Eternity. If any action did not reflect this, God would punish the
perpetrators. Sculptors depicted God as the Supreme Judge.

The Augustinian Order became established in the extreme south of France. St Rufus
Abbey, near Avignon, was founded January 103913 and adopted the rule about 1070.
No houses were founded in Normandy until about 1119.14

In 1120 some Augustinian canons sought a stricter rule of life and followed the
example of the monastery at Prémontré (Latin – Præmonstratum) situated about two
miles (about 3km) from Laon, living the more austere way of life of the monks at
Cîteaux. Thus evolved the Premonstratensian canons, who like the Cistercian monks,
adopted the white habit. The Augustinians became known as the black canons (from
the colour of their habit) and the Premonstratensians as the white canons.

At the second Council of the Lateran (1139), pope Innocent II ordained that all
regular canons (those living in a strict community) should submit to the rule of St

Early Augustinian Houses in England

Three essentials were necessary for founding a successful monastery:

(1) Sufficient brethren to form a community,
(2) Adequate endowments to ensure self-sufficiency,
(3) A site with potential.
Many of the Augustinian foundations were too small, most consisting of a prior and
11 canons. From these, officials had to be found to manage the community. (See
Chapter 9 – Administration Within – Obedientiaries).

Sufficient endowments often came from Norman court circles where it was fashionable
to become the patron of one of the new Augustinian foundations. Over three quarters
of all houses founded in Henry I’s reign were established by officials of his court.15

Perhaps the most important factor was a suitable site. The highest spot was not
always the best because adequate water supplies were necessary to drive the mill, for
washing and to provide drainage. Many monasteries had to move from their original
site, some because it was a town site with no room to expand, or too near another
monastery and the sound of their bells was confusing, or in a valley with constant
rain, or in a drought area.


Few Augustinian houses achieved the status of an abbey and most were administered
by a prior, hence a priory. Royal foundations, such as Cirencester and Waltham were
abbeys. By 1200 there were 165 Augustinian houses and eight hospitals in England
and Wales. The final total was 276.

As well as Merton there were four other Augustinian houses in Surrey, at Newark,
Reigate, Southwark and Tandridge, as well as a hospital at Sandon (Esher), whose
brethren also followed the Augustinian Rule.

The First Houses in England

One of the first houses in England to follow the Augustinian Rule was St Botolph,
Colchester, in about 1104, with perhaps an earlier contender at Huntingdon. There
were clerks living a full common life at St Mary’s Huntingdon as early as about 1088
but not following the Augustinian Rule until about 1106,16 by which time Gilbert
the Norman was sheriff of the county (see next chapter).

In Cambridge, sheriff Picot and his wife Hugolina founded a small house of regular
canons at the church of St Giles on the south side of the castle. It was colonised
from Huntingdon where the subprior Geoffrey was appointed the first prior of
Cambridge about 1092.17 When Gilbert the Norman became sheriff of the county
about 1105, he was also castellan of the castle and found only six secular canons at
St Giles and the monastery “desolate and reduced to nothing”.18 Together with Pain
Peverell, probably the Picots’ son-in-law, they planned to increase the community to

30. But these numbers would give rise to other problems for there was insufficient
room to provide adequate buildings. In 1112 Gilbert secured a site, from the king,
of 13 acres (5.25 ha) “about the spring of Barnwell”, and the foundation moved to
the new site.19 Barnwell became the largest religious house in Cambridge.20
As sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Gilbert had become fully aware
of the Augustinian Order and now turned to his other shire, Surrey.

Merton priory tile designs
Dennis Turner (SAC 64 (1967) p.47)
(reproduced by permission)


St Mary’s church, Merton Park

chancel roof – the responsibility of Merton priory
Photograph by W A Cook.

1. Gilbert the Founder
“Good order is the foundation of all good things.”
E Burke Reflections on the Revolution

Merton Priory – The Beginnings

In 1114 Henry I
rewarded Gilbert for his
services and gave the ville
of Merton for him “to
possess freely in
hereditary right”.21
There was already a
church in Merton but
the Normans despised
Saxon buildings and
Gilbert built a new
church at his own
expense, adorning it
with pictures and

The ville was flourishing, with two mills, land supporting some 21 plough-teams, ten
acres of meadow land and woodland sufficient to feed about 800 pigs.22 Gilbert
wished to found a monastery at Merton and sought advice and aid from Huntingdon
where the canons “to his knowledge had diffused around the odour of good works”.23
In December 1114 the subprior arrived with a few brethren to settle at Merton, at
“the church which had been built”.23 Gilbert endowed the church “with adjacent
land sufficient for two ploughs and a mill worth 60s [£3] p.a.”.23 Trade with the
continent had increased when the Normans arrived and traders favoured London.
The nearness of Merton to London, with a good Roman road, must have been a
factor in the success of Gilbert’s new priory.

The founder then “sought royal licence for the establishment of the monastery,
which the king granted as freely as it was asked”.23 The first buildings were of wood
and sheriff Gilbert “freehandedly built his priory”.24 This does not mean that he
cut the timber and tiled the roof but that he was involved in the layout and design.
He built it with the assistance of his household and servants.23

Soon, individuals from various parts of England not only bestowed their goods upon
the new monastery but entered Merton priory as novices.25 Matilda (Maud), queen of
Henry I, took a great interest and visited Merton.

The parish church that Gilbert built at Merton
from a view by Wm. Ellis 1793
(reproduced by courtesy of the Wimbledon Society)


Merton Priory – Relocated

After two years, Robert the prior decided that a better site for a monastery would be
on the River Wandle a mile away, as there was no river near the new church. He
feared suggesting a move to the founder who had spent so much already, so he
shared his thoughts with Gilbert’s friends. When the founder learnt of Robert’s
ideas he generously offered to pay for a second foundation. The two men went to
the new site “on foot, and on horseback, marking out the space for a church”.26
They measured the bounds for the cemetery and decided how to change the course
of the river, and where the mill was to be relocated. The site for the vineyard was
chosen, and where the precinct wall should be built.

In setting the bounds
of the new priory,
Gilbert would have
been mindful of the
river Wandle, an
important feature
demarcating parishes.
In particular, the
communities of
Wimbledon, Mitcham
and Morden enjoyed
the use of meadows,
pastures, marshes,
fishing and mill
ponds. Across the
new site was a section
of Roman road which
provided a firm base
for buildings.

Some of the cells and part of the cloister were then transported from the earlier
settlement27 and a wooden church was constructed.28 Merton was in the diocese of
Winchester and the bishop, William Giffard, travelled to bless the new cemetery. On
the way he encountered a boy about to be deprived of his sight as punishment for
theft, and intervened with his pastoral staff (crosier). The boy was released, which
was seen as an omen “that in the place which he came to consecrate, many should
be rescued from darkness … and be brought … to the light of justice”.24 On
Ascension Day in 1117 the canons “entered their new habitation”.24

Detail from John Rocque’s Map of 16 miles around London 1745

The founder worked assiduously to secure for the house the support of the magnates
of the realm. He had many influential friends and well-wishers and invited bishops
and nobles to see the new foundation. Queen Matilda visited Merton again and, as a
dutiful mother, brought prince William.29 This would have been a difficult time for
the first canons, and they had to rely on the charity of the founder, who sent them
daily gifts of bread, wine, meat, fish and cheese.30

Merton Priory – Foundation Charter

Gilbert wished to endow his monastery with the royal ville or estate of Merton, and
sought the king’s permission, as well as a foundation charter. He promised Henry a
large sum, a hundred pounds in silver and six marks in gold, but the king said it was
not enough. The king was holding a Council and Gilbert invited prior Robert to
accompany him to Winchester whilst the Merton brethren prayed for the success of
their endeavours. The founder had drafted a charter for the priory which contained
far-ranging liberties, and the royal legal advisers were afraid to show it to the king.

Gilbert and the prior were also fearful that they had asked for too much and the king
would reject the charter. Gilbert then “skilfully courted [the former chancellor] bishop
Roger of Salisbury, and asked him to discuss the document’s content with the king.
The bishop sympathised with the priory’s plight”.31 Gilbert’s friendship with Roger
probably began at the Exchequer where Gilbert had become the senior sheriff in
England and was able to hold his ground when dealing with the officials at the

When King Henry complained that no jurisdiction was reserved for him and no
service to him, the bishop replied that by giving freely to God he would receive
more abundant blessings. So Gilbert succeeded in obtaining the villefor the monastery,
and he called the inhabitants together to inform them that they were now serving
the priory.

The charter of 112133 reserved royal protection to the monastery when built and as
a royal foundation opened the way for royal and other benefactors to grant it churches,
manors, mills, land, woods and fisheries. The charter was witnessed by the two
archbishops, 15 bishops, and five earls, as well as the king, the queen and Roger of
Salisbury. It gave assurance that the fame of the monastery would be extensive.34
Several bishops came at various times to celebrate the divine mysteries and give

Gilbert visited the priory often, and sat and talked with the prior or in his absence
any canon, if talking was permitted.35 At length the time arrived when all debts and
liabilities had been paid.36


A Monument in Stone

The founder was now caught up in a reforming zeal which emanated from Burgundy
and was sweeping the Church. A new style of expansive building, following that of
Cluny, began to appear in England at Lewes (1077 or 1081) and Bermondsey (1089).
When Cluny enlarged their church 1088-1108, the prior of Lewes decided to follow
suit and remodel his, although it was not commenced until about 1140, with an
additional eastern transept containing chapels. Gilbert no doubt desired to build
similarly at Merton.

In March 1125 the founder began a church “of vast, handsome and powerful
workmanship [amplissimi speciosissimi et fortissimi operis], the first stone of which he laid
himself in the presence of the brethren with holy water, the cross and tapers. The
prior placed the second stone, and each brother laid individual stones, and thus what
was prayed for came into being”.37 But to some, the work was too ambitious and
costly, and work ceased after the founder’s death. Even the finished work was nearly
all destroyed except the façade and the foundation where Gilbert laid the first stone.37

This was probably the last occasion for the founder to be present at Merton, for
within four months he had died.

Foundation arch of infirmary building, looking north (1990)
(photograph by the author by permission of the site director)
A method introduced about 1290, with arches linking piers of stone and the whole brought to a level surface below
ground level. Less stone was required and the amount of digging was reduced. No cellar was intended.

2. Gilbert the Norman
“Kind hearts are more than coronets,
And simple faith than Norman blood.”
Lord Tennyson Lady Clara Vere de Vere

Gilbert was born in Normandy soon after 1066 (the Norman Conquest),38 came
from “a generous line of nobility and [was] bred as a soldier”.39 When a boy of his
rank reached the age of seven or eight he would have been fostered out to a castellan
to be brought up together with the sons of other knights in a castle. He was given
menial household tasks to do, and as he grew older would have looked after horses
and the livery. It was customary for young men of good birth to be trained to be a
knight, as this would be a way to display talent and could eventually lead to rewards
in the form of land.

Knights were below the highest rank of aristocracy but learned how to look after
themselves, being equipped with horse and armour. It was essential for a knight to
be physically fit and strong when the chain-mail alone could weigh about 15 kg (33
lb) – all hung from the shoulders – and he had to wield a heavy sword.

Gilbert may have entered England in 1085 (aged about 18) when a large army of
mounted men and infantry was brought over by William to meet a Danish threat.40

A new aristocracy arose in England, all speaking Norman-French. As expatriates
they had a strong sense of ancestry and family loyalties. The knights came to be
known by their first name followed by their patronym which was often their place
of residence.41 Gilbert’s father died early in his life.42 Gilbert’s surname is a strange
one since Normans were everywhere. The name Normannus meant literally
‘northman’, so he may have been of Norse descent and not a Dane or a Germanic

There were many kinds of duties a young knight owed to his lord, some of which
were civil rather than military. A knight’s civil duties included attending the lord’s
court, helping to administer justice in his local courts and minor legal matters such
as witnessing documents. Thus a knight had authority in local government and became
a leader in county society.

When Henry I became king in 1100 his military household consisted of a professional
corps of young knights who “formed the shock-troops around whom the bands of
mercenaries and those fighting to fulfil their feudal duties gathered”.43

Gilbert was now witnessing important changes in methods of governing England.
Henry began to select men to specialise in either the judiciary or in his new office of
the Exchequer. He appointed ‘new’ men in the shires whocould keep a tight financial
control, rather than continuing to nominate members of the aristocracy.


Hugh of Buckland was the existing sheriff of London, Middlesex and most of the
home counties north of the Thames. Haimo II was sheriff of Kent and Roger of
Huntingdon was sheriff of Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and Surrey. Soon after
1104 Gilbert was made sheriff of Huntingdonshire,44 and of the other two shires.45

Gilbert’s biographer remarks that “as though to extend the glory of God, he had been
promoted to the honour of sheriff of the county”.46 Each year the sheriffs paid the
royal dues of their counties into the Lower Exchequer at Westminster and received
wooden tallies marked with notches as receipts. At the Upper Exchequer they were
questioned about their accounts. A sheriff was often brutal, exacting the most from
the peasant, or else lenient and inefficient. Gilbert’s fearless attitude to the examiners
at the Exchequer suggests that for 20 years he found a middle way. The king, who used
to treat his sheriffs with insults and abuse, respected Gilbert and never directed harsh
words toward him.47 When Hugh of Buckland died about 1116, Gilbert was probably
the longest serving sheriff, and “perhaps the best-loved magnate of the day”.48

Around 1120 Gilbert heard and settled a dispute between the abbots of Thorney and
Peterborough.49 However, later, he made a wrong decision when he took control of
the estate of Ranulf the chancellor on his death in January 1123. Ranulf had been a
tenant of Westminster Abbey at Battersea and abbot Herbert of the abbey complained.
The king issued a writ to the sheriff restoring the estate “particularly that part of the
land of which Gilbert unjustly delivered seisin (virtually the freehold) to a Hugh

The splendour and magnificence in which Gilbert lived as a sheriff is highly spoken
of, and his hospitality is said to have been so great that his doors were constantly kept
open, so that everyone who wished might find ready access and be entertained according
to his rank.39 Whenever possible, there would be 13 paupers dining in his presence.47

His piety was inherited from his widowed mother. “She was chaste, pious and sober,
such as God loves … the shameful and lascivious only she did not benefit but
rebuked”.36 Gilbert brought his mother to England and at least one of his siblings was
perhaps also in England for, on Gilbert’s death, Henry I appointed Fulk, a nephew of
Gilbert, to be sheriff of the three counties until 1129. Gilbert’s mother died probably
in 1117, and was buried at Merton.47 On her death Henry’s queen Matilda (Maud)
adopted Gilbert in feudal fashion,51 until she died in 1118, barely 38 years old.

At Huntingdon, Gilbert would often visit the mother house of St Mary’s Augustinian
priory and also St Neots’ priory south of Huntingdon. This was an alien priory belonging
to Bec, Normandy, where Gilbert could converse in Norman-French as well as Latin
with the prior and brethren, and refresh ancestral loyalties.

In 1124 there was a famine in England and Gilbert’s men, overseers of the king’s
lands, reported to him that the poor were stealing the king’s crops and trampling them.

Even when beaten and chased away, they returned because of their hunger. Gilbert
showed his humanity by ordering his men to stop harassing the poor and allow them
to eat freely. He gave assurances to the overseers that he would accept full responsibility
for the king’s lands.52

In July 1125 Gilbert realised that he was ill and sent a letter requesting Robert, prior of
Merton, to come to him quickly. But his own men prevented the messenger from
leaving, fearing that if the prior came Gilbert would leave them to enter the monastery.53

Gilbert the Norman died on Sunday 26 July 1125 and John de Escures, bishop of
Rochester, agreed to perform the requiem mass. On the night before he came to
Merton for this purpose he had a vision of the body before the altar, of a church
thronged by paupers.53The priorsof Huntingdon and St Neots accompanied the body
to Merton, and attending the funeral as canons were Stephen, archdeacon of Surrey,
and Serlo, former dean of Salisbury.54

Gilbert’s fiscal accounts were left in perfect order and no debts remained to be paid.
The huge sum promised to the king in return for the foundation charter of the priory
(see previous chapter), was never fully paid, for Gilbert had flattered the treasury
collectors into easing his debt.55 Only two of Gilbert’s household had known that for
two or more years prior to his death he bore, as his cross, a thick iron chain over his
bare loins.56

Marble head of a royal or noble
personage, discovered in 1797 when a
portion of the precinct wall collapsed.
Sir William Hamilton presented it
to the Society of Antiquaries when he
lived nearby in 1802.
(Photograph reproduced from A
Heales –The Records of Merton
Priory (1898), by courtesy of the
Society of Antiquaries.)


Plan of the 12th-century priory church at Merton, based partly on archaeological evidence.
This shows a lay-out on a grid of 40 Norman feet

High Altar

Choir Altar

Pulpitum (over)

Rood Screen

step up


0 10 20 30 40 80 120 150 Norman feet

0 50 100 150 feet

0 25 50 metres


(see p.56 for the layout of the later church)

3. Early Buildings
“Always present your front to the world.”

Moliere L’Avare Act 3 Scene 1

The magnificent building planned by Gilbert was halted on his death and the first
completed stone church was a simple structure which probably followed the design
of a previous timber church, with a square ended chancel and gabled roof. This
building was completed in the 1130s, for the record says: ” Finally after fifteen years,
the monastic structures were peacefully constructed with the aid of the faithful at
different times according to their will and means”.57

The late John Harvey offered the opinion that early Norman buildings in England
seem to have been set out with either Norman or Roman feet.58 One Norman foot
was 1111/16 inches or 297.77mm. It was fairly simple for the master mason to lay out
lines on the ground and all measurements were from one wall face to another on the
same side and not centre to centre, although the measurement is likely to be the
same. An early layout at Merton appears to follow a grid pattern made up of squares
of 40 Norman feet or roughly twelve metres. This church contained north and
south transepts with chapels in the eastern aisles, a presbytery with short aisles on
both sides, and a nave without aisles.

Conjectural perspective view of the early priory church from the south-east LG


According to one of his biographers, it was the influence of Thomas Becket that
encouraged one building phase. As chancellor to, and friend of, Henry II in 1154,
Becket persuaded the king to pay for further building work. “The lord king again
received into grace and friendship the canonical church of Merton…and at his own
cost completed the existing building from the choir and transepts, which had already
been constructed, and enriched it with perpetual revenues”.59

On 23rd May 1162, in the refectory at Westminster abbey, Thomas Becket was elected
archbishop of Canterbury without opposition. He immediately rode to Merton, not
only to see the new work but also to adopt the habit of a canon. Becket then asked
canon Robert, probably a contemporary at the priory school, to be his confessor.60

In 1162/3 Henry II gave £26 13s 4d (£26.66) “for the works of the church”,61 and
in 1165 the priory borrowed a similar amount from William Cade, a moneylender.
The loan was made upon the security of Merton’s vineyard at Sutton.62 Also in
1165 the king granted many further liberties to the priory.63

The only record of progress can be found from the dates that the various altars were
dedicated. In 1161 that of the infirmary chapel,61 the altar of St John the Baptist in
1174,64 the altars of St Stephen and St Nicholas “in the priory church” in 1194 and
that of the Holy Cross in 1197.65 The rebuilding was completed in time for many
national occasions beginning with king John’s visit in June 1204 with the archbishop,
bishops and earls together with their retinues.66

A later rebuilding of the church involved the enlarging and moving the transepts to
the east. This increased the length of the nave. A larger and higher building was
envisaged, and the only known way to obtain height was by increasing the breadth
of the nave. Thus aisles were added and arcades of eight bays constructed. The
addition of the south aisle affected the size of the cloister, as did the displacement
of the south transept.

New silver seal received into
the priory in 1197.
(Photograph reproduced
from Alfred Heales The
Records of Merton
Priory (1898))

4. Augustinian Canons
“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:12

Those committed to a life in a monastery entered as oblates or postulants and were
placed on probation before taking any vows. Once accepted, they entered the noviciate
and studied for the minor orders under the master of the novices for at least a year.67
The novice master was often the precentor of the priory. At the completion of this
training they made their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and they received
the minor order of acolyte. They could now claim to be in minor orders although
not yet canons. They underwent further instruction and examination and received
the first tonsure. The shape of the bald patch was the ‘trade mark’ of the order.
Subsequent ordination was on the prior’s recommendation which took them to sub-
deacons and then deacons (probationary priests). Only the bishop could ordain them
as a canon and priest. Some canons obtained a master’s degree and took the title
magister. Long-serving canons were known as the elders or seniores et saniores (senior
and wiser). They would know the precise boundaries of the priory’s lands and could
say how the community had overcome major problems such as famines and plagues.

Augustinian canons, being priests, were able to serve at churches where the priory
held the advowson (the right to appoint the incumbent). Merton held so many that
this was impracticable and vicars were appointed as parish priests. The ordered life
in the cloisters was always preferred to performing parochial work.68

Although the basic framework within which the canons passed their lives remained
largely unchanged over hundreds of years, details of their existence were frequently
rethought. Over the years monasticism adapted itself to contemporary economic,
social and political development.


At Merton some oblates came from afar, attracted by the prestige of the new found
monastery, but many came from the manors and estates now owned by the priory.69

Only tenants without feudal obligations could be considered as oblates, which ruled
out many of the local inhabitants. Recruits often came from the nobility, who used
the existence of monasteries to solve their inheritance problems. They were always
concerned about maintaining their position in society and the obligation that all
oblates had to lead a celibate life was a means of restricting procreation, which
reduced the risk of impoverishment of the family. The feudal rule of primogeniture
prevented the division of inheritance, but did not resolve the problem of occupations
for younger brothers. There was certainly class distinction within the Augustinian
order – more than in the other orders.70 At the General Chapter of the order in


1276, it was agreed that “special seats are to be allocated to those who have been
rich … or are of noble birth”.71 Being of the educated class, all canons would be
expected to have servants.

The size of establishment in Augustinian houses in the early medieval period was
usually between 26 and 36.72

Number of brethren at Merton priory

Date Prior Other
& Deacons
Acolytes Scholars Total Source
1114 1 a few
1117 1 15 16 Colker (70) 242
1121 1 23 24 Colker (70) 243
1125 1 35 36 Colker (70) 245
1314 “numbeEstablisrs had fallen”
hment(Registrum Henrici Woodlock I
Heales 269
1387 1 28″40 canons were accustomed to dwell devo
utly … nHeales 269
ow hardly exist thirty”
1485 1 17 2
20 Heales 303/4
1492 1 22 2
-25 Heales 309
1501 1 19 –
20 K & H 146*
1502 1 13 5 3 -22 Heales 311
1510 Bishop enjoicanons vned prior “to
iz. to 28 inclufill up fullsive”
y and perfectly the ancient number of
Heales 320
1520 1 14 1 1 4 21 Heales 324
1530 1 12 3 1 4 21 Heales 330/1
1535 1 17 2
(dismissed) 20 Heales 340
1538 1 13 1
15 Heales 349

*K & H = D Knowles & R Hadcock Medieval Religious Houses … 1953

Merton priory tile designs (reproduced by courtesy of MoLAS and the London Borough of Merton)


Each canon wore a long black cassock which was
lined with sheepskin during the winter months.
Over this he wore a knee-length white linen rochet
(resembling a surplice) with wide sleeves gathered at
the wrists. Over the shoulders was the amice or
short cape which in later years was joined at the
breast and had to be put over the head. The amice
was worn in the cloister with a black skull cap
covering the tonsured head. Underclothes consisted
of a doublet, breeches and white stockings.

All slept in their clothes, and the bishop of
Winchester, following a visitation on 27 September
1387, admonished the brethren when he suspected
that “some canons sleep without drawers or shirts,
contrary to the rules of observance … The prior
or sub-prior, under pain of suspension [were] to
enquire sharply and not postpone punishment of
offenders”.73 A protest was sent to the bishop
denying that such a manner of sleeping was
indulged in.

In the cloister they wore woollen shoes or slippers
and sometimes latchet sandals. Outside the
monastery they often wore gaiters (ocre) and top
boots (bote) i.e. not tight hose (calige).74 The capa nigra
or black cope was the ‘habit’ wornoutside the house
and gave them the popular title of Black Canons.
Headgear evolved and became a square cap,
although Doctors of Divinity wore their special cap.


Egg-foods formed an important part of the diet. In 1492 at St Swithun’s Winchester,
3,944 eggs were consumed in 36 days in a community similar to Merton (35 brothers).
However this is only three eggs per monk per day excluding guest requirements.75

Fish was a large item on the menu and in addition to freshwater fish bred in the stew
ponds, marine fish brought from the east coast ports were always available. These
included plaice, cod and herring and the last two could be preserved by smoking or
salting and dried for winter use. By 1300, hake and haddock were introduced as cod
and herring became scarce.

An Augustinian canon in the
16th century
from W Dugdale’s

Monasticon Anglicanum


Additional choices of food following the pottage (a kind of thick soup or stew)
were often provided, especially at festivals. These were known as pittances. For these
items the kitchener would unlock the spice chest. Spices were an important ingredient
in meals.

As well as the meals provided, each canon was allowed daily the ‘great convent
miche’ (loaf) and 1½ gallons (nearly 7 litres) of beer.76


Augustinian canons were often asked to travel on royal business. In 1205 king John
wrote to the bailiffs of Portsmouth commanding them to assist the passage of Ralph
de Plesseto and a canon of Merton, “ambassadors of the king, whom he sends to
Normandy upon his affairs”. They were to take no one with them “but their domestics
and that they take neither arms nor saddle-horses”.77

This confirms that from an early period the canons had servants, who travelled with
them on journeys.

Death of a canon

To the dying the prior administered the last rites and all the brethren were summoned
to the infirmary by a canon striking a hanging board with a mallet. In the infirmary
there was often a special stone which was covered with sackcloth and ashes78 in the
form of a cross. On this was placed the dying canon with the brethren kneeling
around him.

After death, the body was washed and removed to the infirmary chapel whilst all
recited the Litany of the Dying. It was incensed before being removed to the priory
church for a requiem mass.

Here a framework of wood or metal was placed over the dead body, fitted with
prickets for requiem candles. They recall the teeth of the harrow and the structure
was known as a herse (French for harrow). The canons grouped themselves round
the herse and set candles or torches. A knell was rung.

The burial ceremony began with the antiphon placebo (Psalm 116:9 Placebo Domino in
regione vivorum) and continued with the dirige79 (Psalm 5:8.Dirige Domine me, in conspectu
tuo vitam meum).

The funeral procession made its way to the canons’ cemetery where the canons
stood around the open grave as the body, sewn in linen cloth or placed in a wooden
coffin, was lowered into the earth.

The elaborate herse for the
funeral of abbot Islip at
Westminster Abbey 1532.
(Reproduced from Vetusta
Monumenta, Society of
Antiquaries IV (1815)
by courtesy of the Society
of Antiquaries)

A lead coffin found during excavations at the Priory church in 1987
(Photograph by W J Rudd by permission of the site director)


Archæology of the Cemetery

Over 700 skeletons of burials at Merton priory were excavated between 1976 and
1990. Some interesting conclusions have been made from a study of these bones
where there was “a larger proportion of the elderly than at other monastic sites”
(around London).80 This demonstrates the longevity of Merton canons, but in turn
reveals that many skeletons showed signs of deformity where extra bone formed on
the spine and often the vertebrae had fused together. About 10% of samples excavated
from monastic sites in London show signs of this disease known as DISH.81

D Disseminated – spread widely.
I Idiopathic – not occasioned by another disease.
S Skeletal – relating to the framework of the body.
H Hyperostosis – overgrowth of bony tissue.

Approximately half the skeletons from the chapter house area had hyperostosis of the
femur, knee, ankle and heel. The deformity may have been caused through consuming
too much animal fat (containing vitamin A). Another contributory factor of late-onset
diabetes has been suggested.

facet for tubercle of rib
demifacet for head of rib
tubercle of rib
angle of rib
body of vertebra
intervertebral disc
head of rib
neck of rib
Lateral view of fused thoracic

Healthy thoracic vertebrae

vertebrae from Merton priory81

5. The Prior
” … the greatest among you should be like the youngest,
and the one who rules like the one who serves.”

Luke 22:26

At the head of the establishment was the prior. He was responsible for the direction
of the house, and to him all the brethren owed obedience. Inside and outside the
precinct the prior was all important.

To hold the office of a prior it was necessary to be a free man (as were all monks and
canons), a priest of lawful age, born of lawful wedlock, to have a knowledge of ‘letters
and manners’ and to be wise in ‘spiritual and temporal’ matters. The superior of a
monastery was in touch with men of all ranks of society – from country gentlemen,
yeomen, artisans, craftsmen, peasants to the poor at the gate. As landowners they were
concerned with crops and the weather. They were involved with the care of property
and not devoid of a sense of beauty and grandeur in their churches and other buildings.

They were often asked to head commissions of peace and had to rule impartially on
disputes between religious houses. The king sometimes requested them to act as
messengers, which could involve a journey of some months, even to Rome. Prior
Gilbert de Aette was granted a licence for letters of protection for travelling abroad,
which was valid from March until 29 August 1273.82

Journeys Often

The grant of so many estates to the priory laid great responsibilities on the prior. He
was lord of various manors and, although he appointed stewards and bailiffs to act for
him, he was ultimately responsible for dispensing justice, collecting tithes, repairing
roads and bridges etc. For royal courts the prior was allowed to appoint attorneys for
either prosecution or defence. They were often canons from the priory and acted in
county assizes and eyres, and at hundred courts. The prior had his own stables at

The prior was frequently in London on business and Merton was one of the first
monasteries to build a town-house (hospitium), if not in the City, at least just over the river
at Southwark. Inns did not exist in London before the reign of Edward I (1274-1307)84
and Merton was granted a large plot of land near the church of St Olave, Southwark,
called Grimscroft. This was secured in the 1130s from the monks of Rochester,85 perhaps
through the beneficence of bishop John de Escures (d.1137) a friend of Gilbert the
founder of Merton.86 Between 1150 and 1155 it was leased to Simon Dane, a former
servant, on condition that the canons could use their hospitium when necessary. The
rental from Simon was a pound of cinnamon per year. About 1220 the “lord of that fee
whom the priory had to satisfy” was Lobulus87 with the priory paying ground rent


(landgabulum) of 7½d (3p) per annum. The site was then granted to Arnold the Vintner,
but Merton retained the right for their reception when they wished.87

The idea of monasteries having a town-house became popular and Merton disposed
of their property to Battle abbey about 1225.88 Sometime between 1239 and 1247,
Battle abbey granted land to Eswy who was to pay Merton an annual rent of 6s 8d

Election of a New Prior

At the death of the superior there was a strict procedure to be adopted, and certain
occasions were identified by Alfred Heales.89

All the priory’s property was immediately vested in the king until he released it to the
new prior. A day was set aside for an election which took place with the bishop’s legal
representative present. It began with a mass of the Holy Ghost at the high altar of the
priory church. A bell was rung to summon all to the chapter house where the assembled
knelt and sang the hymn Come Holy Ghost … followed by a specified versicle and
collect. The director (usually the sub-prior), notaries and witnesses were nominated,
proxies announced and confirmed. These were for those sick and others not able to be
present. Those not entitled to vote were asked to leave. The director read the royal
licence for the election to proceed and the method for election as laid down in the
priory’s constitution. The canons had complete freedom of choice. All knelt once
more and “besought God, by the grace of the Holy Spirit to illumine and inspire their
hearts …”. If the choice seemed obvious, the matter could be decided by acclamation
without voting.

Following the election, the director announced the results. All processed to the church
reciting psalm 67 God be merciful unto us, and bless us with the prior-elect at the rear of the
procession. At the high altar the Te Deum was chanted (We praise thee O God) and the
sub-prior said a prayer for the person being elected. The director then published the
result of the election “in a loud and distinct voice”. It was a big day for the people of
Merton. We can imagine the villagers at the doors between the nave and the choir
trying to peer through the crevices to catch glimpses of the proceedings, knowing
what was being done, but unable to understand the Latin pronouncements.

At about noon the community returned to the chapter house and proctors were
nominated to inform the bishop of the election and perform “all necessary acts for its
confirmation”. Meanwhile the prior-elect would demur and ask the proctors to elect a
more worthy candidate. At length he would seek time for deliberation.

Canonical ‘hours’ continued until after noneswhen the proctors searched out the chosen
one “and there again, urgently, more urgently, and most urgently asked for his consent”.
He replied “that he was unwilling further to resist the divine will”, and a deputation

including the prior-elect travelled to the king to obtain his assent. The king and the
monastery applied to the bishop for confirmation of the appointment. The bishop
replied to the king, asking him to restore temporalities (property) to the prior-elect and
chapter. The king ordered the release by his escheator and as his feudal lord received
homage from the prior-elect.

Installation by the bishop was another important occasion. The prior-elect was examined
by the bishop to ensure that he was competently literate and suitably submissive. All
assembled in the priory church and at the west door of the church the bishop received
the prior-elect who removed his sandals and walked barefoot in procession to meet all
the brethren. At the high altar, the decree of election and the letters of the king giving
licence to elect, and assent when made, were all read out. The bishop inducted the
elect and confirmed that he now had “the care and administration of the said
monastery”, handed to him the keys and ordered the obedience of the canons. The
archdeacon made the public announcement. All joined in the Te Deum and the bells
rang out a peal.

The prior knelt at the high altar with the bishop praying over him and giving the
episcopal benediction. The bishop raised the prior giving him the kiss of peace and
blessing him. The prior now made his profession of canonical obedience to the bishop.89

Called to account

The 15th prior Edmund de Herierd (1296-1305) was excommunicated in 1300 for
paying money for the King’s use despite the Pope’s interdict.90 He was released from
exclusion on 4 May 1301 but proved to be a weak leader. On 25 September 1305 he
offered his resignation as prior, on the grounds of disagreements, which was accepted
by the bishop.

At the forthcoming election in December Herierd was again nominated, together
with William de Brokesborn. The bishop was not able to intervene because one of the
proctors maintained his right to proceed with the election regardless. Both the king
(Edward I) and the convent, led by the sub-prior, wrote to the bishop and asked him
to appoint a prior. Even the archbishop joined in and decided that Herierd had caused
serious trouble and ordered him to resume life as a canon of Merton. On 5 March
1306 the bishop chose a new man, which probably pleased no one.


Although the prior kept his financial affairs separate from the monastery, it was the
custom for his accounts to be presented to the brethren at chapter twice a year. In
1509 at the bishop’s visitation, it was found that prior William Salinge had not done
this and he was asked “to deliver up and leave in the chapter house, his book of
accounts for the space of a month for full consideration”.91


An Augustinian teacher
Based on Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Laud Misc. 409, fo.3v – late 12th century –
depicting Hugh of St Victor, d.1142, one of the first masters to teach theology to students in Paris.

6. Centre of Learning
“Let the little children come to me … for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Luke 18:16

School for Novices

Every monastery had a novice-master to ensure that candidates for professing to
the Order received suitable training. This was of utmost importance for the future
well-being of the monastery and the task was entrusted to a senior canon. There
were never more than six novices at a time and the novice-master had to show
sympathy as well as control.

Novices were taught singing and chanting for services in the choir, the observance
of the Rule and customs in church, dormitory, refectory and cloister.

They learnt the psalter by heart in Latin and, as they progressed, learnt grammar,
philosophy, theology and music.


Children under the age of ten were considered to possess a potential for closeness
to God and every monastery ran a song-school. The children were seen to have
attributes of trust, sincerity, openness and dependency. Most large monasteries
supported both a song-school and an almonry school. The latter found its most
convenient site adjacent to the great gateway,92 and kept apart from the canons. The
almoner gave elementary education without commitment that a child should become
a postulant.

Children of the Cloister

Early monasteries accepted the practice for the nobility to send sons there for early
education, but these “children of the cloister” disappeared as a class in the 12th
century in England.93 Thereafter, children aged five to seven were only offered to
monasteries by parents as oblates and future members of the community.

Merton was fortunate in that one of its first canons was an Italian schoolmaster
named Guy who must have influenced Merton’s becoming a centre for learning. It
has been suggested that Nicholas Breakspear was at Merton at the time of Guy,94
following a suggestion of the abbot of St Albans.95 Nicholas Breakspear became an
Augustinian canon at St Rufus near Avignon, and in 1154 the only Englishman to
become pope (Adrian IV).

About 1130 Gilbert Becket, portreeve96 of London, sent his son Thomas to school
at Merton, chosen in preference to the three major schools in London mentioned in


FitzStephen’s account of the city. Gilbert could have chosen Aldgate priory which
was founded before Merton in 1108. In fact some of the canons at Merton may
have come from Aldgate.97

When Thomas arrived at Merton, the priory church was still a wooden building, as
the ambitious stone structure was abandoned after the founder’s death in 1125.
Some building work continued as the record states that it took 15 years (until 1132)
to complete.98 Thomas would be responsible for the subsequent enlargement of the
church after 1154.

David Knowles thought that Thomas had a domineering father who, as a prosperous
citizen of London, was used to entertaining court officials.99 The following anecdote
suggests another side to him.

Gilbert came to visit his son at Merton and the boy was brought into the prior’s
presence. Gilbert fell prone before his son so that prior Robert exclaimed “You
foolish old man, what are you doing? The honour you do to him, he ought rather to
do to you”. Gilbert replied in an undertone, “My lord, I know what I am doing; this
boy will be great in the sight of the Lord”.100

Education in General

A spirit of learning followed closely in the wake of the revival of monasticism and
the Augustinians became prominent educators. The historian Frank Barlow was of
the opinion that it was the Augustinian canons who began to take over existing
schools as at Huntingdon or established new ones as at Merton.101 Merton’s school
was probably similar to the Huntingdon school which the prior had known for eight
years. About 1120 Huntingdon priory was given permission to operate a school “so
that no one shall keep a school in Huntingdonshire without their leave”.102 The
foundation charter of St Gregory, Canterbury (c.1145) ensured that a song-school
and a grammar school were set up.103 The purpose of these schools was to provide
sufficient education for the student to qualify for ordination or at least to enable him
to take matriculation for University.

Edmund Rich, a teacher of distinction, lived in the priory 1213/4 and would have
had an influence on Merton’s school.

At the beginning of the 13th century Walter de Merton was educated at Merton,
where he became a legal clerk assisting the prior in conveyancing property. In return,
the prior assisted Walter in setting up a House of the Scholars of Merton at Malden,
Surrey, the priory acting as trustee. This was primarily to teach Walter’s 13 nephews,
but the school was moved to Oxford and Walter secured a charter of incorporation
in 1264 with power to maintain 20 scholars at Oxford. This was the first college with
its own constitution.

For the Augustinian Order many students went to Osney abbey, Oxford, to study,
and it could be said that its school was the first to be connected with the University.
Monasteries were the repositories of knowledge until the colleges at universities
were founded.

All was not well at Merton in 1387 when the bishop visited and requested the prior
to provide a “suitable master to instruct in singing and in other branches of

It was decreed that Augustinian houses should enable canons to study at Oxford in
the proportion of one for every 20 established canons. A fine of £10 a year was
levied by the Provincial Chapter, on monasteries not acting on this. Unfortunately
many found it easier to pay the fine than pay for the maintenance of an absent
canon, especially as some studied for up to ten years or so.105 Merton also provided
bursaries and lent books to candidates. In 1228 the priory supported John de Tinenwe
for 16 years to study, and he could stay at the priory when on vacation or go abroad.106

Guy of Merton

“A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

Luke 6:40

Guy came from Italy, following in the footsteps of Lanfranc (d.1089) and Anselm
(d.1109), who had made the long journey across the Alps before him. In their time
they all achieved a remarkable reputation for the direction of schools.107 However
Guy, as far as we know, never taught at Bec Abbey as they had done and did not, like
them, become archbishop of Canterbury, but joined Merton priory at its foundation.

There is evidence to believe that Guy was Guido Langobardus, a known philosopher
of repute and linked with Lanfranc and others.108 Guy had a son who was aware of
his father’s reputation and wrote to Merton priory years later for information. The
reply from canon Rainald is preserved in a book which belonged to Merton priory
and is now in the British Library (Royal MS 8 E ix fol. 91-98). It must date from
between 1133 and 1150 and provides an insight into the life of a canon. Rainald
admits that he wrote his letter “between the canonical hours, and often, when I
should have been intent on these religious services, I was thinking instead about the

Although Guy was a schoolmaster, he was only in minor orders when he arrived at
Merton. The epistola (letter) shows how seriously Guy took his noviciate at Merton
and how diligently he studied the Customs and Observances. When he decided to
become a canon he observed the finer points of them “as if they came from God
himself “.110 When prior Robert promoted him to become a deacon Guy protested
his “unworthiness” and it was only under compulsion that he accepted the priesthood.


Guy would reprimand himself should his mind wander when reading and meditating.
He would sometimes gnash his teeth or dig his nails into his flesh or beat his chest to
make his mind more attentive. He humbly told a friend that only twice did he celebrate
mass without tears.110 The letter records that the prior’s illness was alleviated through
Guy’s sanctity and prayers.111

He taught and encouraged the brethren at Merton but left to become the first prior
of Merton’s daughter houses at Taunton (1120) and Bodmin (1123) – (see chapter 7

– Daughter Houses). Guy was back at Merton 1121 to 1123 to the place he loved
and was able to continue teaching, free from the constraints of office. He rejoiced
“as if freed from a prison or like a bird released from a trap”.112
The historian Frank Barlow has commented that the career of Guy suggests that
the bishops (of Winchester and Exeter) and archbishop (Corbeil) were interested in
the furtherance of education as much as the religious life.113

Guy set an example for others to follow. Not only those who lived alongside him
but for later generations who read about him through this epistola.

He returned to Bodmin early in 1124, and was called to discuss a case with bishop
Warelwast of Exeter. On the journey to the bishop, Guy’s horse bolted throwing
him into a pit. His injuries were serious and he was carried to Exeter. To his bedside
came his friends from Bodmin and Plympton priories, Algar and Geoffrey, to look
after him, but his health deteriorated daily. Guy asked his friends what day it was and
when told that it was the vigil of Ascension he declared “Today is the day of my
redemption, today is the day of God’s compassion … It is the day of my joy”.114 He
no doubt recalled Ascension Day 1117 when he first entered Merton priory joyfully.

On Guy’s death Algar wished him to be buried at Bodmin, but the canons of Exeter
successfully claimed the right to bury Guy and such a multitude flocked together to
show veneration as had never been seen in the city, not even for a bishop, within the
memory of those present. Guy’s body was laid in a stone sarcophagus and set in a
place of honour.115

We may ask how it was that Rainald, a canon of Merton, came to know the details
of Guy’s death and funeral. The informant may have been one of Guy’s friends and
as Rainald’s letter states that “Geoffrey looked after the body, since Algar, in tears,
could not control his distress”,115 it points to Geoffrey rather than Algar. A canon of
Merton could, however, have travelled to Exeter for the funeral.

Geoffrey became the second prior of Plympton in 1128 and may have visited Merton.
Algar was made bishop of Coutances in 1132. He also could have visited Merton
when he returned from Normandy for the rededication of Exeter cathedral after its
rebuilding in 1133.

7. Daughter Houses
“Like mother, like daughter”

Ezekiel 16:44

The canons of Merton began their ordered lives within the newly built priory on 3
May 1117, and the bishop of Winchester was impressed with the 15 canons and
how they were “sublimely aspiring to perfection” after not even three years. Amongst
the first brethren of Merton were Stephen, former archdeacon of Surrey, and Serlo
former dean of Salisbury116 (see later under Cirencester). The bishop requested
some canons to “introduce into his church of Taunton those same observances
which they themselves employed”.117

This was the beginning of a fine record by Merton priory of setting up daughter
houses, but the regular departure of canons from their home foundation must have
caused a strain on those remaining and says much about the flow of new recruits. It
is difficult to understand where they came from. In 1117 there were 15,118 but in
1120 five left to found Taunton and early in the following year two or three assisted
the canons of Aldgate, London, to found Plympton. But such was the attraction of

the mother house that by 1121, new
recruits swelled the numbers to 23.119
Towards the end of 1123 archbishop
Corbeil requested Merton canons to
go to Canterbury in order that the
hospital of St Gregory could follow
the Augustinian Order. At the same
time, the bishop of Exeter asked for
a few canons to introduce the Order
to Bodmin. They left Merton under
the leadership of magister Guy who
died on Ascension Day 1124.120
Recruitment continued and by 1125,
numbers were up to 36 or 37.121
Three years later some canons left
Merton for Edinburgh, led by Alwin
who became the first abbot of
Holyrood. Within 33 years of its
foundation, Merton had set up nine
Augustinian houses, sending forth
bands of missionary brothers to
other parts of England and even to
Normandy and Scotland.122

Map showing location of daughter houses


The early daughter houses of Augustinian monasteries were unlike those of the
Benedictines in that they were not dependent, but maintained themselves from the
outset. The initiative to found a new community came, not from the mother house,
but from a local lord or a bishop who requested a few canons from an established
and revered community to settle in and lead a new foundation of his own patronage.

The daughter houses of Merton priory founded between 1120 and 1149

Date of
Location Founded by With No. of
1120 Taunton,
William Giffard,
bishop of Winchester
Guy of Merton,
d.16 May 1124
1121 Plympton,
William Warelwast,
bishop of Exeter
d. August 1160
1123 St Gregory,
William Corbeil,
archbishop of Canterbury
Alvred? 13
1123 Bodmin,
William Warelwast,
bishop of Exeter
Guy of Merton,
d.16 May 1124
1128 Holyrood,
king of Scotland
up to
1131 Cirencester,
Henry I,
king of England
max. 40
1132 St Lô,
bishop of Coutances
Theodoric ?
1135 Dover,
William Corbeil,
archbishop of Canterbury
1149 Twinham,
Baldwin de Redvers,
earl of Devon
Reginald 25

8. The Monastic Day
“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning like men waiting for their master to return …”
Luke 12: 35/6

Today we live by the clock with the day beginning at midnight,
but this was not always so. “God called the light day and the
darkness night” (Gen.1:4), and from earliest times the tasks of
the day were spread over the hours of daylight with the noonday
sun denoting the middle of the day. The monasteries
followed the Roman reckoning of dividing each day into twelve
parts or hours. Only at the equinoxes (March 20 and September

22) was the hour of 60 minutes.123 Monasteries devoted four
parts to prayer and psalmody, another four to study and private
devotions and approximately four parts to manual labour to
maintain self-sufficiency. Special services were performed about
every three hours and were known as Prime, Terce, Sext and Nones.
These together with Matins, Evensong (Vespers) and Compline
constituted the seven Canonical Hours. In addition, mass was
celebrated each morning and there were two minor ‘offices’ of
Lauds and Collations at the beginning and end of the day.
Psalms constituted an important element in all services and even
governed the hour for the first office. “At midnight [not by the
clock], I rise to give thanks to Thee” (Psalm 119:62). Thus the
brethren were roused for Matins in church, and as the church doors
were locked at night, there was usually a direct passage from the
dormitory into the transept of the church. Matins would be sung
for almost an hour followed by a brief service called Lauds. It
consisted of Psalms 148-150, a reading, a hymn (e.g. Te Deum), a
canticle and the Lord’s Prayer. Its name comes from the dominant
theme of the three concluding psalms – Laudate Dominum (Praise
the Lord). All brethren knew the Psalter by heart, for every psalm
was sung every week.124 After retiring once more to their beds
until sunrise, the first Hour of the day was observed with Prime,
followed by an early mass for certain officials. While this was being
celebrated, most of the brethren would be washing and taking
care “not to blow their noses with the towels, or to rub their teeth
with them, or to staunch blood, or to wipe off any dirt”.125

In the dining hall breakfast consisted of bread and ale, probably
consumed standing up. This was followed by chapter mass in the

The call to prayer

lady chapel when a small bell summoned all to church before the


Kalendar – Bodleian Library MS Laud Misc 723
The page relates to the sixth week after Easter (Sexagesima). Top heading is the 5th cycle (years 1216-1234)
Lower heading is the 6th cycle (years 1235-1253). In a different script at the bottom it says: “The book of William
Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury & Chancellor of the University of Oxford. 1639.”
(Photograph reproduced from A Heales – The Records of Merton Priory (1898)
by courtesy of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.)

chapter assembly. Whilst it was ringing, the cloister had to be vacated and all stood
in church and faced east until the bell ceased ringing. At the conclusion of mass, the
great bell rang for the chapter meeting;126 the novices led the procession to the
chapter house to discuss business matters. At Merton the prior sat in the centre of
the apse under a suspended crucifix. On either side, in order of seniority, sat the
canons along the north and south walls. The central part was kept clear, revealing a
floor paved with monumental slabs and brasses commemorating earlier priors.

The first part of Chapter was called pretioso (a precious thing – Psalm 116:15). Each
day various saints were commemorated and every monastery compiled its own
Kalendar of favourite saints (see illustration opposite). The relevant martyrology
for the day was read, and time was allowed for house prayers. The name ‘chapter’
derives from a reading of a chapter of the Rule of St Augustine. Next, the necrology
was read, which named members of monastic communities recently deceased.
Information on the notice-board (tabula) was read out, which gave the names of
those responsible for specified services and other duties for the day. An exhortation
or sermon was then usually given by the prior and on completion he uttered the
words, “Let us speak of the affairs of our house”. This marked the end of the
pretioso and all novices, lay brothers and strangers left, for it was decreed that what
followed was private and no canon should discuss transactions outside Chapter.

Any new agreements or gifts were discussed. These could affect either the monastery
internally or any outlying property. Any new leases, rents, tithes, presentations, dues
etc. were outlined, but no agreement was binding or legal unless the consent of
Chapter was given and the deed sealed with the priory seal – usually referred to as
the Chapter seal.

Complaints (clamationes) were then heard, often concerning meals when sometimes
pittances (treats) were promised. The prior then commanded, “Speak of your own
order” i.e. own behaviour, whereupon any canon with a conscience stood up, came
forward, confessed and asked for pardon. The Circator, the officer responsible for
good order around the cloister, made his statement with any accusations. Any named
canon left his place and stood in front of the prior, bending his knee, and waited
patiently whilst complaints were preferred against him. After the accusation any
other canon could support the charge or speak to the contrary. The prior then
pronounced sentence and imposed penalties.

Punishment could consist of a period of fasting on bread and water, or a loss of
precedence in Choir and Chapter, and even corporal punishment. The last was
performed immediately in the presence of the canons with a specially provided
monastic rod (balai). Serious misdemeanours could warrant solitary confinement, or
excommunication, or expulsion from the Order. At the conclusion of Chapter, the
canons changed into day shoes.


The office for the third hour was Terce sung before the high spot of each day. This
was the celebration of high mass which involved rich vestments and elaborate liturgy.
The high altar was appropriately decorated by the sacrist who ensured that all
vestments were in good condition and vessels used in the service were clean. Acolytes
carried long tapers and processions moved around the church with the asperging of
various altars and claustral apartments accompanied by joyous eucharistic singing.
Any important visitor staying at the priory would join the occasion – even the king
(Henry III was in the habit of spending Easter at Merton). After passing around the
cloister the procession entered the nave of the church and stood before the rood
screen whilst an anthem was sung. A bidding prayer was said, the Lord’s Prayer and
prayers for the dead.

The sixth hour was Sext which was a short service, read in church before all the
community adjourned to the dining hall for the main meal of the day. One sentence
from a reading was completed before brethren commenced eating. The Rule of the
Order specified that “at the table [they] listen to what is customarily read, without
noise or protest; and use their jaws for eating only, and their ears for hearing the
word of God”.127 The meal consisted of two hot dishes consumed in silence but
accompanied by suitable passages uttered by a reader for their instruction in goodness.
On Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays it was usual to have a meat dish and on other
days fish, eggs and cheese.128 After dinner the canons were allowed to sleep in the
dormitory or could amuse themselves with games in the cloister.

The next office Nones was sometimes put back an hour in the long hot summer
days. Then followed manual work either in the cloister copying or illuminating
manuscripts, or making and repairing clothes, or making spoons, candlesticks, bee
skeps etc., or teaching. Some would choose to work in the gardens or fields. After
their daily work, the canons were summoned to church by a bell for Vespers
(evensong). Ablutions followed before partaking of a light supper in the dining hall.
This may have been served only on feast days during the winter months, and never
on fast days or during the season of Lent. The minor office of Collations took place
in the chapter house when the official for the week gave a short reading from Lives
of the Fathers (Collationes Patrum).

At dusk all entered the church for Compline. This office was sung in winter with
only two altar candles to relieve the darkness. At the conclusion, the canons left one
by one with raised hoods. The Greater Silence (summum silentium)129 began and the
canons ceased all conversation, even in the parlour, until Prime the next day. The
Circator made his final rounds, locking doors giving access to the church and cloister,
extinguishing unnecessary (cresset) lights.

This concluded the day.

9. Administration Within
“All who profess and call themselves Christians”

Book of Common Prayer

This chapter deals with administration of the priory under its ‘Customs and
Observances’ within the precinct. The prior was responsible for discipline, but many
other agents outside the monastery were also involved.

The Augustinian Rule was based on a letter from the saint, addressed to a community
of nuns. It was of such brevity that communities supplemented it with customaries
or observances which set down regulations to guide the conduct and activities of
canons. Those at Merton were used elsewhere, for around 1146, when Buckenham
priory was founded, the bishop of Norwich decreed that the canons should follow
in all things the established rules of the church of St Mary of Merton.130 Three sets
of books containing sermons, customs and constitutions were kept at Merton. One
set was with the prior, another with the sub-prior, and a third set with the ‘Master of
the Order’.131 The constitutions established the structure of internal operations.

Every professed canon took a vow of obedience to the prior, and discipline was
governed in several ways. At the daily meeting in the chapter house a time was spent
when all were invited to voice any errors seen in others. These were discussed and
any necessary punishment immediately meted out. No brother of inferior grade
could flog a senior, and no deacon could flog a priest.


Perhaps the most feared examination came from visits from the bishop. All
Augustinian foundations were subject to episcopal visitations at intervals of roughly
three years. These were performed by the bishop in person or by an official acting
for him, accompanied by a legal adviser and a public notary who would write down
an account of the proceedings. The visitors would be received at the west door of
the priory church and proceed to the high altar with the pealing of bells and the
organ playing.

All then went to the chapter house to hear an appropriate sermon and all lay folk

The prior produced a certificate with a list of all the brethren, and the bishop examined
the prior and canons one by one, secrete et singillatim, in order of seniority down to the
novices. The prior produced accounts for the past year, the status domus, and an
inventory of jewels and plate. Visits were usually completed in a day. Later a report
was prepared of matters requiring action (a comperta) which was delivered and
expounded by the visitor’s clerk.


On 25 September 1305 a visitation produced evidence of a lack of discipline, and
prior Edmund was asked to resign. He was given a place of residence within the
precinct, a companion and suitable rations.132

On 26 July 1314, canons were informed “that no one [should] absent himself from
the Divine Offices, by day or night nor from the canonical Hours or Masses without
reasonable cause and licence”. They were warned not to be seen by secular persons
with bows and crossbows or other things.133

On 27 September 1387, the canons were condemned for wearing precious furs,
knotted sleeves, silk girdles, gold and silver ornaments, and for employing and keeping
hunting dogs.134 At this visitation the bishop requested that the seal of the priory be
kept under five locks. Keys were to be held, one by the prior, one by the sub-prior,
one by the precentor and one each by two brothers of the community.135

In 1492 the archbishop of Canterbury made a visitation to Merton.136

The evidence of the canons at the visitation of 1509 must have included much
criticism of the prior, William Salynge. He was warned by the bishop not to spare
needful corrections “as he had been used to do by favour for some or to oppress
others undeservedly”.131 The prior was reminded of his duties and ordered “to instruct
and feed the brothers with the food of holy doctrine personally twice a year in the
chapter house”. This doesn’t seem too onerous! The canons reported to the bishop
that the prior had been keeping company with women and selling jewels.137 Canons
were never invited to voice praise, only failings. (As a consequence, records of
visitations can present a very distorted picture of the establishment.)

Provincial chapters

Discipline was also ordered at provincial chapters of the Order, perhaps as early as
1207 in the York province and 1217 for Canterbury.138 These were introduced to set
standards of behaviour for all Augustinian houses to follow. From 1233 to 1341
separate chapters were held for each province. These were convened every three
years and attended by the heads of all Augustinian monasteries. At each gathering
two Presidents were elected, one who preached a sermon whilst the other celebrated
mass. The chapter appointed two Visitors who inspected houses in their province
for three years until they succeeded to the two Presidencies at the end of their term.
These visitations achieved some unity for the Order but failed to change the “old
and reasonable” customs of individual monasteries.139

The provinces proved too large an area for the Visitors to visit all houses and from
1341 England and Wales were divided into 22 areas. When the prior of Merton
became Visitor he was responsible for Augustinian monasteries in the dioceses of
Salisbury and Winchester.140

Priors of Merton attending provincial chapter meetings

Year Representative Position Location Source
1276 Gilbert de Aette President Leicester Salter p.xii.
1318 William de Brokesborn President Aldgate, Salter p.xiv; Heales p.220
1343 John de Littleton President Northampton Salter p.52.
1346 William Friston President Leicester BL Addl.MS 38665 fo.26.
1362 Geoffrey de Chaddesley Visitor Newstead Salter p.xxvi.
1365 ” ” ” President Barnwell Salter p.66.
1368 ” ” ” Vice-president Northampton BL Cott.Vesp.D1 fo.57.
1383 Robert de Windsor Visitor Newstead BL Cott.Vesp.D1 fo.51;
Heales p.264
1386 ” ” ” President Barnwell Salter p.77.
1389 ” ” ” President Northampton Salter p.xxix.
1392 a canon of Merton ?Visitor Northampton Salter p.xxix.
1395 Michael de Kympton (as canon) Northampton
1443 John Kingston Visitor & Osney, Oxford Salter p.xxxii, 104,
Vice-president Heales p.300.
1446 ” ” ? Northampton Salter p.108
1503 William Salynge Visitor Osney, Oxford
1506 ” ” President Barnwell Salter p.122; Heales p.137.
1518 ” ” President Leicester Salter p.132, 143.
Salter = H E Salter Chapters of the Augustinian Canons (Canterbury & York Society) 1922

For the Canterbury province, chapters were usually held in Leicester or Northampton
as being fairly central for the majority of Augustinian houses. They were occasionally
held in London but never at Merton.

It would seem that Michael de Kympton went to the Chapter meeting on 17 June
1395 and not the prior, Robert de Windsor. For failing to attend, the prior was fined
£10,141 a lot of money, and an appealing letter from the prior, addressed to the prior
of Bruton (acting for Chapter), informed him that he was unable to pay his fine,
pleading that “they had no small losses of cattle by pestilence, and that their
dormitories and other of their old houses were ready to fall suddenly and without


In 1443 and 1446, prior John Kingston gave sermons in English at Oxford and
Northampton.143 For this to be recorded for posterity suggests that he was a good
speaker, or that it was unusual to make an address in English. In 1506 prior William
Salynge issued a mandate to the prior of St Denys, Southampton and his canons to
be present in their chapter house on 19 May for his visitation, “given at his house of
residence at Merton 18 April 1506”.144

Discipline Within

“To the punishment of wickedness and vice”

Book of Common Prayer145

Within a confined community bitter quarrels were always likely. Most dislike
favouritism and canons could have petty ambitions. There was dissension in 1258
when William de Cantia tried to reform the priory and was banished.146 William le
Ferour had to leave the priory when it transpired that before he professed as canon
of Merton, he had married. The bishop wrote to the prior and issued an “annulment
of profession” in 1331.147 John Paynel absconded from Merton and a visitation
made by the bishop on 6 March 1335 followed the return of the ‘wanderer’ to his
priory. The bishop asked the house to receive him back without reproach but reserved
to himself the penance to be inflicted.148 In 1347 Paynel was in further trouble
having been excommunicated for attacking a servant. The bishop gave authorisation
again, to absolve the canon.149

Punishment could involve relegation to the junior place in choir and chapter.

Sometimes Merton had to “take in” transgressors. John Cherteseye, canon of
Newstead, Nottinghamshire, had been the cause of scandal “for various excesses
and faults” and was sent to Merton in 1387.150

One of a set of three or more broken 14th-century floor
tiles, discovered from the chapter house site in 1976.
These seem to be part of a chain of dancers.

(Reproduced by courtesy of J Scott McCracken)


To assist the prior in administering daily affairs, officers were appointed to oversee
various departments. These were called obedientiaries. In the church there were the
sacristan (church structure, vestments and plate), precentor (services) and succentor
(singing and choir-school), with a custodian of the lady chapel. For food management
there were the cellarer (supplies), fraterer (dining hall), and kitchener (food

All officers had servants. The sacristan had two and a boy, but one servant had to
assist in gathering the harvest in August.151

In the hospital was the infirmarer, who cared for the sick and the retired and allowed
the canons to rest after blood-letting. He was not a doctor of medicine.

The almoner provided hospitality to the needy, assisted by the guest master, whilst
the chamberlain looked after clothing and bedding.

The granger had to check supplies of corn, arrange milling and issue flour to the

The librarian organised the scriptorium.

Other obedientiaries included the master of the works, with minor officials such as
the gardener and the pittancer.


The importance of these offices grew with the need for adequate finances, and it
became the practice for income to be allocated to an obedientiary from specified
property sources. In 1220 the Augustinian Provincial Chapter decreed that every
house should appoint two receivers to be responsible for all priory income.152

As a measure of outgoings in percentage terms, the following is suggested:

Feeding and clothing canons, household and guests 30%
Restocking property 20%
Expenses of prior and household 15%
Fees to bishops and provincial chapters 12%
Royal and papal subsidies 10%
Payments to officials 5%
General administration 5%
Charitable giving 3%

Nothing has been included for disasters, lawsuits or repaying debts.


Excavation of the medieval mill at Merton priory 2003
(Reproduced by courtesy of MoLAS)

David Saxby excavating the 15th-century tile kiln on the Gatehouse site 2000
(Reproduced by courtesy of MoLAS)

10. Administration Without
“I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones … And I’ll say to myself ‘You have plenty of
good things laid up for many years’.”

Luke 12:18/19

The prior negotiated external relations and was the lord of many manors, where he
had to dispense justice and maintain peace within the communities. In this he was
assisted by stewards and bailiffs, some sent out from Merton and some living in the

An important manor given to Merton by Henry II in 1156 was Ewell. This included
not only the manor itself but also the sub-manors of Kingswood (south Banstead),
Shelwood (near Leigh), and Pachenesham (north Leatherhead). In the early years,
lands were worked on a communal basis, with the priory’s lands intermingled with
lands of the community. Feudal tenants had to work certain seasonal days for the
manorial lord, which gave rise to disputes and anger when the lord was not resident
and never visited them.

Merton owned fisheries on the Thames at Brentford, Richmond and Eton (see page
48). These provided some of the requirements of the priory where fish was part of
the diet on meatless days, although much still came from the eastern ports of England.
A weir-keeper would have been resident at Merton’s fisheries.

Many mills were owned by the priory and, although they were let out to tenants, the
priory was involved in the maintenance of roads and bridges in order to give access
to its properties and distribution of produce.

All this necessitated much travel by stewards and officers to oversee operations and
safeguard priory income. In the 13th century the practice of ‘high farming’ began, in
which smaller parcels of land worked by various people were amalgamated into
bigger units. This enabled the stock on manors to be improved and increased.

Often churches were appropriated, with the bishop’s permission. This gave the priory
the right to the greater tithes of the parish and to employ stipendiary priests to
perform duties in their churches as perpetual vicars. At the Council of Oxford in
1222 it was stipulated that the minimum stipend should be 5 marks p.a. (£3.33).153
Where appropriated churches had farms, monasteries sometimes purchased additional
land to increase tithe income. Where the vicar had a fixed income this could result in
proportionately less for the vicar, and new agreements were negotiated to compensate.
For a list of appropriated churches see page 76.


Prosperity came in the early 14th century, when continued benefactions enabled
churches to be rebuilt and farms re-ordered. Larger barns were required for increased
amounts of produce. Land improvements included drainage and the long-term
planting of oak forests. Roads and bridges were improved to assist trade. Monasteries
were now part-religious and part-economic, alongside lay owners and the commercial
interests of towns like London. Farming policy and estate management affected
towns as much as the countryside.

In 1346 England was enjoying the best of times and the king was celebrating victories
in Europe with theatricals at Merton (see Chapter 13 – Royal Visitors). One hopes
that the priory used increased opportunities for the relief of poverty, sickness and

The life of opulence resulting from sound estate management suddenly came to an
end in 1348 when the Black Death made its appearance. This scourge created a
shortage of labourers, and land owners found it beneficial to let animals graze instead
of men working the soil and in some areas sheep rearing took over.


“Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange”
Lord Tennyson Mariana

When a monastery owned farms and manors fairly close together but at a distance
from the mother house, administration was best achieved by setting up a miniature
monastic house in the area. It was the Cistercians who first built large barns to store
produce before transporting home. The Norman word for ‘barn’ was grange and this
name was adopted for the new settlement.

A grange farm would consist of a large barn and other buildings set around a
courtyard. On one side were the domestic quarters, hall with kitchen and often, at
one end, a chapel. It was approached through a gatehouse and within the precinct
were the stables, fishpond and gardens, if possible with a stream. Two canons and
perhaps a bailiff were responsible for its operation, and they hired labourers as
necessary. To avoid transport difficulties it was preferable to sell produce locally
apart from seed and feed.

Throughout the medieval period the Thames valleywas a major supplier of food for
London, with the river itself facilitating the conveyance of goods to the capital.
Merton priory was one of many monasteries that set up granges in the county of
Buckinghamshire. With the gradual abandonment of demesne farming in the late
14th century, many granges were leased out to tenants.


This was a moated site near Bray lock on the Buckinghamshire side of the Thames.
In 1197 Merton priory was granted 92 acres (17 ha) of land and the right of assart,
the clearance of woods for tilling. The Bray Court Rolls refer to bournhames eyte in
1361 in connection with the grange. Burnham Abbey was close by and Merton
probably provided food for the nunnery.


This was a large establishment in Buckinghamshire, complete with chapel (now St
Laurence church).

After Henry VI founded Eton college in 1440 he wished to bestow property along
the Thames upon the college. On 8 June 1443 Merton priory was required to grant
Eton certain land and fisheries in the manor of Upton, and on 8 February 1444 the
tithes of the manor of Upton and a further dyke were added.154 The importance of
Upton Grange must have diminished thereafter.

The main building still exists, and has been known since the Dissolution as The
Grange. A newspaper proprietor purchased the building in the 1970s and has saved
and restored one of Merton’s medieval treasures.

Upton Grange – August 1991 (photograph by the author)



This was a sub-manor of Upton and probably used the barns and other buildings.
there. In 1301 Edward I borrowed £50 from Merton priory and the amount was
secured from sales at its granges. Eton sold over 200 quarters (2.54 tonnes) of corn,
lavender, beans and peas.155

Included with these granges were Thames fisheries and islands from Taplow and
Amerden downstream to Eton (Bullokeslok).


The grange furthest from Merton was Tregony in Cornwall. This had been a priory
and came into the possession of Merton in 1267 when an exchange was made for
the church of Cahagnes, Normandy.156 Conventual life proved difficult and on 26
April 1282 the bishop of Exeter agreed that the priory should become a grange
staffed by a single canon. One wonders if this was treated as a respite duty or as
transportation punishment. At that period Tregony was a port with access to the
river Fal.


The vicar’s grange at Kingston was near the parish church but was out of use by the
end of the 15th century. The churchwardens’ accounts for 1503 refer to “a vacant
plot of land where the grange had stood”. A large barn was located on the site now
occupied by the railway station.

Granges in Merton

Many of Merton’s granges were not distant centres; in fact two moated sites were
within the parish of Merton. Instead of housing resident canons both were leased
out in the 14th century.


This was situated in the valley of the
Beverley Brook on the western boundary
of the parish. Its large barns survived
until the 20th century. In 1536 it included
“all buildings, barns, stables and gardens
… of 30 acres” (12 ha),157 and lands
totalling 579 acres (234ha).


This was situated outside the priory
precinct to the west, and was in existence before 1178.158 A large barn was associated
with it which in 1753 measured 78ft x 22ft.(23.8m x 6.7m).

West Barnes Farm, by Cyril Wright, from W H
Chamberlain Reminiscences of Old Merton (1925)


Monasteries provided a safe-deposit, and hence served as bankers for important

Income in monastic terms was described as arising from Spiritualities or

SPIRITUALITIES came from churches, and could emanate from incumbents who had
been presented to the living by the priory. This was an annual payment termed a
“pension”. A major source of income came from the tithes of appropriated churches.
Rights of presentation were saleable properties159 and some monasteries sold indulgences

– although there is no mention of these in known records of Merton priory.
TEMPORALITIES came from tenants who worked priory lands or lived in priory property
and from manorial mills which charged tenants for grinding their corn. Demesne
farms were worked by monastic servants and the income from sales of grain, wool,
timber etc. would be treated as trade, as was income from fisheries.

Other income arose from perquisites from manorial courts (fines etc.), benefactions,
loans from Jews etc., and sale of corrodies (see Chapter 12 – Hospitality).


The two largest items were repair of buildings and the cost of lawsuits which could
arise from encroachments, trespass, ownership and financial disputes. Subsidies were
regularly paid to crown and pope, and there were travel costs, including journeys to
Rome, and highway responsibilities.

The expenditure accounts for property still exist for the ten years 1383-1392:

Lands & Tenements Purchase Repair Total
Acquired of stock of Buildings£ £ £ £
1383 29 563 592
1384 33 71 104
1385 10 28 38
1386 21 57 78
1387 9 66 245 320
1388 3 186 189
1389 2 35 37
1390 41 12 56 109
1391 121 61 182
1392 43 140 183

Source: Bodleian Oxford . Laud. MS 723 Fol. 101. Figures rounded to nearest pound.

The total income for 1392 was £897 and the outgoings £984, resulting in a net loss
of £87.160


Conjectural plan of the precinct at the Dissolution.
(with the outlines of the later Abbey House and
Gatehouse and its neighbours shaded)






priory church




mill pond

? pig farm


0 50 100 150 metres
0 100 200 300 400 500 feet

11. The Precinct
“City of God, how broad and far
Outspread thy walls sublime!”
Dr Johnson A Hymn

Merton priory was enlarged in Henry II’s reign and again in the reign of Henry III.
The precinct rapidly filled with a variety of buildings. The total extent was about 65
acres (26 ha) – a large monastery by any standards.

It was surrounded by an 8-ft (2.44m) high precinct wall built of flint, and in length
some 1½ miles (2.5 km), with a moat outside the wall except perhaps along the High
Street where buildings would have provided adequate security. The wall prevented
the entry of vagabonds, lessened noises from without, and restrained temptations
to leave the precinct.

The presence of the River Wandle was an important factor in the choice of the site.
The river had earlier flowed further to the east and marked the parish boundary between
Merton and Mitcham, but the main flow was diverted by the priory to pass through
the centre of the precinct. This provided water for filling fishponds, washing and
waste disposal, driving mill-wheels, supplying the moat, watering gardens and orchards.

Around the south-eastern and eastern sides, a residual stream called ‘the back river’
or ‘the pickle ditch’ followed what had been the main channel of the river in Saxon
times. In the period 1200-1250 other ditches were cut both inside and outside the
precinct wall in the north-eastern corner.161

The precinct was divided into courtyards, each serving a specific function. Thus
there were areas set aside for prayer, study, food preparation, eating, recreation,
sleeping, hospitality, workshops and storage. Besides the Great Court, there was a
Middle Court for private individuals and an Inner Court where all domestic activities
of the priory were carried out, and where building and repair work took place.
Around the claustral area were rooms and buildings set aside for administrative
purposes and the maintenance of worship, discipline and instruction. The courts
gave access to other zones, and it was usual for them to be separated by walls and
inner gateways. Parts of the precinct were reserved for recreational use, with gardens,
orchards, vines, herbarium and fishponds. Areas prone to flood, both within and
outside the precinct, were reserved as water meadows and marshlands. These lands
would also provide homes for waterfowl such as ducks, swans and geese. In the early
days a farm may have been situated in the south-west corner of the precinct, but
during the period of ‘high farming’, 1250-1345, cereals were produced at the granges
and the precinct no doubt had a pig farm. The use of bran from the bakehouse, malt
dregs from the brewhouse, together with the kitchen waste, enabled pigs to convert
waste into protein for the good of the community.162


The location of buildings was dictated by various factors, including the availability
of water and liturgical practice. The priory church was built on the best site – the
highest firmest ground and north of the river. Adjoining it were the claustral buildings,
orientated to enable the midday sun to warm the north walk of the cloister, with the
church providing shelter from the north winds. On the south side of the cloister
were the dining hall and washing place (laver), and on the east side the chapter house
with dormitory adjoining above. The cloister was an open court, enclosed by covered
alleys or walks which served specific purposes. The north side was for work and
reading and the west was used for learning and for teaching the novices.

It is impossible to describe all the changes to buildings in the precinct over four
centuries, but the majority took place in the latter half of the 12th century and the
second quarter of the 13th, although new building took place in every generation.
The undertaking of “new work” made heavy demands on a monastery, necessitating
the procurement of building stone, timber, iron and nails, lead, sand, chalk, canvas,
glass, oil etc., and the engagement of masons, carpenters, painters, glaziers and
labourers.163 So much monastic building was taking place in the 13th century in
England, creating a mountain of debt, that the papal legates Otto (1237) and Ottoboni
(1267) ordered that no existing building could be demolished without licence from
the bishop. Fortunately, Merton had its own stone-quarry at Chaldon, Surrey. It is
only possible here to mention a few changes to some of the buildings.


This was the hub of all the activities of the priory, and at Merton was referred to as
the Curia.164 Everyone passed through the Great Court at some time. Here guests
were received, messengers and servants came and went. There was an imposing
gateway (the Magna Porta) with the porter’s lodge attached which allowed admittance.
The Augustinians made a great display with their gatehouses and many were later
enlarged to become architectural features of some magnificence. At most monasteries
there were at least three phases of construction and many were rebuilt in the 14th
century.165 There was an opening high enough to allow loaded wagons to pass through
as well as a side gate for pedestrians. The location of Merton’s gatehouse is not
known but it would have given access to the Great Court. Major Heales included a
plan of the priory in his Records of Merton Priory in 1898 which marked the gatehouse
at the corner of Abbey Road and the High Street. A building called Gatehouse
existed in the High Street, east of that site, until 1906 but excavations on its site have
been inconclusive as to its original use.166

Once the visitor had passed through the gatehouse the vista of the priory church
would have loomed ahead, with its west front and the central tower dominating the
skyline.167 Visiting dignitaries would enter by the west door for an impressive procession
to the high altar before conducting business.

Southern elevation of Gatehouse
(postcard of c.1900, reproduced by
courtesy of J Goodman)

Could the double archway be medieval
in origin?

Excavations at Gatehouse site in 2000
(photograph reproduced by courtesy of

Gatehouse –
the north
Merton High
reproduced by
courtesy of
J Goodman)


Adjoining the gatehouse was the almonry where the almoner had his lodgings (domus
elemosinarium). Each day, baskets of unused food from the dining hall were sent to the
almoner to aid the poor and sick. The almoner also housed wayfarers and taught in the

The bakehouse (pistrinum) and the brewhouse (bracinum) were probably located in the
Great Court. Bread and ale were important commodities in every monastery, as they
were used for almsgiving as well as for sustenance of the brethren and guests. The
sacrist was responsible for providing unleavened bread used at mass but this was often
made in a special oven within the church. Another reason for the bakehouse to be
located in the Great Court was to encourage villagers to use the manorial ovens. The
cellarer was the master brewer and involved in producing ale of quality. The brewhouse
was close to the malting kiln and contained vats for steeping and draining the barley.

Domestic buildings, such as the tailor’s shop (sartrinum), storehouses, other lodgings
and the communal stables, were situated in the Great Court. A smithy was on hand for
shoeing and making nails, hinges, locks etc.

In the middle, away from buildings, was the pigeon-house or dovecote (columbarium).
These constructions were introduced by the Normans and were used to supply young
birds (squabs) for the table for unexpected guests. Only feudal lords and religious
houses were permitted to have dovecotes.

There may have been another gateway giving direct access from Grange farm to the
granary and kitchen area such as that provided at Waltham.168 This would not have been
ornamental and could have been situated where Abbey Road now meets High Path.

Some buildings had more than one use. Towards the end of the 13th century, prior
Gilbert deAette (1283-92) built a chamber juxta Beaulieu. When prior Edward de Herierd
resigned in 1305 he occupied this building.169 In 1336 the house of the almoner and
Beaulieu were together large enough to accommodate a meeting for the whole

Special guests passed through to an Inner Court via another gateway. Anyone wishing
to visit a canon was escorted to the outer parlour or guest parlour in the west range of
the cloister, where the visitor waited. This was an imposing room built in the style of
the period, with stone benches on each side.171


The Church – Unlike in Cistercian houses there was great variety in the layout of
Augustinian buildings. A long nave was a feature for local lay folk, with easy access,
avoiding the claustral area. Spaciousness in the nave suggests a wish to cater for large
congregations. There was the parish church in Merton village, but many lived and
worked close to the priory and would have used the priory church. There was a lay
cemetery north of the priory church.

The walls of the church were plastered and painted, sometimes decorated with designs
copied from manuscripts. Windows were filled with painted glass. Glazed floor tiles were
laid in the transepts and in the processional area of the central nave. In the aisles of the
nave was paving from Reigate stone quarries. To reduce draughts in lofty churches and
to provide privacy for the canons, a pulpitum was erected to the east of the choir screen.

An important part of a church during the later Middle Ages was the Lady chapel. An
altar, dedicated to St Mary, existed in the first church at Merton,172 but this was probably
the high altar. By 1200 the cult of the veneration of the Virgin was systematised in the
western Church, and special chapels were built for her in cathedrals and most
monasteries.173 At Merton, a “new chapel of St Mary” was built in the reign of Henry
III,174 rebuilt 1320-50, and needing repairs in 1393.175 It included Purbeck ‘marble’
columns from Dorset. In the 15th century a custodian was appointed to be responsible
for the upkeep of this chapel.176

Merton priory – floor of the nave – north side, looking west – 1988
(photograph by the author by permission of the site director)


0 5 10 20 30 40 50 metres

0 10 20 30 40 50 100 150 feet

Merton priory
probable extent of the claustral buildings in the 14th century LG

Chapter house (capitolium) –

The canons met each day in
the chapter house to discuss
and transact the business of
the monastery. The entrance
would have been highly
decorated and an eastern
apse was added to enhance
the building and to provide
more light with additional

The chapter house excavations in 1978. (Photograph reproduced by
courtesy of J Scott McCracken and Surrey Archaeological Society)


It was a sacred building and here the priors were laid to rest. Excavations have
revealed 33 graves. In one grave near the west end of the chapter house, two coins
minted at York were found which date from 1473 and 1476. The prior at this time
was John Kingston, the 27th prior, who held the post for 44 years, from 1442, and
who must have been a great age when he died on 2 January 1485. In 1471 the bishop
allowed him special privileges.177

Plan of burials in the chapter house (reproduced by courtesy of MoLAS)
Prior’s lodging – In the early days of the monastery, the prior would have slept in
the dormitory with the other canons and eaten in the dining hall. But it soon became
necessary for the prior to have separate lodgings in the west range of the cloister to
entertain visitors.

As more manors or estates were granted to the monastery, the prior became a feudal
magnate with a large establishment including his chaplain, valet, stewards, cook,
porter and watchman. His importance was such that the prior’s revenues were
separated from those of the priory. He now required a separate set of buildings, a


‘house of residence’ (see page 42) which would have been magnificent, a fine example
of small-scale domestic architecture.178 Rooms and windows were of ample size, with
probably an oriel window added in the 14th century. Together with the garderobe it
possibly had wash-basins fed by taps from a cistern. Ceilings and fireplaces would
have been lavishly decorated, and the walls covered with painted cloth or a tapestry.
The prior no doubt maintained his own chapel. Even the smallest monastery provided
comfortable quarters for the superior.179

There is evidence that at Augustinian monasteries the prior’s lodging was often situated
at the south end of the west range.180 At Merton the prior retained a room near the
cloister for in 1530 when a new prior-elect had been nominated, the elect retired “to a
certain inner chamber commonly called the prior’s chamber”.181

King’s Chamber – Large monasteries were used by the king on his progresses around
the country. Quite a few were royal foundations like Merton, and the king would
exercise founder’s right of lodging. Rooms, normally part of the prior’s lodging, were
reserved for royal use and maintained at the king’s expense. Buildings at Merton also
accommodated the king’s chancellor.

At Durham was a “goodly brave place, much like unto the body of a church with very
fine pillars on either side, and in the middle of the hall a large fireplace. The chambers
in it were richly furnished, especially one called the king’s chamber”.182

On 1 December 1257 the king ordered the royal mason, John of Gloucester, to repair
the chimney of the king’s chamber at Merton “and of his garderobe, and of the king’s
chancellor’s chamber there.”183

Dormitory (dorter) –This was at first-floor level having two staircases, one descending
directly into the church transept to enable canons to attend Matins at midnight. The
other stair communicated with the cloister. Each canon had an allotted space in the
dormitory and slept on a straw pallet. The area was divided into cubicles in the 14th
century to offer more privacy for the canons.

Latrines (rere-dorter or necessarium) – These were situated at the south end of the
dormitory and consisted of a two-storied building of considerable size and well
ventilated. The main drain, a stone-lined channel, passed beneath. Sluices were situated
near a garden for ease of access when enriching the soil with manure.

Cellarer’s range (cellarium) – This was normally on the west side of the cloister
below the prior’s lodging. In the 15th century the cellarer had a first-floor chamber near
the dormitory.184

Dining Hall (frater) – This was always aligned east-west and usually situated above
the level of the cloister, with cellarage space below. In a side wall was a pulpit from
which portions of pious works were read during meals.

Writing Room (scriptorium) and Library – These were situated in the cloister in
the early days, with books and manuscripts contained in aumbries (cupboards), built
into the inner wall of the cloister. The brethren wrote and illuminated manuscripts in
the north walk. Study-cubicles were often provided, known as ‘carrels’, containing a
desk with writing materials. Carrels were originated by Augustinian canons in 1232.185
Later a room was sometimes built above the cloister walk. There are plenty of signs
that Merton priory possessed scribes of considerable industry.186

Kitchen (coquina) – At the west end of the dining hall was the kitchen which was
often partly detached with a stone roof because of fire risks. On the roof was a
lantern with louvred panels to allow easy dissipation of steam and cooking smells.
Other buildings were provided to support the work in the kitchen – the buttery (for
storing drink), pantry (for storing food), and the bolting-house for sifting flour.187

Further away was the butchery and tannery. Offensive, smelly or noisy undertakings

– beast slaughtering, leather preparation, etc. – were kept well away from the claustral
or daily working areas. There were also corn barns (granaria), the grain dryer, ox-
house and cow-house.
Infirmary (infirmitorium) – The Augustinian Rule stressed the importance of
adequate food, shelter and medical care, although this was only available for the religious.
The works of mercy for outsiders rested with the almoner.

Merton’s infirmary was situated south-east of the claustral buildings, secluded and
furthest away from the bustle of the Great Court. The main building was a spacious
infirmary hall, and the infirmary cloister separated it from the dormitory range.
Access was from the infirmary passage south of the chapter house, much used, and
excavations have revealed that the floor was re-laid on at least 15 occasions. The hall
served for rest, exercise and for meals. It was aligned north to south and excavations
have revealed a food preparation area where fruit was a predominant feature. The
Observances of Barnwell expected that the infirmarer be always prepared. “It should
rarely or never happen that he has not ginger, cinnamon, peony and the like, ready in
his cupboard, so as to be able to render prompt assistance to the sick if stricken by
a sudden malady …”.188

A larger hall was built about 1225 with a central hearth for some comfort in cold
weather. The hearth consisted of roof tiles on edge and set in mortar. The roof was
supported by two rows of piers to form aisles. The floors were covered with roof

Beds were laid along the aisles against the walls. Later the aisles received partitions
to form rows of cubicles.


Blood letting was performed on
canons eight times a year, for
mental, physical and spiritual
stimulation. A vein was cut to
release ‘bad’ blood to restore the
balance of the humours (blood,
yellow bile, black bile and
phlegm). It was considered a treat
as canons could rest in the
infirmary or physic garden for
three days enjoying better food
and the comfort of a fire in winter.

To the east of the hall were the
infir marer’s lodging and the
kitchen. The infirmary chapel was
probably a building north of the

With all the claustral and ancillary buildings, this zone extended south to the mill
(see plan page 50).


The Guest-house – This would be sited away from the Great Court and the claustral
buildings, so that the comings and goings of guests did not interfere with the canons’
duties. In charge of the guest-house was the hostillarius who supplied fresh rushes
for the floors and attended to the needs of important guests. The cellarer was required
to visit on occasions “to see that there is neither waste nor deficiency there”.189

When the priory was enlarged about 1165, a separate building for important guests
was built. This would have consisted of a hall, latrines, meat-kitchen, parlour and a
chapel – all probably on two floors. A channel of water was drawn off the main
flow of the Wandle to service the kitchen and latrines before continuing northward
to join another flow which supplied a second mill. A courtyard with separate stables
would have been provided, and in 1312 the king’s sergeant stayed with royal horses.
Edward I paid £20 for the expense of horses and the wages of the grooms.190

An ancient building known in later years as Abbey House was demolished in 1914.
A Norman archway was revealed which had been incorporated into the front door-
case, and may have been part of the guest-house. The arch has been reconstructed
beside Merton parish church, but the site of the house is now covered by a road,
Merantun Way, and waste land. The design of the doorway has been dated to about

Hearth from one of the partitioned rooms in the infirmary
(photograph by W J Rudd by permission of the site director)

The arch discovered within Abbey House The arch as reconstructed near St Mary’s
when it was demolished in 1914 Merton Park in 1935 (Reproduced by
(Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library and Heritage Service courtesy of Merton Library and Heritage
and the Wimbledon Society) Service and the Wimbledon Society)

Watercolour c.1830 showing the rear of Abbey House and the mill serving the calico works, founded in 1724
(Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library and Heritage Service)


9 3

Early 20th-century photographs of the surviving sections of the priory wall, superimposed on an extract from the 1870s edition of the 25-inch Ordnance Survey map.
(Photographs 1-7 copyright Wimbledon Society, photographs 8- 9 copyright Merton Library and Heritage Service. Reproduced by permission. This arrangement by Cyril

… . ..



This was situated north of the presbytery of the church and contained the workshops,
but at a distance because of fire risk. The stone masons’ lodge and yard was here, as
was the blacksmith, tinsmith, plumber and glazier. Most monasteries had their own tile
kiln, not only for making tiles for precinct buildings but also for other property. By
early in the 14th century, itinerant tile makers caused monastic kilns to pass out of use.
Merton decided to reintroduce tile
making and built a new kiln about
1480 near the High Street, to
produce roof tiles, probably for
repairs to the church, infirmary and
reredorter. This kiln was
constructed of re-used late 12th
century Reigate stone.192

Large monasteries also had a bell
furnace, but no evidence has been
found at Merton.

Cemeteries – Canons were buried to the east of the chapter house, some in wooden
coffins, sometimes within a stone-lined grave,and at times in a shroud. Thelaycemetery
was north of the church and most of those interred were buried in cloth shrouds (see
also Death of a canon on pages 22 and 24).

Use of the river – The main flow of the river passed to the south of the Inner Court
which contained the site of the monastic mill. Attached to the mill was an oven which may
have been a drying room, and a large late medieval stone-lined tank, possibly used in the
manufacture of parchment. The mill was rebuilt in the 16th century when a new head-
race was constructed with re-used Reigate stone.193

Further south, but still within the precinct, were “two or three fishponds which
communicated with the river close by …”.194 These were necessary for easy access to
fish, and for breeding and storing fish. Flood meadows would have been set aside to
take excess waters.

Other Gateways – Workers from Merton, Mitcham, Morden and Tooting would have
been employed at the priory and additional gateways and posterns gave access to the
precinct. In 1240 there is reference to a gateway “near the crossroad to Carshalton”.195

Other buildings – There were many lodgings in the precinct to house the hundred or
so corrodians, monastic servants and their families. These are referred to many times
in the records, for example in 1216, 1225, 1301 and 1305, with one residence built
between the sacristy and the House of Chaplains in 1286.196

Tile kiln discovered during excavation of the Gatehouse site 2000
(photograph reproduced by courtesy of MoLAS)

12. Hospitality
“You did it for me …”

Matthew 25:40

Many important people stayed at Merton. Ewan, bishop of Evreux in Normandy,
adopted the habit of a canon of Merton in 1139. His brother Thurstan, archbishop of
York (1114-40), wished to resign in favour of Ewan “who was ranked amongst the
most learned men of his day”. But Ewan died before a decision had been reached by
pope Innocent II and he was buried at Merton.

When Hubert Walter was elected archbishop of Canterbury in 1193, he followed
Becket’s example (see Chapter 16) and came to Merton, adopting the dress of a canon
of Merton.

Merton’s hospitality extended to two canonised sons, Thomas Becket and Edmund
Rich. Edmund was born in the year of the martyrdom of Becket and lived close to
Becket’s birthplace on the north side of Poultry in the City. Edmund had intended to
teach theology, but the schools at Oxfordwere closed in 1209 following a town versus
gown dispute after the hanging of two clerks. In addition the pope was in dispute with
king John and had laid an interdict197 on England from 1208 until 1214, although this
was ignored in the diocese of Winchester (and also Norwich). Edmund chose to spend
a year or more in retreat at Merton 1213/4 preparing for his lectures until the schools
of Oxford reopened in the autumn of 1214.

It was probably while Edmund was
living at Merton that on 1 August
1213 archbishop Stephen Langton
came to Merton to resolve the
problem of the interdict with the
bishops of Ely, Lincoln and London.

The fact that Edmund chose this
place for his retreat suffices to
convince us that its reputation at that
period stood very high for strict
observance of religious discipline. It
was Edmund’s favourite resort, not
only on that occasion, but
subsequently as archbishop, when
“he would often leave his
occupations and go there to refresh
his spirit with the exercises of
religious life”.198

Consecration of St Edmund Rich by Roger le Noir,
bishop of London 2 April 1234
Based on British Library MS Roy 14C vii
Matthew Paris Historia


Edmund was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury on 2 April 1234, and was back
at the priory in 1236 presiding over the Council of Merton (see Chapter 16). In 1239
he held an ordination in the priory church, and he returned in 1240 and died soon
after.199 Merton priory petitioned the pope to make Edmund Rich a saint, informing
him that he spent time at Merton “going in and out as one of the canons themselves”.
Edmund was made a saint in 1248.

Hubert de Burgh arrived for a
different reason. He was Justiciar
(virtually the prime minister) and
came in 1232, but found it
necessary to seek sanctuary. The
pope had accused him of
withholding revenue of the
churches in England which were
held by papal nominees. He was
hated by Londoners for hanging
the leader of a popular riot, and
the king charged him with
mismanaging treasury funds. He
was summoned to attend a council
at Lambeth but refused to leave the
safety of the priory. The king
ordered the mayor of London to
raise all citizens who could bear
arms and take him dead or alive.
As many as 20,000 men set out for
Merton brandishing arms and
waving banners. When de Burgh
was informed he prostrated
himself before the high altar. The
earl of Chester warned the king of the danger of the mob and he revoked the order,
much to the disappointment of the crowd. Hubert de Burgh left Merton to seek
sanctuary elsewhere.

In 1263 William Vadlet sought refuge having committed a murder, and Henry de
Michelham for stealing a chalice.200

Bishop Bronescombe was fond of staying at Merton. In 1257 he was archdeacon of
Surrey and was made bishop of Exeter in 1258. He returned to Merton on 15 March
1258, and came again on 25 March 1260. His final visit was on 23 January 1280 and
he returned to Exeter where he died on 22 July 1280.201

‘Hubert de Burgh, barefoot and clad only in his undergarments,
before the altar of Merton, awaits in prayer his death.
For the citizens of London, his enemies, are approaching.’
Based on a drawing by Matthew Paris in his Historia,
now in the British Library

John Peckham, another archbishop of Canterbury, loved visiting Merton and died
at the priory on 8 December 1292.202 From 1270 to 1277 he was a lecturer at Oxford
and in 1278/9 at Rome. Pope Nicholas III appointed him to be archbishop and,
although this was against Peckham’s wishes, he was enthroned at Canterbury on 8
October 1279. He invited the prior of Merton to attend.203 The archbishop defended
church authority, which upset the king and nobles and resulted in the passing of the
Statute of Mortmain. This prevented a dying person from giving land to a church or
corporation. Such gifts could not be sold or transferred, as it was in a dead hand
(French – mortmain = dead hand). The statute was designed to curb the increasing
wealth of the Church and safeguard feudal dues. Peckham corrected many abuses
of the Church and in 1281 tried to check the growth of plurality (the holding of
more than one benefice at the same time).

He enjoyed the hospitality of the priory on 2 November 1281204 and wrote to Rome
in 1282 commending Merton as “the best of the religious in his Province”.205 In
April 1282 he had to invoke a threat of excommunication (to be excluded from
communion and privileges of the Church) against William Daumbeses for being
hostile and disturbing the liberties of Merton priory.206 The archbishop came to
Merton again in 1292, died later that year, and was buried at Canterbury near the
martyrdom site of Thomas Becket on 19 December.

William of Wykeham was chancellor (twice) and became bishop of Winchester in
1367. He helped to set up the Good Parliament which passed laws to regulate trade
and protect subjects from oppression. John of Gaunt returned to England after
fighting in France, and dissolved Parliament. He decided to reduce the power of the
bishops and replaced several prelates (including Wykeham) with barons in parliament
in order to reverse the measures previously passed. Wykeham was accused of
embezzlement of a million pounds and of releasing French hostages for bribes. He
was forbidden to come within 20 miles of the royal court and left Southwark Palace
in December 1376 and sought refuge at Merton priory. He was probably reminded
that Merton was only eight miles from Westminster and he moved on to Newark
priory which was 23 miles from London. No doubt he wished to be at his palace at
Farnham but feared the consequences, as he was no longer bishop. Instead in January/
February 1377 he went to Waverley abbey. In June 1377 Richard II came to the
throne and Wykeham was pardoned. He then endowed a college at Winchester and
founded New College, Oxford in 1379.

In June/July 1526 Edward Seymour, duke of Somerset and later Protector of England
stayed at the priory with his retinue. The cost for the wine required for his stay at
Durham Place, London and at Merton priory in 1526 was £20 for three tuns (756
gallons, approximately 3400 litres).207


Ad Succurrendum

It was the practice in the 12th century for men to enter a monastery late in life, or
simply to wear the holy habit in order that they might be found thus on Judgment
Day. These were known as the religious ad succurrendum (towards succour/salvation).

A generous grant of property accompanied the gesture and in return the donor
received a canon’s allowance of food and drink together with a small money allowance.
Some of Merton’s benefactions came from such persons, e.g. Eudo de Malden
(Malden/Chessington churches) and Peter de Tolworth (Long Ditton church).208


The practice of ad succurrendum became far less common from 1200 when monasteries
began to grant corrodies with a legal commitment. Because this required approval
of the brethren with the priory seal, the cartulary contains many records. In return
for a lump sum or property, the priory undertook to provide, for the rest of the
corrodians’ lives, lodging, food, drink, fire-wood, candles and often clothing and

Lay persons giving a benefaction page nos in Heales

1219 Alice Velet dowry land 78
c1220 Peter Normannia land in London 77
1217 Richard le Franceis and wife 73/4
1222×31 Warin, merchant 83/4, 94
1231×38 Sir Michael, merchant 94
1239 Godiva le Viel 10 acres of land in Mitcham CRR XVI 871
1239×40 Richard Besant 102
1239×48 Andrew de Shelwode and wife 103
1246 William de Southwark and wife a messuage 113
1249×63 John de Awelton 115
1249×63 Sir G de Haremede’ 118
1249×63 Sir John & Lady Gundreda Hansard land of La Legh and Tolworth

c1258 Roger le Furbur tenement given in 1260

120 & 137
1264 Jordan de Wahull 141/2
1288 Andrew son of William Morel 20 shillings(£1) 170
1301 Richard de Wolcherehaw and wife 189
1392 un-named 145 marks (£97) 284
c1395 Nicholas Vyleys, grocer 289
c1395 John Curaunt 289

x = limit of possible date

This is not a complete list of corrodians. Corrodies were also granted to priests
awaiting appointment to a benefice, and as a favour on behalf of influential prelates.


Superannuated servants of the crown Source page nos in Heales

1262×72 Hugh ‘portario’ 139
1313 Lambert Clay Close Roll 6 Edw. II m15. 211; VCH 2 p.97
1317 Alan de Santo Botolphe Close Roll 10 Edw. II m5d. 219; VCH2 p.97
1318 Geoffrey de Thorpe Close Roll 12Edw. II m19d. 222
1331 Thos. Holbode and John de Bul Close Roll 5 Edw. III; VCH 2 p.97
1340 Bartholomew de Langele VCH 2 p.97
In 1340/1 the prior denied that the king had any rights.
In 1392 he complained of the corrody system. (Heales p.245 & 277)
1342 John Nichol VCH 2 p.97/8
1343 John Mareys VCH 2 p.97/8
c1377 Edmund Tettesworth 264
1387 John Mandelyn and wife 264,277
1400 John ffraunceys (but prior complained
Mandelyn’s wife still in occupation) 293/4
1477 William Clifton Patent Rolls 16 Edward IV p.14
1516 Launcelot Lisle 322
1520 John Westwode (pension) Record Office Cal. 326
1521 John Pate, groom of the wardrobe Record Office Cal. 329
1530 Sir Bryan Case (pension) Record Office Cal. 334

Servants of the priory

1222×31 Geoffrey de Mara (or Mora) 82
1222×31 R Tapevil 83
1231×38 Philip 94
1232×38 Robert de Bocland and wife 94
1239×48 Roger Walens 104
1239×48 John de la Haye and wife 104
1249×63 Gilbert de Coocham 121
1249×63 William de Chesham 121
1282 William de Faith, gatekeeper 164
1286 Dyonisius de Thorrok Master, clerk (d.1317) 168
1305 Edmund de Herierd, former prior 194
1310 Henry Hoclegh, gatekeeper 204
1313 Richard de Pennark 211/2
1318 Geoffrey de Whethamsted 220
1323 Richard Bavel 225

Chaplains servicing chantries

1238 Alan de Chelsham 102
1239×48 Roger 103
1249×63 Richard de Bandon 118
1307/8 William de Colecester 199
1320 John Purnel de Burgh (for Sir Alan de Chelsham) 223
c1320 William Gavel 223/4


forage for a horse. In 1288 Andrew, son of William Morel, bought a corrody (corredium)
for 20 shillings (£1) but it was not extinguished for another 29 years.209

Corrodians were usually wealthy laymen who were received as paying guests in return
for an adequate capital sum. This often was an opportunity to obtain ready money for
the monastery to complete a building project or pay for repairs. In 1392 Merton sold
one corrody for 145 marks (£97) when they needed 240 marks (£160) to repair the
lady chapel.210 At the Augustinian house of Kirkham, Yorkshire, the canons were in
debt following the rebuilding of their choir in the 13th century. The sale of 16 corrodies
met their immediate needs. In 1387 the bishop of Winchester warned the canons of
St Thomas’s hospital, Southwark, that they had arranged too many corrodies so that
“the poor were deprived of their rightful maintenance”. The scheme was an early
form of pension provision, but it operated without the advice of actuaries, so often
the results were financially ruinous, as the total costs exceeded the value of the capital

Deeds were drawn up setting out in detail the terms and location of residence. In
1216 Sir Amicius was granted a site in the precinct “in which he had built houses
which were consumed by fire”.211 In 1286 Dyonisius de Thorrok was given leave to
build a house on a site near the sacristy, of 74ft x 66ft (22.6m x 20.1m).212 This he
enjoyed until his death in 1317 after 31 years. In 1310 Henry Hoclegh was given
residence beside the Great Gate.213 Between 1200 and 1350 several corrodians had
their lodgings in the Curia or Great Court, some with gardens. These were probably
situated along Merton High Street facing south. Corrodians were normally housed in
the infirmary or infirmary cloister. There were five corrodians in the priory in 1393.210

Some corrodies were annuities where the priory paid a pension. Others were for
food and fuel without residence. A corrody at Dunstable included the support of two
boys, one of whom was at school.214

Hospitality without corrodies was available to lawyers, physicians, schoolmasters, and
craftsmen who had served the priory. Servants were often granted a bread and beer
allowance as part of their remuneration.

Royal foundations (and kings often claimed that Merton was one) gave the Crown
the right to grant corrodies to ex-officers of the royal household. This included men-
at-arms who had grown old in fighting for the king and became non-paying guests
living on hallowed ground. In the 14th century the prior of Merton complained to the
king about the system, but it was not until the 16th century that the Crown began to
pay for these corrodies.

Some English kings decided to impose a royal servant in exchange for sanctioning
the nomination of any new prior. Edward III imposed corrodians on the priory in
1335 and 1339 on the appointment of new priors. The king took the prior to court in

1341 for not admitting Nicholas de la Garderobe to a corrody at the king’s command,
and John Nichol was admitted in 1342. He died soon after and the corrody passed to
John Mareys.215 In 1520 Merton was required by Henry VIII to give hospitality to the
minister of the chapel-royal (John Westwode) and again in 1530 to Bryan Case, in
return for authorising new priors.216

The usual daily allowance was the convent miche (loaves), one gallon of the best
beer,217 and the current ration of food from the kitchen.218 The corrodians were
usually lay people and such generosity must have been galling to professed canons.


Hunting was strictly forbidden by canon law to those in monasteries, and most of
Surrey was reserved for the king’s pleasure under forest law. The canons were however
permitted to hunt when acting as hosts to visiting
dignitaries. In 1252 Henry III allowed Merton to
hunt game in their manors of Surrey and
Buckinghamshire.219 A rabbit warren of 24 acres
(10 ha) existed at Merton Grange. The canons
were ordered not to hunt with dogs or even keep
sporting dogs by themselves or others, openly or

Hunting scenes on tile fragmentssecretly within the priory or without, contrary to found at Merton priory by Colonel Bidderthe Order in chapter. 220 The bishop forbade

SAC 38 pt I (1929) p.58
canons “to go out in sight of secular persons with (reproduced by permission)
bows and crossbows”.133

For the prior it was a different matter. He had to maintain his position in society and
in 1291 the king gave him licence to assart (remove woodland) and impark (fence in)
40 acres (16 ha) of land adjoining his estate of Northwood and Le Frith at
Kingswood.221 The prior already held a deer park at Godmanchester, Huntingdonshire.
The king also requested his seneschal (steward) of royal forests in Hampshire not to
annoy the prior of Merton on account of hunting with dogs.222

Beasts of warren included hare, rabbit, badger, pheasant, partridge and woodcock.
Beasts of the chase included deer, fox and wolf.

Bishop’s Visitation

See Chapter 9 – Administration Within.

Visitors’ accommodation depended on their social status. Ordinary folk and attendants
would be accommodated by the almoner, close to the Great Gate. Nobles would stay at
the guest-house and favoured guests might stay with the prior. Houses existed for specified
officers and there was a house for chaplains of chantries associated with the priory.


Two views of the monastic drain, uncovered in March 1990.
Both views look north. The latrine drain is shown in the upper photograph.
(Photographs by the author by permission of the site director)

13. Royal Visitors
“Come in the evening; come in the morning;
Come when expected, or come without warning.”

An Irish Welcome

Even before the first buildings at Merton were completed, queen Matilda (Maud),
wife of Henry I, came to visit the site to show interest in the welfare of the monastery.
This was probably in 1116, some years after she had assisted in the Augustinian
foundation of Aldgate priory in London in 1107. She returned to the new site at
Merton in early 1118, this time with her son, prince William, to show the results of
pious deeds.223 Unfortunately she died on 1 May 1118 and prince William was
drowned in 1120 when the White Ship foundered. The priory mourned both deaths.

It is doubtful if Henry II (1154-89) ever visited the priory because he spent two-
thirds of his reign out of England. But he was made aware of its presence
subsequently by his chancellor, Thomas Becket, once a student at Merton. Many of
the king’s gifts to Merton priory were at the instigation of Becket. The charters were
executed by the king and witnessed by Thomas at Caen, Rouen and Bruges in 1156
or early 1157.224 The king gave the manor of Ewell which included the sub-manors
of Kingswood, Shelwood and north Leatherhead. He completed the rebuilding of
the priory and endowed it in 1165.225

King John often stayed at the priory. In 1204 he stayed from 14 to 18 June, together
with the archbishop, the bishops of Ely, Salisbury and Norwich, the earl marshal
and the earls of Arundel and Essex.226 John stayed again on 8 June
1215 whilst the barons occupied London. From Merton he issued
safe-conduct passes to enable a joint meeting to take place at
Runnymede.227 The king had deposited some of the royal treasure
at Merton, which Adam the cellarer had to take to Winchester on
27 June 1216.228 The king died in October 1216.

No king of England stayed at the priory more than Henry III.
From an early age he was involved with national events at Merton
and from 1227 chose to maintain lodgings at the priory. Rooms
were also set aside for the chancery so that governmental business
could operate from Merton. Henry was glad to remove himself
from the constraints of court life at Westminster and would often
spend Christmas and Easter at Merton. He first came to Merton
when only nine whilst the pope’s legate, Gualo, and the regent,
William Marshal, brokered a deal with Louis the dauphin of France.
Following the agreement the dauphin left Merton for France in

his tomb in


Westminster abbey

Henry III, from


In January 1236, Henry married Eleanor of Provence and spent a week at Merton
presiding over the council of Merton.230 (see Chapter 16). While at Merton in April
1246 he prohibited a joust planned to take place at Guildford.231 Throughout Henry
III’s reign many charters were attested at Merton, as follows:

Cal. Pat. Rolls Cal. Lib. Rolls Close Rolls Other Other Sources
(Patent = open,
not sealed)
Mar. 1233
Jan. 1236
April 1237
Dec. 1245
Jan. 1246
April 1246
May 1249
(Liberate = delivered)
May/June 1227
April 1239
Mar. 1233
May 1252
Sept. 1256
Jan. 1255
April 1256
Feb. 1253
April 1255
Jan. 1256
May 1252 Heales p.124
Heales p.125
Heales p.130
Heales p.131
Heales p.131
Dec. 1256 W Kennett Parochial
Antiquities 1695 p.251;
Mon Ang p.66.
Jan. 1257 Jan. 1257 Jan. 1257 Heales p.131
May 1257
Jan. 1258
April 1258
Jan. 1259
March 1259
April 1259
May 1257
Jan. 1258
April 1258
April 1259
May 1257 Beds. Historic.
Records Soc.
xliii (1963) No. 49
Heales p.136
Oct. 1259 Oct. 1259 WAM 15999d

Edward I and Eleanor of Castile were crowned together atWestminster on 19 August
1274 when their young son Henry, heir to the throne, was only six years old. Henry
became very ill and his mother and grandmother considered a break in the countryside
would be beneficial. They stayed at Guildford palace (castle) but on the return journey
they stopped at Merton where the lad died on 14 October 1274.232 Masses were said
for his soul and the cortège proceeded to Westminster for the funeral.

Edward I and Edward II chose to use monasteries as a source of revenue to fight
their wars against certain barons, the Welsh, or the Scots, and never came to Merton
for spiritual refreshment. Queen Isabella finally despaired of Edward II’s way of life
and visited the prior of Merton in January 1327 to seek his support in parliament to
force the king to abdicate.233

Edward III was a successful king and at Epiphany 1347 decided to hold royal
sports and theatricals at Merton priory.234 He wished to celebrate his victories at
Sluys (1340) and Crécy (1346). Here, 26 mummers disguised themselves with masks,
as dragons and men “with diadems”. Such entertainment gave rise to mockery, rooted
in pre-Christian beliefs which Christianity never entirely eradicated. So the prior and
convent are unlikely to have enjoyed the celebrations.

Mummers wearing animal masks dance to music provided by a boy playing a cittern
(based on Bodleian Library, Oxford, Ms. 264, f.21v)

Henry IV chose to hold a privy council at Merton in

The troublesome reign of Henry VI involved his being
crowned in England and France several times. On the
occasion of his 16th birthday he was crowned at Merton
priory on 1 November 1437,236 when he was given
increased powers to govern England.

Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VIII, stayed at the
priory from 17 to 19 October1533.237

A choice of crowns
Henry VI from a print after the painting
on glass at King’s College, Cambridge


Churches appropriated to Merton priory in the 12th century

Place Advowson Date appropriation Source
granted begun completed


Bedford – St Peter

Eaton Bray with Whipsnade c.1130 c.1130 1211


Upton before 1157


Barton c.1174 1267 Heales p.147


Coomb Keynes with Wool c.1171 c.1171 1291 Heales p.74

East Lulworth c.1220 1338 Heales p.74


Bishops Sutton c.1170 c.1172 1340 Heales p.25

with Ropley


Kimpton c.1200 c.1220 Heales p.65

Stanstead Abbots c.1160 before 1190 before 1291 Heales p.45


Alconbury before 1274 Heales p.155

Godmanchester c.1140 1218 Heales p.74/5

Patrixbourne with Bridge before 1198 1258 1399 Heales pp.45/6,292
Ryarsh 1242 Heales pp.110,132


Flore c.1200 1200 Heales p.55


Duns Tewe c.1120 c.1120 Heales pp.27,35/6, 297


Midsomer Norton 1174×87 c.1212 1292/3 Heales pp.26, 43, 179

Carshalton before 1148 c.1180 1297 Heales pp.26/7,47,261
Cuddington 1121×30 1186 1309 Heales pp.39,166,202
Effingham c.1147 c.1180 1299 Heales.p.178
Kingston, “from a very early date” c.1160 Heales p.66, 67
with the chapels of Thames Ditton, E Molesey and Sheen.
(Petersham had its own endowment for a chaplain)
Merton before 1121 before 1121


Somerford Keynes c.1174 c.1174 1338 Heales p.74

x = limit of possible date

14. Endowments
“…the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Luke 12: 48

The barons and knights who supported the Conqueror in 1066 were rewarded with
properties scattered across many counties of England. By the time Henry I became
king, a succeeding generation possessed these diffused estates and found them difficult
to administer. Many of the less convenient properties were given to endow religious
houses. This often made sense, as the monasteries could take a long-term view of
their economy and improve land, clearing wastes and woodlands. As this coincided
with the growth of the Augustinian Order, monasteries’ endowments were spread

Gilbert the founder of Merton was not one of the nobles. He was one of Henry I’s
‘new men’, those “of ignoble stock and raised, so to speak, from dust, and exalted
above counts and illustrious castellans …”, or so wrote a contemporary English
monk Orderic Vital 238 who spent his life in Normandy. But Gilbert was instrumental
in obtaining endowments from sons of noblemen to support his new foundation.
Barnwell possessed many churches from its foundation.239 (See p.7) Gilbert was
able to persuade the king to convey the minster church of Kingston to him.240 This
church also served East Molesey, Thames Ditton, Petersham and Sheen (Richmond).
It may have been in the mind of Gilbert that the priory would become a centre for
administering and satisfying all spiritual demands of endowed parish churches.

After the king’s gift of the manor of Merton to the priory in 1121, Robert the prior
“sent word to bishops, abbots and others about the poverty of the institution. Each
gave what he could, and some nobles, upon entering Merton contributed certain
things …”.241 Hugo, brother of the prior, gave the church of Tew (Duns Tewe),
Oxfordshire “which was a great means of support”.241

Gisulf the Scribe was drowned in the White Ship disaster in 1120. His successor was
Bernard who, with his brother, spent much time re-establishing family fortunes which
had been lost. As they retrieved property between 1120 and 1130 it was entrusted to
Merton priory. His brother eventually became a canon at Merton. Hugh de Lavel
gave the church of Cuddington to Bernard, and this together with the church of
Kingscliffe, Northamptonshire, came to Merton.242

About 1147 William de Dammerton granted to the priory the church of Effingham,243
and Faramus of Boulogne gave the church of Carshalton. Also in the 12th century
William Testard gave the churches of St Mary and Holy Trinity at Guildford. The
advowson of Ewhurst church was also given to the priory.

About 1150, the priory was granted the church of King’s Norton, Somerset.244


To add to the churches around Kingston; Malden and Chessington were given to
the priory by Eudo de Malden, and Long Ditton by Peter de Talworth,245 although
not until about 1185. Eudo’s father, William, had given a hide of land in Malden
about 1150.246

Appropriated churches (see table on p.76)

The normal process by which monasteries received income from a church was by
appropriation when the religious house became the ‘rector’ of the parish. Perpetual
vicars were appointed to perform parochial duties and were paid a stipend to cover
costs. After appropriation some incumbents retained the tithes but paid a pension to
the monastery, whilst others took only the lesser tithes and received some payment
from the monastery. The approval of bishop, king and pope had to be obtained for
appropriation, which often took years.

Of the 289 appropriated churches in the diocese of Winchester, the Augustinian
houses held 53 churches, of which Merton priory held 10.


When Henry II granted the manor of Ewell to Merton priory in 1156 it marked a
change in feudalism. Ewell manor was the economic and judicial centre for many of
the priory’s smaller estates in the neighbourhood, some of which became independent
manors in due course. With the granting of other estates throughout England, the
prior became responsible for the repair of highways, the upkeep of bridges, clearing
ditches and obstructed pathways, polluted mills and many other obligations. In each
manor the prior employed bailiffs and stewards to act for him and administer the
manorial courts.

By 1242 there were 200 estates in 16 counties. In 1535 Merton was receiving income
from 69 churches, 35 manors and 39 mills. In Surrey, Merton owned 24 manors and
had an interest in 15 mills. Of the churches in Surrey, eight had been appropriated
and Merton held the advowsons of another six.

Part of the surviving precinct wall, looking west, 1990 (photograph by the author)






Taplow (3)
Upton including Wexham



Winterbourne Stickland

Bere RegisBradford



Holdshot (fulling)


Morehall (Thorley)

Stanstead Abbots




LullingstoneSt Paul’s Cray


Charlton (Sunbury)


BlicklingCastle Acre
King’s LynnSalthouse





South Weston


Midsomer Norton



Little Ashtead

Carshalton (2 + fulling)
Banstead (c.1377)

East MoleseyBerwell (Kingston)

Biggin & Tamworth (Mitcham)

Fetcham – ‘La Hale’
Cannon Court (Fetcham)

Kingston – Middle
Chessington at Hook (Kingston)

Merton – Amery Coombe Nevill (Kingston)

Priory Dunsford (Wandsworth)

Mitcham – PhippsEast Molesey

Wickford (2)

Tollsworth (Chaldon)
Hartington (Kingston)

Wallington (fulling)
Kingswood (Ewell)

West Molesey (2)
Pachensham (Leatherhead)
Polesden Lacey Shelwood (Ewell)
South Tadworth (Banstead)
Tollsworth (Chaldon)
Tooting Bec (1394-1422)
Wimbledon (1363-76)


Perching (windmill)
Poynings Preston


Great Chelworth (Cricklade)


Akenberg Belagh



































church •
mill •

Properties belonging to Merton priory in and around Merton

15. A Local Landlord
by Peter Hopkins

“Honest labour bears a lovely face;
Then hey nonny, nonny, hey nonny, nonny.”
Thomas Dekker Patient Grissil

After Henry I granted permission in 1121 for the ville of Merton to be given to the
priory, “Gilbert … returned to Merton, and on the following day he summoned to
church the men of the town and gave them into the power of the prior”.247

The villagers were not merely the prior’s tenants, they were “in his power”. As the
prior’s villeins they owed him a cash rent for the land and dwelling they held from him;
they had to attend his courts and submit to his justice (he was entitled to set up a
gallows in Merton);248 they had to pay him fines for a range of activities – for permission
to live outside the manor, for daughters to marry, for sons to take holy orders, for
licence to sell their own corn or to cut their own timber, and at death to give him their
best beast as heriot as well as an entry fine payable by the heir; they owed payments in
kind, such as eggs at Easter; and every week they were required to work one day on his
land and even more at harvest time.

By the 14th century it would appear that some of these demands had been relaxed, no
doubt in exchange for further cash payment, but with the labour shortage caused by
the Black Death the priory decided to reinstate the labour services and other
requirements. This met with fierce opposition from the tenantry:

In 1348, “litigation arose concerning the customs of the manor of Merton. Stephen in
the Hale, John Jakes, Richard Est and other men of the Prior of Merton complained of
his unscrupulous exaction of services and customs such as had not been wont when the
king held this demesne. The men alleged they held only by fealty and rent; but the prior
exacted one day’s forced labour a week, and compelled their services for mending a
ditch called Le Brok, shearing the prior’s sheep for two days (for which they only received
½d. a day), mowing his meadows for a day and a half, with pay of 1½d. a day, each man
also having to find three men for three days to carry the prior’s hay, and for three half-
days to take the grain, for nothing. Further, the prior exacted for twelve days a year
twenty-four men to reap his corn with an allowance of ¾d. for four days’ food, and ½d.
for eight days’ food. Further, they had to sift the prior’s malt from the feast of St.
Andrew [30th Nov.] to Christmas, with a 4d. fine for any leakage, and to harrow 1 acre
for a loaf worth ¼d.; besides which the prior exacted ten eggs a year from each on
Good Friday. The upkeep of the bridge between Merton and Kingston was also one of
their tasks. Their sons could not escape this bondage by taking holy orders without
paying the prior a fine, and none might sell their own corn or cut down their own timber
without the prior’s licence. To all these and other allegations the prior could only aver
the men were his serfs, a charge they denied, and to prevent them from prosecuting the
suit he tried to impoverish them by heavily distraining them by their goods and chattels.”249


Relations between the prior and his tenants were not always good. An undated petition
to a king from his ‘poor tenants of ancient demesne of manor of Merton’ complains
of extreme measures taken by the prior. He and a fellow canon, William de Kent
(Cantia), were accused of entering the tenants’ houses, breaking open their chests and
violently taking away their proofs of title to their properties. The tenants appealed to
the king that the prior should be made to answer for such abuse of their heritage, ‘of
which their predecessors had been enfeoffed by King Harold, and that the king would
grant protection to his poor tenants of Merton’.250

The parish church was also in the priory’s possession. As rector of the church it enjoyed
the right to receive tithes of their tenants’ crops and livestock, and also to receive
mortuary payments and other oblations. Unlike other rectories appropriated to the
priory, Merton did not have a vicar, as the church was served by the canons, and later
by chaplains appointed by the priory.251

By the end of the 15th century few of the customary tenants held land in the open
fields of the manor, most having just a small croft adjoining their dwelling. Several
tenants held more than one copyhold tenement, and these were often merged into a
single property. The proximity of the priory attracted a succession of wealthy citizens
of London. In 1487 Thomas Lok headed a consortium of London mercers in buying
the freehold property opposite the parish church, later known as Church House. This
property stayed in the Lock family until 1646. Thomas also bought several copyhold
properties in Merton,but sold them all in 1498 to another citizenof London, a clothseller
named Lawrence Aylemer, who in turn sold them in 1500. The properties included
two tenements, two messuages, five cottages, and numerous tofts, crofts, parcels of
enclosed land, and strips in the open arable fields and meadows.252

Within the next few years the priory took possession of all but three acres (1.2 ha) of
the arable land formerly held by its customary tenants, and created large compact
farms. This was achieved partly through land defaulting to the priory on the death of
tenants without heirs, partly by repossession of land where the tenant had broken the
‘customs of the manor’ by letting his dwelling fall into ruin or by cutting timber without
permission, and partly by the ‘voluntary’ surrender of the property by the tenant.252

When the priory was dissolved in 1538 there was one freehold tenement in Merton,
and 13 copyholds, as well as two tenements, six cottages and three parcels of land held
‘at will’ or leased on a yearly basis.253 The large compact farms were also leased to
tenants for fixed terms – West Barnes (579 acres – 235 ha); Merton Grange (396 acres

– 160 ha); Merton Holts (180 acres – 73 ha), and Salyngs (no acreage given). Even the
rectorial right to receive tithes was leased, together with “a tenement and parcel of
land on the west side of the parish church, with a barn and close called the parsonage
barn”. ‘Canondownehill’ (60 acres – 24 ha), several parcels of land between Kingston
Road and Cannon Hill Lane which later became Bakers Farm (146 acres – 59 ha), and

various parcels of meadow and pasture in Merton, Morden and Mitcham (144 acres –
58 ha), remained in hand as demesne land, along with the precinct itself.254

A further 30 acres in Merton formed part of another priory estate called Hobalds,
mainly in Morden (82½ acres – 33 ha), but with a further 30 acres adjoining in Malden.
North-east Surrey Crematorium and its cemetery now occupy most of the site of the
farm in Lower Morden. The estate was given to the priory in the early 13th century.255
Another estate in Morden, ‘le Spital’, between Central Road and Farm Road, had also
come into the priory’s possession by the end of the 13th century.256

The priory also held several estates in neighbouring Mitcham, most of them since the
13th century. By 1538 these included “the Manor of Byggyng and Tamworth, certain
land called Amery landes in Micham, and land called Mareshlandes in Micham and
Carshalton”.257 It also held land called “Bygrave Hyll in Mycham”, leased with lands
known as “Hydefeld and Balam mede in Clapham”.258 It also received rents from
certain lands at “Pyppisbrigg and in Bygrove Hyll and elsewhere in Totyng Graveney”.259

To the west of Merton the priory held land called “Appuldore in Maldon and
Kyngestone”, which later formed part of Blagdon Farm.258 Further Appuldore lands
were attached to its manor of “Combnevell”,260 which it had received in 1423/4.261
Also in Coombe was the Manor of “Chartington” or Hartington Coombe, held since
at least the beginning of the 13th century.262 Other possessions in the Kingston district
included the manor of Berwell,263 and “the manor of Chessyngdon at le Hoke in
Chessington”.258 It also held “the Rectory of Kyngeston, with appurtenances in
Kyngeston, Surveton, Norveton, Hampp, Hathe, Petrysham, Cayho and Shene.”264
The priory had also held the advowson of Malden church from the late 12th century
until it was given to Walter de Merton in 1265, towards the endowment of Merton
College, Oxford.

In nearbyWandsworth Merton priory held the Manor of Dunsford, since the mid 12th
century at least, and a “tenement in Wannesworth called le Garrett”.265

Just down the A24, or rather Stane Street, was the manor of Ewell which included
Kingswood. This was a ‘gift’ of King Henry II in 1155/6.266 Also attached to this
manor in 1538 was “certain land called Holbroke in Okeley”.267 The manor of
Shelwood, including “lands in Lye, Horley, Charlwood and Newdegate”, had historically
been part of their manor of Ewell.268 The priory also held 118 acres (48 ha) of land in

Other Surrey manors included Tollsworth in Chaldon,270 Little Ashtead,271 Cannon
Court in Fetcham,272 Polesden Lacey,273 and South Tadworth in Banstead.273 The priory
had held a manor in Molesey until 1535 when Henry VIII exchanged it for property in
Staffordshire.274 All these manors had been in the priory’s possession since the 12th or
early 13th century. The priory also briefly held the leases of three other Surrey manors


– the Archbishop of Canterbury’s manor of Wimbledon for 13 years from 1363/
4;275 the royal manor of Banstead from 1377;276 and the manor of Tooting Bec from
around 1394 to 1422. 277 In all these manors it exercised full manorial jurisdiction, as it
did in the manor of Merton itself.
Also in Surrey, Merton priory held full rectorial rights in Carshalton, Effingham and
Cuddington,278 though part of the tithe went to support the vicar. It appointed the
rectors of Ewhurst, Guildford, and Long Ditton and received pensions from them,
having held the advowson of each of these churches since the 12th century. It was also
entitled to portions of tithes from “the farm of Tullesworth in Chaldon and from
mills in Carshalton”.279

Mills, both for grinding corn and for fulling cloth, often appear in the priory’s records.
As well as the Carshalton mills it held interests in mills in Ewell, Fetcham, Kingston,
Mitcham, Molesey, and Tandridge, as well as, of course, in Merton itself.

The priory also had a quarry at Tollsworth,280 a vineyard at Sutton,281 and a fishery on
the Thames, with weirs at Kew and Brentford.282

It also received rents from properties in Beddington, Carshalton, Chaldon, Chelsham,
Chessington, Crowhurst, Ditton, East Horsley, Fetcham, Hook, Horley, Horne,
Kingston, Leatherhead, Malden, Mickleham, Polesden, Sutton, Tandridge, Tolworth,
Wallington, Walton on Thames and Warlingham,283 as well as from various properties
in London and Southwark.284


Map of north-east Surrey, showing location

of properties belonging to Merton priory




Petersham Garrett





WIMBLEDON Tooting Graveney





East Mitcham









Walton on



















16. A Glimpse of Greatness
“Be not afraid of greatness … Some have greatness thrust upon them.”
Twelfth Night Act 2

Consecration of Becket as archbishop, based on British Library Royal MS.2.B.7

The priory’s associations with Thomas
Becket were not restricted to his education
(see Chapter 6 – Centre of Learning). He
was instrumental in obtaining benefactions
to complete the building of the priory. On
being elected to the archbishopric at
Westminster abbey on 23 May 1162, his
priority was to ride straight to Merton with
a large following of clerics and lay folk. Here
he adopted the habit of an Augustinian
canon and chose brother Robert to be his

Robert had probably been a student with
him some 35 years earlier and stayed with
Thomas until his dying day at the
martyrdom in Canterbury cathedral.

Assassination of Becket, from an ancient painting on
a board hung at the head of the tomb of Henry IV in
Canterbury cathedral


Hubert Walter

When Richard I came to the throne in 1189, Hubert Walter was made bishop of
Salisbury. He had already taken a vow to join the crusades, and he left England on
16 September 1190 and was present at the siege of Acre on 12 October. When
justiciar Ranulf de Glanville’s death was followed by that of archbishop Baldwin on
19 November, Hubert had greatness thrust upon him and became the chief spiritual
leader. The historian Ralph de Diceto refers to him as “the bishop of Salisbury and
the English”.286 On his return to England he was consecrated archbishop of
Canterbury on 20 April 1193, and “he considered it advisable to become a monk
and was received as an Austin (Augustinian) canon at Merton”.287

The Interdict

King John had a poor relationship with the pope and the barons. The country was
laid under interdict by Innocent III on 23 March 1208 and subsequently the king
was excommunicated. For six years the churches in England were officially closed
and silent. Stephen Langton, the pope’s choice for the new archbishop of Canterbury,
spent five years (1208-13) at Pontigny, France, awaiting permission from king John
to proceed to Canterbury. Services at Merton priory would have continued as normal,
for the bishops of Norwich and Winchester refused to act on the interdict. The
abbots of the London monasteries were not so fortunate, as the king kept them
prisoner until they had paid sufficient money for their release. Many of the bishops,
relieved of their duties, fled to the continent and John seized their revenues.

John despatched five special messengers to negotiate with the pope and promised to
abide by their deliberations. On 27 February 1213 the pope declared that as only
three of the messengers had presented themselves, nothing could be agreed. One
of the missing messengers was Richard of Merton. Finally the king accepted the
pope’s choice on 15 May 1213 and ceded the kingdom to the pope. Langton arrived
in England and went to Merton priory on 1 August 1213 where he met with the
bishops of Ely, Lincoln and London.288 This meeting resolved the problems of the
interdict, which was lifted in June 1214.


The king still had problems with the rebel barons who took control of London on
17 May 1215. John found himself restricted mainly south of the River Thames, with
the court based at Windsor. On 5 June he made a royal progress from Windsor to
Winchester and returned by way of Merton where he stayed for three days. From
Merton on 8 June, he issued letters of safe conduct for a baronial deputation to
make peace.289 This was the start of the negotiations which led to the meeting at
Runnymede. The pope was angry that John had agreed to such a document and the

king of France decided to send the dauphin Louis to claim the throne of England.
He landed at Sandwich on 2 June 1216, captured Rochester on 6 June and entered
London. Most of the barons supported Louis who also captured Reigate and
Guildford. In October king John died and young Henry III, aged nine, became king
of England.

Peace Conference

The invader from France was unable to advance far from London and reinforcements
were denied to the dauphin by the action of Hubert de Burgh off Dover in August
1217. A peace conference was called by the pope’s legate, Gualo, which took place
on an island near Kingston. Merton provided accommodation for Gualo from 17 to
23 September. Following the conference, Louis the dauphin, the queen mother, the
young king and nobles of England and France came to Merton. The dauphin was
offered generous terms with an indemnity of 10,000 marks (£6,666) to finance his
withdrawal from England. Louis was escorted from Merton to Dover on 22
September 1217.289

Council of Merton

Parliament met at Merton in 1236 to pass
some of the country’s most important
medieval laws. The bishops and barons
stayed at Merton from 20 to 27 January.

Henry III had married Eleanor, daughter
of the count of Provence, and the barons
feared that the king would rely on foreign
advisors and disregard the traditional
counsel with the barons. He had already
invited Bretons and Provençals to occupy
royal castles and posts in his court.

Magna Carta had formulated fundamental
freedoms for all subjects, but written
parliamentary law had to wait for the
Statute of Merton. It consists of 11
chapters dealing with the rights of widows,
the enclosure of commons and waste lands
provided that sufficient land was left
available to satisfy customary tenants’
rights, and bastardy. It was the last item
which brought forth the famous words

Two columns from the Statute of Merton 1236
(reproduced by permission of the British Library
Cott Claud DII fo.145-145v)


nolumus leges Angliae mutare – “we are unwilling to change the laws of England”. The
laws passed remained in part on the statute book of Parliament for over 700 years.
This was the first declaration on points of law i.e. the first statute and consequently
the first entry in the Statute Book. One of the witnesses to the statute was Simon de

Walter de Merton

Walter de Merton is said to have “moulded the whole history of Oxford and
Cambridge Universities”.290 He was probably born in Basingstoke about 1210 and
educated atMerton priory. His studies continued at Oxford under Adam de Marisco
and he was accepted into minor orders but never became a canon regular.

From 1231 he assisted the prior of Merton in a legal capacity, was appointed by the
prior parson of Cuddington in 1235, and to be his attorney at the Hampshire Eyre
in January/February 1236. 291 By 1238 his parents had died and Walter adopted the
name of de Merton.

By 1240, as a chancery clerk, he had earned enough in fees to obtain the encumbered
manors of Malden with Chessington and Farleigh in Surrey from the crown which
had custody of them during the minority of Richard de Clare from 1230 until he
came of age in 1240.

From 1249 Walter was appointed a king’s clerk and while Henry III was in France
with the chancellor 1259/60, Walter held the royal seal and set up the chancery at

Walter de Merton’s tomb in Rochester cathedral (photograph by the author)

Malden where he sent out the king’s orders acting as chancellor. He became chancellor
in 1261 and was granted 400 marks (£266.66) per annum.

De Merton had been considering the education of eight of his nephews and no
doubt conferred with the prior of Merton regarding possibilities. In 1261 Walter
obtained a charter from Richard de Clare, now overlord of the manors of Malden
and Farleigh, and they were conveyed to Merton priory. Late in 1263 the manors
were allotted to support the education of Walter’s nephews. The management of
the college was at Malden from 1262, probably because of its nearness to Merton
priory, less than five miles away. The king was often governing from Merton and
Walter could be in touch with affairs of state as well as his educational scheme. On
7 January 1264 he set down the charter for his new college.

Meanwhile in July 1263, Simon de Montfort recovered his position of power and
dismissed de Merton as chancellor, after Malden had been attacked by robbers on
13 June and occupied for three days.

In setting up his educational establishment, Walter de Merton borrowed from his
experiences at the priory, with the idea of a corporate life under a common rule and
head, and supported by secure endowments. But he expressly prohibited scholars
from taking vows, and any who did should forfeit his scholarship.

The foundation was self-governing and not under the control of any outside body
such as a religious house. It controlled its academic standards and opened the way
for secular as well as religious learning. The final statutes were issued in August 1274
when the warden, bailiffs and ministers were transferred from Malden to the
permanent home at Oxford.

When Peterhouse was founded at Cambridge, the licence stated that the scholars
“shall live together according to the rule of the scholars at Oxford who are called of
Merton”. Thus Walter de Merton moulded both Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

The founder was made bishop of Rochester and consecrated by archbishop
Kilwardby on 21 October 1274.

Royal Councils

In January 1255 king Henry III called for a council meeting at Merton to discuss
how to meet his expenses abroad. It was agreed that the king should tallage (tax) his
demesne land throughout England, which meant crown lands. London’s charters
excluded Londoners from paying tallage and they refused to pay. The mayor was
summoned to Merton and the king demanded 3000 marks (£2,000). The Londoners
went away and returned saying that they were willing to grant 2000 marks (£1333) as
an aid, but would not pay more.292


Edward I presiding over the House of Lords.
Based on a drawing made in the 15th or 16th century, now in the Royal Library Windsor.
Note the bishops and mitred abbots on the left and in the foreground.

Modern parliament began with the council summoned by Simon de Montfort on
behalf of the captive king. The prior of Merton was called to attend on the 20
January 1265 by a writ dated at Woodstock 24 December 1264.293 He was summoned
again in 1300.294 The prior attended royal councils as a ‘mitred abbot’ and sat as a
spiritual lord until 1327 (see Chapter 13 – Royal Visitors Jan.1327).


Whilst consecrations of a bishop could take place at Merton, the enthronement
could only be at the cathedral of his diocese which contained his seat of teaching
and governing. The Latin for chair is sedes from which is derived the bishop’s ‘see’,
and kathedra is Greek for seat, hence ‘cathedral’.

In 1131 Robert of Bethune, prior of Llanthony, was at Merton where he was
impressed by the standards here.295 Whilst at Merton he was consecrated bishop of

Elias of Radnor or Helyas, treasurer of Hereford, was consecrated bishop of Llandaff
at Merton in December 1230. The monks of Canterbury complained that the
ceremony should have taken place there.296

On 26 February 1273 Robert Kilwardby was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury
at Merton priory, following difficulties between the pope, king and the Canterbury
monks.297 In 1274 he crowned Edward I and queen Eleanor, at Westminster. On 7
April 1275 he returned to Merton in order to consecrate Robert Burnell as bishop
of Bath and Wells.298 In 1276 Kilwardby chose to stay at Merton’s grange at Upton,


Church convocations were held at Merton in 1258 and 1306.300 These were church
councils, and the archbishops could summon a Provincial council without referring
to the king except if it involved raising taxation. Clerical assemblies were not
encouraged by Henry III as they usually only met when there were taxes to be
resisted. He termed the gathering of 1258 an illegitimate convocatio (calling together)
and subsequent church councils were known as convocations.

On 19 April 1258 archbishop Boniface, at the pleading of the pope’s envoy,
summoned a convocation to meet at Merton on Thursday 6 June. The pope’s envoy
felt confident that he could influence the clergy to support the pope and the king.
Summoned to the meeting at Merton were the heads of the great monasteries and
all archdeacons. The preamble stated that it was to consider papal demands, including
the tallage of three marks (£2) to be levied on every monastery in England, and to
provide for the restoration of ecclesiastical liberty. To the horror of the envoy, who
was present at Merton, archbishop Boniface made a vigorous denunciation of lay
encroachments of clerical rights by both pope and king. The meeting put on record
the grievances expressed by Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln, who had died in 1253,
and resolved that the dire oppression of the church must be remedied. Subsequently
Henry III asked the pope to abrogate the resolutions, which he did.301


In 1306 archbishop Winchelsea presided over a convocation of the clergy of the
Province at Merton and laid down the statutory period for feudal tenants to pay
tithes to their parish priests. This was from shearing time until Martinmas (11
November). The convocation also set out the items that parishioners had to provide;
“missal, chalice, vestments, crosses, incense, thurible, lights and bells … “.302

Knights Templar

This was an international and military Order arising out of the crusades. The Templars
amassed great wealth and became international bankers. Henry II gave the Templars
sufficient money to pay for 200 knights for a year in the Holy Land, in expiation for
Becket’s murder.

At the beginning of the 14th century in France, king Philippe IV found them arrogant
and unruly but rich. He tried to join the Order as a postulant but was rejected. In
1303 and 1304 two popes mysteriously died (Boniface VIII and Benedict XI). King
Philippe then secured the election of his own candidate, the archbishop of Bordeaux,
to the papacy. He became Clement V in 1305.

In both London and Paris there were murmurs in 1306 about the Templars’ vices
and infidelity. King Philippe issued sealed and secret orders to his seneschals
throughout France which were to be opened simultaneously and implemented at
dawn on Friday 13 October 1307. All Templars in France were seized and placed
under arrest by the king’s men and their goods confiscated. In Paris and other parts
of France, knights were burned at the stake.

On 20 December 1307 the sheriffs
of England were instructed by
Letters Close to arrest all members
of the Order “on the Wednesday
next after Epiphany in the morning”
(8 January 1308), and to take
inventories of their possessions.303
In September 1308 Walter de
Geddinges, sheriff of Surrey, held
an inquisition at Guildford before
John de Foxele.304 Templars were
sent to the castles of London,
Lincoln, York and Dublin.

In England and Wales in 1308, there were 165 Templars consisting of 6 knights, 41
chaplains and 118 sergeants. Their gross annual revenue was £4,720. In Surrey they
owned the manors of Caterham, Merrow (1/3rd), Temple Elfold and Wychyflet in

Two Templars on a single horse, based on a drawing
by Matthew Paris in his Chronica majora.
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 26:110v.

Papal judicial enquiries began in London on Monday 20 October 1309 but elicited
nothing derogatory. The master of the Templars refused to admit to any crimes and
was kept in the Tower “confined with double irons”. He did not long survive this

Six English Templars were convicted in July 1311, all given light sentences and sent
to monasteries as a penance. One of them, Stephen de Stapelbrigg, when examined
on 23 June 1311, had admitted that he had been made to spit on his hand near the
cross and to deny the Saviour and the Virgin.306 He was delivered to Merton priory
to do penance in 1312 whilst the king ordered Henry de Cobham, keeper of the
Templars’ lands in Surrey to provide a maintenance allowance of fourpence (2p) per

Later, de Stapelbrigg escaped from Merton and was re-arrested at Salisbury. He was
sent to London where he was examined in 1319 and finally sent to Christchurch
priory, Hampshire (now in Dorset) to do penance. Thomas Totty (or Stotty) was
another Templar sent to end his days at Merton, in the 1320s.308

In 1311 pope Clement V held a
church council in Vienne, south of
Lyon. On 8 September the prior of
Merton wrote to him stating that
three canons from Thornton,
Cirencester and Waltham would be
his proctors at the council.309 This
met on 16 December and demanded
the suppression of the Order of
Knights Templar. The Order was
officially dissolved by a Bull
published 15 August 1312 and its
possessions confiscated. The papal
Bull was never proclaimed in
Scotland and many French Templars
made their way there and fought for
Scotland in 1314, helping to defeat
the English at Bannockburn.

After Edward II had taken his pick
of properties, he transferred the
Templars’ possessions by a statute in
1323 to the Knights Hospitaller of

Knights Templar,

St John.

based on contemporary depictions


The English Church in the 14th Century

Nothing did more to undermine the prestige of the papacy in England than the 70
years residence of the papacy at Avignon 1309-1378. The popes were Frenchmen
and tools of the French kings. (See above: ‘Knights Templar’). Into Oxford in 1370
came a tutor named John Wycliffe who spoke against involvement of the senior
clergy in the affairs of state. He also expounded anti-papal views and was supported
by the king in resisting the claims of the papacy regarding tribute granted originally
by king John in acknowledgement of the fealty of the kingdom. Gregory XI issued
bulls including one to the university of Oxford to examine Wycliffe’s ‘erroneous’
doctrines. In 1378 Wycliffebegan to translate the scriptures into English for ordinary
people and sent out ‘poor preachers’ to visit the villages with pamphlets and parts
of scripture. The middle class heard him gladly but many were afraid of his views
on transubstantiation.310 Wycliffe was called to a convocation at Lambeth in 1378
but was supported by John of Gaunt who advocated reforms against clerical abuses.
He was also supported by social reformers who played their part in the peasant
rising of 1381. A further convocation was held on 18 November 1382 at Oxford
when 24 statements of doctrine were condemned and Wycliffe banished from the

Michael Kympton

Into this situation came a canon of Merton under prior Robert de Windsor (13681403).
Michael Kympton no doubt came from Kimpton, Hertfordshire, whose church
had been appropriated by Merton Priory. He was ordained priest in 1369, and in
1395 attended the provincial chapter of the Augustinian Order at Northampton in
place of the prior (see Chapter 9). In 1397 he was appointed a professor of divinity
at Oxford311 and in 1399 Richard II issued a brief to certain prelates “including
Master Michael, canon of Merton … to appear in their proper person before him at
Oxford … to declare their counsel and advice concerning certain nefarious matters
of schism in the Church of God”.312

Wycliffe had died on 31 December 1384 but there were still many followers of his
teachings. In 1428, 44 years after his death, pope Martin V ordered his bones to be
dug up and destroyed.

On 30 June 1403 Michael Kympton was made prior of Merton313 and in October
1403 he set up the keeping of the manorial records of Tooting, the manor which the
priory had leased from the abbey of Bec since 13 December 1394 (see MHS Bulletin
151, Sept. 2004, p.12). In 1408 he ordered the compilation of a survey of the manor
of Ewell, the Register or Memorial of Ewell. He died in 1413. During an
archaeological excavation at the chapter house site in the 1980s part of a grave
inscription plate was discovered bearing the possible name of KYMPTON.

Thomas Paynell

Paynell (d.1564) was a brilliant translator of Latin into English, and spent most of
his life at Merton priory until the Dissolution. He was educated at Merton and went
on to St Mary’s College (now defunct), Oxford, which had been set up by the
Augustinian Order to foster sons of those houses. He returned to Merton priory in
1528 to take up literary and medical studies, and became an acolyte. He was also a
member of Gray’s Inn, London. Between 1530 and 1538 he published many books
and, being a disciple of Erasmus, once an Augustinian canon, he translated his De
Contemptu Mundi in 1533. He dedicated it to Mary, dowager-queen of France by
“your daily orator”. In 1537 he published Erasmus’s The Comparation of a Vyrgyn and
a Martyr. This was dedicated to John Ramsey, prior of Merton, at whose request
Paynell had undertaken the translation. He wrote over 30 books and was often on
royal service as a diplomat following the Dissolution. He became chaplain to Henry

VIII.314 On his death in 1564, Paynell bequeathed 110 books and five manuscripts
to St John’s College, Oxford.
Richard Benese

Benese was at Oxford from 1514 to 1519 and became a clerk in priests’ orders about
1527 before becoming a canon of Merton. In 1530 he was succentor, assisting in
leading the singing in choir. He saw the need for better measurement of land and no
doubt improved the recording of the estates belonging to the priory. He measured
irregularly shaped fields/woods by using standard geometric shapes – squares,
rectangles and triangles. He valued land arbitrarily by size and use. An acre (0.4 ha)
was worth a mark (£0.66), a rood – 5 shillings (£0.25). Three days’ work was a
shilling (£0.05), one day’s a groat (£0.02).

In 1537 he produced his book on surveying “newly invented and compiled by Sir
Rychard Benese, Chanon [sic] of Merton Abbey”.315 The preface was written by a
fellow brother and writer, Thomas Paynell (see above) and further editions were
published long after his death. In 1538 he was one of the signatories of the deed of
surrender of the priory and was granted a pension of £6 13s 4d (£6.66) p.a. Benese
had been made Surveyor of the King’s Household based at Hampton Court and
checked all estimates of men and materials for the building work at Hampton Court,
Oatlands and Nonsuch. Like Thomas Paynell he became a royal chaplain.

Benese held many offices, including precentor of Hereford, prebendary of Lincoln,
rector of Beddington Portion and Long Ditton, Surrey, and All Hallows, Honey
Lane, London. He died in January 1547 and was buried at Long Ditton.


Important Visitors

The legate Pandolph who negotiated with king John in1211 over his excommunication
was elected bishop of Norwich in 1216, following the death of John de Gray who
ignored the interdict. Pandolph stayed at Merton on 3 April 1220.316

Boniface of Savoy was elected archbishop of Canterbury in 1241 but did not come
to England until 1243. So on 2 June he came straight to Merton “to examine and
confirm or reject” Robert Passelewe as bishop of Chichester, and certain other
bishops-elect. The record concludes that about 9 o’clock there was such a severe
tempest, as had not been seen at Merton for many years before.317 The new archbishop
rejected Passelewe as bishop, and the pope agreed. Boniface returned to Merton in
1258 to preside over the convocation referred to above (see Convocations).

For the year long stay of Edmund Rich in 1213, the sanctuary for Hubert de Burgh
in 1232, the visit of archbishop Peckham, and the month’s stay of William of
Wykeham in 1376, see Chapter 12 – Hospitality.

Throughout the centuries many important visitors died at the priory. These include:

Ewan, bishop of Evreux, Normandy, in 1139 (see Chapter 12 – Hospitality).

Richmond, abbot of Bruern, Oxfordshire, in February 1176.318

John, abbot of Waverley, Surrey, on 16September 1201.319

Henry, prince of England, on 14 October 1274 (see Chapter 13 – Royal Visitors).

John Peckham, archbishop of Canterbury, on 8 December 1292 (see Chapter 12 –

Three burial types
within the chancel of the
Priory church – from
the left: stone-lined
grave, a stone coffin and
a shroud burial.
reproduced by courtesy
of MoLAS and the
London Borough of

17. Pastures New
“At last he rose, and twitched his mantle blue:
Tomorrow to fresh woods, and pastures new.”
John Milton Lycidas

When a novice ‘professed’ to his calling and took the monastic vows of poverty,
chastity and obedience, other conditions were imposed. One was stabilitas i.e. to
swear to spend his life in the monastery of his profession.

Sometimes circumstances forced or enabled canons to change houses, and in fact
transitus, the transfer, was practised throughout monastic times. Canon law allowed
for this, but a member had to seek permission from his superior, and any move from
one Order to another had to be to a stricter and more austere house. A regular
canon could become a Cistercian monk but any move in the opposite direction was
not permitted. However if an Augustinian canon left to become a Premonstratensian
canon with its stricter and harsher life, he was likely to find the verminous clothing
became an irritant to the flesh.320 The term ‘strictness’ gave rise to debates between
canons and monks as there was no accepted measure of strictness. The Observances
of Barnwell priory pointed out that there were many different paths to the celestial
Jerusalem, some of which were stricter and some less strict.321 Anselm of Laon
(d.1117) formulated the phrase diversi sed non adversi (diverse but not contrary) to
describe the importance of all the various Orders. A few of the first canons at
Merton may have transferred from Aldgate Priory.97

After 20 years as prior of Merton, Walter left Merton in 1218 to go to Grande
Chartreuse near Grenoble, France “despising the riches and pomp of the world and
longing for the quiet of solitude”.322 Walter had entertained king John in 1204 and
1215, the dauphin of France in 1217 and the nobility of England. At Grande
Chartreuse, the Carthusians lived the lives of virtual hermits, each in his own lodging.
They lived alone in perpetual silence save on Sundays and festivals.

William de Cantia, in 1258, tried to reform Merton priory and its arrangements, but
was banished to another, unknown, Augustinian house.146

In 1304 the bishop granted letters dimissory (permission to be ordained elsewhere)
in respect of four brethren.323 One wasRalph de Waltham, whosubsequently returned
to Merton as a canon when acting as one of the proctors at the election of prior
Thomas de Kent on 25 April 1335.324 Further dimissory letters were granted in
1398 and 1401.325 In the 15th century it would appear that it became necessary to
obtain not only the bishop’s permission, but papal authority as well. Clement
Saunderson is referred to as a canon of Merton in 1485 and 1492.326 His brother
John Saunderson of Streatham died in 1490 and left his estate to Clement327 who


applied to the pope for dispensation to become a parish priest. He was informed
about 1494 that “although professed in the Augustinian Order he could receive any
benefice with or without cure … even if a parish church or its perpetual vicarage
was usually assigned to secular clerics”.328

In 1387 John Cherteseye, a canon at Newstead, Nottinghamshire, was transferred to
Merton “to be safely kept there, and there to be dealt with as the rule prescribe”. He
had been the cause of scandal at Newstead, “from various excesses and faults”.150

The extent of movement throughout the period can be gauged from a list.

Name Former house New position Date left Date of death Source
Gu y can on o f
Mer to n
prio r of
Taun to n
1 1 20 M ay 1 1 24 C olker (6 9) p.2 54
prio r of
Bo dm in
Gu y can on o f
Mer to n
prio r of
Sou th w ic k
c1 18 5 3 N o v. 12 0 6 H ea ds I p.18 4
M ar tin canon of
Mer to n
prio r of
Sou th w ar k
c1 20 5 11 June 1218 H eads I p.18 4
He a ds II p.4 6 0
Rich a rd d e
Morins ( M o re s)
deaco n of
Mer to n
prio r of
D u nsta ble
21 Sept.
9 A pril 1242 H eales p.58
He a ds I p.16 3
He nr y d e
Mare is
canon of
Mer to n
prio r of
C ar lisle
25 A ug.
?1 21 7 H eales p.7 0
He a ds I p.15 8
He a ds II p.3 5 9
Wa lter p rio r o f M erton
mo nk a t
Char treuse
He a les p.7 5
He a ds II p.4 2 1
Giles de
Bo ur ne
prio r of M e rton
mo nk a t
Bea ulieu
23 Ja n .
S ept. 1231 H eads II p.422
SR S 3 2(1 98 3 )p.4 7 5
W illiam de
C am pesete
canon of
Mer to n
prio r of
Bilsin gto n
1253 O ct.1255 H eales p.137
He a ds II p.3 3 6
W a lte r of Ry e can on o f
Mer to n
prio r of
Bilsin gto n
1255 O ct 1261 H eales p.137
He a ds II p.3 3 6
W illiam de
Can tia
canon of
Mer to n
3rd Jun e
H ea les pp.1 3 3, 29 9
Ralph of S o uth
M alling
canon of
Mer to n
prio r of
Bilsin gto n
Oct .
N o v.1272/ 3 H eales p.138
He a ds II p.3 3 6
Joh n
Cher teseye
canon of
New stead
c anon of
Mer to n
25 O c t.
He a les p.2 7 4
Joh n d e
Yak e sley
canon of
Mer to n
prio r of
Re ig a te
13 95 (electio n a n nulled by
p op e but a uth ority g ive n)
He a les p.2 8 8
Tho m a s
Wa ndsw o rth
(a lias M und ay )
canon of
Mer to n
prio r of
Bo dm in
c1 54 9 see C ha pter 1 8

Heads I = Heads of Religious Houses I, 940-1216 – Knowles, Brooke & London (eds) CUP 1972
Heads II = Heads of Religious Houses II, 1216-1377 – Smith & London (eds) CUP 2001SRS 32 (1983) = The 1235 Surrey Eyre Vol.2 – Surrey Record Society XXXII 1983

Elections of last priors and remaining canons

Born Name 1485 1492 1502 1520 1530 1538 Died
Visitation 29 Sept.
c1455 John Gisburne Prior Prior d.7 March 1502
c1465 William
canon Prior d.14
Robert Doo sacristan precentor
canon succentor
John Bardy
-canon master of
canon canon sacristan
1462 Andrew
entered 1480
canon canon 3rd prior
John Laborne
-canon kitchener
-canon warden of
lady chapel
1467 John Marshall
entered 1483 canon canon canon
c1480 John Lacy professed
Prior d 16 Jan. 1530
c1493 Thomas
canon (at lawschool)
Prior of
1485 John
1490 John London entered
1496 John Ramsey canon;
of divinity
Prior prior 1558
1494 John Debnam
subdeacon infirmarer subprior c1558
priest 1504 refectorer sacrist
priest 1513 canon sacrist 1593
priest 1518 canon precentorchanter
George Albyn
warden of
succentor 1557
John Hayward priest –canon
Richard Benese
priested at
-succentor 1547
-subdeacon 3rd prior 1568
Paynell (Panell)
-acolyte canon 1564
John Salyng -subdeacon canon 1570
John Martyn -subdeacon canon
Robert Knyght(Knycht)
acolyte -canon
John Page -scholar


Important leases

Date Place Leased to Term Source

1516 Kingston church patronage certain citizens of London Heales p.322
1518 East Molesey manor Sir John Hennege 66 Heales p.341
M & B ii 781
1520 Brickhouse, Merton William Lok 55 Heales p.329
1527 Carshalton church & rectory William Muschamp 31 Heales p.329/330
1528 Merton church & rectory Wm. & Thos Saunder 40 Heales p.330
(re-leased 1537) 40 Heales p.344
1530 Tenement in Southwark Percival Skerne 41 Heales p.334
1532 Kingston church & rectory Richard Thomas 21 Heales p.334
1532 Merton Holts William Lok 32 Heales p.335/6
1533 Merton Grange (part 1) John Hillier 21 Heales p.336/7
1533 Taplow manor Thomas Manfeld 21 Heales p.338
1534 Amery Mills, Merton William Moraunt 22 Heales p.338
1534 Merton Grange (part 2) John Hillier 21 Heales p.338
1534 Chessington manor Richard Rogers 21 Heales p.338
1534 Effingham church & rectory John Holgate 21 Heales p.339
1535 Kingswood manor John Kempsall 40 Heales p.339
1535 Tadworth manor John Steward 21 Heales p.339
1535 Little Ashtead manor John Holgate 21 Heales p.339
1536 Westbarns, Merton Thos. & Geoffrey Bedle 60 Heales p.342/3
1536 Salyngs, Merton John Clerk 40 Heales p.341/2/3
1537 Entmore meadow, Ewell William Saunders 80 Heales p.344

Tile fragments found at Merton priory by Colonel Bidder
SAC 38 pt I (1929) p.58 (reproduced by permission)

18. The Beginning of the End
“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.”
T S Eliot Four Quartets ‘Little Gidding’ V

Following the disaster of the Great Plague in 1348 and the troubles of the Peasants’
Revolt of 1381, many monasteries found it difficult to continue a full existence as a
religious community and to play a leading part in the countryside. Labour became
scarce, the numbers of brethren decreased and the economy contracted.

Discipline within the community became more lax with no compensatory increase of
sacramental devotion, or preaching, or works of charity. The canon found the making
and decorating of service books demeaning for a priest. Writing was now a common
attainment outside the monastery. Teaching was possible for some canons but the lack
of a satisfying occupation became a problem throughout the 15th century. The prior
retained his position in the community but he no longer lived amongst the canons as
one who served.

There was general relaxation of fasting and abstinence, and private ownership and
privilege were allowed. All this encouraged a new breed of canons. However, the
oblates still arrived at the age of five to seven and received early education. The priory
then supported them as they progressed to higher education and many returned to
follow their chosen career as a canon of the priory.

On 1 April 1514 Henry VIII confirmed all grants and charters in favour of Merton
priory from its foundation to the present, at a charge of 20 marks (£13.33).329

Important Leases

Most monasteries now began to secure immediate value of property in exchange for
long leases. Leases contracted by Merton priory included some for over 40 years and
one for 80 years.Even the rectorial rights of the appropriated churches of Carshalton,
Effingham, Kingston and Merton were leased to laymen (see table on facing page).

The King required the Church to help pay for his expenses in France, and in 1522
Merton priory was assessed at £133 by way of a forced loan. The assessment for the
bishop of Winchester was £200.

The Last Days

In August 1535 Thomas Cromwell appointed auditors to assess the value of monastic
spiritualities (income from church tithes, glebe lands, oblations etc.). This operation
was known as the Valor Ecclesiasticus and Visitors called on every monastery. It was a


survey as well as an assessment of value and they examined the title deeds of property
and special privileges, observed the maintenance of buildings, investigated the conduct
of the brethren, giving opportunity for any who were discontented to speak, and
listened to accusations about others. They looked at almsgiving, the keeping of proper
accounts and the observing of the Rule. Current valuations were compared with those
used to estimate the tenths payable to the authorities. Injunctions were issued that no
canon was to leave the precinct, brethren under the age of 20 were to be dismissed
and the prior was to exalt the king in a sermon and “attack the power of the pope”.
Bishops were reduced to silence by a letter from Cromwell in September forbidding
any interference.330 An obscure message informs us that “the Auditors would only
meddle with Merton Abbey”.331

Commissioner Richard Layton visited Merton priory on 27 September 1535 and wrote
to Thomas Cromwell informing him that there were 18 fat oxen whereof Sir Nicholas
Carew of Beddington, Surrey, wanted part; 40 fat sheep, 200 quarters of malt and £30
in ling and haberdyne (dried and salted cod). Layton asked if Cromwell required any
of these things for his own household and if so, would he confirm by the bearer.332

The net annual general income for Merton priory shown in the Valor Ecclesiasticus was
£958, which made it the second richest Augustinian house after Cirencester, a daughter-
house of Merton. Most of the income came from tenants (£641) and tithes (£239).

On 10 March 1536, the prior of Merton affirmed that Henry VIII was the supreme
head of the Church in England, next after God.

Gradually, after years of uncertainty, many of the canons had become ready for the
final dissolution of the monasteries. Being priests, they would find it easy to obtain
positions either in a parish or a town fraternity. They would also be released from their
vows333 and could own property.

Many monasteries were “spoiled of their ornaments” before suppression. It would
appear that a great part of the damage they received was done under cover of the
visitations, before any Dissolution Act had been passed.334 Many service books were
removed – missals with jewelled clasps, graduals, psalters, hymnals, antiphonals etc. In
use, the greatest care had been bestowed on them for centuries. Out of use resulted in
their immediate desecration.

Prior Ramsey made the journey to London to make a ‘privy surrender’, and crown
agents drafted a deed of surrender. Commissioners empanelled a local jury of 12
trusted men to oversee the compilation of an inventory.

On 16 April 1538 Dr Layton, the king’s commissioner, arrived at Merton bearing the
prepared form of surrender which was signed by all the canons in their beloved chapter
house. Whilst the 15 canons were still ‘in residence’, the destruction of the priory
buildings was already taking place.

On 9 May 1538 Thomas Cromwell signed an order granting the last prior a messuage
in London335 with a pension of 200 marks (£133.33) a year. The canons received
from 11 marks (£7.33) per annum upwards, depending on age. Servants were given
‘rewards’ which consisted of a year’s wages.

Thereafter the ‘dissolved’ canons left Merton bearing their personal bundles, to seek
temporary shelter with friends. Soon the final traces of Merton priory were removed
and the exact site of the once famous building sank into oblivion and was lost until
found by Colonel Bidder’s gardener in 1922.

By 1553 the prior and eight canons were still drawing pensions, viz. Thomas Paynell
(£10), John Debnam (£8), John Codyngton, John Salying, John Page, George Albyn,
Robert Knycht and Thomas Mychell (each receiving £7.33).336

John Ramsey
– prior
John Debnam
Thomas Godme’-chester
John Codyngton
Richard Wyndesore
George Albyn
John Hayward
Richard Benese
Thomas Mychell
Edmund Dowman
Thomas Paynell
John Salyng

John Martyn
Robert Knicht
John Page

Signatures of the last canons of Merton
(Photograph reproduced from A Heales The Records of Merton Priory (1898)
by courtesy of The National Archives: E322/152)


The Monastic Treasure

Commissioners were appointed to make valuations of surrendered priories, but in
1538 they were so overwhelmed by the increasing numbers that they often engaged “a
retinue of strangers from London”337 to make valuations.

All church plate was received by the king’s Master of the Jewels, Sir John Williams, and
valued on weight in ounces. He compiled a check-list of the main inventory from 26
April 1538 until 4 December 1545, which has survived.338

He received from Richard Layton, John ap Rice, Edward Carne, Anthony Bellach, John
Smith, “Commissioners for the Dissolution of the late Priory of Marten, in the County
of Surrey viz. in gold plate v oz. iij qært dï [57/8 oz]. In gilt plate Dlvi oz. [556 oz], in
parcel gilt and white Dcij oz. [602 oz]. In all, like as by indenture of the xxvjth of April,
anno map Regis predict XXIXmo339 hereupon confirmed and remaining doth appear.

M†clxiij oz. iij qært dï [11637/8 oz].”

The first two commissioners mentioned had already visited Merton in 1535 in connection
with the Valor Ecclesiasticus when they tried unsuccessfully to dismiss ten canons.

Inventories of the monastic treasure of various houses

Items included sacred vessels such as chalices, censers, jewelled gloves, rings, crucifixes,
candlesticks, patens and cruets. The following are a few inventories for comparison
with Merton.

Monastery 1535 value Gold Gilt Parcel Gilt Total Date

V.E. * plate plate & Silver
£ oz. oz. oz.
Llanthony 728 -1,145 199 1,344 26 April 1538
St Barts. London 693 -591 681 1,272 2 November 1540
Merton 958 6 556 602 1,164 26 April 1538
Kenilworth 539 -686 249 935 26 April 1538
Leicester 947 -374 530 904 26 April 1538
Southwark 624 -182 407 589 5 March 1540
Newark 259 -142 169 311 18 January 1539
Huntingdon 188 -30 60 90 26 April 1538


Bermondsey 46 -176 500 676 7 July 1539


Glastonbury 3,311 71 7,214 6,387 13,672 24 October 1539
St Albans 2,102 122 2,990 1,134 4,246 17 December 1539

*V.E. =Valor Ecclesiasticus – The Commissioners’ valuation in 1535

19. A Priory Laid Bare
“These things which you are gazing at – the time will come
when not one stone of them will be left upon another.”

Luke 21:5/6

Even as the canons in the chapter house, on 16 April 1538, appended their signatures
to the suppression document, builders and carters were converging on Merton from
the districts around. There was so much demolition work to be carried out covering an
area of some 65 acres (26 ha). Each generation over several centuries had extended
and improved their ‘city’. There were very many habitable buildings to be razed to the
ground. So the builders moved in and the residents moved out. This must have resulted
in a clash of human beings and activities, and the ‘city’ became an ‘atro-city’.

Messrs Dickenson and Clement, the master bricklayer and the master carpenter, earlier
visitors to the priory (see Prologue), knew what they had to do. They were to remove
all the buildings, reclaim useable material, transport it to Cuddington and supply the
royal contractors who were now constructing a palace without equal – nonpareil.340

In May 1538 a single tiler climbed ladders to “uncover the body of the church at
Merton Abbey” i.e. removing tiles from the church roof. He was John de Whytaker of
Merton who was paid 13s 4d (67p) for so doing. The same man was at Cuddington in
July and August where he ‘dry laid’ 27,000 tiles on the king’s barn there, and was paid
9d (4p) per thousand tiles, thus receiving a further £1.

The building accounts show that £184 was spent in 1538 on wages for plumbers.341

At the priory site,
excavations in 1976 between
the chapter house and
infirmary revealed a clay
bowl-like hole containing
lead-drops and a possible
crucible. This could have
been a hearth where lead
salvaged from roofs and
windows had been melted
to form ‘pigs’. A lead ingot
found in the Dissolution
layers may have been part
of one. The fires would
have been fuelled with
old, well-seasoned wood
carvings, easily available.

Possible lead smelting hearth discovered during excavations at
Merton priory in 1976 .
(Photograph by W J Rudd by permission of the site director)


Further excavations in 1988 south of the infirmary hall revealed large quantities of
window lead, glass and fragments of floor tile from a spread of rubble. This suggests
a deliberate sorting of these materials during demolition. Stained glass was not suitable
for reuse, with the result that most was destroyed to reclaim the lead that held the
glass together.

Bands of workmen travelled from monastery to monastery and were occupied for
days or even weeks in melting the covering of roofs, gutters, spouts, pipes and
windows into ‘pigs’ of uneven size. When cool, the pigs were stamped, by the
commissioner present, with a Tudor rose surmounted by a crown, and the weight
indicated by ‘1 cwt’ (51 kg) circles. These were collected into fothers of 19½ cwt
(991 kg). Carters conveyed the fothers along the former Roman road to Cuddington.
As each weighed almost a ton it required teams of horses to drag wagons laden with
lead. Each fother was worth £4.

When a similar Augustinian monastery at St Osyth, Essex, was demolished in July
1539, it yielded 255 tons (260 tonnes) of lead. Over 100 fothers came from the
abbey church, and another 100 from the claustral buildings.

The lead from Merton was well used at Nonsuch. The corner towers and the south
front bore decorated plaster panels held in position by wooden beams covered by
carved slate hangings and scales of lead. Samuel Pepys visited Nonsuch in 1665 and
commented on the walls “covered with Lead and gilded”.342 The octagonal towers
had an overhanging storey surmounted by a leaden dome.

As late as 1541, men were still employed at Merton, but now they were sorting
material before it was carted to Nonsuch. Only the squared facing stone was sent.343
This ashlar stone from Merton was used for outer faces of the walls and the masons
set the stones so that carvings were hidden. Many pieces of moulding, including a
lion gargoyle and a female head were discovered at Nonsuch in 1959. The lion was
“carved in the late 15th century … [and] after spending more than four centuries

Female head and lion gargoyle, both from Nonsuch palace, now in the Museum of London
(Photographs reproduced from J Dent The Quest for Nonsuch, by courtesy of the Nonsuch Palace Excavation
Committee and the London Borough of Sutton)

resting on the flattened top of its head, it was in a remarkably good state of
preservation, even its teeth being intact.”344 Next to the lion gargoyle the excavators
discovered the 4½ cwt (230 kg) carved roof boss which would have been part of
the vaulted roof of the priory church. It is painted red and gilded and was found
embedded in the foundations of the south-east tower of the Inner Court at Nonsuch
Palace which was probably built in 1543.345 It would seem that, with the lead covering,
Merton priory was present in the south-east tower, from top to bottom.

‘An Impression of Nonsuch’ by J Tavenor-Perry, pictured in Memorials of Old Surrey 1911 p143

Some stone at the priory would have been used locally and in 1550 stone was supplied
to one Thomas Mabson,346 but soon all above-surface stone had been removed. In
1559 the churchwardens of Battersea paid “14/- [70p] for three loads of stone from
Merton and 6d. [5p] to John Tyler for digging up the stones we bought”.347 Now
only the foundations could produce stone in quantity.

The culmination of the destruction must have been the main tower with its set of
bells. We can imagine the thoughts of the witnesses. The familiar view – then the
noise of the crash – the clouds of dust – the priory lost to sight. The monument of
400 years of powerful influence was no more.


Worked stone from Merton priory incorporated in the footings of Nonsuch palace
(Photographs by R Miller by permission of the site director, 1959)


“For who …
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing ling’ring look behind?”
Thomas Gray Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

This has been a journey of exploration, an attempt to provide a coherent story from
records, but the interpretation is partly a matter of faith and partly a personal
examination of possibilities. We can only record what is known and many happenings
are still unknown to us.

Monasticism was only a part of our Christian heritage. It was only one of the ways
to salvation, but it did show the way for meeting the spiritual and general needs of
many people near and far. It gave support to those in need, gave education to many,
and practised hygiene in living. It gave employment to the populace, improved farming
methods, tamed and used rivers, and throughout the centuries encouraged craftsmen
and all the arts.

Monasteries were permanent institutions, owning acres of agricultural land, and
buildings of brick and stone in towns and the countryside. They were patrons of
hundreds of parish churches and lords of many manors. They collected taxes and
dispensed justice.

The outlook of monks changed over succeeding generations. By the 15th century
monasteries had ceased to be the only seats of learning, and the invention of printing
made the laborious copying of manuscripts unnecessary as a monastic industry.

Like a plant, the growth of monasticism was unpredictable. Spurts of development
and blossoming followed by withering and decay. There were successes and there
were failures, some mutations good, others bad. History consists of past events and
no one can undo one moment of them.

The Dissolution of the monasteries gave rise to painful times in the Church for
everybody. Henry VIII succeeded in curbing the excessive riches of the Church and
acquiring much of it for himself. He was also fighting against the principles of many
church leaderswho had struggled against their king in fundamental beliefs down the
centuries. Men such asThomas Becket,Edmund Rich,Robert Grosseteste,348William
of Wykeham, and John Peckham. Henry tried to expunge the name of Becket from
history by having his name removed from official records and church dedications.

No doubt the translation of the New Testament into English by William Tyndale in
1526 had a marked effect on attitudes. Banned copies certainly found their way to
Merton and some of the canons were leading writers in the vernacular. There was a
fresh interpretation of parts of the New Testament – e.g. we are called to repent rather


than to do penance (Matthew 4:17). In 1535 Miles Coverdale’s bible found its way to
Southwark and a newappreciation of the Wordled to an appreciation ofwords. It could
be said that the Reformation helped to produce the fine literature which came from
Shakespeare, Marlowe and Donne. True, the destruction of the priory meant the loss of
works of art, but much of the architecture of the centuries is not lost. We still have our
cathedrals which maintain the tradition of daily worship and craftsmanship. We have
our universities, and the name of Merton lives on in Oxford. Even the Augustinian
hospital foundations of St Bartholomew and St Thomas (Becket) are with us in name.

Part if the apse of the chapter house 1977

North aisle wall of the church 1986

(Photographs by W J

Rudd by permission

of the site director)

Flooring slabs in
the cloisters 1986

Appendix I

List of the priors of Merton

No Name Dates Died
1 Robert (Bayle) de Tywe 1117-1150 4 Jan.1150
2 Robert 1150-1167 4 August 1167
3 William 1167-1177 19 February 1177
4 Stephen 1177 6 October 1177
5 Robert 1177-1180 13 May 1180
6 Richard 1180-1198 1 April 1198
7 Walter 1198-1218 resigned to Chartreuse Sept.1218
8 Thomas de Wllst 1218-1222 <12 Sept.1222 9 Giles de Bourne 1222-1231 resigned to Beaulieu 23 Jan. 1231 September 1231 349 10 Henry de Basing 1231-1238 22 December 1238 11 Robert de Heyham 1239-1249 resigned 10 October 1249 Suspended for a few months by papal legate 1244/5 350 12 Eustace 1249-1263 31 January 1263 13 Gilbert de Aette (Ashe) 1263-1292 21 March 1292 14 Nicholas de Tregony 1292-1296 26 September 1296 15 Edmund de Herierd 1296-1305 excommunicated 1300/1 Resigned on 25 September 1305 and resided in precinct area 16 Geoffrey de Alconbury 1306-1307 15 March 1307 17 William de Brokesborn 1307-1335 early March 1335 18 Thomas de Cantia (Kent) 1335-1339 <20 September 1339 19 John de Littleton 1339-1345 deposed <12 August 1345 20 William Friston 1345-1361 <22 August 1361 21 Geoffrey de Chaddesley 1361-1368 6 October 1368 22 Robert de Windsor 1368-1403 6 May 1403 23 Michael Kympton 1403-1413 20 October 1413 24 John de Romeny 1413-1422 1422 25 Thomas Schirfield 1422-1432 resigned 1432 21 April 1439 26 William Kent 1432-1442 1442 27 John Kingston 1442-1485 2 January 1485 28 John Gysburne 1485-1502 7 March 1502 29 William Salynge 1502-1520 14 March 1520 30 John Lacy 1520-1530 16 January 1530 31 John Ramsey 1530-1538 15 April 1558 surrendered priory 16 April 1538 Average tenure of office – 13 years 6 months Longest tenure – John Kingston – 42 years 16 days A PRIORY REVEALED Appendix II Chronology of important events at Merton priory 1114 Canons arrive from Huntingdon p.9 1117 New site of priory occupied 10 c.1118 Nicholas Breakspear being taught at Merton 29 1124 Guy of Merton, schoolmaster, dies 32 1125 Death of Gilbert the founder 15 1120-32 Seven daughter houses founded 34 1130 Thomas Becket being educated at Merton 29/30 c.1155 Church rebuilt 17 1156 Gift of Ewell manor 45 c.1196 Enlarged priory completed 18 1197 New silver seal introduced 18 1212/3 Edmund Rich at Merton 65 1215 Runnymede. Letters of safe conduct issued 73, 86 <1216 Precinct buildings destroyed by fire 70 1217 Peace terms confirmed at Merton 73 1222 Storm destroys tower at Merton 113 1232 Hubert de Burgh seeks sanctuary 66 1236 Royal Council at Merton 87 1241 New silver seal introduced 3 1258 Convocation at Merton 91 1262 Priory assists Walter de Merton to set up college 88/89 1273 Robert Kilwardby consecrated archbishop at Merton 91 1310 Priory "oppressed with poverty" 113 1312 Knight Templar sent to Merton 93 c.1325 Presbytery and lady chapel rebuilt ii 1346 Prosperity for many 46 1376 William of Wykeham seeks refuge 67 1393 Nave of church and lady chapel requiring repairs 55 1395 Dormitories needing repairs 41 1412 Privy Council at Merton (Henry IV) 75 1437 Henry VI crowned 75 1522 Forced loan. Merton assessed at £133 101 1535 Commissioner Richard Layton visits priory 102 1538 Surrender and destruction 2, 102, 105-7 Appendix III Disasters – Famine, Fire, Plague and Storm Droughts and floods ruined crops, caused cattle disease and affected the income of the priory as well as the labourers. Monasteries such as Merton planned long-term and were able to demonstrate rational solutions to many natural catastrophes. Regular hedging and ditching were essential to protect farms and gardens from wind, rain and floods. Building in stone was a better safeguard against fire than traditional timber structures. Floods could sometimes be controlled by constructing dikes and fitting sluices. Flood plains could be maintained. The large monastic barns in the countryside granges protected communities from many famines and plagues. Date Disaster 1118 May 1 Death of queen Maud following her visit to Merton with prince William, (Heales p.4) 1120 Loss of the White Ship and prince William. "a severe blow to the convent" 1124 Famine and drought "which killed many thousands" (Colker (70) pp.244-6; Anglo Saxon Chronicle s.a.1124) 1133 Fire in London. Gilbert Becket's house destroyed 1136 Fire in London 1161 Fire in London 1165 Earthquake in southern England 1203 Bad harvest after flood. (Waverley annals) 1208-14 Interdict of England 1212 Fire in London. Eastern arm of Southwark priory destroyed Thatched roofs in London banned. Most henceforth tiled (J Schofield The Buildings of London from Conquest to Gt. Fire 1993.) <1216 Fire in Merton priory precinct. (Heales p.71) 1222 Dec. Severe storms. Collapse of Merton's tower.(Dunstable annals iii 76) 1243 June Tempest in Merton. (Heales p.112) 1251 Drought for four months. Hay crop reduced by half, loss of cattle 1257/8 Severe winter. Famine in London 1274-1301 Sheep disease (murrain) for twenty-eight years 1294 Oct. Major floods in Southwark 1310 "manifestly oppressed with poverty". (Heales p.202.) 114 A PRIORY REVEALED 1316 Great Famine 1317 Famine in London 1322 Great Famine 1348-50 Black Death 1360-62 Secunda pestic. Wm. Friston, prior of Merton died of plague August 1361. 1368-69 Plague. Prior Geoffrey de Chaddesley died 6 October 1368. (VCH I p.361) 1379 Plague 1387 Sept. "some dwellings…in deficient repair and need". (Heales pp.269/70) 1387-93 "murrain in manors for six years …" (Heales p.284) 1394 "… now the tempest has ceased …" (Heales p.287) c1395 "losses of cattle by pestilence … dormitories ready to fall". (Heales p.287; H Salter Chapters of the Augustinian Canons 1922 p.176) 1405-7 Plague 1439 Plague 1445 Kingston town fire 1478 Plague 1480 Poor harvest 1484/5 English Sweat (probably a virus disease). In London three sheriffs and three mayors died. 1500-2 Plague 1519 Dean Colet (founder of St Paul's school in 1509) died of "pestilential sweating". (Heales p.323) 1520 Plague and poor harvest 1527/8 Plague, famine. Sweating sickness April - June 1528 1535-39 Plague 1538 Destruction of priory buildings by Henry VIII Skeleton found in the chapter house excavations (Photograph reproduced by courtesy of J Scott McCracken and Surrey Archaeological Society) Appendix IV Unreliable Evidence "To err is human; to forgive, divine." Alexander Pope An Essay on Criticism Every author will endeavour not to make mistakes, but no publication is ever completely free of errors. For any discovered, please forgive. Looking at previous histories of Merton priory, it is apparent that published 'facts' are not always from original sources. Even those from original sources need careful thought with backing from alternative sources. "Who shall decide when doctors disagree, And soundest casuists doubt, like you and me?" Alexander Pope Epistle iii. – 'To Lord Bathurst' Below are listed some misleading statements made about the priory, which are so often copied from publication to publication, sometimes down the centuries. 1. Gilbert the founder did not die in 1130. He died in 1125, and the Historia Fundationis shows the correct date in Roman numerals MCXXV. 2. The statement that "the inhabitants had nowhere to bury their dead" does not appear in the Historia Fundationis. 3. There is no record that the founder was buried in the cloister, or that "there was a monument to his memory". There may have been a stone coffin with lid in the church but the location is not known. See Heales p.7. 4. Gilbert didnot become a canon or retire to the priory. He was active as sheriff of three counties until he died near St Neots, Huntingdon. 5. The canons were not inducted in 1136 by the bishops of St David and Rochester. Merton canons were inducted into Dover priory by these bishops. 6. The body of Henry I did not lie in state at Merton on its journey from Dover to Reading in January 1136. 7. The building of the priory in stone was not started in 1130. This began in 1125. 8. Queen Eleanor, wife of Henry III, wasnot crowned at Merton. The coronation took place at Westminster abbey. 9. The church of Cahagnes in Normandy was given to the priory. This was not Cheam, Surrey. See page 48. 10. Merton was always a priory and not an abbey. Its importance meant that some referred to it as an abbey even before the Dissolution. A PRIORY REVEALED Lt. Col. Harold F Bidder Photograph taken in 1927, during Bidder's excavations, showing detail of flooring within the retrochoir of the church, alongside Station Road. (Reproduced by courtesy of Merton Library and Heritage Service) Memorial plaque unveiled by Colonel Bidder in July 1959. The site is now covered by the Savacentre car park, but the (broken) plaque survives in the chapter house. acolyte advowson appropriation benefice canon capacitiescartularychantryclaustral congé d'élire consuetudinal convent corrodian crosier/crozier customaryendowment episcopacyfeudal frankalmoigngarderobehorarium incumbent necrology noviciate/novitiateobedientiaryoblate patronpensionperpetual vicar pittancespraemunirepresentationpulpitumsecular seized simony stipendtithe votive Monastic Glossary brother in minor orders but not yet ordained; church official attending a priest right of presentation of a parson to a benefice taking over of a benefice, resulting in a non-resident rector, with a perpetual vicar installed church living or its property brother living according to a Rule; a church decree; the principal part of the Mass dispensation to leave monastery and serve as clergyman in a parish register of title deeds and charters of privileges endowment for singing masses for donor relating to the cloister royal licence to elect a prelate see customary religious community living together, (not necessarily women) pensioner, usually living within the community a crook carried by a 'mitred abbot' to signify that the prelate should seize and correct the bad and give support to the weak customs and observances set down for each monastic community regular provision of income from land tithes, glebe rents or offerings bishops of the Church relating to landholding in return for service to the manorial lord land producing income, granted to a monastery to support a chantry toilet within a building daily time-table of a monastery clergyman holding a benefice list of deceased benefactors and brethren of house who were being prayed for, also including departed members of kindred monasteries period of probation before taking vows monastic departmental officer (under a superior) persons, usually children, dedicated to monastic life person possessing right of patronage or advowson (after 1185) amount paid by an incumbent to the patron in lieu of tithe incumbent with security of tenure receiving specified portion of church revenue or a fixed income (pitantia) additional dishes at meals and privileges accepting papal law and not the royal law right of supplying a parson to a benefice a deep screen that closed the west end of the choir (see page 55) anyone not following monastic vows in legal possession of estate especially at time of death sale of church appointments or not filling vacancies (Simon Magus – Acts viii) salary paid to a clergyman for duties performed annual payment of 1/10th of the value of goods for the upkeep of clergy and church, payable in cash or kind in fulfilment of vow A PRIORY REVEALED Original Sources of Information College of Arms, London Arundel MS 28 ff 1-13, 112 – Historia Fundationis. Early 15th-cent. document transcribed from an earlier narrative. Circumstantial account of the foundation and the founder. Brit. Lib. Royal MS 8E ix ff 93 – 98 – The Life of Guy of Merton… 1132x51. A biography by Rainald of Merton. PRO Cart. Antiq. U.5 ff c 52/20 – The Foundation Charter 1121 – Grant of the ville of Merton to the priory. Brit. Lib. Cott. MS Cleop. C vii ff 58 - 70. 13th cent. copy – The cartulary of the priory. A vellum volume with 525 deeds. Early records missing as numbering begins at No.39 (f 81). Bodl. Lib., Oxford Laud. Misc. MS 723. ff 24 -73 – c1400. The Annals of the priory. 200 folio pages of chronicles, visitations by bishop, Kalendar from 1216 to 1441 and certain priory accounts. Coll. of Arms, London Arundel MS 23 – Extracts from the register of the priory. Corpus Christi Coll. Cantab. MS 59 ff151-180 – early 14th-century Kalendar Register recording chief events in a calendar from 1065 to 1242. Sources of information which cannot be traced include the Customary, Necrology, Account Rolls and Dissolution Inventory. Abbreviations BL British Library Colker (69) M L Colker 'The Life of Guy of Merton' in Medieval Studies 31 (1969) Toronto Colker (70) M L Colker 'Latin Texts concerning Gilbert, Founder of Merton Priory' (Studia Monastica, (Abadia de Montserrat, Barcelona), xii) (1970) Dickinson (50) J C Dickinson Origins of the Austin Canons…(1950) Dickinson (51) J C Dickinson 'English Regular Canons and the Continent' inTransactions of the Royal Historical Society 5th series Vol I (1951). Heales A Heales Records of Merton Priory (1898) M & B Manning & Bray History of Surrey Vol. I (1804), Vol. III (1814) MHS Merton Historical Society MoLAS Museum of London Archaeology Service. Mon Ang W Dugdale Monasticon Anglicanum ed. J Caleys, H Ellis & B Bandinel (1830) PRO National Archives formerly Public Record Office. SAC Surrey Archæological Society Collections SHC Surrey History Centre, Woking. VCH Victoria County History: Surrey (1902) WAM Westminster Abbey Muniments NOTES AND REFERENCES Prologue 1 T Fuller Church History of Britain 1655 p.3062 J Stow Survey of London 1603 (ed. Kingsford 1908 I p.142) 3 T Wright Letters Relating to the Suppression of theMonasteries. Camden Soc. 26 (1843) p.181; WSt J Hope inArchaeological Journal41 (1884) p.6 4 H Braun English Abbeys 1971 p.234 5 PRO E 36/245 p.253 S Thurley Royal Palaces of Tudor England 1993 p.110 6 J Dent The Quest for Nonsuch 1981 p.387 ibid p.261 8 PRO Exchequer Accounts E 101/477/129 Dent op. cit. pp.42 & 80 10 PRO E 101/477/12 Introduction 11 eremia - desert 12 Acts ii 44/5; iv 32-35, by Luke the physician and historian 13 Dickinson (50) p.42 14 Dickinson (51) p.71 15 Dickinson (50) p.128 16 ibid. p.103n4 Dickinson (51) p.71 17 Dickinson (50) p.103 18 J W Clark (Ed)Liber Memo. de Eccles. de Bernwella 1907 p.41 19 C N L Brooke & G KierLondon 800-1216:The Shaping of a City 1975 p.205 20 C N L Brooke in Beales & Best (eds.) History, Society and the Churches 1985 p.56 1. Gilbert the Founder 21 Heales p.1 22 J Morris (Ed) Domesday Book: Surrey 1975 30b.5 23 Heales p.2 24 ibid. p.3 25 D Lysons Environs of London I 1792 p.339 26 Colker (70) pp.242 & 250 Heales p.3 27 Lysons op. cit. p.340 28 Colker (70) p.242 29 Lysons op. cit. p.340 30 Colker (70) p.251 31 E J Kealey Roger of Salisbury: Viceroy of England1972 (California Univ.) p.120Colker (70) p.243 32 Dickinson (50) p.130 33 PRO Cart. Antiq. U 5 f 52/20 Mon Ang vi p.247 34 It was probably the very high status of the witnesses that led J H Round to suspect thatthe charter of 1121 was a forgery. 35 Heales p.4 36 ibid. p.5 37 Colker (70) pp.262/3 2. Gilbert the Norman 38 His mother was still active in 1117 (Colker (70) p.244) and therefore unlikely to be of childbearing age before 1066. 39 D Lysons Environs of London I, 1792 p.34140 Anglo-Saxon Chronicle s.a.1085 41 P Coss The Knight in Medieval England 1000 1400 1993 pp.9/10 42 Heales p.543 C Given-Wilson The Royal Household & the King's Affinity 1986 pp.7-844 Cartularium Monasterii de Rameseia (Ramsey Cartulary) I p.238 45 Christopher Brooke suggests that the combination formed a narrow ring aroundHugh of Buckland's territory. C Brooke & G Kier London 800-1216; the Shaping of a City(Secker & Warburg) 1975 p.205 46 Heales p.2 47 Colker (70) p.244 48 Dickinson (50) p.129 49 Camb. Univ. Library Addtl MS 3021 f.419r 50 WAM 82 & 83 51 Colker (70) p.244 Dickinson (50) p.130 52 Colker (70) p.244/5 The famine is mentioned in the Anglo-SaxonChronicle s.a. 1124. 53 Colker (70) p.245 54 Heales p.5 For Serlo see also chapter 7 55 E J Kealey Roger of Salisbury: Viceroy of England1972 p.120Colker (70) p.243/4 56 Colker (70) p.246 3. Early Buildings 57 Colker (70) p.251Heales pp.3/4 58 J Harvey Cathedrals of England & Wales (Batsford) 1974 p.59 59 J C RobertsonMaterials for the History of Thomas Becket 1878 (RS 67) III p.23 A PRIORY REVEALED 60 Eirike Magnuson (Ed)Thómas Saga Erkibyskups (R.S.65) 1875 I p.85 W L Warren Henry II 1973 p.455 61 Heales p.21 62 PRO Exch. King's Remembrancer Misc. 1/ 1b line 58; English Historical Review 28 (1913) p.223. "Prior et conventus de Mertuna xl marcas super vineum in Sudtuna in Surrea" 63 Heales p.22/23 For examples of the king's munificence seeSAC 71 (1977) p.96 64 Heales p.2665 ibid. p.49/50 (with the last date corrected) 66 ibid. p.60 4. Augustinian Canons 67 J W ClarkObservances at the Augustinian Priory of Barnwell (Macmillan & Bowes) 1897 p.13368 ibid p.203 69 D Knowles The Religious Orders in England 1950 ii p.229 70 J R H Moorman Church Life in England in the13th Century 1945 p.260 71 H E Salter Chapters of the Augustinian Canons(Canterbury & York Society) 1922 p.9. This met at Leicester under the presidency of theprior of Merton. 72 D Knowles The Monastic Orders in England 1949 p.361n 73 Heales p.268 74 Salter op. cit. p.xxvi 75 Winchester Obedientiary Rolls pp.307ff 76 Heales p.204 77 ibid. p.60 78 Daniel 9: 3. "I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him … in sackcloth and ashes". 79 Hence a dirge was the name for a burial song. 80 Current Archæology No.162 Vol.XIV (April 1999) p.237 Bones studied by MoLAS 81 Disseminated Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH) Tony Waldron 'DISH at Merton Priory: Evidence for a 'new' occupational disease', British Medical Journal 291 (21-28 Dec 1985) pp.1762/3. 5. The Prior 82 Heales p.15483 ibid. p.34 84 F M Stenton Norman London 1934 p.5585 Sussex Archaeological Collections 7 (1854) p.213 86 Colker (70) p.26687 Heales p.77 88 The example of Merton in Southwark, was followed by the abbess of Malling (c1200), monasteries at Canterbury, St Augustine and Christchurch (1215), Battle (c.1225), Beaulieu(1274), Lewes (c.1277), St Swithun, Winchester (1299), Hyde abbey (1305), Waverley (1309), Totnes (1432). 89 Heales pp.233-5, 303-6, 311-4, 324-8 90 M&B I, 252 91 Heales p.319 6. Centre of Learning 92 D Knowles The Historian and Character and other essays (CUP) 1963 p.195 93 ibid. p.194 94 Nicholas' education at Merton was first suggested by R L Poole in Essays in MedievalHistory to T F Tout 1925 p6195 A Kippis Biographica Britannica 1778 I p 64. See also MHS Bulletin 129 (March 1999) p.496 Collector of wharf dues, beach market tolls etc 97 Dickinson (50) pp.111 n4 and 115 98 Colker (70) p.251Heales p.3 99 Knowles op. cit. p.101 100 Wm fitzStephen Materials for the History of Thomas Becket (RS 67) 1875 III 14101 F Barlow The English Church 1066-1154 1979 p.221102 W Dugdale Monasticon Anglicanum 1830 vi pt.1 pp.79/80103 A M Woodcock (Ed) Cartulary of St Gregory, Canterbury in Royal Hist. Soc. 1956 p x 104 Heales p.268 105 H E Salter Chapters of the Augustinian Canons(Canterbury & York Soc.) 1922 pp.xxxvii, 239 106 Heales p.90 and 117107 Colker (69) p.252 Dickinson (50) p.187 108 'Ex historiae Francicae fragmento' in Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de France XII (1781) p.3Colker (69) p.250 Dickinson (50) p.187 n7 109 Colker (69) p.254 110 ibid. p.252 111 ibid. p.253 112 ibid. p.259 113 F Barlow The English Church 1066-1154 1979 p.233 114 Colker (69) p.254, 259 If 15 May was the vigil of the Ascension itcould only be 1124. (M Brett The EnglishChurch under Henry I 1975 p.9n.) 115 Colker (69) p.254 NOTES AND REFERENCES 7. Daughter Houses 116 Heales p.5 117 Colker (70) p.243118 ibid. p.242 119 ibid. p.243 D Lysons Environs of London I, 1792 p.341 120 Colker (69) p.259M Brett The English Church under Henry I 1975 p.9n 121 Dickinson (50) p.118 122 Further information is contained in DaughterHouses of Merton Priory published by the MHS April 2002. 8. The Monastic Day 123 When only eight hours of daylight, each 'Hour'was 8/12 or 2/3 of an hour. 124 Three psalms at each 'Hour' meant 21 psalmseach day, plus introductory psalms sung at vigils. 125 J W Clark (ed) The Observances in use at Barnwell Priory Macmillan & Bowes 1897 p.lxxxv126 Heales p.325 127 Augustinian Rule. See Migne Patrologiae cursus; S Augustin Epistolarum II p.958 128 Dickinson (50) p.182129 Silence was a sign of obedience and humility. It was likened to an artificial desert to instil solitude amid a crowd. 9. Administration Within 130 Dickinson (50) p.159Mon Ang 419a;"..secundum ordinem beati Augustiniet institutionem ecclesiae sancte Marie de Meretune". 131 Heales p.318 132 ibid. p.195133 ibid. p.212/3 134 ibid. p.268135 ibid. p.271 136 ibid. p.309/310137 ibid. p.318-21 138 C R Cheney From Becket to Langton(Manchester University Press) 1956 p.176n 139 D Knowles The Monastic Order 1949 p.618140 Heales p.317 141 H E Salter Chapters of the Augustinian Canons (Canterbury & York Soc.) 1922 p. xxxvii 142 ibid. p.176Heales p.287 Chapter met in 1395 143 Salter op. cit. pp 104,108 Oseney Acts of Chapter s.a. 1443144 Heales p.317 Augmentation Office Charters F 27 145 Book of Common Prayer. Holy Communion – prayer for the Church militant 146 Heales p.133 147 ibid. p.230/1 148 ibid. p.233 149 ibid. p.248/9 150 ibid. p.274; Register Wykeham fo.182 151 Heales p.33 152 Salter op. cit. pp.22/3 10. Administration Without 153 D Wilkins Concilia Magnae Britanniae1737 Vol.1 p.587 154 R R Tighe & J E Davis Annals of Windsor 1858 I p. 340/1 155 Heales p.187 156 Much of Cahagnes, including its church, was destroyed in 1944.157 Heales p.342 158 "store it in the grange" ? barn – Heales p.33159 Luke de Hardres bought the right of presentation to a canonry at Merton in about 1177. (Healesp.31) 160 Heales p.284 11. The Precinct 161 MHS Bulletin 138 (2001) p.4 162 see S F Hockey (Ed) 'The Account-book of Beaulieu Abbey' in Camden Society 16 (1975) pp.182-4 163 Rose Graham in G Barraclough Social Life in Early England 1960 p.68 164 Curia mentioned until early 14th century. Heales pp.71, 82, 113, 212 165 D Knowles The Historian and Character and other essays (CUP) 1963 p.207 166 Medieval Archaeology 45 (2001) p.277 167 The Gatehouse site would not provide this view. 168 P J Huggins 'Monastic grange…Waltham Abbey 1970-72' in Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. 3rd Series IV (1972) 169 Heales pp.193-5 170 ibid. p.238 171 Stone benches were provided inside the walls ofthe nave, the chapter house, guesthouse and even certain gateways. 172 Heales p.14 173 G G Coulton Five Centuries of Religion 1923 I p.142 174 W Lambarde Topographical Dictionary1730 p.212175 Heales p.284 A PRIORY REVEALED 176 In 1485 William London was custodian (Heales p.303), "of the great chapel…within the churchof the monastery" (Heales 306.) A custos still existed in 1536 (Heales pp.342, 343.) 177 Heales p.303 178 D Knowles The Historian & Character and other essays (CUP) 1963 p.192 179 ibid. p.193 180 Examples at Barnwell, Baswick, Felling, Flitcham, Frithelstock, Michelham, Poughley, Shulbrede, Stone, Thurgarton and Warbleton 181 Heales p.332 182 J Raine The Rites of Durham (Surtees Soc. 15 1842 p.76) J T Fowler (Surtees Soc. 107 1903 p.90) 183 PRO Close Rolls 42 Hen III m 14, 1256-9 p.168 John completed the nave vault of Gloucestercathedral by 1245 and went on to build the palace apartments at Guildford with glasswindows. Following Merton's chimney repair, John did likewise in the king's chamber atWestminster Palace. In May 1259 over 15 cwt. of stone was delivered from Chaldon quarry. (H M Colvin Building Accounts of Henry III(1971) pp.290, 296, 342). John died in 1260. 184 Heales p.305 185 H E Salter Chapters of the Augustinian Canons (Canterbury & York Soc.) 1922 p.26 186 SAC 36 (1927) p.41 187 The bolting hutch was a large tub containing flour which had been 'bolted' to separate thehusks of ground wheat. 188 J W Clark (Ed) The Observances in use at Barnwell Priory (Macmillan & Bowes) 1897 p.203 189 ibid p.187 190 Heales p.212 191 Pevsner & Nairn Surrey 1971 p.363It was re-erected in 1935 at the parish church. 192 Medieval Archaeology 45 (2001) p.277 193 London Archaeologist Vol.10 No7 (2003) p.196 194 Gentleman's Magazine CCLVI Jan. 1884 p.66and E Walford Greater London Vol 2 (1883-4) p.519 195 Pipe roll 25 Hen III rot. 16d. This would have been in the south-east, givingaccess to the drovers' track to the sheep enclosures on Carshalton Downs via Ravensbury and Green Wrythe Lane. 196 Heales p.71, 82, 168, 189, 193/4 12. Hospitality 197 Interdict – the prohibition of church services by decree 198 W Wallace Life of St Edmund of Canterbury 1893 p.93 199 C C C Cambridge MS lix Heales p.104,105 200 ibid. p.139 201 ibid. pp.132/3,137, 162 202 ibid. p.179 203 ibid. p.158 204 ibid. pp.163/4 205 ibid. p.165 206 ibid. p. 164 207 ibid. p.329 Letters & Papers Henry VIIIiv pt. 1 pp.676, 821, 1053 208 Heales p.62 J BlairEarly Medieval Surrey (Sutton) 1991 p.99 209 Heales p.170 210 ibid. p.284 211 ibid. p.71 212 ibid. p.168 213 ibid. p.204 214 G H Fowler Dunstable Charters Bedfordshire Historical Society (1926) p.228 215 Heales p.245VCH 2 p.97 216 Record Office Calendar iii 248, iv pt 3 p.2810 217 bona cervisia. Not standard convent beer or debili cervisia (weak beer) 218 Heales p.164 219 Cart. Rot. 36 Hen III m11 Heales p.124 220 Heales p.269 221 Cal. Patent Roll 19 Edw. I m10 p.54 20 Edw. I m5 p.55Heales p.173 222 Close Roll 36 Hen III m14 Heales p.125 13. Royal Visitors 223 Colker (70) p.243 D Lysons Environs of London I, 1792 p.340Heales p.2 224 Heales pp. 40/41 225 Pipe Roll 9 Henry II vi p.62 SAC 71 (1977) p.98 226 Heales p.60 227 MHS Bulletin No 127 (Sept. 1998) pp.8/9 228 Patent Rolls 17 John m 22 p.145 Heales pp.70/72, with incorrect years 229 SAC 36 (1925) p.53 230 MHS Bulletin No. 138 (2001) pp14-16 231 Patent Rolls 30 Hen.III m5 NOTES AND REFERENCES 232 D Williamson Kings and Queens of Britain 1991 p.72 233 J Hunter 'Journal of the mission of Isabella …' in Archaeologia 36 (1855) p.257MHS Bulletin 148 (June 2004) 234 Archaeologia 31 (1850) p.43Heales p.248; MHS Bulletin 141 (March 2002) p.9 235 Heales p.296 N H NicholasPrivy Council of England, Proceedings … II (1834) p.38 236 Heales p.298237 ibid. p.336 14. Endowments 238 OVital Historia EcclesiasticaBook XI 2 (ChibnallVI 1978 p.16/17) 239 W H Frere 'The early history of the canonsregular…' in Fasciculus J W Clark dicatus 1909 pp.193, 216 240 J Blair Early Medieval Surrey (Sutton) 1991 p.99. 241 Colker (70) p.243242 Heales pp.9/10 Cluia was Kingscliffe. 243 Blair op. cit. p.124 VCH 3 pp.321-5244 Heales p.15 245 ibid. p.153246 ibid. p.62 15. A Local Landlord 247 College of Arms Arundel MS 28, section I:19 from Colker (1970), pp. 241-271248 Heales p.135 249 VCH iv, 65 – De Banco R. 355, m. 172; 354, m. 50 d. (East. 22 Ed. III) 250 VCHii, 99 – Anct. Pet. 3007. No date is givenfor this petition, but a William de Kent became prior in 1439, having previously been sub- prior. However, the name was not uncommon – a former canon of Merton, William de Cantia, on 3rd June 1258 "without the consent of the Prior and Convent, entered secretly, intending with great temerity to reform the place and arrangements", but was banished toanother monastery of the Order. 251 Heales p.296.252 Merton Court Rolls – Guildhall Library ms 34, 100/205253 Ministers Accounts – PRO SC 6/Hen VIII/ 3463 m5 254 ibid – mm5 & 18 255 WAM Book 11, fo. 169v; Heales p.101 quoting Pedes finium 21 Hen III, Surrey, No.209 256 WAM 27295-27305 257 Ministers Accounts – PRO SC 6/Hen VIII/ 3463 m9 258 ibid m19 259 ibid m15 260 ibid m31 261 Heales p.297-8VCH iii, 502 262 Ministers Accounts – PRO SC 6/Hen VIII/ 3463 m33 Heales 64 263 ibid m17 264 ibid m28 265 Ministers Accounts – PRO SC 6/Hen VIII/ 3463 m26 WAM Book 11, fo 370 266 Heales p.20 267 Ministers Accounts – PRO SC 6/Hen VIII/ 3463 m11 268 ibid m7 269 Deedes, C (ed) Register or Memorial of Ewell(1913) 166-169 270 Ministers Accounts – PRO SC 6/Hen VIII/ 3463 m20 271 ibid m33 272 ibid m31 273 ibid m32 274 Heales pp340-341 275 ibid. p.257 VCH iv, 122 276 Lambert, H C M History of Banstead in Surrey I (1912), 130-135, 353-356 277 VCH iv, 94 278 Ministers Accounts – PRO SC 6/Hen VIII/ 3463 m25 279 ibid m27 280 ibid m15 281 See note 62. No further references to this vineyard are extant, but the Merton court rollsrefer to a tenement called "Blakewaters in Sutton" in 1516-1517 – Guildhall Library ms34, 100/205 282 VCH Middlesex ii, 267; vii, 82, 136 VCH Surrey iv, 70 Heales 106, 108, 251-3, 260-3, 285-6, 295-6 283 Ministers Accounts – PRO SC 6/Hen VIII/ 3463 m15 284 ibid m13 A PRIORY REVEALED 16. A Glimpse of Greatness 285 Eirike Magnuson (Ed) Thómas Saga Erkibyskups(R.S.65) 1875 I p.85W L WarrenHenry II 1973 p.455. "he took on a black cape and a white surplice which gowith the ordination of a canon regular, and this rule he followeth out afterward". 286 Radulphi de Diceto Opera Historica(RS 68) II p.88 287 Henry Knighton Chronicon (RS 92) I p.167 Heales p.48 288 SAC 36 (1925)p.48 289 Further information is contained in MHS Bulletin 127 (1998) pp.8/9290 C L Kingsford in the Dictionary of NationalBiography, OUP 1997 Vol. 13 p.299 291 Surrey Eyre (October 1235), Nos.61 and 190 292 F M Powicke King Henry III and Lord Edward1947 I p.308 293 Heales p.142294 ibid. p.186 295 Colker (70) p.243296 Heales p.91 297 ibid. p.154298 ibid. p.156 299 PRO Special Collection 1-18/169300 Heales p.133,134 & 197 301 Further information is contained in MHS Bulletin 144 (2002) pp.12/13 302 D Wilkins Concilia Magnae Britanniaeii 1737 p.279 303 Close Roll Cal. pp.14,49 SAC 22 (1909) p.156/7304 SAC 22 (1909) p.157 305 Bermondsey priory held the superior rights. SAC 16 (1901) p.561 306 Sussex Archaeological Collections 9 (1857) p.274; English Historical Review Vol. 24 (1909) p.441 307 Heales p.212; VCH ii p.98Sussex Archaeological Collections 9 (1857) p.272 308 VCH ii p.98; Bull of pope John XXII 309 Heales p.207 310 In 1381 Wycliffe denied the doctrine oftransubstantiation. His view was consubstantiation i.e. that the bread and wine was not replaced by the body of Christ but that He was present with it. 311 Bodl. MS 723 (Merton Chronicle) D Lysons Environs of London I, 1792 p.341 312 Heales p.292; BL.Cole MS 44 p.358 313 Heales p.295 314 S Brigden London and the Reformation 1989 p.57 315 BL copy – ref.C40e36 316 Royal Historical Letters of Henry III I p.100 317 Annals of Waverley; Heales p.112 318 Annales Monastici (Waverley) II p.240 319 Heales p.58 17. Pastures New 320 Dickinson (50) p.195 321 J W Clark The Observances in Use … at Barnwell (Macmillan & Bowes) 1897 p.32322 Annales Monastici (Waverley abbey) ii p.290 323 Heales p.191324 ibid. p.234 325 ibid. p.294326 ibid. p.303 & 309 327 SAC 52 (1952) p.34328 Calendar of Papal Register 1492-95 Vol.16 No. 575 18. The Beginning of the End 329 Heales p.322 330 Letters & Papers of Henry VIII ix 517 331 ibid Cal. ix p.2; Heales p.339 332 ibid Henry VIII xiii (1) 7/83-5VCH 2 p.101 333 As provided for under the law of 1536334 A Amos Observations on the Statutes of the Reformation Parliament of Henry VIII1859p.309,335 'Prior's house' Trinity Lane, south of Holy Trinity the Little336 Browne Willis An history of the mitredparliamentary abbies (sic) … 1719 II p.231 337 M E C Walcott 'Inventories & valuations of religious houses' in Archaeologia xliii (1871) pp.202 & 229 338 W B D D Turnbull (ed.) Account of the Monastic Treasures … Abbotsford Club 1836 p.11 339 The 29th regnal year ended on 22 April 1538, the correct year for the date of suppression but not of the indenture. 19. A Priory Laid Bare 340 J Dent The Quest for Nonsuch 1981 p.38 341 ibid. p.47 342 S Pepys Diary 21 Sept 1665 343 Dent op. cit.1981 p.80 344 ibid. p.101;Daily Telegraph 9 Sept. 1959 p.14. Thecarvings are on display in the Museum of London. 345 SAC 58 (1961) p.3346 SHC (former SRO 281/2/18) 347 Battersea Churchwardens' Accounts f.2a p.236 Epilogue 348 Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln, died in 1253, and it was at the convocation at Merton in 1258 that his complaints against the pope and the king were aired. (See MHS Bulletin 144 (Dec 2002) p.13.) Appendix I 349 Surrey Record Society Vol. 32 (1983) p.475350 Matthew Paris Chron. Major. iv 284/5 INDEX Historic county names are used throughout. Locations without county names are in Surrey. Page numbers in bold indicate illustrations. abbey: Beaulieu (Hants) 98 Bermondsey 104 Bruern (Oxon) 96 Glastonbury (Somerset) 104Reading (Berks) 115 St Albans (Herts) 104 Thorney (Cambs) 14 Waverley 5, 67, 96, 113 Abbey House, Merton 60, 61 accounts 39 acolyte 19, 38, 95, 99 Adam de Marisco 88 Adam (cellarer) 73 Adrian IV: see Breakspearad succurendum 68 advowson 76, 77, 84 Aette (Ashe), Gilbert de (prior) 41, 54, 111Akenberg (Yorks): manor 79 Albyn (Abbyn), George (canon) 99, 103 Alconbury (Hunts): church 76 Alconbury, Geoffrey de (prior) 111 Aldgate, London: priory 1, 30, 33, 41, 73, 97 Algar 32, 34 All Hallows, London: church 95 almoner 43, 54 almonry 29, 54 altars 18 Alwin (abbot) 33, 34 Amerden (Bucks) 47 Amery, Merton 83 Amicius 70 Anselm of Laon 97 appropriated churches 45, 76, 78, 86 Appuldore, Malden 83 archbishop of: Bordeax, France 92 Canterbury 31, 36, 86, 92 see also Becket, Boniface, Corbeil, Kilwardby, Langton, Peckham, Rich, Walter, WykehamYork 65 Arnold (vintner) 26 Ashe: see Aette Ashtead: see Little Ashtead assart 47, 71 Augustinian Order 5, 19, 31, 33, 40, 77, 85, 86, 95, 97, 98 Augustinian Rule 7, 37, 38, 39, 97, 98, 102 Avignon 94 Awelton, John de 68 Aylemer, Lawrence 82 bailiffs 78 bakehouse 51, 54 Baker's Farm, Merton 82 Bandon, Richard de 69 Banstead: manor 79, 84 Bardy, John (canon) 99 Barnwell (Cambs): priory 7, 41, 59, 77 observances at 65, 97 barons 73, 75, 77, 86, 87 Barton (Cambs): church 76 Basing, Henry de (prior) 111 Basingstoke (Hants) 88 Bavel, Richard 69 Bayle: see TyweBeaulieu Merton 54 Bec, Normandy 14, 31, 94 Becket, Gilbert 29, 30, 113 Becket, Thomas (archbishop) 18, 65, 67, 73, 85, 92, 109, 112 Beddington 84, 95 Bedford St Peter (Beds) church 76 Bedle, Thomas & Geoffrey 100 Belagh (Yorks): manor 79 Bellach, Anthony (commissioner) 104 bells 3, 64, 107 Benese, Richard (canon) 2, 95, 99, 103 Berde: see BardyBere Regis (Dorset) 79 Bernard the scribe 77 Berwell, Kingston: manor 79, 83Besant, Richard 68 Bethune, Robert 91 Beverley 48 see also Le Brok Biggin & Tamworth, Mitcham: manor 79, 83 Bilsington (Kent): priory 98 bishopBath & Wells 78 91 Chichester 96 Hereford 91 Llandaff 91 London 86 St Davids 115 see also Exeter, Lincoln, Norwich, Rochester, Salisbury, and WinchesterBishops Sutton (Hants): church 76 Black Death: see Great PlagueBlickling (Norfolk): mill 79 blood letting 43, 60 Bocland, Robert de 69 Bodmin (Cornwall): priory 32, 33, 34, 98 bolting house 59 Boniface (archbishop) 91, 96 Boulogne, Faramus 77 Bourne, Giles (Egidius) de (prior) vii, 98, 111 Bradford (Dorset): mill 79 Brakspeare (Breakspear), Nicholas: pope 29, 112 Brentford (Mddlx) 45 weir 84 brewhouse 51, 54 Brickhouse, Merton 100 Bridge (Kent): church 76 Brokesborn, William de (prior) 27, 41, 111 Bronescombe (bishop) 66 Buckenham (Norfolk): priory 39Bul, John de 69 Burgh, Hubert de (justiciar) 66, 87, 96, 112 Bygrave Hill, Mitcham 83 Bynchester, Arnold (canon) 99 Cade, William 18 Cahagnes, Normandy 48, 115 Calwich (Staffs): manor 79 Campesete, William de (canon) 98 Cannon Court: see Fetcham Canondownhill, Merton 82 canonical hours 35, 40 canon law 97 A PRIORY REVEALED canons regular: see Augustinian OrderCanonteign (Devon): manor 79 Canterbury (Kent) 33, 41, 85, 86 monks of 91 Cantia, Thomas de (prior) 97, 111Cantia, William de (canon) 42, 82, 97, 98 Carew, Nicholas 102 Carlisle (Cumberland): priory 98Carne, Edward 104 Carshalton: church 76, 77, 84, 100 mill 79, 84 Case, Sir Bryan 69, 71 Castle Acre (Norfolk): mill 79 castles: Cambridge 7 Dover 87 Guildford 74, 87, 92 Reigate 87 Rochester 87 York 92 Caterham: manor 92 cellarer 43, 54, 58, 60 cemeteries 24, 55, 57, 64 Chaddesley, Geoffrey de (prior) 41, 111, 114 Chaldon 83, 84 chamberlain 43 chancellor 89 chantries 69, 71 chaplains 64, 71, 95 chapter house 37, 39, 57, 110 seal 3, 18, 37, 40, 112 Charlton (Mddlx): manor and mill 79 Charlwood 83 charter of foundation 11 Chartington: see HartingtonChartreuse 97, 98 Chelsham 84 Chelsham, Alan de 69 Chertesey, John (canon) 42, 98 Chesham, William de 69 Chessington (Chessyngdon) church 68, 78 manor 79, 83, 88, 100 land 84 children of the cloister 29 Christchurch (Twynham) (Hants): priory 34, 93 Church House, Merton 82 circator 37, 38 Cirencester (Glos): abbey 7, 34, 93, 102 Clapham 2 Clare, Richard de 88, 89 Clay, Lambert 69 Clement, William 2, 105 Clerk, John 100 Clifton, William 69 cloister 18, 52, 110 Cluny, France 5, 12 Cobham, Henry de 93 Coddyngton, John (canon) 99, 103 Colecester, William de 69 Colet, John 114 collations 35, 38 compline 35, 38 consecrations 91 'convent miche' 71 convocations 91, 92, 94, 96, 112 Coocham, Gilbert de 69 Coombe Keynes (Dorset): church 76 Coombe Nevill, Kingston: manor 79, 83 Corbeil, William (archbishop) 33, 34 corrodies 49, 68-71 Council of: Merton 66, 74, 87, 112 Oxford 45 Coverdale, Miles 110 Cromwell, Thomas 101, 102, 103 crossbows 71 Crowhurst (Sussex) 84 crusades 86 Cuddington: church 76, 77, 84, 88 vill 2, 83, 105 see also Nonsuch palace, Curaunt, John 68 custodian of lady chapel 43, 55, 112customs and observances 31, 33, 39 customs of the manor 81 Dammerton, William de 77 Dane, Simon 25 daughter houses 32, 33 Daumbeses, William 67 David (king of Scotland) 34 death of a canon 22, 23, 96 Debnam (Debenham), John (canon) 99, 103 De Burgh: see Burghdemolition of priory 2, 3, 102, 103, 105, 107, 112, 114 Diceto, Ralph de 86 Dickenson, Christopher 2, 105 diet: see meals dining hall (frater) 38, 43, 52, 58 discipline 37, 40, 42, 101 dissolution 102, 109 Ditton: see Long DittonDoo, Robert (canon) 99 dormitory (dorter) 41, 58, 112 dovecote 54 Dover (Kent): mill 79 priory 34, 115 sea fight 87 Dowman (Downam), Edmund (canon) 99, 103 dress 21, 40 Duncton (Sussex): mill 79 Dunsford, Wandsworth: manor 79, 83 Dunstable (Beds): priory 70, 98 Duns Tewe (Oxon): church 76, 77 Durham abbey 58 East Horsley 84 East Lulworth (Dorset): church 76 East Molesey: church 76, 77 manor 79, 83, 100 mill 79 Eaton Bray (Beds): church 76 Edith: see Matilda education: see learningEdward I 25, 27, 48, 60, 74, 75, 91 II 75, 93 III 70, 75 Effingham: church 76, 77, 84, 100Eleanor of Castile 74, 91 of Provence 74, 87, 115 Elias: see HelyasEly, Bishop of 73, 86 endowments 77-79 enthronement 91 Entmore, Ewell 100 Erasmus, Desiderius 95 Escures, John de (bishop) 15, 25establishment 20 Est, Richard 81 Eswy 26 Eton (Bucks): fishery 45, 48 grange 48 Eustace (prior) vii, 111 Ewan (bishop) 65, 96 Ewell: manor 45, 73, 78, 79, 83, 112 mills 79, 84 survey 94 Ewhurst: church 77, 84 INDEX 127 Exeter: cathedral 32 see also Bronescombe, Warelwast Faith, William de 69 famine 14, 113, 114 Farleigh: manor 88/89Ferour, William le 42 Fetcham: land 84 manor (Cannon Court)79, 83 mills (La Hale) 79, 84 Ffraunceys, John 69 finance 27, 43, 49 fisheries 45, 47, 48, 84 fish ponds 51, 64 flood meadows 64, 113 Flore (Northants): church 76 mill 79 food: see meals forced loan 101, 112 fothers 106 Foxele, John de 92 Franceis, Richard 68 frater: see dining hallfraterer 43 Friston, William (prior) 41, 111, 114 Frith Le, Kingswood 71 Furbur, Roger le 68 gallows 81 Garderobe, Nicholas de la 71 Garrett,Wandsworth 83 Gatehouse 52, 53, 64 Gateway, Great 29, 52, 54, 71 other 64 Gaunt, John of 67, 94 Gavel, William 69 Geddinges, Walter de 92 Geoffrey (Plympton canon) 32, 34Giffard, William (bishop) 10, 34Gilbert the Norman 7, 9, 11-15, 77, 81, 112, 115 his mother 14 Giles: see Bourne Gisburne: see GysburneGisulf 77 Glanville, Ranulf 86 glazier 52, 64 Godmanchester (Hunts): church 71, 76 Godmanchester, Thomas (canon) 99, 103 grange 46-48 Grange, Merton 48, 54, 82 granger 43 Gray's Inn, London 95 Great Chelworth (Wilts): manor 79Great Court (Curia) 51, 52, 54 Great Plague 46, 81, 101, 113, 114Greenwich (Kent): mill 79 Grosseteste, Robert (bishop) 91, 109 Gualo (legate) 73, 87 guest house 60, 71 guest master 43, 60 guest parlour 54 Guido Langobardus 31 Guildford: castle 74, 87, 92 churches 77, 84 town 74 Guy (canon) 98 Guy of Merton (canon) vii, 29, 31/2, 34, 98, 112Gysburne, John (prior) 99, 111 Hampshire eyre 1236 88 Hampp (Hampton,Mddlx) 83 Hampton Court (Mddlx) 2, 95 Hansard, Sir John 68 Haremede, Sir G de 68 Harold (king) 82 Hartington (Hertingdon) 79, 83 Haye, John de la 69 Hayward, John (canon) 99, 103 Helyas of Radnor 91 Hennege, Sir John 100 Henry I 9, 11, 34, 73, 77, 81 II 18, 45, 51, 73, 78, 83, 92 III38, 51, 55, 71, 73/4, 87, 88, 89, 91IV 75 VI 47, 75, 112 VIII 71, 75, 101, 102, 109 Henry, Prince (son of Edward I) 74, 96 herbarium 51 Hereford, precentor of 95 Herierd, Edmund de (prior) 27, 40, 54, 69, 111 heriot 81 Hertingdon, Kingston: see HartingtonHeyham, Robert de (prior) 111 high farming 45, 51 Hillier, John 100 Hobalds, Morden 83 Hoclegh, Henry 69, 70 Holbode, Thomas 69 Holbroke, Ockley 83 Holdshot (Hants): manor & mill 79 Holgate, John 100 Holts, Merton 82, 100 Holyrood, Scotland: abbey 33, 34Hook: see ChessingtonHorley 83, 84 Horne 84 hospitality 65-71 hours, monastic: see canonical hours Hubert de Burgh: see BurghHugh of Buckland 14 Hugh 'portario' 69 hunting dogs 40, 71 Huntingdon (Hunts): mill 79 priory 7, 9, 14, 15, 30, 104, 112Hydefeld, Clapham 83 income 48, 102, 113 infirmarer 43, 59 infirmary 12, 59, 60, 70 inner court 51, 55-60 interdict 65, 86, 113 Isabella (queen) 75 John (king) 18, 65, 73, 86, 87, 94, 96 Jukes, John 81 kalendar 36, 37 Kempsall, John 100 Kenilworth (Warwick): priory 104Kent: see Cantia, Kent, William (prior) 111 Kew (Cayho) 83, 84 keystone: see roof bosskilns 44, 64 Kilwardby, Robert (archbishop) 89, 91, 112 Kimpton (Herts): church 76, 94 see also Kymptonking's chamber 58, 73 Kingscliffe (Northants): church 77 Kings Lynn (Norfolk): mill 79 Kings Norton (Somerset): church 77 Kingston, John (prior) 41, 42, 57, 111 Kingston upon Thames: church 76, 77, 78, 83, 100 grange 48 mill 79, 84 town 84, 87, 114 see also Berwell, Coombe Nevill, HartingtonKingswood: manor 45, 71, 73, 79, 83, 100 see also Northwood kitchen 59 kitchener 43 A PRIORY REVEALED Kirkham (Yorks): priory 70 Knights Hospitaller 93 Knights Templar 92/3, 94, 112Knycht (Knyght), Robert (canon) 99, 103 Kympton, Michael de (prior) 41, 51, 94, 104, 111 Laborne (Labrum), John (canon) 99 Lacey, John (prior) 99, 111 lady chapel 43, 55, 112 La Hale: see Fetcham Lambeth Convocation 94 Langele, Bartholomew de 69 Langton, Stephen (archbishop) 65, 68 latrines 58 lauds 35 Laval, Hugh de 77 Layton, Richard (Visitor) 102, 104, 112 lead salvage 105, 106 learning 29, 30 leases 100, 101 Leatherhead 73, 84 see also Pachenesham Le Brok, Merton 81 Leicester (Leics): priory 41, 104Le Spital, Morden 83 letters dimissory 97 Lewes (Sussex): priory 1, 5, 12 librarian 43 Lincoln, bishops of 86, 91, 109 see also Grosseteste Lincoln: castle 92 prebend of 95 Lisle, Launcelot 69 Little Ashtead: manor 79, 83, 100 Littleton, John de (prior) 41, 111Llanthony (Monmouth): priory 91, 104 Lok,Thomas 82 William 100 London 84, 92, 95 mayor 66 monastic town houses 25, 103 rebel barons 86 Tower 92, 93 see also Aldgate, All Hallows, Gray's Inn, St Barts, HospitalLondon, John (canon) 99 Long Ditton: church 68, 78, 84, 95 Louis the Dauphin 73, 87 Lullingstone (Kent): mill 79 Lye (Leigh) 83 Mabson, Thomas 107 Magna Carta 87 Malden: church 68, 77, 78, 83 manor 88 town 2, 30, 78, 83, 84, 89 Malden, Eudo de 68, 78 Malden, William 78 Mandelyn, John 69 Manfeld, Thomas 100 manors 78, 79 manorial courts 78 Mara, Geoffrey de 69 Mareis, Henry de (canon) 98 Mareshland, Mitcham 83 Mareys, John 69, 71 Marshall, John (canon) 99 Marshall, William (regent) 73 Martin (canon) 98 Martyn, John (canon) 99, 103 martyrology 37 Mary (queen of France) 95 Mary (princess, Henry VIII's daughter) 75 mason's lodge 64 Master of the Order 39 Matilda (Edith), Henry I's queen 9, 11, 113 matins 35 Mattingley (Hants): mill 79 meals 21, 22, 38, 45 Merrow: manor 92 Mershall: see Marshall, John Merton: church 8, 9, 76, 81, 82, 100 grange 82, 100 manor 77, 79, 81, 82, 84 mills (Amery & priory) 44, 100 vill 2, 82, 83 Merton College, Oxford 83, 89 Merton, Walter de 30, 83, 88/9, 110, 112Michelham, Henry de 66 Mickleham 84 Midsomer Norton (Somerset): church 76 manor 79 Milcombe (Oxon): manor 79 mills 45, 78, 79 minor orders 19 Mitcham 2, 3, 10, 83 mills 79, 84 see also Biggin and Tamworth mitred abbot 90 MoLAS ii, vii, 3 Molesey: manor 83 mill 84 monastic day 35 Montfort, Simon de 88, 89, 90 Moraunt, William 100 Morden 2, 3, 10, 83 see also Hobalds, Le SpitalMorehall (Herts): manor 79 Morel, Andrew 68, 70 Morins (Mores), Richard de (prior) 98 mummers 75 Munday, Thomas: see Wandsworthmurrain 113, 114 Muschamp, William 100 Museum of London 3 Mychell, Thomas (canon) 99, 103 nave 18, 55, 112 necrology 37 Needham, James 2 Newark: priory 7, 67, 104 Newdigate 83 'new men' 77 Newstead (Notts): priory 41, 98 Nichol, John 69, 71 nones 35, 38 Normannia, Peter 68 Northampton (Northants): priory 41, 42, 94 Northwood, Kingswood 71 Norveton (Norbiton) 83 novices 29 Nonsuch palace 2, 95, 105, 106-8 Norwich, bishop of 39, 65, 73, 86, 96 number of canons 20 obedientiaries 43 Observances 39, 65 Ockley 83 officers 43 ordinations 66 Osney, Oxford: abbey 31, 41, 42Otto (legate) 52 Ottoboni (legate) 52 Oxford 30, 31, 65, 67, 88, 94, 95, 110 Pachenesham, Leatherhead 45, 79 Page, John (scholar) 99, 103 Pandolph (legate) 96 Paris, France 92 parliament 87, 88, 90 INDEX 129 Passelewe, Robert (bishop elect) 96 Pate, John 69 Patrixbourne (Kent): church 76 manor 79 Paynel, John 42 Paynell, Andrew (canon) 99 Thomas (canon) 95, 99, 103peace conference 87, 112 Peasants' Revolt 94, 101 Peckham, John (archbishop) 67, 96, 109 Pennark, Richard de 69 pensions 70 Pepys, Samuel 106 Perching (Sussex): mill 79 Peterborough (Northants): abbey 14 Peterhouse College, Cambridge 89Petersham (Petrysham): church 76, 77, 83 Peverell, Pain 7 Philip (c.1235) 69 Philippe IV (king) 92 Picot 7 Pippsbridge, Mitcham 83 plumbers 64, 105, 106 pluralty 67 Plympton (Devon): priory 32, 33, 34 Polesden (Lacy) 79, 83, 84 Pontigny, France 86 pope 65, 66, 67, 78, 91 Adrian IV 29, 112 Benedict XI 92 Boniface VIII 92 Clement V 92, 93 Gregory XI 94 Innocent III 86 Martin V 94 porter's lodge 52 Poynings (Sussex): mill 79 precentor 43 precinct 51-64, 70, 112, 113 presbytery ii, 112 Preston (Sussex): mill 79 prime 35, 38 priors: chamber/lodging 57, 58 election 26 list of 111 office 25-28, 78 privies: see latrines privy council 75, 112 prosperity 46, 112 provincial chapters 31, 40, 43 psalms 35 pulpitum 55 Purnel, John 69 Putney 2 Pyppisbrigg: see Pippsbridgequarry (at Chaldon) 52, 84 queens: see under first namerabbit warren 71 Rainald (c.1140) (canon) 31 Ramsey, John (prior) 95, 99, 102, 103, 111 Ranulf the chancellor 14 recruitment 19 rectories 82, 84, 100, 101 Redvers, Baldwin de 34 Reformation 110 Reigate: priory 7, 98 reredorter: see latrines Rice, John ap 104 Rich, (St) Edmund 30, 65/66, 96, 109, 112Richard I 86 II 67, 94 Richard of Merton (c.1213) 86 Richard (prior) 111 Richmond (abbot of Bruern) 96 see abbeyRichmond (Sheen): church 76, 77, 83 fishery 45 rivers 64 see also Beverley, Thames and Wandle Robert I (prior) see TyweRobert II & III (priors) 111 Robert (canon and Becket's confessor) 18, 85 Rochester (Kent): bishop of 11, 15, 25, 89, 115 Roger (bishop of Salisbury) 11 Roger (c.1244) 69 Roger of Huntingdon (sheriff) 14Rogers, Richard 100 Romeney, John de (prior) 111 roof boss ii, 2, 107 Ropley (Hants): church 76 royal chaplains 95 charters 74 council 89, 90 household 70 sports 75 treasure 73 visitors 73-76 Rule: see Augustinian Order and Rule 'rules of Merton' 39 see also Observances Runnymede 73, 86, 112 Russell, William (canon) 99 Ryarsh (Kent): church 76 Rye, Walter of (canon) 98 St Augustine 5, 6 St Bartholomew, London 104, 110 St Denys (Hants): priory 42 St Giles, Cambridge: priory 7 St Gregory, Canterbury: priory 30, 33, 34 St Lô, Normandy: priory 34 St Neots (Hunts): abbey 14, 15, 115 St Osyth (Essex): priory 106 St Paul's Cray (Kent): mill 79 St Rufus,France: abbey 6, 29 St Thomas: see Becket St Thomas, Southwark: hospital 70, 110 sacristan 43 Salisbury 93 bishop of 65, 73, 96 see also Roger, bishopSalthouse (Norfolk): mill 79 Salyng, John (canon) 99, 103 Salynge, William (prior) 40, 41, 42, 99, 111 Salyngs, Merton 82, 100 sanctuary 66, 112 Sandon, Esher 7 Sandwich (Kent) 87 Sandwyche, John (canon) 99 Santo Botolphe, Alan de 69 Saunder, William and Thomas 100 Saunderson, Clement (canon) 97Saunderson, John 97 Schirfield, Thomas (prior) 111 scriptorium 43, 59 seal, priory: see chapter seal royal 88 Serlo 15, 33, 34 servants 19, 20 sext 35, 38 Seymour, Edward 67 Sheen: see Richmond Shelwode, Andrew de 68 Shelwood, Ewell 45, 73, 79, 83 A PRIORY REVEALED Skerne, Percival 100 Smith, John 104 Somerford Keynes (Wilts): church 76 Somerton (Oxon): mill 79 song school 29 South Malling, Ralph of (canon) 98 South Tadworth, Banstead 79, 83, 100 Southwark: hospital 70, 110 priory 7, 98, 104, 113 palace 67 town 84, 100, 110 Southwark, William de 68 South Weston (Oxon): mill 79 Southwick (Hants) 98 spiritualities 49 stabilitas 97 stables 60 Stanstead Abbots (Herts): church 76 mill 79 Stapelbrigg, Stephen de 93 Statute of Merton 87 of Mortmain 67 Stephen (archdeacon) 15, 33 Stephen (prior) 111 Stephen in the Hale 81 Steward, John 100 stewards 78 storm 96, 113, 114 Stotty: see Totty succentor 43, 95 Sunbury (Mddlx): see CharltonSurrey 7, 13, 71, 79, 84, 88, 92 surveyor 95 Sutton 2, 18 Tadworth: see South Tadworth tailor's shop 54 tallage 89, 91 tally sticks 13 Talworth, Peter de 78 Tandridge: land 84, mill 84, priory 7 tannery 59 Tapevil, R (c.1225) 69 Taunton (Somerset): priory 32, 33, 34, 98 tempest 96, 113, 114 Templars: see Knights TemplarTemple Elfold, Capel: manor 92temporalities 49 terce 35, 38 Testard, William 77 Tettesworth, Edmund 69 Tewe: see Duns Tewe Thames, River 13, 45, 46, 47, 86 Thames Ditton: church 76, 77 theatricals 75 Thomas: see Becket Thomas, Richard 100 Thornton (Lincs): priory 93 Thorpe, Geoffrey de 69 Thorrok, Dyonisius de 69, 70 Thurstan (archbishop) 65 tiles 7, 20, 42, 64, 71, 100 Tinenwe, John de 31 Tollsworth, Chaldon 79, 83, 84 mill 79 Tolworth 84 Tolworth, Peter de 68 tonsure 19 Tooting 2, 3, 79, 83, 84 Totty, Thomas 93 tower 3, 53, 107, 112, 113 transepts 18 travel 22 treasure, monastic 104 Tregony (Cornwall) 48 Tregony, Nicholas de (prior) 111Tullesworth: see Tollsworth Twynham: see ChristchurchTyler, John 107 Tynedale, William 109 Tywe, Hugo 77 Tywe (Bayle), Robert (prior) 10, 11, 14, 111 universities 88 Upton (Bucks) 47, 91 church 76 manor 79 Vadlet, William 66 Valor Ecclesiasticus 101, 102, 104 Velet, Alice 68 vespers 35, 38 Viel, Godiva le 68 Vienne, France 93 vine growing 18, 51, 84 visitations by bishop 21, 31, 39/40, 71 vows 19, 39 Vyleys, Nicholas 68 Wahull, Jordan de 68 Walens, Roger 69 Wallington 84 mill 79 Walter (prior) 97, 98, 111 Walter de Merton: see Merton Walter, Hubert (archbishop) 65, 86Waltham (Essex): abbey 7, 54, 93Waltham, Ralph de (canon) 97 Walton on Thames 84 Wandle, River 51, 60 Wandsworth 2, 83 see also Dunsford andGarrett Wandsworth, Thomas (canon) 98, 99 Warelwast, William (bishop) 32, 34 Warin 68 Warlingham 84 washing place 52 watermills: see mills West Barnes, Merton 48, 82, 100 Westminster abbey 14, 18, 74, 85, 91 Westminster, Godfrey (canon) 99 West Molesey: mills 79 Westwode, John 69, 71 Wexham (Bucks): manor 79 Whethamsted, Geoffrey de 69 White Ship disaster 73, 77, 112, 113 Whytaker, John de 105 William (prince d.1120) 11, 73, 113William (prior) 111 Williams, Sir John 104 Wimbledon 2, 3, 10, 79, 84 Winchelsea, Robert de (archbishop) 92 Winchester, bishops of 65, 86, 101 see also Giffard and Wykehamwindmills: see mills Windsor (Berks) 86 Windsor, Robert de (prior) 41, 94, 111 Winterbourne Stickland (Dorset): manor 79 Wllst, Thomas de (prior) 111 Wolcherehaw, Richard de 68 Wolsey, Thomas 1 Wool (Dorset): church 76 workshops 64 writing room: see scriptoriumWychyflet, Southwark 92 Wycliffe, John 94 Wykeham, William of (bishop) 67, 96, 109, 112 Wyndsor (Wyndesse, Wydeses), Richard (canon) 99, 103 Yakesley, John de (canon) 98