Autumn Excursion.

To meet a generally expressed desire, the Council arranged a second excursion on Tuesday, 17th September. The outing was limited to half a day, the chief item of interest included in the arrangements being a visit to the remains of Beauvale Priory.

A party of over forty proceeded by train from Nottingham to Hucknall Torkard, from which place Beauvale is about five miles distant.

The charming vale, in which the sparse remains of the Priory stand, well merits the name bella vallis, and has been but little invaded as yet, in spite of the busy townships and smoky collieries that are close at hand. It was from this place that the celebrated Viscount Melbourne's brother took his title, when he was created a peer of the United Kingdom in 1839, as Baron Beauvale, of Beauvale, co. Nottingham. He succeeded his brother as Viscount in 1848, but, leaving no issue, all his honours became extinct at the time of his death, in 1853.

On reaching the site of the Priory, Mr. Fellows read a paper, written in 1889, by Mr. Cornelius Brown, F.S.A.1 This paper Mr. Brown has revised and rewritten for the Transactions, so as to introduce the results of more recent research.


By Mr. Cornelius Brown.

The ruins of Beauvale Priory (photo: A Nicholson, 2002).
The ruins of Beauvale Priory (photo: A Nicholson, 2002).

In a verdant valley whose name, aptly chosen, indicates its picturesque surroundings, there stood for two centuries or more a house of the Carthusian order, of which some small portions remain, close to a farmhouse standing almost at the head of the vale, and known as the Abbey Farm. The monastery of Beauvale owed its existence to the piety of Nicholas de Cantelupe, lord of Ilkeston and Greasley, a member of a wealthy and powerful family, of whose members much information may be obtained from contemporary records. William de Cantelupe was steward of King John's household, and was ennobled by that miserable monarch for the advice and assistance given to the king in his contest with the barons. His son, also named William, became the favourite steward of Henry III., and had the honour to number amongst his friends "the stern grave soldier who stood like a pillar,"2 Simon de Montford, who was present at his funeral. Walter de Cantelupe, the brother of the second baron, became Bishop of Worcester, while his nephew, Thomas, became Bishop of Hereford, and won so great a reputation for piety and austerity, that he was canonised by the Pope in 1320, about thirty-two years after his death. From generation to generation the Cantelupes contributed in men and money to the service of the Church and State,3 and meanwhile largely increased their own possessions. The manor of Greasley had come to them by the marriage of Nicholas de Cantelupe with Gustachia, grand-daughter and heiress of Hugh Fitz-Ralph, who held Greasley from the fee of Peverel by the service of one knight to be made to the lord king.4 William, their son, gave property to the convent of Bridlington, and was one of the barons present at the coronation of Edward II. in 1307. His son, another William, transferred the Greasley property to his brother, Nicholas, in 1321, who had, as a warrior, an adventurous life, being for some time companion and favoured attendant of the king. It was this Nicholas who gave to the Carthusians the beautiful site in Beauvale for their habitation. The foundation deed is dated at Greasley, 9 December, 1343, and sets forth the founder's desire to "found a monastery of the Carthusian order in my park at Gryselye in the county of Nottingham," and to assign "ten pounds worth of lands and rents per annum in the towns of Greselye & Seleston together with the park of Seleston to a prior and twelve monks of the said order," who should dwell "in the monastery which is called the beautiful valley in the said park of Greselye built for their use, that they may there serve God according to the custom of the servants of the church of Chartreux." Subsequently, Nicholas considerably increased the endowment by further gifts of property in Greasley, Watnall, and Selston, as appears by an inquisition, held 21 Edward III.

After his foundation of the monastery, he continued his active services as soldier and statesman, making, from time to time, further gifts for religious purposes to secure the safety of his soul, and, closing a remarkable career in 1356, he was buried under an altar-tomb of marble in Lincoln Cathedral. In the comparatively short intervals of leisure that he enjoyed, he spent some time at Greasley in his manor house adjacent to the church, and obtained the King's permission to fortify and embattle it. The site of this once formidable Castle of Greasley may still be readily identified.

Settled in their monastery by the liberality of Nicholas de Cantelupe, the prior and monks pursued the even tenor of their way, until the great era of spoliation came in the reign of Henry VIII. The Carthusion order, though popular on the continent, did not flourish to any great extent in this country. Their rule is similar to that of the Benedictine, but much more severe. They were the strictest of all the religious, and each monk lived a silent and solitary, but by no means an idle, life. Mrs. Jamieson is enthusiastic in praise of their good qualities as gardeners, for she describes them as "the first and greatest horticulturists in Europe," and says that "wherever they settled they made the desert to blossom as the rose." Their habit was white except their outer plaited cloak, which was black, and the daily course of their lives was so even and uneventful that, to the chronicler as he wrote his volume in the cloister, it must have appeared useless and unnecessary to enter any description of it in his pages. The end came in 1540. By the spring of 1534 Henry was fully committed to a breach with Rome, and firmly determined to suppress all opposition. Rumour said that the prior of the London Charterhouse (the principal house of the Carthusians) John Houghton, privately exhorted his penitents to remain firm in refusing to abjure the Papal supremacy, and as his replies on the subject of Henry's divorce did not satisfy the royal agents at their visitation, he was sent to the Tower. Houghton had been prior of Beauvale before he was summoned to take that of London. For a little while he was released, and along with Robert Laurence, who succeeded him in the Notts, house, and Augustine Webster, prior of Axholme, he had a personal interview with Crumwell, who forthwith imprisoned the three priors as rebels and traitors. Brought to trial for refusing to accept the oath of supremacy, they were found guilty, and executed at Tyburn on May 4th, 1535. " The details of their execution were of a nature more horrible than usual even in the terrible and barbarous punishment of death for treason."5 Houghton was succeeded at the London Charterhouse by another monk of Beauvale, William Trafford.

A letter is extant from Sir John Markham, who went with others to Beauvale to "take the value," in which he says that when he pointed out to the Beauvale monks in friendly conversation that the king was of right spiritual head, Trafford boldly replied that " the Pope was supreme head of the Church Catholic," and being asked if he would abide by his words, replied "usque ad mortem." What happened to change his view does not appear, but we know that his resistance ceased, and that he resigned his monastery to the king. Prior Laurence, who died on the scaffold, was succeeded at Beauvale by Thomas Woodcock, and he and his brethren gave up the house and its possessions to the Royal Commissioners on July 24th, 1540. Pensions were allotted to Woodcock and ten of his confreres, and the site of the priory was granted to Sir William Hussy. During Queen Mary's reign, the scattered Carthusians settled at Sheen under Prior Maurice Chauncy, but on the accession of Elizabeth, they went with him abroad, amongst their number being Nicholas Dugmer, from Beauvale, who died September 6th, 1575, and is the last we are able to trace.

The Rev. A. Du Boulay Hill described the ruins and indications of the ancient arrangements as follows.

(1) Mr. Cornelius Brown died on 4 November, 1907. (2) Green's Short History, i., 292. (3) They took such an active part as warriors that stone balls used at sieges were named after them. Thus Henry V. paid £66 for balls formed from stones called Cantelupes. (4) Inquisitiones Post Mortem, temp. Henry III., undated. (5) Gasquet's "Henry VII. and the English Monastries " 1,223.