Newstead is popularly called an abbey. It was, however, strictly speaking, a priory.1 The name of abbey is applied similarly to other houses of which remains are left—Hexham, Bolton, Guisbrough and Kirkham are cases in point—although their heads were not abbots, but priors. By a curious inversion, the Leicestershire priory of Laund is now called Laund abbey, while the neighbouring abbey of Owston is referred to as Owston priory. As a matter of fact, the praelatus or head of a house of Austin canons was known generally as the prior, a title appropriate to the first of a body of priests. The abbot of a Benedictine or Cistercian house was the father of a mixed community; and where we find a Benedictine house ruled by a prior, it is a sign either, as at Tynemouth and Great Malvern, that his priory was subordinate to an abbey of which it was actually a detached member, or, as at Spalding and alien priories like Blyth, St. Neots, and Tutbury, which in their later days became independent of foreign abbeys, that it had originally been in a subordinate condition, or, as in cathedral churches which were also monastic, that the bishop was given the honorary recognition due to an abbot, though not a member of the convent. The Premonstratensians, with their strictness of observance, followed the Cistercian custom of placing their houses under abbots. Austin canons, on the other hand, were content, for the most part, to distinguish the chief dignity of their house by the title of prior, as the first among his brethren, all priests or aspirants to the priesthood. The theory that all Augustinian monasteries were priories because their superior and visitor, the bishop, was recognised as their abbot, rests on no valid ground and appears to be a deduction from the fact that this recognition was accorded to him, as already noted, in monastic cathedral churches. One priory, the premier house of the order at Colchester, was exempt from episcopal jurisdiction, and, vice versa, great Benedictine abbeys like Ramsey, Peterborough, Glastonbury, Gloucester and Tewkesbury, were subject to the bishop's interference equally with the humblest Augustinian priory.

Further, although the numerous Augustinian monasteries in the diocese of York, and all but one in the diocese of Norwich, where the order was very popular, were all ruled by priors, there were several abbeys of the order in England. None of these were north of the Humber. In the diocese of Lincoln, we find Bourne, Thornton and Wellow (otherwise Grimsby) in Lincolnshire, Leicester and Owston in Leicestershire, St. James' at Northampton in Northamptonshire, Missenden and Nutley in Buckinghamshire, and Dorchester and Oseney in Oxfordshire. In the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, there were Darley in Derbyshire, Rocester in Staffordshire, Haughmond and Lilleshall in Shropshire; while Kenilworth in Warwickshire became an abbey about 1485.2 Cirencester and St. Augustine's at Bristol were in the diocese of Worcester, Wigmore in Hereford, Keynsham in Bath and Wells, and Hartland in Exeter. In the diocese of London were the exempt abbey of Waltham and St. Osyth, both in Essex. The abbeys of Creake in the diocese of Norwich, and Lesnes in the diocese of Rochester complete the list of twenty-five.

Henry VIII. converted Bisham priory in Berkshire and the diocese of Salisbury into an abbey; but in this case an Augustinian house was occupied by Benedictine monks from the prematurely suppressed abbey of Chertsey. Thirteen of these houses were in the patronage of the Crown, which probably accounts for the special dignity thus given to comparatively obscure houses such as Wellow, Rocester and Creake. Others, like Wigmore, were connected with great feudal houses. Bourne and Nutley, like the Scottish abbeys of Holyrood and Jedburgh, were originally Arroasian foundations, of which the heads seem to have been usually called abbots. Haughmond and St. Osyth, at first priories, seem to have become abbeys by special royal privilege: St. Osyth, at any rate, owed its abbot to a charter of Henry II.3 Neither of these, however, were royal foundations or in Crown patronage. If reasons may thus be found for it, one may surmise that the distinction was arbitrary and rested upon no fixed principle; and it may be noted that while many of the houses which recognised the Crown as founder, in the sense that the king had succeeded to the actual founder's rights, were abbeys, some houses, like Newstead and Ravenstone in Buckinghamshire, which were founded by English kings, remained priories. Of the abbots, only two, those of Cirencester and Waltham, were habitually summoned to the house of lords but the papal privilege of the mitre was occasionally granted to individual heads of houses and became customary in some of the larger houses, as at Bristol.4 Two houses, Waltham and St. Botolph's priory at Colchester, were exempt from episcopal jurisdiction and directly subject to the holy see. Leicester abbey, under the rule of Philip Repyngdon, obtained a similar exemption for a short time; but, when Repyngdon was promoted to the see of Lincoln in 1405, it returned to its previous subjection to its diocesan.5

From these general remarks upon houses of Austin canons, which may serve to remove misconceptions, we may pass to the special history of Newstead priory.

III.—History of the Priory from 1170 to 1526.

Of the early history of the priory, apart from the information contained in the charters of Henry II. and John, nothing is known. King John appears to have been well affected to his father's foundation, and Eustace, the first prior whose name stands on record, was evidently trusted by him. On 12th March, 1204-5 the prior was entrusted with the custody of the priory of Thurgarton, then in the king's hands;6 and on 7th July, 1207, Brian de l'Isle was ordered to allow the canons to get marl from the hay or forest enclosure of Linby, and to have a reasonable amount of estovers (i.e., allowances of wood) from the timber for the repair of their mills, if it might be done without damage to the king's forest.7 The prior held the prebend of Oxton in Southwell, on lease from its holder, Gregory, a Roman cardinal, who quitted it in or before August, 1207;8 when the prior's lease was continued by royal order.9 In August, 1212 he was allowed to retain his right to the crops of wheat and oats from the land of a tenant-in-chief who had forfeited it to the Crown for default of service;10 and on 31st March, 1215, the sheriff was directed to let the prior and convent have five oaks of the king's gift from the hay of Linby.11 King John deposited various jewels at Newstead and Welbeck. On 7th July, 1215 Eustace, the prior, was given a receipt for delivering to the king at Marlborough two staves ornamented, one with ten, the other with twenty-three sapphires which he had had in his keeping.12 Eustace was succeeded in 1216 by Richard.13 At this date there was a dispute between the convent and the abbot and convent of Croxton, Leicester, about the patronage of the church of Hucknall. The case was carried to the holy see and committed by the pope to the arbitration of the dean, precentor and chancellor of Lincoln.14 Hucknall in this case appears to be Ault or Hault Hucknall, Derbyshire. The church of "Hokenhale" was granted to Croxton abbey by its founder;15 but Croxton surrendered its claim, as the prior and convent of Newstead presented continuously to the vicarage.16 The appropriation of the church of Hucknall Torkard was granted by a decree of archbishop Gray, in consideration of the poverty of the canons, 5th June, 1234.17 Previously, 19th April, 1229, the archbishop, for a similar reason, confirmed the appropriation of Stapleford church, which had been given to the convent by Avice, the lady of the manor.18 It is probable that, on their somewhat remote site, the canons found some difficulty in keeping house. The site was enlarged in January 1227-8 by the gift from the king of ten acres of wood adjoining their outer court, in the direction of their enclosed meadow next the Leen.19 On 9th July, 1233, there is an order to Peter of Rivaux, then escheator, to see that they had the tithe of hay of the manor of Sutton-in-Ashfield, while it remained in the king's hands.20 This, however, referring to the prior and convent as parson or rector of the town, appears actually to concern the prior and convent of Thurgarton, to whom that description properly applies. On 9th December, 1234, the royal assent was given to the election of Robert as prior.21 He ruled until his death in 1241. During these seven years the only event recorded is the deposit at Newstead of some of the goods of Henry III.'s sister Joan, wife of Alexander II., king of Scots, who died in England and was buried at Tarrant in Dorset. Two months after her death, on 5th May, 1238, the prior and convent were ordered to deliver the goods to Thomas of Durham, citizen of London.22 Assent to the election of William, cellarer of the house, as prior was granted 7th May, 1241, the mandate to the sheriff for the delivery of seisin being given in the unusual form of letters close.23 The conge d' elire had been issued in the ordinary form on 27th April.24 Two documents within the next few years concern provision for the services of the convent. John de Stutevill made a gift of a yearly rent of 40s. and a quarter of wheat out of the manor of Kirkby-in-Ashfield, to furnish the canons with wine and wafer bread for the Blessed Sacrament. This gift was a breach of his undertaking, made when his lands were restored by the Crown, to alienate nothing from them, and required the royal ratification, which was granted 1st September, 1245.25 The following year, on 14th December, the king ordered the warden of the exchange of Canterbury to let the prior and convent have a cup, worth five marks, of his gift, to be used as a pyx.26 Earlier in 1246, on 26th May, the constable of Nottingham castle was instructed to deliver a number of bacon pigs from the royal sties there to various religious houses in the midlands, Newstead and the neighbouring abbeys of Dale and Rufford being among those which received the maximum number of twenty each.27 The prior and convent seem at this time to have been suffering either from poverty or encroachment on their rights, as letters of protection were granted them 7th April, 1247, and 3rd April, 1251.28

Archbishop Gray, visiting Newstead on 6th June, 1252, found "the prior and canons alike earnest in their religious observance, and lovers of peace and concord both among themselves and towards others." He directed the appointment of a third prior to keep discipline in cloister in the absence of the prior and sub-prior, abolishing the arrangement hitherto pursued by which the canons took turns as presidents in cloister week and week about. The yearly accounts of the cellarer and other obedientiaries were to be audited by the prior, sub-prior, and three or four of the elder canons, who were to exhibit the statement of accounts and the debts of the monastery in public. A yearly inventory of rents and stock, with a statement of the gender and age of the latter, was to be drawn up by indenture between the convent and the cellarer. The convent seal was to be kept under the prior's seal in the treasury, in the guardianship of a discreet canon, and to be used only in the presence of the convent or its elder members. The prior was ordered to appoint a deputy for the almoner, to prevent any misappropriation of the alms, when the almoner was otherwise engaged. Finally, the cloister, frater and other places appointed for the quiet of the canons were to be kept clear of serving-men29 and unhonest persons. These injunctions, which were no mere paternal counsel, but had the force of statutory authority, were to be read in the presence of the convent twice a year.30 It may also be remarked that such injuctions represented corrections of matters which required amendment, and were no mere common form for use in possible contingencies—a theory which has led to serious misrepresentation of the historical value of this type of document.31

Gray's injunctions are appended in the register of Walter Giffard, archbishop of York 1266-79, to a series of documents relating to Newstead which include injunctions issued by archbishop Ludham in July, 1259, and by the priors of Guisbrough and St. Oswald's, as provincial visitors of the order, in July, 1261. Ludham endorsed Gray's injunctions, ordering their observance and remarking that they had been neglected in contempt by the prior and convent, the penalty for which he reserved. He added certain statutes of his own. The prior, in consideration of the evil condition of the times, was to be zealous in cultivating the favour of patrons of the house and possible benefactors. When honourable guests came to the house, he should receive them with "a cheerful and merry countenance," and visit them in person, or, if prevented from doing this, should send another canon as his deputy, who should treat them according to their rank and deserts. Among his brethren he must study to be loved rather than feared, and foster mutual charity. He must not deal with the difficult and important business of the house—i.e., matters affecting finance and property—without the advice of the elders of the convent. The sub-prior was in the habit of acting as a doctor to the whole neighbourhood, to the detriment of his office: he must not dispense medicine to secular persons indiscriminately. Exceptions might be made in favour of cases recommended by a benefactor or one of his relations, or of poor but honest persons, but, even in such contingencies, he must obtain leave from the prior or, if the prior were absent, from the elder canons. Brethren were solemnly enjoined to report transgressions of the rule and statutes by any of their number without hesitation. Excessive drinking was wholly forbidden: drinking after compline or at forbidden hours was to be punished by the offender's restriction to a diet of bread and water next day. For inordinate roaming in the fields and woods outside the monastery, offenders were to receive a discipline—i.e., a formal scourging—in addition to a suitable penance. Those who combined habits of drinking with gadding about were to be punished more severely. Brethren in the infirmary were not sufficiently cared for: one of the canons must be appointed to recite the hours to them and say mass when necessary, with directions to see that they had the diet and medicine required by their circumstances. These statutes were to be read with Gray's twice a year.32

Two years later, the Augustinian visitors, noting matters in need of correction, repeated the direction for the appointment of a canon to do service in the infirmary, with the additional order that an honest and faithful serving-man with a groom under him should look after the wants of its inmates. Food also was to be provided to suit their requirements. The canons were to appoint a chamberlain from their number, who, out of a yearly allowance of £12 from the common fund, was to find raiment and shoes for the prior, canons and conversi33 according to their needs, so that, as the rule required, no one should have to do any work for himself. The prior was ordered to provide him with a horse for riding to make purchases at fairs; and he was to have a serving-man under him, with victuals and pay from the common fund, who should know what to buy and how to do repairs to materials bought. In the matter of eggs and dried fish the canons were to have an increased supply: not less than three eggs and three fish were to be served as a course to any canon. Outside the frater, drink was to be served, with leave asked and obtained, only in the hall (i.e., the prior's hall) and the chamber attached to it, or in the infirmary. After the collation or evening reading, which in most monasteries was usually held in the chapter-house, was over, the brethren were to go to the frater in an orderly manner for their evening drink and then go in procession to the church for compline. A certain number of trustworthy canons were to be appointed as receivers of the money due to the convent, which they were to pay out by tally to the cellarer and other obedientiaries: they, with the cellarer and chamberlain, must render their accounts twice, or at least once a year, in the presence of the prior and elder canons. On Sundays the whole convent was to meet in the chapterhouse, where transgressors, convicted of faults by the evidence of an eyewitness among the canons, were to make full and public satisfaction. A canon should be appointed to check the operations of the conversus in charge of the tannery and make tallies and enrolments of purchases and sales by which his diligence could be estimated: this canon was to render his account twice a year. Similarly, the sub-cellarer was to have supervision of the conversus who looked after the convent garden and orchard. These injunctions were to be strictly observed, and the prior must bring without fail Richard of Walkeringham or some discreet elder canon to the general chapter with him, to report upon their due observance. They were to be read publicly four times a year.34

(1) It may be noted, however, that abbathia is used from time to time as a general term for a religious house; and we read of the "abbey field" at Newstead in the fifteenth century.
(2) The date is said in Monasticon VI. (i.), 219, to be "before the 3d. Hen. VIII.'; but see Cal. Pat. Rolls. 1485-94, p. 2.
(3) Monasticon. VI. (i.), 110.
(4) For such privileges see, e.g., Cat. Papal Letters, V. 16 (St. Osyth), 161 (Bristol).
(5) Cal. Papal Letters, VI., 419.
(6) Rot. Litt. Pat., (Record Comm.). I., 51.
(7) Rot. Litt. Clans., (Record Comm.), I., 87.
(8) There were several cardinals of the name at this date, and, as none of them died in this year or shortly before it, the identity is doubtful.
(9) Rot. Litt. Claus. I., 90.
(10) Ibid. I., 123.
(11) Ibid. I., 192.
(12) Rot. Litt. Pat. I., 148.
(13) V.C.H. Notts., II., 117.
(14) Cat. Papal Letters. I„ 50 (13th Nov., 1217).
(15) Monasticon, VI. (ii.), 877.
(16) Cox, Chh. of Derbyshire, IV., 466.
(17) Reg. Gray (Surtees Soc.), p. 66.
(18) Ibid. p. 30.
(19) Close Rolls, 1227-31, p. 13.
(20) Ibid. 1231-4, p. 238,
(21) Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1232-47, p. 85.
(22) Ibid. p. 235.
(23) Close Rolls, 1237-42, p. 298.
(24) Cal. Pat. Rolls, u.s. p. 250.
(25) Ibid. p. 460.
(26) Close Rolls, 1242-7, p. 491.
(27) Ibid. p. 425.
(28) Cal. Pat. Rolls 1232-47, p. 500 ; 1247-58, p 91.
(29) Garcionum, grooms : probably the servants of visitors to the monastery are referred to.
(30) Reg. Gray (Surtees Soc.), p. 210, from the register of archbishop Giffard. The summary in V.C.H. Notts. II., 114-5, though in the main correct, is inaccurate in one or two particulars.
(31) The meaning and method of composition of injunctions has been fully discussed by the present writer in his introductions to Visitations of Religious Houses (Lincoln Record Soc.) I., II.
(32) Reg. Giffard (Surtees Soc.), pp. 212, 213.
(33) Conversi or lay brothers were admitted to houses of canons, although their numbers were probably small and no special provision for their accommodation, such as we find in Cistercian monasteries, seems to have been made.
(34) Reg. Giffard, pp. 213-5.