Serving God in the monastery were twenty-two monks and two lay brethren in 1262, twenty-seven monks and four lay brethren in 1275-6, and twenty-five monks in 1279.

On two occasions in the middle of the 13th century, the monks of Lenton were guilty of serious acts of violence. In 1250 the dispute between the prior and convent of Lenton and the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield over tithes in Derbyshire grew so bitter that a free fight developed. Eighteen lambs were killed in the church of Tideswell and fourteen others carried off by the monks of Lenton.1 In 1263 the prior of Lenton was involved in a still more serious offence which brought excommunication upon him. One, Bartholomew, claimed to be rector of the church of St. George, Barton, but the prior preferred Thomas de Raley. When Bartholomew's proctor made his appearance, the servants of Thomas de Raley, in the presence of the prior, stripped him, robbed him of his papal letters, and killed him hard by the cemetery.2

There may be some explanation but no justification of the violence employed by the prior and his monks. The use of force to obtain the Derbyshire tithes may be connected with the state of the finances of the monastery. The reconstruction of a considerable part of the monastery had been proceeding for twenty years and was not yet complete, and although Henry III was generous in his grants of stone and wood, the expenditure of the priory must have been increased by this extensive rebuilding.3 Additional burdens were placed on the monastic finances by heavy taxation in England and by the demands of the abbots of Cluny, who were given power by the Popes to levy special subsidies and to recall priors who did not pay them.4 There is no lack of direct evidence of the pecuniary difficulties of the prior of Lenton. In 1262 the priory was loaded with a debt of a thousand pounds. In 1275-6 the debt was 180 marks, and in 1279, 1,030 marks and eight sacks of wool at 8 marks a sack.5 In 1285 the prior acknowledged that he owed William de Hamilton, clerk, 107½ marks.6 Some eighteen years previous to this, the vicar of Lenton complained that the prior and convent were detaining certain mortuaries and oblations that pertained to the vicarage. This suggests anxiety on the part of the monks to increase their income and to reduce their heavy debt.7 Written possibly by the prior of Lenton himself, the visitation report of 1279 provides additional reasons for the poor condition of the monastic finances. It was stated that the prior's predecessor received an annuity of 40 marks and that the prior had already spent 160 marks in litigation connected with the dispute with the Chapter of Lichfield over a yearly tithe of 250 marks.

Although a shocking act of violence, the murder of the unfortunate proctor Bartholomew at Barton is, nevertheless, an interesting sign of the times, as it probably reflects the resentment which many people in England felt against the Papacy owing to Henry III’s subservience to the Pope and the latter’s appointment of absentee foreigners to vacancies in England.8 The privileges and organisation of the Cluniac Order in practice allowed the priors of monasteries in England freedom from effective control. Exempt from diocesan visitation, the English Cluniacs were subject to little supervision, for it is questionable whether the visitors from Cluny were able to make thorough investigation into the conduct of the monks. Apparently the visitors in 1262 did not visit Lenton at all, obtaining their information from the sub-cellarer and the almoner who met them in London, and in 1279, as already explained, the prior of Lenton himself was one of the two responsible for the report.

(1) V.C.H., Notts., Vol. II, p. 92 ; Godfrey, p. 68 et seq.
(2) Record of the excommunication may be found in the Cal. of Papal Letters, 1264. The Cal. of Papal Letters and the V.C.H., Notts., give Burton-on-Trent as the name of the place where the incident occurred. Godfrey gives Barton. Barton is usually known as Barton-in-Fabis, but is also near enough to the Trent to be described as being on the Trent. Godfrey is correct. The church at Barton is the church of St. George. The parish church at Burton-on-Trent is St. Modwen's. The Prior and Convent of Lenton were patrons of the church at Barton, but not of Burton church. According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus, Lenton received a pension of 5s. 0d. yearly from Barton. This explains why the incumbent is a rector not a vicar.
(3) See above.
(4) “The Cluniac Order and its English Province,” Journal of the British Arch. Assn., 1922, p. 172.
(5) Visitation reports.
(6) Cal. of Pat. Rolls, Edward I, 1285, p. 353, Mark. 13/4. In “The Meaning of Medieval Monies” (Historical Association Pamphlet No. 95), p. 6, the author, G. C. Coulton, Litt.D., F.S.A., suggests that a rough idea of the modern equivalent of sums mentioned about 1300 to 1348 may be obtained by using 40 as the multiplier.
(7) V.C.H., Notts., Vol. II, p. 98.
(8)  See Trevelyan: History of England , pp. 173-4.