(ii). From the beginning of Edward I’s wars with France to 1392.

Wars with France, the insolvency of the Priory, the Papal Schism of 1378, and the appointment by the Papacy of foreign clergy to benefices in the gift of the prior, combined to make this period very unsettled and very unhappy for the prior and convent of Lenton, and to put a severe strain on the bonds between Lenton and Cluny.

National feeling in England during the reign of Henry. III. had found a powerful stimulant in the hatred which both barons and people felt towards the foreigners who either swarmed into the land as favourites of the king or drew the revenues of benefices as appointees of the Pope. By the reign of Edward I this feeling in the country, now very strong and shared by the king, was hostile to the dependence of English monastic houses upon a foreign abbey situated in Burgundy. When, in 1289, war broke out between England and France , Edward I forbade the Cluniac priors to send money to the abbot of Cluny, a prohibition repeated by the Statute of Carlisle of 1307. In 1295 the king seized the temporalities of all monasteries dependent upon a foreign superior. From the monastic revenues, which now went into the hands of royal officials, the monks were provided a bare maintenance.1 About the same time, orders were given by the king for the removal of all aliens from monasteries near waterways leading to the sea, but as Edmund, the king's brother, stood guarantor for the priory, the monks of Lenton were exempt.2 Edward I’s instructions to his sheriffs in 1300 to remove all aliens from houses near the sea coast, and to seize their ships and boats, is another example of his attitude towards the alien priories. It would be tedious to recount all the occasions upon which Lenton, in common with the other Cluniac houses, was seized by the king on account of war with France . They may be traced in the royal instructions for the seizure or subsequent restoration of the temporalities, or in the entries to be found in the Patent Rolls of both Edward III and Richard II of Crown presentations to the benefices normally in the gift of the prior and convent of Lenton.3

Frequently the priors were allowed the custody of their houses when war broke out with France, upon their undertaking to pay annually to the exchequer a substantial sum of money.4  In 1295 the goods and lands of the prior of Lenton had been restored on this condition. After the outbreak of  the Hundred   Years’   War, Edward III committed the custody of Lenton Priory to Prior Astorgius at farm, “for such time as the priory remained  in his hands  on  account  of  the  war with France.”5

In 1387 Richard II made a grant to one of his servants for the duration of the war with France , of the office of porter of Lenton Priory, with power to execute the office by deputy.6

There is considerable evidence that the monks themselves found it easier to share the national hatred of the French than to obey the command to love their enemies. The English Cluniacs presented to Edward II at the Parliament of Winchester, 1330, a remarkable petition. According to this, the two nations would never agree in the same house. The petitioners complained among other things that Frenchmen ruled them everywhere; that not twenty English monks had made their profession and that the priors were ignorant of spiritual things and frequently collected money to send it out of the country. Reference was made to a previous suggestion that the prior of Lewes should be made an abbot and so be in a position to receive the profession of English monks and relieve them of the necessity to cross the seas.7

It has already been shown that before. 1289 the priory of Lenton was heavily in debt. The seizure of monastic property on numerous occasions after that date put additional burdens upon the strained finances of the priory. The priory acknowledged debts to a number of debtors in the years following 1290.7 In 1293 the king made a complaint to the abbot of Cluny of the maladministration of his “very poor house of Lenton.”9 By 1313 the priory was in such an unhappy financial position that, in May of that year, at the request of the prior and convent, Edward II appointed John de Hotham to be keeper of the monastery. A reasonable allowance for the prior and convent and their men having been made, all issues were to be reserved for the discharge of debts and for making good the defects of the priory. The appointment “during pleasure” was renewed the following year.10 A similar arrangement was made in 1334 when Edward III, as a result of the great burdens of the priory, appointed three custodians to administer the temporalities.11 Figures available for the 14th century disclose an annual income diminishing from £339 1s. 2½d. in 1291 to £305 1s. 8d. in 1380 and £300 14s. 4d. in 1387.12

In the middle of the financial troubles came disputes with the Papacy. In 1319 Prior Geoffrey refused to obey the Papal order to induct the Proctor of Bertrand, Cardinal of St. Marcellus, to the rectory of Ratcliffe-on-Soar. The next year Geoffrey was cited to appear in person before the Pope, and upon his failure to do so, was excommunicated. When the prior took shelter under the papal letters of protection granted to the English Cluniacs, Pope John suspended the letters and issued a fresh mandate to the Archbishop of York to instruct the prior to appear in Rome. A similar incident occurred in 1327. Prior Geoffrey again disobeyed the Papal mandate, this time by refusing to put Cardinal Fouget in possession of the rectory of Ratcliffe-on-Soar. The Papal threat to destroy the priory of Lenton moved the prior to implore Edward III to write to Rome on his behalf. This the king did, but it is clear from the Papal Letters of 1328 that Geoffrey submitted to the Pope and the excommunication was removed.13 Geoffrey was not the only prior of Lenton in the 14th century to receive the Papal censure. Astorgius de Gorcius, prior of Lenton, in conjunction with the Cluniac Priors of Lewes and Northampton and of other English houses, in 1349 refused to pay the proper subsidy to Iterius, abbot of Cluny. Like his predecessor, he was ordered to appear in person before the Pope.

It would be remarkable to find that in spite of the many vicissitudes, life went on peacefully and orderly within the walls of the monastery at Lenton. In 1350, soon after the Black Death, Prior Peter called in the assistance of the civil power to try to secure the arrest of John de Tideswell, John de Rempstone and Richard de Cortenhall, apostate monks who were wandering about the country in secular dress.14 The following year, the prior of the Cluniac house of Castle Acre experienced similar trouble.15 In 1389 some of the monks of Lenton rebelled against the prior. Outsiders apparently took sides with the monks. Houses and chests of the priory were broken open, and two horses valued at £10, together with goods and money, were stolen. So great was the disturbance that the prior was unable to attend to divine service and his servants could not cultivate the land.16

But deliverance from the troubles arising from the priory's position as an alien priory was at hand. The year 1351 saw the naturalisation of the Priory of St. Pancras, Lewes. Through the influence of the Earl of Arundel, Lewes Priory received a charter of denizenship. According to its terms the prior and monks and their successors of whatsoever nation, were to be regarded as natives of the realm instead of aliens, with the only condition that in time of war the apport, due annually to the abbot of Cluny, should be paid to the Crown.17 The same privilege was extended in 1374 to all priories directly dependent upon Lewes.18 In 1392 after a sum of 500 marks had been paid to the Crown, Lenton became naturalised and was no longer liable to be seized into the king's hands.19

(1) “The Order of Cluny and its Eng. Prov.,” Journal of Brit. Arch. Assn., 1922, p. 172; and Godfrey, p. 135.
(2) Cal. Close Rolls, 1295.
(3) V.C.H., Notts.,Vol. II, p. 96, quoting Rymer: Foedora, iv, 246. In lists of rectors or vicars of churches formerly in the gift of the Prior and Convent of Lenton, the king appears as the patron.
(4) “The Cluniac Ord. and its Eng. Prov.,” Journal of Brit. Arch. Assn., 1022, p. 173.
(5) Cal. Pat. Rolls, 21 Ed. III.
(6) V.C.H.. Notts., Vol. II, p. 97.
(7) “The Cluniac Ord. and its Eng. Prov.,” Journal of Brit. Arch. 1922, p. 174.
(8) Cal. of Patent Rolls,  1291; Cal. of Close  Rolls,  1290,  1295.
(9) Cal. of Close Rolls, 1293, p. 313.
(10) V.C.H., Notts., Vol. II, p. 96.
(11) V.C.H., Notts., Vol. II, p. 97. There is a very interesting account by Mr. A. Cossons in the Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 1935, of the history of William de Beckford, King's Clerk. Beckford was nominated to a corrody at Lenton Priory. In this way he was able to act as the king's representative in an alien house during the French wars.
(12) V.C.H., Notts., Vol. II, p. 93.
(13) V.C.H., Notts., Vol. I, p. 96, quoting Parl.  Rolls, Rymer Foedora, Pat. Rolls, Ed. III.
(14) V.C.H., Notts., Vol. II, p. 97, quoting Pat. 21 Ed. III, Pt. II, m. 17.
(15) Official Guide to Castle Acre Priory, H.M. Office of Works, p. 6.
(16) V.C.H., Notts., Vol. II, p. 98.
(17) Official Guide to Lewes, p. 20.
(18) Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 1922, p. 173, p.  174.
(19) Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1391-1396, p. 196.