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Woburn Abbey and the Dissolution of the Monasteries

  • Gladys Scott Thomson

A prolonged search has recently been undertaken by the present writer with the permission and encouragement of the Duke of Bedford with the object, in the first place, of locating if possible the records of the Cistercian abbey of Woburn and, in the second, of ascertaining what material hitherto unused, or partly unused, exists in the Public Record Office and elsewhere concerning the history of that abbey at the time of its dissolution and immediately subsequent thereto.

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page 131 note 1 Oxford Studies in Social and Legal History, i, English Monasteries on the Eve of the Dissolution, pp. 3175.

page 131 note 2 Valor Ecclesiasticus (Record Commission), iv, pp. 212–13.

page 131 note 3 M.A., Hen. VIII, 30.

page 131 note 4 Rentals and Surveys, 23/18.

page 132 note 1 £53 9s. 8d. in the Valor Ecclesiasticus.

page 132 note 2 £67 is. 1s. in the Valor Ecclesiasticus.

page 133 note 1 Letters and Papers, xiii, pt. i, 981. Examinations in the Monastery of Woburn, 11 and 12 May, 1538.

page 133 note 2 Valor.

page 133 note 3 Grant recited in Survey of 8 October, 1542. Misc. Books, Augmentation Office, 357.

page 134 note 1 D.N.B.

page 134 note 2 Palladis Tamia, 1598.

page 134 note 3 Op. cit., p. 251.

page 134 note 4 No evidence has so far come to light to connect them with Milton Bryant, between Woburn and Dunstable.

page 135 note 1 Cott. Cleop. E., IV, f. 89. Declaration of Robert, abbot of Woburn.

page 135 note 2 Henry had ordered her in August, 1531, to quit Ampthill and to go to The Moor in the neighbouring county. The command seems not to have been obeyed immediately, but she reached The Moor before November and remained there during the following winter and spring. In June, 1532, she was again ordered to transplant herself and went to Buckden in Huntingdonshire. Letters and Papers, iv, Nos. 375, 512, 1127, 1187.

page 136 note 1 V.C.H., Beds., i, p. 309.

page 136 note 2 K.B., 9, File 540, mm. 2–3.

page 137 note 1 26 Hen. VIII, c. I: Statutes of the Realm, iii, 492.

page 137 note 2 26 Hen. VIII, c. 13: Statutes of the Realm, iii, 508.

page 138 note 1 28 Hen. VIII, c. 7: Statutes of the Realm, iii, 655.

page 138 note 2 For the attainder, see K.B., 29/171, m. xvid, and Letters and Papers, xiv (1), 867.

page 139 note 1 See infra, p. 145.

page 139 note 2 Another statement in the V.C.H. article may cause confusion. The writer infers a close relationship between the Abbot of Woburn and his diocesan since the two were “near neighbours” when the Bishop of Lincoln visited “his manor of Woburn.” But the one-time episcopal manor is nowhere near Woburn in Bedfordshire. It lies on the farther side of Buckinghamshire, almost on the Berkshire border, and has never had any connection with the Bedfordshire manor of the same name except that for a short time both were in the hands of Francis, second Earl of Bedford. To-day the distinction is clear as the Buckinghamshire manor has retained the spelling of “00“ which that in Bedfordshire has lost. Before the spelling of each became stereotyped, the two were not infre quently confused, notably in the various accounts of the itinerary of King Charles during the Civil War, he having on several occasions made a stay at both places.

page 140 note 1 Bishop Longland's Register, f. 55b. He had been ordained sub-deacon on the 25th May, 1532; Ibid., f. 31.

page 140 note 2 I owe this information, as almost all I have gleaned concerning the dispossessed monks of Woburn, to the kindness and generosity of Mr. Geoffrey Baskerville, who has placed his knowledge of the dispossessed religious after the dissolution of the monasteries and his particular researches as to what happened within the diocese of Lincoln at my disposal. The lists of rectors in the churches of both Grafton Regis and Eversholt record the institution of Edward Bune, and each gives the date for the next institution as 1563. I am much obliged also to the rectors of both churches for assisting me with information.

page 140 note 3 Ordained and priested with Edward Bune.

page 141 note 1 Valor; E. 101/76/26.

page 141 note 2 See infra, p. 145.

page 142 note 1 Letters and Papers, xiv (1), p. 593.

page 143 note 1 Letters and Papers, Vol. 134, ff. 215–20.

page 143 note 2 The valuation was according to the first Ministers' Account, not according to the Valor Ecclesiasticus.

page 144 note 1 Letters and Papers, xiii, Pt. ii. No. 312, 9 September, 1538. George Gyffard to Cromwell.

page 144 note 2 Misc. Books, Augmentation Office, 357.

page 144 note 3 M.A., Hen. VIII, 32–5.

page 144 note 4 Rentals and Surveys, 23/19.

page 144 note 5 E. 314/22 (in a file of “Warrants addressed to Sir Edw. North, Treasurer of the Court of Augmentations, 32–5 Hen. VIII”: formerly K. R. Anct. Misc., 75/24). A warrant, signed by Henry VIII, dated 1540, ordering Sir Francis Bryan to take 201 “qwick redde dere”out of the royal park of “Beskewood” into the park which lay beside Ampthill.

page 145 note 1 E. 314, Bdle. 29, ff. 36, 55 (unnumbered file marked “File of Bills of reparations upon Castles, etc., and receipts”); E. 314, Bdle. 27 (unnumbered file of “Reparations”) (No folio number).

page 145 note 2 Ibid.

page 145 note 3 E. 315/106 (Augmentation Office Misc.), No. 106, f. 112d. Misc. Book, 104, f. 189d.

page 145 note 4 E. 314/27 (unnumbered file marked “Wardour, etc.”); E. 314/104 (Augmentation Office Misc.), f. 159.

page 146 note 1 E. 314/29 (Augmentation Office Misc.), unnumbered file; pp. 36–56 in a section marked “County Beds.”

page 146 note 2 E. 315/185, f. 2.

page 146 note 3 Augmentation Office Proc, 10/2. Petition of John Osborne.

page 146 note 4 M.A., Hen. VIII, 34.

page 147 note 1 The Visitation of Bedfordshire, 1634 (Harl. Soc), p. 139, gives “Will'm Smyth of Woborne in com. Bedfford, Esq., Anno 3 Edward VI.” None of his descendants are so styled. His son is “George Smyth of Bickleswade in com. Bedfford.”

Further information concerning this Smythe has been found among the Clavering deeds of Christ's Hospital (Box 3). An indenture dated 7 March, 35 Hen. VIII, is between Henry Parker, gent., and William Smythe of London, gent. Subsequent indentures dated 4 and 6 Edward VI refer to the latter as William Smythe of Woburn, co. Beds., Esq.

page 147 note 2 E. 314/27 (unnumbered file marked “Wardour, etc.”) (Papers supplementary to the Accounts of George Wright, Esq., Receiver-General of the King in co. Beds.).

page 147 note 3 The history of Birchmore is very difficult to follow, and so far all attempts to elucidate it have been baffled. It was the parish in which Woburn grew up, but repeated attempts to find any trace of the church have been a complete failure, although the position of the churchyard is marked in a survey of 1661.

page 147 note 4 E. 318, Augmentation Office (Particulars for Grants); Cal. of Patent Rolls, Edw. VI, i, pp. 6 segq.

page 147 note 5 The clerk who drew up the grant had, I think, in front of him the survey of 1542, made when Woburn was added to the honour of Ampthill, as well as the Ministers' Account of 1538. The total values in 1542 differed but little from those arrived at in 1538, but the method of reckoning was somewhat different.

page 148 note 1 In 1671 this rent was extinguished by a payment to the Crown of a capital sum of £1,035 18s. by William, fifth Earl, afterwards first Duke, of Bedford, great-great-grandson of John, Lord Russell, first Earl of Bedford; Close Roll, 23 Chas. II, p. 12, No. 22.

page 149 note 1 The Scholemaster, 1568, ed. Mayor, p. 129.

page 149 note 2 Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors, ed. 1885, i, p. 346. His widow lost no time in taking as her third husband the nobleman she had hoped for as her second.

page 149 note 3 E. 179/72/154.

page 149 note 4 S.C. 6 (Ministers' Accounts), Edw. VI, 678.

page 149 note 5 Scott Thomson, Two Centuries of Family History, pp. 167–71, 181, 182.

page 150 note 1 E. 179/72/161.

page 150 note 2 Roxburghe Club, 1916, Lives of Lady Anne Clifford and of Her Parents, pp. 3, 18.

page 150 note 3 Duke of Bedford, History of a Great Estate, p. 15.

page 150 note 4 Papers penes the Duke of Bedford.

page 151 note 1 P. 4.

page 151 note 2 Bodleian MS., Gough Eccles. Top., 31, p. 11.

page 152 note 1 For example, he locates the Cowick deeds among the archives of Eton College. The alien priory of Cowick, in Devon, had been granted in 1451 by Henry VI to Eton College as part of its endowment. Tavistock Abbey protested on the grounds that a religious endowment should not be transferred to a secular college. Edward IV yielded to the protests and, in 1464, took the property out of the hands of Eton to re-grant it to the abbot and convent of Tavistock. At the same time, the deeds, if they had been transferred to Eton at all, must have been handed back to Tavistock Abbey, and they remain with the other abbey deeds in the archives of the Dukes of Bedford. I had thought at first that Bishop Tanner's statement might refer to some deeds that had been left at Eton, which he had seen, but Dr. Montague James informs me this is not so.

page 153 note 1 Russell House, on the south side of the Strand, between the Savoy Chapel and Ivy Bridge Lane; Bedford House, on the north side of the Strand; and Bedford House, formerly Southampton House, Bloomsbury.

page 154 note 1 The search has been made under Ampthill as well as under Woburn. Anct. Deeds, Ser. B, which include the monastic charters seized for the Crown, has no Woburn deeds other than indentures of which counterparts were kept by the Crown, e.g. B. 12, 349. The printed and typed calendars for this Series, and also for Series A, have yielded for Woburn only some agreements with the priory of St. Pancras occurring among a set of deeds belonging to the latter. Another Series of Exchequer deeds. W.S., has two fourteenth-century deeds referred to infra, p. 155, but these are documents relating to Exchequer business. The collections of “Ancient Charters” gathered into volumes among the Augmentation Office records have also been drawn blank. The Augmentation Office material has, in fact, been entirely exhausted, in particular a search having been made among the uncalendared bundles of Miscellanea, which include the early documents of other attainted abbeys, e.g. Charterhouse, but nothing has come to light for Woburn.

I am very much obliged to Miss Lilian Redstone for her invaluable assistance in this search, without which it could not have been such a thorough one.

page 155 note 1 Anct. Deeds, A. 133; C. 1657; A. 5479.

page 155 note 2 Anct. Deeds, W.S. 111 (Treasury of Receipt). Acquittance of W. Abbot of Wouburne for £10 received at the Receipt of Edward III, by the hands of the Chamberlains of the Exchequer, in which £10 the King was bound to the abbot under the Great Seal by a bond now cancelled for certain arduous business done by the abbot. Dated at Westminster, 14 Oct., 31 Edw. III. This W(—?) does not appear in the list of abbots cited in the V.C.H., which gives (p. 370) Thomas de Thornton, elected in 1336, and then William Manepeny, who was elected in 1396.

page 155 note 3 Anct. Deeds, W.S. 633. Letterby the Abbot of Wouburn to the King. On the 28th of March we have taken a Letter of Privy Seal from Thomas Wodyngfeld for our tenths. We are ready to do, with our poor estate, as others do. The date is deduced from W.S. 654, which is of 21 Ric. II and relates to a Privy Seal delivered to the Mayor of Hartlepool by Thomas Wodyngfield, sergeant-at-arms, and others.

page 155 note 4 Court R. (General Series), 153, No. 51.

page 156 note 1 E. 314/19 (bundle formerly K.R., Misc., 70/14b). Warrant, 16 August, 1 Edw. VI, to Sir John Williams, Knt., Treasurer of the Court of Augmentations, from the Chancellor and others of the Court to provide the necessary money for wages and wainscot for the bearer, Mighell Robert, joiner, who has been appointed to set up at Westminster certain presses, chests, boxes and other things for keeping of the King's evidences and records, “whiche now dispersedly remayne in sundrye places of the realme and shall forthwith be conveyed thether.”

page 156 note 2 E. 314, Bdle. 2, Folder “N” marked “Bills, Receipts.” Copy of warrant to repair to [blank] Starky, gent, (with one of the King's sergeantsat-arms if need be), to take delivery of “diverse leger books of diverse monasteries, namely of St. Albans, Dunstable, Marton, Malmesbury and divers others” and also diverse court rolls, rentals, “counterpaynes” of abbots' deeds, records as well ministers' “a s receivers' accounts, with other writings which ought to remain in the late Court of Augmentation and were embezzled and stolen out of the said Court upon the dissolution of the same.” This is presumably a copy of the warrant for seizing papers in the house of Ralph Starky, 1619.

page 157 note 1 Special Commissions (Exch. K.R.), E. 178; (Beds., Berks., and Bucks.) 2837. Commission to inquire as to concealed lands late of religious houses and the like. Returned 21 July, 16 Eliz. The jurors say that (inter alia) a meadow containing one acre called the Lordes Meade, late parcel of the lands and possessions of the Monastery of Wooburne in the county of Bedford, now in the tenure of Edmund Stanton, gentleman, has been concealed from the Crown unjustly since the time of Henry VIII.

page 157 note 2 Declaration.

page 157 note 3 Deposition of Sir William Shirborn.

page 157 note 4 Declaration.

page 158 note 1 The best hope that the copies may be traced lies in the possible discovery of what became of the Earl of Oxford's documents.

page 158 note 2 Declaration.

page 158 note 3 Examinations.

page 159 note 1 Wriothesley Papers, No. 21.

page 159 note 2 Brit. Mus. Add. Charter 6026. Charter of Aubrey de Vere and Isabel de Bolbec, granting to the monks of St. Mary Woburn a tenement in Wavendon, Bucks., in exchange for land in Hildesdon, temp. John. Seal of Isabel de Bolbec; second seal wanting. On the back is a note that it was bought 23 March, 1844, from G. Baker, Esq. This would be the Northamptonshire antiquary. It does not belong to a Series, but seems to have been an isolated purchase, probably on account of the seal. The authorities of the British Museum have no information as to its past history. The bulk of Baker's Northamptonshire collections was purchased by Sir Thomas Phillipps before the date at which the British Museum bought this deed, but, as far as the index of the Phillipps collection extends, there is nothing more among it as to Woburn.

Brit. Mus. Add. Charter 19932. Confirmation by Simon, son of Hugh de Stanbridge, to the church and monks of Woburn of land at Hare, tempo Henry III. No seal. This charter is part of a collection acquired by the Museum from the monastic collections of the first Viscount Hatton. It appears also to have been a solitary specimen of its kind, and none of the volumes of the early Hatton correspondence throw any light upon it, or, indeed, upon the collection generally.

page 159 note 3 A hopeful line of inquiry, not for the original deeds and charters, but for one of the seals of the monastery, proved to be as perverse as everything else that surrounds the past history of Woburn. It has been noted that part of the possessions of the monastery was the farm of the Goldsmiths Hall. It appears that in 1460, and again in 1505, the abbot and convent were involved in litigation with the Company (William Herbert, Twelve Great Livery Companies of London, ii, 185. “1460. Payed for counsell ayents ye abbot of Woburne iijs iiijd”; Ibid., 188, 30 Hen. VIII, 1505. Miscellaneous Law Charges. “To Thomas Pym, for englishing the ‘Videmus’ and for seeing divers writings of the Cardinal's hat, and of the Abbot of Woburn. 68 od“). It was much hoped that among the archives of the Company a deed might be found bearing the monastic seal. The hope was a vain one. Sir Walter Prideaux was kind enough at the request of the Duke of Bedford, to make a search among the archives of his Company. Unhappily for the history of the abbey, he found that those archives contain no deeds relating to Woburn.

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