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Sandleford Priory, Berkshire, England

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Sandleford Priory, Berkshire, England

This small priory of Austin canons was founded by Geoffrey, the fourth count of Perch, and Matilda of Saxony, his wife, on a site about a mile south of Newbury, called Sandleford or Sandford, close to the banks of the Enborne, which forms the boundary between Berkshire and Hampshire. The date of the foundation lies between the years 1193 and 1202. It appears from the confirmation charter of Archbishop Stephen that the house was dedicated to the honour of St. John Baptist, and endowed with the church and all the lands of Sandleford. The boundaries of the lands are set forth in detail, and the whole was inclosed with hedges and ditches. The endowment also included the wood of Bradmore (still known as Broadmore), the right to construct a mill on the Enborne, and thirteen marks sterling to be paid the canons annually out of the mills of Newbury.

The information that can be gleaned of this house is meagre and fragmentary. In 1204 the rent of thirteen marks out of the mills of Newbury was confirmed by the crown, and when Henry III was at Reading in June, 1231, he instructed the sheriff of Berkshire to see that the prior and canons of Sandleford had the 13 marks a year out of the mill of Newbury, granted to them by Earl Geoffrey de Perch; the mill having come into the hands of the crown on the death of the earl, as Thomas, the son of the founder, and the last count of Perch, was killed at Lincoln in 1217.

The taxation roll of Pope Nicholas in 1291 names temporalities that the prior of Sandleford held, which were worth £2 8s. 8d. at Newbury, £1 15s. at Enborne, £1 6s. at West Ilsley, and 10s. at Aldworth.

Thomas de Sandleford obtained licence in 1312 for alienation in mortmain to this convent of a messuage, 20 acres of land, and 2 acres of meadow in 'Clere Wodelond,' by Kingsclere, Hampshire. Confirmation of grant and release, which Agnes widow of Richard Neirnut and others made to the church of St. John Baptist, Sandleford, and the prior and canons of that place, of possessions in West Ilsley and the advowson of that church, was entered on the patent rolls in 1313. The prior and convent obtained licence under the privy seal in March, 1320, to appropriate in mortmain the church of West Ilsley, which was of their advowson. Nicholas de la Beche obtained licence in April, 1339, to alienate to this house the advowson of the manor chapel of Hacklestone, Wiltshire, and of a portion of the tithes of the manor, in exchange for a messuage and a carucate of land in Aldworth, Berkshire.

In 1340 the prior and convent obtained privy seal licence to acquire land and rent, not held in chief, to the annual value of £10. Two years later they acquired, under this licence, the sixth part of three mills at Newbury, of the gift of Hugh de Mortuo Mari, but this only produced an annual sum of 5s. A considerable augmentation of endowment came to the priory in 1349, when John de Estbury and three others assigned to this house 144 acres of land, 20 acres of meadow, 12 acres of wood, and 10s. rent in Newbury.

In 1310 a release was granted from Edmund de Wyntreshull to Walter de Wyntreshole, his brother, of his right in the manor of Eastleigh, Hampshire, with the advowson of the priory of Sandleford, Berkshire.

Notwithstanding the smallness of the house and its endowments, the priory was expected to receive royal pensioners, and on 28 February, 1317, William Spyny, who had served the king and his father, was sent to the prior and convent of Sandleford, to receive his maintenance for life.

In 1320 Edward II was visiting in this neighbourhood; on 31 August he was at Sandleford Priory, where he apparently tarried for the night.

In February, 1297, protection was granted by Edward I until All Saints' Day to the prior of Sandleford, his men, lands, goods, rents, and possessions, on fine being made before the chancellor.

Proceedings were begun to be taken in February, 1440, against Simon Dam, prior of Sandleford, on account of the dilapidation of the property and goods of the house during the time he had been superior, and more especially for personal incontinence. The charges were sufficiently grave and well-founded to secure his deprivation at the hands of the bishop; sentence was pronounced in the church of Newbury on 19 April.

A dispute that arose in the reign of James I, between the rector of Newbury and the lessee of Sandleford as to tithes, enables us to learn something more as to this priory and its later days. The case came before the King's Bench in 1615, and the details then set out show that among privileges granted the priory by papal bull no person was allowed to build a chapel or oratory within the limits of Sandleford parish without the convent's consent; that, therefore, Sandleford was not within the parish of Newbury, but was a parish to itself; that there never was any incumbent presented or instituted to the church or chapel of Sandleford, for the prior and canons were parson, without any endowment of vicar; that when the priory and its possessions were united to the collegiate church of Windsor, about 1478, the dean and canons placed a stipendiary priest to say divine service at Sandleford at a stipend of £8.

This appropriation of Sandleford Priory to Windsor was brought about by Bishop Beauchamp of Salisbury, during the time that he also held the deanery of Windsor (1478-81). It was then stated that the religious had wholly forsaken the monastery, but no particulars seem to be extant. The Valor of Henry III gives the annual value of the Sandleford estates to Windsor College as £10, and at the same time the free chapel of Sandleford was entered as £8. The Chantry Commissioners of 1548 returned Sandleford as a free chapel of that value, but said that the dean and canons of Windsor claimed to appoint to it at will.

The lawsuit of 1615 also shows that at that date the chapel had been suffered to fall into decay by the farmers of the priory, and that the bells, seats, and other furniture had all been taken away. The chapel was converted into a dining room in the eighteenth century, when the property belonged to Elizabeth Montagu, the famous 'bluestocking.'

Priors of Sandleford

  • Stephen, c. 1260
  • Robert de Wynton, elected 1301
  • Thomas de Sandleford, occurs 1311, 1330
  • William de Wynton, resigned 1334
  • Robert Gilbert, elected 1334
  • John, elected 1383
  • Richard Stanford, elected 1403
  • Hugh Warham, elected 1406
  • Symon Dam, deposed 1440
  • William Costyn, elected 1448
  • William Westbury, occurs 1457

The greater part of the parish was included in the manor of 'Ulvritone' at the time of the Domesday Survey, but was granted to the Prior and canons of Sandleford by Geoffrey fourth Count of Perch and Maud his wife when they founded the priory between 1193 and 1202. (fn. 2) The remainder consists of contiguous lands, originally in the manor of Greenham, granted to the prior and canons in 1349 by John de Estbury and others. (fn. 3)

Before the foundation of the priory an anchoress had settled on the site, for in 1179–80 Godfrey and Richard of Newbury, who rendered account of £49 for the farm of Newbury, paid 4s. 4d. to the anchoress (inclusa) of 'Sandraford.' (fn. 4) The house was dedicated in honour of St. John Baptist. (fn. 5) The information that can be gathered concerning it is meagre and has already been summarized. (fn. 6)

It appears, however, that Maud de Clare, Countess of Gloucester and Hertford, learning that the house was occupied by three Augustinian canons without abbot or prior, conceived the project of founding a convent for forty inclosed nuns under the rule of St. Augustine and, in a place apart, for ten priests of the order of Fontevraud, at Sandleford in the diocese of Salisbury. She was prepared to increase the endowment from £100 to £200, directing that one of the priests should act as prior with the assent of the abbots (sic) and nuns. A papal mandate of 1274 directed the fulfilment of her intentions. (fn. 7)

Plan Of Sandleford Priory In the 15th century Sandleford Priory declined. Simon Dam, a prior of evil life, by reckless waste and improvident leases, brought it near ruin, and his successors were unable to retrieve the fortunes of the house. In 1478 it was deserted by the monks and all the Berkshire estate lately belonging to the Prior and convent of Sandleford came into the hands of the Bishop of Salisbury as an escheat on the death of the last prior. (fn. 8) The bishop handed them over to his nephew Richard Beauchamp, son and heir of Richard Beauchamp, kt., Lord St. Amand, and he surrendered them the same year to the Dean and Canons of Windsor. (fn. 9)

The dean and canons seem to have let the house and land as a farm, and the chapel fell out of repair. Little is known of the estate or the lessees for two hundred years except that in the reign of James I a dispute as to the tithes came before the King's Bench in 1615, when it was decided that Sandleford was not within the parish of Newbury, but was a parish by itself. (fn. 10)

The priory seems to have been leased during the latter part of the 17th century to John Kingsmill, who is described as of Sandleford when he took the oath of supremacy in 1685, and in 1706 Mr. Kingsmill of Sandleford was summoned with other justices to quell the riot in Newbury. In 1710 the estate was leased to Henry Kingsmill, who died between 9 July 1715 and 4 June 1717, when his executors assigned the lease to William Cradock of Gainsford, Durham. (fn. 11)

Sandleford Priory From The South Mr. Cradock married in 1715 Mary daughter of Gilbert Sheldon of St. Andrew's, Holborn, and died in 1736, having in 1729 disposed of the lease to Thomas Blake, late of Croydon, who in 1730 assigned it to Edward Montagu, a grandson of the first Earl of Sandwich. He married in 1742 Elizabeth daughter of Matthew Robinson of West Layton, Yorkshire, who as the famous 'blue stocking' is better known than her husband.

Edward Montagu died in May 1775, aged eightythree, and after his death his widow made considerable alterations to the house, adding a new drawing room and converting the ruined chapel into an 'eating room.' She died 25 August 1800 at the age of eighty, when the lease passed to her nephew Matthew Robinson, who had taken the name of Montagu.

Montagu. Argent a fesse indented of three points and a border sable quartered with Or an eagle vert. This Matthew Montagu, who was born 23 November 1762, and entered Parliament as member for Bossiney in 1786, was elected for Tregony in 1790 and for St. Germans in 1806 and 1807. He married in July 1785 Elizabeth daughter of Francis Charlton, who died in 1817, and in 1829 he succeeded his brother in the barony and became fourth Lord Rokeby. He died 1 September 1831, aged sixty-eight.

His eldest son Edward fifth Lord Rokeby succeeded to Sandleford and died unmarried in 1847, having disposed of the lease of the priory in 1835 to William Pollet Brown Chatteris.

Mr. Chatteris had married two years earlier Anne eldest daughter of Alexander Arbuthnot, Bishop of Killaloe. She died in 1847, and a few years later he took as his second wife Emily Georgina daughter of Sir Thomas Hardy. In 1871 he enfranchised the estate by paying a considerable sum to the Dean and Canons of Windsor and died in January 1889, when under his will the estate passed to his nephew Alpin Macgregor, youngest son of Sir John Atholl Macgregor, bart., and Mary Charlotte his wife, sister of the second Mrs. Chatteris.

Mr. Alpin Macgregor never lived at Sandleford, but let the place to various tenants. He died in November 1899, bequeathing most of the estate to his brothers and sister, and Sandleford Lodge to his niece Miss Agatha Thynne, now Lady Hindlip. (fn. 12) The present tenant is Mrs. Myers, who has held it since 1898.