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Wiltshire Community History

Bradenstoke Priory, Lyneham

The Priory of Bradenstoke which is dedicated to St Mary is situated near the village of Bradenstoke-cum-Clack in the parish of Lyneham. It is placed on a high ridge of land which overlooks the Avon valley, with an abundance of local springs and a holy well close by.

There is evidence that a 17th century chapel had occupied the site in the reign of Henry I. This may have been incorporated into the priory church and could account for the narrowness of the nave and also for the fact that the church was on the south of the cloister although the site was a north-south one.

The priory's founder was Walter 'le Eurus', son of Edward of Salisbury and also father of Patrick, first Earl of Salisbury. He gave the vill of Bradenstoke and the church ( Lyneham) with all their appurtenances to found a convent of canons regular. This was to be a daughter house to St Mary's Abbey at Cirencester. This charter was confirmed before June 1139 by his wife ,Sybil, and his sons, William and Patrick, before Roger, the Bishop of Salisbury.

The early Angevin kings showed special favours towards Bradenstoke and several charters were passed by them confirming the spiritual and temporal endowments of Bradenstoke, its property and special privileges. The property of the priory grew substantially and it became very wealthy. Its chief spiritual and temporal properties were situated in Wiltshire but there were others of great value in Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Dorset.

Bradenstoke also strengthened its title to its spiritual properties by the acquisition of papal confirmations and other papal privileges. Lucius III took the priory under his protection in his bull on 15th December 1182 and granted that the prior and canons could choose the priests for their churches to present to the diocesan, who if they were found to be suitable, would commit them to the cure of souls.

New lands to the priory were not to be tithed nor any produce for feeding its animals. It also had the free right of burial for those who wished to be buried within its walls, provided that the parish churches who were deprived received due mortuary fees.

At a time of interdict it could celebrate in low voice and without ringing of bells. It could also freely receive clerks and freemen for the canonical profession and its canons were to remain under the discipline for life. The prior, himself, was to be elected by the common consent of the canons, or of those of wiser judgement.

During the 13th century Bradenstoke increased its temporal property through purchasing land. This was often through buying pasture and meadow, often at a high price in places where it already held a manor and where the pasture and meadow were valuable.

Bradenstoke suffered greatly during 1352, however, because of the crimes of Prior Thomas Spicer and his desertion of the priory. Its patron, Edward the Black Prince, committed the priory to Robert Russel, Robert Eleford and Nicholas Ercheband, one of the canons. Although the prior had left the country, the canons continued to be persecuted by one of his friends. However, the prince warned this friend in late 1352 that unless he stopped his actions then measures would be taken against him.

In March 1353 the bishop got Thomas Spicer to appear before him and resign, by April 1354Bishop Wyville was informed by the Black prince that Besiles had been elected Prior.

Before the Dissolution, Bradenstoke was a well-ordered house in its spiritual and temporal life. In August 1535 John ap Rice, Cromwell's commissioner, reported to his master that nothing could be found against the prior, but a few of the convent were convicted of incontinence. At that time there were 13 canons in residence with the prior, Thomas Snowe. The other commissioner, Dr Legh, forbade the prior to go out at will. This action greatly annoyed ap Rice who complained to Cromwell that in order to uphold activities such as sheep farming and husbandry which were crucial to the priory, the prior must be given more freedom or the priory would fall into disarray.

November 1536 saw the prior writing to Cromwell to thank him for preserving the priory. However, Bradenstoke Priory was dissolved on 17th January 1539. James Cole, one of the canons, became incumbent of Lyneham church while William Snoew was appointed the first dean of the new cathedral of Bristol in 1542.

The site of the priory and the house known as 'Le Pryors Lodging', including the buildings and gardens on the site and with messuages and lands in Clack, closes and woods of 100 acres in Lyneham parish were leased to Sir Henry Long. However, in October 1546 they were granted in fee to Richard Pexsall, kings servant.

Of the buildings themselves, the prior's lodging was between the guest hall and the church. Prior Thomas Walshe had rebuilt it in 1490 and it was pulled down in the early part of the 19th century. Worse was yet to come when in 1930 the western range of the cloister, which included the guest house and prior's lodging was totally removed along with the tithe barn to St. Donat's castle in Glamorgan by William Randolph Hearst. John Aubrey had described the priory as “very well built, with good strong ribs” and having a cellar, “the stateliest in Wiltshire”. However, in 1666 he commented that, “the very fundations of this fair church are now, 1666, digged up.”

Today all that remains of this great priory are two 14th century undercrofts and a tower.

Church Search Results

There were 4 items found.

Bradenstoke Priory, Lyneham
Bradenstoke Priory, Lyneham

Image Date: c.1900
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


Bradenstoke Priory, Lyneham
Bradenstoke Priory, Lyneham

Image Date: 1732
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


Bradenstoke Priory, Lyneham
Bradenstoke Priory, Lyneham

Image Date: 1890s
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


Bradenstoke Priory, Lyneham
Bradenstoke Priory, Lyneham

Image Date: 1890s
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


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