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Newburgh Priory (nr Coxwold)



Newburgh Priory was a house of Augustinian Canons that was founded in 1145 and survived until the dissolution of the monasteries, when it was given to Anthony Bellasis, Henry VIII's chaplain. The priory was built half a mile to the south-east of Coxwold, and its stones were later used to build the country house of the same name (the reputed burial place of Oliver Cromwell).

Newburgh Priory was founded by Roger de Mowbray, and received a fairly generous endowment. At its foundation it was given the eastern half of Coxwold village, Coxwold church and its associated chapels, the church at Thirsk and the same rights as Roger's burgesses held in Thirsk, including the right to trade in the market-place without paying tolls. Roger had also been involved in the foundation of Byland Abbey, which had originally been based at Hood, three and a half miles to the north-west of Coxwold. This foundation soon outgrew the cramped location at Hood, and Roger gave them their new site at Byland, but he took back Hood and gave the church of St. Mary and the associated lands around Hood Hill and Sutton Bank to the new foundation at Newburgh. The new foundation also received the churchs of Welburn, Wombleton, Kirkby Moorside, Kirby Hill (near Boroughbridge), Cundall, Kirkby Malzeard, and churches at a list of harder to trace locations. They also have a foothold in York, where they were given the church of St. Andrew in Fishergate.

The first canons came from an Augustinian house at Bridlington. The new canons originally moved into the buildings at Hood that had been left empty after the move to Byland, and Hood remained a cell of Newburgh Priory after the new site was ready.

Perhaps inevitably most documentary mentions of the Priory come when there were problems that attracted the attention of higher authorities. One Prior had to be removed, although it isn't clear which one. Despite its widespread endowment the Priory was in debt to the sum of £737 16s 10d in 1275, an impressive amount for the period. A number of staff was criticised during the resulting visitation, including the gardener, who was sacked, the cellarer, who was ordered to stop trading in horses, the prior, who was said to be too lenient and the sub-prior who was ordered to control his temper. A visitation of 1279-80 produced a list of corrections that imply things were not going well within the Priory, hinting that people were shamming illness to get into the infirmary, drinking was taking place in the cloister, the canons were keeping private property, alms were being taken for the wrong purposes, and the prior was to be restored to his full authority, suggesting that there had been a power struggle within the priory. Useless or wasteful servants and excessive dogs were banned, as were female guests apart from the wife of the patron, who could stop for a single night. Hunting trips were banned.

The debt problems appear to have continued and were mentioned in 1366. In 1291 the Priory was assessed as being worth £20 for tax purposes, down from £81 7s at an earlier unspecified date. By 1527 the Priory was valued at £300, and a few years later it was said to have had a total income of $457 13s. 5d and a clear value of £367 8s 3d, suggesting that some of the financial woes had been solved.

In 1380-81 the Priory was recorded as consisting of the Prior and fifteen canons. In 1465 a total of fifteen named individuals, each with a specific job, were listed in the documents relating to a visitation by George Neville, archbishop of York (an important figure during the Wars of the Roses). The size of the establishment appears to have remained fairly constant, and at the dissolution the Priory contained the Prior and seventeen canons, of whom four were deacons.

The Priory was the home of William of Newburgh, the author of the Historia rerum Anglicarum, covering the events of 1066-1198.

At the dissolution of the monasteries the Priory was given to Anthony Bellasis, Henry VIII's chaplain. It later became the home of the Faucomberg family, and is reputed to be the burial place of Oliver Cromwell.


Grid Reference: SE 541 764