15th October 1538. The Gilbertines.

The English religious Order of Gilbertines was  founded by Gilbert, Rector of Sempringham early in the 12thc.

The Priories mainly in Lincolnshire, at the time of the Monastic Dissolution had 26 Houses, with four ranking among the great monasteries having an income of more than £200 pa.(1)


Shrunken village of Shouldham from the air. Little remains above ground of the Priory.

The Gilbertines were exempt from geld and taxes and owed no service to the lord’s Court and Henry II granted full manorial rights throughout their own lands. 

Then Today in the 16thc came the agents of Henry VIII in 1538, when the only Gilbertine Priory Shouldham in Norfolk was surrendered, with the Prior receiving an annual pension of £20 whilst the Prioress received £5.(2)

Shouldham conjointly dedicated to the Holy Cross and the Blessed Virgin, was founded by Geoffrey Fitzpiers, having removed the bodies of his first wife and family from Chicksands Priory, Bedfordshire, thus maintaining their souls’ repose.(3)

Finance came from appropriation of churches and the grant by Henry III in 1248 of a Friday market at Stoke Ferry and a yearly fair on the morrow and feast of St Nicholas.

Further finance came from ‘duodecim soppas cum soliis’, (twelve shops with rooms above), in the Parish of St. Mary in Colechurch Lane, London, to sustain the lights and sacramental wine, demonstrating the Order’s wide influence.

A Tax Roll of 1291 shows the Priory’s income to be £207-7s- 9½d. However Kings and Popes down the years received their share via the taxes of ‘Spiritualities’ and ‘Temporalities’.

Some Gilbertine Houses were unusual in having both sexes in the same priory, but only meeting for Mass as they were strictly segregated.


Arches from original arcades on south side of  Priory Church, Old Malton, Yorks.


Reconstruction of Malton Priory by Canon J.S. Purvis. yorkpress.co.uk.

The nuns like the canons had Lay Brothers to do all the chores. Recruited from the peasantry they toiled in the fields, but needed a firm hand against insubordination.

Gilbert died in 1189 and was buried at the Priory Church,  Sempringham. He was canonised in 1202.

All the wealth accrued over the centuries, on the Dissolution, reposed in the hands of the Crown to 1553, when the priory and possessions were sold to Thomas Mildmay for £1049/9s/4½d.

It was a wealth, from hundreds of similar foundations, to cascade via different owners down the centuries.

(1) Their first foundation was at Haverholm in 1139, the gift of Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln. Foundation Charters for Shouldham, were confirmed by monarchs including Edward III and Henry IV.

(2a) Shouldham as did others, had untrustworthy allegations by the ‘comperta’ of Ap Rice and Legh in 1536 of ‘incontinence’ of two nuns and three canons.

(2b) The Dissolution was signed by Robert Swift (Prior) and Richard Foster (sub-Prior) and eight canons along with Prioress, Elizabeth Fincham and Joan Plomstede sub-Prioress and five others.

(3) Earl of Essex, Chief Justiciary of England in the reign of Richard I.


onceiwasacleverboy.blogspot.uk/gilbertine-priories/Pics of Malton.

british-history.ac.uk/shouldham-priory. Vic. Hist. Vol. 12/Norfolk.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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