The Priory of Carlisle in first half of fourteenth century
Niall C.E.J. O’Brien
In 1122 King Henry I founded an Augustinian priory at Carlisle dedicated to St. Mary, with Athelwold as first prior. In 1133 the priory church was raised to cathedral status with the formation of the Diocese of Carlisle. Athelwold became the first bishop and served until 1155. In most other cathedrals the management and membership of the cathedral was performed by a dean, archdeacon, chancellor, precentor and a group of secular canons. At Carlisle the prior and canons of the old Augustinian house were retained. The prior thus became equivalent to a dean in another cathedral.
The prior and convent of Carlisle cathedral continued until the Reformation when a dean and chapter was established. This article will examine some aspects of the priory history in the early decades of the fourteenth century.
In the early fourteenth century the Diocese Carlisle was situated in the border country between England and Scotland. It was located at the northern edge of the English world with London far to the south and the lands of English Gascony still further south. North of Carlisle laid the Kingdom of Scotland, at one time independent, but since the death of Margaret, the Maid of Norway, under subjection to the English Kingdom of Edward I. Some in Scotland accepted this position, others did not and Edward I had to make near constant war in Scotland. But the Scots were also able to make war in England and Carlisle was in the direct path of these wars. In 1292 the cathedral and surrounding buildings were burnt by the Scots.
The burning of the cathedral and the neighbouring buildings left the clergy and the Prior of Carlisle with “nowhere to lay their heads” for a long number of years. On 8th November 1318 Archbishop Melton of York granted forty days indulgence to all who shall contribute to the rebuilding of Carlisle cathedral and the neighbouring buildings. Work of restoration continued for much of the fourteenth century and was not fully completed until the last years of the century.
The battles around Carlisle were not exclusively military in nature. In 1323 the then Bishop of Carlisle, John de Halton, was in dispute with the Prior of Carlisle, Simon de Hautwysell, over rents due to the bishop at Linstock. On 25th November 1323 the prior acknowledged he rent of 13 shillings 4 pence to be due to the bishop. For this acknowledgement the bishop paid £10.
New Bishop of Carlisle, 1325
On 1st November 1324 John de Halton, Bishop of Carlisle died. He had been bishop since 1292 and was a former canon and cellar at Carlisle cathedral. Master John de Skiren, rector of Marton, was appointed by Archbishop Melton of York to administrate the Diocese of Carlisle during the vacancy in the see. In January 1325 the prior and convent of Carlisle met to elect a new bishop and they decided on Sir William de Ayreminne, canon of York. On 26th January Master John de Skiren was mandated to announce the election publicly and ask if any knew of any impediment to the election.
In early February 1325 Roger Paul, sub-prior of Carlisle and William de Hurtheworth, canon of Carlisle, wrote to Archbishop Melton of York on the election of Sir William de Ayreminne as bishop-elect of Carlisle.
Simon de Hautwysell, Prior of Carlisle, wrote a further letter with William de Hurtheworth, confirming the election. Archbishop Melton accepted these letters and confirmed Sir William as bishop of Carlisle. On 11th February 1325 Archbishop Melton sent a mandate to the prior and convent of Carlisle to obey William de Ayreminne as their lawful bishop. But by April William de Ayreminne had learnt that the Pope had provided another cleric to the see of Carlisle and resigned. For more on William de Ayreminne see the article = http://celtic2realms-medievalnews.blogspot.ie/2014/08/william-airmyn-government-official-and_16.html
This new cleric was John de Ross, a man who had spent many years in the Roman Curia. In 1310 John de Ross was clerk to Thomas Jorz; cardinal bishop of St. Sabina and brother of the then Archbishop of Armagh, Walter Jorz. For more on Walter Jorz see the article = http://celtic2realms-medievalnews.blogspot.ie/2014/07/walter-jorz-archbishop-of-armagh.html
John de Ross had been provided to Carlisle by papal provision on 13th February 1325 and was consecrated at Avignon on 24th February. The long distance between Avignon and Carlisle must account for the delay in the resignation of William de Ayreminne. Thus John de Ross became the new Bishop of Carlisle.
Carlisle Cathedral in the snow
New Prior of Carlisle
Within a few months of the new episcopal of John de Ross there was a vacancy within the cathedral priory. On 13th July 1325 Roger the sub-prior and the convent wrote to Bishop de Ross via William de Hurchword, canon of Carlisle, about the death of Prior Simon de Hautywysell and asked for the right to elect a new prior.
On the following day the sub-prior surrendered the vestments and other articles belonging to the late prior. These items included a red chasuble of samite with a tunicle and dalmatic of red sindon in the same suit, with an alb, embroidered with the arms of the king and the Earl of Lincoln; two other albs with appurtenances for deacons and sub-deacons; a chasuble for daily use; two yellow copes; two embroidered altar cloths and a third plain; a missal without gospels and epistles; another book of gospels and epistles; two graduals; a silver and gilt chalice; a portable altar; a silver chrismatory and a little book for the confirmation of children with a stole and two coffers.
Sometime after the canons of the cathedral priory met and elected John de Kirkby as the new prior. The relationship between Prior John de Kirkby and Bishop John de Ross would seem to have started off well with both new to their positions. Yet within a few years both would be at battle over the rights and privileges of those positions
New Bishop of Whitehorn, 1326
On 16th October 1326 Archbishop William Melton of York sent a mandate to the abbot of Holme Cultram, the prior of Carlisle, Master Robert de Southeayke, official of the bishop of Carlisle and Thomas Appleton, canon of Hexham, custodians of the spiritualties of Whitehorn, to examine the election of Simon de Wedale, abbot of Holyrood, as bishop of Whitehorn. A letter from Abbot Simon to Archbishop Melton stated that he was elected on 23rd September 1326 following the death of Bishop Thomas of Whitehorn. This letter and the examination by the four custodians must have confirmed a proper election. Archbishop Melton informed Thomas de Appleton to induce the bishop-elect to appear before the Archbishop for consecration. The Archbishop granted Abbot Simon save passage from Edinburgh to come south for his confirmation and consecration.
Avoidance of conflict, 1329
In 1329 the Bishop of Durham, Lewis de Beaumont, refused to institute Sir Henry de Latrington to the vicarage of Aycliffe. De Latrington was presented to the vicarage by the patrons, the prior and convent of Durham and Bishop Beaumont was to follow normal practice and institute de Latrington to the vicarage without much question. Archbishop Melton of York got involved and tried for force the Bishop of Durham to show what legal objections he had to the institution of de Latrington.
Somebody petitioned the Pope in Rome to resolve the dispute. Pope John XXII issued a letter to the abbot of Holme Cultram, the Archdeacon of Carlisle and the Prior of Carlisle to act as papal judges to settle the dispute. On 19th October 1329 these three clerics replied to the Pope that they begged to be excuse from acting as papal judges on “account of the lack of skilled legal help in the Diocese of Carlisle, the distances involved and the fury of the people”.
Differences between the prior of Carlisle and Bishop Ross of Carlisle
At the start of the 1330s differences and difficulties existed between the Prior of Carlisle, John de Kirkby and the then Bishop of Carlisle, John de Ross. The uncertain political situation in the country was no help. It was against the government that John de Kirkby had his first difficulties. The Pope had granted the church tenths to the King of England but which king. King Edward II was deposed by his wife and her lover, Roger de Mortimer. They claimed to rule on behalf of the young King Edward III but this was questionable. In 1330 King Edward III deposed his mother and had Mortimer killed. Edward III then proceeded to establish his rule and call in unpaid taxes.
The Prior of Carlisle was one of these tax payers in default. On 6th October 1330 notice was issued that John de Kirkby was excommunicated, on the instance of the king, for not paying the tenths due to the king. On 3rd January 1331 the Prior of Wetheral and Adam de Appleby announced the excommunication of Prior Kirkby for not paying the tenth.
Shortly after the Bishop of Carlisle petitioned the king on behalf of Master Adam de Appleby, rector of Caldbeck against the Prior of Carlisle. Adam de Appleby alleged that the prior was seizing tithes of wool, lambs and other animals in his parish. The prior said he was asserting his rights to tithes in Inglewood granted to the priory by King Edward I. On 22nd January 1331 Edward III ordered Bishop de Ross to proceed against the prior. On 1st February 1331 Adam de Appleby and Robert de Askeby were commissioned by Bishop de Ross to proceed against Prior John de Kirkby for offences against the bishop and his church.
One of these offences related to the Forest of Inglewood. The prior had claimed the tithes of Inglewood by charter of Edward I and used this claim in the case against Adam de Appleby. Bishop de Ross petitioned Edward III that the priory had no claim to the lesser tithes of Inglewood. Edward III agreed and declared that the priory of Carlisle had no such claim. Prior John de Kirkby asserted he had documents to prove his claim. On 18th May 1331 Bishop de Ross commissioned Adam de Appleby and Robert de Askeby to examine these documents if produced in Dalston church. It seems strange for Adam de Appleby to be the Bishop’s official against the Prior of Carlisle when he had his own disputes against the prior. Yet Carlisle was a small diocese where qualified people were scarce to deal with church legal matters.
Meanwhile Prior John de Kirkby had petitioned the Pope for redress. In December1330 Pope John XXII issued two letters to the Bishop of Durham of which the first was to judge in the case concerning eight churches in disputed claim between Prior Kirkby and Bishop de Ross. The second letter said that any property of the priory could not be disposed without the consent of the priory.
With these papal letters behind him, Prior de Kirkby took on Bishop de Ross for the advowson of Caldbeck church before the Bishop of Durham. Prior Kirkby claimed his predecessor Ralph Barry (prior 1232-1248) held the advowson in the time of Henry III. This was refuted by Bishop de Ross and claimed Caldbeck as always the right of the bishop.
But Caldbeck was not the only parish in dispute. On 31st July 1331 Bishop de Ross appointed Master Robert de Askeby to further his case before the prior of Durham relating to the vicarage of Addingham and the tithes of Dalston as Bishop de Ross was outside the diocese. This absence was used by Prior de Kirkby and the convent to put further pressure on the bishop.
In early May 1331 Richard de Whyterigg resigned the office of cellarer at Carlisle. This resignation by subsequent documents appears to be an organised event on the part of Prior de Kirkby. The prior and convent sent letters to Bishop de Ross stating that they had delayed the election of a new cellarer because they expected the bishop to return to the Diocese by 19th May. Bishop de Ross didn’t return to Carlisle as expected or more truthfully, not expected, as relations were so strained between bishop and prior that they could not stand to be in each other’s presence.
The prior and convent piled on the pressure by sending two canons to Bishop de Ross asking for him to pick one to be the cellarer by 8th September or the prior and convent would elect by their own authority. Their letters to Bishop de Ross were ended with the statement that they were “not obliged to write to him about such matter … but do so for the sake of peace, although under protestation lest this be taken as a precedent”. Bishop de Ross could see their games and commissioned the prior of Lanercost and Adam de Appleby to appoint one of the two canons as cellarer.
New Bishop of Carlisle, 1332
The disputes with the Prior of Carlisle may have played upon the health of Bishop John de Ross. In about April 1332 his body gave up the struggle of old age and stress and Bishop de Ross died. The reaction of Prior John de Kirkby is unknown and his opinion, as an excommunicated cleric, was regarded as irrelevant by some. On 8th May 1332 Archbishop Melton commissioned William de Wyrkesworth, rector of Slaidburn, to hold a synod in Carlisle Cathedral to assist the administration of the diocese during the vacancy while on 11th May 1332 the old adversary of Prior John de Kirkby, Master Adam de Appleby, was appointed administrator of the diocese.
If other clerics wished to set aside the presence of Prior John de Kirkby, his canonry colleagues in the cathedral convent did not abandoned their superior. The convent had the king on their side. On 11th May 1332, the same day the administrator was appointed; Edward III gave licence to the prior and convent to elect a new bishop after two canons from the cathedral had arrived at court with the necessary request for same. The status of an excommunicated prior did not stop the king’s licence but then the king could not ignore the right of the prior to be involved in the election of a new bishop.
In June 1332 the cathedral canons elected their prior, to be the new Bishop of Carlisle. Letters asking for objections were issued on 13th June but it seems none of substance were received and John de Kirkby was confirmed as Bishop on 2nd July 1332. The temporalities of the diocese were granted to John de Kirkby on 20th June which would suggest that John de Kirkby had made provision for royal backing to his candidature if the church authorities objected. The royal support was not a complete blank cheque and King Edward instructed the prior and convent of Carlisle not to interfere with church property on the pretext of royal approval.
The consecration ceremony was to have taken place at Rudston on Sunday 19th July but was moved to Bishop Burton instead. The difficulties between Archbishop Melton and Bishop de Beaumont of Durham seem to have been resolved by 1332 as both made their way for the consecration. The third officiating cleric was Rowland Jorz, late Archbishop of Armagh.
The new Bishop of Carlisle did not have an easy start to his episcopal. In June 1333 Bishop de Beaumont of Durham was given a mandate to excommunicate all those who attacked Bishop Kirkby and his followers with blasphemous words, arrows and stones.
On 9th October 1333 an agreement was made between John de Kirkby, Bishop of Carlisle and Prior Geoffrey and convent of Carlisle concerning the tithes of Dalston and the rights of the prior to certain parishes. The excommunication issued by the late Bishop of Carlisle, John de Ross, against the prior and convent was also lifted as part of the agreement. This agreement was affixed with the seals of the bishop and the prior. On 4th December 1333 the pope confirmed his approval of the settlement while on 14th May 1334 Archbishop Melton of York examined the agreement and agreed to its settlement. Peace was restored to Carlisle cathedral and a good working relationship between the bishop and the prior was established.
The priory seal showing the Bishop and the Prior equal under St. Mary
Seal of the Priory of Carlisle
The same seal of the Priory of Carlisle was used for much of the medieval period. A good article on the seal was written by W. Nanson entitled ‘The seal of the Priory of Carlisle’ in Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmoreland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Volume seven (1883), pages 330 to 334. An online copy of the article can be seen at https://archive.org/stream/transactionsofcu07cumb#page/330/mode/2up/search/330
End of post
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlisle_Cathedral and http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/English%20sites/4090.html accessed on 5 July 2014
 Rosalind M.T. Hill (ed.), The Register of William Melton, Archbishop of York, 1317-1340, vol. 1 (Canterbury & York Society, vol. LXX, 1975-76), no. 200
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