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CANONSLEIGH.

BY F. T. ELWORTHY.

(Read at Plymouth, July, 1892.)

On the eastern edge of the county-nearly at the head of the Burles-combe, where the highland of White ball divides the watershed of the Tone from that of the Exe—not far from the western entrance to the Whiteball tunnel, in full sight and within a few hundred yards of the Great Western Railway, on a nearly level meadow, facing due south, and sheltered on the north by the conspicuous line of limestone quarries, stands all that is left of the once well-known Priory of Legh Canonicorum, or, as it is now called, Canon's Leigh. Although quite 400 feet above the sea, yet, compared with its surroundings, the monks of old placed their house, as usual, in a pleasant yet low-lying spot, having however a good drainage fall and ample water supply.

The fragments now remaining on the Leigh are only such as the spoiler has left of the once stately abbey. That it must have been of great extent is self-evident, and to be proved by ocular demonstration from the fact that the portions remaining mark roughly the eastern and western extremities, between which the great conventual buildings were situated. The gateway or entrance, still standing, is at the west, and, although sadly disfigured and debased by modern alteration, must once have been a plain though dignified approach to the convent. There must have been two separate archways and doors, side by side. The southern was the great porte cochère, and was probably the state entrance, used only for the admission of carriages or large vehicles. The northern arch, though of the same size inwardly, was entered from without by a “needle's eye,” or small door for foot people, and was evidently the porter's special charge. Close to this smaller entrance a doorway of red sandstone leads to a staircase on the left. These stairs would doubtless belong to the porter, who had his lodging immediately over the main archways. There are square-headed windows in the upper storey, of probably 14th century work, commanding the approach on either side. Nothing is left here to determine what kind of gate or doors closed either of the archways; even the hooks are invisible, most likely hidden in the modern walls which convert the two arches into farm wagon-linhays. The roof is modern, and of the ordinary farm-building sort. There is nothing about this structure to

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betoken defence of any kind, and it evidently was nothing more than the gatehouse of the abbey. .

The other fragment is a mere ruin, but it is of a very much more important and instructive character. This is a very massive structure, nearly square in form, with strong buttresses on the east and south-east angles, composed of rough walling of the local limestone. In its day it must have formed a great flanking tower at the east end of the convent. From the centre of the east wall of this tower starts the enclosing wall of the abbey precincts, outside which, but washing its base, and underneath the centre of the tower, flows a stream of water, covered in on the other or exit side-doubtless once for the supply of the abbey stews, now filled up and converted to meadow. At the angles of the tower on the inside, corres

ponding with the outer angular buttresses, are the remains of massive walls, which evidently connected it with the main residential domestic buildings of the abbey. The interior of this massive structure is in such perfect condition that its purpose is evident at a glance, and it throws a very valuable light upon the sanitary arrangements of the Middle Ages, which in this case were by no means so imperfect as those often found in military buildings of the same Edwardian period. The extent of the accommodation, communicating as it did with two or, perhaps, more floors, together with its extreme solidity, and the completeness of the arrangements, are sufficient testimony that in its days of prosperity this establishment fairly deserves to be described as stately. The peculiar manner in which the walls connecting this building with the rest of the house start from the angles instead of in line with any of its walls, evidently for the purpose of bringing the tower in line with the stream, has broken up the spaces adjoining into most irregular shapes. On two sides these were within the convent walls, and formed evidently open courtyards, but only from one of these yards is there any doorway leading from out of doors into the place itself. The principal accesses to it seem to have been from the interior of the domestic buildings on two floors. On the ground level of the side towards the north—that is, next the convent—is a narrow room of about half the length of the entire guardrobes, approached by a massive doorway. This has some appearance of having been a place of confinement, perhaps for refractory nuns. It had a floor over, supported by beams, and it is clear that the upper apartment or passage ran the entire length, and is not divided like the lower floor, by a wall and doorway.

The nature of the building, we have here left, would account for the plainness and bareness of architectural decoration in the way of worked stone, such as would stimulate the cupidity of the spoiler; and hence it is most likely that this example of medieval sanitation remains almost intact, with the very plaster adhering to the walls, while all the rest of the great abbey-for great it must have been-has so utterly disappeared. It is clear that rough stone could be got more easily from the neighbouring quarries than by pulling down this massive and well-built tower, which has defied both the hand of time and of the destroyer, and still stands a picturesque and sturdy relic of an age of good lime-burners and honest masons. One or two window openings in the walls adjoining, from which the worked stone has been VOL. XXIV.

2 A

torn out, seem to point to about the end of the thirteenth century, as the period of this portion of the then Priory; but what was the nature or extent of the apartments they lighted, cannot now even be guessed at. For reasons to be stated presently, Augustine convents were not so invariably built to regular pattern as those of other Orders, where, having found one portion and determined its position, object, and extent, the whole monastery could be constructed therefrom, just as anatomists construct the entire skeleton from the possession of one or two important bones. Here, however, there remains no clue to the general shape or arrangements of the house, beyond the fact that at its south-eastern angle, and projecting beyond the lines of its southern and eastern boundary, was a great square tower containing the sanitary offices of the establishment.

Where the Church of SS. Mary and John the Evangelist was situated there is no sign nor tradition, and it can only be surmised that it stood to the north of the present ruin, probably having the great dormitory stretching between the south transept and the offices now remaining. There was in nearly all conventual buildings a direct communication from the dormitory to the church.

We see later, by Bishop Stapledou's letter, that the apartments of the abbess were on the first floor, but whereabouts cannot now even be guessed.

The Priory of Leigh was founded, according to Oliver, in the latter half of the twelfth century, but Randolph says before 1173,3 by Walter de Clavilla, for a community of regular Austin canons, who had been brought to England by Adelwald, confessor to Henry I., and who are said to have been first established at Nostel, in Yorkshire, and at Dunstable in 1107, so that this, though not nearly the earliest foundation, must have been only about sixty years after the Order came first into this country, and, as we shall see, long before all the scattered fraternities (which had been incorporated by the decrees of Leo III. as Augustines, in the early part of the ninth century 4) were brought finally into one united Order in 1284 by Pope Alexander IV.

Previously to this, in the time of Innocent IV. (1240), all the hermits, solitaries, and small separate confraternities, who lived under no recognised discipline, were registered and incorporated by a decree of the Church, and reduced under

Stapledon's Reg. (Rev. F. C. HINGESTON-RANDOLPH), p. 96.
2 Monasticon, p. 224.
3 Register of Bishop Stapledon (HINGESTON-RANDOLPH), p. 94.
Legends of the Monastic Orders. Mr. JAMESON, p. 192.

one rule, called the rule of St. Augustine, with some more strict clauses introduced, fitting the new ideas of conventual life. Innocent died before the reforms were completed, but his successor, Alexander IV., carried them out, by the help of a miracle. Just when wanted, St. Augustine himself appeared, clothed in a long black gown, tattered and torn, in sign of poverty, bound round his waist with a leathern girdle and buckle, with a scourge in his right hand. He told the Pope that the contumacious hermits, who had refused to wear the uniform rule and dress, were forthwith to accept the Augustine rule and habit, and submit to monastic discipline, under pain of the scourge. At length, but not till 1284, these scattered members and communities were brought into submission, under the name in England of "Austin Friars." This occurred about forty years after the settlement of the Franciscans and Dominicans upon our English soil.

Notwithstanding all this disorder, the Augustines are the oldest society, and the rule is the parent of all monastic Orders and religious congregations not comprehended within the Benedictine, and includes all the famous recluses from the fourth to the sixth centuries. Indeed, by the same decrees of Leo III. and the Emperor Lothaire (about 860) incorporating the regular and secular canons into one great body, all personages who had been dedicated to a holy life retrospectively even to the time of the Apostles, were included in the Augustine community.

A careful recollection of these facts, and also of the foregoing dates, may help us materially to interpret subsequent events in the history of Leigh Priory. We find that from its foundation it was somehow connected with the Priory of Plympton, which had or claimed, the right of appointing the Superior of Leigh; and that there were disputes between those monasteries, for so early as 1219 the Bishop of Exeter (Simon de Apulia) was called on to adjudicate between the two monasteries, and by a “compositio” between the canons of Plympton of one part, and the canons of Leghe of the other, he decided finally that the Prior of Plympton should always receive due notice when a superior was to be elected for Canonleigh, so that he might be present if he pleased.8

5 Milman's Latin Christianity, vol. vi. p. 225 et seq.
6 JAMESON, op. cit. p. 192.
? Also an Augustine monastery, founded in 1121.

copy of this deed in Reg. of Bp. Bronescombe. (HINGESTON-RANDOLPH, p. 41.) Against this deed Bishop Grandisson, about 1330, affixed the mem.

Aliter nunc," as if in satisfaction that it was no longer a priory of canons. See also OLIVER, Monasticon, p. 224.

8 See

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