Studley Priory was built either in 1184 according to
Kennet or in 1176 according to Bishop Tanner, as the
The habit of the Benedictine Nuns was a black robe, with a scapulary [hood] of the same, and, under that robe, a tunic of white, or undyed wool. When they went to the choir, they had over all a black cowl. Like that of the monks.
The Priory was granted various lands and other income over the years. Sir Alexander Croke, in his two volumes of “The Genealogical History of the Croke Family – Originally Named Le Blount” researched a number of documents appertaining to the early history of the Priory, although the sources are not always given. Most referred to the lands held by the Prioress.
Soon after the foundation, Matilda, daughter of Alan the Hunter (Vectoris) upon taking the veil [presumably she became a nun] gave the convent 12 acres of ploughed land upon Shulfhull in Horton. This was confirmed by Thomas de St Walery (Valori). [This maybe what later became the Great Millfield]
1199 about. Albritha, daughter
of David de Romenel and Thomas the son of Bernard
Hugh son of William of Elsefield
gave a Virgate of land at Elsefield beside a hundred
white loaves of breadwhich is
called Oxford Blanpeyn. Ralph his steward was to deliver annually at
Studley upon the feast of the Assumption of Saint Mary. A
Century: Robert de Senekesworthe, granted the Priory,
the Church at Senekeworth (a lost village between Botley and Witham) with lands, tithes and dues plus one acre
of land called Northsuture and pasture for three
beasts in his demesne. The abbots of Oseney and
Later Sir William of Senekesworth
(son of Robert) granted to his daughter Dionysia hald a virgate of land, with a messuage,
croft and meadow and two acres of arable land lying on one side at Schoolles against Packstok, and
on the other side adjoining the road called Eynsham Waye and a marsh called Davidsmore. Dionysia may have
given this land to the Priory according to Sir Alexander Croke
as Sir William Lord of Senekeworth gave the nuns
pasturage for four cows and one bull, in all his lands except the islands and
he discharged a virgate of land of which he held at Senekeworth
from all claims of hidage, scutage,
chirichseth [a quantity of corn paid to the church on
St Martin’s day] and of the custody of Windsor and all other demands except a
rent of six pence to Robert de Boteley. [This may mean that the document was kept a
1218: A composition was made by Richard, Bishop of Sarum, that the nuns should have a third of the tithes of corn of Seckworth; all other benefits to that chapel in the lands, tithes and dues of Mercham [Marston?], Cheleworth, and Boteley, to belong to the vicar of the chapel.
1221: Ralph Harang granted a
rent of 10/- to be paid by Richard le Wose of
Forest-hill for a pittance for the nuns. Also in that
year Philip, the miller of
By a charter Elias, the son of William of Tetyndon gave the tithes of his demesnes in that parish. The gift was confirmed by Robert, Bishop of Lincoln between 1235 and 1253.
1226: Robert Earl of Dreux, Lord of St Valori, and Alanor his wife daughter and heir of Thomas St Valori, granted the advowson of the church of Beckley to9 the nuns of Studley. Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, assigned certain tithes to the Nuns in 1230.
1226: Nichalas de Anna was presented to the Rectory of Ambroseden by Richard Earl of Cornwall under a dispensation from the Papal Legate to hold it with the Church of Beckley, to which he had been presented by the Prioress and Convent of Studley, in 1226. He was succeeded by Robert de Anna.
1229 – 1237 Henry III granted the nuns one horse of burden travelling every day, once a day, to bring them dead wood for firing from his wood at Panshale. [Whitecross Green Woods at Panshill]
1230: In about 1230, Richard, King of the Romans, and Earl of Cornwall granted the nuns 12 feet of land in breadth all round the priory in his demesne wood of Horton. His son Edmund, Earl of Cornwall granted them one and a half acres of his waste at Horton to enlarge their enclosure by a charter dated 1st October 1296 (27th year of Edward I).
1234, ‘The nuns
having recovered seizing of the presentation of the Church of Beckley against
the King, and the Master of the Temple, Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, at the
petitions of the King, and Richard Earl of Pictou and
Cornwall, at the instance of the Nuns, with the consent of the Dean and
Chapter, confirmed the right of advowson to them, and
assigned to them a pension of ten marks from the said Church in certain
portions after specified, together with the small tithes. These
portions were, the tithes of corn of five hides of plowed
land of the fee of the Lord of Saint Valori in
Horton, with the tithe of hay thereunto belonging. The
third part of the tithes of corn of two hides of the demesnes of Robert de Bosco and John, son of Alexander, in the Town of
1241: Ralph Halegod for his own soul and that of his wives Matilda and Agnes, his father and mother, gave all his lands in St Mary’s parish which was held of the church of the Holy Cross in Holiwel, for the clothing of the nuns of Studley which was agreed by Juliana, the Prioress. A rent of 32 pence to be paid.
1241: An agreement was entered into between John Abbot of Oseney and Juliana, the Prioress of Studley, concerning an earthen wall and the gutter of a sollar [piece of land] in St Mary’s parish.
1245 about: The manor and advowson
of Craucumbe in Somerset and the manor in Long
Compton in Warwickshire were donated to the Priory by Godfrey de Craucumbe. [ Craucumbe
is about ten miles from
1253: Laurence de Brok sued the Prioress for 1 virgate of land in Ludeswell.
1258: The Prioress paid a fine for lands in Gatheley.
1260: An agreement was made between Walter the goldsmith and Elizabeth, Prioress of Studley for rent of 10/- from the house of Henry Gareford. About the same time, Henry de Anna, formerly rector of St Mildred’s in Oxford, gave two houses, a sollar [although the Chambers dictionary gives solar or sollar as a piece of ground it is more likely to mean something different in this case, possibly a sun room] with cellars under it in that parish and another house in St Peters. He granted a rent of 12 pence each to be paid annually to the fifty nuns of Studley. Also Robert, son of Oein, gave four shops in Cobler’s street.
20 - Seal of
13th century: Lawrence, son of Harding with the consent of his wife Agatha gave all his land in Cattestret, before Smithsgate.
1261: Clementia, the daughter of Robert Oweyn of Oxford, in her virginity and own liege power granted a messuage near the house of the University, a mark of rent from the school of John Walens; four acres of meadow behind Osney; all her right in the land held by Roger de Orliens, tailor, the right of his wife Catherine, her sister and all the rest of the lands and tenements of her father.
1276: William Pylle of Oxford
granted a house called the school between the gable of his own house and
Lawrence Kepeharm’s. It was
1279: In Long Compton it was found that on inquisition held in the seventh year of Edward I,  that the nuns of Studley had a carucate of land which had been granted by Geoffrey de Craucombe. The land had nine tenants. In the thirteenth year of Edward I,  Hugh de Plessetis and Ralph Pipard who had held the other half of the manor of Long Compton, claimed to have in common with the Prioress of Studley a court leet, assize of bread and beer, gallows, weyfs and to be exempted from suit to the hundred or county court but it was found that the Prioress exercised these liberties in severalty.
1274: The nuns recovered seisen
of the Church of Beckley against the King, and the Master of the Temple. Reginald de St Walery
1280: The Prioress was sued respecting lands in Weylone, Somersetshire.
1292: This income was subject to controversy in 1292 there was a suit between Philip de Heddeshonere, Rector of Beckley and Clementia, Prioress respecting the tithes of corn and hay which was claimed by the Prioress. Arbitration by Oliver, Bishop of Lincoln judged in favour of the Prioress.
1338: There was controversy between Sir Edmund de Lodelo, Rector of Beckley and the Prior and convent of St Frideswide concerning tithes of wood called Godestowe Wood. The
Bishop of Lincoln decided that the wood was within the
1344: In the 18th year of Edward III, John Frelonde and William Attewode of Studley, gave one messuage, nine oxgangs of ploughed land, ten acres of meadow, six acres of wood and 16/- of rent in East Claydon and Botel Claydon to maintain a chaplain to celebrate a mass of the Virgin Mary every day in the conventual church of Studley.
1345: In Michaelmas term, there was a trial between the King versus the Margery, Prioress of Studley, for the
taxation of three hides of land annexed to the nunnery, in which the Prioress
pleaded, that the foundation that the lands in the parish of Beckley were
annexed to it [The Priory]. The jury
returned that she should pay taxation on the temporals. Later the nuns recovered the advowson
1363: Edward III. Upon an inquisition at Brill, on the state of Bernwood Forest before William of Wycombe, Keeper of the King’s Forests on this side of the Trent, it was found that Studley should pay 13s 4d; the villages of Ashende and Merlake [Asham and Murcott] 6s 8d to John Apulby for agisting their cattle there.
1364: The Prioress
of Studley, in an inquisition, had a hedge too high about her close of Westmoor, that
the King’s deer could not enter. The
Prioress had a wood called Lynhale within the
1383: From an inquisition it appears that the tithes of the King’s Park at Beckley [Beckley Park] belonged to the nuns at Studley.
1388: The Prioress
and Convent conveyed a tenement at Oxford called Sheld
Hall, to the Warden of New College, for an annual pension of twenty shillings. Gutch’s History of
1389: The King granted a licence to John Reedwaood, William Beckensfield and John Cok, to settle upon the nunnery 12 tofts, 2 cottages, 2 carrucates of land, 10 acres of meadow, and 6 of wood, in Ash in Buckinghamshire. [It does not state whether this refers to the local Ash or Asham or another Ash in Buckinghamshire.]
1389: Richard II gave the manor of Asham (or Esses or Ashe or Nashe) in the Parish of Beckley to Agnes at Halle, Prioress of Studley Priory. It was formerly the property of John de Esses and Eleanor, his wife, son of Roger of Nashe by whom it was granted by John de Appulbye and Margaret his wife in 1361. John de Appulbye was the lord of Boarstall.
14th century: The nuns had a house called Sheld Hall, near
Dates not known. Thomas son of Henry of Oxford, gave a rent of 8/- from two shops; Celeyna daughter of William Wakeman, a rent of 20/- with the power of distress; Ada, the son of Golde of Oxford 4/- rent; Henry Punchard remitted his right in a house in the Goldsmith’s Street and Lawrence Leg granted one mark of rent from his house in Great Street, all in the parish of All Saints Church. Peter, the son of John of Oxford, gave some land in St Martin’s Parish; Galfredus de Hengtestry (Hinsey) Burgess of Oxford, gave a stall [stallum] in Butcher’s Row and Thomas de Henextesey, Burgess of Oxford, remitted all his rights in 5/- rent from a house in Butcher Row.
1410: The nuns repaired Perry Hall in Oxford, the society being incorporated with those of St Mildred.
1459: On 7th June, the Prioress presented William Tybarde, the first President of Magdalen College to the church at Craucombe Studley.
The valuation of the income in 1539 was £102.6.7d. The Ash lands as shown on the 1641 map as part of the Priory estate show lands opposite the Priory to the north where the windmill once stood. Marlake is retained in a local field name in Murcott and was once the name of the area now called Murcott but also spelt Moorcot in the past.
1509: The Chancellor of Oxford commanded J Walker,
receiver of Studley Priory, to repair the highway between Lincoln College and Depe Hall. [Depe
Hall was near
1530: St Mildred’s Hall belonged to Studley, and was deserted by scholars.
‘In their seclusion
the Benedictine sisters saw the herds of cattle feeding in the green pastures,
and in the winter flood‑time they watched the wild duck winging its
way. On May‑day year by year they
welcomed the men of Charlton who came across the moor to the Priory, carrying
with them the image of the Virgin, the patron saint of the convent and their
church. The herdsmen of the district
paid them a tithe of their beasts and their cartulary contains a description of
At the time of the Black Death in 1356 it was reported that there were about 50 nuns at the Priory. This is considered an exaggeration and it is thought that the number was more like 12. The visitations of 1440, 1445 and 1530 gives details of the nuns:
The visitation by Lord William Alnewyke, Bishop of Lincoln lists the nuns and gives an insight into the way of life. The nuns listed were:
Dame Elinora Copcote, Prioress
Margareta Niernute, Sub-Prioress
Agnes Devyle, Tercia prioressa
Agnes Devyle said that nuns might visit friends for no more than 3 to 4 days, when they were to wear silken veils and robes, with veils down to the eyebrow. She said that the last prioress for 58 years never rendered an account. Thomas Halle was the steward.
The Priory was in the Archdeaconry of Oxford and Deanery of Cuddesdon.
The visitation of 26 April 1520 says that the Prioress was Katherine Cobot (1515-1529) with Isabel Copcote sub-prioressa; Alice Smyth, sacrisa; Alice Wychill, precentrix; Margaret Welsh, refrector aria; Alice Copcot; Alice Edmund; Agnes Banyard; Johana Williams; Joanna Dormer. Johanna Willams became prioress in 1529.
The visitation of 20 September 1530 to the Prioratis de Studdelegh by Ricardum Hill lists the nuns:
Alice Whyghyll (Whitehill) Prioress but about to hand over to Alice Richardson
Margaret Walshe, Alice Copcote, Alice Yemens, Felice Asshley, Lettice Wyncot, Margaret Hampden, Helen Smythe, Joan Hede.
It is interesting to note the number of Copcots who joined the Priory.
Cardinal Wolsey is believed to have obtained the
permission of one of the Prioresses of Studley Priory to cut down timber for
his new college at
The Priory was dissolved amongst the lesser monasteries, which had less than £200 a year, by the act of 27th year of Henry VIII . The last Prioress was Johanna Williams and there were 15 nuns whose revenue amounted to £102 6s 7¼d. When Joanna Williams surrendered the Priory a pension of £16 6s 8d was assigned to her in 1553. Other pensions were Katherine Copcote £2 6s 8d, Alice Yeomans £1 13s 4d, Elizabeth Boulde £1 13s 4d and to Susan Denton, Margaret Wigball £1 6s 8d each (source quoted by Sir Alexander Croke - Willis Mitred Abbeys vol ii p 186) What happened to the other nuns is not recorded.
The full valuations “upon a survey made by the Act of Parliament of the 26th year of Henry VIII granting the first fruits to the King,”
The Valuation of the Priory of Studley, upon the Survey made by the Act of Parliament of the 26th year of Henry VIII. granting they first fruits and tenths to the King.
STODELEY PRIORIE IN COMITATU OXON.
DAME JOHANNA WILLYAMS, PRIORISSE THERE.
The true Valure of
£ s. d. £. s. d.
In primis, the parsonage of Beckeley,
the glebe of the same, and all prediall tythes
the towne of
set to ferme to Richard Reve, for 10
quarters rye 40s. and 14 quarters barly 41.
valued at 6 0 0
Item of the same parsonage. in the hands
of the seid Priorisse, all oblacions in the
seid cburche, all tythes in Horton, Studeley,
and Marlake, which be communibus,
annis as folowyth, viz. in offrings
upon Ester daie, 0 7 0½
Item openings in the churche uppon the 8
other offring daies . 0 18 0½
Item 15 tyth lammes . 0 11 0
Item 1 todd and dimidium tyth woll 0 16 10
Tythe in Marlake . 0 13 4
In the town of Oxon, viz.
in parochia Sancti Martini 1 0 0
In parochia Omnium Sanctorum 3 5 4
In parochia Sancti Petri 1 3 0.
In parochia Sancti Mildred 0 1 0
In parochia Sancti Ebbe . 0 8 0
16 15 11
Annual Deduccions out of the forseyd Spiritualties.
In primis Episcopo Lincoln, pro indempnitate
Ecclesiae de Beckeley 0
10 0 Item decano
et capitulo ejusdem ecclesiee
Item solutio vicario perpetuo ecclesiae
de Beckeley . 8 0 0
Summa deducionum spiritualium 14 5 11¾ Et remanet 6 9 11¼
In primis for the manor of Craucombe in Comitatu
Moniales 201. 8s. l ld. 1lb. pepperis, perquisits of
Courts 10s 20 18 11. 1 lb. of pepper.
Item the manor of Corseley in Com. Wilts gyvy n to the
seid Monasterie to find 2 priests singyng for Godfrey
Craucombe, and to find 2 tapres brennyng at altar masses
40s. and to find a lamp 20s. brennyng continually before the
sacrament and to the kychen for the fraternity 41. is in value
by the yere of rent of assize 23l. 12s. 0½d. 2 lbs. pepper,
Item the perquisits of the courts 10s. 23 2 0 ½
Stodeley, Horton, with divers forren townes
in the counties of Bucks, Oxon,
£. s. d. £. s. d.
In Wroxton 0 13 ,4
In Sakeworth 2 0 0
In Ardeley 0 5 0
In Wynchindon 0 10 0
In Steplebarton 0 5 0
In Kymbell 0 6 8
In Steple Aston 1 3 4
In Ilmer de pencione
Rectorie 0 6 8
In Wotton 0 6 0
In Wyghtly 1 0 0
In Ilmer de libero
redditu 0 2 0
In Begebroke 1 6 8
In Botilclaydon. 2 0 0
In Chesterton 1 6 8
In Overhayford 0 10 0
In Wyndylby 0 9 0
In Westcott. Fairford 0 4 0
In Tackeley 0 18 0 .
De porcione in Tydynton 0 8 0
In Okeley 0 14 4
Chomley 0 16 8
In Belgrave . 0 10 0
In Forstell 2 0 0
Horton and Studley 3 14 2 ½
In Ellesfeld, 0 15 4
In Lamparte 0 12 0
31 9 0½
Summa Temporalium 76 14 0
In primis 13 small close aboute the monasterie con
teeing by estimucion 74 acres, ‘and a close in Marlake,
conteyning 40 acres in pasture ground every acre at 12
rent . 6 13 0
Item in arable ground 180 acres every acre at 4d. to rent 3 0 0
In molendinis 0 6 8
Summa omnium dominicalium 9 0 8
Summa spiritualium, ternporalium,
et dominicalium 108 16 5
Summa temporalium 85 10 8
spritalium 6 15 11
In primis to Mr. James Hadley Stuard of the
forseyd manor of Craucomb 1 0 0
Item to the recever there 0 8 0
Item seniscallo manerii de Corseley ballivo
Waltero Hungerford Militi 1 0 0
Item receptors ibidem pro feodo suo 1 6 8
Item receptors redditus ville Oxon. 0 13 4
Item receptors reddiitus in comitatibus
Bucks, Oxon, and Warwick 1 6 8
Item in feodo Magistri John Par,
senescalli monasterii predicts 1 0 0
In feodo Richardi Crispe auditoris ibidem 1 0 0
Item solutio Magistro Sancti Johannis
Jerusalem in Anglia pro
parcella terre wocata Hoggeshawe
in Claydon 0 1 8
Item domino Regi ad manus vicecomitis
Bucks 6s. et ad victim
franci (pleqii, sc.) tentum apud Halton infra
Honorem Walingford 6s 0 12 0
Item domino de Corse de redditu resoluto 0 11 6
Ecclesiae de Cracomb 0 1 9
Collegio de Brace de redditu resoluto
per annum 0 2 0
Ballivis ville Oxon per annum 0 2 8
Item domino Regi solutio ad curiam
Swanimot forestae de Barnewood
Shoteover pro denariis vocatis Leff Silver 0 10 0
Summa deduccionum temporalium 9 16 3
Summa deduccionum spiritualium ut in
primo folio 10 5 11¾
Summa omnium allocationum tam
spiritualium quam temporalium 20 2 2¾
Summa 102 6 7
Reprisiones . 20 2 2¾
Et remanet . 82 4 4¼
Decima pars inde 8 4 5¼
Per me Richardum Crispe auditorem ibidem
To this may be added the sums received from Colleges in
Collegium Regine. Item Monasterio de
Studeley in Qom. Oxon. pro’ guieto
redditu imperpetuum 0 3 0
Collegium Animarum Omnium
Fidelium Defunc. Item solutio pro
quodam annuo redditu imperpetuum
Priorissiae de Stodeley 1 6 8
Collegium Lincoln. Item Priorissae et
Conventui de Stodeley et
eorum successoribus pro quieto redditu
per annum in perpetuum 0 1 0
Novum Collegium. Redditus resolutus
Prioritize de Stodley pro domo in tenura
Willelmi Weste 8s. et parcella gardini
Collegii per annum 1 8 0
(This 20s. was the pension paid for Sheld Hall.)
Monasterium de Osney; an annual
pension to the Prioress and
Convent of Studley per annum’ 1 2 0
Sir Alexander Croke writes: “Soon after this valuation, was passed the act for the suppression of the lesser monasteries, of revenues not exceeding two hundred pounds a year, 27 Hen. VIII. ch. 28. There was a clause which empowered the King, by his letters patent, to continue such religious houses as he was not disposed to have suppressed, and by his letters patent of the 17th of August 1536, he confirmed five abbies, and sixteen nunneries, which had been reported by the commissioners as more regular than the others. In the list of the monasteries which were so confirmed, and upon the certificates of the commissioners were assigned and appointed to stand by the King’s commandment, is “ the Priory of Studley nuns,” and John Wylliams was appointed to the same, whether as the intended grantee, or in what other capacity, does not appear. In the general suppression, two years afterwards, those reserved monasteries were abolished likewise.
The surrender of the Priory to the King by the Lady Johanna Willyams, styling herself Prioress of the House or Priory of nuns of Studley, of the order of Saint Benedict, and the, Convent of, the same place, is dated in the Chapter House, the 19th of November, in the 81st year of Henry VII I. 1589. Sealed and delivered in the presence of George Holland, Notary Public, by the King’s authority. See an etching of the Conventual Seal, from the original deed of surrender in the Augmentation Office.
Pensions for life were assigned to the Prioress and seven nuns from the Court of Augmentations, thus entered in the pension book, f. 107.”
The late Pryorye of Studley in the Countye of Oxon.
Pencions assigned by the Commyssyoners at the dissolution of the same unto the late Pryoresse and Systers they to be payde unto them yerely duryng theyr lyves at the ffeast of the Annunciation of owre Ladye and Seynt Michaell the Archangell by evyn portions. The ffirst pavment to begin at the feast of the annunciation of owre Ladye in the xxxist yere of owre sovereyn Lord King Henry the VIII. That is to say,
Furst, to Johanna Williams,
late Pryoresse, there . . . 16 5 8
Item, to Alyce Richardson,
late Subpryorisse ther . . . 2 18 4
Item, to Margaret Walsshe 2 0 0
Item, to Alice Yomens 1 13 4
Item, to Elisabeth Bolde 1 6 8
Item, to Margaret Wythyll 1 6 8
Item, to Susan Demon 1 6 8
Item, to Frydeswyde Copcote 1 6 8
Summa 28 0 0
Per Nos. ~ R . Gwent
The History of Studley Priory by Sir Alexander Croke has a paragraph from a 16th century document. “It appears that by dispositions taken in the 19 year of Elizabeth  that the Prioress of Studley had common without stint, for all manner of cattle in the very extensive track of country called the Quarters. Some tradition of this right still continues in two proverbial sayings remembered by old people that “if the grass grew upon Stanton Church Studley might come and eat if off, and another that Studley could reach and fetch from Stanton a Picket of Hay” which was said to have been Winslow ten miles off. It is extremely likely probable that marsh was allotted to Studley, in compensation for those extensive common rights. It appears by those despositions that Menmarsh was part of the Quarters, and in an ancient terrier of the bounds of the parish of Beckley , it is stated that the rivulet upon the common, there styled Danebrooke, divided the parish of Beckley from Brill or Boarstall, so that Menmarsh was in Brill or Boarstall parish and the county of Buckinghamshire. So the perambulation of the forest of Bernwood for the purpose of disafforesting so much of it was in Oxfordshire, in the 28th year of Edward I  in stating the boundaries between the Buckinghamshire and the Oxfordshire parts. Danebrock is described as the division on that side.”
Following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII the Priory was bought by Master John Croke who made his way in the royal service to become Master in Chancery under Edward VI. Master Croke bought land and built his manor house at Chilton, near Thame, adding Studley Priory to his land purchases in 1539 at a cost of £1,187 7s 11d. The purchase of Studley Priory had all the hallmarks of a good investment to rival that of the famous ‘Little Jack Horner’ of nursery rhyme fame, the lead from the church roof making a considerable contribution towards the purchase price, by selling off all the remote lands. The purchase on 26th February 1539 by letters patent from the King. The estate included “the house and site of the Monastery, with the Church, the Manor of Studley in the county of Oxford and Buckinghamshire, the Manor of Crawcombe Studley in Somerset, the manor of Long Compton in Warwickshire, six pounds rent in Crawcombe Bere in Somerset, the Rectory and Church in Beckley, the Rectory and Church of Hilmere or Ilmere in Buckinghamshire, the Chapel of Senekweorth in Berkshire, the advowson of the Church of Crawcombe Studley, the advowson of the Vicarage of Beckley, the advowson of the Vicarage of Ilmere; all their possessions in Steple Barton, Astwykes, Worton, Wightill, Wightley, Benbroke, Bekbroke, Takley, Forstyll [Forest Hill], Ellesford, Ellesfield, Overhayford, Tetndon, Tyvyton Beckeley Park, and Saunton in Oxfordshire and in Horton, Marlake, Okeley, Wornehall, Thomley Wychyndon, Kymbell, Hilmere, Ilmere, East Claydon, Botel Claydon, Wighthill and Wightley in Buckinghamshire; and in Belgrave in Leicestershire, in Westcot Fairford in Gloucestershire, and in Senekeworth and Sakworth in Berkshire; Lamport in Northamptonshire; Long Compton in Warwickshire, and in Crawcombe Studley and Prioresses Wood and all lands in Wroxton, Ardeley, Chesterton, and Wendelbury in Oxfordshire. The whole to be held by the King in capite, by the service of the twentieth part of a knights fee and rendering six pounds fourteen shillings and two pence annually.
Master John Croke retained only the Studley Priory house and the manor of Studley, the appropriation of Beckley and other rights in that parish. The manor of Crawcombe Studley was transferred to the Kingmill family. His son Sir John Croke sold the Beckley property to William Shillingford in 1568 but kept all rights and tithes in Studley, Horton, Ashe, Merlake and Otmoor, except the tithes of beasts upon Otmoor belonging to the towns of Beckley, Noke and Oddington.
The birth of John Croke is not recorded but he was son of Richard and Alicia Croke alias Le Blount. The first record of his life is in 1522 as one of the six Clerks in the High Court of the Chancery. He married Prudentai and their first child was born in 1530. Prudentia was sister of Sir Ambrose Cave who was Chancellor to the Duchy of Lancaster and a Privy Councillor to Queen Elizabeth I. John also had a house in London, in Fleet Street called the Charyate with two messuages of garden adjoining.
The will of John Croke gives an indication of the people living and working at the Priory.
I bequeath to each of my servants a black livery at seven and eight shillings a yard, the men to have coats and the women gowns.
To Thomas Springe 40/-; Henry the Brewer 40/-; Frances 40/-; Byrdesey 20/-
Thomas the Carter 20/-; John Chapman 20/-; Alynaor Adys 40/-; Sibill 40/-
Amye 40/-; Johan Lovell 20/-; Allice 20/-; Johan Maygott 10/-; John Coventree £3 6s 8d; Sir Rauffe 40/-; Mighell 20/-.
Jack 20 sheep and Robyn 20 sheep and keepings for them in Adingrove [Arngrove?]
Roger the boy in the kitchen, Alexander and Norrice 20/-. Ann Hunt £10 and my cousin Anne Mason £3 6s 8d and her sister Wise 40/- and Prudence Mason £5 which my wife willien unto her. Mistress Conysby 20/- and Prudence Edwards £111 6s 8d to her marriage. Ann Lee a tablet of Gold with a pomander under it. Ann Hunt an annuity of 26s 8d by the year and other bequests. Ann appears to have been the housekeepet at the Fleet Street house. Oswald the Butler was given 20/- a year for life. He also left other bequests including for the poor people of Beckley, Studley, and Horton 40/- and to the poor people of the other towns including Boarstall, Ockley, Brill, Ludgarsall, Dorton, Wotton, Asshendon, Pollicott, Cherdesley, Crendon and others.
During the many changes to the structure of the Priory by the Croke family, fragments of the original Saxon architecture and extremely large Gothic windows have been excavated showing the original Saxon origins.
The estate survey of 1641 with minor boundary changes is the Priory estate transferred to Master John Croke was succeeded by his son, a second John. The latter was appointed the first High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire and at the same time received his knighthood. The very fine tomb in Chilton church in Buckinghamshire commemorates Sir John and his wife; a line of small figures along the front of the tomb indicates by their costumes the honours acquired by his children during their lifetimes.
There are also monuments to other Croke families as well as Sir John Croke, who died in 1608. His tomb is much ornamented in the style which then prevailed, and as his effigies in armour. Sir John was father of Sir George Croke, the celebrated lawyer, famous for his zealous opposition to the tax of ship-money, in the reign of Charles I: he was a native of Chilton, and lies buried in the church there, without any memorial. At the west end of the church is a large marble monument for the family of Carter: on the south side of the entrance into the chancel was a stone desk and pulpit; the desk remains, with the steps, which led to the pulpit. It is not known how much time Sir John spent at Studley Priory as he also had accommodation in London as well as Chilton.
Studley Priory was deeded by the above named to his eldest son, a third John, in 1584.
This John Croke followed the legal profession and ultimately held important appointments, being Recorder of London and Speaker in the last Parliament of Queen Elizabeth, he was appointed to the King’s Bench and knighted under James 1. Sir John Croke carried out the alterations to the Priory building to form his manor house though he moved to the family manor at Chilton on the death of his father. The second son of the first Sir John Croke, Henry, who became Clerk to the Pope in the reign of Charles I, married an heiress Bridget Hawtry and built his manor house at Chequers in the Chilterns, now the country residence of the Prime Minister.
Sir George was the third son of Sir John Croke and Elizabeth Unton and was born in c 1560. He attended Lord William’s school in Thame and at the age of 15 in 1575 entered Christ Church College, Oxford. He then moved to the Inner Temple and was admitted as a member on 7th February 1574. In 1597, he was elected as Member of Parliament for Berealston in Devon. He was made King’s Sergeant and knighted by King James I on 29th June 1623. His elder brother Sir John Croke was speaker of the House of Commons.
In 1621 he purchased Studley Priory from his nephew, Sir John Croke of Chilton and besides land given in Chilton in exchange he also paid £1800 in money for it. There were receipts held by Sir Alexander Croke in 1823 for the sum of £2420 paid in 1600, to his brother Sir John Croke. Sir George’s legal arguments survived him by many years and even today are quoted by lawyers. One of the most famous cases in which he participated was that of the ‘Ship Money’ trial; Charles I in one of his endeavours to raise money without the sanction of Parliament extended the tax paid by the coastal counties for the provision of naval vessels to inland counties. As a result of his refusal to pay the tax John Hampden was tried and sentenced to imprisonment.
Sir George’s arguments caused both Houses of Parliament to vote against the judgement and secured Hampden’s release. In 1339, Sir George added the chapel and provided a stipend of £20 a year for a clergyman to preach there, he also built and endowed the nearby almshouses. This adding of the chapel saved travelling two miles to Beckley. The deed was dated 23rd of May in the 15th year of Charles I  and was endowed with a rent of £60 a year from Sir George’s estate in Erdington. Sir George had one son, Thomas, of whom little is known except that he was baptised on 25th September 1618 and studied law and entered the Inner Temple in 1619. A contemporary quote by a Mr A Wood says he was “a sot, or a fool, or both” . He had died before Sir George’s will was written in about 1655.
The Croke family tree, as far as Studley Priory is concerned at this time, starts with:
Richard Croke alias Blount = Alicia
who had one surviving son John Croke alias Le Blount who died in 1554 = Prudentia Cave.
They had one son Sir John Croke, first High Sheriff of Bucks b 1530 d 1608= Elizabeth Unton b 1538 d 1611.
They bore 8 children. The eldest was Sir John Croke b 1553 d 1619 = Catherine Blount who in turn had a son, another Sir John Croke who sold the Priory to his uncle, Sir George Croke b c1560 d 1641, third son of Sir John and Elizabeth Unton.
By Sir George’s will Studley Priory passed to his brother William for his lifetime with entail to William’s son, Alexander. Possibly due to confusion of records during the Civil War years the death of William is not recorded, there is therefore no certainty that he occupied the manor. Sir George’s coat of arms, dated 1622, is carved in stone, over the porch of the Priory impaled with Bennet, that of his wife. The same arms in painted glass were also installed in the drawing room, two bedrooms and the chapel. After his death in 1641, his wife continued to live at their house at Waterstock.
Alexander built the stable block to the north of the chapel using materials recovered by demolishing the east range of Priory buildings. This block is shown on the 1641 map so must have been build very soon after Sir George’s death. It appears to be a large building but has since been demolished. The site was in the woods on the left of the entrance to the road. In Sir George’s will, he left £200 for better furnishings. Amongst other items named in his will were many books some in Latin and French and a complete suit of armour for a horseman and two armours for a footman.
Alexander Croke married twice and at his death in 1673, left Studley Priory to his grandson by his first marriage, John Croke. To his son, William, by his second marriage he left that part of his property in Buckinghamshire.
It was during Alexander’s time at the Priory that the civil war raged in the area and it is believed that King Charles I used the Priory as a base to observe a skirmish with the Parliamentary forces under the Earl of Essex at Boarstall. There is no mention of this event in the Genealogical History of the Croke Family by Sir Alexander Croke,1823.
John Croke left three children, John, James and Charlotte. John being incapable of managing the estate as he was deformed and had an impediment of speech and weak of his intellects, passed his interest to James in 1726, in return for an annuity of £100 per year, and on James’s death made similar arrangements with Charlotte and her husband, William Ledwell who managed the estate until Charlotte died in 1763 aged 76.
Charlotte was buried in the chapel at Studley. On Charlotte’s death Studley Priory was reunited with the other part of the property under the ownership of Alexander Croke, a cousin and descendent of the first Alexander by his second marriage.
The son of Alexander, another Alexander, inherited the estate in 1796. He was trained in the legal profession and after a conflict with the Earl of Abingdon over the provisions of the enclosure of Otmoor, spent the years from 1800 to 1815 as a judge in the Admiralty court in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
On his retirement from this post he received a knighthood. Sir Alexander made some adjustments to the Elizabethan levels of the house and added an extension of three storeys with one room on each floor on the east side of the Priory. Benefiting by the enclosure of Otmoor the estate increased to some two thousand acres and Sir Alexander left this estate in trust to his widow and ten surviving children. By 1877, there being no issue from any of Sir Alexander’s children, the two survivors arranged for the trust to be broken and the estate was sold. Sir Alexander Croke spent some years in Nova Scotia, where many of his children were born. They called the house in Nova Scotia Studley Minor.
The last years of the Croke occupancy is summarised:
Alexander Croke d 1673 = Sarah Beke d 1667
William Croke b 26 Feb1627, d 1702 = Susanna Fettiplace
Alexander Croke MA, Rector of Hartwell b 1657, d 1726 = Jane Evans
Alexander Croke of Marsh Gibbon b 1704, d 1757 = Elizabeth Barker d 1786
Alexander Croke of Horton cum Studley b 1728, d 1796 = Ann Armistead (1st Wife) d 1768
Sir Alexander Croke b 1758 = Alice Blake
Adelaide d 1877 (eldest son Alexander d 14 Dec 1818 aged 20)
Sir Alexander Croke describes the last days of son Alexander in 1818. He was at Harrow School when he first became ill, having first been accepted for the Inner Temple to study law on 27th April 1816. He had been riding fast after dinner on 4th June 1816 and hurt his stomach from which he never recovered. He could only eat a very small amount, and drink in sips. On Sunday 14th December 1818, he was unable to get up. Mr Jenkins [The rector] came and administered the sacrament. Lady Croke, daughter Adelaide, Mrs Marshall the housekeeper and Mrs Jones, one of the nurses received it with him. His family kissed him at about 11 o’clock. He died at twenty past one on Monday morning, the 14th December; 1818. He was buried at Beckley on 21 December. Mr George Cooke performed the service.
In 1877 John Henderson bought the estate (see page 1.) His heir Captain Ronald Henderson, served as Member of Parliament for the Mid‑Oxon Division; his alterations included raising the roof of the stable block to provide extra bedrooms in 1924 and extensive improvements of the water supply and drainage.
During the Second World War Studley Priory was used first as a BBC hostel for evacuated London staff and later came under military requisition. In 1947 the house was let to a tenant, Mr Raymond Bawtree, who commenced to run it as a country club; the estate was sold and broken up in 1954 and on the termination of the lease the house and gardens were purchased by Maj. E. E. Parke who established the present hotel.
The hotel then run by Mr Jeremy Parke, son of Major E E Parke and in 2002, the licence of what was once the King’s Arms was taken over by Studley Priory as “ The Lodge”.
From the history of the owners we now turn to the buildings. When John Croke purchased Studley Priory in 1539 the description of the buildings in the deed of transfer was ‘ecclisiam cum campanile et domus (church with bell tower and house)’. Fortunately the monastic orders, having established a design dictated by their rules, built to one pattern with minor variations to allow for local topography. The level lawns surrounded on three sides by a low bank on the east side of the existing buildings contain the foundations of those demolished.
The church at the north end together with domestic buildings on the remaining three sides would enclose the cloister garth (a piece of enclosed ground) with the cloisters on the interior walls of the west, north and east sides. Entrance to the cloister garth would be obtained by a passageway through the south range of the buildings, admittance to outsiders being prevented by a locked gate. Access to the domestic buildings surrounding the cloister garth would be from the cloisters. The kitchen and storerooms to the south would form part of the outer court that would be used by the lay servants of the Priory.
Of the surviving buildings, the west range of the Priory buildings was raised to two stories prior to 1450, the construction being that of a trussed rafter roof. Re-roofing of the kitchen appears to date from about 1500.
The land grant to found the Priory establishes the church as being in existence in about 1184, remnants of the worked stone which include pillar capitals provides two dates to the buildings, late Norman and 13th century, which may be ascribed respectively to the church and cloisters.
The lay appropriator was required by law to demolish monastic buildings purchased from the Crown, presumably to prevent the return of church inhabitants, though up and down the country the observance of the law varied from one extreme to the other. At Studley Priory it was thought sufficient to demolish the church and no doubt the proceeds from the sale of the lead roof gave an adequate return for this work.
Standing on the circular lawn to the west of the house, the buildings give the impression of having been constructed at one period though, although there are five building dates.
The porch is an Elizabethan addition to the earlier building, on the left one half of a pair of windows has been eliminated, on the right a three-light window has been reduced to two lights. Above the entrance are the Croke coat of arms impaled with those of the wives of the first three generations: Cave, Unton, Blount and Bennett above that is the family motto ‘virtutis amore’. The date of 1587 is related to the first three, the Croke-Bennett arms are a later insertion with the date 1622, the three coats of arms having been moved to make space for the insertion. The Greek orders present a mixture of styles that frequently occurred in England before the Inigo Jones period.