Monastic Wales.

Event detail for site: Brecon

c. 1100: Foundation

The foundation was evidently initiated by Roger, a monk of Battle, who was staying with Bernard of Newmarché and persuaded him to grant the church of St John the Evangelist to his Sussex abbey of St Martin.

The account of Brecon's foundation in the Chronicle of Battle Abbey (below) reveals how precisely the cell was established and endowed. While it contains some errors, charters in the Brecon Chartulary are a valuable corrective. Heale has recently argued that in this case , as in others, it is most likely that Bernard had simply granted lands to Battle without any intention of founding a cell. It was probably the monks themselves who chose to convert a bailiwick into a dependency as a more effective way of administering the lands; thus it seems that the dependency was established at the initiative of the mother-house rather than the founder and for administrative purposes. Indeed none of Bernard's foundation charters refer to the formation of a cell. Burton ('Foundation, transition and transformation', p. 24) argues that the account of Bernard's motive for founding Brecon, as outlined in the Battle Chronicle, may well be a 'legend', for although it is possible that a monk from Battle was in Wales his alleged presence is more likely 'convenient'. She suggests that Bernard was probably more concerned to cement his reputation as a conqueror of Wales - in the fashion of William in England - and thus drew monks from the Conqueror's own foundation.

one of the king's (Henry I) barons, a splendid man, Bernard surnamed 'Neufmarché', at the passionate entreaty of one Roger, a Battle monk who had by chance been staying with him for some time, gave the church of St Martin's free, and with all appurtenances, a certain possession called 'the old town' and the church near it of St John the Evangelist, situated outside the wall of his castle at Brecon in Wales. Brother Roger set to work as a new colonist, rebuilding it from the very foundations with enormous care and labour. He associated with himself another monk of the abbey called Walter, a man of great common sense. He constructed living quarters there and in the meantime by prayer or gift he acquired a few possessions of lands and tithes for the place from the neighbours. Faithful to his commission to the limit of his ability this indefatigable man strove to return to his mother church many times enlarged the talent of the little possession entrusted to him. Now, as time was going on, and the brethren were devoting themselves wholly to the good of the place it happened that Agnes, the wife of Bernard, chanced to be taken ill and gave them out of her inheritance and with the assent of her husband a certain hamlet situated in England, outside Wales, called Berrington, wholly free and quit in eternal possession and thus, little by little, by the generosity of Bernard as well, in lands, mills, churches and tithes the possessions of this church were increased. When, by the confirmation of the royal authority and that of the aforesaid Bernard the place and all its possessions was recognised as the right of Battle Abbey, Walter was made prior by the convent and abbot of Battle. They decided that servants of God should join the community to carry on Divine Office there according to the Rule, and that as a recognition of subject status they should pay the church of Battle annually a part of their revenue, namely twenty shillings.

(Chronicle of Battle Abbey, trans. Searle)

People associated with this event

Bernard of Neufmarché; Newmarket; Newmarch , landowner (founder)

Bibliographical sources

Printed sources

The Chronicle of Battle Abbey, Oxford Medieval Texts, ed. Eleanor Searle (Oxford, 1980) pp. 86-89

Burton, Janet, 'Transition and transformation: the Benedictine houses', in Monastic Wales: New Approaches, ed. Janet Burton and Karen Stöber (University of Wales: Cardiff, 2013) p. 24

Heale, Martin, The Dependent Priories of Medieval English Monasteries, Studies in the History of Medieval Religion, 22 (Boydell and Brewer: Woodbridge, 2004) p. 28

Other events in the history of this site

c.1100Foundation - The foundation was evidently initiated by Roger, a monk of Battle, who was staying with Bernard of Newmarché and persuaded him to grant the church of St John the Evangelist to his Sussex abbey of St Martin.  [3 sources]
c.1125First community arrives - The founding community of monks from Battle Abbey probably arrived at Brecon at this time under Walter, who presided as the first prior of the dependency. [1 sources]
1125x1148Confirmation - Bishop Bernard of St David’s (1115-48) wrote to Earl Roger of Hereford praising the state of monastic life at Brecon and stating that the priory's right to Llan-goers church had now been established. His letter states: [4 sources]
c.1150Benefaction - Walter the Constable granted the monks of Brecon Priory a hospice at Hay with his man serving there. [1 sources]
c.1175Benefaction - Robert of Baskerville granted land to the priory when his son, James, entered he house as a monk. [2 sources]
pre 1175Benefaction - Henry of Hereford, the king’s constable, granted Brecon the churches of Hay and Llanigon and gave them the yearly sum of three shillings. [2 sources]
c.1200Benefaction - Mahel le Brec gave Brecon 12d of rent to maintain the lights in the church; Alice de Putangle gave the monks six acres of land to maintain the poor.  [2 sources]
c.1207Appropriation of churches - The churches of Talgarth, Llan-gors, Hay and Llanigon, granted to Brecon in the twelfth century, were formally appropriated to the priory.  [2 sources]
1216x1230Presentation - Peter fitz Herbert, lord of Blaenllynfi, secured the right for himself and his successors to present two clerks to the priory who would be received as monks of the house and say masses for the family’s souls.  [2 sources]
1260Resignation - Prior Reginald of Brecon resigned to take up the abbacy at Battle Abbey. [1 sources]
1265Arrest of former prior - In November 1265 a warrant was issued for the arrest of Stephen de Oteringber (Wateringbury), former prior of Brecon and now vagabond. [1 sources]
c.1275-1290Debt - By this time the priory had accumulted significant debt and owed small sums to a number of creditors.  [2 sources]
c.1275Wider community - Brecon maintained a Lady Chapel choir. [1 sources]
1283Feud - The priory was attacked by Reginald fitz Peter when his two presentees were removed from the priory without his consent.  [2 sources]
1283Visitation - Archbishop Pecham conducted a visitation of Battle Abbey and whilst there made an enquiry about the state of monastic life at its dependency, Brecon Priory. [4 sources]
1291Wealth - According to the Taxatio Ecclesiastica of Nicholas IV the community’s spiritualities were assessed at £86 6s 8d and its temporalities at £36 3s 4d. [3 sources]
c.1300Patronage - At this time the patrons of Brecon were the de Braose, the Bohuns and the Buckinghams. [1 sources]
1357Challenge to Battle's authority - Prior John Lose mounted an unsuccessful bid for independence from Battle's authority. [2 sources]
1377Numbers - At this time there were only six monks at Brecon.  [1 sources]
1379Clerical poll tax 1379 - Payments required [1 sources][1 archives]
1381Clerical poll tax 1381 - Receipt of payments [1 sources][1 archives]
1435 Resignation - In July 1435 Prior William Waller resigned from office and was elevated to the abbacy at Battle. [1 sources]
1503Resignation - William Westhall, who had been prior of Brecon from 1497, resigned from office to take up the abbacy at Battle.  [1 sources]
1521Royal Patronage - At this time the priory was under royal patronage. [1 sources]
1529Rights - The monks of Brecon had the right to adminster the priory during a vacancy. [1 sources]
1534Royal authority - The prior and five monks of Brecon subscribed to the Act of Supremacy. [3 sources]
c.1535Wealth - According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus the priory’s gross income was assessed at £134 11s 4d with its spiritualities recorded as £76 5s 4d and its temporalities at £58 6s.  [3 sources][1 archives]
1536Dissolution - Brecon was dissolved under the 1536 Act of Suppression. [2 sources]