The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History

Click here to return to the Home page      Click here for more information about this website       Click here to go to the A - Z Contents page       Click here to go to the Links page       Click here to go to the Disclaimer page       Click here to link to the Can you help? page


Updated:  22 January 2011 

An ecclesiastical college, consisting of a dean and four canons, had been founded by King Edgar at Plympton by at least the year 961 AD.  His name was on a charter used by the Prior of Plympton in 1302 to defend an accusation against him.  

This was replaced in 1121 by a Saint Augustine Priory founded by William Warlewas, who from 1150 until 1159 was the Bishop of Exeter.  He apparently objected to the fact that the Chapter 'wold not leve their concubines'.  The new Priory was dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul.  It became a very rich Priory and by the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 it had 21 canons and was earning 912 per year.  Just a couple of years earlier, in 1534, the last Prior, John Howe, had surrendered to the King's supremacy.  The Priory and its demesne were granted by the King to Mr Arthur Champernowne, who later sold it on to the Strode family.

As Plympton was much older than the little fishing village of Sutton, the Priory pre-dated the construction of Saint Andrew’s Church and the Prior was responsible for the appointment of its vicars, a fact that caused much consternation in later years.

In fact, the Prior of Plympton held the right to appoint the vicars of the ancient parish churches of Eggbuckland, Plympton Saint Mary, Plympton Saint Maurice, Plymstock, Saint Budeaux, and Tamerton Foliot as well as the country parishes of Brixton, Meavy, Sampford Spiney, Shaugh Prior, Ugborough, Wembury as Maker, which was within the county of Devon at that time.  The Valletort's had also granted to the Priory the rights for the estates of Ham, Kinterbury and Cremyll.  [1]

So important was the Priory that it fell to the Prior to entertain Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince, when he landed at Plymouth in 1348.  Plymouth was still a century away from being constituted a borough.

One story, related by the Deputy Mayor of Plymouth, Mr Isaac Foot, at the re-opening of Plympton Grammar School in 1921, was how Plymouth overcame the problem of having to pay Plympton a pension of 120 a year.   Apparently, the new Borough 'squared a royal officer with a tun of wine costing 5 6s 8d to speak to the King that he should abolish the pension'.  This piece of municipal corruption was successful.

At the end of the nineteenth century the Early English refectory and the Norman under croft plus a fifteenth century kitchen were still in situ within the house and grounds of Lower Priory, which belonged to a Mr Evans.


[1]  Gill, Crispin, "Plymouth: A New History, volume 1", David & Charles (Publishers) Ltd, Newton Abbot, 1979, ISBN 0-7153-4018-2.

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

Any problems viewing this webpage should be notified to the webmaster at plymouthdata dot info