Title Deeds of Ellerton Priory and Convent (Gilbertine)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This very small number of items relating to the religious house of Gilbertine canons and nuns at Ellerton arrived in the Brynmor Jones Library as part of the large deposit of title deeds and business papers relating to the East Riding made by the British Records Association in the 1940s. They comprise one 13th century gift of land to Alan the merchant of Ellerton, a confirmation and quitclaim to the Prior and Convent in 1350 being an advowson `for the sustenance of 13 poor' and a rental of 1538.

Administrative / Biographical History

Gilbert, after whom the Gilbertine order was named, was born to Jocelin, Norman lord of the manor of Sempringham in Lincolnshire, and his English wife in the early 12th century. He took the path of poverty, redistributing his goods to the poor and set up a religious house at Sempringham in 1131. Though it may not have been his original intention, a house of religious women grew up alongside, possibly out of a group of anchoresses. A second foundation at Haverholme quickly followed, though he himself gave up organization toward the end of his life, living as a hermit and wearing a hair shirt. He died at Sempringham in 1189 (Golding, Gilbert of Sempringham, passim).

The Gilbertine order quickly expanded reaching its high point in about 1300. Some houses were founded for canons only but others were double houses (monastery and nunnery) and so run by a prior and prioress. The order also had a magister, who had usually previously been a prior before becoming peripatetic, aided by two canons. The Gilbertine order was unusual for having continuous rotation of three prioresses with masters carrying out the executive function in the convent. This made the prioress relatively less powerful than many other double religious houses. Discipline was maintained by an annual chapter and the rule followed was basically Benedictine (Golding, Gilbert of Sempringham, passim).

Life within the houses was very ascetic and the nuns remained segregated from the outside community. Convents were endowed and financially supported by the priory which also had a considerable charity function. Many houses had no particular provision for care of the poor at the gate, though they had a two-tier system of looking after guests. Important guests were put up in the maior hospitum and the indigent poor were cared for in the domus elemosinarie. Ellerton was a house with a considerable foundation for the latter and one of the documents in DRA illustrates use of an advowson for the care of 13 poor. The founder of Ellerton on Spalding Moor was William son of Peter of Goodmanham, the priory being established between 1199 and 1203. Golding's major work on the Gilbertines has identified Ellerton as only a priory, but DRA/550 is a fourteenth century quitclaim to the prior and convent. The Hay family were the major patrons through the fourteenth century and they actively supported the ellemonysary activities. In 1387 the convent came to an agreement with Germanus Hay that if they did not carry out their work for the 13 paupers sufficently well they would suffer high penalties. Ellerton was dissolved during the Reformation (Golding, Gilbert of Sempringham, passim).

Conditions Governing Access



Originally published by Access to Archives - A2A;. The data in this finding aid is in the copyright of the place of deposit.

Other Finding Aids

listed to item level


Golding, Brian, Gilbert of Sempringham and the Gilbertine Order c. 1130-c.1300 (1995)

Graham, Rose, St Gilbert of Sempringham and the Gilbertines (1901)