Medieval times - monks behaving badly

Painting of a 12th century monk known as a 'Black Canon' © NT

Painting of a 12th century monk known as a 'Black Canon'

Our name is made up of ‘Ashby’ meaning ‘farmstead’ and ‘Canons’ from the group of canons who founded the Augustinian Priory in the 12th century. 

These canons, known as the ‘Black Canons’ due to their black habit were a small order of no more than 13 based in Canons Ashby. 

As in all Augustinian houses, worship filled up about seven hours a day. The routine began at midnight with Matins and Lauds. The Canons then slept until daybreak where prayers were followed by mass, followed by high mass at about 10am. Sext was then at 11am followed by Evensong at 6pm. 

In the 13th century, the canons built the church which they shared with the local community. 

In the 14th century, the village declined due to the Black Death and the enclosure, at the same time, so did the priory which, rather interestingly, became a stopping point for Oxford students whose behaviour and ‘slovenly dress’ created complaints and gained the priory a dubious reputation. An Episcopal visitation in the 15th century reported monks missing holy service and visiting the public house instead, and the Prior having absconded.

The priory was suppressed in 1536 and granted to Sir Francis Bryan known as the ‘Vicar of Hell’ a childhood friend of Henry VIII, who reduced the church to its current size – approx one quarter of the original priory size.

Did you know?  Beer was drunk in some quantity by monks. In fact, those in Abingdon were rationed to twenty pints per day...