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Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 11.djvu/110

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NOTES AND QUERIES. [9* s. XL FIB. 7, 1903.

monastery the stream which was the pro- vision store for the jours maigres rises from a spring one mile north-west of Missenden, and runs through the east side of the valley. It is called the Misse or Mease. Leland says : ' ' From Wendover to Great Missenden in Chilterne is three miles. It is a praty Through-Fare, but no markett Towne. There is a pretty Chappell of Bricke in the South part of it, and a little by South without the Towne was a Priory of Black Cannons. It standeth on the very Bottome of the Hill, and hath goodly Ground about divers pretty hilles well wooded towardes the East and South. It was founded by Doyley."

Father Cody says that the first institution of the Order of the Austin Canons, or Canons Kegular of St. Augustine, or Black Canons, in England was at Colchester in 1105. The houses numbered about 200 at the time of the Reformation. The Order was founded at Avignon in 1061. Its discipline was certainly far less severe and strict than that of the Order of Begging Hermits or Austin Friars. The dress used to be a long cassock, with white rochet over it, covered by a black cloak or hood. The rochet is a fine linen vestment like a surplice, only its sleeves are fastened in at the wrists. Formerly priests used to wear it at mass and at baptisms. The early Benedictines, it is supposed, used to wear white, as being the natural colour of the undyed vyool ; but for many hundreds of years now their colour has been black, " and the term * black monk ' comes to mean Bene- dictine in general." "The Benedictines," says Father Cody,

"were the first to introduce Stability, or the binding of the monk to a permanent abode in a monastery, and in the practice of monastic life till death. The second vow was 'Conversion of Manners,' i.e., the striving after perfection of life; the third was Obedience according to the Rule,' by which monks are bound to chastity, renunciation of private pro- perty, retirement from the world, daily and public solemnization of the Divine Office, and a life of frugality and labour. Benedictine monks have always given a high place to the work of education and instruction in religious and worldly matters and hospitality was strongly enforced also. From the days of Charlemagne to the twelfth and thir- teenth century the Benedictine monasteries were almost the only repositories of learning."

When one looks back to the past and remembers all that the monasteries and their system had done for the people for hundreds ot years, it strikes one with amazement that in one short seven years they could have been swept away off the face of the land, their power interfered with, their work stopped, their educating influence destroyed. For it was practically between 1529 and 1536 that Henry VIII. trod out the fire of the Church in the monasteries. By the end of 1536 what

was left of monasterial life was nothing but dying embers. There are some who attempt to justify the act even while they condemn the unnecessarily cruel manner in which it was carried out. But surely it is useless to pretend that that great robber the king was influenced half so much by any public motive in his wholesale suppressions of religious houses as he was by his own selfish determina- tion to raise out of low water his purse and his domestic arrangements. Monasterial money filled the one, and in the other the split with the Pope helped to make his longed- for divorce possible. Nevertheless, one would not have supposed it probable that so tre- mendous an uprooting of the work of cen- turies could have been accomplished so com- pletely and so comparatively easily in a short seven years.

After the dissolution of the religious houses had brought their possessions into the hands of the king, in the year 1540 he demised to

" Richard Greene way* by Letters Patent the house and site of the late monastery [at Missenden], and field called Pirycroft near the church, Windmill field, Cocks lane, Old Grove Field, Middle Wide Field, Stocking Grove, Great Digged Wood, little Digged Wood, etc., for 21 years, at I'll. 18s. Qd. per ann. ! In 1559 Queen Elizabeth, having acquired the reversion, granted this estate to Richard Hampten 1561 [sic), for 30 years. The mansion occupied part of the site of the monastery."

Four centuries and a half have now gone by since the Benedictines and Black Canons held their sway at Great Missenden, as in other towns and villages throughout the length and breadth of the country. Four centuries and a half since they and their system formed the centre of education in village or town, the centre of religion, the centre of employment for the people, their connexion with the world outside themselves. Is it not strange that no greater revolution than^ the quickly defeated one in the north of England arose when the whole daily routine of rural life was overturned in the wreckage of monasterial life, when one comes to consider how popular the monks were with villagers and country folk? It must have been to them like the removal of the founda- tions of their lives, for, as Sir Walter Besant says, hitherto the Church

j,. not onl y an important part in the daily lite [ot the people], but the most important part ......

Not a monastery but had its greater or lesser officers and their servants. In every one there were the 1-rmgers, the singing men and boys, the vergers, the gardeners, the brewers, bakers, cooks, messen- gers, scribes, rent collectors ...... These were all main-

tained by the church. The monastery towns grew

  • Lipscomb's ' History of Buckinghamshire.'