The history of Buckland Preceptory is complicated by the fact that it was situated adjacent to and closely involved with an Augustinian priory. This history has been set out in detail by Thomas Hugo (1861) and in the Victoria County History. The following is a brief summary of the main events. In 1166 William de Erlegh, lord of the manor of Durston, founded a house of Augustinian canons at Buckland. However, this community was dispersed some time before 1180 and the buildings and possessions forfeited to the Crown. In or about 1186 Henry II granted the establishment to the Prior of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in England for the purpose of founding a preceptory and a house for nuns of the Order. Hitherto the nuns of the Order had been dispersed across a number of establishments, such as Swingfield in Kent. With the foundation of the priory at Buckland they were all gathered together under one roof where they were attached to the preceptory. Most of the history of Buckland deals with the vicissitudes of the priory, the preceptory featuring rarely. One area in which the documents appear to overlap is the provision of facilities for saying mass. Hugo (1861,11) records that in 1211 the Bishop of Lincoln left the sum of twenty marks for the building of a church at 'Bokland' while from other documents it is established that this church was dedicated to the 'Blessed Virgin and S. Nicholas'. Elsewhere this building is referred to as 'the greater church at Bokland' to distinguish it from the preceptory chapel (parva ecclesia). The nuns were, however, subject to the authority of the Prior of the Order in England and under the direct supervision of the preceptor. Indeed, in the early 14th century their steward was a sergeant-at-arms of the Order and resided, along with the nuns' chaplain, in the preceptory.
BUCKLAND PRECEPTORY IN 1338
The account in the Extent for the Bajulia de Bokeland includes, in addition to those of the preceptory, details for Halse, one of the preceptory's members and the possessions of the priory - the Sororum de Bokeland. At the preceptory itself the manor- or court-house (curia) was said to require a new roof while the bakehouse (pistrine) was described as ruinous as was also the case with the manor-house at Halse. The preceptory estate consisted or arable land and meadows. There was a dovecot at the preceptory valued at 10 shillings and other income came from the rent from two mills (type not specified), valued at 41 shillings, court dues and voluntary contributions. The preceptory also held a small church (parva ecclesia) valued at 40 shillings.
The Reprise names six ordained members of the Order, consisting of four chaplain brothers, one of whom was the preceptor and two sergeants-at-arms, one of whom was the steward of the priory. A pensioner, or corrodary holder is also mentioned. The usual household expenses are listed on a weekly basis and there was a charge of 40 shillings for the repair of the roof. Other items of expense included the robes and mantels for the preceptor, the five ordained brothers and the preceptory servants, a stipend for a secular chaplain and four clerks, a cook, a baker, a steward, a door-keeper, a woodreeve, a chapel-clerk, a gardener, a swineherd and a carter. There were also stipends for four pages. At twenty-five this was a large establishment, larger than any other preceptory in the country other than the head-quarters of the Order at Clerkenwell.
The history of Buckland Preceptory came to an end on 20th January 1500 when the Grand Chapter of the Order meeting at Clerkenwell decided to let it out to farm. Under the terms of the grant the leaseholder was to provide 'honest hospitality in the Preceptory' and maintain five chaplains, one of whom was to serve the chapel of nuns and another the chapel of the preceptory. The priory itself came to an end in February 1539 when the nuns surrendered their house to the king.
Little is know of the later history of the preceptory buildings, though according to Hugo (1860, 60) a chapel with bell gable was finally demolished in the 1790s. It is likely that this was the preceptory chapel as it had remained in use as the private chapel of the substantial house which replaced the main preceptory building in the 17th century.
The extant archaeological remains of Buckland Preceptory consist of a Grade II listed barn (NHLE 1344482) and a group of scheduled fishponds (NHLE1006145). The barn lies about 100m north-west of Buckland Farm house, to the south of and parallel to the A361, and at NGR ST29992809. It is about 30m long and exhibits several phases of construction. Of particular interest, and the only elements that might date from the time of the preceptory, is a length of walling on the south side towards the east end supported by a stepped buttress.
The ponds are described as being about 1.3 deep. When cleaned out in 1980 (PSANHS (1980), 128) a dressed Ham Stone fragment was recovered while in 2020 several similar fragments were noted eroding out of the eastern bank suggesting that, on this side at least, the ponds were stone revetted. They are fed from the north by a leat and probably drained to the south along the eastern side of the priory and preceptory buildings. Indeed, this watercourse may have served the reredorter of the priory. Other relevant finds include several gravestones reported Hugo (1861, 86-90 and the figure facing page 112) but these may relate to the priory and a monolithic two-lancet Ham Stone window of 14th or 15th date reported to have been found in the garden of the present Buckland Farm house (Burrow (1985), 110-3). Burrow (1985, ibid) refers to an unpublished document dated to 1539 which describes the preceptory buildings at that time, though it is unclear whether this reflects the situation in 1338. In 1982 the remains of a rectangular building were discovered by ploughing. This measured 21m by 7m and was defined by a low rubble bank (Burrow ibid). This was clearly a substantial building and significantly larger than most buildings recorded from other sites.
The remains of Buckland Preceptory, also known as Mynchin Buckland Priory and Preceptory (ST29992809) lie about 7 km north-east of Taunton, at the east end of the village of Lower Durston. They comprise a barn Listed Grade II and a group of fishponds which are scheduled as an ancient monument.
(after Barrow 1985, 113, fig. 3)
BUCKLAND PRECEPTORY; documents
BUCKLAND PRECEPTORY; archaeology
The fishponds lie to the north of the A361, about 110m to the east of the listed barn and at NGR ST30132823. They occupy an area approximately 152m long and 61m wide, and consist of three units, two rectangular and the most northerly an elongated triangle. The central pond has an island which may been used for raising waterfowl.
Baggs, A P and Siraut, M C 1992 'Durston: Manors', in A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 6, andersfield, Cannington, and North Petherton Hundreds (Bridgwater and Neighbouring Parishes), ed. R W Dunning and C R Elrington (London), pp. 257-265
Burrow, I 1985 Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society, 129, pages 110-3
Hugo, Thomas 1861 The History of Mynchin Buckland, Priory and Preceptory in the county of Somerset, www.hansebooks.com
Larking, L.B. and Kemble, J.M. 1857 The Knights Hospitallers in England Camden Society, 17-21
Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society (1912), 58, page 105
Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society (1980), 124, page 128
Weaver, F W 1901 Somerset Wills 1383-1500 Somerset Record Society XVI
Weaver, F W 1909 A Cartulary of Buckland Priory Somerset Record Society XXV