The Bailiwick of Ogbourne



The Bailiwick of Ogbourne

Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066 an expansion of monasticism took place in England which had a profound affect on the village of ‘Great Ogbourne’, and seems likely to have given rise to the use of the name as a surname.

Norman Lords, often personal friends of neighbouring abbots in Normandy, (now northern France) acquired a wealth of land across the Channel, and many made grants of property to religious houses of high reputation. The grants were either of land, or of land and churches that might support a colony of monks sent out from the mother house. Thus the Norman invasion gave rise to a large number of small amounts of land in England coming into the possession of religious orders in Normandy.

Amongst the monasteries that acquired property in England in this way, none is more famous than the Abbey of Bec-Hellouin which was constantly called upon to send out monks to other communities. The monks wore a white habit, which was peculiar to their order. The Abbey’s wealth in manors and churches grew steadily until the middle of the 13th century. The manors of Ogbourne St George and Ogbourne St Andrew were given to the Abbey Bec before 1133 by Maud of Wallingford with the assent of Brian Fitz Count, her husband.


A cell of the Abbey of Bec-Hellouin was established in ‘Great Ogbourne’ (Ogbourne St George) in 1149, not as a monastery, but something nearer an estate office with responsibility for various possessions of land spread over southern England, accounting to the Abbey for revenues collected. The numbers of manors administered from Ogbourne reached 24 and became known as the Bailiwick of Ogbourne. Responsibilities for specific possessions of land changed through the twelfth century, but by the turn of that century the possessions of the Abbey of Bec-Hellouin were managed only by the prior of Ruislip (near London) and the proctor of Ogbourne. Due to the difficulties of communication with the distant mother Abbey, a proctor-general was appointed with greater legal powers to defend the legal rights of the Abbey in England and with the passage of time the prior of Ogbourne became the proctor-general. It seems likely that Tooting Bec in London was administered by Ogbourne, and indeed any place name that has ‘Bec’ in the name. In the 14th century the prior of Ogbourne became a kind of vicar-general. In 1393 the Pope bestowed the prior of Ogbourne with additional powers.

Priors or Proctors of Ogbourne

Ranulf, occurs 1206.
William de Guineville, 1239-54.
John de Plessac, 1254-8 or 1259.
Richard de Flammaville, c. 1259-7[6].
Robert de Leone, 1276-85, 1286-[91].
William de St. Pair, 1285-6. (fn. 33)
Theobald de Cambremer, 1291-130[7].
Cardinal Raymond de Got, 1305-[10]. An appeal was made against the provision, and it remained ineffective.
William de Pont l’Evêque, 1307-22.
Richard de Beauseville, 1322-4[9].
Peter de Falk, 1349-6[4]. (fn. 38)
William de St. Vaast, 1364-1404 or 1405.

From: ‘Alien houses: Priory of Ogbourne’, A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3 (1956)

For more information from this source:Alien houses:
Priory of Ogbourne’, A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3 (1956)


The foreign ownership of the cells of the Abbey of Bec-Hellouin meant that they were independent of the control of the The foreign ownership of the cells of the Abbey of Bec-Hellouin meant that they were independent of the control of the English church, and perhaps not too surprisingly later this was to give rise to difficulties. During the fourteenth century revenues from foreign priories were paid into the royal exchequer, and it was Ogbourne which brought most profit to the royal coffers; the manor of Ogbourne having been given by Maud of Wallingford, after her death the honour of Wallingford transferred to the Crown. This appears not to mean however that ownership of properties were lost to the Abbey of Bec-Hellouin. At one stage the Norman patrons of the Abbey protested when Pope Clement V gave the priory of Ogbourne to his nephew, Raymond de Got. They pointed out that the goods and revenues of the priory had been given by their ancestors to the Abbey of Bec to perform the divine office, to pray for their ancestors, and for their descendants, and maintaining hospitality and charity etc. etc.

The priors were changed approximately every two years, but the powers of the priory of Ogbourne steadily increased at that time. In the book from which this article is drawn (The English Lands of the Abbey of Bec by Marjorie Morgan) the author states “the position in monastic history [of the prior of Ogbourne] is indeed remarkable”. Lawsuits took them to London and elsewhere, and he made periodic inspections of the estates in his Bailiwick.

The very detailed information in Marjorie Morgan’s book reflect the existence of substantial records, including account rolls from these early centuries held in France and England, and show some of the problems of the time e.g. “1282 Robert Crispin, Cristina White, Adam and William Westmost allowed their sheep to devour 19 sheaves of John Pound’s corn.” The information also gives important clues to the origin of the surname of Ogbourne. Clearly the prior and his representatives visited other parts, and maybe settled into other roles. Thus Henry of Ogbourne was bailiff of Cottisford in 1292. The prior of Ogbourne had a house in London which he used on his visits there, which stood in Castle Lane, between Blackfriars and the river Thames.

During the 14th century in particular, a number of Okebornes became close aides of the Kings of that time (as detailed elsewhere) and it seems very likely that they may have been recruited from men who had learnt their skills working in the service of the prior of Ogbourne.

The Bailiwick was dissolved in 1414 by King Henry V under his suppression of the ‘alien priories’.

Generally the name at the time of the Bailiwick seems to be referred to as Okeburn or Ockeburn, though Marjorie Morgan refers to the villages by their modern name in her book.

Details of the extensive records kept at Kings College Cambridge may be found at: A2A Archives Network

They include “14 Jun c.1306 Papal writ from Cardinal Raymond Diacon for the abbot of Bec and the prior of Ogbourne to be obedient to the King of England.

Revised 22 Nov 2007

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Focusing on the history of the name of Ogbourne, Ogborn, Ogburn and other variants, including the early form of Ocheburne & Okebourne