The Priory of St Thomas the Martyr, two miles east of Stafford on the north bank of the River Sow, was founded about 1174 by Gerard fitz Brian, a burgess of Stafford (this name appears as one of the witnesses in bishop Richard’s charter).
The original gift of land at foundation consisted of 70 acres of meadow with as much of the River Sow as belonged to it. These documents from the last quarter of the 12th century relate to subsequent grants of land to the canons of the priory by Richard Peche, the Bishop of Lichfield, (1161-82). When Peche resigned as bishop in 1182, he became a canon at St Thomas’ and was buried there following his death in the same year.
Medieval charters that survive are not always genuine. The charter form bishop Richard included here has been dated on handwriting lines to the fourteenth century, but reproducing the forms of 200 years earlier. This can be considered as much an example of early photocopying and security as an attempt to forge and delude people.
The priory was surrendered to the Crown in 1538, by which time there were only the prior and six canons living there with 29 servants. At the Dissolution the priory buildings and its lands were granted firstly to the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield and then in 1543, passed to the Fowler family. The annual value of its property was £180 18s 9d in 1535.
The site of the priory became St Thomas Priory Farm. The priory buildings were adapted for domestic and agricultural use and the most substantial remains today are those of the church. In 1989, some 800 years after the priory’s foundation, part of the site was put up for conversion and development.