Anglesey Priory

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Anglesey Priory
Anglesey Priory House in the 21st Century.
Monastery information
Founder(s)Richard de Clare, 3rd Lord of Clare
Public accessYes

Anglesey Priory was founded sometime in the 12th century England. There is no definite evidence as regards Anglesey Priory before Richard de Clare, 3rd Earl of Hertford (1153-1217) in right of his wife, Amice FitzWilliam, 4th Countess of Gloucester (1140-1225) endowed it with half the manor of Bottisham and the advowson of the church there, about 1212.


The the Oak Room, which is a drawing room in the library.
The Medieval Dining Room in Anglesey Priory.
Part of the Grand Library in Anglesey Priory.

Like many other Augustinian houses Anglesey began as a hospital, in which condition it may have existed before Richard de Clare, 3rd Earl of Hertford foundation. In 1282 Pope Martin IV ordered the collection from a number of English religious houses of certain dues payable in a variety of foreign, and mostly obsolete, coins; the dues appear to date back to the early 12th century, and in the list is included the Hospital of Anglesey, which was to pay 1 melachin (a Hispano-Saracenic coin). One of the earliest of the Anglesey deeds names RIchard 'Rector of the Hospital of Blessed Mary of Anglesey', who is probably identical with Richard, the first known Prior of Anglesey, who occurs in 1222. About this time Ralph Fulbourn, son of William of Fulbourn, gave land to the brethren of Saint Mary of Anglesey for the use of the 'sick poor', and a number of other small grants were made to 'the brethren', one of these, by Ralph Marefrey, being subsequently confirmed by Master Henry de Hinton to 'the canons and brethren'.

The final conversion of the community into a priory of regular canons was evidently the work of Master Laurence of St. Nicholas, a papal chaplain in minor orders, whom Cardinal Guala appointed rector of Chesterton when that church was given him in 1217. Early in 1218 Guala obtained the rectory of Terrington St. Clement for him also: Laurence went to live at Anglesey, and died there about 1236. During the intervening years the monastery was built and substantially endowed and the community transformed. The stricter houses of canons were everywhere approximating more closely to the Benedictines, and the fact that Roger Brigham, Prior of Ely, addresses 'the Prior and Convent of Anglesey' as 'our most beloved in Christ, who observe a worthy Rule (religio)' points to the possession by Anglesey of a body of Observances, drawn up for it, or adapted from those of some strict Augustinian house, at the time of Laurence of St. Nicholas, and probably under his influence. In July 1236, about the time of his death, the convent exchanged 80 acres of the fee of Everard Fraunceys for 80 acres lying in the fields of Bottisham and Wilbraham 'which Master Laurence bought with his own money'; the profits, and those of a flock of 600 sheep, he gave towards the building of the church, cloister, and prior's chamber, and when he died 'almost the entire fabric of the church, cloister, refectory dormitory and prior's lodging' had been completed 'at his expense, and by his own proper care and industry'.

It was probably in view of this rapid expansion that in February 1237 Bishop Hugh Northwold caused William (de Fordham), then prior, to bind himself and his successors never to raise a loan or incur a debt of more than 60 marks on the convent's behalf without the advice of the Bishop of Ely. This bond was embodied in the written 'Customs' and so accepted as part of the Rule as kept at Anglesey. One of the witnesses to this deed was William, subprior of Barnwell, and the foundation charter of Master Laurence's chantry was confirmed there by the bishop, 'he being present at Barnwell in full synod'.

Lay protégés of the House de Clare seem to have been provided with pensions rather than corrodies. During the minority of Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Hertford, his mother, Joan Plantagenet, Princess of England granted 28s. a year to Ivor le Lardiner of Cardiff out of the revenues of Anglesey, with the proviso that if any other corrodarian were appointed by them during his lifetime the pension should cease. In 1317, when Lord de Clare's patrimony was divided among his sisters, the pension was granted to one Edward de Riseby, and the Cardiff dependant renounced his claim. In 1327 the right to name a corrodarian, through the prior, was granted to William Gosfield, Master of St. John's Hospital in Cambridge, in return for a rent of 2 marks from his land in Swaffham Prior.

Elizabeth de Clare's Endowments

Painting of Elizabeth de Clare in the mid 14th century.

On 15 January 1331 Elizabeth de Clare, 11th Lady Clare, had licence to grant a rent of £20 from her lands in Lakenheath to found a chantry in Anglesey for herself and the souls of the Kings of England. Thomas Chedworth, a priest attached to her household, was her chief intermediary in the business of the foundation and witnessed the charter. Subsequently he gave the canons land in Braughing to found another chantry of two priests for himself. Lady de Clare provided for two secular chaplains to live in the priory and have either 20s. a year for clothing, with maintenance at the canons' table, or a stipend of 12 marks out of Lakenheath. Any profit over the cost of their maintenance was to be equally divided between the kitchener's office and the general expenses of the house. They were to say daily mass at the altar of the Holy Cross in the priory church: on a vacancy the canons must find a successor by the following Michaelmas, and meanwhile carry out his obligation themselves.

The canons exchanged a great part of their Haslingfield land for property in Cambridge in 1349, and in 1352 bought 44 acres in parishes round Cambridge. But already, on 30 May 1350, Thomas Chedworth had executed a deed at Clare in which he stated that 'considering the immense and various miseries resulting from the huge mortality of men' and that 'lands in many places lie waste' and fallen into sudden ruin 'so that they can raise neither rent nor customary service' he was unwilling to burden the convent with the maintenance of two priests as provided on the old value of his endowment, and so required that they should find one priest only at a regular salary of 5 marks a year.

In 1355 Lady de Clare also modified the terms of her chantry, releasing the priory from providing one of her two chaplains for so long as it should be charged with the pension of Master Robert Spaldyng, one of the original fellows of University Hall, who some time after 1342 lost his fellowship for alienating 'Spaldyng's Inn' to the monks of Ely. Lady Clare, who had refounded University Hall as Clare Hall in 1338, seems to have provided for him by granting him a pension out of her priory. Clare Hall itself had suffered from the effects of the disorganization which followed the Black Death, and in 1353 the Prior of Anglesey had been appointed one of a commission to investigate charges of maladministration in the college. (fn. 61) Elizabeth de Clare made her will in 1355, five years before her death; she left 10 marks to the priory and a complete vestment of cloth of gold with apparels of silver on the copes. In January 1377 a canon of Anglesey, John Myntemoor of Trumpington, who had been ordained priest on 7 June 1376, absconded, and was brought before the Bishop of Ely charged with apostasy: he was adjudged to do penance for as many weeks as he had been absent.

The 16th Century

The Dissolution of Monasteries in 1535.

The canons were expelled in 1535 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Three years later, lawyer, John Hynde owned the priory and gutted the roofs for his new mansion Madingley Hall, leaving Anglesea derelict. The former priory was acquired around 1600 by Thomas Hobson, who converted it to a country house for his son-in-law, Thomas Parker, retaining a few arches from the original priory. At that time the building's name was changed to "Anglesey Abbey", which sounded grander than the original "Anglesey Priory". In the late 18th century, the house was owned by Sir George Downing, the founder of Downing College, Cambridge.

Rev. John Hailstone of Bottisham purchased the abbey in 1848 and altered the building further, adding a stable block and removing the Jacobean dormer windows from the front of the house. In 1900 the mill was converted from grinding corn to grinding cement, having been bought by the Bottisham and Lode Cement and Brick company. Huttleston (1896–1966) and Henry (1900–1973) Broughton bought the site in 1926 and made improvements to the house. They were the sons of Urban Broughton (1857–1929), who had made a fortune in the mining and railway industries in America and both promised to sell their share should either one be married. Henry married, leaving the abbey to his brother, then 1st Lord Fairhaven, in 1930. Henry later became the 2nd Lord Fairhaven. Meanwhile, the 1st Lord Fairhaven used his wealth to indulge his interests in history, art, and garden design, and to lead an eighteenth-century lifestyle at the house. On his death in 1966, Lord Fairhaven left the abbey to the National Trust so that the house and gardens could "represent an age and way of life that was quickly passing

Anglesey Priory Today

The magnificent country house Anglesey is famous for its stunning interior and gardens. Formerly a medieval Augustinian priory, the house is located in the village of Lode, near Cambridge, England. Today, it is owned by the National Trust, and along with its gardens and Lode Mill (built in the 18th century and sited on the edge of the gardens) is considered one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in the country.

It was restored in the mid-20th century by the last private owner of the estate, Lord Fairhaven. After being a priory, the house became an Elizabethan Manor House, and up to today, there are still parts of the former medieval building along with various Elizabethan items and decorations.

The medieval priory was known as Anglesea or Anglesey Priory, and it was built somewhere between 1100 and 1135 during the reign of King Henry I of England. Like many other monasteries, the Augustinian canons were expelled from the priory during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1535. Because of financial difficulties, it was one of the first priories to be suppressed by King Henry VIII of England.

In 1591, the owners of the building were the Fowkes family who turned it into an Elizabethan Manor House. At the beginning of the 17th century, the building was then acquired by Thomas Hobson for his son-in-law, Thomas Parker, and he turned it into a country house. It was at this time it got the name Anglesey Abbey.