Saint Neots Priory
Artis conception of what Saint Neots Priory looked like in the 16th century.
|Mother house||Bec Abbey|
|Dedicated to||Saint Neot|
|Founder(s)||Richard Fitz Gilbert, 1st Baron of Clare|
|Prior||(last) John Raundes|
|Location||Saint Neots, Huntingdonshire, Kingdom of England|
|Visible remains||Nothing remains|
Saint Neots Priory was a Benedictine monastery beside the town of Saint Neots in the historic county of Huntingdonshire, now a non-metropolitan district in the English county of Cambridgeshire established by the de Clare family.
A monastery was first founded here in about 974 by Earl Aelric (or Leofric) and his wife Aelfleda (or Ethelfleda), who granted it two hides of land, part of the manor of Eynesbury, later called the manor of St Neots. Its site is uncertain, though it may have been where the present parish church stands. It is said that the relics of the Cornish Saint Neot were obtained from Neotstoke (now St Neot) in Cornwall and brought to the priory in order that it might have relics to attract pilgrims; hence the name of the town.
An Alien Priory of Bec Abbey
Saint Anselm, abbot of Bec Abbey in Normandy and later to be Archbishop of Canterbury, apparently visited the shrine of St. Neot in 1078-9. In 1081 he sent eighteen monks from Bec to replace the Saxon monks, and had it re-founded by Richard FitzGilbert, 1st Lord of Clare and his wife Rohese de Giffard, lords of the manor, as a male Benedictine priory dependent on Bec. In 1113 Rothais granted the whole manor of St. Neot's to the priory, which it held until its suppression.
The Anglo-Norman nobility gave considerable support to Bec Abbey the abbey, enriching it with extensive properties in England, where in addition to St Neots, Bec possessed in the 15th century several priories, namely, Stoke-by-Clare Priory, Wilsford Priory, Steventon, Cowick, Ogbourne, and at some point also Blakenham Priory and Povington Priory. Among these St Neots Priory was particularly large. Bec also had Goldcliff Priory in Monmouthshire. The London suburb of Tooting Bec takes its name from the medieval village’s having been a possession of Bec Abbey.
At some point, quite possibly at the time of its re-foundation as a Benedictine priory, the monastery moved to a site on the riverside adjacent to a ford subsequently replaced by a bridge, a little way north of the present Market Square. Because it was an alien priory (i.e., the dependency of a French mother-house) it suffered difficulties whenever there were hostilities between France and England, and particularly during the Hundred Years' War. Its property was continually seized for this reason, until like certain other alien priories it was eventually given its independence from Bec in 1409 by the quasi-naturalisation process known as denization.
The priory was finally seized during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries]], the buildings were pulled down. The Dissolution commissioners had instructions to "pull down to the ground all the walls of the churches, stepulls, cloysters, fraterys, dorters, chapter howsys" and all the rest. The materials were then to be sold for the profit of the Crown. Of the priory nothing now remains above ground, the last remaining structure, a gateway, having been demolished in the late 18th century. A plaque marks the site.
Priors of Saint Neots
Martin, resigned 1132.
Herbert, occurs 1159 to 1173.
Geoffrey, occurs 1200 to 1204.
William, occurs 1206 to 1210.
Roger, occurs 1218 to 1223.
William, occurs 1224.
Reginald, elected 1226.
Hugh de Fagernum, occurs 1236, resigned 1248.
Henry de Messeville, resigned 1258.
William de Bonesbor, elected 1258.
Elias de Ponte Episcopi, monk of Bec, elected 1262, resigned 1262.
Henry of St. Neots, elected 1264.
Walter de Bernay.
Thomas de Bensend, elected 1275.
John de Bosco Reynoldi, elected 1285, resigned 1292.
John de Secheville, elected 1292, died 1302.
William de Bec, elected 1302.
Geoffrey de Bec, elected 1317.
Clement of St. Stephen, (fn. 28) elected 1322, occurs till 1331.
Peter de Falk, elected 1341.
William de Beaumont, elected 1349.
Geoffrey de Branville, elected 1352.
Peter de Villaribus, elected 1353.
Christian de Troarn, elected 1364, died 1372.
Robert de Glanville, monk of Bec, elected 1372, claimed to be prior 1373, (fn. 29) resigned 1377. (fn. 30)
William of St. Vedast, had custody 1377 to 1399.
Edward Salisbury, elected 1405.
William, occurs 1422.
John Turvey, (fn. 31) resigned before 1439.
John Eton, occurs 1447.
Henry, occurs 1459 to 1461.
William Eynesbury, occurs 1464 to 1486.
Thomas Raundes, resigned 1508.
John Raundes, last prior, elected 1508.
- Ward, J. C. (1981). Fashions in monastic endowment: the foundations of the Clare family, 1066–1314. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 32(4), 427-451.
- Marjorie M. Morgan, The Suppression of the Alien Priories, in History NS 26, 103 (1941) 204, 208
- David Knowles and R. Neville Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses, England and Wales, Longmans Green, London, 1953, p. 267