7. THE PRIORY OF CASTLE HEDINGHAM. (fn. 1)
This nunnery was founded some time in the
latter half of the twelfth century by Aubrey de
Vere, first earl of Oxford, and Lucy his wife.
Their son Aubrey, by a charter dated 21 February, 1191, confirmed the grants that his father
had made to the nuns and added the church
of Castle Hedingham and a wood in Gosfield.
The advowson of the priory belonged always to
the de Veres. It was dedicated to St. Mary,
St. James and The Holy Cross.
Lucy the foundress was also the first prioress.
The Bede Roll (fn. 2) is still preserved which her
successor Agnes and the convent sent after her
death to various religious houses asking for their
prayers. More than a hundred monasteries recorded their answers on the roll, including most
of those in Essex. (fn. 3) In it Lucy is described as
foundress, although the endowment of the house
seems to have come from her husband alone.
The priory is not mentioned in the Taxation
of 1291, and not much is known of its possessions. Alice de Say, sister of Robert de Vere,
earl of Oxford, about 1229 gave the nuns
12 acres of land towards their vesture. (fn. 4) Morant
says (fn. 5) that by a roll of their revenues he found
that they had above 250 acres of land, in small
parcels of not more than 12 or 14 acres, in the
parishes of Bumpstead Steeple, Birdbrook, Tilbury, Hempstead, Toppesfield, Finchingfield,
the Hedinghams, Gosfield, Halstead, Great
Maplestead, Belchamp Otten and Walter, Pebmarsh, Bulmer, Foxearth, Gestingthorpe, Sudbury, Clare, Haverhill, Waldingfield, Camps and
Westley Waterless. Besides the church of
Castle Hedingham they also owned that of Gosfield, the former being served by a curate, while
in the latter a vicarage was ordained. In 1318
they had licence (fn. 6) to acquire lands in mortmain
to the value of 10 marks yearly.
Archbishop Peckham in 1279 ordered the
prioress and convent to admit and receive as
their sister, Agnes, daughter of Sir Roger Beauchamp; and upon their refusing to do so, wrote
them a very stern letter, (fn. 7) threatening that if they
did not at once receive her he would punish them
so as to strike terror into other offenders, and also
pointing out that the queen was particularly
interested in the said Agnes, which, if they were
wise, would make them glad to receive her.
Pope Gregory XI on 26 October, 1373,
granted (fn. 8) relaxation of penance to penitents who
at certain times of the year should visit and give
alms for the repair of the nunnery church. On
20 October, 1412, licence (fn. 9) was granted by the
king for the foundation of a chantry in the
church for the souls of Sir John Haukewode (the
famous military adventurer), and John Olyver
and Thomas Newenton, esquires.
The priory was valued at only £29 12s. 10d.
yearly in the Valor of 1535. It was dissolved in
accordance with the Act of 1536, the prioress
receiving a pension (fn. 10) of 100s. yearly, and on
13 June an inventory (fn. 11) was taken of the goods
in the various chambers and buildings, these being
valued at £21 14s. 7d., besides cattle worth
£9 17s. 2d. and corn worth £17 11s. 4d. Nothing was owing to the house, but it was in debt
to the amount of £8 9s. 11d. There were
71 ounces of plate, valued at £13 10s. 6d.
On 20 July in the same year the priory was
granted (fn. 12) to John de Vere, earl of Oxford, in
tail, with the rectories of Castle Hedingham
and Gosfield and all other possessions belonging
to it in Castle Hedingham, Sible Hedingham,
Gosfield, Great and Little Yeldham and elsewhere.
Prioresses Of Castle Hedingham
Lucy de Vere, the first prioress, occurs
1198. (fn. 13)
Agnes, the second prioress. (fn. 14)
Juliana de Chepford. (fn. 15)
Joan Clovill, admitted 1331. (fn. 16)
Alice Davy, (fn. 17) occurs 1472. (fn. 18)
Joan Waltham, resigned 1476. (fn. 19)
Margaret Fages, appointed 1476. (fn. 20)
Agnes Castell, died 1519. (fn. 21)
Mary Stanbroke, elected 1519. (fn. 22)
Mary Baynbrygge, the last prioress. (fn. 23)