St Neots Priory

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St Neots Priory was a Benedictine monastery in what is now the town of St Neots in the English county of Cambridgeshire within the district of Huntingdonshire.

Anglo-Saxon monastery[edit]

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 illicitly 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.

Benedictine priory[edit]

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 Fitz Gilbert and his wife Rothais or Rohais, lords of the manor, as a 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.

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 it was eventually given its independence from Bec in 1409.

The priory was dissolved in 1539.

Post-Dissolution[edit]

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the buildings were pulled down and nothing now remains above ground. The last remaining structure, a gateway, was demolished in the late 18th century: a plaque marks the position.

External links[edit]