A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1971.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
HOUSE OF GILBERTINE CANONS
12. NEW BIGGING PRIORY, HITCHIN
The priory of St. Saviour, New Bigging, Hitchin, (fn. 1) was founded by Sir Edward de Kendale, kt., at the end of 1361 or beginning of 1362 (fn. 2) for three canons of the Gilbertine order, of whom one was to be prior. (fn. 3)
Tanner and others have called this house a nunnery, but as there had to be at least seven canons in a double establishment (fn. 4) of the Gilbertine order, there could have been no women there at the foundation, and there is no trace of any afterwards. (fn. 5)
Kendale received the royal licence in February 1362-3 (fn. 6) to give to the prior and canons in order that they might celebrate for the souls of Robert and Margaret de Kendale, his father and mother, and of King Edward II, the advowson of the church of Orwell (co. Cambridge) and some land there which Margaret had intended to assign for this purpose to the warden and chaplains of the chapel of St. Peter in the church of Hitchin. The canons at the same time had leave to appropriate Orwell Church to their own uses.
From William Rous, chaplain, the convent in 1372 obtained eight messuages, 63 acres of land and 3s. rent in Willian and Hitchin in aid of their maintenance. (fn. 7) The resources of the house, no doubt still very small, were augmented thirty years later by other means. On 22 September 1402 the pope empowered the canons to choose eight priests, seculars and regulars, to hear the confessions of and absolve penitents who on the feast of the Annunciation between the first and second vespers visited and gave alms for the conservation of the priory church, and granted to such penitents the same indulgence as to persons visiting on 1-2 August the church of St. Mary of the Portiuncula, Assisi. (fn. 8)
The grant was perhaps made to meet a special emergency, for the statement in 1400 that Sir Robert Turk, kt., held a free chapel in Hitchin called 'le Bygynge ' (fn. 9) may mean that he had a mortgage on the place.
The house, the net annual value of which was returned in 1535 as £13 16s., (fn. 10) figured in 1536 among the smaller monasteries marked out for suppression, (fn. 11) and in that year Rauf Morice was petitioning Cromwell for a farm of the priory. (fn. 12) As, however, the first Ministers' Accounts (fn. 13) of the place date from Michaelmas 1538, and the prior was not granted a pension (fn. 14) until December of that year, the priory appears to have escaped dissolution (fn. 15) until the surrender of the parent-house of Sempringham in September 1538. (fn. 16)
John Mounton, the last prior, (fn. 17) is the only one recorded.