Houses of minoresses: Brigettines, Cherry Hinton

Page 303

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1948.

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The earliest attempt to found a Brigettine house in England is connected with Cherry Hinton. A great popular devotion to St. Bridget of Sweden which grew up in the years immediately preceding the Council of Constance spread to England in 1406 when Philippa, daughter of Henry IV, became Queen of Sweden. (fn. 1) Its greatest promoter was perhaps Sir Henry FitzHugh, lord of Ravensworth, whom the Sion Martiloge describes as 'the first who introduced this Religion into the kingdom of England'. (fn. 2) He was one of Philippa's retinue, and when he was in Sweden in 1406 he visited Vadstena, 'about the feast of St. Andrew', and informed the convent there that 'he wished to found in England a monastery of the Rule of St. Saviour . . . and sought that two brothers should be sent to England for the founding of such a monastery'. His charter, dated 28 November 1406, to the Abbess of Vadstena for the 'foundation, building and perpetual support' of such a monastery vested his 'manor of Hinton near Cambridge in the diocese of Ely' in trustees, on condition that 'if within ten years any brethren of the aforesaid Order come to England they shall assign, and not delay to assign' the manor to these brethren for their house, 'even if these brethren shall have been granted any other dwelling or site by the lord king or by other nobles'; the trustees to hand over in due legal form all their trust so soon as the brethren arrived. (fn. 3)

As a result, a canon of St. Saviour named Hemming did come to England, but he made only a short stay and died on his way back on 1 November 1407. On 6 April 1408 he was followed by two other brothers, John Peterson, priest, and Katill, a deacon, who were sent by the convent to England, 'where a certain noble and devout knight' had promised to build a monastery of the Order. (fn. 4) Peterson returned to Sweden in 1416, when Sion had been duly founded by Henry V; Katill did not return until 1421. (fn. 5) No actual monastery was ever founded at Cherry Hinton, but the Martiloge says that FitzHugh 'supported certain brothers of this Order sent from Vadstena . . . for many years at his own cost'—perhaps at his manor-house of Up-Hall at Cherry Hinton. In 1444 there was a grant by Henry VI in frankalmoign to the Abbess and Convent of Sion of the manor of Hinton called 'Uphalle' in Cambridge, late of Henry FitzHugh, lord of Ravensworth, deceased, and his other lands, &c., in Hinton and the Wilbrahams 'which the said Henry granted to Thomas, Bishop of Durham, deceased', and his other trustees, 'to the intent they should grant the same to the king, and the king should grant the same to the said abbess and convent, when the said monastery should be founded'. (fn. 6)

The first plans were probably affected by Henry V's dealings with alien priories. A house founded by Henry FitzHugh at Cherry Hinton would have been a cell to Vadstena. The great foundation at Sion was made by the king with the express permission of Martin V that it should be the first house of an English congregation.


  • 1. Margaret Deanesley, Incendium Amoris of Richard Rolle, 95.
  • 2. Add. MS. 22285, fol. 14.
  • 3. M. Deanesley, op. cit. 97, 98.
  • 4. Ibid. 99.
  • 5. Ibid. 100.
  • 6. Cal. Pat. 1441–6, p. 276.