Pages 1-2

A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1954.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.



LEICESTERSHIRE has never had any great Benedictine house. From the 7th to the 9th centuries there was at Breedon-on-the-Hill a monastery which was sufficiently important to furnish an Archbishop of Canterbury, but this foundation was apparently destroyed by the Danes in the mid-9th century. (fn. 2) At the time of the Norman Conquest the county contained no monasteries, and it was not until English monasticism expanded during the 12th century that religious houses were again founded in Leicestershire, The only Benedictine houses established in the county after the Conquest were the small nunnery of Langley and an alien priory at Hinckley. The Cluniacs of Bermondsey had in the early 13th century a small property at Alderman's Haw, in Charnwood Forest, where there were usually three monks, (fn. 3) and the cell apparently still existed in 1278. (fn. 4) When, however, Alderman's Haw was inspected subsequently, probably in the late 14th century, it was reported that hardly any trace of the cell remained. (fn. 5) The statement that there was a cell of the Cluniac Priory of Lewes at Melton Mowbray (fn. 6) seems to be without foundation. (fn. 7) A Cistercian abbey was founded at Garendon in 1133; the remaining monasteries of the county all followed some form of the Augustinian rule. No Leicestershire monastery ever became of great importance, and most of them always remained small. Only the abbeys of Leicester and Croxton, with Launde Priory, had a net yearly revenue assessed at over £200 in 1535. (fn. 8) Besides these three monasteries, the Hospital of Burton Lazars and the college of secular canons in the Newarke at Leicester were of some note.

The only place in Leicestershire where the friars were established during the Middle Ages was the town of Leicester itself, which at one time in the 13th century probably contained four friaries. The Templars and the Hospitallers each had a house in the county. Apart from the College of the Newarke, which was of a type intermediate between the older collegiate churches of secular canons and the later colleges of chantry priests, the only chantry colleges in Leicestershire were the small foundations at Nosely and Sapcote.


  • 1. In writing this article, considerable use has been made of an unpublished article written in 1907 by Sister Elspeth, of the Community of All Saints.
  • 2. F. M. Stenton, 'Medeshamstede and Its Colonies', Hist. Essays in Honour of James Tait, 317-18.
  • 3. Rot. Hugonis de Welles, ed. W. P. W. Phillimore, i, 254.
  • 4. G. F. Farnham, Charnwood Forest and Its Historians, 25. See also ibid. 81.
  • 5. A. Hamilton Thompson, Abbey of St. Mary of the Meadows, Leicester, 99. Bermondsey retained land at Alderman's Haw until the Dissolution. Dugd. Mon. v, 104.
  • 6. Nichols, Leics. ii, 239; Leland's Itin., ed. Lucy Toulmin-Smith, iv, 19.
  • 7. References to the Prior of Melton (Cal. Pat., 1258-66, 81; Car. Reg. R., Ric. 1-1201, 42; Rot. Hugonis de Welles, i, 257) relate to the Yorks. Priory of Malton.
  • 8. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com:), iv, 148, 152, 165.