St Neots Priory

A brief history of the Priory at St Neots in Huntingdonshire

Monk at the altar

The Priory of St Neots

Monks praying

 

In the late 900’s two hides of land from Eynesbury where split away, this land was granted by the priory founders Earl Aelric and his wife Aelfleda, creating also the Manor of St Neots. The Priory of St Neots was granted its own lands from Eynesbury in 1113. This caused a large split in the original Eynesbury parish, but let the monks of St Neots Priory form their own lands and tenants into a separate township, which they named St Neots. The newly formed town is first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles of 1156-1157, and mention is also made of St Neots in the Pipe Rolls of 1188. But the final act was its recognition as an ecclesiastical split from the parish of Eynesbury at about 1204, when the church acknowledged its independence.

The River Great Ouse forms the original boundary to the west, where the river first enters the old borough of Huntingdonshire, before flowing due north to the town of Huntingdon. The Hen Brook and Gallow Brook formed parts of the original northern and southern limits. The Priory buildings stood just north of the market place, which still exits today, the town growing up around these two sites. The earliest use of St Neots as a separate parish is in the Pipe Rolls of 1188, and was formally recognised by the church in 1204 on the ecclesiastical splitting of the parishes, almost dividing Eynesbury in two.

The officials of the priory also undertook the town government, appointing a bailiff to the town of St Neots and the market. Some burgages (freeholders) are mentioned in the 13th and 14th century, but priory documents show this was short lived, and no form of self-government was attained here, as was the case in near by Huntingdon.

Lay lords, who later succeeded the monks also appointed the officials. The steward, who had been senior office inside the Priory, seems to have become steward of the town and manor of St Neots, but did not continue to control all the former priory lands.

In Circa 1183 Pope Lucius III gave the Priory certain grants on the understanding that they would keep a hospice for the poor. An Alms House referred to in documents dating 1486 and again in a will of 1540 is thought was originally established to conform to the undertaking for a hospice, but at times records show it also had a tenant.

See Who was St Neot?

 

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