Religious Houses of Medieval Lincolnshire
speaker this month was our popular member Brian Jones, who was
giving his talk entitled “The Religious Houses of Medieval
Lincolnshire” Part 2, a continuation of the talk originally
given over 2 years ago.
Brian explained the many changes taking place from the early years
between 600 – 700, when the Danes invaded Lincolnshire and
gradually altered every Religious House by 870,followed by the
Saxons who then took over, until in 1066 the Normans changed the
face of Religion for the next 500 years.
Lincolnshire alone had 120 Monastic sites, including 15 Abbeys;
35 Priories; 13 Alien Priories; 23 Hospitals [hospitality sites];
17 Friaries; 4 Colleges and 2 Cells, all having a specific roll
to play. The various Abbeys were ‘Closed Orders’,
the monks were not allowed to leave once they had taken their
vows. The Priories, always positioned outside the confines of
the towns were able to give food and shelter to travellers who
arrived after the town gates had shut for the night, and were
also responsible for managing and directing the financial affairs
of their particular order. The Friars went about within the local
community, giving care where needed and preaching for donations,
they ‘took the message’ to the local community. Colleges
There were a large number of different Monastic denominations
including Cistercians [White ], Franciscans [Grey] Augustinians,
Carmelites, Dominicans, Benedictines etc. all originating mainly
from France or other parts of Europe. The only English Order in
Lincolnshire were the Gilbertines at Sempringham Church.
Some of the Orders were very wealthy indeed. The Cistercians,
based to the west of the county in the sheep rearing countryside,
sent vast quantities of wool to the continent and with the money
raised from the wool trade built many beautiful buildings. Boston,
being a sea port also had great wealth from trade of varying kinds,
while Stamford, situated on the River Welland and also on the
Roman road linking the east coast to the Midlands had further
trading opportunities with Calais, and other European ports.
Lincoln, being a land-locked City, needed to find other ways to
raise money for its Religious Houses. Lincoln Cathedral was not
monastic, it was purely a place of worship.
The Gilbertines at Sempringham Church were finally recognised
in 1165 and were paid by King Henry II to take in eight Welch
princesses and keep them secure, to prevent any chance of a Welch
uprising against his rule. Princess Gwladys became a nun there
and the presence of the others is documented by their headstones
to the side of the church.
Other ways of raising money included paying for Absolution by
endowing a church!! Raising tolls on Causeways to upkeep the causeways
and keep the change!! Preaching ‘The word’ to the
masses and encouraging donations for ‘blessings’ and
for sins forgiven etc.
During the 1300’s there was great prosperity in the country,
but the wealth declined during the 1400’s . Many towns and
cities were ravaged by fires and the wooden buildings were lost.
in the 14th Century, due to the plague and the shrinkage of monastic
life other buildings fell into disrepair and were ‘re-cycled’
by the local population, so very few remain to-day. Crowland Abbey
was the only one ‘re-founded’ and was the main power
base in Lincolnshire.