Breedon-on-the-Hill Priory Church, Leicestershire

Benedictine Monks, then Augustinian Priors

The glory of the church at Breedon is its setting, standing on a dramatic hilltop overlooking the flatter areas surrounding it, the church can be seen for miles around.

Although what buildings can be seen today are no older than the mid-14th Century, the site has an ancient history as a place of worship. The first monastery here – known as Holy Hill Monastery was founded as a Benedictine church around 676 inside the walls of an Iron Age hillfort. The church was founded by one Aethelred, third son of the ruler of Penda, King of Mercia.

The earliest of the saints said to be buried here is Friduricus who gave the land to Aethelred; the other three saints are Eardwulf of Northumbria, Beonna of Breedon and Cotta of Breedon. As can be seen from all these Saxons of note, the glory days of Breedon as a monastery was very early.

In 1066 after the arrival of the Normans the land here was given to the de Ferrers family, later Earls of Derby. Around 1120 a new Augustinian priory, Breedon Priory, was founded on the site of the Saxon building. This was a derivative cell of Nostell Priory in Yorkshire and never appears to have been very large. Most of the current building dates to a period between around 1233 and the mid-15th Century when the Bishop of Lincoln visited and found the Priory to be dilapidated and in debt.

This decline seems to have continued and by the time of the Dissolution in 1539 there was no community at the Priory, just the prior himself. The land here was sold to the Shirley family and the eastern part of the Priory Church was pressed into parochial use, which it still performs today.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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