Chicksands Priory, Bedfordshire

Gilbertine Canons and Nuns

Chicksands is a very unusual Priory. To begin with it was granted to the Gilbertines, not one of the regular orders usually found in the UK, secondly it was one of only 9 religious houses to be occupied by both Nuns and Canons. They lived in separate buildings and were even separated in church by a screen.

The Priory was founded around 1150 by Rohese, Countess of Essex and Payn de Beauchamp, at the time of its foundation Gilbert de Sempringham for whom the order is named was still alive.

As with all the others, the Priory fell foul of Henry VIII and the property was sold to the Snowe family and then, in 1576, to the Osborns who lived there for another 400 years or so. They undertook renovations, not least the rather clumsy additions by James Wyatt dating to around 1814.

In 1936 the land was sold to the Crown Commissioners and the RAF moved in in 1940. The USAF occupied the site from 1950-1995 but today the RAF is back in control with the Priory buildings acting as the Officers’ Mess.

The Friends of Chicksands Priory were set up in 1975 and offer small tours of the property during the summer months which must be prebooked as the property is still on Ministry of Defence land.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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