Royston Priory Church, Hertfordshire

Augustinian Priors

This very handsome church is all that remains of an Augustinian Priory founded around 1164. Initially only 3 canons were in residence but by 1179 the church was raised to a Priory for 7 canons. The first record of the building is in a Papal Bull of 1184 by which time it was already well established. In 1189 Richard II granted the Augustinians the right to operate a market in Royston and it is still in operation today.

The Priory was never a massive one and by the time of the Dissolution in 1536 there were only 10 canons here. By that time the Priory owned extensive lands in Royston which often caused disputes with the Knights Templar who owned lands in both Baldock to the west and at Duxford to the east. Royston was burnt to the ground on two occasions, 1324 and 1405, allegedly due to this conflict.

After the Dissolution all the non-church buildings were very rapidly removed, but the towns people decided to buy the church to act as their Parish Church and thus saved it from demolition. By 1600 it was being called “utterly ruinated and fallen down” so it seems it was heavily rebuilt subsequent to that.

In the 1870s very extensive renovation occurred including encasing the tower in flint and removal of the medieval porch and door, all of which changed the appearance of the church considerably. A vestry was added in 1928 and the timbers of the nave roof were all replaced in 1951 after a Death Watch Beetle infestation.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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