Chicksands Priory was founded in 1150 or thereabouts by Payne de Beauchamp and his wife, the Countess Rohese. The Priory was granted to the Gilbertine Order a 'homegrown' British religious order formed by Gilbert (c1083-1189). It was unusual in being only one of nine religious houses in England that housed both nuns and canons. The men and women lived in different buildings and were separated in church by a screen.
After the Dissolution of the monasteries the Priory passed to the Snowe family and then in 1576 to Peter Osborne. His great granddaughter Dorothy (1627-1695) wrote a well known series of love letters to William Temple between 1652 and 1654. They eventually married in 1665 after overcoming parental disapproval.
The Priory is also associated with a famous ghost. The legend tells that a nun called Rosata fell in love with one of the canons and became pregnant. For her transgression she was walled up alive in the cloister after watching the execution of the canon who was responsible for her situation. It is said that on the 17th of each month she walks the Priory trying to find her lover. In the eastern entrance hall is an inscription which reads:
"By virtue guarded and manners graced
Here, alas is fair Rosata placed."
In 1936 Chicksands Priory estate was leased to the RAF and in 1950 the USAF took over, they continued on the site until 1998.
In 2002 the site was visited by Channel 4's Time Team programme.
Chicksands Priory is a Grade II listed building.
- Bedfordshire by James Dyer
- Discovering Bedfordshire's Past by Dennis Bidwell
- Exploring history all around by Vivienne Evans
Selected Further Reading:
- A watching brief at the Gilbertine Priory of Chicksands by T.A. Jackman in Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 19, 1991, pp125-129
- Builders of Chicksands Priory before 1753 by Simon Houfe in Bedfordshire Magazine, Vol. 16, No. 125, 1978, pp185-189
- Builders of Chicksands Priory since 1753 by Simon Houfe in Bedfordshire Magazine, Vol. 16, No. 126, 1978, pp228-231
- Chicksands a millennium of history by William C. Grayson (1992, Shefford Press)
- Chicksands Priory by A. Gomme in Archaeological Journal Vol. 139, 1982, pp31-32
- Chicksands Priory and the work of the Friends of the Priory by W.H. Smith in Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 19, 1991, pp120-124
- Legend and lore of Chicksands Priory by Roger W. Ward (1983, Privately Published)
- The monastic history of Chicksands Priory by Roger W. Ward (1989, Friends of Chicksands Priory)