History of Stonely Priory

The history of Stonely Priory near Kimbolton in Huntingdonshire, UK


STONELY PRIORY, to the east of Kimbolton Park, it is stated by Leland, was founded by William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, in 1180, and again, that it was founded by the Bigrames. Leland was probably mistaken in the identification of the founder, as the William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, who was living in 1180 did not hold Kimbolton. It is more likely the founder was William, Earl of Essex, who succeeded his brother Geoffrey in 1216 and died in 1227. The earliest reference to the priory is in 1279, when the prior was a free tenant in Kimbolton, holding 3 virgates with the appurtenances by gift of Master Gilbert de Helpested, for celebrating mass for his soul for ever; and Gilbert held of Peter de Hardwick (chaplain and he of Sir Humphrey de Bohun, lord of Kimbolton. The prior was also a burgess (burgensis) of Kimbolton holding a cottage and 3 acres by burgage tenure. The additional fact that the advowson of the priory belonged to the lords of Kimbolton makes it likely that their ancestor, the later William, Earl of Essex, was the founder. Of the Bigrames we know nothing. The name survives in Bigrams Farm and Bigrams Lane.

About 1272 Thomas de Bekering died seised, in right of his wife, of 4 virgates of land in Werkwell in Kimbolton, and in 1279 Peter and Alice de Bekering, brother and sister, each held 100 acres in Werkwell of Sir Thomas de Bekering by their mother's grant and Sir Thomas held of the lord of Kimbolton by the service of half a knight's fee. From this it would seem that Werkwell was a sub-manor of Kimbolton held by the Bekerings. Thomas, son of Thomas de Bekering, died seised of the field of Wornditch and of 2 carucates of land at Werkwell about 1285.

In 1361 the Earl of Hereford granted to the priory all the lands of Sir Thomas de Bekering, knt., at Werkwell in the parish of Kimbolton. After the dissolution of Stonely Priory, its lands were at first leased to Oliver Leder, of Great Staughton in 1538, and the site and appurtenances were granted to him and his wife Frances, in fee, in 1544.

They sold the estate in 1552 to Thomas Mary Wingfield, a younger son of Sir Richard Wingfield and Margaret his wife. Thomas Mary Wingfield died seised of the house and site in 1557, leaving a son and heir, Edward Mary Wingfield, aged 7, who was born at Stonely. He was one of the patentees of Virginia in 1606 and 1607 and accompanied the first colonists to Jamestown, but returned in 1608. His diary has been amplified and published as A Discourse of Virginia. He was in possession of Stonely in 1612, and died unmarried about 1614. He had a brother Thomas Mary Wingfield, but Stonely was about this time acquired by the Montagus, and by 1655 the site of the priory had been united to the Kimbolton estate, with which it has since descended.

Victoria County History  - Huntingdonshire Published in 1932