St. Mary's Abbey, Winchester

St. Mary's Abbey, Winchester

St. Mary's Abbey was a Benedictine nunnery in Winchester, Hampshire. It was founded at the close of the ninth century by Alfred the Great and his queen Eahlswith. The first buildings were completed by their son, Edward the Elder. The first abbess was Edward's daughter Edburga. After Alfred's death Queen Eahlswith retired to the monastery.

In 963 Bishop Ethelwold refounded the monastery and re-endowed it, imposing the stricter Benedictine rule.

The house stood between High Street and Colebroke Street and was known as "Nunnaminster". According to the Domesday Book the abbess held Lyss, Froyle, Leckford Abbess, Long Stoke, Timsbury, and Ovington in Hampshire; Coleshill in Berkshire; and Urchfont and All Cannings in Wiltshire. During the Civil War the monastery was burnt in the great fire of Winchester in 1141. The house became impoverished during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but thanks to various grants and concessions it recovered its position and was in a healthy state at the time of the suppression.

The house was suppressed as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, with pensions granted to the abbess, prioress and nuns.

Considerable remains of the buildings survived into the seventeenth century, but only certain watercourses survive into the present.


* [ "A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2", The Victoria County History 1973]

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