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St Andrew the Less / Barnwell Priory

History of St Andrew the Less

This is a 13th century building, once part of the Barnwell Augustinian Priory complex.

Further information can be found on the English Heritage website:

According to A Taylor, (Cambridge – The Hidden History), it was the first and largest religious house in Cambridge but never became involved in university life. It was one of the earliest Augustinian Houses and was intended to support six priests to serve neighbouring churches. The first foundation had been by sheriff Picot in 1092 near to the castle, probably next to St Giles’ church. This benefaction was allegedly in return for the recovery of his wife from illness.

After Picot’s death, Pain Peverel, the Norman knight who succeeded to Picot’s holdings, got permission from the king to refound the priory on more spacious grounds within the royal manor of Chesterton.

The new site had a holy well with pre-Christian origins that had been used for semi-pagan festivities in Saxon times. A hermit had also lived there in ‘a tiny wooden oratory.’ In due course the priory was granted the manor of Chesterton by King John, for a price. A new church was dedicated in 1170.

In there were 17 monks at the priory. When royalty visited Cambridge they generally chose to stay at the priory. A boys school was set up there supported by charity; five poor men were also supported and scraps used to feed three other poor people every day, plus general gifts of peas and beans to the townspeople in Lent.

When the house was dissolved in 1538 it was too far out of the city to be considered being reestablished as a college and the estate was no longer a going concern.


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