Saturday, January 19, 2013

Why Bradwell Priory was not Wolverton Priory

Although Bradwell Priory quickly acquired that name it was not, strictly speaking, on land that was part of the Bradwell Manor. Instead it was on land which was part of the Wolverton Manor.

Wolverton Manor was defined by two natural boundaries, the River Ouse to the north and Bradwell Brook to the east, by the Watling Street to the west and by an artificial line to the south. This border follows an east-west line that passes through Two Mile Ash to the edge of Bradwell Brook. This line continues westward and divides Calverton from Shenley.

As you can see from this map Bradwell Abbey Parish recognises the ancient manorial divisions between Wolverton and Loughton and Bradwell Brook separates it from the main Wolverton Manor.


The priory was founded in the will of the second Baron of Wolverton, Meinfelin, in 1155. How much land the priory was given at the outset is not known but it seems clear that at least it was bordered by Bradwell Brook on the north side and Loughton Brook on the east side. Whether or not it extended west to the Watling Street encompassing the area later kown as Bradwell Abbey Parish is not known with certainty, but the geography would suggest that the parish area was in fact the original bequest.

It was considered to be worth 1 hide in 1155. A hide was a land value assessment and although modern commentators take that as an average of 120 acres, it was never an exact measurement of area.

Land represented income, which any religious foundation needed. Meinfelin and his son also granted the priory income from churches at Wolverton, Chalfont, Thornborough, Padbury and Wicken - all of which were under the sway of the baron. Over time some of these sources of income were lost.

The priory settled its buildings on the Wolverton side of Loughton Brook, close by the old village of Bradwell; hence it came to be known as Bradwell Priory rather than Wolverton Priory.

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