|Remains of what may have been the walls of the Priory grounds|
In their authoritative study of nunneries in East Anglia, Roberta Gilchrist and Marilyn Oliva found no evidence of diverted streams: indeed they point out that while the practice was common in men-only monasteries, "female houses seldom possessed such elaborate facilities". Water was diverted to provide fresh water for the kitchens and channels to flush the monastic latrines. Eileen Power described how Abbess Euphemia had ordered a stream to be diverted for this purpose at Wherwell Abbey in the 13th century. The agreement between Prioress Amice and Ralph Morin tells us that the new water course was not used for milling, but has no further details as to its purpose.
In September 2014 some local residents and I made a close inspection of the stream. We had previously found a reference on the 1902 Ordnance Survey map to "sluices" part the way down the stream, as well as two footbridges. We found no clear evidence of either, although there were some remains of a concrete structure on the bed of what we were now calling the Nuns' Stream. However, we did find that downstream from the Wellocks bridge by Church Walk for about 100 metres, the stream had been carefully and substantially culverted between stone walls. These were about 2 metres in height and extended the length of the stream to about 30 metres beyond the point where we suppose the sluices were installed (the stream takes a sharp right hand turn at this point).
|What appears to be an arched entrance to a new underground|
stream feeding the Priory with fresh water
flooding, but are still clearly visible. As they follow the stream down from Wellocks, the space widens from about two metres to around five at its widest point. This, with the stream being dammed by sluices lower down, would have created a very substantial artificial pond with a large head of water. About a metre down from the top of the culverting, immediately before where we imagine the sluices were, there appear to be the remains of an arched opening to an underground channel to take water to the Priory.
This evidence, though, is inconclusive as the stream is heavily silted up at this point. There is no evidence of the Priory stream today and it is likely to have been built over by later development in the 19th and 20th century. However, on the opposite side of the former Priory site, along the banks of the Great Ouse, there are the remains of what appears to be a substantial stream or drain originating in the the remains of the Priory or Hall. The outflow here is said to be arched and built of stone, similar to what we observed at the Nuns' Stream side of the site. The remains are close to a Victorian boathouse, but have been buried in recent landscaping work by one of the local residents. This outflow is also visible on 19th century ordnance survey maps.
|The new pond: stone lined, two metres deep and 5 metres wide|
at this point. A substantial body of water to feed the Priory.
- Power, Eileen (1922), Medieval English nunneries c. 1275 to 1536. Cambridge. [available through Project Guttenburg]
- Gilchrist, Roberta, and Marilyn Oliva (1993), Religious women in medieval East Anglia, Norwich: University of East Anglia
- Fowler, G. Herbert (1935), Bedfordshire Historical Records Society volume 17