S. Mary's Chester
Community ID
Alternate Names
Chester (later foundation)
Corporate Status
S. Mary
Date Founded
1140 (circa)
Date Terminated
Religious Order
Foundation Information

Ranulph II, earl of Chester is credited as the founder of Chester, however, it is possible that there was an early monastery already present at Chester that appears in the Domesday book. The possible founder for this earlier foundation has been cited as Hugh, son of Oliver, who was a citizen of the town of Chester.

Notable Heads
Population Counts

There were 13 nuns in 1381 and 14 in 1540. There were 12 nuns still receiving pensions in 1553.

Other Ecclesiastical Relations

Early on Chester was associated with Clerkenwell. In 1186 Urban II confirmed a grant of the conventual house of Chester to the nuns at S. Mary's Clerkenwell, however, the relationship between these two houses seems to have ended in the 13th century.


In 1331, Bishop Roger Northburgh made a visitation and found that the house could barely support itself. Thus, he ordered the nuns not to allow any new nuns into the house and he forbade corrodies and fees for new novices. He also stated that the accounts of the house should be reviewed twice yearly by a committee of more senior nuns and that the seal was only to be accessed by the prioress, subprioress and one nun chosen by the house.


Ranulph II, and his son Hugh II; Richard the Butler; Matilda de Roges (a nun of Chester) brought with her lands given to her by her son Robert; Richard, son of Alfred; Simon Boydell; William Boydell; Ralph Boydell; Brice Panton and Margery his wife; Eddusa (mother of Agatha-a nun at Chester); William Tabley; John Noble and his wife Eve Doubleday; Cecily Crompton; Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales (The Black Prince);

Relative Wealth

About 1253, the nuns complained in a letter to Queen Eleanor that they were reduced to mendicancy. Soon after the nuns were placed under the guardianship of the prior of Denhall hospital. In the 14th century the dire financial situation of the nuns caused a great deal of tension between the townspeople and the nuns, who, along with their tenants, were often exempt from fines and fees that townspeople were expected to pay. In addition, the townspeople were often forced to subsidize nuns' living. This was somewhat settled in 1391-92 when the prioress paid a bond so that her tenants would show up to court and pay fines like the townspeople. However, this situation was short-lived.


In 1535 the net income was valued over 66 pounds.

Art & Artifacts

There are three known seals. The first dates from the 13th century perhaps depicting the west end of the church. The legend reads:SIGILLUM ECCLESIE MONIALIS CESTRIE. The second seal dates from the 12th century and shows the Virgin seated and wearing a crown and her feet on a board. On her right knee is the Infant and in her left hand she holds a sceptre. The Legend reads: SIGILLUM CONVEN... MONIALIUM CESTRIE. The last seal dates from the 16th century and depicts the Virgin under a canopy with a tabernacle on both sides. She is shown with the Christ Child and wearing a crown. She is holding a sceptre in her right hand and beneath her under an arch is a prioress kneeling in prayer. The legend reads:SIGILLUM COMMUNE PRIORISSE ET CONVENTUS MONIALIUM SANCTE MARIE CESTRIE.

WRL Project, Ericka Swensson
Date Started
Date Finished