Community ID
Modern Location
2 miles north-east of Towcester, route 43
Corporate Status
S. Mary Magdalene
Date Founded
Date Terminated
Religious Order
Cistercian / Cluniac, [see contributors' notes]
Foundation Information

Sewardsley was founded as a dependency of De la Pre sometime after 1459-60. Sewardsley was founded during the reign of Henry II by Richard de Lestre (Medieval English Cistercian Nunneries: Their Art and Physical Remains, 174).

Notable Members/Residents/Guests

In 1300, Joan de Fynnemere was ordered to be excommunicated by Bishop Dalderby. Joan was accused of abandoning her habit and returning to secular life. This may have been the result of the great poverty of the community. Earlier, Isabel, daughter of the late Philip de Covele, knight, had also been forced to return to secular life for a time when the nunnery was unable to provide for her upkeep. She attempted to secure her inheritance which she hoped to bring back with her to Sewardsley, but was denied her inheritance and was forced to turn to the monastery of Holywell. In 1293, 15 years later, Isabel petitioned the Bishop to be allowed to return to Sewardsley.

Population Counts

There were 4 nuns and a prioress at suppression.

Incorporated By

Northampton in 1459-60.

Dependency Of

Sewardsley was founded as a dependency of De la Pre sometime after 1459-60.


Richard de Lestre granted the nuns land and allowed them to have 3 oxen, 10 cows, and 200 sheep in his pasture.


In 1535 its annual income was valued at 12 pounds, 6 shillings, and 7 pence.

Art & Artifacts

A seal appears on a charter from 1325 depicting the Virgin seated on a throne with the child on her lap. She is wearing a crown and in her left hand she carries a sceptre and her right hand is raised in benediction. The legend reads: SIGILLUM . SANTE . M[ARI]E . DE . SAWARD SLEI . . .

Architecture & Archaeology

The convent had some ruins as late as the eighteenth century. Currently at least one wall remains of the original building, which has been incorporated into the house that now stands on the site. There are three gravestones and other unmarked graves evident within the curtilage. Watercolor sketches of the site drawn around 1721 can be found in the British Museum (London: British Museum, Add. 32 467) of Northampton scenes, done by Thomas Eayre for the illustrastions of John Bridges' History of Northampton. The watercolor showed that a farm house with thatched roof now occupied the site. The foundation of the nun's chapel was across the road and to the right of the house. In 1791, the remaining walls of the chapel measured 46 feet long and 24 feet, 8 inches wide (The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire. Compiled from the manuscipt collections of the late learned antiquary John Bridges, esq. I, 295.)

State Of Medieval Structure

One wall remains, and more may be discovered. Also three gravestones remain, and some unmarked graves [See Architecture/Archaeology above].

Manuscript Sources

[1]Public Records Office, E326/3229 (Ancient Deeds series B, Exchequer Augmentations).

[2]Canons Ashby cartulary: British Library Egerton MS 3033, fo.8.

Published Primary Sources
Admin. Notes

order 2 : none document / foundation date : 1459-60 , (needs verification) , Oliva-MOVED TO APPR FIELDS

WRL Project
Contributors Notes

There is very little evidence about the early history of Sewardsley. None of the surviving 12th and 13th century charters refer to the order of the community, but a document transcribed in the Canons Ashby cartulary suggests that Sewardsley was demanding exemption from taxation, which may indicate that the community was claiming to be Cistercian. In the 15th century attempts were made to link it to the nunnery of Delapre, Northampton, probably a Cluniac house. Becoming dependent on Northampton for maintenance, it would seem probable that the order was changed to Cluniac, but no record of this has been found. The community's claims to be Cistercian seem to be documented in the 16th century(Women Religious: The Founding of English Nunneries After the Norman Conquest, 102-103n).

Date Started
Date Finished