Shouldham Double Monastery
Community ID
Alternate Names
Medieval Location
West of Norwich, south of East Lynn , south of Marham, a Cistercian house.
Modern Location
Corporate Status
Holy Cross and S. Mary
Date Founded
1197 (circa)
Date Terminated
Religious Order
Foundation Information

The founder was Geoffrey FitzPeter (Fitz Piers), Earl of Essex, who moved the body of his first wife, Beatrice, from Chicksands to Shouldham. He,too, was buried here in 1212.

Notable Heads

Margaret, jointly with NULL in 1404, Anna in 1453, Joan in 1465, and Elizabeth Fincham in 1531. There are 16 known priors between 1250-1534.

Notable Members/Residents/Guests

The two daughters of William of Beauchamp, who was a benefactor. Maud, co-heiress of the Earl of Essex (13 pounds?) and Margaret, daughter of the Earl of Warwickshire, and widow of Guy di Montfort about 1369. Also her niece Kathleen, who was a benefactor. Margaret, daughter of Roger di Mortimer, was confined here by the sheriff in 1324 and her sister Joan from Sempringham along with other sisters from the male monastery. At the first count there were more than 10 men and that equalled the Priors and community of nuns. In 1429 Margarete & Margarete Page lived in the community, monialibus sive conversis.

Population Counts

There were 6 canons and 2 lay-brothers in 1381 and in 1538 the house was surrendered by the prior, 9 canons, the prioress and 6 nuns; while pensions were later granted to the prior, 8 canons, the prioress, and 8 nuns (Medieval Religious Houses in England and Wales, 172).


Patons include the family of the founder, the Earl of Essex, and before 1298 the Earl of Warwick. The founder was buried in the community in 1212. William di Mandeville, son of the founder was buried here as well in 1227. Other benefactors include King Henry III, William Mortimer in 1301, G di Willeford and R. di Dersingham in 1344. Christiana, widow of William di Mandeville after 1227 and Katherine Beauchamp, daughter of the Earl of Warwickshire. An anonymous nun was also a benefactor in 1397-8. The priory also benefitted from the largesse of Sir John Bardolf (Religious Women in Medieval East Anglia: History and Archaeology c. 1100-1540., 60).


The community assets included land holdings, a chapter house, shops in London before 1216, a weekly market, and a yearly fair. It also held jurisdiction over tenants in royal court. In 1291 the community assets were valued at more than 207 pounds. It was especially rich in land holding prior to the flood in 1392. By 1535 the assets were estimated to be about 138 pounds per year.


Income came from rents and maintenance: e g f Katherine and Elizabeth Beauchamp, daughters of a patron's family in 1351.


In the later part of the 13th century, the community entered into litigation with Rich Maillie who claimed the Prioress and nuns assaulted him and sacked his house.

Early Documents

[1]Confirmation of the foundation charter by Edmund III.
[2]Henry IV conirfms the foundation charter.

Architecture & Archaeology

Aerial photography has revealed foundations of the monastic buildings. These marks indicate the north transept and east end of the conventual church, with its three chapels. To the north of the chapels are foundation trenches of buildings which may have included the chapter-house and a latrine block, served by a drainage channel linked to a series of ditches south and south-east of the fishponds. The foundations suggest that the monastic cloister was located to the north of the main conventual church. This suggests that the cloister belonged to the nuns. Excavations in 1983 revealed complex stratigraphy and clunch-built walling which may represent the west range of the nuns' cloister. Another find was a bronze lifting-tool for book pages or gold leaf (Religious Women in Medieval East Anglia: History and Archaeology c. 1100-1540., 87).

State Of Medieval Structure

The precinct was bounded by a wide ditch which survives in its north-west and north-east sections. A complex of fishponds is indicated to the north of the site. The remains consist of earthworks to the south of Abbey Farm, including a moated enclosure (Religious Women in Medieval East Anglia: History and Archaeology c. 1100-1540., 87).

Miscellaneous Information

Foundation date : according to Elkins, after ll93; in the age of Richard I, according to Oliva. The founder and his family are buried in the community. In 1321 there was an accident in which a canon knifed another in a football game. The pope issued dispensation.

Admin. Notes

Benefactors field--Wm (before) ??? /
Income field--EGF??

Marilyn Oliva
Date Started
Date Finished