Community ID
Medieval Location
At the parish church of Sempringham
Modern Location
Corporate Status
Priory; Double Monastery
Blessed Mary and S. Andrew
Date Founded
1131 (circa)
Date Terminated
Religious Order
Benedictine (The male canons were under the Augustinian rule and the lay brothers under the Cistercian.)
Foundation Information

Founded for 7 maidens by S. Gilbert of Ghent in Sempringham. It became the motherhouse for the Gilbertine order. Lay brothers were added to work the lands held by Sempringham. Canons joined in 1148. Gilbert de Gant and Roger fitz Jocelin might also have been involved as founders of the community (Women Religious: The Founding of English Nunneries After the Norman Conquest, 228).

Notable Members/Residents/Guests

Joan, the daughter of Roger di Mortimer, was confined here by the sheriff in 1324. Her sister Margaret was confined to Shouldham Double Monastery and others to a male monastery. Wencilian (a.k.a Wencilane, Wentliane, or Gwenllian), daughter of Llewellyn ap Gruffudd, the last native prince of Wales, was sent to Sempringham as an infant after the death of her father in 1283. She spent the rest of her life there as a nun and died fifty-four years later (at the presumed age of 55/56). It is unknown whether she was entirely aware of her status as the princess of wales, but she is referred to as such in some of the records. She was most likely placed in Sempringham in order to ensure that she did not marry and produce heirs. She was also a descendant of the House of Plantagenet.

Population Counts

There were 120 females and 60 monks in 12th century; 200 females in 1247, and 67 in 1366. In 1381 there were 9 canons. In 1538, 18 canons surrendered, including the master and the prior, the prioress and 16 nuns being included in the pension list.

Dependent Communities

The entire order of houses for canons or Double Monasteries in Lincoln are dependencies of Sempringham. These include : Sixhills Double Monastery, Tunstall Double Monastery, S. Catherine, Alvingham, Bullington Double Monastery, Catley Double Monastery, Haverholme Double Monastery, and North Ormsby Double Monastery.


Responsible for tenths, etc.

Secular Political Affiliations

The community produced 25 sacks of wool. It participated at fairs, forced ransoms, granted loans and provided housing.

Social Characteristics

The social characteristics of the nuns and brothers varied greatly.

Relative Wealth

While the community had more than adequate means, it was not wealthy when one considers the number of its inhabitants.


The assets of the nuns were indistinguishable from those of the canons, but Sempringham owned very rich pasture lands and did the little necessary cultivation itself. They also owned numerous villas. In 1254 the income from spiritualities amounted to 170 pounds and the income from temporalities amounted to more than 196 pounds, and then considerable difference by 1348 and thereafter.


It owned extraordinary wealthy pasturelands. The net income of the community in 1535 was over 317 pounds (Medieval Religious Houses in England and Wales, 172).

Other Economic Activities

While the administration of the house was in the hands of 4 male proctors, the treasury was administered by the nuns, who kept it within their buildings. The treasury was presided over by three mature nuns, each who carried their own separate key.


The community produced 25 sacks of wool. It participated at fairs, forced ransoms, granted loans and provided housing.

Literary Works

In 1303 a canon of the house, named Robert Manning of Bourne wrote a book entitled Handlyng Sinne, renowned for its usage of modern English vernacular.

Early Documents

[1]Records the donation of land. (1139)
[2] Institutes a papal conference. (1148)

Published Primary Sources

Rotuli hundredorum temp. Hen. III & Edw. I. in Turr' lond' et in curia receptae scaccarij Westm. asservati., volume 1:254b.
Charters Relating to the Priory of Sempringham, 158-61, 221-7; 16 (1900), 30-5, 76-83, 153-8, 223-8; 17 (1901) 29-35, 164-8, 232-9.

Marilyn Oliva
Contributors Notes

Bernard of Clairvaux helped Gilbert to draw up Institutions for the order of Sempringham (Medieval Religious Houses in England and Wales, 172).

Date Started
Date Finished