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The Abbesses of Elstow

Copy of the Elstow Abbey seal over the west door September 2007
Copy of the Elstow Abbey seal over the west door September 2007

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records service has a partial list of Abbesses of Elstow provided from records held in the Lincoln Doicesan Archive [CRT130Elstow3].

  • Agnes de Westbir', a nun at the abbey, was elected abbess on the death of Lady Wymarce. She was instituted on 17th June 1241. She resigned on 16th June 1242;
  • Albreda de Fiscampo, a nun at the abbey, was elected after Agnes' resignation but her election was annulled by the Bishop of Lincoln as uncanonical. However, he eventually relented and conferred the office on her on 17th June 1249. Her name indicates that she came from Fécamp in Normandy.
  • Anora
  • Beatrice de Scoteney, a nun at the abbey was elected on the death of Anora. Cecily de Chiselhampton, Mabel de Werminiscestr and Phelippa de Maryng served as scrutineers of the election on 20th August 1281. Her rival, the scandalous prior Agatha Giffard only received half as many votes (forty to twenty). Both candidatesd appealed to the bishop and the elections were annulled as being against form. After an enquiry the bishop declared, on 4th November 1281, that as Beatrice had been preferred by the greater number she should be abbess. Agatha was a sister of the Archbishop of York and of the Bishop of Worcester.
  • Clemencia de Balliolo was elected, again by scrutiny, on the death of Beatrice. The bishop agreed that she had been elected by the "greater and wiser part of the chapter" and confirmed her at Edlesborough [Buckinghamshire] on 19th September 1294. Her name suggests she was related to King John of Scotland (1292-1296) who was a Balliol. He was also Lord of the Manor of Kempston Daubeney.
  • Joan de Wauton appeared in person as abbess elect before the Bishop of Lincoln at the chapel of Stow Manor [Lincolnshire] and gave him letters from the Archbishop of Canterbury confirming her election on 15th May 1315.
  • Elizabeth de Bello Campo, a nun at the abbey, was elected by scrutiny on Joan's death. Her election was confirmed by the bishop at Buckden [Huntingdonshire] on 18th November 1318.
  • Juliana Basset, the prioress of Elstow was elected abbess by scrutiny on the death of Elizabeth. The election was found uncanonical by the bishop's surrogate and annulled on 13th October 1331. Nevetheless, he entrusted the care of the abbey to her.
  • Elizabeth Morteyn, a nun at the abbey, was elected on Juliana's death. Again the election was annulled as uncanonical on 2nd October 1333 but, again, she was entrusted with the care of the abbey.
  • Joan Trayley, a nun at the abbey. Her election was confirmed on 14th december 1409.
  • Margery Argentine. She died in 1427 and her brass is still in the church.
  • Elizabeth Hervey. She died in 1527 and her brass is still in the church. In 1541 the former abbey was given by Henry VIII to Edmund Harvey.
  • Agnes Gascoigne
  • Elizabeth Boyfield was elected on the death of Agnes. Her opponent was Cecilia Starkey. After a judicial process between the two Elizabeth's election was confirmed by the bishop at the abbey on 15th July 1530. She was the last abbess and submitted to the suppression of the abbey by King Henry VIII (1509-1547) on 15th August 1539.

The brass of Elizabeth Hervey February 2012
The brass of Elizabeth Hervey February 2012