Origins of the Church

The Abbey Church of Elstow

By John Hammond Laflin

The Abbey Church of Elstow
John Hammond Laflin

The Abbey Church of Elstow

There is no mention of a church in Great Wymondley in the Doomsday Book(1086), but the nave and chancel of the present church has been dated, from its architecture, to around 1120.  

In 1199 there was a dispute between the Abbess of Elstow Abbey and Reginald de Argentein. Elstow Abbey (just south of Bedford) was a rich Benedictine nunnery founded in 1078 by Judith, niece of William the Conqueror. Reginald was Lord of the Manor of Great Wymondley.  

The abbess claimed that Judith had given the manor of Hitchin and the Wymondley chapel to the nuns, and produced numerous documents in support. Reginald claimed the church had been given to his grandfather, also Reginald, by William the Conqueror when he granted him the Manor and had twice exercised the right to appoint the vicar, without any objection.  

Reginald’s son, Richard de Argentein, in 1208 compromised, acknowledging the claim of the Abbess on condition the nuns prayed for his soul, so easing his passage into heaven.  

It was about this time when the Bishop of Lincoln ordained the church a vicarage. In 1291 along with Little Wymondley. It was still considered as part of the Hitchin church, when all three were taxed as one, to pay for the crusade of Pope Nicholas IV.  

The first known vicar was Robert Sparrowe in 1361. A list of all the subsequent vicars is displayed on a board in the porch.  

The church remained under the authority of Elstow until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538, when the living and tithes were granted to TrinityCollege, Cambridge.  

In 1685 the church was united with St Ippolyts and remained so until 1958, when it was reorganised into one living, but with two parishes – Great & Little Wymondley. A further reorganisation in 2007 saw the two parishes again united with St Ippolyts and today the three churches share the Revd. Ann Pollington as Priest in Charge.

This page was added on 22/07/2010.

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