St Albans. St Mary de Pre

Colin Wilson

This establishment was probably never used as an almshouse in the traditional sense. A footnote in Victoria County History vol 4 p366 says, ‘Besides the church there is mention of the hall, almshouse and bakehouse, all tiled, the chamber of the brothers, that of the nuns and sisters, the refectory, laundry-house and cowhouse outside the gates’. No other references to any use as an almshouse have been found. One explanation could be that it was not used as a residential almshouse, but a house where alms were distributed or temporary accommodation provided, maybe for pilgrims visiting the nearby abbey.

The Hospital of St Mary de Pre was founded by Abbot Warin in 1194. It appears that it was instituted as place for nuns . and sisters suffering from leprosy. By about 1437 it had become a Benedictine nunnery and may have served as a lodging place for travellers and pilgrims. 1528 saw its suppression by Pope Clement. The lands were transferred to Cardinal Wolsey who used the income to fund Cardinal’s College Oxford (now Christ Church).

St John and St James, Royston, was similar, as a place where alms were dispensed rather than an almshouse. St Anthony and St Laud at Hoddesdon also started as a leper hospital but did serve later as an almshouse.


The site was near Gorhambury, on both sides of Watling Street. Little if anything is visible on the ground.
The site of St Mary de Pre church is shown on the OS map Hertfordshire XXXIV.7 1897 pub 1898. It can be viewed online at

Georef;       512690 208180
Grid ref:     51o 45′ 40″N 0o 22′ 07″W


The History of the Monastery of St Mary de Pre, by W Page
Pub St. Albans and Herts Architectural and Archaeological Society (accessed Jul 2018)

The Victoria County History of the County of Hertford ed. William Page
Vol 4 pp428 – 32
Issued Archibald Constable & Co 1914. Reprint by Dawsons of Pall Mall 1971 (ISBN 0 7129 0478 6)
Available on-line at


This page was added on 27/07/2018.

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