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Ten thousand years of history
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Stone Age to the Romans
Medieval Greenham
The "Inclusa"of Sandleford Priory
"A Built Environment"
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Clouds of War
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Ten thousand years of history
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  Themes Homepage > The "Inclusa"of Sandleford Priory
Ten thousand years of history
The "Inclusa"of Sandleford Priory

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Some people have called her "the first Greenham Common Woman"; we know very little of her, and even less of what this twelfth century nun might have thought of the Greenham women who fearlessly opposed cruise missiles some nine hundred years later.
The "Inclusa" was probably an anchoress, a nun who spent most of her time shut off from the world in order to devote herself more completely to the worship of God. She is mentioned in a document of 1179, which granted an allowance of four shillings and fourpence from Godfrey and Richard de Newbury to "The Inclusa of Sandraford". She was one of many religious to occupy this site and probably lived in a small cell built on to the wall of Sandleford Priory. This had been established at the western extremity of Greenham Common sometime during the middle of the 12th Century.
The 14th century roof of Sandleford chapel
The 14th century roof of Sandleford chapel
However, the community did not flourish and in 1478 the last of the Augustinian Canons left. Apart from this one tantalising morsel of documentary evidence, we know nothing of the Sandleford Inclusa. Other English anchoresses are better known, including Julian of Norwich, Annora of Iffley, near Oxford and Christine Carpenter of Shere in Surrey.
After the Reformation, the monastic buildings and chapel slowly decayed until in 1730 a lease of Sandleford was granted to Edward Montagu, grandson of the Earl of Sandwich. His wife Elizabeth ran glittering salons at Sandleford and in London, entertaining the great men of the day including Samuel Johnson and Joshua Reynolds.
Over time, Sandleford Priory was modernised and extended as befitted a gracious country estate, until the social changes of the twentieth century forced its sale in 1947. In a curious closing of the circle, the house and thirty acres of land was purchased by a religious community who, like their predecessors of centuries before, followed the Augustinian rule. Sandleford's rebuilt chapel
Sandleford's rebuilt chapel
Sandleford Priory's former chapel
Sandleford Priory's former chapel
Only a few years before, the clouds of war had brought an air station to the very door of Sandleford Priory; by the 1980s it stood at the end of one of the longest runways in Europe, with giant US Air Force transport planes hanging in the air just feet above its ancient roofs.
Now, as the twenty-first century dawns, the runway and the aircraft have gone, whilst Sandleford Priory, now a school, with its legacy of centuries of history, still remains, one of Greenham's most fascinating buildings.
A general history of the Newbury region may be found in:
Higgott, Tony: "The Story of Newbury" Countryside Books, Newbury 2001
ISBN 1 85306 718 0
Many books about the history of Greenham in the Middle Ages are now hard to find, but some can be consulted at the West Berkshire Museum or the Newbury Central Library. Useful titles are;
Money, W. "Parish Church Goods in Berkshire, A.D. 1552" Oxford, 1879
Myers, E.E. "A History of Sandleford Priory", Newbury District Field Club Special Publication No. 1, 1931.
Peake, H. (Ed.) "Mandate of Pope Nicholas V to the Bishop of Salisbury concerning the erection of a chapel at Chamberhouse…" Newbury Museum Paper No.1, 1924
"T.H.B." Notes on the History of Thatcham 1914
Victoria County History (Berkshire) Vol. IV
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  Themes Homepage > The "Inclusa"of Sandleford Priory
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