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Was there an anchorite cell in St Lawrence Church?

Possible blocked up squint - chancel north wall

Dr Simon Roffey of Winchester University in a book published this month suggests there may have been an anchorite cell in the chancel wall of St Lawrence Church.

Anchorites were hermits anchored to one site, often walled into their cells, dedicated to lives of prayer and contemplation and offering spiritual guidance to visitors. The cells had a window to the outside world for food to go in and chamber pot to come out and one, a “squint”, into the church. They were more commonly on the north side of the church, as you face the altar, on the left or sinister or darker side. There is a blocked squint in the north wall of St Lawrence’s chancel.

The Dominican Friary in Fisherton Anger (15th C) and in the Wylye valley St Mary’s in Codford and Boyton had anchorites. Women (anchoresses, inclusae) were commoner than men, for example Julian of Norwich (14-15th C) and, more locally, Anna Curson in Salisbury (16th C) and Joan Malewyn at Britford (13th C) who was in part funded by land in Stratford sub Castle, called Morwemasseclerk. “…one mark of silver yearly from the same hide to be paid by the hand of the said Succentor Sarum to Johanna Malemeyns, anchoress of Bretford, as long as she lives.” A Nun from Wilton Abbey, Eve of Preshute, became an anchorite at St Mary’s Church Marlborough (13th C).

An Archaelogical History of Hermitages and Eremitic Communities in Medieval Britain and Beyond. Author: Simon Roffey Publisher: Taylor & Francis ISBN 13: 0429656378 Published March 2023 Chapter 11. Other references used available on request. Kerry O’Connor


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