The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3
Priory of St. Helen.
The priory of St. Helen was founded about , in the latter part of the reign of John, for Alardus de Burnham, dean of , to whom application was made by
to found this priory, died the . The nuns of this priory were of the Benedictine order, and wore a black habit, with a cloak, cowl, and veil.
William de Basing, of the sheriffs of London, in the Edw. II. is represented to have been a great benefactor to this priory; augmenting it both in buildings and revenue.
Reginald Kentwode, dean of , with his chapter, made the following constitutions for the nuns of this house in .
Reginald Kentwode, dean and chapeter of the church of Paules, to the religious women, prioresse and covent of the priory of Seynt Eleyns of oure patronage and jurisdictyon inmediat, and every nunne of the sayde priory gretyng in God, with desyre of religyous observances and devocyon. For as moche as in owre visitacyon ordinarye in yowre priorye, boothe in the hedde, and in the membris late actually exersyd, we have founden many defautes and excesses, the wiche nedy the notory correccyon and reformacyon; we, wyllyng vertu to be cherisshed, and holy relygion for to be kepte, as in the rules of yowre ordyerre; we ordeyne and make certeyne ordenauns and injunccyons, weche we sende you iwrete and seelyd undir owre commone seele for to be kepte in forme as thei ben articled and wretyn unto yow.
Firste, we ordeyne and injoyne yow, that devyne servyce be don by yow duly nythe and day; and silence duly kepte in due tyme and place, aftir the observaunce of yowr religio ne.
Also we ordeyne and injoyne yow prioresse and covente, and eche of you synglerly, that ye make due and hole confession to the confessor assigned be us.
Also we injoyne yow prioresse and covent, that ye ordeyne convenyent place of firmarye, in the wiche yowre seeke sustres may be honestly kepte and relevyd withe the costee and expences of yowre house acustomed in the relygion dvryng the tyme of beere sekenesse.
Also we injoyne yow prioresse, that ye kepe yowre dortour, and by thereinne by nythe, aftyr observaunce of yowre religion,
|withowt that the case be sushe, that the lawe and the observaunce of yowre religione suffreth yow to do the contrarye.
Also we ordeyne and injoyne yow prioresse and covent, that noo seculere be lokkyd withinne the boundes of the cloystere; ne no seculere persones come with-inne aftyr the belle of complyne, except wymment ervauntes and mayde childeryne lerners. Also admitte noone sojournauntes wymment with owte lycence of us.
Also we ordeyne and injoyne yow prioresse and covent, that ye, ne noone of yowre sustres use nor haunte any place withinne the priory, thoroughe the wiche evel suspeccyone or sclaunder my the aryse; weche places for certeyne causes that move us, we wryte not here inne in owre present iniunccyone, but woll notyfie to yow prioresse: nor have no lokyng nor spectacles owte warde, thought the wich ye mythe falle in worldly dilectacyone. a
Also we ordeyne and injoyne yow prioresse and covent, that some sadde woman and discrete of the seyde religione, honest, wele named, be assigned to the shittyng of the cloysters dorys, and kepyng of the keyes, that non persone have entre ne issu into the place aftyr complyne belle; nethir in noo other tyme be the wiche the place may be disclaunderid in tyme comyng.
Also we ordeyne and injoyne yow prioresse and covent, that noo seculere wymmen slepe benythe with inne the dortour, with owte specialle graunte hadde in the chapetter house, among yow alle. Also we ordeyne and injoyne yow, that noone of yow speke, ne comme with no seculere persone; ne sende ne receyve letteres myssyves or geftes of any seculere persone, with oute lycence of the prioresse: and that there be an other of yowre sustres present, assigned be the prioresse to here and recorde the honeste of bothe partyes, in suche commynication; and such letters or geftes sent or receyvyd, may turne into honeste and wurchepe, and none into velanye, ne disclaundered of yowre honeste and religione.
Also we ordeyne and injoyne yow prioresse and covent, that none of yowre sustres be admitted to noon office, but they that be of gode name and fame.
Also we ordeyne and injoyne yow, that ye ordeyne, and chese on of yowresustres, honest, abile, and cunnyng of discrecyone, the whiche can, may, and schall have the charge of techyng and informacyone of yowre sustres that ben uncunnyng for to teche hem here service, and the rule of here religione.
Also, for as moche, that diverce fees perpetuelle corrodies and lyvers have be grauntyd befor this tyme to diverce officers of yowre house and other persones, whech have hurt the house, and because of delapadacyone of the godys of yowre seyde house, we ordeyne and injoyne yow, that ye reseve noone officere to perpetuelle fee of office, ne graunte no annuete, corody, ne lyvery, with owt specialle assent of us.
Also we enjoyne yow, that alle daunsyng and revelyng be utterlely forborne among yow, except Christmasse and other honest
|tymys of recreacyone, among yowre selfe usyd in absence of seculers in alle wyse.
Also we injoyne yow prioress, that there may be a doore at the Nonnes Quere, that noo straungers may loke on them, nor they on the straungers, warme thei bene at divyne service.
Also we ordene and injoyne yow prioresse, that there be made a hache of canabyll heythe, crestyd withe pykys of herne to fore the entre of yowre kechyne, that noo straunge pepille may entre with certeyne cleketts avysed be yow and be yowre stward to suche personys as yow and hem thynk onest and conabell.
Also we injoyne yow prioresse, that non nonnes have noo keyes of the posterne doore that gothe owte of the cloystere into the churche yerd but the prioresse, for there is moche comyng in and owte unlefalle tymys.
Also we ordeyne and injoyne, that no nonne have, ne receyve noo schuldrin wyth hem into the house forseyde, but yif that the profite of the comonys tunre to the vayle of the same howse.
Thes ordenauns and injunccyons and iche of them, as thei be rehersid above, we sende into yow prioresse and covent, chargyng and commanding yow, and iche of yow alle, to kepe hem truly and holy in vertu of obedience, and upon peyn of contempte: and that ye doo them be redde and declared foure tymes of the yeere in yowre chapell before yow, that thei may be hadde in mynde, and kepte under peyne of excommunicacyone and other lawfulle peynes to be yove into the persone of yow prioresse, and into singuler persones of the covent, wheche we purpose to use agens yow in case that ye dissobeye us: reservyng to us and owre successours powre thes forsayde ordinaunces and injunctiouns to chaunge, declare, adde, and dimunue, and with hem despence, as ofte as the case requirethe, and it is nedfulle. In to whiche wittenesse we sette owre common seele. Yovyn in owre chapitter house the xxi day of the monyth of June, the yere of owre Lord MCCCCXXXIX.
At the dissolution of religious houses, this priory was surrendered, , Hen. VIII; and was then valued at ; but according to the statement made in the new edition of the
the clear revenue appears to have amounted to
After the suppression, Henry VIII., in the of his reign, gave the site of the priory and its church, called the
.to Richard Williams, alias Cromwell: and Edward VI. in the of his reign, by his letters patent, bearing date the , conferred the jurisdiction of this place on the bishop of London and his successors, which was afterwards confirmed by Mary in the year of her reign; though since it has been granted back, as also the advowson of the church, to the dean and chapter of , who are both patrons and ordinaries of the place, and collate to this church as a vicarage.
| after the dissolution of this monastery, the following survey was made:--
The nun's hall, and other houses thereto appertaining, were, after the dissolution, purchased by the company of Leathersellers, who converted the nun's hall into a common hall, for the purpose of holding their occasional meetings, and settlements of accounts; and it continued in such use, until it was demolished, with the other remnants of the priory in , to make way for the foundations of the present St. Helen's-place.
The seal of this priory represents the discovery of the cross by the empress Helena, who is represented holding in her right hand the nails; her right arm round the shaft of the cross: on the other side of the cross are several females, kneeling with extended arms and uplifted countenances. The legend is
 A perfect impression of this seal appendant to a deed, dated 1534, 26 Henry VIII., among the records of the Leather-sellers company, was engraved by Dr. Rawlinson: it is also engraved in Malcolm's Londinium Redivivum, vol. iii. p. 548.