Medieval London: Holy Trinity Priory

If you peer in the window of a modern office building at the end of Leadenhall Street, where it meets Fenchurch Street, you can see what is left of Holy Trinity Priory. All that remains is an arch which once led from the choir to a side chapel. There is little to indicate the priory’s former grandeur.

Holy Trinity was one of England’s wealthiest religious houses, and after the crown it was the largest landowner in the capital. We have a papal taxatio – a valuation – from 1291 which gives as the annual rental of its possessions the enormous sum of £235 10s 63/4d. The same document shows Holy Trinity owning land in 72 of London’s parishes.

The priory was founded in 1108 by Queen Matilda as a house for Augustinian canons These were secular priests (not monks) who came to live together following the monastic rule of St Augustine of Hippo. This included taking vows of poverty and obedience, but with the burdens of the rule lightened so that the canons would have time to go outside the priory to preach and tend to the needy.

The number of canons varied between 18 and 40. They were headed by a prior whose importance was reflected in his being by right of his office an alderman, one of the twelve most senior members of the City Corporation below the mayor.

The wealth of the house ensured that when Henry VIII decided to take over the monasteries it was at the top of the hit list. It was the first of the large houses in England, and the first of all religious houses in London to be dissolved.

Find out more about the Medieval London. Book tickets for Ian McDiarmid’s Medieval London Walk now. Private tour also available here.

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