Secrets of ancient priory uncovered in lecture at Higgins Bedford

The Higgins Bedford
The Higgins Bedford

A county archaeologist is to reveal more about exciting excavations at an ancient priory during a lecture in Bedford.

The event is the first in a series of lectures this year which include topics on art and Saxon jewellery among a range of subjects.

Organised by the Friends of the Higgins Bedford, the lecture is entitled ʻRusts and Crusts and Frusts of Time - Gilbert Whiteʼs Selborne Priory, and will be given by David Baker.

Gilbert White (1720-1793) is familiar as the parson/naturalist, the early pioneer ornithologist, botanist and environmentalist.

However, his great book published in 1789 was entitled The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, and made his village famous.

White’s interest lay not just in the natural world, but also in the human history of his beloved Hampshire landscape.

The Augustinian Selborne Priory had been founded in 1233 by Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, and its scant remains were a natural focus for White, the pioneer antiquarian.

The priory was unusual because of its early dissolution. Fifty years before Henry VIII’s assault on the monasteries, Selborne had fallen into such debt and dilapidation that its doors were closed.

Nothing remained above ground, but in the 1950s two local amateurs began investigating and located what was probably the cloisters.

In 1966, David Baker, who later became Bedfordshire’s County Archaeologist, was appointed to conduct excavations at Selborne and it was his work which eventually established the relative positions of the priory buildings.

David will talk about the dig,(which uncovered numerous exciting finds, 13

burials, and some unexpected 13th century graffiti in the canons’ latrine.

The lecture on Tuesday, January 12, is at 7.30pm. Tickets are £3 for Friends, £8 for guests.