The Abbey Church of Minster

The Abbey Church of Minster in Sheppey was founded by Queen Sexburgha* in AD 664 on land given to her by her son Ercombert, the King of Kent.


The priory was destroyed by the Viking invaders in the ninth century, and further harmed by the depredations of Earl Godwin's family in the eleventh century.
                                                                                                 
William the Conqueror partly rebuilt the church and priory, and installed the nuns from Newington there, but the foundation remained impoverished until Archbishop de Corbeuil (1123-1139) rebuilt the church and priory.  He is also credited with building the parish church adjoining the nuns' chapel, although that exhibits much thirteenth century work.
 
The priory continued until the Dissolution in 1536. Sir Thomas Cheyne then acquired all the property and the manorial rights. All the original monastic buildings were demolished with the exception of the imposing Abbey Gatehouse which was used for many years as living accommodation, and is now a well-stocked local history museum.
 
The Abbey is entered through the large south porch, which has massive outer doors and a heavy, imposing inner doorway, considered to have been the original main doorway of the nuns' chapel. 
 
The interior of the Abbey has the appearance of two churches; pointed arches supported on ornamented piers separate two parallel aisles. When it was built, the south church was constructed against the south wall of the earlier nuns' chapel, which was later pierced by arches.  The parish church (i.e. that to the south) is spacious and displays the 'chosen sentences', last re-lettered in the eighteenth century.
 
The Abbey possesses some famous monuments which provide examples of the different types of armour worn in the Middle Ages. The best known is that of Baron Robert de Shurland, who died in 1327. The effigy (on an altar tomb against the south wall of the parish church, behind the choir stalls) is of a tall, robust knight in full armour, complete with helmet, shield and lance. His page, also in armour, lies at his feet; and behind him his horse's head is shown, rising from the waves.

The Abbey is the parish church of Minster. The original village of Minster is clustered around the church at the top of the hill and for hundreds of years the population was concentrated here with the outlying areas covered by thousands of acres of farmland. But since the beginning of this century, there has been a rapid spread of building and today the parish numbers around 15 thousand people and it covers the whole of the populated, centre part of the Isle of Sheppey.
 
Two miles west of the ancient Abbey is the striking modern church of Saint Peter's, opened in 1973 to serve the rapidly growing estates of new homes in the area known at Halfway Houses. The church replaced a small mission church erected earlier this century and now used as St Peter's Hall.
 
Minster Abbey is still regarded as the Mother Church of the Island, in fact until the latter part of the last century, the nearby town of Sheerness was in the parish of Minster. Although Sheerness has been a separate parish for well over one hundred years, the Vicar of Minster still has the responsibility of appointing its Vicars. 
 
 
*Saint Seaxburh or Sexburga of Ely (died c. 699) was an Anglo-Saxon princess, abbess and saint of the Catholic Church. Seaxburh was one of four daughters of King Anna of East Anglia. Her sisters were Saint Æthelburg of Faremoutier and Saint Saethrid, who were both abbesses of Faremoutiers Abbey in Brie, and Æthelthryth who was abbess of Ely. Around 640 Seaxburh married Eorcenberht of Kent. In twenty four years of marriage she had two sons, Ecgberht and Hlothhere who both became Kings of Kent, and two daughters who were eventually canonised: Saint Earcongota, a nun at Faremoutiers, and Ermenilda, who married Wulfhere, King of Mercia, and after his death became a nun at, and eventually abbess of, Ely. After the death of her husband in on 14 July 664, she ruled Kent until her son came of age. Thereafter, Seaxburh also became a nun and founded the abbey of Minster-in-Sheppey. Shortly afterwards she moved to Ely to join her sister Æthelthryth. Æthelthryth died around 679 and Seaxburh was elected abbess in her place. The date of her death is not known for sure, but she is buried in Ely. Her feast day is July 6.
 
 
Disclaimer: The information on this attraction was presented with the best of intentions. Any reported errors will be corrected immediately. People interested in contacting the above leisure attraction should confirm for themselves the accuracy of any data presented.
 
To visit the Abbey Church please visit their website and check opening times and people to contact. - http://www.minsterabbey.org.uk




Disclaimer: The information on this leisure attraction was presented with the best of intentions. Any reported errors will be corrected immediately. People interested in contacting the above leisure attraction should confirm for themselves the accuracy of any data presented.

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015