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Author Topic: Rusper Priory  (Read 112 times)
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Craggs
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« on: February 25, 2018, 09:31:06 AM »

The only part of Rusper Priory that can still be seen is the medieval tower of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.

The small but beautiful old village of Rusper grew up around the Benedictine priory which was founded in the late 12th-century by William de Braose.  It was not a large religious community and was intended to be home to an Abbess with twelve sisters - but at it's height was under the leadership of an Abbess with eight sisters. 

The number of sisters grew smaller over the years and finally it was decided to close the Priory in 1537.  Although this decision was made during the time of henry VIII's 'dissolution of the monasteries' I can't find reference to it being sacked as was the fate of many other religious establishments.  I think that Rusper Priory wasn't generating enough income and just closed.

The Church of St. Mary Magdalene, which now serves as the parish church, was left intact but all of the other Priory buildings were gradually taken down and the materials reused in other buildings.  With the exception of the tower the vast majority of the church was redeveloped and rebuilt in the Victorian period.

During the Victorian rebuilding of the church the remains of a Prioress and four sisters were accidentally unearthed.  They were reinterred near the base of the church tower.  This is commemorated on a plaque near to the base of the tower which reads :

         NEAR THIS SPOT WERE INTERRED
                   THE REMAINS OF A
           PRIORESS AND FOUR SISTERS
    OF THE NUNNERY OF ST. MARY MAGDELENE
        FORMERLY EXISTING IN THIS PARISH
  WHICH WERE ACCIDENTALLY EXHUMED IN THE
     ANCIENT CEMETERY THERETO BELONGING
               IN THE YEAR A.D. 1840.
  THIS MEMORIAM WAS PLACED HERE BY ORDER
          OF J.S. BROADWOOD ESQ. OF LYNE.


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Craggs
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« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2018, 10:02:59 AM »

The following is a quote from a website called "Britain Express - Passionate about British Heritage"

"  At the base of the tower are the graves of a medieval prioress and four sisters of the priory. When the graves were relocated due to construction work an ornately decorated Limoges chalice was found interred with them. The chalice is now at the British Museum.

Perhaps the presence of the nuns has a positive effect; in 1975 a boy fell from the top of the tower, a distance of over 70 feet, but suffered only a broken arm. Popular local opinion, perhaps tongue-in-check, was that the presence of the sisters at the base of the tower helped save the boy from more serious injury!  "

The chalice is referred to by The British Museum as  The Rusper Chalice  and their we website states :

"Possibly made by a Limoges craftsman active in England, the chalice was found in 1840 in an unidentified coffin, probably of a prioress, on the site of the Benedictine Nunnery of Rusper, near Horsham, Sussex. It was found with a paten which did not survive, but crumbled in situ. The chalice had been on loan to the British Museum from the Hurst family since 1957".
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John
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« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2018, 10:14:10 AM »

I'm still uneasy about the removal of grave items, perhaps "grave robbing" is too harsh a term to use?
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pomme homme
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2018, 13:25:09 PM »

I suppose the problem is once it's known that they are there, to re-inter them simply exposes them to the risk that real 'grave robbers' subsequently will excavate the grave and remove items of value in it. At least in this case the chalice ended up in the British Museum. Re-interred, it may have been excavated later and disappeared into a private collection or been sold, melted down or otherwise taken out of the public domain. And to take the point further, many archaeological artefacts now in museums were removed from excavated graves. Even the Sutton Hoo treasure came from a grave!
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