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Nun Pit, Newington

Many years ago a nunnery in Newington was the scene of a murder. The abbess was the victim and her staff were to blame. ‘About the end of the eleventh century, it is said, there were certain nuns at the manor of Newington, whose prioress was strangled in bed at night by her cook, and in consequence the King took the manor into his own hands and removed them to Sheppey. Nothing else is known of this monastery of Newington, and it seems likely that it may have been merely a refuge of some of the nuns from Sheppey ['Houses of Benedictine nuns: The priory of Minster in Sheppey', A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2 (1926)]

The following fuller description of the events appeared in ‘Villare Cantianum’ by John Philipot and Thomas Philipot, and subsequently quoted in ‘Some Notes on the Road from London to Canterbury in the Middle Ages (1898)’ by Henry Littlehales and also in ‘England of My Heart Spring’ by Edward Hutton.

‘The manor of Newington itself belonged, as an ancient manuscript now in my custody informs me, to a nunnery which was erected here in this parish, but by whom it was founded or endowed is unknown....Divers of the nuns being warped with a malicious desire of revenge, took the advantage of the night and strangled the lady abbess, who was the object of their fury and passionate animosities, in her bed, and after, to conceal so execrable an assassination, threw her body into a pit, which afterwards contracted the traditional appellation of Nun pit. But this barbarous offence being not long after miraculously discovered, the manuscript does not intimate how, King Henry the third, in whose time this tragedy was acted, seized this manor into his hands and having by consent of the church, transmitted the nuns who were culpable to the secular power by death to make expiation for this crime. He sent the guiltless nuns into Shepey and after filled their cloister with seven secular canons, four of which not long after, as if some secret impiety had lurked in the walls of the convent, murdered one of the fraternity, upon which the King seizes this manor again into his hands, which he had before given back to the support of this new instituted seminary.

It is unclear where this nunnery was located and and hence the location of the Nun Pit, so the map below shows a generic location in Newington.

Littlehales suggested that the nunnery and subsequent monastery who's location is unknown, may have been around Chelsey on or near the land of Nunfield Farm.

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