A New Foundation
On Wednesday October 8th 2008 the canonry moved to its new home in St. Philip's Priory, Chelmsford. We are the first Norbertine community to live in Essex for 472 years.
The priory, a former Servite convent dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Philip Benizi has been graciously provided for us by the Bishop of Brentwood, the Rt. Rev. Thomas McMahon.
The priory began to be used as a religious house in 1927, two years after it had been purchased for that intention by a Mr. Henry Shepperd. The priory was solemnly blessed and opened on 15 September 1927, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, by Bishop Doubleday (Bishop of Brentwood 1920-51).
May Our Blessed Mother, Queen of our Order, pray for us that Our Lord may raise up many more men to labour in this part of His world as sons of St. Norbert and that we may be ever of service to the people of this place.
The Order in Essex
The Norbertine Order has a long history in Essex. Our priory in Chelmsford is less than ten miles from Beeleigh Abbey, one of our pre-Reformation houses. Before 1172 Robert de Parndon had established a house for canons from Newhouse in Lincolnshire in Great Parndon. In 1180 this house was transferred to its location near Maldon. The abbey obtained a royal charter from Richard I in 1189. The heart of Saint Roger of Beeleigh (Roger Niger) - a thirteenth century Bishop of London was buried at Beeleigh and the abbey became a pilgrimage site. In 1289, pilgrims included King Edward I and Queen Eleanor. The abbey's population ranged from 9 to 13 canons. From Beeleigh parishes were served in Ulting, Maldon, Great Wakering and Steeple St. Lawrence. The abbey was suppressed in 1536, though much of the buildings survive to this day. The abbey is now in the ownership of the Foyle family, founders of the famous bookshop in Charing Cross Road, London.
The arms of the Priory reflect the history of the community and Order here. The blue chevron is taken from the arms of Storrington, the community from whence our canonry came into being - itself taken from the arms of the abbey of Tongerlo. The fleur-de-lys come from the arms of the former abbey of Beeleigh - the pre-Reformation house only eight miles from St. Philip's, they are also the device used in the arms of the Order, as is the blue colouring.