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PRIORY OF ST MARGARET OF ANTIOCH

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  ISLEHAM PRIORY
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The built and earthwork remains of the Priory of St Margaret of Antioch, a Benedictine Alien Priory founded at Isleham circa 1100. The church, which is the only extant building, is an excellent example of a small Romanesque church of circa 1100. It was never extended, little altered, and shows extensive herringbone coursing of the masonry. The nave, of two bays, is divided from the choir by a fine round-headed arch on attached columns, whilst the choir was divided from the sanctuary by a similar arch on rectangular responds. The sanctuary is apsidal ended. There were minor alterations in the 13th century, and towards the end of the Middle Ages the west wall was buttressed. Other alterations, including the great doors in the south wall, belong to the period when the church was used as a barn. The vault and arch of the sanctuary were demolished early 19th century.

The priory is not considered to have developed sufficiently to have required a full claustral range, and the chapel is thought to have been the most southerly building in the complex, as well as the only building in stone. The area immediately to the north of the chapel is enclosed by a clunch and brick wall, which post dates the priory and relates to the later reuse of the chapel. It is, however, thought to reflect an earlier boundary enclosing the conventual buildings which would have been essentially domestic in character. The enclosure may also contain the monks' cemetery.

In 1254 the monks moved to the priory at Linton and in 1414 the lands were seized by the King and granted to the Master and Fellows of Pembroke College, Cambridge. In 1944 the college placed it in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works.

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