Let me take you back to the 12th century and in a small village north of Hull a religious order called the Gilbertines have just established a new and unusual abbey. The Gilbertines was the only religious order which allowed men and women to live at the same site.
|"The young nuns wanted to punish her very severely, they want to burn her, they want to brand her."|
|Local historian. Dr. Barbara English|
Watton Abbey was established around 1150 by Eustace Fitzjohn and was home to around 140 men and 70 women. The original house was 600 feet long, one wing was occupied by the nuns the other by the monks. In its time it was the largest house of its type in England. The Priory was dissolved in 1539 by Henry VIII.
However, not long after it was built it was rocked by a gruesome episode that would taint the Order with scandal and horror. The story of what happened to them was so shocking, it has been remembered through the ages, even though nothing remains of the fabric of the abbey itself.
|Historian, Dr. Barbara English|
The story concerns a young girl who was placed with the Gilbertines. Her name is not recorded but was said to have little enthusiasm for the religious calling. As the girl grew, she became friendly and then fell in love with one of the lay brothers. She became pregnant. Once the nuns discovered what had happened they acted quickly to deal with the situation as they saw fit.
|The brother was imprisoned.|
Local historian Dr. Barbara English takes up the story. "The young nuns wanted to punish her very severely, they want to burn her, they want to brand her. Eventually they settle for throwing her into solitary confinement, chaining her hand and foot and feeding her on bread and water."
Her young man was also to suffer for his 'sins'. Dr. English says of his fate: "The young man had run away and the men from the other side of the monastery caught him, brought him back and handed him over to the nuns for punishment and the nuns castrated him."
Although the events were documented at the time, the details of the fate of the young lovers in unclear. It's likely that the young man died from his injuries and the young women stayed at the convent for the rest of her life.