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SOPWELL NUNNERY

Ruins of Sopwell Nunnery

Ruins of Sopwell Nunnery.

This romantic ruin is all that remains of the Tudor mansion built around 1560 by Sir Richard Lee, a soldier and royal engineer, granted the land by Henry VIII in 1540. Lee's first house was built on top of the medieval nunnery, which itself dated back to 1140. It had been founded by the then abbot of St. Albans, Geoffrey de Gorham.

The new mansion followed the monastic plan, using the church for the hall and the cloisters became the courtyard. He even had the then London Road diverted away from the house. At the end of his life, it seems that he started a radical remodeling of the house to make it more fashionable and to add formal gardens.

Sir Richard Lee died in 1575. Whether his son continued with the work is not known because it was never completed. Later the Grimstons of Gorhambury took away materials to use in their own house.