29th August 2020
Exciting new find reveals more about the nuns of Clementhorpe
Just over a year ago Simon Batchelor wrote for us here about the 'naughty nuns' in the medieval nunnery at Clementhorpe. He told us about Joanna of Leeds, who faked her own death and burial in 1318 and ran away from Clementhorpe, to live a life of ‘carnal lust’ near Beverley.
Now an exciting new discovery at the Borthwick Archive has shed more light on the story. In their ‘Stories from the Archives’ project, they're looking at the registers and other records of the Archbishops of York, collecting examples of stories as part of ‘The Northern Way: the Archbishops of York and the North of England, 1304-1405’.
Helen Watt, research fellow on the project, was searching through an unpublished section of Archbishop Melton’s register, when she discovered a new entry about the rebellious nun, with more information about Joanna’s story.
According to this letter, Joanna claimed that, fearing for her soul, she had approached a priest called Brother John, to confess and explain her actions. He then wrote to the Archbishop on 26 August. Joanna, he reported, had confessed to him that she had been forced to enter the nunnery by her father and mother and that, always complaining of her fate, she claimed never to have taken her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to become a fully-professed nun. John added that, if this were so, he would prefer to see her married, rather than wandering about the countryside on her own, or as he put it ‘dangerously in the secular world’.
The letter also provides some extra details about her escape: the materials out of which the dummy of her body was made and her organisation of the giving of alms (charity) associated with funerals.
To read more about this new discovery follow this link