Breedon on the Hill

The first church built at Breedon lies within a hillfort 7 miles east of Repton within the bounds of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia.  The monastery was allegedly founded in the seventh century based on the strength of 2 Anglo Saxon Chronicle entries, one from 1117-21 and the other from probably the late fourteenth century.  Both seem to make use of older sources.  The first under the year 675AD states that:

King Æthelred (675-704/6, d.716) granted to Peterborough minster the lands of Breedon, Repton, Cadney, Swineshead, Heanbyrig, Louth, Shifnal, Costesford, Stratford, Wattlesborough, the Lizard, Aethelhuniglond and Bardney.

While the latter states that Pope Agatho (678-81) recognised various privileges held by Peterborough monastery, namely the lands of Breedon, Repton (
Rippingale has also been suggested for Repingas), Cadney (Cedenac), Swineshead (Suinesheved), Heanbyrig, Louth (Lodeshale), Shifnal (Scuffenhalch), Costesford, Stratford (Stretford), Wattlesborough (Wetelleburna), Lizard (Lusgerd), Hethelhuniglond and Barking (not Bardney? Barchanig).  Obviously neither of these late sources actually say anything about the foundation of any of these churches.  Indeed even their identification is open to dispute in most cases.

The foundation of the church of Breedon seems to have occurred during the reign of King Æthelred (675-704/6, d.716) and was made by ‘the most religious of the king's princes', one Friduricus who was lord of Breedon as well as holding lands in Repton (Hrepingas).  Friduric issued 2 charters to the monastery.  In the first he had recorded that he had granted 20 of his men with their lands in Breedon to Peterborough monastery, with the consent of Bishop Seaxwulf (bef.676-691/2), on the condition that the monks appointed an exceptional priest to bring the people of the district to baptism and evangelical doctrine.  The Peterborough monks agreed to this and appointed Hedda to lead the new community.

After this had occurred and Abbot Haedda had taught the surrounding peoples Christianity with the greatest care, Friduric was so pleased that he gave the abbot the land of a further 31 men in the land called Repton (Hrepingas) as was agreed with Bishop Seaxwulf (bef.676-691/2) and King Æthelred (675-704/6, d.716).  Haedda later made a charter as abbot of Breedon and went on to become bishop of Lichfield in about 691.  He died in the period 716 to 727.  Later, Archbishop Tatwine of Canterbury (731-34) was trained at Breedon and became abbot - a position he held until 731.  This Breedon should not be mistaken for Bredon (Breodune) in Worcestershire.

Breedon church seems to have been dedicated to St Hardulph from an early date.  According to a list of saints' burials kept at Peterborough and recorded by Hugh Candidus (d.c.1160), this was actually King Ærdwulf of Northumbria (796-806, 808-11/30).  If this is so, the first dedication of the abbey is now lost.  Possibly some of the remaining stone panels inset in the later church walls are remnants of King Ærdwulf's tomb or shrine.  According to the same list 3 other saints are buried here, the monks Beonna and Cotta as well as St Frethericus.  Presumably the latter is synonymous with Friduric, the granter of Breedon to the monks in the late seventh century.

Just like Brixworth, the church is thought to have been a victim of the Great Heathen army in 870.  The monastery was apparently operational a century later when in 966-7 King Edgar (957-75) granted Bishop Aethelwold of Winchester (963-84) lands in Wilston, Diseworth and Aetheredes Dun for the church at Breadone.  Despite this, Breedon does not appear in Domesday, although the surrounding manors of Worthington and Tonge were held by Henry Ferrers of Oakham and Tutbury (d.1089).  Before 1122 the church became a cell of the Yorkshire house of Nostell priory, having been given by Earl Robert Ferrers of Nottingham [and Derby] (d.1139).  The grant included the church of St Mary and St Hardulf of Bredona with 4 virgates of land and Robert's tithes, his men of Tonge, Andrews Church [Kegworth] and Wilson? (Wiwelestona) as well as the chapels of Worthington (Wrdintona) and Staunton Harold and the tithes of Newbold (Neubolt) and Diseworth (Diceswrda) with 20s a year from each of the mills of Crakemarsh (Crakemers, Staffordshire), Tonge, West Leake (Westleka, Nottinghamshire), £2 from the soke of Stapleford and a herdewicam in Heathcote (Hethcote) next to Hartington (Hertedona) in the Peak District. 

For a good description and excellent photographs of the church, freize and ‘shrine/tomb' please refer to the Great English Churches website.  Also bear in mind that the dates given in the above Great English Churches article are supposition only and other interpretations are easily possible.


Copyright©2022 Paul Martin Remfry

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