Bede House

Founded in 1428

The Bede House or Prayer House was a bequest from Henry Chichele.

Bede means prayer. One of the jobs of the Bedesmen that resided there was to pray for Henry Chichele's parents and family.

The building

This unusual building is banded alternatively with local cut limestone and ironstone in the west and north walls, with the east and west walls being built with plain rubble.

By the middle of the nineteenth century the Bede House was in a serious state of disrepair with no roof over the chapel end to the east but thankfully it was restored in 1923.

The fireplace is not thought to be original but possibly imported from the Castle which lay to the North of the church.

The floor at the chapel end is raised to allow for a vaulted crypt or bone house, access to which could be reached by an external doorway on the north side. Note the bell-cote over the west gable containing a bell made by Thomas Eayre of Kettering, 1737, inscribed with 'Glory to God alone'.

The Chichele Coat of Arms can be seen in the stained glass window at the east end of the building. This modern stained glass is by John Hayward and further examples of his work can be seen at the West End of the church.

More recently the building has been thoroughly restored and there have been extensive improvements with a new kitchen and toilets, all suitably adapted for wheelchair users. It is now used as a parish hall and is hired out for social activities.

The Bede House was built to house Bedesmen who would pray for the Chichele family on a daily basis.

Bedesmen

There were 12 Bedesmen and 1 Bedeswoman to act as their Housekeeper. All were appointed as people of good character, with no drunkards or troublemakers. They were supplied with charcoal for the stove, cloth for a cloak, food and a barber. Bedesmen occupied the building up until the eighteenth century.

The tradition continues to this day where the Bedesmen come together for civic occasions and an annual dinner on the feast of St. Thomas, 21 December.