DELAPRE ABBEY stands on the south side of the River Nene in the parish of Hardingstone, just south of Northampton. The abbey was founded by the second Simon St. Liz, Earl of Northampton, in the reign of Stephen (1136 - 1154). It was the only house of cluniac. nuns ever established in England. The nunnery was well endowed by the founder and later benefactors, hut it would seem that the rule of the convent on the tenants was very light, for the income was never large.
The administration of the nuns was marked with charity and placidity almost the whole period of the existence of the house, though at one period three nuns were excommunicated for escaping from the abbey and returning to secular life. A few years later a nun was admonished for taking her seat in the choir dressed in velvet instead of the regular habit. Eventually the abbess herself was excommunicated.
The abbey church was one of the resting places of the body of Queen Eleanor, the wife of Edward I , in that long funeral journey in 1290 from Harby in Nottinghamshire to Westminster. No doubt the nuns " watched " the bodv during the night. One of the beautiful Eleanor Crosses was erected on the hill beyond by the side of the highway, and it still stands one of the most perfect architectural gems in England. About twenty years after the erection of the cross the church was partially re-built.
In 1460 the disastrous battle of Northampton between Yorkists and Lancastrians was fought in the meadows of Delapre. The royal forces moved out of Northampton and planted themselves " in the medowys beside the Nonry havyng the ryver at their back." They were severely defeated and suffered terribly in the attempt to retreat across the Nene. Leland says that many of the fallen were buried at the convent.
The house was surrendered to the royal commissioners on December 16th, 1538, and a pension of £40 per annum was granted to the abbess. There were apparently at that time only eight other nuns, but in its palmier days the convent consisted of between forty and fifty.
Ten years after the dissolution, the property was sold to Lady Anne Longvyle, Andrew Wad-ham, her husband, and Bartholomew Tate, her son. Lady Longvyle was thrice married, first to Sir Bartholomew Tate, secondly to Sir Thomas Longvyle, and thirdly to Andrew Wadham, whom she also outlived. She died in 1565 after marrying for the fourth time. William Tate, her grandson, was member of Parliament for Northamptonshire and father of Zouch Tate, M.P. for Northampton, who in 1644 moved in the House of Commons the " Self-denying Ordinance " which made it illegal for a member of Parliament to hold command in the Army.
By marriage Charles Hardy became possessed of Delapre. He was a British admiral and at one time was Governor of New York forty years before the Declaration of Independence. An account of Hardy appears in the NORTHAMPTON COUNTY MAGAZINE, volume II., page 137. His son, Sir Charles Hardy, sold Delapre to Edward Bouverie, and it is still in the possession of the family.