March 3rd – On this day in 1415, the “Monastery of St Saviour and St Bridget of Syon” was founded in Sheen (later, in 1431, moving to a nearby new location between Brentford and Isleworth). The monastery was of the Bridgettine order, the richest and most powerful of its time, named after its founder, the mystic and later saint Queen Birgitta of Sweden (1303-73). One of the brothers from the monastery, Richard Reynolds, was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1535 for challenging King Henry VIII’s supremacy over the Church; and the monastery itself was dissolved either in 1534 or in 1539 (sources differ), by Henry. Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was confined here while awaiting her execution in 1542. Five years later, in 1547, the coffin containing Henry’s body was accommodated overnight here on route from Westminster to Windsor. According to one colourful account, the decomposing body burst open during the night, and in the morning dogs were discovered lapping up the liquid that had seeped from the coffin!
Syon House was built on the site of the monastery by Edward Seymour, the First Duke of Somerset (and Lord Protector), sometime between 1547-1552.
In 2003, a “Time Team” archaeological excavation in the grounds of the house unearthed the remains of the Bridgettine monastery church – which was evidently approximately twice as large as the broadly contemporary King’s College Chapel in Cambridge!