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In the early Anglo‐Saxon period, monastic life for women was almost always in double houses, of which Theodore disapproved. In most of these, monks and nuns shared a church, though at Wimborne (Dorset) each group had its own church. An abbess ruled over the community. She was often of royal or noble birth and for centuries nunneries remained places for aristocratic women.

A number of double monasteries were destroyed during the Viking incursions, and when the monastic revival developed in the 10th cent. single houses were in favour. By 1275 there were ten Saxon nunneries surviving in England and Wales, and another 118 had been founded since the Conquest. Of the total of 138 nunneries between 1275 and 1535, well over half were Benedictine; there were 28 Cistercian nunneries, 18 Augustinian, 4 Franciscan, 2 Cluniac, and 2 Premonstratensian. By the time of the dissolution, there were some 125 English nunneries still in existence, sheltering about 2,000 women.

Subjects: British History.

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