Brinkburn was one of a good number of priories established in the 12th century as part of a remarkable movement within the English church. One of the most significant was Merton, south of London, where many prominent men were educated or part of the community. Brinkburn was set up less than 20 years later in 1135 by a group of priors and canons from Pentney Priory in Norfolk - itself not founded until 1130 - with the new priory at Brinkburn sponsored by a local landowner, William Bertram of Mitford
Of course, all the religious communities were abolished as part of Henry VIII's reforms, on the dubious basis that they had accumulated wealth for themselves rather than promoting the Christian faith. While there was an element of truth in this for some of the larger communities that had amassed great riches, it also ignored the quiet good work done in many communities around the country. However, the king wanted the riches, and to eliminate the influence of the Pope, when the king appointed himself head of the Church of England.
In recent years, a tradition has been established of remembering the arrival of the community at Merton Priory on Ascension Day in 1117 AD, where their first service was Nones, the afternoon office of the medieval church, and this has spread across the country to the sites of other Augustinian priories, during the Easter season. For more information about Merton Priory and the Augustinian tradition in Britain, including the annual Augustinian service of Nones, contact the Friends of Merton Augustinian Priory, to whom we are indebted for the information they have provided on St Augustine and the Augustinians. A copy of the Merton Nones service for 2023 can be downloaded here. The original service at Merton included, as the community processed into their new priory, the ancient Christian Easter and Ascension hymn Salve Festa Dies. This link is to a recording of this joyful anthem celebrating the resurrection and ascension of the crucified Christ, while an English translation may be downloaded from this page.
The Merton Nones service (in English, not medieval Latin), adheres closely to the pattern used by present-day Augustinians, and has been said at Brinkburn several times over the past ten years, with an interruption for coronavirus in 2020 and 2021. Contact us for an update in future years. Whether or not we celebrate Nones at Brinkburn, we can still say the Merton Priory Nones privately, and the Salva Feste Dies plainchant is beautiful, even if most of us struggle with the Latin.