North of the Market Square the main thoroughfare becomes College Street, and in the narrowest part stands what remains of the college founded in 1422 by Archbishop Chichele, - fifteen years before he bought the Oxford site on which he erected All Souls College.
The College at Higham housed twenty members consisting of eight chaplains or canons, four clerks, six choristers, a song master and a grammar master.
It was built round a quadrangle and covered a considerable space. The College with other monastic buildings, was surrendered to King Henry VIII on 15th July 1542 and he dissolved the College. An old print shows that by 1729 it was already largely in ruin.
The Rectory was granted to Robert Dacres, a member of the Kings Council and later the Lords of the Manor were appointed as follows:-
House of Ferrers, Earl of Derby, Edmund the second son of Henry III, Earls of Derby, Lancaster, Lincoln, Leicester, - 1725 Thomas Dacres - 1733 Thomas, Earl of Malton - 1752 Charles, Marquis of Rockingham - 1803 Earl Fitzwilliam whose descendants continued until 1985.
The main surviving fragment of structure is the gabled front with its Tudor door and quaint gargoyles, and windows with square hood moulding. Above the door are empty niches that once held statues of the patron saints of the College which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, St Thomas of Canterbury and St Edward the Confessor.
After Henry this precious relic new days of dire humiliation - days when farm animals rooted among the walls - During later years the Southern section of the college became "The Saracen's Head" Inn and the area was also occupied by farmers. However a happier future is now assured. In 1948 King George VI as the Duchy of Lancaster handed the college to the Ministry of Works for preservation as an ancient monument and now comes under the shelter of English Heritage. Now every stone is examined and made secure and all extraneous fabric has been trimmed away.
The gardens and grounds are open to the public from the College Street entrance until dusk each day.
At the rear of the College runs Saffron Road which bears reference to the fact that Saffron was grown and harvested by the Monks at the College, in what are now the playing fields but were originally an additional close of 4 acres of land. This was known as Saffron Close and was granted to the College for the growing of food for the members of the College. Acres of Saffron Crocuses in bloom must have been quite a sight to behold.
At the far side of this meadow can be found the Saffron Moat, but to locate this old fishing place (in all probability carp for the monks Friday meals) you would have to enquire for the "Cup and Saucer" by which name the ancient fish ponds are colloquially known because of their shape, which is original. It consists of an inner pond surrounded by a moat. Both would have contained water supplied by drainage ditches from the adjoining Saffron Meadows. Small fish and spawn would have been kept in the inner pond and the larger fish for the table in the outer. The ponds are a wildlife refuge, many species of birds roost in the trees and frogs and newts breed in the water.
Return to the introduction »
Move on to College Street »