United Benefice of St.Mary, Higham Ferrers, and St. John, Chelveston
The Bede House
The Bedehouse was founded by Archbishop Chichele in 1422 and built in the churchyard next to the Vicarage.
It was to be a dwelling for 12 poor men over the age of 50 to live in "close company" with the support of one woman to look after them. In return they were expected to spend a lot of time in prayer, either in the church or in the attached chapel. They received 7 pence a week as wages with which to buy their food and they were provided with a barber and firewood. They also received cloth for a gown at Christmas and were not allowed to go out begging.
The Bedehouse became uninhabited by the end of the 16th century and the Bedesmen left to live in houses outside. The building continued to deteriorate until it was restored by Earl Fitzwilliam in 1854 after which it was used, as it still is today, as a community hall.
The Bedesmen still exist and appear on ceremonial occasions in the Borough in their black cloaks with a red star emblem and have an annual service followed by dinner on St. Thomas's Day.
The Bede House today
The Bedehouse today is still used as a community hall, especially by the various Guiding groups, and is available to hire for parties, concerts, wedding receptions etc. In the winter there is the optional extra of a log fire!
It was given a further restoration a few years ago and this included the addition of a modern kitchen of catering standards and toilets. The building is fully accessible for the disabled and can accommodate approximately 120 people.
Free WiFi Broadband is now available in the main hall. See notices in the hall for the password.
It may be booked by emailing the Parish Office or by calling 01993 741140 on Thursday mornings between 9.30 and 12 noon.