Peverel, the alleged son of William the Conqueror, was at Hastings and rewarded by the Conqueror with large land holdings in the Midlands. As well as founding Lenton Priory in Nottinghamshire he also founded St James’ and provided it with land near Duston as well as the mill and advowson of Duston. The advowson means that the monks had the right to appoint the priest at Duston. The abbey grew so that it held the advowson of ten churches as well as farms and other land holdings.
The abbey founded at the beginning of the twelfth century was for the black canons of St Augustine but it wasn’t until 1173 that the buildings in stone were completed. Building work continued into the next century with Henry III supplying two oaks for the building of the church tower. The king also granted rights to an annual fair which continued after the Dissolution in Northampton itself. In 1291 the abbey took control of landholdings outside their walls that belonged to the exiled jewish community and a new building project began.
On 19 May 1536 Cromwell’s commissioners arrived to find the monastery in good repair, the abbot a godly man and the black canons all doing what they should have been doing – so not music to Cromwell’s ears. The king believed that the commissioners had been bribed and although it was valued at more than £200 a year came under the scope of the SuppressionAct of 1536. The abbot died the same year but the canons paid the fine that gained them the right to remain open. It was an eye-watering £333 6s 8d. Eventually Dr Layton arrived at the end of Augst 1538 and the surrender document was signed. Abbot Brokden who oversaw the final years of the abbey was paid a pension of £11 6s 8d and gained the rectory of Watford.
The area where the abbey once stood is still known as St James’ End. The Abbey Works was built on the site of the abbey so there’s not much in the way of evidence above ground.
‘Houses of Austin canons: The abbey of St James, Northampton’, in A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2, ed. R M Serjeantson and W R D Adkins (London, 1906), pp. 127-130. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/northants/vol2/pp127-130 [accessed 20 July 2021].