Æthelburh of Barking

Abbess of Barking
Died late 7th century
Feast 11 October

Saint Æthelburh (died after 686) or Ethelburga, founder and first Abbess of the dual monastery of Barking, was the sister of Earconwald, Bishop of London.


The main source for Æthelburh is Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum which recounts the foundation of Barking, early miracles there, and Æthelburh's death (Book IV, Chapters 6 to 10). Bede describes Æthelburg as "upright in life and constantly planning for the needs of her community".

Some time before he became bishop of London in 675, Earconwold founded a double abbey at Barking for his sister, and a monastery at Chertsey for himself. Barking appears to have already been established by the time of the plague in 664.[1]

A charter (Sawyer 1171), believed genuine and drafted by Bishop Eorcenwald in the reign of King Sebbi of Essex (reigned c. 664c. 694), records a grant of lands in Essex by a certain Æthelred to Æthelburh and Barking. This is dated to between 686 and 688.

The 9th century Old English Martyrology records a vision, recounted by a nun of Barking, who saw Æthelburh being drawn up into heaven by golden chains. She was buried at Barking. The Old English Martyrology records her feast day as 11 October. Her successor as abbess was Hildelith.

Ethelburga founded the church of All Hallows Berkyngechirche (now known as All Hallows Barking or All Hallows by the Tower in the City of London on land given to her by her brother Eorconwald c. 675.

The church of St Ethelburga the Virgin in the City of London is dedicated to her. It survived the Great Fire and the Blitz but was extensively damaged in an IRA attack in 1993; however, it has been restored and is now a centre for international reconciliation.[2]

Other churches dedicated to Æthelburh include the Grade II listed St Ethelburga's at Great Givendale, near Pocklington in the East Riding of Yorkshire.[3]


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