Medieval people believed that when they died their souls were punished for their sins in Purgatory before being allowed into heaven. But if they did good works, and people prayed for them, they could get to heaven more quickly. William d’Aubigny was a rich and powerful landowner who worked for the king. Eventually he became Pincerna (butler) to King Henry I, which was like being a minister in the royal government.
Founding a monastery was a ‘good work’ for God, and William hoped that he, his family and descendants would benefit for ever from the prayers and masses of the monks. So he granted his new monastery lands and estates which provided a generous income to support them. He also built a splendid church where the monks spent up to eight hours a day in prayer and worship, known as Opus Dei (the work of God). Their main work at other times was copying manuscripts, managing the monastery’s estates, and looking after guests and the poor.
William d’Aubigny also wished to provide for the people of Wymondham. He decided that his new church should also serve as a Parish Church for the townspeople. So, once the east end of the church was finished for the monks, a long nave was built for the parishioners and their old Saxon church was knocked down.