A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.
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20. THE ABBEY OF REVESBY
The abbey of Revesby was founded in 1142 by William de Romara, lord of Bolingbroke, and son of Lucy countess of Chester by a former husband. (fn. 1) William de Romara himself ended his days as a monk, and was buried in the house of his foundation. (fn. 2) The first monks of Revesby were sent from Rievaulx by St. Ailred. (fn. 3) The benefactions of the founder were confirmed and increased by his grandson and by Ranulf earl of Chester. (fn. 4)
The house was fairly well endowed, and even at the last did not come under the first Act of Suppression: but it has not a very eventful history. In 1216 a certain brother of Revesby was arrested for having taken part in the war against King John: but he was released when it was found that he had taken the habit before the war began. (fn. 5) There are entries on the Close Rolls relating to this house which serve to show some of the burdens of royal patronage. Here, as elsewhere, the second and third Edwards were wont to send their old servants to be maintained in the monastery. In 1322, when another of these unwelcome pensioners appeared, the abbot and convent ventured to send him back, and to plead with the king that their house was in great need and poverty by reason of the prolonged barrenness of their lands and the death of nearly all their stock; but Ed ward II considered the excuse insufficient, and returned the man again to the abbey to be kept for at least two years. (fn. 6) Another duty of the abbot was to provide a strong horse to carry the roll of chancery. In 1322 the one sent for this purpose was found ' insufficient and useless for the said work, on account of various infirmities in his limbs.' He was therefore sent back to the abbey, with orders to provide another. (fn. 7)
In 1335 the escheator seized certain lands acquired in mortmain without licence, but was ordered to release them, as the abbot and convent had already been pardoned on this account. (fn. 8) The monks had a further cause of distress in 1340. Wool had been bought of the abbot by the king to the value of £115, with a promise of payment in the course of the year: but time passed and the debt still remained standing. In 1340 the abbot besought the king to advance at least a part of the money, as his house was much depressed by the loss of so much wool without recompense, The slender sum of £ 14 14s. 7d. was paid by the tithe-collector in answer to this petition, (fn. 9) and perhaps the rest may have come in later; but as the Cistercians depended almost entirely on their wool for their sustenance, it may be understood that the loss was a serious one at the time. In 1382 the abbot received a licence to acquire the manor of Mareham in mortmain, (fn. 10) as a help to repair the fallen fortunes of the house at this time.
Nothing further is known of the history of Revesby until 1527, when the inhabitants of Sibsey and Stickney brought a suit against the abbot for not repairing the causeway and bridge of Northdyke. They stated that for time out of mind the abbot's predecessors had been liable to repair this bridge, over which all their trade passed to Boston, and that lands had been granted to the abbey for this very purpose by William de Romara in the time of King Henry II. The jurors found that the claim of the people was just, and that the abbot had a free tenement . ' where the hermitage stands by the bridge;' and here he used to place a hermit or ' some other sufficient man' to see to the repairs. (fn. 11) This suit certainly provides us with a curious insight into the possible uses of a hermit.
It was asserted by one of the witnesses after the Lincoln Rebellion that monks of Revesby, as well as those of Bardney and Kirkstead, were seen in the field among the insurgents ' (fn. 12) but none of them was brought to trial.
The last notice of the house that we possess is in 1538, when the Duke of Norfolk wrote to Cromwell that it was in great ruin and decay. ' The father of the house,' he said, ' is a good fatherly man, but no husband,' and it would be better to advance the cellarer, a kinsman of Sir Thomas Russhe, to be abbot; Dr. London was of the same opinion. (fn. 13) This last notice is the only one which touches on the interior history of the house. We may infer from it that there was no fault to find with its moral condition, but its revenues had been latterly somewhat mismanaged.
The original endowment of Revesby included the lands of Revesby, Thoresby, and Scithesby, with the church of the last place and that of Hagnaby. (fn. 14) In 1291 the abbot had temporalities in the deaneries of Horncastle, Hill, Bolingbroke, Candleshoe, Grimsby, Walshcroft, Holland, Gartree, Aslackhoe, Corringham and Lawres, valued at £294 11s. 8d. (fn. 15) In 1303 the abbot held one knight's fee in Claxby, one-third in Fillingham and two-thirds at Tetford, threequarters in Salmonby, Scrafield and Hameringham, and smaller fractions in Walesby, Hagworthingham, and Otby. (fn. 16) In 1346 and 1428 the returns are almost the same as in 1303. (fn. 17) In 1384 the king confirmed, at the request of the abbot and convent, who had acquired the manor of Mareham, the grant of 20 Edward I to Robert de Bavent of a weekly market and a yearly fair there. (fn. 18) The yearly revenue of the abbey was valued in 1534 at £1287 2s. 4½d, clear, including the rectories of Frodingham and Theddlethorpe, and the chapels of St. Laurence and St. Osyth, as well as the manors of Mareham-le-Fen, Stickney, Sibney, Hameringham, Hagnaby, East Keal, Toynton, Claxby, and Marvis Enderby. (fn. 19)
There are no Ministers' Accounts for this house. At the time of dissolution alms were distributed annually to the value of 231. for the soul of Master Edward Heven; 4s. were given annually to the poor of Frodingham, and to two poor persons also by the will. of a former archdeacon of Lincoln.
Abbots Of Revesby
William, (fn. 20) first abbot, 1142
Walo, (fn. 21) occurs 1155
Hugh, (fn. 22) occurs 1176 and 1200
Ralf, (fn. 23) occurs 1208
Elias, (fn. 24) occurs 1216 and 1231
Matthew (fn. 25)
William, (fn. 26) occurs 1255
Walter, (fn. 27) occurs 1257 and 1263
Robert, (fn. 28) occurs 1275
Henry, (fn. 29) occurs 1291
Walter, (fn. 30) elected 1294
Philip, (fn. 31) occurs 1294
Henry, (fn. 32) elected 1301, occurs 1314
Henry, (fn. 33) occurs 1385
John de Toft, (fn. 34) occurs 1390
Thomas, (fn. 35) (Stickney) occurs 1504-32
Robert Styk or Banbury, (fn. 36) occurs 1536
John, (fn. 37) occurs 1537
The pointed oval common seal of Revesby (fn. 38) represents the Virgin with crown standing in a carved niche, with pinnacled canopy and tabernacle work at the sides, the Child on the left arm. Outside in the field on each side a wavy branch. In base, under a carved arch, St. Laurence kneeling to the left holding a gridiron. The seal is of the style of the fourteenth century.
A pointed oval twelfth-century (fn. 39) seal of an abbot represents a dexter hand and vested arm issuing, from the right and grasping a pastoral staff, between four estoiles.
A pointed oval seal of Abbot Henry (fn. 40) shows the Virgin with crown, seated in a canopied niche with tabernacle work at the sides, the Child on the right arm, in the left hand a sceptre. A corbel of masonry in base.