A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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3. THE ABBEY OF SHREWSBURY
Before the Norman Conquest a small wooden chapel dedicated in the name of St. Peter was built outside the east gate of Shrewsbury by Siward, son of Ethelgar, a wealthy Saxon. (fn. 1) Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester, who visited it c. 1070, called it the poorest of the city churches but, according to his biographer, he prophesied that it would become the greatest of them all. (fn. 2) When Roger of Montgomery received the county of Shropshire in 1071 he gave the church to one of his clerks, Odelerius of Orléans, father of the historian Orderic Vitalis, and some twelve years later he undertook to found an abbey there. A full account of the foundation comes from the pen of Orderic himself, who, as a boy of eight learning his letters from the parish priest of St. Peter's, was presumably an eye-witness of the first ceremony; (fn. 3) in its essentials his account is supported by Domesday Book and by the abbey charters. In February 1083 Earl Roger publicly pledged himself to found a new abbey, laying his gloves on the altar of St. Peter and granting the whole suburb outside the east gate, in the presence of Warin the sheriff, Picot de Say, and other vassals. Work was begun on a new stone church, and two monks were brought from Earl Roger's earlier foundation of Séez to supervise the masons and receive gifts. When the buildings were sufficiently advanced, probably late in 1087, (fn. 4) regular life began under Fulchred of Séez, the first abbot.
Most of the numerous monastic foundations made in the early years of the Norman settlement were dependencies of Cluny or of some Norman abbey; only a handful were independent Benedictine houses from the time of foundation. (fn. 5) One was the Conqueror's own foundation of Battle Abbey; two others, Chester and Shrewsbury, were founded in the chief towns of two great palatine earldoms. Shrewsbury was essentially the abbey of Earl Roger, founded either as an act of thanksgiving or to set the seal on his conquest of a county which, as Orderic notes, he had not acquired by hereditary right. (fn. 6) He himself, his vassals, and his clerks endowed it; he became a monk there on his death-bed and he was buried in the abbey church 'between the two altars'. (fn. 7) His clerk Odelerius, who had given up his house and rights in St. Peter's church at the foundation and later gave a hide in Charlton in Wrockwardine, (fn. 8) became a monk there and gave his second son as an oblate. (fn. 9) Warin the sheriff, who had married Earl Roger's niece, was one benefactor and Rainald, sheriff of Shropshire after Warin's death, was another. In 1086, before the first abbot had been appointed, the abbey held property valued at £46 18s. and assessed at just over 34 hides. (fn. 10) This included income from burgesses and mills in Shrewsbury, the lands at Boreton in Condover of the former church of St. Peter, the manors of Eyton, Emstrey, and Tugford, and eight churches: Baschurch, Berrington, Diddlebury, Hodnet, Morville, Great Ness, Stottesdon, and Wrockwardine. Soon afterwards Gerard de Tournai gave Betton in Hales, (fn. 11) and the Bishop of Chester's manor of Betton in Berrington seems to have been an early gift. (fn. 12) Before Earl Roger died he had added the churches of six more great manors: Condover, Donington, Edgmond, High Ercall, Tong, and Wellington, and two-thirds of his demesne tithes. Morville was a wealthy church with eight prebends (fn. 13) and some of the other Saxon churches had as much as two hides of land, (fn. 14) but the abbey had to wait for the reversion of some of the rectorial portions. Orderic described the endowment as moderate (fn. 15) and William of Malmesbury hinted that the monks of Shrewsbury lived on hope. (fn. 16) Roger's second son Hugh, Earl of Shrewsbury, continued to support the monastery until his death in 1098. (fn. 17) Other gifts between 1086 and 1098 included Oswestry church, granted by Rainald the sheriff and Hugh Fitz Warin, (fn. 18) Albrighton near Shrewsbury, (fn. 19) and Hordley. (fn. 20) Earl Roger's third son, Roger of Poitou, gave a fishery in Thelwall (Ches.), (fn. 21) and the latter's men added lands and tithes in Thelwall, Garston, Woolston, and Poulton (Lancs.), and the church of Kirkham (Lancs.) (fn. 22) A hide at Baschurch was given by Earl Roger's eldest son, Robert of Bellême, (fn. 23) after whose rebellion in 1102 the patronage of the abbey escheated to the Crown.
Thus less than twenty years after its foundation, and before all the gifts had taken effect, the abbey was deprived of the protection of its founders. Encroachments on the property began and holders of life-leases tried to make them hereditary. Siward, the Saxon founder of St. Peter's church, had surrendered all his claims in return for a life-grant of Cheney Longville, (fn. 24) but his son Aldred refused to relinquish the property until he had been paid £15; (fn. 25) the son of a canon of Morville tried to retain his father's prebend; though Richard de Belmeis (I), tenant of Betton Abbots, surrendered this estate on his death-bed (1127), his heirs tried for thirty years to retain it. (fn. 26) The abbey of Séez produced conflicting claims to property in Billingsley and probably also to rights of jurisdiction. (fn. 27) Some years passed before Henry I took effective action to protect Shrewsbury Abbey. He had issued some charters early in his reign: a grant of timber from the royal forests for the monastic buildings, (fn. 28) a confirmation of the freedom from toll granted by William II, (fn. 29) and a grant or confirmation of a threeday fair; (fn. 30) but his most important charters date from the time of Abbot Godfrey. In 1121 he issued a writ securing Godfrey in all the possessions that Fulchred had held (fn. 31) and in the same year he granted a general charter of confirmation. (fn. 32) He also granted the monopoly of multure in the town. (fn. 33) Local magnates continued their support: Hamo Peverel and his wife Sibyl gave Crudgington, Kynnersley, and Sleap, while lands in Loughton (Chetton), Wollerton (Hodnet), Norton in Hales, Pimley (Shrewsbury St. Mary), Booley (Stanton upon Hine Heath), Wigwig (Much Wenlock), and Winsley (Westbury) came from the Corbets, Fulk the sheriff, and others. (fn. 34) King Stephen granted a charter of confirmation (fn. 35) and the Empress Maud gave Aston in Wellington c. 1142. (fn. 36) Later gifts consisted of more distant properties: in Sutton and Mere (Staffs.), confirmed by Henry III; (fn. 37) in Isleham (Cambs.), from William FitzAlan, 1155-60; (fn. 38) Tadlow (Cambs.), from Fulk Fitz Warin, c. 1183, in return for the surrender of the abbey's claims to Alberbury church; (fn. 39) and salt-pans in Middlewich, Nantwich, and Droitwich, from Ranulf (II), Earl of Chester, William Malbank, and William FitzAlan. (fn. 40)
The abbey's estates, centred as they were on the churches and demesnes of Earl Roger and his men, were scattered throughout all Shropshire except the south-west, where Roger's territorial influence was weak; the only isolated property near this region, Siward's former manor of Cheney Longville, was exchanged before 1135 with Henry de Say for the manor of Brompton in Berrington near Shrewsbury. (fn. 41) Until at least 1291 manorial demesnes were retained in the principal groups of estates (fn. 42) and probably served as centres for the collection of rents from the outlying properties. Nearest to the abbey, with its fields in Abbey Foregate and Monkmoor, were the estates at Emstrey, Betton Abbots, Brompton, and Boreton in Condover, south-east of Shrewsbury, and at Albrighton to the north. A second group centred on Eyton and Aston in Wellington, with woods on the slopes of the Wrekin. Slightly north of these were the manors of Sleap and Crudgington, in the Tern valley, with outliers at Kynnersley and Osbaston. Further north Wollerton and Betton in Hales lay one each side of Market Drayton, while to the north-west the estates of the great churches at Baschurch and Oswestry were important centres for rent and tithe collection. In south-east Shropshire the former estates of Morville church were the focal point: Astley Abbots, where four carucates were in demesne in 1291, remained directly subject to the abbey after the establishment of Morville priory. Towards Clee Hill was Tugford, while Stottesdon was a centre for the advance of cultivation into the forest at Loughton and the collection of rents from Alveley. The more distant properties in Staffordshire, Cheshire, Lancashire and, later, Cambridgeshire were each presumably separately administered.
In the absence of records other than charters, methods of estate administration can only be surmised by comparison with similar houses. Shrewsbury was a medium-sized Benedictine house, owing no knight service and enjoying exemption from most secular burdens. Apart from building costs, which are likely to have been a drain on its resources for many years, running expenses were not high, and moderately efficient administration could keep the abbey out of difficulties during the 12th century. Other similar Benedictine monasteries in the West Midlands made a practice of farming out their manors as a whole to laymen for one, two, or three lives, or to groups of villagers, or to one of their own monks. (fn. 43) Shrewsbury certainly farmed out some properties to laymen, but was prepared to buy out claims to farms for more than one life to prevent them from becoming hereditary fee-farms. (fn. 44) It kept control of most of its properties, apart from a few such as Montford and Onibury where its claims were never effective, (fn. 45) and Billingsley, surrendered to the abbey of Séez in return for the recognition of Shrewsbury's claims in Lancashire. (fn. 46) The exceptions were part of Betton, which was granted to Hamo Lestrange, (fn. 47) Hordley, and half a hide in Petton. (fn. 48) Boreton was for a time in the hands of feoffees, but one half was recovered in the 13th century and the other half was surrendered in 1343 to endow a chantry in the abbey church. (fn. 49) There is no evidence that monks ever acted as farmers, and Shrewsbury established no dependent cells apart from Morville, where the initiative came from the bishop. From the 13th century at least some tithes and distant properties were farmed to other religious houses. (fn. 50)
The 13th-century charters show that the monks took an active part in enlarging their holdings in and around Shrewsbury. They had held a number of properties there, including orchards, a vineyard, and a sand-pit, from the early 12th century; (fn. 51) they proceeded to acquire by sale, gift, and mortgage dozens of small properties in Abbey Foregate and Coleham, and a smaller number in Castle Foregate, the market place, and elsewhere in the town. (fn. 52) Property worth more than £100 was purchased by Abbot Nicholas in the late 14th century. (fn. 53) In Monkmoor, where Helgot had given a virgate in Earl Roger's lifetime, the monks had a farm worth £6 13s. 4d. at the Dissolution. (fn. 54) During the 13th century the demesnes were certainly exploited directly under bailiffs and stewards. There is one clear reference to farm servants at Betton in Hales in 1256 and a forester was appointed there at the same date; (fn. 55) another forester was appointed at Loughton c. 1230. (fn. 56) The abbey showed some interest in new pasture rights (fn. 57) but outside Abbey Foregate little effort was made to enlarge the demesnes. Instead property was consolidated by exchange and purchase, and disputes about boundaries, tithes, mills, and fisheries were settled. (fn. 58) Rents were already important and the abbey sought where it could to attract new tenants. Baschurch stands out as a centre of growing population; a market and a four-day fair from 31 October were granted in 1256 (fn. 59) and in 1339 the abbot granted privileges to his tenants in the new town there. (fn. 60)
The assessment of 1291 (fn. 61) and incomplete minsters' accounts for parts of the estate in 1334, (fn. 62) 1355, and 1361 (fn. 63) indicate a sharp fall in demesne farming in the early 14th century. Twenty-one carucates in demesne were recorded on the Shropshire estates in 1291; by 1355 the number had fallen to twelve. At the latter date the demesnes of Baschurch, Emstrey, Brompton, Betton Abbots, Wollerton, Sleap, and Tugford were leased and those of Astley and Abbey Foregate had shrunk. A flock of 847 sheep was sheared in 1334: there are no other stock figures. The movement towards leasing continued: some demesnes were broken up into small tenant-farms and others leased to a single tenant, while service tenures were converted into copyholds. (fn. 64) For administrative convenience Emstrey, Betton Abbots, and Brompton were grouped together as the manor of Hernes, under a single bailiff. Elsewhere the old manorial units remained, the bailiff in each one being responsible for collecting all rents and dues payable there, including the profits from tithes. But individuals might act as bailiffs in two centres; in 1529 John Poyner was bailiff of Hernes and Albrighton, and also held Monkmoor on a long lease, while Eyton was held together with Tugford and Wollerton with Betton in Hales. Only a few acres within the precincts of the monastery and round the chief messuage at Betton Abbots were then kept in hand. Although some tithe corn was collected, food must have been purchased almost entirely in the Shrewsbury markets and in 1509 the abbot claimed that he spent 400 marks annually there in food and drink. (fn. 65)
In 1536-9 the bulk of the original endowment was still in the hands of the monks. Some Staffordshire and Lancashire properties were alienated at an early date (fn. 66) and a few properties were surrendered to newer foundations: in 1410 the advowson of Tong was sold to endow the new college there, (fn. 67) and in 1449 the revenues of Isleham and Tadlow (Cambs.) were granted to the Crown for the foundation of St. Nicholas (later King's) College, Cambridge. (fn. 68) In 1536 the total profits were assessed at £532 4s. 10d. and expenses of £97 19s. 5½d. were allowed: twothirds of the revenue was derived from temporalities and one-third from spiritualities. (fn. 69)
Revenues had been allocated to special purposes from the first. Tithes were frequently assigned to the building of the church, (fn. 70) the maintenance of the fabric, (fn. 71) the support of the poor, (fn. 72) or the needs of the monks: (fn. 73) an attempt, perhaps, to preserve the canonical division of such revenues. (fn. 74) In the 13th century revenues might be assigned to specific offices, including the almonry, the guardian of the works, or the kitchen of the monks, and several obedientiaries acquired revenues of their own. (fn. 75) The almoner received rents in Shrewsbury and a share of the tithes of Betton in Hales as well as 'almoner's orchard' in the Foregate. (fn. 76) Both the infirmary (fn. 77) and the kitchen (fn. 78) received gifts of lands and rents in Shrewsbury and Abbey Foregate. By a process of adaptation grants made for prayers for the souls of donors (fn. 79) were gradually allocated to the sacrist for candles, to the treasurer or kitchener for pittances, or to a particular altar or chantry in the abbey church. (fn. 80)
From the early 13th century, when a substantial legacy came from Henry of Norton, (fn. 81) the chapel of St. Mary was an important recipient of gifts and purchases. (fn. 82) It stood east of the high altar and contained the tomb of Earl Roger: (fn. 83) mass was often said there for visiting bishops, abbots, and other great persons. (fn. 84) A monk-warden was appointed; William of Norton, probably a brother of Henry of Norton, being the first known. (fn. 85) A chantry was established in 1343-4 for Ralph, Bishop of Bath and Wells, out of the revenues of Boreton. (fn. 86) In 1414 new property was acquired to endow a chantry for John Burley of Broncroft, to be served by a monk and chaplain in the chapel of St. Katherine. (fn. 87) The abbey had had a special devotion for St. Winifred from the time that her relics were brought from Basingwerk, c. 1138, and placed in the church. (fn. 88) Her cult increased in the 14th century and a new shrine was built in the time of Abbot Nicholas Stevens. At this time a group of monks and servants of the abbey forcibly carried off the bones of her confessor St. Beuno from Rhewl near Chirk and enclosed them in a shrine in the wall of the church, beneath two statues of St. Winifred and St. Beuno; the abbey was fined for the felony but kept the relics. (fn. 89) Henry V, who had planned to establish a chantry for one chaplain in honour of St. Winifred, died before he could carry out his intention, but in 1463 Abbot Thomas Mynde secured the appropriation of the church of Great Ness to support a monk chaplain to celebrate at the altar of St. Winifred for the souls of King Henry and his heirs. (fn. 90) The same abbot established a perpetual guild to maintain the chantry in 1487, allocating more monastic property, including the pastures of Gay Meadow and 'Le Connynger'. (fn. 91)
The abbey had only one dependent priory, the tiny cell established in Morville church at the instigation of the Bishop of Hereford for the provision of hospitality. (fn. 92) A number of other parish churches were appropriated for special purposes: (fn. 93) Baschurch between 1188 and 1198 for the needs of guests, pilgrims, and the poor; a portion of the tithes of Wellington in 1232, (fn. 94) in part to maintain hospitality; Condover 1312-15 to augment the monks' pittance. (fn. 95) Wrockwardine church was appropriated in 1333 to support two monks studying theology at a university (fn. 96) but, when its revenues were diminished by wars and other troubles and the abbey had several times been fined by the Benedictine general chapter for not having monks in the schools, (fn. 97) the obligation was reduced to the support of one monk scholar. (fn. 98) The church of Edgmond, which had been appropriated in 1254 (fn. 99) and carried a pension of 3 marks to the monks' kitchen, (fn. 100) was allocated in 1478 for the needs of the abbot's mensa. (fn. 101) Stottesdon (fn. 102) and Oswestry (fn. 103) churches were appropriated for the general needs of the monastery.
The external history of the abbey is mainly concerned with its relations with the Crown and the growing town of Shrewsbury. The records do not show whether the king, as patron, claimed any voice in 12th-century elections. There may have been some irregularity in the election of Herbert in 1128; (fn. 104) though he was blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury (fn. 105) he was deposed in a legatine council in Westminster in 1138. (fn. 106) A number of early abbots came from other monasteries: the first two were monks of Séez; Ralph, elected in 1175, was a monk of Canterbury; (fn. 107) Walter (1221-3) had been Prior of Leominster. (fn. 108)
After the disputed election of 1250, however, when the two claimants, Adam, sacrist of Shrewsbury, and William, subprior of Coventry, were set aside by the pope and Henry, monk of Evesham, was appointed by papal provision, (fn. 109) abbots were invariably elected from within the community at Shrewsbury. The king's part in the 1250-1 election dispute had been outwardly a passive one: he had accepted the first candidate Adam, (fn. 110) then, after the Bishop of Coventry had refused to confirm the election, he gave his assent to William, who had the bishop's approval. (fn. 111) A year later, after papal intervention, he received Henry as abbot. (fn. 112) Nevertheless the Tewkesbury annalist accused him of imposing Abbot William, (fn. 113) and the king reprimanded Henry for appealing to Rome during the case. (fn. 114) Abbot Henry's career was subsequently chequered. The king sent him on an embassy to Spain in 1257; (fn. 115) he fell sick on the way, but recovered and successfully completed his mission. (fn. 116) Within a few months of his return he had resigned his office as abbot. (fn. 117) He was still alive in 1277 but had abandoned his habit, and the Benedictine general chapter included him by name in a statute to apprehend fugitive monks. (fn. 118) Relations between the abbey and the Crown may have become strained at the time: certainly during the Barons' Wars the abbey favoured Simon de Montfort and had to seek the king's pardon in 1267. (fn. 119)
During vacancies the king had custody of the temporalities of the abbey, unless the prior and convent had fined for the custody, and he invariably retained the advowsons of churches at these times. (fn. 120) From the beginning of the 14th century retired royal servants were regularly despatched to the abbey as corrodiaries. (fn. 121) From 1333, in spite of protests from the abbey, the king successfully asserted his right as founder and patron to send a clerk, on the creation of each new abbot, to receive a pension until he could be beneficed. (fn. 122) Abbots were frequently employed on secular business, taking the assize of arms, (fn. 123) serving on embassies, (fn. 124) surveying Shrewsbury castle, (fn. 125) guarding hostages, (fn. 126) serving on commissions of the peace and of oyer and terminer. (fn. 127) They were summoned to and frequently attended great councils and parliaments from about 1261 (fn. 128) to the Dissolution. Before 1275 recurring business in London led Abbot Luke to buy a house in Bishopsgate: he assigned the revenues to the kitchen, reserving the right to lodge there for himself and his successors. (fn. 129) Abbot Richard Lye was actually attending Parliament at the time of his death in 1512. (fn. 130) The abbey sometimes lodged royal officials whose business took them to Shrewsbury and the presence of a copy of the Red Book of the Exchequer among the abbey's books during the 14th century (fn. 131) suggests that the Exchequer may have been in the abbey for a time when it came to Shrewsbury in 1277, (fn. 132) before moving to the castle. (fn. 133) In 1344 the abbot was instructed to store at the abbey royal revenues from the county. (fn. 134) It is almost certain that Richard II lodged there and that the Parliament of Shrewsbury was held there in January 1398. (fn. 135) Royal patronage brought some benefits, notably in grants of wood from the royal forests for building and fuel. (fn. 136) In 1227 the monks were exempted from payment of dues to sergeants of the peace in the Oswestry district (fn. 137) and their annual fair was extended to the vigil of St. Peter. (fn. 138) Most concessions were paid for: the abbot gave £100 in 1346 and an annual rent thereafter to have the 'haye' of Lythwood in place of a general right to take timber from the king's woods. (fn. 139)
Most of the free gifts that came to the abbey in the later Middle Ages were from local men, often tenants on its estates, or burgesses of Shrewsbury. Though there was friction with the town on questions of franchise, many individuals placed sons as monks in the abbey or sought burial there. The abbey's monopoly of multure was a constant cause of hostility until the citizens successfully erected mills during the Barons' Wars, when they took the king's side and won his favour. A judgement of 1267 allowed them to retain three horse mills and one windmill in the town and to build two watermills, dividing the profits with the abbey; afterwards they extended their rights by building illegal mills. (fn. 140) The fair of St. Peter was a matter for compromise: the burgesses agreed to its extension to the Vigil of St. Peter in return for a payment of 40s., which was reduced to 38s. in 1298, when three of the four islands which had risen in the Severn between the Stone Bridge and the Dominican friary were adjudged to the burgesses. (fn. 141) Two hundred years later disagreement over the bounds of the abbey's liberty led to two lengthy suits in the Star Chamber in 1504 and 1509, (fn. 142) of which the first settled the abbot's rights to his liberties and the second defined their territorial limits; during the dispute there were complaints of violence and injustice on both sides. (fn. 143)
There were always close personal ties between townsmen and the abbey: men like Robert Schitte, who in the early 13th century gave shops to support his anniversary, (fn. 144) or the burgess Hugh Fitz Hamon (d. 1252), who was the brother of both Nicholas Fitz Hamon, reeve of the Foregate, and Richard Fitz Hamon, prior of Shrewsbury Abbey (1244-58). (fn. 145) On the eve of the Dissolution Thomas Mytton, bailiff of Shrewsbury and one of the first members of the guild of St. Winifred, (fn. 146) may have been a kinsman of Richard Mytton, steward of the liberty of the Foregate; (fn. 147) both John Gittins of Shrewsbury, draper, and Richard Gittins of Shrewsbury, merchant of the Staple of Calais, received pensions and liveries in kind for many years. (fn. 148) The guild of St. Winifred brought together monks and burgesses in a common fraternity, and mutual interests at times drew abbey and town together: in June 1389 the bailiffs and commonalty of Shrewsbury assembled in the abbey in the presence of the Earl of Arundel, the abbot, and others, to draw up a composition concerning the government of the town. (fn. 149) After the Dissolution the townsmen welcomed the opportunity to acquire the abbey's franchise of the Foregate, (fn. 150) but they petitioned in vain that the abbey buildings might be preserved to receive the king or nobility of the realm on their visits to the town. (fn. 151) They were well aware of the value of the hospitality provided by the abbey.
The abbey found other benefactors and servants among the local gentry and the tenants of its estates. Stephen of Stanley (fn. 152) and Adam of Bispham, (fn. 153) who surrendered their estates in return for life corrodies, were tenants of the abbey, and John of Prestcott, reeve of the Foregate, came from the abbey's estate at Prescott in Baschurch: (fn. 154) they are representative of the 'guests of the house' and manorial servants of the 13th century. Of the local gentry the Charltons of Apley later became prominent as protectors and estate managers: John Charlton, lord of Powys, had intervened to secure the appropriation of Condover church in 1312, (fn. 155) and in the early 16th century four of the family were active as stewards, bailiffs, and rent-collectors, drawing pensions and liveries on the abbey's estates: Sir William Charlton of Apley, his son Thomas, and Richard and Francis Charlton. (fn. 156) Sir William's cousin John Salter acted in the abbey's interests before the Council of the Marches (fn. 157) and Richard Salter, steward of the abbey under the chief steward George, Earl of Shrewsbury, (fn. 158) may have been another cousin. There were less intimate ties with the Kynastons, two of whom owed their positions as bailiff and steward of Baschurch to recent court influence, (fn. 159) while William Poyner, gentleman, and John Poyner held office in the manor of Hernes. (fn. 160) Smaller men too were rising in the abbey's service: Thomas Gery, rent collector of the Foregate, probably came from a yeoman family on the abbey's estate at Astley Abbots. (fn. 161)
In the later Middle Ages the community numbered from twelve to eighteen monks, one of whom was normally absent as Prior of Morville, and each of the senior monks held several offices. (fn. 162) The abbot received papal licence in 1251 to wear the ring (fn. 163) and in 1397 to use the mitre, ring, and other pontifical insignia. (fn. 164) Few records of the monastic life survive, the archives and library alike having been lost. A list made in 1697 of the manuscripts of Henry Langley, descendant of the original purchaser of the abbey site, may consist largely or wholly of books from its library. If so there was a good collection of historical writings in addition to the standard works of the fathers and lives of saints normal in any Benedictine house. (fn. 165) The only work to survive from the pen of a Shrewsbury monk is the Life of St. Winifred by Robert, prior and later Abbot of Shrewsbury, written about 1140, (fn. 166) but the early monks from Séez and Earl Roger's household were certainly learned men, and after the maintenance of one or two monks in the Oxford schools became statutory in the 13th century the abbey produced a number of scholars. Thomas de Calton, Prior of Shrewsbury, was regent at Oxford in 1343. (fn. 167) Thomas Prestbury, elected abbot in 1399, was Chancellor of Oxford University 1409-12, and presided when the works of Wycliffe were burnt at Carfax. (fn. 168) His career brought him at times into political conflict: in April 1399 Richard II ordered him to be taken into custody 'for particular causes specially moving the king' and committed to the Abbot of Westminster for safe keeping. (fn. 169) When he was elected abbot four months later the king was already a captive, (fn. 170) a circumstance suggesting that Prestbury favoured the Lancastrians. He later intervened in an unsuccessful attempt to make peace before the battle of Shrewsbury. (fn. 171) Two other 15thcentury abbots, Thomas Ludlow (fn. 172) and Thomas Mynde, (fn. 173) were also graduates.
Early-14th-century visitations showed fairly sound discipline in the abbey. Bishop Northburgh's principal complaints, c. 1324, were that too many monks were absent from the refectory, that novices were allowed to leave the cloister before they had been fully instructed in the Rule, and that obedientiaries did not render account. (fn. 174) In 1354 the bishop found all well, except that the buildings on many manors needed repair through the evils of the times, not the fault of the monks, and that the monks were neglecting their newly-acquired 'haye' of Lythwood. (fn. 175) Later difficulties increased. War and the partial breakdown of justice led to repeated outbreaks of violence, in which the monks were sometimes the aggressors. (fn. 176) Serious dissensions in the community called for the intervention of the bishop in 1394 (fn. 177) and the visitors of the Benedictine provincial chapter in 1426. (fn. 178) The visitation records of the period 1518-25 (fn. 179) show that under Abbot Richard Baker Shrewsbury was not an orderly or united house: many debts were not paid, no proper accounts were rendered, and many of the buildings were in a serious state of dilapidation; lands were being leased without the consent of the chapter, the previous abbot having given a substantial holding free of rent to his sister Joan and her husband; (fn. 180) the infirmary was in ruins and the subprior, Thomas Butler, was accused of carrying off the glass for the windows of his chamber; the dormitory was unlit and in bad repair; the revenues of the warden of St. Katharine's chapel were inadequate for his obligations. There seems to have been little or no improvement under Baker's successor Thomas Butler, for similar allegations were made in a savage attack on the abbot by Thomas Madockes of London in 1536: there was no infirmary; the roof above the high altar was collapsing so that rain dripped into the choir; masses were neglected and no scholars kept at Oxford; the abbot was pulling down his houses and selling off the timber and tiles. (fn. 181) These charges may have been exaggerated, for an earlier statement by one of the monks that Butler was 'a most envious and factious man' shows that he could make enemies.
When the abbey was dissolved on 24 January 1540 a pension of £80 was assigned to the abbot and £87 6s. 8d. to the 17 monks. (fn. 182) The abbey was considered as one of the seats of a possible new bishopric, and the burgesses proposed that it might be kept as a residence for royal visitors or erected into a college or free school, (fn. 183) but finally it suffered the fate of the other Shropshire houses. After being leased to Thomas Forster in 1542 the site was sold in 1546 to Edward Watson and Henry Herdson, (fn. 184) who immediately conveyed it to the Shrewsbury tailor William Langley. (fn. 185) The western part of the church was preserved as the parish church of Holy Cross and the remaining buildings were either adapted to secular uses or pulled down. Considerable portions of the conventual buildings were still standing in 1743 but most have since been demolished. In particular the diversion of the LondonHolyhead road from the north to the south side of the church c. 1836 removed much of the remaining evidence of the layout.
A partial reconstruction of the abbey's plan can be made with the help of 17th- and 18th-century drawings. (fn. 186) The ten-acre site was bounded on the south and west by the Rea or Meole Brook, just before its junction with the Severn, and on the north and east by a high embattled wall, considerable parts of which were still standing in the early 19th century. From the north transept to the western tower the wall was lower where it bounded the street. The gatehouse stood near the tower, appearing in Buck's view, published in 1731, as a building of two or more stories with square or octagonal turrets, and gave access to the outer court. Buck's view shows a long two-storey range of chambers with small irregular windows on the north side, facing the street; they may have included the almonry. Some 70 yards south-west of the church, near the river, was a detached block of buildings, possibly the infirmary, of which some walls still remain. Two gable-ends, traces of round-arched windows, and a number of rough Norman arches were clearly visible when Blakeway described the abbey in the 1820s. The main cloister, which lay south of the church, bounded the east side of the outer court, one side measuring 84 feet long and 12 feet broad. Buckler's drawings show the west cloister range, a long buttressed building of red stone with an upper floor which may have been the monks' dormitory: it was destroyed c. 1836 when the main road was driven through the site of the cloister. The frater, on the south side, had already disappeared, apart from a handsome early-14th-century pulpit which still survives. It is an octagonal structure of grey stone originally incorporated in the south wall of the frater, three of its sides projecting externally as an oriel window and three internally as a refectory pulpit. It was approached by steps in the thickness of the wall. As the wall itself, of which only part of the base remains, is of red sandstone, it is possible that the pulpit was a later insertion. Each of the six exposed sides consists of a narrow arched opening with moulded jambs and a trefoil head, the whole being surmounted by a vaulted roof. The internal projection is the more elaborately treated. It rests on a moulded corbel and within the three arches the sides of the pulpit are carved with ogee-headed panels containing representations of the Annunciation, St. Peter with St. Paul, and St. Winifred with St. Beuno. The central boss of the vault represents the Crucifixion. There is no trace of the chapter-house, which was presumably in the eastern range of the cloister. South of the refectory were other buildings, one of which had a high gable: the abbot's lodging and a guest hall were probably situated there.
The church (fn. 187) itself suffered severely from neglect after the Reformation. Its original dimensions have been roughly calculated from the lead on the roof: it may have measured 302 feet internally from west to east, including the west tower and the Lady Chapel, which was 61 feet less than Wenlock and a modest length for a church of its importance. Only the nave, side aisles, porch, and west tower were preserved as the parochial church of the Holy Cross, and after the removal of the lead even this part suffered decay, so that the roof fell in. The Norman clerestory was still in existence in the 17th century but it was later taken down and the roof was rebuilt immediately above the triforium. Much early Norman work survives in the church, notably the short thick piers in the eastern half of the nave and the remnants of the original transepts. Considerable rebuilding at the west end took place in the 14th century. Sandford's description of the lost heraldic glass shows that the great west window was glazed c. 1388 in the time of Abbot Nicholas Stevens, who may also have been responsible for other 14thcentury alterations. Fragments of a stone screen of about the same date suggest that the chapel of St. Winifred stood on the north side of the nave, below the pointed arch of the arcade which faces the north porch. Stones with three sculptured figures, representing St. John the Baptist, St. Winifred, and St. Beuno, were found in a garden and have been restored to their original position in the screen. The present chancel and clerestory, as well as much other work in the church, date from two major restorations in the later 19th century.
In 1540 the abbey had two chimes, each of five bells, one in the western and one in the central tower. The largest bell, weighing 34 cwt. and known as St. Winifred's bell, was in use until it cracked in 1730 and was then melted down.
Abbots of Shrewsbury
Ranulf, elected 1138 (?), occurs until c. 1147. (fn. 194)
Hugh de Lacy, occurs between 1190 and c. 1220. (fn. 201)
Henry, elected 1223, died or resigned 1244. (fn. 204)
Adam, elected 1244, resigned 1250. (fn. 205)
William, elected 1250, election quashed by the pope, 1251. (fn. 206)
Henry, provided 1251, resigned 1258. (fn. 207)
Thomas, elected 1259, died 1266. (fn. 208)
William of Upton, elected 1266, resigned 1271. (fn. 209)
Luke of Wenlock, elected 1272, resigned 1279. (fn. 210)
John of Drayton, elected 1279, died 1292. (fn. 211)
William of Muckley, elected 1292, died 1333. (fn. 212)
Adam of Cleobury, elected 1333, died 1355. (fn. 213)
Henry de Alston, elected 1355, died 1361. (fn. 214)
Nicholas Stevens, elected 1361, died 1399. (fn. 215)
John Hampton, elected 1426, died 1433. (fn. 218)
Thomas Ludlow, elected 1433, died 1459. (fn. 219)
Thomas Mynde, elected 1460, died 1498. (fn. 220)
Richard Baker alias Marshall, elected 1512, resigned 1528. (fn. 223)
Thomas Butler, elected 1529, surrendered 1540. (fn. 224)
An impression of the abbey's pointed oval seal ad causas is attached to a deed of 1530. (fn. 227) It measures 3 × 2 in. and shows the standing figure of St. Peter, mitred and holding a key. Legend, lombardic: