A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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HOUSE OF CISTERCIAN MONKS
7. THE ABBEY OF BUILDWAS
The abbey of Buildwas was founded in the last year of Henry I's reign as a daughter-house of Savigny by Roger de Clinton, Bishop of Chester, on land belonging to his see. From the first the dedication was in honour of St. Mary and St. Chad. (fn. 1) After Savigny and its dependencies were united with the Cistercian Order in 1147 the traditional dates of their foundations were carefully preserved in order to determine seniority at the Cistercian chapters; according to the oldest lists the foundation-date for Buildwas was 8 August 1135. (fn. 2) Bishop Roger's foundation charter survives only in an incomplete copy (fn. 3) but a confirmation of Richard I states that his gift included the site of the monastery at Buildwas, the land of Meole near Shrewsbury with the burgesses belonging to it and the due called 'greffegh', churchscot from the hundreds of Wrockwardine and Condover, and a man in the territory of Lichfield. (fn. 4) At this date Savigniac houses were multiplying in England and one recent foundation was at Combermere in Roger's own diocese, but the precise reasons for his choice of this order are as obscure as the early history of the house. Within a few years his gifts were confirmed by King Stephen, an outstanding patron of the mother abbey. Savigny was situated in Stephen's Norman county of Mortain and he took a leading part in promoting the spread of the order in England, until, when western Normandy was overrun by Geoffrey of Anjou, Savigny itself passed into the territory of his enemies. (fn. 5) Stephen's confirmation, which was dated at the siege of Shrewsbury in 1138, released the manor of Buildwas, assessed as one hide, from all secular dues and obligations. (fn. 6) Another grant which belonged to the period of origin is Philip of Belmeis's gift of land at Ruckley in Tong, made before 1147 while Buildwas was still a dependency of Savigny; in return for this Philip and his wife and family were to be perpetually commemorated in the prayers of all Savigniac houses. (fn. 7) Possibly, too, William FitzAlan's gift of Little Buildwas, just across the River Severn from the abbey, was made at this time. (fn. 8) Very little is known of the first twenty years of the abbey's history. The name of the first abbot, Ingenulf, is known only from the foundation charter and the witness-lists of one or two episcopal charters. (fn. 9) The abbey was small and poor, for even if the monks had acquired Little Buildwas in this period most of the manor was subinfeudated and they received only light serjeanty services from the tenant. No trace of permanent buildings earlier than the 1150s has been discovered; the monks presumably lived in temporary wooden quarters. Expansion began, however, soon after 1150. Under a remarkable abbot, Ranulf, who ruled the house from 1155 until his death in 1187, the abbey was raised to a position of prominence among the Savigniac houses in the Cistercian Order.
Nothing is known of the family or background of Abbot Ranulf, but his energy and ability have left their mark on every aspect of the history of the abbey. (fn. 10) The church, cloisters, and chapter-house of Buildwas appear, both from their design and from details of decoration, to have been built during his abbacy. (fn. 11) Of some forty surviving books known to have belonged to the library at Buildwas over a dozen were written in the 12th century. Two fine volumes, a glossed Leviticus (1176) and a volume of St. Augustine (1167), are dated during his rule (fn. 12) and some books were already being written in the scriptorium at Buildwas. (fn. 13) The acquisition of property continued, A general confirmation of Richard I, issued just two years after the death of Abbot Ranulf, gave immunity from all secular dues and listed, in addition to the early acquisitions, gifts of land in Brockton (Staffs.) from William FitzAlan's vassal Gerald of Brockton; half of Walton (Staffs.) from Walter Fitz Herman; half of Hatton in Shifnal from Adam Traynel of Hatton and lands at nearby Cosford; lands in Cauldon (Staffs.) and Ivonbrook (Derb.); and a messuage in the Foregate at Chester given by Bishop Richard Peche. (fn. 14) This last gift was probably connected with the growth of the authority of Buildwas over other abbeys of the same order in Wales and Ireland.
No daughter houses were founded directly from Buildwas. It is named as a house without dependents in a bull of Anastasius IV (1154), which lists the Savigniac houses with their filiations. (fn. 15) According to the same list Basingwerk (Flints.) and St. Mary's, Dublin, were filiations of Combermere, but in 1156 St. Mary's was assigned to Buildwas as a daughter house according to Cistercian customs by the general chapter of Savigny (fn. 16) and Basingwerk was similarly subjected in the following year. (fn. 17) This decision was confirmed by the Abbot of Savigny and, despite several later attempts to undo it by the subject abbeys and by Savigny itself, it was upheld each time by the general chapter of Cîteaux. Abbot Ranulf regularly visited Ireland to discharge his duties, from at least 1171 and possibly earlier. Probably the grant of a messuage in Chester, made by Bishop Peche c. 1161, was designed to provide a lodging for the abbot on his journeys. He certainly went by way of Chester; the Pipe Roll of 1183-4 records a payment by the sheriff of Cheshire 'for the passage of the abbot of Buildwas to Ireland on the king's service'. (fn. 18) From the time of Strongbow's expedition to Ireland he certainly combined furthering the king's interests with discharging his monastic duties. He was the king's chief representative at the Synod of Cashel in 1172, when the Irish bishops accepted the customs of the English Church, (fn. 19) and he witnessed charters of Archbishop Cumin in 1183 (fn. 20) and of John as Lord of Ireland in 1185. (fn. 21) He showed his sound judgement by refusing to overstrain the resources of his house. In 1171-2 Strongbow's uncle Harvey Montmorency offered Abbot Ranulf lands at Dunbrody (Co. Wexford) for the foundation of a new Cistercian house. The abbot sent over Alan, a lay brother whom he trusted, to report on the suitability of the site. Alan's report was discouraging. He had, he declared, found a wilderness where he took refuge in a hollow oak tree whilst surveying the lands as speedily as possible; he pronounced the property barren and the inhabitants barbarous. Consequently no colony of monks was sent from Buildwas and in 1182 Ranulf renounced all rights in Montmorency's gift and all claims to patronage over the abbey to be founded at Dunbrody in favour of his better-placed daughter house, St. Mary's, Dublin. (fn. 22) Later abbots revived a claim to the visitation of Dunbrody but they had nothing but trouble from it.
When Abbot Ranulf died on his way to the general chapter at Citeaux in the summer of 1187 (fn. 23) he left a monastic community that had been transformed during the thirty and more years of his administration. Later abbots are more shadowy figures. but the quiet prosperity of the house that had characterized his rule continued to the end of the 13th century. Although the revenues were never very large the economy was sound. Chance and the will of the donors probably determined the location of the earliest grants. During the 13th century new lands were acquired from the leading local gentry, lesser freeholders, and burgesses of Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth by purchase as well as by gift, and there are some signs of an attempt to group the estates for convenience of administration. The original endowment had provided the monks with a central grange at Buildwas and one at Meole near Shrewsbury, which had had no settlers at the time of Domesday (fn. 24) and was probably mainly pastoral. The gifts of land in Ruckley provided the nucleus of what was to become one of the abbey's most important outlying estates. Situated on the outskirts of Brewood Forest on the borders of Shropshire and Staffordshire, it gave the monks an interest in a region that was of great potential for pasture farming. Hatton and Cosford were adjacent to Ruckley to the south. Brockton Grange, which lay some five miles to the north, beyond Lizard and Blymhill and just in Staffordshire, provided, with Walton Grange, the nucleus of a fourth group of estates. Caldon (Staffs.) and Ivonbrook (Derb.) were more distant outliers. Later developments took the form of the acquisition of new demesnes and pasture rights near to existing granges and of rents in areas more remote but still convenient for collection. One new centre of cultivation was acquired in south Shropshire and one outlying grange was allowed to pass to another monastic house.
Near to the home grange the most important acquisition was Harnage Grange, in Cound, which was obtained from Gilbert de Lacy, lord of the adjoining manor of Cressage, early in the 13th century. (fn. 25) Gilbert's charter describes the transfer as a gift but, since when he died in 1234 he was heavily in debt, (fn. 26) it seems unlikely that he was in a position to make a free gift; either a sale or a mortgage may lie behind the transaction. Gilbert's charter included rights of pasture for oxen, cows and pigs, free passage for the lay brothers and servants of Harnage going to wash their sheep in the Severn, and the right to load their barges there. In Cressage itself the abbot could secure no more than a lease of part of the manor for 19 years from 1253, for which he was prepared to pay 100 marks. (fn. 27) About 1250 the monks, with the agreement of their neighbour Philip of Benthall, had a ditch dug below Benthall Edge to fix the boundary between their home grange and Philip's land. Philip also gave them passage over his land for stone, coal (carbones), and timber. (fn. 28) In securing this the monks may have had in mind the rights that Philip of Broseley had granted them in his quarries of Broseley a little earlier. (fn. 29) Their acquisitions immediately north of the river came later. They received Leighton church from the lords of that manor in 1282 (fn. 30) and subsequently certain lands and meadows, partly in exchange for tithe rights. (fn. 31) In Little Buildwas they secured in 1302 effective possession of the manor from the descendants of Alan of Buildwas, who had previously owed only a serjeanty service. (fn. 32)
Throughout the century they steadily consolidated their rights in the granges of Hatton and Ruckley, adding lands and pasture rights in Cosford, Donington, Upton in Shifnal, and Ryton, (fn. 33) so that by 1291 this group of properties was one of the most profitable parts of their estates. They acquired, in a series of purchases, almost all of Stirchley manor, (fn. 34) possibly to provide a halting-place between the home grange and the property in east Shropshire. Further to the north they were interested only in rents, not demesnes. Small properties that came to them in Longdon upon Tern were leased before the end of the 13th century (fn. 35) and when in 1287 they simplified their estate administration by parting with the isolated grange of Caldon (Staffs.) to the Abbot of Croxden in exchange for his manor of Adeney in Edgmond, (fn. 36) they made no attempt to cultivate the demesnes of Adeney, which may already have been in the hands of the tenants. (fn. 37)
Caldon was the only grange to be exchanged; elsewhere the properties were enlarged. The lands near Shrewsbury were extended by the piecemeal acquisition of the manor of Bicton, to form a new grange held under Shrewsbury St. Chad. (fn. 38) Outside the county further grants were received in Walton and Blymhill (Staffs.), (fn. 39) and the renting of pasture for 400 sheep in Bonsall (Derb.) was presumably connected with the grange of Ivonbrook. (fn. 40) A new complex of estates was built up in south Shropshire, on the Stiperstones and in the hill country east of Church Stretton. It originated with grants in Wentnor from 1198 onwards, made by the Corbets of Caus. Buildwas received first the mill of Wentnor, then the whole of Ritton, high on the Stiperstones, and finally the adjoining slopes of 'Hulemore' and Kinnerton, in the valley north of Wentnor. (fn. 41) This estate became the site of at least two new granges. The Stretton lands were less important: assembled from miscellaneous modest gifts they amounted to only one hide in Ragdon, a half virgate in Hope Bowdler, and small rents in both places. (fn. 42)
All these lands enjoyed the usual Cistercian immunities from secular obligations; Richard I's original charter of privilege (fn. 43) was confirmed by Edward I and later upheld in Quo Warranto inquiries. (fn. 44) They carried too some of the marks of a Cistercian estate in the grange organization and direct exploitation by the community and their servants, but the scanty references to lay brethren and the cellarer are not enough to indicate just how the granges were managed. (fn. 45) The home grange of Buildwas at least seems to have been completely inclosed, as Cistercian statutes prescribed. (fn. 46) The assessment for the Taxatio of 1291 (fn. 47) shows an estate in which demesne cultivation was important and stock farming paramount. Temporalities in Shropshire and Staffordshire were assessed at £113 19s. 5d., of which £69 (60.5 per cent.) came from profits of stock and £23 (20.5 per cent.) from arable demesne farming. Rents, mills, and profits of courts made up the remainder. Stock was enumerated in the returns only under Hereford diocese, which included Wentnor and Kinnerton; here the monks had 32 cows, 300 sheep, 10 goats, and their young. Grants of pasture rights in other parts of the estates sometimes mention cattle as well as sheep, but in the absence of figures in is impossible to tell whether the monks were merely breeding ploughbests for their own demesnes or sending cattle to market. Wool was not included in the valuation. They were certainly exporting wool and it must have been an important item in their revenue. The right to wash sheep in the Severn at Cressage and load barges there (fn. 48) suggests that wool was being shipped downriver to Bristol and Buildwas was one of the abbeys which was selling wool to Flemish merchants in 1264. (fn. 49) It is the only one of the Shropshire monasteries to figure in Pegolotti's list of monasteries supplying wool to Italian merchants at a slightly later date; and its wool fetched a good price. Pegolotti reckoned its annual output at 20 sacks, valuing it at 20 marks a sack for the best fleeces, 12 marks for the middle quality, and 10 marks for broken wool. (fn. 50) If these figures are reliable the gross profits of the wool must have been between £150 and £200, which is more than the estimated annual value of all the other temporalities put together. All the figures, however, are rough and imperfect (fn. 51) and it is quite possible that Buildwas, in common with many other Cistercian houses, was buying wool from other producers to add to its own clip.
Possibly tithe wool made up a part of the total, (fn. 52) though very little of the revenue of Buildwas came from this source. True to Cistercian precepts, it seems to have avoided the acquisition of churches and tithes, at least during the first century of its existence, (fn. 53) and, even when relaxations of the statutes became common, spiritualities never played more than a minor part in the economy. In 1535 these were assessed at only £6: £4 for the farm of the tithes of Leighton and £2 for the farm of those of Hatton. (fn. 54) The church of Leighton was not acquired and appropriated until the end of the 13th century and there is no early reference to tithes elsewhere. The contrast with the revenues of some other Shropshire houses, notably Chirbury, (fn. 55) is striking and suggests a regard for Cistercian precepts. On the other hand Buildwas never seemed unwilling to receive lands settled by customary tenants. Most of the assized rents specified in 1291 were from lands acquired in the 13th century, but the 6s. 8d. due in rents at Little Buildwas may have been derived from the assarts mentioned in William FitzAlan's original charter. (fn. 56) Gifts of urban property also were not refused and some of these, like the house at Chester, served a special purpose. Thus when Hugh of Nonant, Bishop of Coventry, gave them a messuage in Lichfield he explained that it was to provide a lodging for the abbot as a return for the unlimited hospitality that the monks owed him as patron of the monastery. (fn. 57) The rents received from Shrewsbury in 1255 may have originated in the tenements of the burgesses attached to their manor of Meole. (fn. 58) There is no evidence that the monks had any shops, stalls, or booths, (fn. 59) and their interest in trade seems to have been confined to disposing of their own agricultural produce, and possibly for a time acting as middlemen in the wool-trade. There is no hint that they ever established tanneries, as did many other cattle-rearing houses, (fn. 60) but they certainly had a small iron forge on their demesnes at Buildwas by the end of the Middle Ages (fn. 61) and, since coal was not then used for smelting iron, the coals mentioned in the Benthall deed may point to some other industrial activity.
Landownership apart, the history of the abbey is largely that of its place in the Cistercian Order. As a Cistercian house it was exempt from visitation by the diocesan and subject to its mother-house of Savigny. Only one visitation has left any known record: in 1231 Abbot Stephen of Lexington visited the English filiations of Savigny and issued a series of statutes regulating internal discipline and external administration. Buildwas received statutes identical with those issued to Byland, Combermere, and Quarr, (fn. 62) a hint that nothing called for special censure. They are concerned with cutting down unnecessary conversation and extra dishes and with tightening up discipline amongst the novices and lay brethren; they stress the duties of the cellarer in supervising the granges and instruct all officials from the treasurer downwards to keep records of receipts and issues and have them audited at frequent intervals. In the main, however, they make up a model code for general use and the statute limiting the number of monks to 80 and lay brothers to 160 has an air of unreality when applied to Buildwas. A few years before this visitation, when Stephen of Lexington was trying to restore discipline in the Irish Cistercian houses, he had shown respect for the abbot of Buildwas and confidence in the discipline of his house. Writing from Ireland to the abbot in the spring of 1228 he explained that he urgently needed his counsel as well as his prayers in his many tribulations and difficulties. (fn. 63) After the abbot crossed to Ireland he insisted on keeping him there; (fn. 64) the abbot was with him at the Dublin council that issued statutes for the reform of the Irish houses (fn. 65) and was entrusted with the visitation of all houses in the bishoprics of Leighlin, Kildare, and Meath. (fn. 66) Furthermore, when Stephen wrote to the Abbot of Clairvaux reciting his measures for the reform of the Irish houses, one of his recommendations was that the small house of Kilbeggan should be subjected to Buildwas, which already had a well ordered daughter house at Dublin. (fn. 67)
Abbots of Buildwas attended general chapters regularly throughout the 13th century and were employed in all the routine work normal for Cistercians. They were deputed to inspect sites for proposed foundations at Valle Crucis, Grace Dieu, and Vale Royal, (fn. 68) they regularly acted as judges in pleas between other houses, (fn. 69) occasionally one was punished for failing to execute a mandate. (fn. 70) Sometimes they took their own business to the chapter: the abbey joined in the cult of local saints and petitioned in 1239 for the feast of St. Milburga to be elevated to a major feast of twelve lessons. In 1253 a similar request was made for the celebration of the feast of St. Winifred at both Buildwas and Basingwerk. (fn. 71) Royal letters of protection for the abbot going to Ireland, (fn. 72) or simply going overseas, probably to the general chapter or to the chapter at Savigny, (fn. 73) show that the obligations of the order were taken seriously and that they involved a heavy burden of travelling. Possibly the serjeanty service of Alan of Buildwas and his descendants 'to ride with the abbot anywhere within the four seas' (fn. 74) was no sinecure, even though it was to be performed at the abbot's charge.
After the time of Stephen of Lexington there is no evidence of visitation by the abbots of Savigny or of their jurisdiction over Buildwas. Contact became difficult during the wars with France. Later, during the Great Schism, it became customary to hold convocations in England to deal with discipline and these appear to have persisted throughout the 15th century. (fn. 75) The only appointment of an Abbot of Buildwas of which details have survived comes from this period: John Tintern, monk of Buildwas, was promoted per viam compromissi by the abbots of Woburn and Stratford Langthorne in 1471. (fn. 76)
The relationship of Buildwas with its own daughter houses in Wales and Ireland was tenuously maintained in spite of war and political disturbance. Savigny once laid claim to the filiation of St. Mary's, Dublin, but the rights of Buildwas were successfully defended in the general chapter of Citeaux in 1301. (fn. 77) This reassertion of authority led to close contacts between the two houses for a time: at least two monks of Buildwas became abbots of St. Mary's shortly afterwards. (fn. 78) The reluctance of the Irish Cistercian abbots to admit English monks, which led to a petition in parliament in 1324, (fn. 79) probably cut short further elections from the community at Buildwas; though Philip Wafre, who became abbot in 1337, (fn. 80) has a name closely associated with Shropshire. (fn. 81) In the mid 14th century some attempts at visitation were made by the abbots of Buildwas, who also laid claim, unsuccessfully, to the filiation of Dunbrody. This was a time of turmoil in the Irish abbeys. A number of monks of Dunbrody resisted the attempt of Philip Wafre, Abbot of St. Mary's, to visit their house in 1340 and, although the Irish Cistercian abbots con firmed his jurisdiction over Dunbrody two years later, (fn. 82) Buildwas intervened as the mother house. In April 1342 the Abbot of Buildwas received a safe-conduct to visit abbeys of his order in Ireland, (fn. 83) but before September he had been murdered and Thomas of Tong, a monk of his own abbey, was under suspicion. (fn. 84) The murder may have taken place in Ireland and certainly violence continued to prevail at Dunbrody. (fn. 85) Nicholas, Abbot of Buildwas, attempted for some years to assert his authority, even presenting his case in a petition to parliament, (fn. 86) but St. Mary's amassed documents recording the agreement of 1182, whereby Abbot Ranulf renounced all claim to jurisdiction over Dunbrody, (fn. 87) and Buildwas finally conceded the claims of St. Mary's in the Cistercian general chapter of 1354. (fn. 88) There is some evidence that an annual pension was later due to Buildwas from Dunbrody, (fn. 89) and St. Mary's itself remained subject to Buildwas until the Dissolution. (fn. 90) Basingwerk also continued as a daughter house, though in 1466 Henry of Derby, Abbot of Buildwas, was forbidden to visit or legislate for Basingwerk during his lifetime after an unsuccessful attempt to impose an abbot there. (fn. 91) His successor, John Tintern, was deposed by the commissary of Citeaux for appointing a secular clerk to be abbot in a house of his filiation. (fn. 92)
Since Buildwas was situated near the Welsh border, with a daughter house within the pale of Dublin, political motives often influenced her relationship with other Cistercian abbeys. The resistence of Dunbrody to visitation both by St. Mary's and by Buildwas may have been due in part to the strong anti-English movement of the Irish Cistercians in the early 14th century. (fn. 93) Particularly striking is the case of the Welsh abbey of Strata Marcella, a daughter house of Whitland. It began as a case of internal discipline, when the diffinitors appointed by the chapter of Citeaux removed the Welsh abbot and monks from Strata Marcella for having abandoned the observance of religion and suspended the Abbot of Whitland's right of visitation. (fn. 94) Politics intervened when a series of royal letters of 1328-30, addressed to the abbots of both Citeaux and Clairvaux, requested that the filiation of Strata Marcella should be committed in perpetuity to the abbey of Buildwas, 'where wholesome observance and regular institution flourishes'. (fn. 95) The last letter makes clear that Strata Marcella was not only lacking in regular observance but was also a hotbed of conspiracy against the English. The general chapter of Citeaux, however, was not prepared to go beyond a temporary appointment of the Abbot of Buildwas as visitor.
Very little can be known of the internal life of the monastery. When surnames begin to reveal the place of origin of some monks all were English. They were drawn from Shropshire and neighbouring counties, often from the vicinity of granges of Buildwas or other Cistercian abbeys. (fn. 96) Some were members of local gentry families: Henry, Abbot of Buildwas in the early years of the 14th century, was son of John Burnell, lord of Benthall. (fn. 97) Normally all of them proceeded to the priesthood. (fn. 98) Ordination lists indicate that monks from Buildwas were promoted fairly rapidly through the minor orders, but not so uniformly as to suggest that promotion was automatic. (fn. 99) Occasionally in the later Middle Ages they departed from Cistercian principles by performing pastoral work outside the monastery; a monk of Buildwas might be licensed to hear confessions during the absence of a parish priest, (fn. 100) or even made vicar of a parish church in the abbey's gift. (fn. 101)
There are no surviving registers or administrative records, but nearly forty books from the medieval library preserve a record of the intellectual life of the monks. (fn. 102) They show that the library founded at Buildwas in the time of Abbot Ranulf acquired a fine collection of glossed biblical texts and patristic works. Most of the volumes were written in the 12th or 13th centuries. Many are large books with ample margins, written in good hands; numerous initials are decorated in bright colours. Though the penmanship is sometimes a little rough, a few, including one of the earliest volumes, (fn. 103) have delicate designs and touches of silver or gold. Similarities in decoration prove that some manuscripts come from the same scriptorium and it is likely that they were written at Buildwas. (fn. 104) One of the most beautifully executed, a glossed psalter, was in fact made for Walter the Palmer of Bridgnorth and bequeathed by him to Buildwas in 1277. (fn. 105) Eleven initials of excellent quality have small pictures and intricate foliage on a gold ground; they are far more delicate and elaborate than, for example, the rough picture of a Cistercian monk that ornaments the Sermons of St. Bernard, written for the use of the monks themselves. (fn. 106) Yet the red and blue scroll work of the numerous small initials is sufficiently like the characteristic decoration of other Buildwas manuscripts to raise the question whether this book too might have been written at Buildwas. (fn. 107) Here, as at Pontigny, (fn. 108) the Cisterican statutes severely restricting the ornamentation of texts seem to have been without effect.
The library consisted primarily of works intended for spiritual meditation: texts of the Bible with glosses, scriptural commentaries, the writings of the Fathers of the Church, especially St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and St. Gregory the Great. Among more modern works were the Sermons of St. Bernard, (fn. 109) the Speculum Caritatis (fn. 110) and De onere Babilonis (fn. 111) of Ailred of Rievaulx, the Meditations of St. Anselm, (fn. 112) and a few works specially devoted to the claustral life, including the De claustro animae of the Augustinian Hugh of Fouilley (fn. 113) and the De disciplina claustrali of Peter of Celle. (fn. 114) If the surviving volumes are representative of the library as a whole there was little interest in secular learning; a few letters of Seneca (fn. 115) were plainly there for their moral content. One of the later-13th-century volumes contains some elementary works of grammar and logic by Priscian and Boethius, (fn. 116) and a few fragments from treatises on law and medicine have been added at the end of volumes of sermons or biblical texts. (fn. 117) There are several brief chronologies (fn. 118) and at least one whole volume of history, the Historia rerum anglicarum of William of Newburgh. (fn. 119)
Marginal notes and additions in hands later than the texts indicate clearly that in the 13th century at least this was still a living library. An alphabetical index has been added in a 13th-century hand to a 12th-century volume of Gregory's Cura Pastoralis (fn. 120) and there are later additions to some of the scriptural glosses. (fn. 121) Buildwas is not known to have produced any scholars, though one or two monks took an amateur interest in history. A few items of local interest were inserted at the end of William of Newburgh's History: these include a note that in 1301, after a dispute between Savigny and Buildwas about the filiation of St. Mary's, Dublin, the Irish house was subjected to Buildwas by the Cistercian general chapter. (fn. 122) Possibly the note was made by William of Ashbourne, monk of Buildwas, who had been proctor of the Abbot of Buildwas on that occasion and who dabbled in history. Later, as Abbot of St. Mary's, Dublin, he compiled a list of the early abbots of that house, working from a list of monastic obits which gave him their names and the day, though not the date, of their deaths. (fn. 123) At Buildwas, as at Pontigny, there seems to have been a decline in the activity of the scriptorium from the later 13th century. Possibly the universities were providing for a new type of student; possibly the intellectual life of the community was drying up. Cistercian monks were active in the Oxford studium from the late 13th century, first at Rewley and later at St. Bernard's College. (fn. 124) There are no names of monks of Buildwas among the scanty records, but the few later books surviving from the Buildwas library include those relating to civil law, medicine, and logic. Indirect evidence of some contact with Oxford comes from the fact that some of the Buildwas books were finding their way into the Oxford book market by the 15th century, (fn. 125) but there are many channels by which they may have come there. On the other hand the abbey clearly ran into troubles in the 14th century, which apparently disturbed the spiritual and intellectual life of the monks.
Up to that time the abbey appears to have been normally well-ordered and moderately prosperous. There were a few disturbances: the monks suffered from the violence of Robert, Earl of Derby, during the Barons' Wars, and in June 1265 the king, 'taking pity on their poverty', commanded the guardian of the earl's lands to repay 100 marks that he had extorted from them by threatening to burn the abbey. (fn. 126) There were no major scandals, however, and, apparently, no serious debts. The monastery was able to spend freely on lawsuits and on the purchase of land. Its wool was a useful cash crop and there were no major building projects to strain resources. The church and main claustral buildings, solidly constructed in local sandstone, were completed by the end of the 12th century. The infirmary court and abbot's lodging were still being built c. 1220, when Philip of Broseley's grant in the quarries of Broseley was secured. The royal grant of thirty oaks from the Forest of Shirlett in 1232 was explicitly for the repair of the church, (fn. 127) the nave and transepts of which were roofed in timber. Few monastic churches have been so little reconstructed during the Middle Ages: the only substantial later addition was a large chapel on the south side built about 1400, and the buildings were in good repair at the Dissolution. (fn. 128)
Taxation at first was moderate. The abbey owed an annual apport of 100s. to Citeaux (fn. 129) and was liable to any levies imposed on the order. These became more frequent; the standard of contribution owed by Buildwas is shown by one late-13th-century levy, when the abbey was assessed at £12 towards a levy totalling £12,000 from the whole order. (fn. 130) Exemption from royal taxation, complete in theory, was gradually eroded. In 1242 the English Cistercian abbots had stood firm in their refusal to make any grant to Henry III in either money or wool (fn. 131) and in 1256, according to Matthew Paris, it was an abbot of Buildwas who, happening to be in the court, had a ready answer to a renewed request. 'We cannot' he said 'give you both money and prayers. If you violently extort money from us, how do you expect us to pray devoutly for you in our hearts? Prayers without devotion have little or no merit.' (fn. 132) From the time of Edward I, however, Cistercian wealth was successfully tapped through papal taxes for the Crusade, loans to the Crown, taxes in or on wool, and the obligation to provide corrodies for retired royal servants. (fn. 133) In addition to performing normal public duties the Abbot of Buildwas was summoned to more than a dozen parliaments between 1295 and 1324. (fn. 134)
By the mid 14th century the economy of the house was not resilient enough to stand new strains. After the murder of an abbot in 1342 dissensions arose between the supporters of two rival abbots and for a few years the goods of the abbey were dissipated by the contending parties. (fn. 135) There is one acknowledgement of a debt of £100 in 1344. (fn. 136) Six years later raiders from Powys pillaged the treasures of the abbey and carried off the abbot and monks as prisoners. (fn. 137) These abnormal conditions probably account for the exceptionally small numbers of monks at Buildwas recorded in 1377 and 1381. (fn. 138) There were renewed disturbances during Owen Glendower's revolt: in 1406, after the abbey's lands had been ravaged by his followers, the abbey was licensed to acquire in mortmain the advowson of Rushbury and to appropriate the church. (fn. 139) During the Wars of the Roses the monks were persecuted by members of the Leighton family, who tried to make them repurchase the lands given by earlier Leightons. (fn. 140) If the abbey remained solvent, its economy had no margin for emergencies. After demesne farming was abandoned, except on the home grange, and rents fell, hand-to-mouth devices characteristic of the 15th century were adopted. Leases were sometimes sold for cash down a number of years before they were due to fall in (fn. 141) and growing timber might be bartered to secure provisions for the community. (fn. 142) Moreover there is no doubt that the abbey declined from Cistercian standards of discipline; the visitor appointed by the general chapter in 1521 described it as 'very far from virtue in every way'. (fn. 143)
The survey of 1535 (fn. 144) and the report of the commissioners appointed in April 1536 to survey the smaller monasteries (fn. 145) give a rough general picture of the condition of the abbey on the eve of the Dissolution. In 1535 the gross value of its temporalities was £123 6s. 10d. and its spiritualities £10. Allowed expenses amounted to £18 7s. 6½d. leaving a net income of nearly £111. In 1536 the total value was out at £142 14s. 6½d. (fn. 146) The principal estates held in the 13th century still remained in the abbey's hands, but assized rents and leases had replaced direct explotation everywhere except on the home grange at Buildwas. The granges of Bicton, Cosford, Harnage, Hatton, Kinnerton, Monkmeole with Crowmeole, Ruckley, Stirchley, 'Ulmer', (fn. 147) Brockton (Staffs.), Walton (Staffs.), and Ivonbrook (Derb.) were all at farm and rents were collected from George, Earl of Shrewsbury, for lands at Upton in Stirchley, from the Abbot of Lilleshall for property in Longdon upon Tern, and through the abbey's bailiffs for properties in Adeney, Albrighton, Bridgnorth, Newport, Ragdon, Rudge, Sheinton, Shrewsbury, and Sutton Maddock. The property was administered by a chief steward, George, Earl of Shrewsbury, who held a number of similar appointments; (fn. 148) under him routine work was carried out by a steward of the courts, a general receiver, and two bailiffs— one for Kinnerton, Crowmeole, Bicton, and Shrewsbury and the other for Buildwas, Adeney, Stirchley, and other properties in the east. The demesnes that remained at Buildwas were worked wholly by hired servants. There were 12 'hynde servants' in 1536 and 24 dependents living in the community: 7 'yeomen servants', 3 women servants, 4 persons living on alms, a priest to serve and discharge cures, 3 corrodiaries (one of them a former abbot), and 6 persons having fees extraordinary. It is conceivable that the priest was attached to the large chapel built against the south wall of the nave, c. 1400, and that he ministered to the needs of the lay members of the community. The servants who replaced the lay brothers are not likely to have used the lay brothers' choir and, since the chapel had no direct communication with the church but was entered only from outside, it seems to have been intended for the use of laymen.
Cromwell's commissioners in the late summer of 1535 had found twelve monks, of whom four were accused of grave moral faults, but by April 1536 there were only eight monks, with the abbot. All were priests and all except the abbot were of good conversation and living by report and God well and devoutly served by the prior and his brethren. And also good hospitality there kept'. (fn. 149) The house was 'in convenient repair'; movable goods and debts due were assessed at £57 10s. 6d. and debts owing only £75 9s. 1d. The lead and bells were valued at £94 3s. 40d. and 180 acres of wood of 100 years' growth or more at £120. Though the report was favourable it was merely a preliminary to dissolution. With other small houses the abbey was suppressed later in the same year. The abbot was granted a pension of £16 (fn. 150) and the other monks were dispersed, some to other religious houses. (fn. 151) In July 1539 the site of the abbey and most of its property were granted to Edward, Lord Grey of Powis. (fn. 152)
The abbey ruins (fn. 153) lie on the south bank of the River Severn near Buildwas bridge. Substantial remains of the church and claustral buildings are in the care of the Ministry of Public Building and Works, but the abbot's house and parts of the infirmary court have been incorporated in a postReformation house in private hands. The main building period was the later 12th century. The cruciform church, which measures approximately 160 feet in length, has the remains of a low central tower; the walls of nave, transepts, and presbytery are equal in height. Ribbed quadripartite vaulting originally covered the presbytery and survives in the four transept chapels, but transepts, nave, and aisles were roofed in wood. The square east end, built first, is extremely simple in style, with three tall, round-headed windows in the east wall; the sedilia have dog-tooth ornament and are 13th-century insertions. The bluntly pointed arches of the nave arcade rest on circular pillars 14 feet in circumserence; the clerestory windows and other minor openings have rounded arches. There was no triforium. The two eastern bays of the nave were apparently included in the monastic choir with a pulpitum across the second bay. The north and south aisles, which were extremely narrow, served as passages joining the monks' choir with the lay brothers' church in the nave, and because of the sloping ground outside there was never a west doorway. Of the two outer aisle walls and the large 14thcentury chapel on the south side only the foundations survive.
The lie of the land and the river to the north determined that the claustral buildings should be built on the less usual north side of the church, with drainage towards the river. The east range, with its stone-vaulted sacristy, chapter-house, and parlour, is roughly contemporary with the western part of the church. On the upper floor was the dorter, with a staircase leading to the north transept. Only foundations remain of the lay brothers' quarters in the west range and of the north range, including the refectory, built at about the same time. Building continued in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, the east range being continued to form the west range of the infirmary court. Traces of a piscina are in the wall of the building replacing the infirmary chapel on the south side of this court. The surviving north arcade of the infirmary court has pointed arches and is of 13th-century construction, and so is the main part of the abbot's house. There are substantial remains of a first-floor hall, which retains two pointed windows and two doorways which, although round-arched, have early-13thcentury ornamentation. A parlour wing, with roof of arch-braced collar-beam construction, was added in the later 14th century and the hall was probably re-roofed at the same time. (fn. 154) There are foundations of various subsidiary buildings in the garden of the house.
Abbots of Buildwas
William, occurs 1204 × 6. (fn. 161)
Eustace, occurs 1206. (fn. 162)
Huctred, occurs c. 1210. (fn. 163)
H., occurs 1216 × 22. (fn. 164)
Stephen, occurs 1227. (fn. 165)
S., occurs 1228. (fn. 166)
Simon, occurs 1233. (fn. 167)
Nicholas, occurs from 1236 to 1256. (fn. 168)
William (?), occurs c. 1263. (fn. 169)
Adam, occurs in 1271 and 1272. (fn. 170)
John, occurs 1318. (fn. 175)
Roger, occurs 1344. (fn. 176)
Richard Emery, deposed 1521. (fn. 195)
The impression of a pointed oval abbot's seal of the later 12th century, (fn. 198) measuring 15/8 × ¾ in., shows a dexter hand issuing from the right-hand side and grasping a pastoral staff. A cross is contained in a small mitre-shaped projection beyond the pointed oval, at the top of the seal. Legend, lombardic:
SIGILLUM ABBATIS DE BILDEWAS
The impression of another pointed oval abbot's seal is attached to a deed of 1250. (fn. 199) It measures 2 × 11/8 in. and shows the standing figure of a bishop, probably St. Chad, with pastoral staff. Legend, lombardic:
SIGILLUM AB . . . [BI]LDEWAS
Two seals were in use in the late 14th and early 15th centuries; impressions of both occur on receipts of the abbot and convent between 1397 and 1421. (fn. 200) The larger, measuring 2¾ × 1½ in., is a pointed oval seal depicting the Virgin and Child above, enthroned under a canopy; below, the standing figure of a bishop (St. Chad?) with pastoral staff, his right hand raised in blessing; in the field below, four crosses. Legend, lombardic:
SIGILLUM COMMUNE MONASTERII SANCTE MARIE DE BULDEWAS
The smaller is an oval seal measuring 1¾ × 1 in. and shows the Virgin and Child above, seated beneath a canopy: below, the standing figure of a bishop with pastoral staff. Of the lombardic legend only the end, . . . DE BULDEWAS, is legible.