Houses of Austin canons: The abbey of Medmenham

Pages 376-377

A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 1. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1905.

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The little abbey of Medmenham was founded in 1204 upon lands granted to the abbey of Woburn, Bedfordshire, by Isabel de Bolebec, Countess of Oxford. Leave to build a monastery in this place was granted in 1202, (fn. 1) but there seems to have been some mismanagement in connection with its first foundation. In 1204 the first colony of monks was sent there from the parent abbey, but it was recalled in the same year. The Abbot of Woburn was deposed on account of this failure. (fn. 2) Other monks were sent apparently soon after, for the house was built and inhabited in 1213, (fn. 3) and from this time it remained an independent abbey. (fn. 4)

It has no history whatever, so far as can at present be discovered. Even the names of the abbots are difficult to find out. There are a few suits concerned with small parcels of land recorded in the Feet of Fines during the thirteenth century (fn. 5); and the Close Rolls of the fourteenth contain one or two notices of debts incurred by the abbot and convent of Medmenham. (fn. 6) The abbots are said to have held the office of Epistolar to the Order of the Garter. (fn. 7)

In 1524 there was some thought of granting the revenues of this house to Wolsey for his college at Oxford, (fn. 8) but the plan was not carried out. At the dissolution, which was before 8 July, 1536, it was made part of the endowment of the new abbey of Bisham. (fn. 9) There was at this time only one monk left besides the abbot (fn. 10); the latter received a pension of 10 marks. (fn. 11)

So far as can be discovered, the property of the abbey consisted of little more than the vill of Medmenham and the parish church. (fn. 12) There is no account of its value in the Taxatio. The Valor Ecclesiasticus gives a total of £20 6s. 2d. (fn. 13)

Abbots of Medmenham

Roger, (fn. 14) occurs 1256 and 1259

Peter, (fn. 15) elected 1295, occurs 1303

John of Medmenham, (fn. 16) occurs 1308

Geoffrey, (fn. 17) occurs 1321

Stephen of Thame, (fn. 18) elected 1373

Henry, (fn. 19) occurs 1416

Richard, (fn. 20) occurs 1421

John Talbot, (fn. 21) occurs 1535

Richard Brangwen, (fn. 22) last abbot, occurs 1536

Dugdale says, (fn. 23) 'according to Willis the seal of the abbey was the effigies of the Blessed Virgin crowned, sitting on a splendid throne, in her bosom the venerable Infant.' He adds the only impression remaining is that of [Abbot] John 1308, which is a neat oval seal with this inscription on the edge: S' FRIS JOHIS. MENDHAM.'


  • 1. Chart R. 2 John, m. 17.
  • 2. Dugdale, Mon. v.
  • 3. Assize R. 13 John 480, n. 4 in dorso.
  • 4. The foundation charters of the house were still kept at Woburn in 1538, but cannot now be traced. L. and P. Henry VIII. xiii. (1) 981.
  • 5. Feet of F. 41 Hen. III. n. 4; ibid. 44 Hen. III. n. 8; ibid. 31 Edw. I. n. 3.
  • 6. Close, 9 Edw. III. m. 14d; ibid. 15 Edw. II. m. 25d.
  • 7. Records of Bucks, iv. 62.
  • 8. L. and P. Henry VIII. iv. (1), No. 989.
  • 9. Ibid. xii. (2) 1311.
  • 10. Records of Bucks, iii. 62.
  • 11. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. 232, f. 20d.
  • 12. The parish church had a vicarage ordained under the abbots in the time of Hugh of Wells. A. Gibbons, Liber Antiquus, 17.
  • 13. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv. 251.
  • 14. Feet of F. 41 Hen. III. n. 4; ibid. 44 Hen. III. n. 8.
  • 15. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Sutton, 132; Feet of F. 31 Edw. III. n. 3.
  • 16. Langley, History of the Desborough Hundred, 340.
  • 17. Close, 15 Edw. II. m. 25d.
  • 18. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Bokyngham, 126.
  • 19. Langley, History of the Desborough Hundred, 340.
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv. 251.
  • 22. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. 232, f. 20d.
  • 23. Dugdale, Mon. v. 684.