Houses of Premonstratensian canons: The abbey of Beauchief

A History of the County of Derby: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.

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'Houses of Premonstratensian canons: The abbey of Beauchief', in A History of the County of Derby: Volume 2, ed. William Page( London, 1907), British History Online [accessed 15 July 2024].

'Houses of Premonstratensian canons: The abbey of Beauchief', in A History of the County of Derby: Volume 2. Edited by William Page( London, 1907), British History Online, accessed July 15, 2024,

"Houses of Premonstratensian canons: The abbey of Beauchief". A History of the County of Derby: Volume 2. Ed. William Page(London, 1907), , British History Online. Web. 15 July 2024.

In this section



The abbey of Beauchief, or 'De Bello Capite,' was founded near Norton, for Premonstratensian or White Canons, by Robert FitzRanulph, lord of Alfreton and Norton, about 1175, and dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin, in conjunction with the recently canonized St. Thomas the Martyr. (fn. 2) Dugdale made the strange mistake of stating that Robert FitzRanulph was 'one of the four knights who martyred the Blessed Thomas of Canterbury, and afterwards founded the monastery of Beauchief to expiate his crime.' (fn. 3)

The names, however, of the four knights are well known through the unanimous testimony of four eye-witnesses. The principal actors in the eventful deed of 29 December, 1170, were Brito, Moreville, Tracy, and FitzUrse. Dr. Pegge has shown conclusively that the founder had no connexion with the murder, though a more recent attempt has been made to turn him into an accomplice. (fn. 4)

Robert FitzRanulph, who was for several years sheriff of the united counties of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, was a generous founder. In addition to a considerable area of land in the immediate vicinity of the monastery, the bounds of which are accurately defined in the foundation charter and included about 700 acres, he bestowed on the house the churches of Norton and Alfreton in Derbyshire, Wymeswold in Leicestershire, and Edwalton in Nottinghamshire. It was for a long time supposed by those who accepted Dugdale's statement that this was an expiatory foundation connected with the martyrdom of St. Thomas of Canterbury, and that the very name of Beauchief was derived from the fair head or saintly crown of the martyr. The wording, however, of the foundation charter at once upsets this theory, for the site is therein described as 'locum qui dicitur Beuchef in Doresheles.' (fn. 5) There can be no doubt that the abbey was named after an adjacent fair headland —sufficiently prominent for immediate recognition—which overlooked the dale. It was thus styled by the Normans, on the same principle that is observed in such place-names as Beauchamp, Beaumont, Beaudesert, or Beaurepaire (now Belper) in this county. The early scribes were as fickle as usual in their way of spelling the name of the abbey; for there are at least twelve variants in the chartulary—Beuchef, Beuchyf, Beuchyffe, Beuchelf, Beuchiffe, Beauchef, Beaucheif, Beauchief, Beachiffe, Beacheef, Baucheff, and Bewcheffe.

The abbey was originally colonized by five canons who came from the abbey of Welbeck. It was part of the elaborate system of Premonstratensian government to regard as father-abbot the head of the house from which the younger establishment sprang. The whole genealogy or pedigree, so to speak, of the houses of White Canons was always carefully preserved. In visitations of Welbeck, Beauchief is several times described as ecclesia nostra filialis. The following is the descent of Beauchief:—Prémontré, 1120; Licques (Normandy), 1131; Welbeck, 1158; Beauchief, c. 1175. Beauchief herself never sent forth a colony. Adam, abbot of Welbeck, was the second witness to a somewhat extended foundation charter that followed close after the original one, which is recited in an inspeximus of Edward I. (fn. 6)

William lord of Alfreton, the son of the founder, gave to the abbey the mill of Cold Aston in the adjoining parish of Dronfield; Robert de Alfreton, the founder's grandson, who flourished between 1242 and 1270, gave considerable lands in Norton and Alfreton, whilst Ranulph, his brother, gave a bovate and a half of land in Wymeswold. (fn. 7) The male line of the Alfreton family came to an end with Thomas, who died without issue in 1269. (fn. 8) His sister Alice, one of his two coheirs, married Sir William Chaworth, and brought to him the Alfreton estate. Their son, Sir Thomas Chaworth, succeeding the Alfretons as patron or advocate of the abbey, became such a substantial benefactor of the canons that he is usually spoken of as a founder. Dr. Pegge, in his abstract of the chartulary, enumerates no fewer than eighteen distinct grants made to Beauchief by Sir Thomas. (fn. 9) In connexion with these grants there are two points of particular interest. One of these is the full liberty granted to the canons of getting coals, drawing them and carrying them away, both for their own use and that of their tenants, in their own lands and in the waste grounds lying amid their lands within the sokes of Norton and Alfreton. (fn. 10) It may here be mentioned that by a subsequent deed of 1368, the canons agreed to release the payment to them of a rent of 13s. 4d. out of Alfreton manor, which had been granted for forty years, in case the coal mines failed during that period or ceased to work. (fn. 11) The other interesting and exceptional fact that comes out in these Chaworth donations is the granting of liberty to the abbot and convent of cleansing (emundare) their lands and the lands of their tenants from golds (goldae), according to the custom of the manors of Norton and Alfreton, and if they found any default in the cleansing, they might take fines of their tenants. (fn. 12) Dr. Pegge, misled by the strange blunder of Du Cange, followed by other lexicographers who cite this charter, explains the term goldae as meaning 'dams in water courses.' The term has, however, undoubtedly a botanical signification. (fn. 13) Corn-marigolds (chrysanthemum segetum) are now popularly known as 'goldies' by children both in the north and midlands. John Fitzherbert, the great Derbyshire writer on 'Husbandry' (1523), says: 'There be divers maner of wedes as thistyls . . . darnolde, gouldes.' And in another place, 'Golds is an yll wede, and groweth commonly in barleye and pees.' (fn. 14)

Both the son and grandson of Sir Thomas Chaworth were to a small extent benefactors of the abbey, and later descendants were commemorated by the canons as patrons.

In return for the co-founder's grants, it was covenanted that an additional canon should be maintained, whose special duty it should be to act as chantry priest for the Chaworth family. This is expressly stipulated in letters patent of Edward I. On 1 November, 1301, licence was granted to the abbey for the alienation to them by Thomas de Chaworth of 10 tofts, 11 bovates, and 58 acres of land, 16 acres of wood, and 58s. 6d. of rent in Alfreton, Norton, Greenhill, Bradway, and Woodseats for the maintenance of a canon chaplain to celebrate divine service in the abbey for the souls of Thomas and Joan, his wife, and their ancestors. (fn. 15)

Dr. Pegge, in his analysis of the chartulary, gives a long alphabetical series of other benefactors of the abbey, particularizing their gifts. (fn. 16) The more important were Sir Warner de Beeley, the donor of Harwood Grange; Robert de Eccleshall, the mill of Eccleshall; Gerard de Furnivall, and his wife Maud Lovecot, pasture in the forest of Fulwood and a share of Sheffield mill; and Ralph Musard, father and son, Hendley in Staveley.

On 24 August, 1284, the abbot of Beauchief obtained protection until Christmas, when going to attend a general chapter of his order; William de Boteland and Thomas de Wilghesik were appointed his attorneys. (fn. 17)

The keeper of the port of Dover was directed, in September, 1327, to permit the abbot of Beauchief, who was going to the chapter general of his order, to cross the sea with four horses, and to allow him 20 marks for the expenses of himself and his household. (fn. 18)

In 1318 the abbot became involved in a dispute wherein he had evidently taken the law into his own hands concerning a claim to certain property. A commission of oyer and terminer was issued on complaint by John le Cippere of Nottingham, that William abbot of Beauchief, Walter de Cotes 'the abbotes serjaunt,' William son of Walter de Urton, and Robert le Gardiner of Codnor, with others, brake his close at Riddings by Somercotes, co. Derby, felled his trees, wrecked his houses, and carried away his timber, trees, and goods. (fn. 19)

Godekin de Devele the younger and Roger de Glapwell of Chesterfield, merchants, obtained letters patent in June, 1333, to convey to the staples and thence export at will, notwithstanding the ordinance of the staple, wools purchased by them from the abbot of Beauchief before the making of such ordinance. (fn. 20)

In March, 1332, William Daventry, who had long served the late king, was sent to the abbey to take the place, as royal pensioner, of John de Malvern, deceased. (fn. 21)

One of the special points of interest pertaining to the English Premonstratensian houses is that, though strictly extra-diocesan, so many visitations of many of them are extant, chiefly among the manuscript stores of the Bodleian.

In 1278, John, abbot of Newhouse, was commissioned to act as English visitor for the lord abbot of Prémontré. Beauchief was visited early in May, when the abbot of Newhouse took with him, as assessors, his brother abbots of Welbeck, Dale, and Newhouse. On the occasion of this visit the Abbot Ivo was absolved from the care of the pastoral office which he held over Beauchief, in accordance with his own desire and petition. Thereupon, in the presence of the visitors, the canons unanimously elected Roger de Foulstowe, their prior, as their father and pastor. (fn. 22)

The record of the next visitation that is known tells of coming disorders. In 1458, the abbot of Shap, as visitor or commissary of the abbot of Prémontré, was exacting general contributions from the various houses of the order in England, although this was contrary to English statute law. On his announcing his visit to Beauchief, Abbot John Downham wrote to his father-abbot of Welbeck requesting his advice and direction as to these levies:—

Honours and worshippes with all dew filiall recommendations be unto youer holy and honorabull fadyrhode besechynge you to pardonne me att I am so longe frome youre worthy presence whilk is sore agaynes my wyll.

Pleas yow to wite oure vysitur hathe at he wyll visyte hus in haste, and in hys wrytenge charges hus, in vertue of holy obediaunce, that we schall make redy tallias or contribuciones to oure place pertanynge, as wel of yerys past as of this present; whilk, as I conceyve, is expressle agaynes owre constytucyones, without a generall chapyter had. And I am credubly informede, odyr places where he hath bene hath wythsayde hym therein.

Wherefore I beseke your sayde fadyrhode, how ye thynk I schulde be demende herein of youre sage and sadde counsell, and in whatt wyse yee be demende yourselfe therein; for in lyke wyse wold I demene me, and be it youre commandement. In whilk and all odyr perteyninge to our ordur, I schall be obedyente as ryght and conschyaunce requyreth, with feare of Almyghty God, whom I beseke youe to preserve in honoures to his lovynges longe to endure. Wryten at Bewchef the vii day of December.

This resistance of the exaction of foreign dues seems creditable to Downham, but from what shortly afterwards transpired, it becomes pretty clear that the abbot's real resistance was to any searching visitation. The house of Beauchief was at this time divided into two parties, Downham the abbot and Skipton the prior, with sixteen of the canons, opposed any serious visitation on the quasi-patriotic ground that it was of foreign ordering, and meant foreign exaction; but John Swift, another of the canons, and future abbot, led the rest of the house (five in number) in opposition to Downham. On 1 February, 1461-2, Swift wrote to the fatherabbot of Welbeck, a quaintly-worded letter, half English, half Latin, imploring his interference, as there were many irregularities and nothing whatever amended since the last visitation, although the abbot had sworn to do so. (fn. 23) On receipt of this letter, the abbot of Welbeck endorsed it—Johannes Swyft, ut opinor proximus abbas, which was doubtless intended as a hint to the commissary-general, to whom he wrote begging for his prompt interference. Richard Redman, the energetic commissary-general of the English houses of the order, and abbot of Shap (who afterwards became bishop successively of St. Asaph, Exeter, and Ely), lost no time in coming to the rescue. On the last day of February, Redman, accompanied by the abbot of Welbeck and the prior of St. Agatha, held a thorough visitation at Beauchief, with the result that Abbot Downham was found guilty on abundant sworn testimony both from within and without the monastery, of perjury, incontinence, rebellion, wasting the convent's goods and other notorious crimes. On being found guilty Downham resisted the discipline of the order, offered armed resistance with swords and staves, and by force made his way out of the monastery, associating with him seven canons who joined in his apostasy. Whereupon Downham and his abettors were formally summoned to appear in the chapter house, and on his neglect the late abbot was formally deposed from his office, and with five of the contumacious canons sentenced to the greater excommunication. Immediately after this John Swift was elected as abbot, on the nomination of the father-abbot of Welbeck, for there was not a sufficiency of canons of the house for a due chapter election.

This method of election was regular, because the rules of the order provide that the appointment of a new abbot rests with the father-abbot when schism or disturbance is rife in the house: but Downham appealed to Prémontré against the election of Swift and prayed for re-instatement. On 13 May, 1462, a court of appeal, nominated by the lord abbot of Prémontré, met at Nottingham, consisting of the commissary-general, the abbots of Welbeck, Barlings, Newhouse, and Dale, and the prior of Easby. The deposition of Downham and the election of Swift were confirmed. A few days later, namely on 29 May, six of the defaulting canons, Downham's accomplices, made full submission, 'freely, voluntarily, and of their own accord.' (fn. 24)

Downham's conduct must have been peculiarly bad and scandalous, for the commissary-general, in revisiting Beauchief in February, 1461-2, stated that he had been 'specially requested' to hold that visitation 'by the mandate of our most excellent king, and by the prayers of other lords, dignitaries, and honourable men.' Downham apparently continued his disgraceful course, for in the following year his arrest, and that of two of the ex-canons was ordered by the civil power, the sheriff of Derby being commissioned on 1 July, 1463, to arrest John Pole of Hartington, esq. Edmund Hartington, John Downham, late abbot of Beauchief, John Mundeville and Robert Bowlond, late canons of that monastery, and fifteen others, and to bring them before the king in council within twelve days after arrest, and if they cannot be arrested without inconvenience, to require assistance from knights, esquires, and other gentlemen of the county. (fn. 25)

Swift remained abbot of Beauchief until 1478, when he was transferred to the abbey of Newhouse. During the time of his abbacy Richard Redman held various visitations of Beauchief. (fn. 26) The first of these was held on 5 May, 1472, when the visitor found the abbot and brethren joined together in the bond of charity, love, and peace; the ministration of divine service devoutly performed; the temporal estate ameliorated, the debts diminished, and the condition of the buildings excellent. The minor admonitions ordained stricter rule of silence; the singing of the Eastertide 'Alleluia' at the end of the versicles and not in the middle; and lessening of the tonsure of the canons, and its abandonment by the lay brothers. In all other respects the visitation report was highly favourable. The debts had been reduced from £40 13s. to £10, and the house was well provided with wheat and other necessaries. The abbot was commended as wise, careful, skilful, and prudent, and so zealous that he deserved to be called not merely a restorer, but a founder. In October of the same year Beauchief was visited by the fatherabbot of Welbeck, who testified that he found 'the greatest peace and mutual concord prevailed amongst the brethren, who were living together in the bonds of charity.' Nevertheless he ordered drinking after compline, and certain minor irregularities, to be amended. In 1475 the abbot of Welbeck's visitation again brought forth much praise for the venerable shepherd and his brethren, which was not qualified on this occasion by any admonitions, as nothing was found worthy of correction.

On 25 May, 1478, the Right Reverend Father Richard Redman, then bishop of St. Asaph, arrived at Chesterfield on his visitation tour, and stayed there for the night at the expense of the abbot of Beauchief. He arrived at Beauchief on the following day at dinner time, and held his formal visitation on 27 May:

We found nothing which needed to be corrected, or reported to the general chapter: but, as regards keeping silence, which is the 'key of religion,' in the places where it should be kept; for the sake of greater security, we commanded the abbot and presidents of the convent to correct delinquents according to the statutes.

Upon the transference of Swift to the abbey of Newhouse, which was in some disorder, Thomas Wyder, canon of Croxton, and prior of Hornby, was appointed abbot of Beauchief. The appointment of an outsider gave much offence to some of the canons, and Robert Skipton, the prior (an old abettor of Downham's), with three others made open rebellion within three weeks of Swift's departure. Thereupon the commissary-general, under date 24 June, 1478, issued his mandate to the abbot of Welbeck to summon Robert Skipton and his three adherents to appear in the Hampshire monastery of Titchfield, on 22 July, to show cause why they should not be excommunicated. This summons was disregarded, and on 16 August, the commissary ordered the abbots of Welbeck and Dale to summon the defaulters (now increased in number to six) to appear before a commission consisting of those two abbots and five of their brother abbots, in the chapter-house of the Grey Friars of Doncaster, at 8 o'clock in the morning on 5 September, to answer for their rebellion and contumacy.

Skipton and his fellow rebels must eventually have made due submission, for in a list of canons of this house drawn up at a visitation of 1482, Robert Skipton is entered as prior, and his brother defaulters all appear among the other canons. The number of the professed brothers was at that time fourteen, and there were also two novices. The weekly consumption of grain at the monastery was returned as 10 bushels of wheat, 16 bushels of oats, and 4 bushels of barley; the oxen numbered 24, the sheep 28, and the pigs 12.

In his visitation of 1488 Redman arrived at Beauchief at dinner time, on 24 May, and entered the chapter-house on the following day; he finished the visitation on the 26th, but stayed there throughout that day on account of its solemnity, it being the feast of the Ascension. The canons, including the abbot and prior, then numbered fifteen. The visitor found that the debt of £20 at the last visit had been reduced through the care of the abbot to £10, and that the house was amply provided with corn, cattle, and other necessaries. The report stated that the venerable abbot was pious, learned, and meek, and supplied all things needful to his brethren. Robert Skipton, the prior, and two other of the canons were adjudged neglectful in observing silence, and they were ordered all to be put on bread and water for one day, but the imposed punishment was at once remitted on account of the solemnity of the day. The abbot was ordered to cause his brethren to be instructed in science, (fn. 27) and to see that they studied their books during lecture. There was nothing else worthy of correction.

Redman's visitation of 1491 is worth giving in full, in modern English dress (fn. 28) :—

In the year of Our Lord 1491, on 20th of August. we visited the monastery of Beauchief, where we found our brethren pious and devout, the abbot embracing them with the arms of affection. Nevertheless we straitly charged all the brethren that none of them should secretly dare to keep for themselves more than the sum of 21s. but should give an account of their money to their abbot once at least every year, lest they who did otherwise should be accounted amongst the rich and be damned with Judas the betrayer, who, whilst he sought for gain, came to a halter.

Moreover we commanded that the brethren should not go beyond the precincts of the monastery either by night or by day, without the leave of the abbot first had and obtained.

William Wydoson, canon of this monastery, having been lawfully cited to appear before us, and though long expected having in nowise appeared, we pronounced rebellious, and we suspended him, ordering him, moreover, to appear before us in the monastery of Newhouse, the day after the feast of St. Augustine, under penalty of the greater excommunication.

At this time we found nothing more to be corrected, but as regards the condition of the monastery, as much is owing to it as it owes.

In other respects we beheld the said church adorned with such fair decorations, buildings, and repairs, that well may it be said with the prophet: 'O Lord, I have loved the beauty of Thine house.'

Moreover its stock of cattle and flocks is much greater than before.

The visitation of 1494, on 25 May, by the same prelate, brought to light by the evidence of the convent, and by the common report of the country-side, the excesses of Robert Wolset, one of the canons. He was charged with open rebellion against the abbot, with violent armed resistance to those who opposed him, and with incontinency. To these charges he pleaded guilty, but earnestly implored mercy. Forty days of penance (imprisonment) were assigned for rebellion, and a like period for incontinence, and to be sent for three years to the abbey of Torre, Devonshire. Whereupon the abbot and all his brethren falling on their knees before the visitor made intercession for the offender, and Bishop Redman consented to postpone the punishment and banishment until his return about the feast of the Assumption (15 August), his punishment to be regulated in accordance with the way in which he had observed discipline. The only other correction of this visit was an order as to the lessening of the tonsure.

At the visitation of 1498 the chief matter was the command of Redman that the Psalms should be sung with care at the end of each verse, not lengthening the note, nor lowering their voices, but rather lifting them up. The visitation of 1500 resulted in warm praise for the whole condition of the house both in spiritual and temporal affairs, save that William Darnton had apostatised and was excommunicated.

In April, 1501, Beauchief was visited, at the command of the commissary-general, by Thomas, father-abbot of Welbeck.

After making diligent inquiry touching as well its temporal as its spiritual condition, we found that both were sufficiently cared for, praised be God for the same. We signified a penalty of 10 days on the sub-prior for he entered into contention with his prior in the presence of the lay brethren, and the same penalty on Robert Wulfet. We commanded them that they should not suffer their brethren to go beyond the boundaries of the monasteries to visit common shows (communa spectacula) or any place in the villages without the special licence of the abbot.

It may here be remarked that in several of the lists of canons present at these visitations occur the names of those who were respectively vicars of Norton, Alfreton, and Wymeswold. The White Canons of Prémontré were the only religious order who possessed the privilege of appointing those of their own profession to benefices in their gift without any special episcopal or papal licence. It was consequently often the custom (though by no means the invariable rule) for the Premonstratensian abbots to present their own canons to the vicarages or churches of which they were the rectors. Such canons usually lived on their benefices, but were bound to attend chapter on particular occasions, particularly at visitations, and to follow their rule as closely as they could outside the monastery. In the case of the neighbouring rectory of Dronfield, which was appropriated to Beauchief in 1399, though the vicarage was in the presentation of the abbot, it does not appear that the vicars of this comparatively large place were ever drawn from the Beauchief canons.

Nor is it only in the matter of visitation records that Beauchief Abbey is exceptionally fortunate. Two obituaries of this house have happily been preserved. The briefer of these calendars is among the Dugdale MSS. of the Bodleian, and is bound up with an old copy of the Austin Rule that belonged to Beauchief Abbey. It was printed by Thomas Hearne in 1726. (fn. 29) The second calendar, which is by far the longer and more interesting, is in the Cotton collection of the British Museum. (fn. 30) It is a thirteenth-century MS., with various subsequent insertions entered at the time of the death of abbots or benefactors, up to the very period of the dissolution.

The Premonstratensian Order was singularly homogeneous, and kept up through the general chapters at Prémontré, and in other ways, a considerable knowledge of and communion with houses outside their own nationality or province. In this obituary, in addition to the names of nine of their own abbots, five Scotch and twentythree English abbots of other houses, the Beauchief canons were expected to commemorate thirty-five foreign abbots of monasteries in France, Germany, Holland, Spain, Westphalia, and Bohemia. The families of the founders, and their successive patrons, were naturally commemorated, and they also bore in mind the founders of Welbeck, Dale, Lavendon, Langley, and several other houses. On 23 January there was a general commemoration for the departed Cluniacs and Cistercians, for whom each priest said a mass, the clerks fifty Psalms, and the lay brothers a hundred Pater Nosters. Occasionally, for special reasons, the humble officers of the house obtained a place in the obituary as, for instance, one who had been the porter and another the miller of Beauchief Abbey. The founders, Richard FitzRanulph and Ralph Musard, are both entered as canons, showing that they became duly professed to this house before their death. Others, who were canons, appear on the obituary as benefactors, their donation being specially named, such as a very rich vestment worth £20, a great bell, or a fine missal; such gifts were probably made at the time of their profession, as their rule forbad their having greater private possessions than 21s. Associates (fratres ad succurendum) usually made some present which entitled them to the prayers of the community; thus John Ashby, the last rector of Dronfield, made a gift of £20, and others obtained enrolment among the obits by gifts of estates or small plots of land. Among the few women on the list may be mentioned Beatrice the mother, and Alexandra the sister of Stephen, a thirteenth-century abbot of Beauchief. Of foreign princes, Baldwin IV, king of Jerusalem. who died in 1186, and Louis IX, king of the French, canonized in 1297, are enumerated.

This monastery was returned in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 as being of the clear annual value of £126 3s. 3d., it therefore came easily within the £200 limit of the suppression of smaller houses in 1536. John Greenwood alias Sheffield, the last abbot, died on 30 April of that year. His obituary is the last entry in the calendar. It concludes with the pious aspiration 'May God have mercy on his soul.'

On 2 May, 1536, Sir Anthony Babington wrote to Cromwell telling him of the death of the abbot of Beauchief. He reminded Cromwell that his son John had been appointed one of the commissioners, and begged that if other houses were going to stand, by composition or pleasure of the king, that this house might be amongst the number. Recognizing, as all his correspondents did, the vicar-general's accessibility to bribes, he added that if the house were spared, for the sake of his wife's ancestors lying there, he would give his 'mastership' five fodders of lead and his 'daily service at commandment in these parts.' (fn. 31)

On 2 August, 1536, a fairly full inventory of the goods of the house was drawn up by the official receiver and auditor, which has been twice printed in extenso. (fn. 32) In addition to the vestments, and copper, latten, and iron ornaments of the church, the somewhat meagre contents of the hall, buttery, kitchen, bakehouse, and six chambers are entered. The plate included four silver chalices with their patens, a parcel-gilt salt with cover, twelve small silver spoons, a small pounced silver goblet, and old silver maser band and 'ij small things of silver to put relicks in.' The live stock were 12 oxen, 13 kine, 2 bulls, 17 young beasts, 2 horses, I mare, six score sheep, and 20 swine.

The actual surrender, which was probably delayed through the death of the abbot, was not made until 4 February, 1536-7. (fn. 33) The site of the abbey, with most of the immediately surrounding lands, was granted to Sir Nicholas Strelley in April, 1537. (fn. 34)

Abbots of Beauchief

Jordan, died 1231 (fn. 35)

William, early Henry III (fn. 36)

Gilbert de Malmesbury, died 1237 (fn. 37)

John, 1250 (fn. 38)

Stephen (fn. 39)

Roger, before 1268, (fn. 40) occurs 1272 (fn. 41)

Ivo, resigned 1278 (fn. 42)

Roger de Fulstowe, elected 1278 (fn. 43)

Ralph de Fulstowe, occurs 1285, (fn. 44)

William de Folkingham, occurs 1295, died 1324 (fn. 45)

Robert de Radclyfe, occurs 1350-68 (fn. 46)

John Norton I alias Nottingham, elected 1393-47 (fn. 47)

Robert de Bubnyll, occurs 1399, died 1413 (fn. 48)

William Gresley, died 1433 (fn. 49)

John Girdon, died 1443 (fn. 50)

John Downham, deposed 1461-2 (fn. 51)

John Swift, 1461-2-1478 (fn. 52)

Thomas Wedur or Wyder, 1478-91 (fn. 53)

John Norton II, 1494-1501 (fn. 54)

John Greenwood alias Sheffield, occurs 1516, died 1536 (fn. 55)

Pegge gives a plate of two seals pertaining to this abbey from impressions that were in his possession. One of these is the common seal, which is a pointed oval, representing Becket's martyrdom; only three knights are shown, and the saint is kneeling before them; below is a half-length abbot with pastoral staff. The legend is:—

+ S' ECLE . . . . I THOM . . MARTIRIS. D' .BEAVCHEF (fn. 56)

The other is a pointed oval abbot's seal, with the crowned Virgin and Child, and the archbishop in niches side by side, with half-length abbot below. The legend is:—


Another seal is that of the abbot in 1280; it is a pointed oval, with a right hand and vested arm issuing from the right-hand side and holding a pastoral staff, in the field are a crescent and five stars of six points. Legend:—

.... ABBATIS : DE : BELLO : CAPITE. (fn. 57)


  • 1. The printed authorities for the history of this abbey, in addition to Dugdale & Tanner, are:— Pegge, Hist. of Beauchief Abbey (1801); Cox, Churches of Derb. vol. i, pp. 70-80 (1875); and Addy, Hist. Mem. of Beauchief Abbey (1878).
  • 2. Thomas of Canterbury was canonized in 1173, and Albinus, abbot of Darley, who died in 1176, was the first witness of the foundation charter.
  • 3. Mon. ii, 807.
  • 4. Mr. Addy (pp. 7-9) states that a Robert FitzRanulph followed FitzUrse into the cathedral, but the reference he gives to Giles' edition of FitzStephen's Life of Becket does not bear this out. Nor is there anything to substantiate the idea in any of the 7 vols. of Robertson's Materials for a Life of Thomas Becket, published since Mr. Addy wrote. Mr. Addy's argument that the founder's becoming a canon of the house points to his being an accomplice has no weight. A score of founders of English houses might be named who ended their days as inmates of the house of their foundation who were not associated with any specific crime.
  • 5. The original chartulary of the abbey is in the possession of Mr. Philip Bryan Davies-Cooke, of Owston, near Doncaster, and consists of 116 parchment folios. Dr. Pegge made a complete transcript of this chartulary towards the end of the eighteenth century, which forms vol. viii of the Pegge MSS. at the College of Arms.
  • 6. Chartul. fol. 6, cited in full by Pegge.
  • 7. Ibid. fols. 6-10, 51b.
  • 8. Thoroton, Hist. of Notts, 64.
  • 9. Pegge, Hist. of Beauchief, 116-34.
  • 10. Chartul. fols. 21, 47b.
  • 11. Ibid. fols. 48-50.
  • 12. Ibid. fol. 21.
  • 13. A parallel quotation from the Dur. Halmote R. (Surtees Soc.), 1373, puts the matter beyond a doubt. 'Injunctum est omnibus tenentibus villa quod evanient quandam herbam vocatam gold.'
  • 14. Mr. Addy (Hist. of Beauchief, 67) thinks the word more likely means the charlock or wild mustard (sinapis arvensis), a not very probable suggestion; but I have heard Derbyshire children at Hazlewood call the coltsfoot (tussilago farfara), whose yellow blossoms come up in springtide before the leaves, 'goldies,' and this is a ranker and more mischievous weed than the cornmarigold.
  • 15. Pat. 29 Edw. I, m. 3.
  • 16. Pegge, Hist. of Beauchief, 134-201.
  • 17. Pat. 12 Edw. I, m. 6.
  • 18. Close, 1 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 14d.
  • 19. Pat. 12 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 24d.
  • 20. Pat. 7 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 2.
  • 21. Close, 6 Edw. III, m. 31d.
  • 22. Reliquary, Apr. 1867.
  • 23. Add. MS. 4934, fol. 109.
  • 24. Ibid.
  • 25. Pat. 3 Edw. IV, pt. 1, m. 5 d.
  • 26. Redman's Visitations, Ashmole MS. 1519 (Bodleian).
  • 27. Scientia, i.e. theological science, such as the writings of Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus.
  • 28. Addy, Hist. of Beauchief, 107-8.
  • 29. It is given as an appendix to the Chron. of John of Glastonbury, pp. 557-66.
  • 30. Cott. MS. Calig. A. viii, fol. 4-27. Attention was first drawn to this full obituary by Dr. Cox in 1875; an English version of it well annotated is given by Mr. Addy, Hist. of Beauchief, pp. 22-60.
  • 31. L. and P. Hen. VIII, x, 787.
  • 32. Pegge, op. cit. 228-31; Addy, op. cit. 138-43. The original is in private hands at Aldwark, but there is a copy in the B.M., Add. MS. 28117, fol. 33b.
  • 33. This is Pegge's statement, and there is no reason to doubt its accuracy. There is no Beauchief surrender at the Public Record Office.
  • 34. Pat. 28 Hen. VIII, pt. 4, m. 29.
  • 35. Pegge, Obituary.
  • 36. Wolley Chart. iv, 46.
  • 37. Pegge, Obituary; Chart. App. ix.; Add. MS. 28117, fol. 31b.
  • 38. Addy, no original authority is given.
  • 39. Chartul. fol. 10. Undated deed, latter part of Hen. III, Obituary.
  • 40. Chartul. fol. 41, Obituary.
  • 41. Harl. Chart. 85 E. 13.
  • 42. Visitation, Reliquary, Apr. 1867.
  • 43. Ibid.
  • 44. Chartul. fol. 85b, Obituary.
  • 45. Pegge, Obituary; Jeayes, Derb. Chart. 1775.
  • 46. Chartul. fol. 48b, 50b, 110b.
  • 47. Inventory at election cited by Pegge.
  • 48. Pegge, Obiuary.
  • 49. Ibid.
  • 50. Ibid.
  • 51. Visitations.
  • 52. Ibid.
  • 53. Ibid.
  • 54. Visitations, Pegge.
  • 55. Pegge, Obituary.
  • 56. B.M. lxxiv, 9.
  • 57. Harl. Chart. 83 E. 2.