Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Winchcombe

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

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, 'Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Winchcombe', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 2, (London, 1907) pp. 66-72. British History Online [accessed 20 May 2024].

. "Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Winchcombe", in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 2, (London, 1907) 66-72. British History Online, accessed May 20, 2024,

. "Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Winchcombe", A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 2, (London, 1907). 66-72. British History Online. Web. 20 May 2024,

In this section


In 798 Cenwulf, king of the Mercians, began to build a great monastery at Winchcombe. (fn. 1) The church was dedicated in 811 with much splendour by Wulfred, archbishop of Canterbury, in the presence of Sired king of East Anglia, Cuthred king of Kent, thirteen bishops, ten ealdormen, and a great concourse of people. (fn. 2) When at the end of the fifteenth century, Abbot Richard Kidderminster began to write the history of the monastery, he could not gather any certain information as to the endowment provided by Cenwulf. (fn. 3) He believed that it consisted of lands at Sherborne, Bledington, Enstone, Honeybourne, Adelmington, Alne, Twyning, Charlton Abbots, Stanton, Snowshill, and Newton. (fn. 4)

In 821 Cenwulf died. Soon afterwards, according to the legend, his little son and successor, Kenelm, was murdered in a wood at Clent in Worcestershire, at the instigation of his ambitious sister, Cwenthryth. (fn. 5) In after ages it was said that a dove flew into St. Peter's at Rome and laid a letter written in English on the high altar. An Englishman took it, and read how the little king was slain, and his body lay hidden in the wood. The pope sent letters to the English kings to tell them of the deed. The body was found and taken to Winchcombe for burial. Thus St. Kenelm became the patron saint of the monastery.

During the next 150 years monasticism decayed greatly throughout England, and at Winchcombe, as in many other religious foundations, monks gave place to secular clerks.

In 969, during the Benedictine revival, Oswald, bishop of Worcester, compelled the secular clerks who were then dwelling at Winchcombe to withdraw. (fn. 6) In their place he put monks who should keep the strict rule of St. Benedict, as it was then observed at Fleury, and appointed Germanus, dean of Ramsey, as their abbot. On the death of King Edgar there was a revulsion of feeling in Mercia in favour of the secular priests who had been ousted, and in 975 the monks of Winchcombe were expelled, and returned to the monastery at Ramsey from which they had come. (fn. 7) It is probable that the monks were reinstated before many years had passed, (fn. 8) as in the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-66) it had become one of the foremost Benedictine houses. On the death of Abbot Godwine in 1053, Aldred, bishop of Worcester, undertook to rule the monastery, (fn. 9) and it was in his hands until 17 July, 1054, when Edward the Confessor appointed one of his chaplains, by name Godric. (fn. 9) Winchcombe was within Harold's own earldom of Wessex, and William the Conqueror had reason to think that the monks were hostile to him. In or about 1068 he deposed Godric, and sent him as a prisoner to Gloucester, and afterwards put him under the charge of Athelwig, abbot of Evesham, a staunch supporter of the Norman rule. (fn. 10) William entrusted the monastery to the custody of Athelwig for the space of three years until he appointed Galandus, a Norman monk. (fn. 11)

The rule of Galandus was marked by a quickening of monastic life which everywhere attended the efforts of the vigorous Norman abbots, and at Winchcombe manifested itself more especially in a notable mission to Northumbria. Accompanied by two deacons from Evesham, Prior Aldwyn set out on foot, with an ass to carry his books, altar plate, and vestments. (fn. 12) With the aid of Walcher, bishop of Durham, they rebuilt the monasteries of Jarrow and Wearmouth, and gave a strong impulse to monastic revival in the north.

In 1087 the possessions of Winchcombe included, in addition to the endowment attributed to Cenwulf, (fn. 13) lands at Alderton, Frampton, Hidcote, and Windrush, making in all 109 hides, which were valued at £82. (fn. 14)

On 15 October, 1091, the church of Winchcombe was struck by lightning, and the tower rent in twain. (fn. 15) In 1151 the church and monastic buildings again suffered serious damage by fire, (fn. 16) books and charters being then destroyed.

In 1175 Abbot Henry obtained from Alexander III a bull confirming the lands and churches then held by the monastery, and at the same time restraining the abbots from alienating any of them without the consent of the chapter. (fn. 17) The pope also exempted the monks from payment of tithes on land newly brought into cultivation by them or at their expense, or on the young of their flocks and herds. In a general interdict he allowed them to hold services with closed doors and without ringing of bells. Prior Crispin, a man of pure and religious life, was elected by the monks in 1181. (fn. 18) His skill in worldly matters showed itself in the policy, continued by his successor, of buying up lands and rights. (fn. 19) He proposed to rebuild the cloisters, but died suddenly within a year. (fn. 20)

The name of Abbot Robert III (1194-1221) was gratefully remembered at Winchcombe. During his rule the new church was completed, and the building of the cloisters and monastic offices followed. (fn. 21)

In or about 1194 Henry de Soilli, bishop of Worcester, allowed the convent to draw a yearly pension of five marks from the church of Sherborne for the building and maintenance of their church. (fn. 22) In 1206, with the consent of the chapter, Abbot Robert set aside the tithes of Stanton and Snowshill for a fabric fund, decreeing that except at a time of famine and distress the endowment should not be diverted to any other purpose. (fn. 23) At a considerable cost he made an aqueduct by which water was carried in leaden pipes to the abbey from a spring at Hanwell. (fn. 24) He increased the revenues of the obedientiars, (fn. 25) and assigned certain rents in Gloucester to provide wine for the convent on St. Margaret's Day. (fn. 26) He instituted a solemn mass of the Virgin on the morrow of St. Kenelm, and 'because the labourer is worthy of his hire,' he decreed that all who took part in it should be present at a feast of geese and wine afterwards. (fn. 27) As a provision for charity he decreed that 100 poor should be feasted each year on the morrow of All Saints. (fn. 28) In or about 1200, at the heavy price of over £558, he obtained from William de Bethune the manors of Yanworth, Hazleton and Halling at a fee farm rent of £20 a year, (fn. 29) which was reduced in 1208 to £10. (fn. 30) In 1217 Daniel de Bethune remitted another £1, and gave the monastery the advowsons of the churches in the three manors. (fn. 31) In or before 1251 the rent was remitted altogether. (fn. 32)

About 1224 the church of Sherborne was appropriated to the monastery for the use of hospitality. (fn. 33) It was probably in accordance with the constitution of the legate Otho, (fn. 34) that the abbey church was solemnly dedicated by Walter Cantilupe, bishop of Worcester, on 13 October, 1239. (fn. 35)

The abbacy of John Yanworth (1247-82) was marked by somewhat reckless expenditure. The acquisition of land was pursued at all costs. About 1250 the manor of Dry Marston was purchased from the prior and convent of Coventry for the large sum of 1,130 marks and a yearly rent of £1. (fn. 36) In 1251 rights of free warren were granted by Henry III in the demesne lands of nineteen manors belonging to the convent. (fn. 37) Another of the abbot's early acts was to petition Alexander IV to allow him to cancel long leases granted by his predecessors, which he urged were greatly to the detriment of his house. (fn. 38) On 4 January, 1254, Alexander IV sent a mandate to Robert, abbot of Tewkesbury, to recover any of the lands of Winchcombe which had been unlawfully alienated. (fn. 39) Abbot Kidderminster noted that Yanworth increased the property of the monastery in tithes, possessions, and spiritualities. (fn. 40) The building of the Lady Chapel in the cemetery continued. (fn. 41) During the last few years of his rule very lavish corrodies were granted in exchange for sums of ready money or as a reward for faithful service. In 1276 Henry Addie and Agnes his wife purchased a bountiful supply of daily food for life for fifty-five marks. (fn. 42) In 1278 a wise provision was made for Walter the mason of Hereford, who bound himself to serve the abbot and his successors all his life, to finish the new work as well as he knew how, and to undertake no other building except for the king. (fn. 43) He was allowed to build a chamber for himself next the granary, for which the abbot was to find the stone and timber. He boarded with the abbot's chief servants, but if he were ill and confined to his room he was to have an allowance of two monk's loaves, two noggins of beer, and two dishes from the abbot's kitchen. Food, clothes, and provender were provided for his two servants and two horses. Each year he was promised a robe for himself like that of the steward, and if incapacitated by continuous sickness or old age he was to have the same allowances, but to content himself with one servant and one horse. Thirty years later he was still in the service of the house, and paid the costs of the appropriation of the church of Enstone. (fn. 44) In 1329 it was ordained that ten marks should be set aside each year for the keeping of his anniversary. (fn. 45)

On the resignation of John Yanworth in 1282, Walter of Wickwane, the cellarer, was elected. He found the monastery in debt to the sum of above 930 marks. (fn. 46) Being a shrewd and able man of business, he not only extricated the house from its difficulties, but added very largely to its possessions. About 1288 (fn. 47) he obtained the appropriation of the parish church of St. Peter at Winchcombe from Godfrey Giffard, bishop of Worcester, and in 1309 the appropriation of Enstone from John Dalderby, bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 48) He also secured the great and small tithes of the demesne of Halling, Cutsdean, Sponley, Hazleton, and Yanworth. (fn. 49) Among his other acquisitions were the grange of Corndean; land in Thrupp and Coates to provide comforts for the monks when they were bled; and lands in Twyning, Gretton, Frampton, Honeybourne, Sherborne, and elsewhere, which added £15 to the rental of the monastery. (fn. 50) The property which he obtained in London in 1301, in the parish of St. Bride, Fleet Street, consisted of a messuage with a hall, chambers, and stables, and served as the abbot's lodging, (fn. 51) for he and his successors were regularly summoned to attend Parliament. (fn. 52) He bought timber for sixteen granaries and many sheepfolds and for buildings within the abbey. (fn. 53) In 1299 he obtained a confirmation from Edward I of the lease of Lindley Warren from John of Sudeley for sixty years. (fn. 54) In 1276 a licence was granted him to enclose 60 acres of waste lands at Enstone, (fn. 55) in 1307 to assart 115 acres of waste land in Whichwood Forest, (fn. 56) and in 1311 to enclose another 60 acres of waste land in the manor of Enstone. (fn. 57) He was generous in his dealings with the convent, and increased the revenues of the prior, sacrist, almoner, hostiller, master of the farmery, precentor, pittancer, kitchener, and chamberlain, and made provision for a larger daily allowance of bread to the monks. (fn. 58) Probably in aid of the building fund, he obtained from Nicholas IV in 1291 an indulgence of a year and forty days for penitents who visited the monastery on the feasts of the Virgin and St. Kenelm. (fn. 59) He caused the presbytery and the chapels on the north side of it to be vaulted. (fn. 60) It is difficult to realize how the money was obtained for the accomplishment of his objects. Over £1,050 was paid in taxes to the crown and the papacy between 1282 and 1311. (fn. 61) The grange of Corndean was given by Oliver, brother of Ralph of Sudeley, for the support of two monks, (fn. 62) but the lease of Lindley Warren cost £60. (fn. 63) The expenses of the sacrist who was the officer responsible for the building at Winchcombe were exceeding his receipts, (fn. 64) and in aid of the vaulting he was allowed 4s. from each shop owned by the convent within the north gate of Gloucester, the tithe of lambs at Winchcombe, and the whole tithe of Sudeley. (fn. 65) Before 1307 William of Cherington gave £40 for the fabric. (fn. 66) In that year, because, as they urged, the resources of the monastery did not suffice for the completion of the fabric and the maintenance of alms and hospitality, and the house was already in debt, the abbot and convent succeeded in appropriating the church of Enstone. (fn. 67) Though assessed only at 40 marks, (fn. 68) its revenues amounted to 80 marks, (fn. 69) but the convent did not enter into immediate enjoyment of them, for, probably in order to induce William de Haustede, the rector, to resign in their favour, they were obliged to guarantee him a pension of that amount. (fn. 70) In 1309 the convent owed £200 to Hugh of Normanton. (fn. 71) The assessment of the temporalities of Winchcombe in 1291 amounted to under £110, (fn. 72) but there were other sources of revenue. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, forty sacks of wool were sold on an average every year at the rate of 13 marks a sack. (fn. 73) Several corrodies were granted, but these do not seem to have brought in any considerable sum of money. However, the administration and discipline of the house satisfied so stern a visitor as Giffard, bishop of Worcester, (fn. 74) proved himself to be in other monasteries, and so vigorous a reformer as Winchelsey, archbishop of Canterbury, when he came thither on his metro political visitation in 1301. (fn. 75) When Bishop Maidstone visited the monastery in 1315, the year after the death of Abbot Walter, he found nothing to correct. (fn. 76) The gates of the monastery were closed against the prior of Worcester in 1302, when he attempted a visitation during the vacancy of the see, because the house had been so recently visited both by Giffard and Winchelsey. (fn. 77) In 1314 Abbot Walter's last benefaction was to secure for the prior and convent the right of administering the possessions of the monastery during vacancies for a fine of £40 on each occasion, thus excluding the escheators. (fn. 78)

His successors emulated his policy of expansion, but lacked his ability and force of character. The next thirty years was a period of extravagance and maladministration. In 1318 the manor of Rowell was purchased from the abbey of St. Evroul at an initial cost of £550, and a yearly rent of £20. (fn. 79) A hundred marks were paid for an assart at Enstone. (fn. 80) Thirty-three acquisitions of messuages, lands, and rents in Winchcombe, Coates, and Greet were made without the licence of the crown to appropriate in mortmain, and in 1344 the convent was fortunate in obtaining, on the intercession of John Stratford, archbishop of Canterbury, (fn. 81) a pardon and a licence to retain this property. There was some reckless speculation in corrodies. As these included grants of perpetual sustenance and sometimes clothes and lodging as well, and were in fact annuities, their profitableness depended on the lives of the individuals who purchased them. In 1317 Margery, daughter of Bertram of Alderton, obtained one for 140 marks. (fn. 82) In 1320, when the convent was in urgent need of money, John de Somery, rector of Bishampton, who already held a corrody, (fn. 83) paid 140 marks for further privileges. (fn. 84) Many other corrodies are entered in the Landboc, (fn. 85) in which there are other indications of financial difficulties.

In 1321 a bond of £60, payable at the rate of £10 a year, was given to Robert Dastyn for corn already received from him. (fn. 86) In 1328 £76 0s. 8d. was due to Robert Pope, a burgess of Gloucester, for cloth. (fn. 87) The injunctions issued on 12 July by Orlton, bishop of Worcester, after his visitation in 1329, throw a strong light on the internal life of the monastery. (fn. 88) The finances were in great disorder. Orlton decreed that the abbot and obedientiars should render their accounts, before 8 September, to the convent, or those of the monks who were elected for that purpose, and that for the future the accounts should be regularly presented. Two treasurers were to be appointed to administer the common fund of the convent, and by the will of the chapter the obedientiars should be compelled to contribute to it if necessary. The abbot was bidden to restore to the obedientiars the rents and issues of the possessions assigned to their offices, which he was said to have taken from them. Neither woods, wool, nor corrodies were to be sold without the consent of the chapter. Trustworthy bailiffs were to be appointed to the custody of the manors. If the obedientiars served their office faithfully they were not to be removed at the abbot's whim, and he was to consult the chapter on matters of business. The common seal was to be in safe keeping. The extravagant household of both abbot and convent was to be cut down, superfluous servants dismissed, and the provision of horses and robes for unnecessary persons diminished. The lives of the monks called forth some strictures. They were bidden to attend the services regularly, to be silent in church, cloister, frater and dorter, instead of chattering and listening to vain tales. The evil custom of sitting drinking after dinner and after compline was to be abolished. The monks were to keep within the precincts instead of wandering in the town and countryside, unless they were sent abroad on the business of the house. At the request of the abbot and convent, Orlton made fresh appointments to some of the offices, but shortly afterwards, on 7 December, 1329, as the abbot pleaded that his privileges had been thus infringed, the bishop allowed him to remove those obedientiars and make his own choice. (fn. 89) In 1340 he resigned on account of old age and harassing cares, a liberal provision was made for him by the chapter, and he was given a chamber in the farmery. (fn. 90) There was some irregularity in the choice of his successor, William of Sherborne, and Wulstan de Bransford, bishop of Worcester, declared the election invalid, but to avoid any difficulties he himself appointed the monks' nominee. (fn. 91) William of Sherborne's rule was unfortunate. On 20 July, 1346, Thomas of Berkeley was appointed to arrest Hugh Becyn, a chaplain, John his brother, and their confederates, who, as soon as the king had gone abroad, came openly in arms to Winchcombe, broke into the abbey, carried away a large quantity of its goods, assaulted the monks and their servants and other men, and still besieged the monastery. (fn. 92) In June, 1351, John Thoresby, bishop of Worcester, sent a mandate to the archdeacon of Worcester, to visit the house and make an inquiry into the alienation and dilapidation of its goods, and other excesses. (fn. 93) In 1352 certain of the monks came to the bishop in London and made grave complaints against the abbot. (fn. 94) In July the bishop commissioned the prior of Worcester and Henry de Neubold to put an end to the dissensions which had arisen. (fn. 95) On 26 August, he summoned Abbot Sherborne to London, (fn. 96) and on 18 September, arrived at Winchcombe to conduct his own investigation. (fn. 97) Nineteen monks besides the abbot appeared before him on chapter. The abbot proffered his resignation, and the bishop accepted it on the ground that the late dissensions threatened the dispersion of the monks, and the ruin of the monastery. The profits of the manor of Twyning were assured him for his life, and in his stead Richard of Ipwell was elected and confirmed. (fn. 98) He was confronted with a very difficult position, and in 1353 Edward III intervened. With the assent of Reginald Brian, bishop of Worcester, and at the request of the abbot and convent, he entrusted the custody of the house to four commissioners. (fn. 99) It was said that through lack of governance in the past the monastery was so heavily burdened with debt, and its fortunes were for other reasons so miserably depressed, that its possessions did not suffice for the maintenance of the convent nor the payment of creditors. Almsgiving had ceased, and it was feared that the monks would be constrained to disperse. Accordingly the commissioners were to administer the finances, provide for the sustenance of the convent and the necessary staff of servants for almsgiving and other good works, and with the advice of some of the more discreet monks, sell the residue to pay off the debts. The crisis was indeed the Nemesis of undue expansion, doubtless hastened by the loss of revenue after the visitation of the Black Death in 1349. (fn. 100) After order had thus been restored, disputes again arose between the abbot and monks, and on the resignation of Richard of Ipwell in 1359, the experiment was tried of electing a monk from another house. The choice fell on Walter of Winferton, then cellarer of Worcester, (fn. 101) and under his rule the monastery slowly regained its former position. In 1362 Edward III granted a licence to appropriate in mortmain the church of Twyning, (fn. 102) which was worth forty marks, but the consent of Wakefield, bishop of Worcester, was not secured until 1379. (fn. 103) The abbot and convent urged on him that, owing to the loss of their tenants and servants in the pestilence, their rental had fallen by one half, and in fact their whole income did not exceed 500 marks. The buildings of the monastery and on the manors were in a ruinous condition, and in 1373 a licence to embattle and crenellate the abbey was granted by Edward III. (fn. 104) Hospitality was a heavy charge, and wrongful, costly, and vexatious lawsuits had been brought against the convent; among these the convent probably reckoned the suits with the vicars of Sherborne and Winchcombe. (fn. 105)

In 1391, for a payment of 50 marks, Richard II granted that, on the death of a knight, by name John atte Wode, the abbot and convent and their successors should have the jurisdiction over the hundreds of Kiftesgate, Holford and Greston, and the profits of the markets and fairs of Winchcombe, at the fee farm rent of £38 a year to the Exchequer. (fn. 106)

At the election of William Bradley in 1395 there were nineteen monks, (fn. 107) so the numbers had not increased since 1359. In 1398 he received for himself and his successors from Boniface IX the rights of a mitred abbot, which added to his dignity and importance. (fn. 108) In the same year, with the assent of the pope, Richard II, and Tidman of Winchcombe, bishop of Worcester, the vicarage of the parish church was appropriated to the monastery. (fn. 109) In 1402, when their revenues had reached 1,000 marks, they obtained a papal bull enabling them to appropriate the church of Bledington, which was worth 25 marks a year. (fn. 110) Boniface IX gave them leave to serve the church either by a monk or secular priest whom they could remove at will, but in 1406 they were obliged to acquiesce in the ordination of a perpetual vicarage of the value of 10 marks by Clifford, bishop of Worcester. (fn. 111)

When the monastery was visited by Bishop Polton in 1428, he found that it was out of debt and very prosperous and peaceful. (fn. 112) Under the rule of John Cheltenham (elected 1423) it had become an example to other monasteries, a comfort and relief to the bishop. The important register which bears John Cheltenham's name was compiled by him. (fn. 113) There were still some lay brothers in the monastery at the time of his installation, (fn. 114) but the number of monks did not increase by more than one or two.

The prosperity of both town and abbey manifested itself during the Wars of the Roses in the building of the great parish church. The chancel was erected by Abbot William Winchcombe (1454-74), the parishioners found £200 for the nave, and Ralph Boteler, lord of Sudeley, helped them to finish the work. (fn. 115) In 1480, in exchange for quarried stone to the value of £100 for the building of St. George's Chapel at Windsor, Edward IV granted a licence to the abbot and convent to appropriate lands in mortmain to the yearly value of £20. (fn. 116)

Abbot Richard Kidderminster (1488-1525) was a man of affairs, a trusted servant of Henry VIII and Wolsey, as well as a truly religious man, a scholar, and an able administrator. At the age of fifteen he was admitted as a novice, and four years later was sent to the Benedictine College of Gloucester Hall at Oxford. (fn. 117) Under his rule the number of monks reached twenty-seven. (fn. 118) In the words of Brown Willis: 'By his encouragement of virtue and good letters he made the monastery flourish so much that it was equal to a little university,' (fn. 119) but without further evidence it would be difficult to say whether there was any such revival of learning at Winchcombe as at Canterbury. (fn. 120) Abbot Kidderminster was a keen student of history, and in his searches among the charters and records of the house, many of which he found torn and almost illegible, he had cause to deplore the carelessness of his predecessors. (fn. 121) He conceived and carried out his scheme of compiling a great register, which was divided into five sections. In the first part he treated of the foundation of the monastery, and owing to the destruction of the earlier records in the fire of 1151, he had great difficulty in coming to any definite conclusion. With scrupulous regard for accuracy, he wrote: 'What truth there may be in these things I know not, for as I have never read them among our antiquities, I should not dare to write them' (fn. 122); the second part contained papal and episcopal privileges and instruments relating to pensions and tithes; the third, royal charters and privileges; the fourth, a collection of documents connected with the possession and acquisition of all the property of the house; and the last consisted of a series of brief lives of the abbots. But the register met the fate of the earlier charters, though not before it had been seen and used by Dugdale. In 1666 it was in the chambers of Sir William Morton in Serjeants' Inn, and perished in the Great Fire. (fn. 123) Among his other works was a book on the sanctity of the persons of the clergy, and a treatise against Luther. (fn. 124) In 1510 he preached before the king at Greenwich, and in 1514 he delivered a famous sermon at Paul's Cross in defence of the privileges of the clergy. (fn. 125) In 1510 he obtained from Henry VIII a grant of the manor of Sudeley, the advowson of the chapel, and the lands formerly held by Sir Ralph Boteler, at a rent of £60 a year. (fn. 126) In 1512 he accompanied Fisher, bishop of Rochester, and the prior of the Hospitallers on an embassy to Pope Julius II. (fn. 127) He favoured the divorce of Katherine of Aragon, and sought Cromwell's friendship at the beginning of the great minister's career. He resigned his office in 1525, and in 1531, shortly before his death, he attributed his neglect in writing to Cromwell, to his advanced age and sickness. (fn. 128)

The galling nature of the injunctions which were sent to the monasteries by Cromwell in 1535 was very apparent at Winchcombe. Abbot Mounslow and the convent petitioned Cromwell that some of these might be modified. (fn. 129) They were virtually prisoners within the precincts. Accordingly they asked that the abbot might have licence to take one or two of his brethren with him as chaplains when he went out of the monastery, and that he might send any of his brethren to preach the Word of God abroad. They desired that the abbot might receive women of nobility and others of sad and good conversation, being friends, mothers, or kinswomen to him or his brethren, to his hall at dinner or supper, and that women might come into the church for divine service. As the monks were limited to the use of one gate, they reminded Cromwell that of the two gates of the monastery, one opened on to the town where there was always a porter, and the other into the fields. If this were shut, corn and hay would have to be carried half a mile about. They also prayed that the church doors might stand open at mass and evensong. As the abbot was bound daily to expound part of the rule of St. Benedict in English, they asked that he might have licence to appoint a deputy. The injunctions were subversive of discipline. Any monk who wished to complain of his superior or of his brethren had a right to appeal to Cromwell and to be furnished with money and means. The abbot told his monks that he would shortly expound the rule in chapter, but as he delayed a day or two the sub-chamberlain demanded a licence from him to complain to Cromwell on that account, and because the abbot had invited the prior and chanter to dinner. (fn. 130) One of the brethren, John Horwood, wrote a treatise 'against the usurped power of the bishop of Rome,' which he sent to Cromwell. He could not endure 'the straitness of the religion,' the customary abstinence, the frater, and other observances, and was excused by Cromwell from getting up for matins. (fn. 131) He also desired a capacity to take a benefice without changing his habit. On 7 December the abbot complained to Cromwell of the disobedience of two of his brethren. (fn. 132) They had eaten meat on the first Thursday in Advent, refused to do penance, and said they would eat it on Friday if they could get it. The appointment by Cromwell of Anthony Saunders, the curate of Winchcombe, to preach to the monks, was an obvious source of friction. On 3 February, 1535, he complained of the hindrances put in his way by the abbot, (fn. 133) and on 2 November he asked Cromwell to appoint a convenient hour in the forenoon for him to read to the monks. 'They will not come in due time,' he wrote, 'they set so much by their popish service.' (fn. 134) There was no opposition to the royal supremacy, which was acknowledged on 25 August, 1534, by the abbot and twenty-four monks. (fn. 135)

The monastery was surrendered on 23 December, 1539. The abbot received a pension of £140 and forty loads of wood, the prior one of £8, nine monks had £6 13s. 4d. and seven others received £6 each. (fn. 136)

The clear yearly value of the property of the monastery in 1535 amounted to £759 11s. 9¼d.; (fn. 137) in the hands of the crown bailiff in 1540 it brought in £945 3s. 11¼d. The possessions of the convent in Gloucestershire included the manors of Winchcombe, Twyning, Sherborne, Staunton, Snowshill, Honeybourne, Dry Marston, Adelmington, Bledington, Yanworth, Hazleton, Rowell, Halling, Charlton Abbots, Naunton, Frampton, Coates, Sudeley, the hundreds of Kiftesgate, Holford, and Greston, rents in Winchcombe and Gloucester, the rectories of Winchcombe, Twyning, Staunton, and Bledington, in Oxfordshire the manor and rectory of Enstone, in Warwickshire the manor of Alne.

Abbots of Winchcombe (fn. 138)

Livingus (?), occurs 851 (?)

Germanus, circa 969-75

Godwine or Eadwine, 1044, died 1053

Godric or Eadric, 1054-72

Galandus, 1075

Ralph I, 1077

Girmind, 1095

Godfrey, 1122

Robert I, 1138

William, 1152

Gervase, 1157

Henry, 1171

Crispin, 1181

Robert II, 1182

Ralph II, 1184

Robert III, 1194

Thomas, 1221

Henry of Tudington, 1232

John Yanworth, 1247

Walter of Wickwane, 1282

Thomas of Sherborne, 1314

Richard of Idbury, 1315

William of Sherborne, 1340

Richard of Ipwell, 1352

Walter of Winferton, 1359

William Bradley, 1395

John Cheltenham, 1423

William Winchcombe, 1454

Thomas Twining, 1474 (fn. 139)

John Twining, 1477

Richard Kidderminster, 1488

Richard Mounslow, 1525

A seal of the fifteenth century represents the Virgin crowned, seated in a canopied niche, the Child standing on her right knee, in her left hand a sceptre (?); overhead, in a smaller niche, the Trinity; on each side, in a smaller canopied niche, a saint full-length; in base, under a roundheaded arch, Oswald, bishop of Worcester, halflength, with mitre and pastoral staff, between two shields of arms, a saltire for Winchcombe Abbey; below the shields the initial letters W W for William of Winchcombe (1454-74). (fn. 140)

The legend is:—



  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. ii, 300.
  • 2. Ibid. 301.
  • 3. Ibid. 302.
  • 4. Ibid. 300.
  • 5. Hist. of the Ch. of York (Rolls Ser.), i, 435. Chronicon abbatiae Rameseiensis (Rolls Ser.), 42.
  • 6. Ibid. 72, 73. Hist. of the Ch. of York (Rolls Ser.), i, 443. Flor. Wigorn (Engl. Hist. Soc.), i, 144.
  • 7. Ealdorman Elfhere died in 983; under his son Elfric the persecution ceased. Brist. and Glouc. Arch. Soc. Trans. xviii, 222.
  • 8. Flor. Wigorn. (Engl. Hist. Soc.), i, 211.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. Freeman, Norman Conquest, iv, 177.
  • 11. Ibid.; Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 302.
  • 12. Simeon of Durham, Opera omnia (Rolls Ser.), i, 108; ii, 201.
  • 13. Cf. supra.
  • 14. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), 157, 165b, 239.
  • 15. MS. Cotton. Tiberius, E. 14, fol. 20v.
  • 16. Royce, Landboc sive Registrum Monasterii de Winchelcumba, i, 83.
  • 17. Royce, op. cit. ii, 89; Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 303.
  • 18. Royce, op. cit. i, 69.
  • 19. Ibid. 197, 198.
  • 20. Ibid. 70.
  • 21. Ibid. 73; Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 312.
  • 22. Royce, op. cit. ii, 275.
  • 23. Ibid. i, 73.
  • 24. Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 312.
  • 25. Royce, op. cit. i, 150, 156.
  • 26. Ibid. i, 167.
  • 27. Ibid. 242, 243.
  • 28. Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 312.
  • 29. Ibid.; Royce, op. cit. i, 109; ii, 309, 310.
  • 30. Royce, op. cit. ii, 312.
  • 31. Ibid. 313.
  • 32. Ibid. 111.
  • 33. Ibid. 275.
  • 34. Wilkins, Concilia, i, 650.
  • 35. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), i, 112.
  • 36. Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 312; Royce, op. cit. i, 11.
  • 37. Cal. Chart. R. 35, Hen. III, m. 7.
  • 38. Royce, op. cit, ii, 87.
  • 39. Ibid.
  • 40. Dugdale, op. cit. ii. 312.
  • 41. Royce, op. cit. ii, xliv; i, 245, 247.
  • 42. Ibid. i, 124; cf. 121, 125.
  • 43. Ibid. 138.
  • 44. Worc. Epis. Reg. Orlton, fol. 31 d.; Royce, op. cit. ii, lxiii.
  • 45. Royce, op. cit, ii, lxiii.
  • 46. Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 304.
  • 47. Royce, op. cit. i, 268.
  • 48. Ibid. 313.
  • 49. Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 304.
  • 50. Ibid.
  • 51. Ibid.; Cal. of Pat. 29 Edw. I, m. 21.
  • 52. The abbot was summoned first in 1265; cf. Dugdale, op. cit. viii, app.
  • 53. Ibid. ii, 304.
  • 54. Cal. of Pat. 27 Edw. I, m. 12.
  • 55. Royce, op. cit. ii, 25.
  • 56. Ibid. 27; i, 301.
  • 57. Cal. of Pat. 4 Edw. II, pt. ii, m. 8.
  • 58. Dugdale. op. cit. ii, 305-9; Constitutiones Walteri de Wykewane.
  • 59. Cal. Papal L. (Rolls Ser.) i, 541.
  • 60. Dugdale, op. cit. ii. 304.
  • 61. Ibid.
  • 62. Royce, op. cit. i, 290.
  • 63. Cal. of Pat. 27 Edw. I, m. 12.
  • 64. Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 309.
  • 65. Ibid.
  • 66. Ibid. 308; Royce, op. cit. i, 299.
  • 67. Royce, op. cit. ii, 44.
  • 68. Ibid. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 233b.
  • 69. Royce, op. cit. ii. lxiii. Worc. Epis. Reg. Orlton, fol. 31d.
  • 70. Royce, op. cit. i, 259, 260.
  • 71. Cal. of Close, 3 Edw. II, m. 16 d.
  • 72. Pope. Nich. Tax (Rec. Com.) 45, 228, 233.
  • 73. Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce, i, 640 (ed. 1905).
  • 74. No corrections at Winchcombe are entered in Giffard's Register (Worc. Hist. Soc.).
  • 75. Royce, op. cit. i, 271; cf. Cant. Archiepis. Reg. Winchelsey, in which there are no corrections.
  • 76. Worc. Epis. Reg. Maidstone, fol. 24.
  • 77. Ann. Mon. (Rolls. Ser.), iv, 551. However, the prior's right of visitation was subsequently admitted; cf. Worc. Reg. Sede Vac. (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 61, 211.
  • 78. Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 309.
  • 79. Ibid. ii, 312. Royce, op. cit. ii, 121, 122.
  • 80. Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 312.
  • 81. Cal. of Pat. 18 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 37.
  • 82. Royce, op. cit. i, 329.
  • 83. Ibid. 320.
  • 84. Ibid. 323.
  • 85. Ibid. i, 322-58 passim.
  • 86. Ibid. i, 336.
  • 87. Ibid. 362.
  • 88. Worc. Epis. Reg. Orlton, fol. 31 d.
  • 89. Ibid. fol. 11.
  • 90. Ibid. Bransford, fol. 14, 34d., 38.
  • 91. Ibid. fol. 35.
  • 92. Cal. of Pat. 20 Edw. III, pt. iii, m. 10d.
  • 93. Worc. Epis. Reg. Thoresby, fol. 28 d.
  • 94. Ibid. fol. 52.
  • 95. Ibid. fol. 51 d.
  • 96. Ibid. fol. 52.
  • 97. Ibid. fol. 52-4.
  • 98. Ibid. fol. 53.
  • 99. Pat. 27 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 17.
  • 100. Royce, op. cit. ii, 97.
  • 101. Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 312.
  • 102. Cal. of Pat. 3 Ric. II, pt. ii, m. 38.
  • 103. Royce, op. cit. ii, 95-101.
  • 104. Ibid. 129.
  • 105. Ibid. ii, 45-66, 281, cf. V.C.H. Glouc. 'Eccles. Hist.' p. 21.
  • 106. Royce, op. cit. ii, 16. The grant had been made to the convent by Hen. III in 1223 for a ferm of £50, but only 'usque ad ætatem nostram,' Cal. of Pat. 8 Hen. III, m. 12. It was not afterwards renewed to them; cf. Royce, op. cit. ii, 19-22.
  • 107. Worc. Reg. Sede Vac. (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 367.
  • 108. Cal. Papal L. v, 162. Royce, op. cit. ii, 41, but there wrongly assigned by the editor to the year 1303. Had he lived to revise his work finally, he would doubtless have discovered the error.
  • 109. Ibid. ii, 139-45; cf. V. C. H. Glouc. 'Eccles. Hist.' p. 20.
  • 110. Royce, op. cit. ii, 42; Cal. of Pat. 6 Hen. IV, pt. 1, m. 8.
  • 111. Worc. Epis. Reg. Clifford, fol. 76.
  • 112. Royce, op. cit. ii, 499.
  • 113. Royce, op. cit. ii.
  • 114. Ibid. ii, 5.
  • 115. Dugdale, op. cit. 298-9.
  • 116. Cal. of Pat. 20 Edw. IV, pt. ii, m. 24.
  • 117. Royce, op. cit. ii, xxxiii.
  • 118. Cant. Archiepis. Reg. Morton, fol. 171 d.
  • 119. Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 299.
  • 120. Gasquet, The Eve of the Reformation, 22-6 (ed. 1905).
  • 121. Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 301.
  • 122. Ibid. 302.
  • 123. Ibid. 299.
  • 124. Ibid. 299. Royce, op. cit. ii, xxxiv.
  • 125. Dugdale, op. cit. ii, 299. Royce, op. cit. ii, xxxiv.
  • 126. Royce, op. et loc. cit.
  • 127. Ibid.
  • 128. Ibid.
  • 129. L. and P. Hen. VIII, ix, No. 1170.
  • 130. L. and P. Hen. VIII, ix, No. 314.
  • 131. Ibid. Nos. 321, 322.
  • 132. Ibid. No. 934.
  • 133. Ibid. viii, No. 171.
  • 134. Ibid. ix, No. 747.
  • 135. Dep. Keeper's Rep. vii, App. ii, 304.
  • 136. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, No. 139, iv.
  • 137. Valor Eccles. (Rec. Com.), ii, 461.
  • 138. The list, which is taken from Royce, Landboc sive Registrum Monasterii Winchelcumba, ii, xvi-xxxv (cf. also Dugdale, Mon. ii, 297-9), has been carefully verified.
  • 139. Cal. of Pat. 17 Edw. IV, pt. i, m. 11.
  • 140. Birch, Catalogue of Seals in British Museum, i, 809.