Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Kingswood

Pages 99-101

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

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The monastery of Tintern was founded in 1131 as a daughter house of the Cistercian monastery of L'Aumone in the diocese of Chartres. (fn. 1) The monks rapidly increased in numbers, and in a few years' time, in accordance with the Cistercian usage, the abbot and convent were anxious to send out a colony of their brethren to found a daughter house. (fn. 2) Roger of Berkeley II purposed to give them the manor of Acholt at Kingswood, and obtained the consent of Henry I. (fn. 3) In 1139, in fulfilment of his uncle's wish, William of Berkeley made a grant of the manor, (fn. 4) which was confirmed by the Empress Matilda. (fn. 5) During the civil war the monks probably wished for a more retired site. (fn. 6) They purchased from John de St. John some lands at Hazleton, which had belonged to Reginald de St. Waleric, and had been confiscated by King Stephen. (fn. 7) There they settled for a short time. Probably about 1147 Reginald de St. Waleric recovered his lands and drove out the monks, who then returned to Kingswood. (fn. 8) In 1148 Roger of Berkeley III confirmed the lands at Kingswood to the abbot and convent. (fn. 9) They were not content to forego their lands at Hazleton and disputed the possession of them with Reginald de St. Waleric. (fn. 10) According to the story of the abbot of Tintern, Reginald de St. Waleric was bound, as an act of penance imposed upon him by the pope, to found a Cistercian monastery, and accordingly he agreed to restore Hazleton to the monks if they would remove thither from Kingswood. They consented. A few of the monks were left at Kingswood, but the greater number removed to Hazleton. There they were troubled by a lack of water, and Reginald removed them to Tetbury. Roger of Berkeley III then complained that Kingswood, which had been founded as an abbey by his predecessor, was practically only a grange to Tetbury. He insisted that he should either recover his lands at Kingswood, or that the convent should return thither from Tetbury. However, at the request of Stephen, and the petition of the general chapter of Citeaux he recognized Kingswood as a grange of Tetbury. (fn. 11)

But the embers of controversy were not yet extinguished. A chapter was held at Kirkstead, probably in 1149, to settle a dispute between Philip abbot of L'Aumone, and the abbot of Waverley, who both attended. (fn. 12) L'Aumone was the mother house of Waverley and Tintern. (fn. 13) It was then decided that the abbot of Waverley might build a monastery at Kingswood. (fn. 14) Pagan, abbot of Tetbury, who was present, acquiesced, although his monastery was but slenderly endowed, but he is said to have been a simple-minded man without guile. The king and Roger of Berkeley gave their consent, although the chapter at Kirkstead had ignored the rights of the convent of Tetbury, and of the mother house of Tintern. The abbot of Waverley sent four monks to Kingswood to occupy the grange, but disputes followed, and a conference was held at Kingswood which was attended by many Cistercian abbots, monks, and lay brothers, besides Roger of Berkeley III, and a number of other persons. It was then decided that the abbot of Waverley should recall his monks from Kingswood, and that it should again become a grange to Tetbury. The site at Tetbury was very unsuitable in many ways, and the monks were constrained to fetch all their fuel from Kingswood. Bernard de St. Waleric obtained from Roger of Berkeley III a grant of forty acres of land at a place called Mireford, close to the water at Kingswood, (fn. 15) and in 1149 or early in 1150, (fn. 16) removed the monks thither from Tetbury. He made over this land to the brethren that they might build their abbey upon it. (fn. 17) At the same time he confirmed to them all the land that they had when they dwelt at Tetbury and at Hazleton. The Berkeleys of Berkeley Castle and of Dursley were also among the benefactors of Kingswood.

In 1180 Abbot Hugh was deposed (fn. 18) by the visitors of the order, and his successor, William, was deposed in the following year, (fn. 19) both probably for some lack of business capacity.

It was most likely owing to the profits from wool that in 1230 the abbot and convent were able to spend £100 in purchasing lands at Culkerton from the prior and convent of St. Oswald's, Gloucester. (fn. 20) In 1242 the revenues from all sources amounted to £288 17s. 1d., the expenses to £269 4s. 11½d., and at the end of the financial year the balance in hand was £174 17s. 1d. (fn. 21) In 1276 the monastery was one of the more prosperous houses of the southern province of the order, and contributed £13 16s. towards a 'courtesy,' which the Cistercians gave to the king. (fn. 22) About the beginning of the fourteenth century the annual sales of wool averaged forty sacks, at prices varying from 26 to 12 marks, according to the quality. (fn. 23) In 1291 the abbot and convent had eight granges on their lands at which their lay brothers and servants lived and worked. (fn. 24) The proceeds of spiritualities were very small, amounting only to £6 4s. 4d., (fn. 25) and the monastery had but the one rectory of Kingswood. (fn. 26) In virtue of that possession the bishop of Worcester took procurations from the monastery, and in 1283 (fn. 27) and 1293 (fn. 28) Giffard lodged at the monastery instead of taking a fee.

The resources of Kingswood were much straitened after the Black Death, and although the generosity of the Berkeleys again stood the convent in good stead, (fn. 29) there were financial difficulties at the end of the fourteenth century. In 1398 Boniface IX granted a very lavish indulgence to penitents who visited the church of Kingswood on Whit Sunday and the four following days, and gave alms for the repair of the church. (fn. 30) It was stated in 1402 that on account of the lack of lay brothers the lands of the monastery were more than usually uncultivated, and that the revenues then scarcely amounted to £100. (fn. 31)

During the course of the fifteenth century the house regained some measure of prosperity. Manors and granges were let on lease, and shortly before the dissolution the convent only cultivated at their own expense a small portion of their land around the monastery. (fn. 32)

The abbot and convent showed a painful anxiety to stand well with Cromwell. On 21 January, 1535, the prior, Thomas Reading, sent Cromwell a little book which he had written in support of the royal supremacy, begging him ' to close up the eye of justice and open the eye of pity to me and the religious men of this house who have no succour except in your evangelical charity.' (fn. 33) On 9 September the abbot sent a friar as prisoner to Cromwell because he had preached in his church in support of the ecclesiastical headship of St. Peter. (fn. 34) The monastery was surrendered on 1 February, 1538, by the abbot, twelve monks, and one lay brother. (fn. 35) Probably on account of their extreme complaisance they all received a small sum of money 'for their reward and finding,' in addition to the promise of a pension. The abbot received £6 13s. 4d., and a pension of £50, the prior £3 6s. 8d. and a pension of £6 13s. 4d. the rest of the monks the sum of £2 13s. 4d. each and pensions of £4 13s. 4d., or £4. (fn. 36) The novice had only £2, and the lay brother at his own request was sent to another religious house.

The clear yearly revenues of the monastery in 1538 amounted to £232 0s. 4d, (fn. 37) and were drawn from the demesne lands, the manors of Kingswood, Ozleworth, and Bagpath, Culkerton, the granges of Ilbery, Bagston, Redge, Hyll, Hazleton, Calcot, and land and rents in Acton, Wotton, Nibley, Dursley, Berkeley, Stone, Newport, Tetbury, Bley, Bristol, and Gloucester, and the rectory of Kingswood.

Abbots of Kingswood (fn. 38)

Pagan occurs circa 1149 (fn. 39)

Hugh deposed 1180 (fn. 40)

William succeeded 1180, deposed 1181 (fn. 41)

Eudo succeeded 1181 (fn. 42)

William succeeded 1188, (fn. 43) occurs circa 1212 (fn. 44)

John occurs 1241 (fn. 45)

Samson occurs 1263 (fn. 46)

Robert of Tetbury occurs 1303 (fn. 47)

Richard elected 1319 (fn. 48)

John Wodeland occurs 1441 (fn. 49)

Walter Deryngs occurs 1435 (fn. 50)

Thomas Neude occurs 1470 (fn. 51)

Thomas Pyrton elected 1482 (fn. 52)

John Sodbury occurs 1503 (fn. 53)

Robert Wolaston occurs 1515 (fn. 54)

William Bewdley occurs 1535 (fn. 55) and 1538 (fn. 56)

An abbot's seal of the thirteenth century represents the Virgin crowned standing under a crocketed canopy with trefoiled arch supported on slender shafts, the Child on her left arm; in the field outside a hatched pattern; in base a carved roundheaded arch, under it a destroyed figure of the abbot. (fn. 57)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. v, 265; Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 228.
  • 2. Dugdale, op. cit. v, 425.
  • 3. Dugdale, op. cit. v, 427.
  • 4. Ibid. 425. Cf. Brist. and Glouc. Arch. Soc. Trans. viii, The Earlier House of Berkeley, 199, 200.
  • 5. Dugdale, op. cit. v, 426.
  • 6. Ibid. 425.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Ibid. 425.
  • 9. Ibid. v, 427, No. x.
  • 10. Ibid. 425.
  • 11. Ibid. 426, No. vi.
  • 12. Ibid. 426.
  • 13. Engl. Hist. Rev. 1893, p. 675.
  • 14. Dugdale, op. cit. v, 426.
  • 15. Ibid. v, 426, No. iv.
  • 16. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. v, App. i, 337. Simon, bishop of Worcester (ob. 20 March, 1150) was one of the witnesses. The date of the final settlement at Kingswood, has, without sufficient evidence, been given as about 1170, e.g. Dugdale, Mon. v, 424, Clifton Antiq. Club Proc. iii, 223.
  • 17. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. v, app. i, 337.
  • 18. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 242.
  • 19. Ibid.
  • 20. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. v, App. i, p. 335.
  • 21. Ibid.
  • 22. MS. Harl. 6603, fol. 384 (B.M.).
  • 23. Cunningham, Growth of Engl. Industry and Commerce (ed. 1905), i, 632.
  • 24. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 235.
  • 25. Dugdale, Mon. v, 424.
  • 26. Ibid. 428.
  • 27. Worc. Epis. Reg. Giffard (Worc. Hist. Soc.), 210.
  • 28. Ibid. 434.
  • 29. Smyth, Lives of the Berkeleys, i, 338, 347.
  • 30. Cal. Papal L. v, 263.
  • 31. Ibid. v, 514.
  • 32. Dugdale, Mon. v, 428.
  • 33. L. and P. Hen. VIII, viii, No. 79.
  • 34. Ibid. No. 315.
  • 35. Ibid. xiii, pt. i, No. 199.
  • 36. Dugdale op. cit. v. 429. One monk was absent. L. and P. Hen. VIII. xiii, pt. i, 1051.
  • 37. Dugdale op. cit. v, p. 428.
  • 38. The abbots of Kingswood did not usually receive benediction from the bishops of Worcester. No list at all is given in the Monasticon.
  • 39. Dugdale op. cit. v, 426.
  • 40. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 242; Dugdale, op. cit. v, 426.
  • 41. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 242.
  • 42. Ibid.
  • 43. Ibid. 245.
  • 44. Jeayes, Catalogue of Mun. of Lord Fitzhardinge, p. 36.
  • 45. Ibid. No. 273.
  • 46. Ibid. No. 433.
  • 47. Ibid. No. 468.
  • 48. Worc. Epis. Reg. Cobham, fol. 13.
  • 49. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. v, App. i, 337.
  • 50. Worc. Epis. Reg. Bourchier, fol. 10.
  • 51. Ibid. Carpenter ii, fol. 12.
  • 52. Ibid. Alcock, fol. 97.
  • 53. Ibid. Silvester de Giglis, fol. 33.
  • 54. Ibid. fol. 142 d.
  • 55. L. and P. Hen. VIII, viii, No. 315.
  • 56. Dugdale op. cit. v, 429.
  • 57. Birch, Catalogue of Seals in British Museum, i, 601.