Houses of Cistercian monks: Abbey of Quarr

Pages 137-139

A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1903.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section



The Cistercian abbey of Quarr, dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin, situate on the northern shore of the Isle of Wight, in the parish of Binstead, was one of the earliest foundations of that order in the kingdom. It was founded by Baldwin, the second de Redvers, Lord of the Wight, in 1131. By a charter of that date he granted to Geoffrey, abbot of his Norman monastery of Savigny, land on which to build the monastery, the manor of Arreton, the land of Sheat (Sieca), ' Boccumba,' the mill of Christchurch and the mill of ' Boleherst.' (fn. 1) This grant was confirmed by William de Vernon, Earl of Devon, the son of the founder, about 1195, together with various subsequent grants of lands and salt pits, and of the chapel of St. Nicholas in Carisbrooke castle; the grantor also gave liberty to the monks of Quarr to buy and sell free of toll in all his lands. (fn. 2)

Henry, Duke of Normandy, before he came to the throne, gave to the monks of Quarr land in ' Locwella' ad faciendam ibidem capitalem abbatiam, from which it is evident that the island abbey was considered capable, within twenty years of its foundation, of dispatching a colony to found another monastery. (fn. 3) About 1150 a composition was entered into between Hillary, abbot of Lire, and Gervase, abbot of Quarr, by which the former conceded to the latter, in return for a yearly pension of 40s., the tithes and profits of the manors of Arreton, Haseley, Luccombe, Titchingham and Shalcombe. This arrangement was renewed in 1239 with a further sum of 10s. a year for the support of the church of Carisbrooke. (fn. 4)

In 1238 Gregory IX. issued a bull allowing the community to choose a confessor from their own body.

Edward I. in 1284 granted the abbey free warren over all their manors in the Isle of Wight. (fn. 5)

At the time of the taxation of 1291, the annual value of the temporalities of the abbey in Winchester, including four mills and the profits of tanneries in the island, amounted to £96 3s. 4d. The abbot had also temporalities at Forwood, in Exeter diocese, of the annual value of £13 6s. 8d.

The Crown imposed a life pensioner on the community on 13 April, 1330, when Benedict de Glannvyll, who had long served the king and his father, was sent to the abbey to receive such maintenance for life as John le Hunte had had in that house in his lifetime, by the late king's request. (fn. 6)

On 9 March, 1339, William Trussel, admiral of the fleet from the mouth of the Thames towards the west, received orders from the king to supersede the exaction made on the abbot of Quarr for finding a ship prepared for war with sixty men, mariners and others, well armed and supplied with necessaries, to set out with other ships under royal command. The abbot had successfully besought the king to be released from this obligation, inasmuch as he was already maintaining ten men-at-arms and no small number of archers in the Isle of Wight for its defence at a great expense, and was quite unable to support any further charge. (fn. 7)

We find by the feudal aid of 1346 that the abbot held half a knight's fee in perpetual alms in Sheat in Gatcombe. (fn. 8)

In 1366 Edward III. granted the abbey licence to crenelate as a safeguard against foreign invasion, and about the same time letters patent were issued that all wine ships belonging to the community should come and go free of duty. (fn. 9)

The abbots of Quarr held a distinguished position in the Isle of Wight. When a commission of array was issued in April, 1380, on information of an intended invasion by France and Spain, the abbot of Quarr headed the list of eight gentlemen nominated by the Crown, preceding even Sir Thomas de Beauchamp, the governor of Carisbrooke castle. (fn. 10) John Cheselburgh, abbot of Quarr, occupied a like honourable position, in royal commissions of 1461 and 1462, to summon the king's subjects of the island and of the counties of Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex to defend the Isle of Wight against the French. (fn. 11)

The Valor of 1535 gives the clear annual value of the house as £134 3s. 11d.

In December, 1535, Abbot Ripon wrote to Cromwell about farms that the lord privy seal and his nephew Richard had desired to obtain. The abbot protested that the farms in question were the demesnes of the monastery by which hospitality and the household were maintained, and that without them the abbot could not continue the house. Besides the demesne, the monastery could not spend yearly above £120, and fifty persons had to be kept, besides such as resorted thither from the country. He trusted therefore that Cromwell's servant would be contented with the reversion of any farms he might have to let, and to secure his favour he would give the fine to him and his nephew. (fn. 12) The last abbot's anxiety as to his farms was not however of long duration, for being under £200 of annual value the monastery was dissolved in 1536.

Special efforts were made in the locality to secure the king's good will for this monastery and for Netley on the other side of the water, but all in vain. The particularly good report of the county commissioners, Sir James Worsley and John and George Poulet and William Berners, presented on 30 May, 1536, was treated as so much waste paper. They reported that the abbey of Quarr was: ' A hedde house of Monkes of the ordre of Cisteaux beinge of large buyldinge scituate upon the ryvage of the sees by raporte greate refuge and comforte to all th'inhabitantes of the same yle and to strangers traveillinge the seid sees'; £156 10s. 1d.; 10 monks, all priests, of good religious conversation, eight of whom desire to continue in religion, and two to have capacities; 39 other inmates, viz. 10 waiting servants, 7 servants in the church, 8 officers in the household, 10 hinds, 2 lavenders, (fn. 13) 6 dairymen, and one 'corodur'; church, mansion and building in convenient repair, lead and bells worth £19; plate and jewels, £48 14s. 3d.; ornaments, £17 10s. 8d.; stuff, £23 13s. 4d.; corn and grain, £20; stocks and stores, £220 19s.; owing by the house, £55 8s. 9d.; owing to the house, £9 18s. 4d.; woods, etc., £122 18s. 4d. (fn. 14)

At the time of the dissolution the monastery held the manor of Quarr with the site of the abbey and the manor of Newenham there; the manors of Arreton, Staplehurst, Sheat in Brixston, Shaldcomb, Newport, Comley, Fowewod cum Forewey; the granges of Compton, Haseley, Lovecombe, Hampstede, Roughbarowe, Bydeborough, Charke in Rowner; the rectory of Caresbrook; messuages, rents, etc., in Newport, Whippingham, Newchurch, Southwick, Portsmouth, Christchurch, Swey, Milford, and tithe of salt in Lymington. (fn. 15)

On 17 February, 1537, Thomas Wriothesley, the great devourer of monastic property in the west, obtained most of the manorial rights of the abbey by grant from the Crown. The Devonshire manors and other property of the abbey were also granted him in the following November. (fn. 16)

A lease of the actual site of the monastery, together with certain tithes of Arreton, was granted by the Crown to John Mylle of Southampton in March, 1537. (fn. 17)

Much of the stonework of the abbey was used in 1539 towards the making of two blockhouses at East and West Cowes for defensive purposes. (fn. 18)

An illustration of the seal of the abbey is here given. It is round and shows the Virgin standing with child on left arm and St. John Baptist under a double canopy, and below the half-length figure of an abbot. The legend is S' ABBATIS ˙ ET ˙ CŌVĒTvs ˙ ABBATHIE ˙ SCE ˙ MARIE ˙ DE ˙ QVARRARIA

Abbots Of Quarr

Gervase, 1140
William, (fn. 19) 1150
Peter of York, 1205
Henry, (fn. 20) 1228
Philip, (fn. 21) about 1235
Augustine, (fn. 22) 1249
Andrew, (fn. 23) 1256
'Hel' (Elias), (fn. 24) 1270
Adam of Arundel, (fn. 25) 1290
Walter, (fn. 26) 1323
Geoffrey, (fn. 27) 1324
William, (fn. 28) 1359
John of Winchester, (fn. 29) 1381
Thomas Suell, (fn. 30) 1397-9
Richard Bartholomew, (fn. 31) 1399
Robert, (fn. 32) 1419
Roger, (fn. 33) 1438
John Cheselburgh, (fn. 34) 1457-62
John Norton, (fn. 35) 1466
Geoffrey of Newchurch, (fn. 36) 1477
John Fonsard, (fn. 37) 1481
Thomas of London, (fn. 38) 1493
Richard Tottenham, (fn. 39) 1508
William Ripon, 1521-36


  • 1. Worsley's Hist. of Isle of Wight (1781), app. li. Although there is no extant chartulary of this abbey, the number of charters cited in the Monasticon and in Madox's Formulare are considerable. There are also about a hundred original charters among the calendared ' Ancient Deeds' of the P.R.O.
  • 2. Ancient Deeds, P.R.O., D. 942.
  • 3. Dugdale's Monasticon, v. 317.
  • 4. For these and other early particulars see Worsley's Hist. of Isle of Wight, app. l.-lxxviii., and Stone's Arch. Antiq. of Isle of Wight, pt. i. p. 110, note §
  • 5. Charter Roll, 12 Edw. I. No. 41.
  • 6. Close, 4 Edw. III. m. 36d.
  • 7. Ibid. 13 Edw. III. p. 1. m. 35.
  • 8. Feudal Aids, ii. 339.
  • 9. Pat. 39 Edw. III. pt. 2, m. 23; 40 Edw. III. pt. 1, m. 15.
  • 10. Ibid. 3 Rich. II. pt. 3, m. 21d.
  • 11. Ibid, 1 Edw. IV. pt. 1. m. 3d; 2 Edw. IV. pt. 1, m. 17d (Cal.).
  • 12. Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII. ix. 925.
  • 13. Washermen.
  • 14. Aug. Off. Chantry certificates, No. 112.
  • 15. First Mins. Acct. after dissolution, cited in Dugdale's Monasticon, v. 320.
  • 16. Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII. xii. (1), 538 (45); xii. (2), 1150 (7).
  • 17. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. ccix. f. 44.
  • 18. Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII. xiv. (1), 899.
  • 19. Cal. of Doc. France, 296.
  • 20. Madox, 374.
  • 21. Ancient Deeds, P.R.O., B. 115, 890, 3447.
  • 22. Ibid. B. 3692, D. 154.
  • 23. Madox, 222; Ancient Deeds, D. 231.
  • 24. Ibid. B. 2642, 2946.
  • 25. Ibid. B. 686, 707, 1192, 2758, 2811, 2815, 2830; Madox, 383 (A.D. 1303).
  • 26. Ancient Deeds, B. 1151; Madox, 164, 226.
  • 27. Winton. Epis. Reg., Stratford, f. 11b; Ancient Deeds, B. 710, 1175, 2713, 2715, 2717, 3793.
  • 28. Ancient Deeds, B. 2680.
  • 29. On 25 January, 1381, Abbot John of Winchester received benediction at the hands of Bishop Wykeham in the chapel of Esher promising canonical obedience salvo ordine meo (Winton. Epis. Reg., Wykeham, i. f. 114, B. 2682, 2684).
  • 30. Thomas Suell was elected unanimously by his brethren to be abbot, in the place of John of Winchester, deceased, on 22 March, 1397, in the presence of the abbots of Wardon and Standing (Winton. Epis. Reg., Wykeham, i. f. 268).
  • 31. Richard Bartholomew was elected on 13 November, 1399, on the resignation of Thomas Suell, in the presence of the abbots of Rewley and Netley (ibid. i. f. 299, B. 2683).
  • 32. Ancient Deeds, B. 668, 2834, 3247, D. 887.
  • 33. Ibid. B. 678.
  • 34. Ibid. B. 2843; Pat. 1 and 2 Edw. IV.
  • 35. Winton. Epis. Reg., Waynflete, i. f. 1486.
  • 36. Ancient Deeds, B. 3244.
  • 37. Ibid. B. 107-9, 2841.
  • 38. Ibid. B. no, 119, 3248, 3249, 3546.
  • 39. Ibid. B. 2843, D. 486.