Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Stow

Page 118

A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.

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The monastery of St. Mary, Stow, was founded early in the eleventh century for secular clerks (fn. 1); and its revenues were augmented a little later by the generosity of Leofric, earl of Mercia, and his wife Godiva. (fn. 2) The Eynsham registers contain a copy of an agreement between Ulf, bishop of Dorchester, and Leofric and his wife, for the enlargement of the house, and for the establishment therein of the same services as were customary in the church of St. Paul, London. The bishop was, as of old, to have two-thirds of all offerings made in the monastery, and the monks to have the third part. (fn. 3) King Edward the Confessor and Pope Victor confirmed the gifts of the earl and countess. (fn. 4)

After the Conquest Bishop Remigius found that the house had been for some time desolate by the carelessness of its rulers; and in 1091 he determined to convert it into a Benedictine abbey. (fn. 5) It is probable that this arrangement was planned in the lifetime of the Conqueror and received his sanction, as the charter of William Rufus contains a confirmation of his father's gifts. (fn. 6) With the permission of the king, the lands and revenues of the abbey of Eynsham were annexed to the new monastery at Stow, on condition that the abbots should be appointed with his consent, and all their lands should be held direct from him. (fn. 7) Remigius issued a charter in which he ordained that Columbanus should be the first abbot; and handed over the site of the abbey to the monks 'in the hope that Mary, the mother of God, for the sake of his gifts to her Son, would help him, who was sore athirst for the water of life, to pass from hope to open vision; if he might be found worthy to behold the King in His beauty.' (fn. 8) Rufus bade the monks to be obedient to Columbanus as they had been to the bishop; he sent another letter to Remigius to sanction the transference of the Eynsham lands, adding, 'See that I hear no more outcry, for on this condition only have I suffered the change of place.' (fn. 9)

These arrangements, so carefully made and confirmed, were not, however, destined to be permanent. In 1109 Henry I issued a new charter, (fn. 10) at the desire probably of Robert Bloett, Remigius's successor, (fn. 11) for the restoration of the abbey of Eynsham. The monks of Stow were soon afterwards transferred thither, and the estates of their church were annexed to the see of Lincoln.


  • 1. The founder was evidently one of the bishops of Dorchester; if the suggested date, 1040, be correct it would have been Eadnoth III. Henry of Huntingdon and Roger of Howden assign the foundation to Leofric and Godiva; but in their agreement with Ulf they only undertake to augment the house, and speak of it as existing 'of old' before their time; Dugdale, Mon. iii, 13.
  • 2. Ibid. Charters 1-3.
  • 3. Dugdale, Mon. iii, 13, Charters 1-3, and Harl. MS. 258, fol. 3.
  • 4. Harl. MS. 258, fol. 3b.
  • 5. Dugdale, Mon. iii, 13, Charter 7.
  • 6. Bradshaw and Wordsworth, Lincoln Cathedral Statutes, ii (i), 1.
  • 7. Harl. MS. 258, fol. 3b.
  • 8. Ibid. fol. 4.
  • 9. Ibid. fol. 5.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Ibid. and Giraldus Cambrensis, Opera, vii, 195.