Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Vaudey

Pages 143-145

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

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The abbey of Vaudey, or Vallis Dei, was founded in 1147 by William earl of Albemarle; like Kirkstead and Louth Park, it was a daughter house of Fountains Abbey. (fn. 1) The chronicler of Fountains relates that the first settlement was made at Bytham; but the monks finding the place in some ways unsuitable moved to a new site in the parish of Edenham, with the permission of Geoffrey de Brachecourt, a tenant of Gilbert of Ghent, whose land it was. (fn. 2) Geoffrey gave them all his lands and goods in exchange for corrodies for himself, his wife, and two servants: he and his wife were to have such food as the monks had, and his servants were to fare as their servants. (fn. 3) Gilbert of Ghent granted to the monks certain woods and pastures: Robert of Ghent, Adam de Amundeville, Baldwin Fitz Gilbert, Hugh Wake and other benefactors added further gifts. (fn. 4) The profits of their wool for a while brought to the monks of Vaudey a considerable income, which in 1291 was over £200, (fn. 5) and the house seems in the thirteenth century to have been of some importance: an abbot of Vaudey was sent in 1229 in the king's name to bear messages to Llewellyn, prince of Wales. (fn. 6) The monastery was at this time also involved in an interesting suit with Maurice of Ghent as to a right of way. It was found in an inquisition taken in 1230 that the abbot used habitually to send horses and carts to Irnham through a wood and headland which had belonged to Richard of Langton; sometimes they were seized and sometimes not. The wood had now passed to Maurice of Ghent, who objected to the abbot's carts driving through. It was decided, however, that the abbot had established his right of way before Maurice came into possession, and he was consequently allowed to retain it. (fn. 7) He had, however, to forfeit through default 140 acres in Irnham, to which Maurice had laid claim: he did not appear on the day appointed to try the case—possibly because he knew he could not maintain his position. (fn. 8)

The prosperity of the house seems to have declined rapidly in the thirteenth century. As early as 1292 it was taken under the king's protection in terms that suggest that its creditors were becoming importunate: (fn. 9) and between 1321 and 1338 the Close Rolls contain a great many acknowledgements of debt to certain merchants of Genoa, Lucca, and Florence, as well as to the bishop of Ely and others. (fn. 10) In 1323 the abbot was obliged to demise his manor of Sewstern (Leics.) to the chaplains of Kirkby Sellers for a term of eighty years, and for the sake of getting a little ready money accepted a fixed sum in commutation of the rent for the entire period. (fn. 11) In 1331 he acknowledged debts to the value of £322, (fn. 12) others in 1335 amounting to £160, (fn. 13) in 1336 to £150, (fn. 14) and in 1338 to £260. (fn. 15) In 1347 he was accused of yielding to the very natural temptation of concealing and appropriating buried treasure, which the monks had found in the fields of Vaudey. (fn. 16) Nevertheless in the same year he received a remission of tenths for two years, granted by the king out of compassion for the state of the abbey, which ' by unwonted adversities' was brought so low that its goods scarcely sufficed for the sustenance of the monks. (fn. 17) The king also promised to repay a small sum of money lent him for the French war. (fn. 18) The great pestilence following immediately must have added to the difficulties of the house: and in 1382 it was for a while seized into the king's hands as an alien abbey, and lost the right of presentation to its appropriate churches. (fn. 19) The revenue of the monastery in 1534 was considerably lower than it had been in 1291. It was dissolved under the first Act of Suppression in 1536, the last abbot receiving a pension of £20, and his ten monks, after arrears of ' wages' were paid, 20s. apiece to provide for all future necessities. (fn. 20)

In the days of its prosperity during the thirteenth century the abbey of Vaudey seems to have been in good standing in the order. One of its abbots in 1280 was empowered to arrest all vagabond Cistercians, monks or lay brethren, by the help of the secular arm, and to inflict punishment upon them according to the needs of the case. (fn. 21) Nothing further is known of the interior history of the house until the sixteenth century, though it was doubtless visited regularly by the abbot of Fountains. An important visitation is recorded in 1532. Abbot Henry Saxton had been accused of neglect of divine service and other ' misgovernances,' and a joint visitation was made by the abbots of Fountains, Woburn, and Pipewell. At its close he was requested to resign, with a suitable pension; whereupon he wrote to Cromwell (whose friendship for him is not necessarily an evidence in his favour), and begged him to use his influence to reverse the sentence. He stated that he had found his house £480 in debt, and had paid off every penny, increasing its income by £13 6s. 8d., in spite of the falling down of the nave of his church and the loss of 1,000 sheep by the rot; and he hinted at the same time that the real reason for his deposition was the desire of the abbot of Woburn to promote his own cellarer to the vacant post, A ' poor token' was sent with this letter to speed iron its way. (fn. 22) Cromwell in consequence wrote to the abbot of Woburn and accused him of ' inward grudge' against the abbot of Vaudey, and of desire to promote his own cellarer. 'I pray you,' he proceeded, ' use yourself to my friend according to your religion, for he is a good religious man, and has got his house out of great debt,' further suggesting that a certain monk of Vaudey, then at Woburn, should be instructed ' so fruitfully that he shall not need to be further reconciled to amend his living.' (fn. 23) The answer of the abbot of Woburn was quiet and dignified. He was sorry that Cromwell had such an ill opinion of him; but he had only done his duty. Accusations had been fully proved against the abbot of Vaudey as to misgovernance of himself and his brethren, and neglect of divine service, which there was no need to describe in detail; they were sufficient to justify the sentence passed. However, in consideration of Cromwell's letter, and others who had interceded on behalf of the offending abbot, the visitors were ready to abate somewhat of the rigour of justice, and had urged him to avoid the disgrace of deposition by resigning of his own accord on a pension of £20 a year. He had indeed already offered to resign, and was 'not only well content, but had reason to be so.' (fn. 24)

The last abbot's term of office was short, as the house was dissolved in 1536. Three at least of the monks of Vaudey were glad to take refuge at Kirkstead Abbey rather than return to the world, and these were singled out for execution when that abbey was attainted, after the rising in which they had willingly or unwillingly played a part. (fn. 25)

The original endowment of the abbey of Vaudey consisted of the site, with twelve carucates and seven bovates of land given by Gilbert of Ghent. (fn. 26) Ralf de Bruer granted his demesne land in the manor of Edenham. (fn. 27) In 1227 the abbot had several granges—North and South Grange, Ropsley, Lavington, Burton, Saitby, Sewstern, Thorpe, with mills and smaller parcels of land in the counties of Lincoln and Leicester. (fn. 28) In 1291 his temporalities were assessed at £231 14s. 7d. (fn. 29) In 1303 the abbot held half a fee in Edenham and in Swinstead, one-quarter in Broughton, one-quarter and onethird in Heydor and Oisby. In 1428 he held in addition one fee in Welby, one-eighth in Ingoldsby, Corby and Easton, and smaller portions in Londonthorpe, Scottlethorpe and Hanbeck. (fn. 30) In 1534 the clear revenue of the abbey was only £124 5s. 11½d. (fn. 31) The Ministers' Accounts give a total of £194 3s. 8¼d., including the manors of Swinstead, Edenham, Scottlethorpe, Morton, Ingoldsby, Burton Lazars, Dalby and Saitby, Welby, Creton and Cowthorpe, Manthorpe and Burton. (fn. 32)

Abbots Of Vaudey

Warin, (fn. 33) first abbot, 1147

Richard, (fn. 34) occurs 1204

William, (fn. 35) occurs 1219

Nicholas, (fn. 36) occurs 1227 to 1232

Godfrey, (fn. 37) occurs 1245

Henry, (fn. 38) occurs 1254

Simon, (fn. 39) elected 1313

Walter, (fn. 40) occurs 1323 and 1325

John, (fn. 41) occurs 1331 to 1338

Thomas Cleseby, (fn. 42) elected 1459

Henry Saxton, (fn. 43) occurs 1529, resigned 1532

William Stile, (fn. 44) last abbot, elected 1532

A thirteenth-century seal (fn. 45) shows an ornamental tree of three branches, on each side branch a bird regardant, and in its beak a sprig of foliage. At the side of the trunk two small birds.

SIG . . . NT' . SA . . . E . . .

A pointed oval seal of a thirteenth-century abbot (fn. 46) shows the abbot standing on a platform, in the right hand a pastoral staff, in the left hand a book.

SIG ... M ' ABBAT . . . DE ' VA . . . DEI.


  • 1. Lans. MS. 404, fol. 25.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Geoffrey and his wife were to receive clothes from the monastery—his to be of ' griseng vel halberget,' and hers of ' ad carino bluet'; both to be lined with lambskins. The servants were to have food only, not clothes. Dugdale, Mon. v, 490.
  • 4. Ibid. and Cal. of Chart. R. i, 3, 50.
  • 5. Dugdale, Mon. v, 489.
  • 6. Pat. 13 Hen. III, m. 6.
  • 7. Bracton's Note Book, case 414.
  • 8. Bracton's Note Book, case 1737.
  • 9. Pat. 20 Edw. I, m. 12.
  • 10. Close, 14 Edw. II to 12 Edw. III.
  • 11. Pat. 17 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 8.
  • 12. Close, 5 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 18 d.; ibid. 6 Edw. III, m. 39 d.
  • 13. Ibid. 9 Edw. III, m. 31 d.
  • 14. Ibid. 10 Edw. III, m. 15 d.
  • 15. Ibid 12 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 10 d.; pt. ii, m. 2 d.; pt. iii, m. 17 d.
  • 16. Pat. 21 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 31 d.
  • 17. Ibid. pt. iii, m. 36.
  • 18. Ibid. pt. ii, m. 24.
  • 19. Ibid. 6 Rich. II, pt. i, m. 21.
  • 20. Mins. Accts. 27-28 Hen. VIII, No. 166.
  • 21. Pat. 8 Edw. I, m. 4.
  • 22. L. and P. Hen. VIII, v, 1477.
  • 23. Ibid. vi, 778.
  • 24. Ibid. 779. For the character of this abbot, which adds to the value of his evidence, see V. C. H. Beds, i, 396-70. The resignation was evidently, as arranged, about Michaelmas; Henry Saxton's name occurs for the last time in 1532. William Stile was abbot in August, 1533. Whether he had been previously cellarer at Woburn does not appear.
  • 25. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xi, 828, viii; and Controlment Roll, 30 Henry VIII, m. 6.
  • 26. Dugdale, Mon. v, 489; Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), i, 260.
  • 27. Cal. of Chart. R. i, 50.
  • 28. Ibid i, 3.
  • 29. Dugdale, Mon. v, 489.
  • 30. Feud. Aids, iii.
  • 31. Valor Eccles. (Rec. Com.), iv. 98.
  • 32. Mins. Accts. 27-28 Hen. VIII, No. 91. The bells and lead were worth £202 7s. Ibid. No. 166.
  • 33. Lans. MS. "207 E, fol. 596. 'A' occurs in the twelfth century, ibid. 210.
  • 34. Boyd and Massingberd, Abstracts of Final Concords, 63.
  • 35. Lans. MS. 207 C, fol. 206.
  • 36. Pat. 11 Hen. III, m. 2 d.; Boyd and Massingberd, Abstracts of Final Concords, 248-9.
  • 37. Lines. N. and Q. vii, 12.
  • 38. Lans. MS. 207 C, fol. 98.
  • 39. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Dalderby, 263 d.
  • 40. Pat. 17 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 8; ibid. 19 Edw. II, pt. i, m. 21 d.
  • 41. Close, 5 Edv. III, pt. i. m. 18 d.; ibid. 12 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 2d.
  • 42. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Chedworth, 54.
  • 43. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv (3), 2698, and ibid. vi, 778-9.
  • 44. Mins. Accts. 27-28 Hen. VIII, No. 166; he occurs under 1533, and also in 1536 receives pension.
  • 45. B.M. Seals, lxvii, 50.
  • 46. Harl. Chart. 45 A, 25.