A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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9. THE ABBEY OF HAUGHMOND
There is no certain record of the date when a religious community was first established at Haughmond, or even of the dedication of the first church there. For legal purposes the abbey never needed to look behind the mid 12th century to establish its rights and those of its patrons: the charters of Henry II and William FitzAlan (II), carefully copied into the 15th-century cartulary under the heading of Haughmond, confirmed the site itself with 60 acres of assarted land and established the FitzAlans' rights of patronage. (fn. 1) Later inquiries stopped at these charters, but earlier charters of William FitzAlan (I) prove that a community existed at least by about 1130. (fn. 2) Nothing is certain before that date, but a few shreds of evidence give some support to a persistent tradition among the canons pushing back the foundation to an earlier period in Henry I's reign.
Chronicle dates for monastic foundations are, by themselves, notoriously unreliable. (fn. 3) A 13th-century chronicle, written locally and containing some precise information about Haughmond, gives the year of foundation as 1110. (fn. 4) A slightly different date was offered by the 15th-century compiler of the cartulary, who stated in a rubric that the house was founded in the first year of Henry I. (fn. 5) Eyton, understandably, dismissed both these later sources as unreliable (fn. 6) and dated the foundation a few years before the surmised date of the earliest charter in the cartulary. This was a charter, probably of the last years of Henry I's reign, in which William FitzAlan (I) granted a fishery in the Severn at Preston Boats to the church of St. John the Evangelist at Haughmond for the maintenance of Fulk the prior and his brethren. (fn. 7) Nothing more is known of this first community and it is not even certain that William FitzAlan himself had established them in the wood of Haughmond. His father, Alan fitz Flaald, had held property in Shropshire by 1114 and received the whole fee of Rainald de Bailleul after the death of Rainald's son Hugh. (fn. 8) This included the uncultivated land at Haughmond, and also Sheriffhales (fn. 9) and Peppering (Suss.), (fn. 10) in both of which Haughmond acquired land by gift or confirmation of William FitzAlan at an early date. (fn. 11) A small, virtually self-sufficient community of religious could have existed under the protection of Alan fitz Flaald or his widow Evelyn for a number of years without leaving any trace in written documents. A modest early-12th-century church revealed by excavation probably belonged to the time of Prior Fulk. (fn. 12) The origins of early houses of Austin canons were often obscure and those of Haughmond are no exception. The white habit worn by the canons until 1234 (fn. 13) was probably adopted by the first community and may, perhaps, in conjunction with the other evidence, indicate a period of semi-eremitical life before the formal establishment of a better-endowed Augustinian house of a type that was becoming more normal. (fn. 14)
Between 1135 and 1155, in spite of William FitzAlan's exile from Shropshire for some years after 1138, the endowments were increased, the house virtually refounded and given the status of an abbey, and the rebuilding of the church begun. Among the early grants in this period were the Empress Maud's gift of land and a mill in Walcot in 1141-2, later repeated by Stephen and confirmed by Henry of Anjou, (fn. 15) and a gift by Ranulf, Earl of Chester, of fishing rights in the Dee. (fn. 16) The church of Trefeglwys in Arwystli may have been given a little earlier, (fn. 17) while a second Welsh church at Nevin probably came to the abbey about the time that Cadwaladr ap Gruffydd, brother of Owain the Great and donor of Nevin, was brought into the civil war by Earl Ranulf. (fn. 18) In 1155, when William FitzAlan regained possession of his Shropshire lands, he granted the wealthy portionary church of Wroxeter, with the intention of increasing the number of canons 'so that they might have a full convent'. (fn. 19)
The next twenty years saw the secure establishment of the house, the enlargement of the church, and the completion of the principal monastic buildings. (fn. 20) William himself (until his death in 1160) and his vassals were the principal benefactors; the canons also received gifts and privileges from Henry II. Perhaps more markedly than any other Shropshire house it was an Angevin foundation: William FitzAlan had been unwavering in his allegiance, the Lestrange family, the greatest of his Shropshire vassals, were conspicuous for their loyalty, and Henry II's former tutor, Alfred, became Abbot of Haughmond. The papal confirmation of 1172 enumerated at least the nucleus of many of the abbey's later estates: (fn. 21) the churches of Cheswardine, Shawbury, Wroxeter, Trefeglwys, and Stoke (Suss.); of the gift of Henry II the assarts round the abbey, Walcot with its mill, Leebotwood, and Betchcott; of the gift of the founder, William FitzAlan, the lordship of Downton, (fn. 22) a mill and land in Upton Magna, 'Cnichestona', Peppering (Suss.), and ½ salt-pan in Nantwich (Ches.); the Dee fishery given by Ranulf, Earl of Chester; various gifts of John Lestrange, including land in Berrington, Webscott (Myddle), and the mills of Ruyton XI Towns, Cheswardine, and Myddle; Hamo Lestrange's gift of Nagington and Guy Lestrange's gift of mills in Alveley and in Wolston (Warws.). Vassals of William FitzAlan were among those who had given land in Hadnall, Hardwick, Sundorne, Uffington, Withington, Grinshill, and Newton by Ellesmere, and mills at Pitchford and Pimley; his father-in-law Elias de Say had given land in Hopley and Hopton (Hodnet). (fn. 23) The abbey had also acquired 35 acres in Shrewsbury, mostly in Coleham. The canons received from Emma, daughter of Reynold of Pulverbatch, almost the whole of Beobridge in Claverley, c. 1186. (fn. 24) They had no property in Aston Abbots, later the centre of a prosperous bailiwick, until the early 13th century, (fn. 25) but there as elsewhere they were to prove that a foothold was sufficient to enable them to build up a substantial estate.
Haughmond Abbey had the good fortune to enjoy the protection of powerful local lords throughout the Middle Ages: it was firmly rooted in the neighbourhood. Most benefactions continued to come from the FitzAlans, the Lestranges, and their vassals. During the 12th and 13th centuries the abbey acquired numerous holdings scattered all over northern Shropshire, with substantial outliers in the pastoral areas between the Long Mynd and Leebotwood and near Bridgnorth. Many were in partially settled regions, where the canons rapidly secured the right to appropriate the waste, sometimes fencing it for their stock and sometimes leasing plots to tenants, who built houses and brought land under the plough with the minimum capital outlay on the part of the canons and with a steadily increasing rent-roll. Sometimes the canons may have provided loans to settlers: they certainly made a practice of granting mortgages, (fn. 26) but the records survive only when the mortgaged land was lost to the abbey, not when the borrower prospered and repaid the loan.
The history of Leebotwood and the adjoining composite manor of 'Boveria' illustrates the canons' initiative and pertinacity in building up a property from small beginnings. (fn. 27) Their interest in the Long Mynd region began in 1175-6, with Henry II's grant of pasture there for the abbey's herds of horses. (fn. 28) Betchcott and Leebotwood, then described as barren tracts, were acquired at about the same time, (fn. 29) and the abbey bought Cothercott and Wilderley manors for 121 marks and a palfrey in 1204. (fn. 30) Numerous gifts and purchases during the 13th century consolidated its possessions here and in the adjoining townships of Stitt and Picklescott. (fn. 31) Rents and profits from stock and crops here were valued at £5 12s. 3½d. in 1291 (fn. 32) The abbey estates in these townships were jointly administered as the manor of 'Boveria'. Shepton (rectius Sheppen) Fields, an isolated farm high up on Cothercott Hill, was known as 'Shupene' in the 13th century (fn. 33) and, when rebuilt by its tenant shortly after 1464, it was the meeting-place of the manor court. (fn. 34) Rents from the manor of Boveria were valued at £16 9s. 2d. in 1535 (fn. 35) and at about the same amount at the Dissolution. (fn. 36)
There was steady growth in cultivation and profits elsewhere: at Merrington, Newton in Ellesmere, Hardwick near Hadnall, in all the demesnes round Haughmond Hill at Homebarn, Sundorne, Uffington, and Downton, and at Derfald grange nearer to Shrewsbury. Activities of local merchants in the land market probably helped to keep up rents near both Shrewsbury and Oswestry. (fn. 37) An important estate was built up from the early 13th century in Aston and Hisland in Oswestry, Twyford and West Felton, and Great Ness, where the abbey held nothing in the reign of Henry II. In addition it secured the appropriation of the churches of Hunstanton (Norf.), (fn. 38) Shawbury with its dependent chapels, (fn. 39) Cheswardine, (fn. 40) Stokesay, (fn. 41) Ruyton XI Towns, (fn. 42) Stanton upon Hine Heath, (fn. 43) Hanmer, (fn. 44) Nevin, and Treseglwys, (fn. 45) Whereas the abbey's estates were valued at £157 4s. 1½d. in 1291, (fn. 46) by 1535 their net value had risen to £259 13s. 7¼d.; (fn. 47) fuller particulars of 1539, which included the site of the abbey and the granges of Homebarn and Sundorne, put the total value at more than £350. (fn. 48) Even in the 13th century, when estate profits were modest, debts were rare; (fn. 49) in the 14th century, when many houses were financially embarrassed, Haughmond was lending money, undertaking new buildings, and providing a more ample diet for the canons and their guests. (fn. 50)
The two great families whose protection ensured the abbey's prosperity were closely associated with it throughout its history. The rights of the FitzAlans as founders were first secured by a charter of Henry II between 1163 and 1170, when, at the request of Abbot Alfred, the king granted to William FitzAlan and his heirs the custody of the abbey in all future vacancies, notwithstanding any royal grants that had been made. (fn. 51) This right was confirmed in 1253, after an inquiry at which the jurors reported that the ancestors of John FitzAlan had always had custody of the abbey during vacancies, that licence to elect a new abbot was sought from them, and that they confirmed elections, the king acting only during minorities. (fn. 52) The family's rights were not challenged again: in 1305, when the king had occasion to confirm an election during the minority of Edmund, Earl of Arundel, he expressly stated that he acted as guardian of a minor. (fn. 53) The patrons also enjoyed the normal right of nominating corrodiaries. (fn. 54) To the FitzAlans, even after they had inherited wider influence and greater prestige with the earldom of Arundel, Haughmond was their family monastery: successive lords referred to the canons in their charters as canonici mei. After William FitzAlan (I), who left his body for burial in Shrewsbury Abbey, (fn. 55) Haughmond was for a century and a half their normal place of burial, (fn. 56) and the abbots acted as their executors. (fn. 57) If civil war and attainder threatened to defeat a patron's wishes the abbots stood firm in their rights. In November 1326 Edmund, Earl of Arundel, perished on the scaffold at Hereford and his body was buried in the Franciscan church there, but since, as patron of Haughmond, he had bequeathed his body to the abbey, the abbot and convent vehemently resisted his burial in another place; after repeated appeals to Queen Isabella and her son Edward they finally secured the body for reburial at Haughmond. (fn. 58) In 1343 provision was made for a chantry in Haughmond Abbey for the repose of his soul and the souls of his ancestors and heirs. (fn. 59) After him, however, the Earls of Arundel were buried at Arundel or Lewes or elsewhere. (fn. 60)
The branch of the Lestrange family which acquired the lordship of Knockin were important benefactors, closely associated with the abbey. Many of their grants were in north-west Shropshire, around Knockin and Great Ness, and included Knockin chapel, the township of Caldicott, mills at Osbaston and Ruyton XI Towns, and lands in Webscott, Balderton, and Bilmarsh in Myddle. (fn. 61) Wilcott, which occurs in several Lestrange grants, was assigned by John Lestrange (II) to support a chantry in Oswestry Hospital, (fn. 62) and Haughmond became temporarily and perhaps in part accidentally associated with another Lestrange chantry a century later. The manor of Chesthill was assigned in 1334 to the canons for 29 years, possibly as security for the debts of Combermere Abbey, on the understanding that during that time they were to provide masses for the benefit of Fulk Lestrange and Griffin de Lee, the manor thereafter reverting to Combermere. (fn. 63) Sometimes too members of the family sought practical advice no less than spiritual intercession from the canons of Haughmond: in 1350 John Lestrange and Walter Hopton persuaded the bishop to suspend a penance imposed on Stephen de Lee, canon of Haughmond, on the grounds that Lady Ankaret Lestrange was employing him on business of such importance that his absence would cause her intolerable expense. (fn. 64) The foundation of a more permanent chantry in Haughmond Abbey itself was projected in 1342, when Roger Lestrange gave his consent to the appropriation of the church of Hanmer (Flints.) for the kitchen and clothing of the monks to support a perpetual chantry. (fn. 65) Difficulties arose; no permanent chantry was established for some time, possibly because of the ravages of the Welsh in that region, (fn. 66) and there was a long lawsuit about the ownership of the church between the abbey and Richard Lestrange, 1414-16. (fn. 67) As a result the abbey's right was upheld, a vicarage was ordained in 1424, other claims were bought out, (fn. 68) and before 1426 a priest was appointed to serve a chantry in the abbey for Lord Strange. The first priest was the blind and deaf poet, John Audelay, who has left a record of his service in two books of devotional poems which he wrote at Haughmond. The first book is dated 1426 (fn. 69) and in the last poem of the second book he calls himself
'Jon þe blynde Awdelay.
The furst prest to þe lord Strange he was
Of þys chauntre here in þis place,
That made þis bok by Goddus grace,
Deeff, siek, blynd, as he lay.' (fn. 70) Later the chantry was served by the canons themselves in the chapel of St. Anne. The abbey's cartulary contains ordinances for this chantry, including provisions for the appointment and payment of the canon who was to serve it, and for celebrating the anniversary of John and Jacinta Lestrange after their deaths with the same solemnity as the anniversary of the founder of the house. (fn. 71) In this way, as the interests of the earls of Arundel drew them more frequently away from Shropshire, the family of Lestrange of Knockin came very near to ranking as second founders. Although ordinances survive only for the Lestrange chantry and for that of Abbot John Ludlow, also celebrated in the chapel of St. Anne, (fn. 72) some of the gifts of lesser patrons, as a rule under-tenants of FitzAlan or Lestrange, were specifically to support masses in the abbey for their souls. (fn. 73)
The abbey met all the normal obligations of any great ecclesiastical landholder to the Crown. Abbots contributed towards taxes and levies, served on commissions, attended parliament if summoned, and occasionally undertook special duties, such as negotiating with the Welsh princes during the wars of the 13th century. (fn. 74) Since it was not of royal patronage, however, the abbey was exempt from most demands to receive royal corrodiaries (fn. 75) or clerks awaiting benefices. Correspondingly, it sought few royal concessions, apart from general confirmations of property, the disafforestation of some of its lands and licences to assart, general freedom from tolls throughout the country, and free warren in a number of demesnes. (fn. 76)
Houses of Augustinian canons were of many types; there is no evidence for the places of origin of the earliest canons of Haughmond or that they observed any special customs. (fn. 77) The size of the community, too, is a matter for conjecture before the mid 14th century: after that date there were never more than thirteen canons (fn. 78) but the scale of the buildings suggests that a larger community may once have been intended. Twelve was probably regarded as an acceptable minimum for a full community by 1518, when the bishop found only 10 canons there and ordered that the number should be made up. (fn. 79) Lay brethren were recruited for a time. A single reference to them in 1190 indicates that they were sufficiently established to have a fixed allowance of food and clothing but gives no indication of their duties. (fn. 80) Unless the community of canons numbered more than a dozen it is unlikely that many of the canons themselves lived in the granges or that they served the churches and chapels subject to the abbey, though such service was in principle approved for Augustinian canons and was confirmed in early papal bulls and episcopal charters. The monastery itself was extra-parochial: a charter of Richard, Bishop of Coventry (1161-82), granted that one of the brethren, serving as sacrist under the abbot, might baptize and administer the sacraments to members of the household and servants of the abbey. (fn. 81) The bull of 1172 granted the canons, among other privileges, the right to burial in the abbey, exemption from tithes on their novalia, and the right to present priests of their choice for induction to churches in their gift. (fn. 82) In the established parish churches normal parochial duties were probably assigned to secular clerks from the first. The canons may have assisted at mass on special occasions: when William FitzAlan gave the portionary church of Wroxeter in 1155 he stipulated that the abbot should maintain five secular priests permanently in the church and that five canons should be present for the feasts of St. Andrew, St. George, and St. Denis. (fn. 83)
One charter of 1301 refers to canons dwelling in the distant Welsh church of Nevin in terms that imply the existence, at least temporarily, of a small cell there, with a paid secular chaplain to serve in the parish church. David ap Madoc of Nevin, chaplain, in renouncing any claim he might appear to have in the church of Nevin, stated that he had been brought up in Haughmond's house at Nevin with the canons dwelling there and that when he had been ordained priest he had for a long time undertaken to serve the church in place of a hired priest. (fn. 84) The canons had certainly been recalled from Nevin before 1342, when the abbey leased 3 acres of land to Griffin ap David ap Madoc White of Nevin, authorizing him to take stones from the canons' house for building purposes. (fn. 85) There are only occasional indications that the canons served in the other parish churches given to the abbey (fn. 86) or in the chapels of Knockin (fn. 87) and Betchcott. (fn. 88) Many of their granges, however, were on the borders of settlement, provided only with chapels that slowly acquired parochial rights (fn. 89) and here the canons may at times have assisted in providing the sacraments in the early days, though later they normally appointed secular chaplains.
One or two of their granges had private chapels for the use of the abbot or canons when visiting or possibly residing on the properties. At Leebotwood a canon actually resided sufficiently regularly for an ordinance of uncertain date to lay down his right to a normal allocation of food and drink in the abbey itself. (fn. 90) The evidence is less positive for Beobridge, a grange where the canons undoubtedly had a private chapel. A lease of 1341 included provision of hay and fuel for the abbot, steward, clerk, and any canon visiting the grange, and among buildings described were 'a hall for the servants with the abbot's chamber adjoining and a small chapel'. (fn. 91) These terms imply that, whatever the early use of the buildings, the chapel was only in occasional use by that date. (fn. 92) A number of later leases show that the abbot reserved the use of some parts of the manor-houses on the granges of Derfald (fn. 93) and Hardwick (fn. 94) up to the eve of the Dissolution; there was probably a chapel at the former, since Abbot Richard Burnell lived there for the greater part of the year after his retirement. (fn. 95)
Many of the canons were directly involved in the administration of the estates and property was assigned to individual obedientiaries. Town rents were particularly valuable in providing fixed income for the lesser obligations of the abbey. During the 13th century many small rents in Shrewsbury were acquired to endow lamps before specified altars in the abbey church or to support the sick brethren in the infirmary and the poor at the abbey gate. (fn. 96) The sacrist was responsible for the first and the infirmarer for the second and possibly also the third. (fn. 97) Provision for the food and clothing of the monks shows a complicated system of division, with crosspayments from one obedience to another. In 1315 the bishop forbade the practice of allowing each canon a fixed sum of money to provide shoes and clothing for himself: the abbot and convent then assigned the revenues of Cheswardine church and of Nagington and Hisland to a chamberlain, who was to provide clothing for the brethren. (fn. 98) In 1332, when increasing wealth allowed a more liberal diet, (fn. 99) the abbot drew up a detailed ordinance for the new conventual kitchen (fn. 100) allocating to it the revenues of the churches of Hunstanton and Ruyton XI Towns and two fisheries to supply flesh and fish. The common purse was to provide for all other necessities, such as fuel, flour, peas, cheese, butter, and all kinds of pottage. Further the prior and canons were to be entitled to twenty pigs from the common piggery outside the abbey gate and two loads of wheat each year for making pastry. The abbot was to be supplied with food from the same kitchen when he was at home and might take guests into the frater. The cellarer was responsible for supplying bread and ale for canons in any of the abbey's granges, but the abbot and his chaplains and the steward of the house drew nothing from the common kitchen when they were outside the precincts. The kitchener or his deputy was to render account four times a year. Since the same kitchen served the infirmary the flesh-meat specifically mentioned may have been for the sick or for guests in the refectory, but it may already have had a place in the normal diet. (fn. 101)
The obedientiaries at times gave more attention to their secular duties then to the precepts of their rule and in the early 14th century the bishop forbade them to travel alone when collecting revenues. He also complained that novices were being entrusted with both internal and external duties before they had been properly instructed in their rule and ordered that any canons who were dwelling alone in manors or churches were to be recalled. (fn. 102) These ordinances may have been obeyed: they were not repeated in a second set of injunctions issued in 1354, when the principal uncorrected fault was the predilection of the brethren for hunting. (fn. 103) A century later the tendency towards private ownership and the appropriation of revenue to office was even more pronounced and was accepted without question by the bishop. An ordinance for the office of prior, issued by the abbot in 1439 (fn. 104) and confirmed by the bishop, allowed the prior to have 'for his recreation' a chamber under the dormitory next to the parlour, which William Shrewsbury, then prior, had repaired at his own expense, with the adjoining 'Longenores garden' and a dovecote. (fn. 105) He was also to have the use of all the jewels and ornaments reserved for the chapel of St. Andrew and the prior's chamber, but was to pay 16d. for the pittance of the convent when they celebrated the obit of William Shrewsbury and 8d. to provide audit ale for the abbot when he supervised the audit of the prior's as well plate. Certain rents were assigned to the prior as well as a share of the money allocated for the obedientiaries. Slightly later ordinances for the Lestrange chantry and the chantry for Abbot John Ludlow reveal a well-established system of salaries. (fn. 106) Specified revenues were allocated to the kitchener, who was to provide money to the sacrist for the lights and pay the four ebdomadarii (claustral prior, steward, cellarer, and chaplain) for saying the offices at the rate of 12d. a week. The master of the chapel of St. Anne, who was to be elected annually, was to receive 6s. 8d. as recompense for his labours and for rendering account to the convent assembled in chapter. John Audelay's gay priest 'gentle sir John', who 'will not spare his purse to spend his salary', may have been a general type, but conditions that would have produced him existed at Haughmond and he may have been drawn from life. (fn. 107)
The library of the abbey has been scattered and lost. A few surviving volumes suggest an interest in lectio divina and contemplative works: (fn. 108) a Bible, glossed Gospels, Peter Comestor, Hugh of Fouilley, and Isidore's De summo bono bound together with Alcuin's De sapientia. (fn. 109) By the end of the Middle Ages the books were sufficiently numerous to be housed in a library building of some kind, for the prior reported during the 1518 visitation that the library (bybliotheca) was in need of repair. (fn. 110) In the 15th century the abbey contributed to the establishment of the house of studies for Augustinian canons at Oxford, (fn. 111) which became St. Mary's College, and for a time maintained a canon there. John Ludlow is the only learned canon to leave his mark on the records of the house. Having spent some years in the schools of Oxford, he was a scholar in St. Mary's College in 1444 and prior studentium in 1452 and 1453. (fn. 112) After his return to Haughmond he was elected abbot in 1464. The abbey later became negligent in maintaining a canon in the schools: in 1511 a fine of 20s. for not having scholars at Oxford was imposed by the order's general chapter. (fn. 113)
There is more evidence for temporal administration than for spiritual life or learning during the last two centuries of the abbey's existence. Charters and other deeds were systematically copied into a new alphabetical register some time after 1483 (fn. 114) and this book includes the most recent leases. From the cartulary and the ministers' account of 1538-9 (fn. 115) it appears that the canons gradually leased out more and more of their demesnes but kept the seignorial rights firmly in their own hands. Heriots in cash or stock were exacted whenever land leased for a long period passed to an heir or assign and the profits of the courts amounted to considerably more than the conventional 6s. 8d. of most assessments. Mills were a useful source of revenue: in 1538-9 the profits from 21 grain and 5 fulling mills amounted to £26 16s., or nearly 8 per cent. of the total revenue. The canons kept in hand some demesnes round the abbey with the dairy-house, and in a lease of the grange of Homebarn, dated 1534, they reserved five bays in the barn, possibly for storing tithe grain. Although the rectories of Stanton upon Hine Heath, Shawbury, and Wroxeter were at farm in 1535, (fn. 116) most of their tithes were kept in hand for the use of the community and visiting officials in 1538-9. The fuller particulars of spiritualities given in the ministers' account show that the rectories of Stokesay, Ruyton XI Towns, Hunstanton, Hanmer, Cheswardine, Trefeglwys, and Nevin were also farmed out. The temporalities were then grouped into the following bailiwicks: the monastic demesnes, with the granges of Sundorne and Homebarn; Boveria, including Betchcott, Cothercott, Picklescott, Stitt, and Wilderley; Linley in More; Beobridge, including Bridgnorth, Alveley, Droitwich (Worcs.), and Winderton (Warws.); Stokesay, including Clee St. Margaret and Richard's Castle; Merrington, including Fitz, Walford, Myddle, Ruyton XI Towns, and the grange of Caldicott or the 'Heath House' in Knockin; Leebotwood, including Cress Grange; Newton by Ellesmere, including Kenwick and Stockett; Hardwick, including Hopton, Grinshill, Hadnall, Astley, and Acton Reynald; the town of Shrewsbury, including Derfald Grange; Uffington, including Walcot, Withington, High Ercall, Upton Magna, Preston, Pimley, and Downton; Aston Abbots, including Twyford, West Felton, Coton, Weston, Wootton, Hisland, and Wilcott. The 'foreign' bailiwick comprised rents from the Abbot of Lilleshall as Haughmond's tenant at Norton in Wroxeter, Tern, and Longdon upon Tern, and from other tenants at Sugdon and Rodington, as well as Nagington Grange, land in Howle, and the manor of Peppering (Suss.). The abbot and canons continued to take a close interest in the property: the abbot held the courts of Boveria in person in 1529 and 1537 (fn. 117) and a monastic steward directly concerned with the estates is mentioned as late as 1524. (fn. 118) The office of lay chief steward was held by 1532 by George, Earl of Shrewsbury. (fn. 119)
Shortly before the Dissolution the abbey had internal troubles for which two incompetent abbots were partly to blame. In the later years of Abbot Richard Pontesbury revenues from Hardwick Grange were being misapplied and the upkeep of the buildings was neglected, so that repairs were urgently needed in infirmary, dormitory, chapterhouse, and library. Discipline was defective: the novices had no one to instruct them in the gradual and the brethren visited Shrewsbury too freely. A woman of ill repute was named in the visitations of 1518 and 1521 and in the latter year there were complaints of boys in the dormitories. (fn. 120) Conditions deteriorated under Pontesbury's successor, Christopher Hunt, who was charged in 1522 with fornication, maladministration, and failure to fulfil his duties as abbot on the major feast days: he admitted to the fornication but said he had confessed and done penance. (fn. 121) He was apparently sent to the abbey of Lilleshall for discipline, but was not deposed, for he was still abbot in 1524, when the prior reported that he had behaved bene et religiose since his return. Temporal administration, however, remained slipshod: there was a debt of £100, which was remarkable for Haughmond, property was being dissipated, and the abbot failed to render account. (fn. 122) Hunt had either resigned or had been deposed by 1529, (fn. 123) being replaced by Thomas Corveser, formerly abbot's chaplain and steward of the monastery. Thomas, who had been a relentless critic of abuses in the monastery during the earlier visitations, took an active part in estate administration and remained abbot until the Dissolution, when he surrendered the estates in good order. (fn. 124) No visitation records survive to show whether or not he succeeded also in restoring discipline.
The abbey was suppressed in September 1539, when the abbot and ten canons signed the deed of surrender. (fn. 125) The former received a pension of £40 and the canons from £5 6s. 8d. to £6 apiece. (fn. 126) The abbey was not unduly burdened with corrodies: Thomas Manwaring, gentleman, had held since 1513 the office of 'gentleman of the abbey', with food, drink, and a room as well as his salary of £4 10s., (fn. 127) and there were two smaller annuities. (fn. 128) Roger Lancashire, janitor, was an indentured servant with a newly-built room by the gate and a livery of food as well as a small cash salary. (fn. 129) The site of the abbey was granted in 1540 to Sir Edward Littleton of Pillaton (Staffs.), (fn. 130) who sold it in 1542 to Sir Rowland Hill. (fn. 131)
Haughmond's only dependency was Ranton Priory (Staffs.), founded by Robert fitz Noel before 1166. (fn. 132) The abbot claimed, and perhaps exercised, the right to carry out visitations and confirm the prior elect until 1247, (fn. 133) when both houses accepted the bishop's award under which Ranton priory was made entirely independent save for the payment of a pension of £5. (fn. 134) This continued to be paid until the Dissolution. (fn. 135)
The abbey's substantial remains, on the western slope of Haughmond Hill, are in the care of the Ministry of Public Building and Works and the site has been extensively excavated. (fn. 136) The church, across the north end of the site, has been levelled to the ground but walls of some of the claustral buildings are still standing. The first small early-12thcentury church, some foundations of which have been revealed by excavation, was replaced by a much larger church in the middle of the 12th century when the main conventual buildings were begun on an impressive scale. The second church was an aisleless cruciform building with a total length of 200 feet. Because of the slope of the ground the high altar was nearly 12 feet above the level of the nave, and the square east end was cut into the rock of the hill. Two chapels extending eastwards from the south transept belonged to the second church, but of the contemporary north transept even the foundations have disappeared. Early in the 13th century a north aisle and a north porch were added to the nave and in the 15th century an aisle or large chapel, perhaps the chapel of St. Anne, was built north of the presbytery.
The main cloister lay south of the church and the buildings round it were completed by the end of the 12th century. The east range adjoined the south transept and comprised chapter-house, warminghouse, and smaller rooms, with the canons' dorter above. Because of the rising ground and underlying rock to the east of the site, the conventual buildings tended not to spread in that direction giving a somewhat unusual lay-out. The dorter range extended southwards beyond the cloister to form the east side of an inner court with the rere-dorter set at an angle at the further end of the range. The west wall of the chapter-house contains a fine roundarched entrance, flanked by windows with similar arches, all three openings having enriched hoodmoulds and attached shafts with carved capitals. The south range of the cloister contained the frater, of which the cellar and parts of the south and west walls remain. The west range was demolished in the 16th century and only the east wall is standing; in it, towards the cloister, are the two arched recesses of the lavatorium. The west cloister walk led to an impressive doorway in the south wall of the nave, almost the only fragment of the church to survive above ground. It has a carved and moulded semicircular arch and two orders of attached shafts in the jambs.
In the 13th century the abbot's lodging was built to the south of the inner court; it was much altered when this part of the abbey was converted into a private house after the Dissolution. Also in the 13th century there was a substantial building of the 'endhall house' type at the south-west corner of the same court. It was evidently demolished in the following century when a large hall, thought to have been the infirmary, was built over part of the site. The hall adjoins the abbot's lodging and completes the south side of the inner court. There are four 14th-century traceried windows in the south wall and, at the west gable-end, the remains of a sixlight window, flanked by turrets. A screens passage at the same end of the hall contained two doorways leading to service rooms of which little trace remains.
Early in the 14th century the new kitchens, part of the chimneys of which survive, were constructed between the frater and the infirmary. Minor modifications in this period included the building of a small well-house in the wood above the abbey and the modification of some small rooms in the range under the dorter to provide private chambers for the prior. Also in the 14th century the jambs of the chapter-house entrance and of the doorway into the church from the west cloister walk were embellished with carved figures of saints in ogee-headed niches. At about the same date a large traceried window was inserted in the west wall of the frater, replacing three round-headed openings. A late-15th-century alteration is the five-sided oriel window which projects from the south wall of the abbot's lodging. After the Dissolution many of the buildings, probably including the infirmary, abbot's lodging, frater, and dorter range, were converted into a private house. Substantial parts of these survived a fire in the mid 17th century, and show that the chapter-house had been given a moulded wooden ceiling brought from some other room in the house as well as a bay window in its east wall. Traces of the gate-house, some 400 feet north of the church, and of parts of the precinct wall, discovered by excavation, are not visible above ground.
Prior of Haughmond
Fulk, occurs c. 1130 × 38. (fn. 137)
Abbots of Haughmond
R., occurs 1130 × 48. (fn. 138)
Ingenulf (?), occurs 1155 × 8. (fn. 139)
William, occurs 1172 × 82. (fn. 142)
H., occurs 1204. (fn. 145)
Nicholas, occurs c. 1218 × 21. (fn. 150)
Ralph, occurs c. 1227 × 36. (fn. 153)
Engelard, elected 1241 but immediately resigned. (fn. 156)
John of Morton, date of abbacy uncertain but probably 1257 × 72. (fn. 163)
John of Smethcott, elected 1362, occurs 1377. (fn. 176)
Nicholas Berrington, occurs between 1377 and 1379 or 1380. (fn. 177)
Several impressions of the abbey's round common seal are attached to late-13th-century deeds. (fn. 193) This is approximately 2 in. in diameter and shows the seated figure of St. John the Evangelist writing, flanked by two standing figures holding keys, and with the eagle below. The legend is wanting but a 19th-century drawing of the seal, (fn. 194) somewhat fanciful in detail, represents it as
SIGILLUM COMMUNE CHRITULI [?rectius CONVENTUALE] DE HAGEMON
An abbot's seal was sometimes attached to conventual deeds together with the common seal. An impression of the oval seal of Abbot Henry of Astley, measuring 1¾ × 1 in., is attached to a deed of 1282: (fn. 195) it shows an abbot standing, holding a pastoral staff. Legend, lombardic:
SIGILLUM HENRICI ABBAT[IS] DE HAGMOND
An impression of the round seal of Abbot Gilbert of Campden, (fn. 196) 2 ins. in diameter, has a similar device but a band of writing behind the abbot's figure reads GILBERTUS and on the field below are two fleurs de lis. Legend illegible.