Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Hulton

A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.

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G C Baugh, W L Cowie, J C Dickinson, Duggan A P, A K B Evans, R H Evans, Una C Hannam, P Heath, D A Johnson, Hilda Johnstone, Ann J Kettle, J L Kirby, R Mansfield, A Saltman, 'Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Hulton', in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3, ed. M W Greenslade, R B Pugh( London, 1970), British History Online [accessed 15 July 2024].

G C Baugh, W L Cowie, J C Dickinson, Duggan A P, A K B Evans, R H Evans, Una C Hannam, P Heath, D A Johnson, Hilda Johnstone, Ann J Kettle, J L Kirby, R Mansfield, A Saltman, 'Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Hulton', in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3. Edited by M W Greenslade, R B Pugh( London, 1970), British History Online, accessed July 15, 2024,

G C Baugh, W L Cowie, J C Dickinson, Duggan A P, A K B Evans, R H Evans, Una C Hannam, P Heath, D A Johnson, Hilda Johnstone, Ann J Kettle, J L Kirby, R Mansfield, A Saltman. "Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Hulton". A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3. Ed. M W Greenslade, R B Pugh(London, 1970), , British History Online. Web. 15 July 2024.

In this section


The Cistercian abbey of St. Mary at Hulton, a daughter-house of Combermere Abbey in Cheshire, was founded by Henry de Audley for the souls of himself and his family. The site, in what was then a remote part of the county, is just over 2 miles east of Burslem in a valley beside the Trent not far from its source. The first brethren were professed in 1219, (fn. 1) but Henry's foundation charter was not issued until 1223. His endowment consisted of the vill of Hulton, the vill of Rushton to the south of Burslem with 'Manesmore', a wood at Sneyd 'with the enclosed hay' at Carmount near Hulton, all his land at Bucknall and Normacot, meadow called 'Bukkeley', and in the north-east of the county the vill of Mixon and 'the vills and tenements' of Bradnop, Middle Cliff, Apesford, 'Ruhegh', and 'Mulnesley' with a pasture at Morridge and a wood at 'Witherward'; the grant also included a yearly pension of 10 marks from Audley church. (fn. 2) Henry made a new grant of the vills of Mixon and Bradnop with the services of all the inhabitants within five years of the death of Ranulph, Earl of Chester, in 1232; describing Ranulph as his lord, Henry made the grant subject to the daily celebration of mass by thirteen monks at Hulton 'all the days of the world' for the souls of Ranulph, Henry, Henry's predecessors and successors, and all the faithful departed. (fn. 3) Further land at Normacot was given by Simon de Verney (fn. 4) and apparently at Bucknall also by Henry de Verdon and his wife Hawise. (fn. 5) In 1256 the king confirmed the gifts of Henry de Audley and Simon de Verney, mentioning in addition a mill and a fishery. (fn. 6)

Henry de Audley was described as patron and advocate of the abbey in 1242, (fn. 7) and his grandson William, who held the family estates from 1276 to 1282, is said to have given the monks land at Swinfen (in Weeford). (fn. 8) By 1291 the abbey had acquired tithes at Biddulph and had mills at Normacot and Mixon; the total value of its temporalities was then given as £20 4s. 2d., much of it from rents, while a further £6 13s. 4d. was received from Audley church. (fn. 9) About 1300 Sir William de Mere appears to have given the monks land at Meir near Normacot. (fn. 10) Other grants are said to have included land near Apesford from William son of Thomas of Rudyard and Normacot Heath from Robert de Caldwal, but no dates are given. (fn. 11)

The Audleys continued as benefactors. In 1348 royal licence was given for James, Lord Audley, to grant the monks the advowson of Marwood (Devon) and for the monks to appropriate the church. (fn. 12) In 1349 they acquired the advowson of Audley from James with the right to appropriate. Royal licence had not been secured, and in return for a 200-mark fine the monks were allowed to retain the church. (fn. 13) In 1354 the Pope gave permission for the appropriation, (fn. 14) but in fact appropriation took place only after the death of the existing rector in 1369. A vicarage was ordained in 1370 and the monks duly presented. (fn. 15) In 1373, however, James claimed and secured the right of presentation. (fn. 16) He exercised it again in 1381, (fn. 17) but the next presentation, in 1385, was made by the monks who secured royal confirmation of the 1349 licence a few days later. (fn. 18) James, who died in 1386, left the monks £10 for prayers for his soul and directed that he was to be buried in the choir of the abbey in front of the high altar. (fn. 19) His son and heir Nicholas, who was buried in the abbey in 1391, (fn. 20) secured the appropriation of Biddulph church to the monks earlier the same year; a vicarage was not ordained until 1433. (fn. 21) Nicholas's widow Elizabeth paid for the royal licence of 1395 allowing the monks to acquire from the abbey of Blanchelande in Normandy the alien priory of Cammeringham (Lincs.) and the advowson and appropriation of the church. (fn. 22) Elizabeth, who died in 1400, also left the monks of Hulton 400 marks for the purchase of lands and £2 to each monk for prayers for her soul and her husband's; she directed that she was to be buried in the abbey 'with my very honourable husband Lord D'Audeley'. (fn. 23)

The monks were engaged in sheep-farming by the mid 13th century. (fn. 24) Granges were established at Rushton and Hulton soon after the foundation of the abbey, (fn. 25) and there is mention of the abbey's sheepfold at Normacot in 1242 and another at Mixon in 1251. (fn. 26) The monks had a tannery at Hulton by the late 13th century and evidently a fulling-mill there at some period. They seem to have produced encaustic tiles, but there is no evidence that they produced pottery, although Potter was a family name at Hulton in the early 15th century. They were running an iron smithy at Horton in 1528 and owned coal mines at Hulton and Hanley by the 16th century. (fn. 27) Although in 1535, as in 1291, much of the abbey's income was derived from rents, there was extensive demesne farming at Hulton, Normacot, Bradnop, and Cammeringham in 1535. (fn. 28)

The abbey was poor and small. In 1351, 'out of compassion for the poverty of the house', the king remitted half of the 200-mark fine imposed in 1349 for the unlicensed acquisition of the advowson of Audley. (fn. 29) The monks based their case for the appropriation of Audley church in 1354 on the fact that their income had fallen to £14 as a result of the Black Death; it had been £26 17s. 6d. in 1291. (fn. 30) By 1535 it had risen to £87 10s. 1½d., but this was the smallest of any of the Staffordshire monasteries except Brewood nunnery. (fn. 31) The community numbered only 5 (including the abbot) in 1377 and 1381; (fn. 32) the abbot and eight monks signed the surrender deed in 1538. (fn. 33) There is very little evidence about the spiritual life of the house or its local influence. In 1386 the king ordered the arrest of one of the monks, William de Bynnynton, as a 'vagabond, apostate monk' who had left the abbey without permission and had been excommunicated more than six months before. (fn. 34) In 1417 the abbot, Richard Billington, was sued by Sampson Meverell for abducting Joan Condale who was in Meverell's service at Hulton. (fn. 35) In the late 1520s the abbot was accused of controlling the neighbourhood and preventing justice from being done; he replied with charges of assaults on his iron smithy at Horton. (fn. 36)

During the vacancy in 1534 the Earl of Shrewsbury wrote to Thomas Cromwell informing him that William Chalner, a monk of Hulton, was the candidate supported by most of the brethren 'for his good living and wisdom.' (fn. 37) Sir Philip Draycott, steward of the abbey's Staffordshire manors, wrote to Cromwell stating that Chalner was supported by Shrewsbury, the bishop, and his brother Thomas Chalner, Abbot of Croxden. Draycott, however, writing on behalf of 'the wisest priests in the house, as Johnson and Cradok', stated that 'instead of being a good man, as he will be reported, he is very vicious and exceedingly drunken . . . There is none in the house fit to hold that room but is too old or too young. It is so poor and ruinous that, seeing the variance amongst them, it would be better to put over them some good monk of another house that will bring them in good rule; and because I tender its welfare more than its money or the favour of any I am bold to write the truth.' (fn. 38) Chalner was evidently not elected as an Abbot John occurs in 1535. (fn. 39)

Sir Philip's reference to the poverty of the abbey is borne out by the returns of 1535. (fn. 40) The gross income was given as £87 10s. 1½d. (£20 10s. from spiritualities and £67 0s. 1½d., from temporalities) and the net income as £76 14s. 10½d. Of the disbursements spiritual dues accounted for £3 11s. 9d., while the remaining £7 3s. 6d. went in various annual charges including payments to Sir Philip Draycott, chief steward of the Staffordshire manors (£1 6s. 8d.), and his under-steward (13s. 4d.), Sir Richard Sutton, chief steward of Cammeringham (£1), and the bailiffs of Hulton (£1), Bradnop (10s.), Normacot (10s.), and Cammeringham (£1). In 1538-9, the year following the dissolution, the abbey estates, valued at £108 2s. 1½d. gross, consisted of the manors of Bradnop, Normacot, Cammeringham, and Fillingham (Lincs.) including 'Cotes'; Rushton Grange; lands and rents in Hulton, Newcastleunder-Lyme, Stoke, Burslem, Sneyd, the Burslem part of Milton, Ubberley (in Bucknall), and Meir; the appropriated churches of Audley, Biddulph, and Cammeringham and tithes in Fillingham; and a coal mine in Hulton, rents from a 'wychehouse' in Northwich (in Great Budworth, Ches.), and a rent from St. Leonard's Chapel, Bridgnorth (Salop.), for the maintenance of a light in the chapel of St. Mary at Hulton. (fn. 41)

As an abbey worth less than £200 Hulton should have been suppressed under the Act of 1536, but the following year the Crown granted an exemption for a fine of £66 13s. 4d. (fn. 42) In August 1538 Sir Brian Tuke, Treasurer of the King's Chamber, wrote to Cromwell asking him to grant the abbey to Tuke's son-in-law 'young Mr. Audley' who at present had only the manor of Audley' and no house but an old ruinous castle' (Heighley Castle). Tuke claimed that the abbot was willing to resign if Mr. Audley were granted the abbey. (fn. 43) On 18 September the abbot and eight other monks surrendered Hulton to the Crown, (fn. 44) but none of the property went to the Audleys. In October the moveables, including three bells, were bought by Stephen Bagot who in 1539 received a lease of the site and some other property. (fn. 45) The site and the manor of Hulton were sold with other neighbouring lands of the abbey to Sir Edward Aston in 1543. (fn. 46) The monks were granted pensions, the abbot one of £20; (fn. 47) two of the monks are recorded as drawing pensions of £4 when they died in about 1556 and 1566. (fn. 48)

The abbey site is on the east side of the road from Stoke to Leek by Carmountside Junior High School. The conventual buildings lay on the south side of the church which consisted of nave, aisles, chancel, transepts (each with two east chapels), and a tower over the crossing. Traces of the abbey fish ponds are visible near the Trent on the west side of the road. (fn. 49)


Adam, occurs about 1230. (fn. 50)

Robert, occurs 1240 and 1241. (fn. 51)

William, occurs 1242 and 1244. (fn. 52)

Simon, occurs 1245-6 and 1254-5. (fn. 53)

William, occurs about 1265 and about 1286. (fn. 54)

Richard, occurs about 1286. (fn. 55)

Henry, occurs about 1288 and about 1302. (fn. 56)

Stephen, occurs 1306. (fn. 57)

Henry, occurs 1317. (fn. 58)

Nicholas of Kesteven or of Tugby, had become Abbot of Combermere (Ches.) by 1324. (fn. 59)

William, occurs 1332. (fn. 60)

Henry, occurs 1349 and 1375. (fn. 61)

Denis, occurs 1389. (fn. 62)

Richard Billington, occurs 1395 and 1417. (fn. 63)

Nicholas, occurs 1432. (fn. 64)

Richard, occurs 1449 and 1450. (fn. 65)

John Shipton, occurs 1517, became Abbot of Croxden in 1519. (fn. 66)

John Harwood, occurs 1527, became Abbot of Vale Royal (Ches.) in 1534. (fn. 67)

John, occurs 1535. (fn. 68)

Edward Wilkyns, occurs 1536, surrendered the abbey in 1539. (fn. 69)

The seal in use in 1538 is a pointed oval, 2½ by 1½ in. (fn. 70) It depicts the Virgin crowned and seated on a panelled and canopied throne with the Child on her right knee and a sceptre in her left hand. In the base is a shield bearing the Audley arms. Legend, black letter:



  • 1. L. Janauschek, Originum Cisterciensium, i. 223. Some of the other sources cited there give 1218.
  • 2. B.M., Harl. MS. 2060, f. 4; Dugdale, Mon. v. 715-16; V.C.H. Staffs. viii. 116, 130, 248, 249, 250, 251. The V.C.H. wrongly mentions (p. 251) the wood of Sneyd as 'within the enclosed hay'; the charter simply says 'with'.
  • 3. B.M., Cott. Ch. xi. 38.
  • 4. Dugdale, Mon. v. 716. The land had formerly been Hen. de Audley's; he had exchanged it with Hervey de Stafford who granted it to Simon.
  • 5. S.H.C. N.S. xii. 30; S.H.C. 1933(2), 127.
  • 6. Cal. Chart. R. 1226-57, 453. The mill would appear to have been at Hulton, but mills at Normacot and Mixon only are mentioned in 1291: see below.
  • 7. S.H.C. xi. 314. He was associated with a grant of protection to the abbot by the king in 1235: Cal. Pat. 1232-47, 87.
  • 8. S.H.C. N.S. xii. 30; Complete Peerage, i. 338.
  • 9. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 242, 252. For leases in the Bradnop-Morridge area see S.H.C. 1911, 438-9, 442-3.
  • 10. S.H.C. N.S. xii. 31, 245.
  • 11. Ibid. 31.
  • 12. Cal. Pat. 1348-50, 48.
  • 13. S.H.C. N.S. xii. 31; Cal. Pat. 1348-50, 413. They had presented by 1350: ibid. 444. The fine was halved in 1351: see below.
  • 14. Cal. Papal Pets. i. 258; Cal. Papal Regs. iii. 536; S.H.C. i. 282; ibid. N.S. viii. 123.
  • 15. S.H.C. N.S. viii. 120-1, 122-3; ibid. N.S. x(2), 128.
  • 16. S.H.C. xiii. 100, 115; ibid. N.S. x(2), 53. He claimed, wrongly, that he had presented the last rector.
  • 17. Ibid. N.S. x(2), 150.
  • 18. Ibid. 155; Cal. Pat. 1381-5, 527; W.S.L., H.M. Aston 6/1.
  • 19. S.H.C. N.S. xii. 30.
  • 20. Complete Peerage, i. 340.
  • 21. Lich. Dioc. Regy., B/A/1/6, ff. 76, 120v.-121; /9, f. 171.
  • 22. Dugdale, Mon. v. 716; Cal. Close, 1392–6, 490–1.
  • 23. Complete Peerage, i. 340; J. Ward, Boro. of Stokeupon-Trent (1843), 292-3. For the suggestion that the medieval stone coffin now in Burslem churchyard was Elizabeth's see ibid. 223.
  • 24. S.H.C. xi. 306; Cal. Chart. R. 453. Hulton appears in a Florentine list of wool exporters of c. 1315: see below p. 258.
  • 25. V.C.H. Staffs. viii. 116, 251.
  • 26. S.H.C. xi. 314; ibid. N.S. ix. 356.
  • 27. V.C.H. Staffs. viii. 132, 252; T.N.S.F.C. li. 143-4. For the smithy see below and V.C.H. Staffs. ii. 109.
  • 28. Hibbert, Dissolution, 107.
  • 29. Cal. Pat. 1350–4, 41.
  • 30. Cal. Papal Pets. i. 258; Cal. Papal Regs. iii. 536; see above p. 235 for 1291.
  • 31. Hibbert, Dissolution, 64; and see below.
  • 32. J. C. Russell, 'The Clerical Population of Medieval Eng.' Traditio, ii. 195 (which, however, omits the abbot in 1381: see E 179/15/8b).
  • 33. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xiii(2), p. 147.
  • 34. Cal. Pat. 1385-9, 178.
  • 35. S.H.C. xvii. 57.
  • 36. Ibid. N.S. x(1), 174; ibid. 1912, 25-26.
  • 37. L. & P. Hen. VIII, vii(2), p. 423.
  • 38. Ibid. p. 425.
  • 39. See below p. 237. Chalner was described in 1541 simply as 'late one of the monks of Hulton': L.R. 2/183, f. 142v.
  • 40. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii. 107-8.
  • 41. S.C. 6/Hen. VIII/3353, mm. 12-16.
  • 42. L. & P. Hen. VIII, x, p. 515; xii(2), p. 349; xiii(2), p. 177.
  • 43. Ibid. xiii(2), p. 84. The family name was in fact Tuchet at this time; George, the son-in-law in question, succ. his father as Ld. Audley c. 1557: Complete Peerage, i. 343.
  • 44. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xiii(2), p. 147.
  • 45. V.C.H. Staffs. viii. 249; Hibbert, Dissolution, 257.
  • 46. V.C.H. Staffs. viii. 249.
  • 47. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xiv(1), p. 598; xvi, p. 731.
  • 48. E 178/3239, m. 8. A third was drawing a pension in 1557-8: S. W. Hutchinson, Archdeaconry of Stoke-onTrent (1893), 166 (no source given).
  • 49. V.C.H. Staffs. viii. 248, 250, 251; C. Lynam, 'Recent Excavations on the site of Hulton Abbey', Jnl. Brit. Arch. Assoc. xli. 65-71; T.N.S.F.C. (1885), 98-102; ibid. lxv. 149-55; ibid. lxxxv. 84-85; A. R. Mountford, 'Hulton Abbey . . . Excavation & Restoration 1959-1966', City of Stoke-on-Trent Museum Arch. Soc. Reps. No. 2.
  • 50. S.H.C. 1911, 425 (no source given).
  • 51. B.M., Harl. MS. 280, f. 77v. (no source given).
  • 52. S.H.C. xi. 314-15; ibid. 1911, 425, giving 1244 without a source.
  • 53. Ibid. xi. 306, 315.
  • 54. Ibid. 1911, 438, 439.
  • 55. Ibid. 443.
  • 56. Ibid.
  • 57. Ibid. 439.
  • 58. Ibid. 433.
  • 59. 'Extracts from the Annals of Crokesden Abbey', Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, ii (1835), 309; G. Ormerod, Hist. of County Palatine and City of Chester (1882 edn.), iii. 403. He had become a monk at Croxden some time between 1242 and 1268.
  • 60. Hutchinson, Archdeaconry of Stoke, 35 (no source given).
  • 61. S.H.C. xiii. 100; ibid. N.S. xii. 31.
  • 62. Cal. Close, 1385-9, 675.
  • 63. Ibid. 1392–6, 491; S.H.C. xvii. 57.
  • 64. S.H.C. xvii. 140.
  • 65. Hutchinson, Archdeaconry of Stoke, 35 (no source given); Lich. Dioc. Regy., B/A/1/10, f. 45v.
  • 66. S.H.C. 1912, 12 (Jan. 1517); see above p. 230.
  • 67. S.H.C. 1912, 25-26; L. & P. Hen. VIII, vii(2), p. 423; Ormerod, Cheshire, ii. 151. He may be the John Wyche who occurs as abbot in D. and C. Lich., 'Census', f. 34. A John Harrower, described as late Abbot of Hulton, occurs c. 1540: C 1/1068/10.
  • 68. Valor Eccl. iii. 107.
  • 69. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xii(2), p. 349.
  • 70. W. de G. Birch, Cat. of Seals in B.M. i, p. 590; Ward, Stoke, 294; E 322/106.