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The abbey was founded in 1132 by Ranulph de Gernon, 2nd Earl of Chester, who brought Benedictine monks from Savigny Abbey in southern Normandy. In 1147, the abbey became part of the Cistercian Order and therefore a daughter house of Buildwas Abbey in Shropshire. Earlier on,[clarification needed] they had received the manor of West Kirby from the Earls of Chester. In 1157, the abbey was given the manor of West Kirby in Derbyshire by King Henry II. The hilltop Monks' Road and the Abbot's Chair in Glossop is a reminder of the monks' efforts to administer their possession. They gained a market charter for Glossop in 1290, and one for Charlesworth in 1328. In the 13th century, the abbey was under the patronage of Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd, and his son Dafydd ap Llywelyn gave St Winefride's Well to the abbey. The monks harnessed the power of the Holywell stream to run a corn mill and to treat the wool from their sheep. In 1433, the monks leased all of Glossopdale, Derbyshire, to the Talbot family, later Earls of Shrewsbury.
There is a legend that a 12th-century Basingwerk Abbey monk was lured into a nearby wood by the singing of a nightingale. He thought he had only been listening a short while, but when he returned, the abbey was in ruins. He crumbled to dust shortly afterwards.
In 1536, abbey life came to an end with the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the reign of King Henry VIII. Its dissolution was made lawful by the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries Act and the lands of the abbey were granted to lay owners.
Two centuries earlier a Welsh seer, Robin Ddu ("Robin the Dark") said the roof on the refectory would do very nicely on a little church under Moel Famau. It did: when the abbey was sold, the part of the roof went to Cilcain church. The other section of roof was reportedly given to the Collegiate and Parochial Church at Ruthin, where it covers the North Nave and can be seen today. The amazing Jesse window went to the church at Llanrhaeadr-yng-Nghinmeirch.
Today, the abbey ruin is part of Greenfield Valley Heritage Park.
- List of monastic houses in Wales
- List of Cadw properties
- The Form of Preaching, a 14th-century style book or manual about a preaching style
- Edward Hubbard (1994) Buildings of Wales: Clwyd; 2nd ed. London: Penguin Books ISBN 0-14-071052-3 (1st ed. 1986)
- Gordon Emery (1994) Curious Clwyd. ISBN 1-872265-99-5
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