The monastery of Cranborne is said to have been founded as an abbey for Benedictine monks about the year 980. The chronicle of Tewkesbury states that it was founded around that time by a knight known by the name of Haylward Snew, and made it the parent house of Tewkesbury. In 1102, Robert Fitz Hamon greatly enlarged the church of Tewkesbury and transferred the community from Cranborne there, leaving only a prior and two monks, and so transformed Cranborne Abbey into a priory making it subject to Tewkesbury Abbey. From that time the priory was fully subject to Tewkesbury, until the dissolution of the abbey in 1540.
The monastic buildings were demolished in 1703. The priory church of St Mary and St Bartholomew survives as the parish church of Cranborne.