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In 1179, Bertram de Verdun, the lord of the manor of Croxden, endowed a site for a new abbey, and 12 monks arrived from the Savigniac Cistercian mother house of Aunay-sur-Odon in Normandy to build the new abbey over the next 50 years. It was known as the "Abbey of the Vale of St. Mary at Croxden". The monks made a living from breeding sheep. The Abbey was consecrated in 1253.
The abbey lasted for 350 years until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In September 1538, the abbot and the twelve remaining monks surrendered the abbey.
The site is privately owned and the ruins are in the care of English Heritage.
Charles Lynam (1829–1921) was an architect and amateur archaeologist from Leek. He worked out the ground plan of the abbey and published his findings in 1911 as The Abbey of St. Mary, Croxden, Staffordshire.