Abbotsbury Abbey remains and the abbey barn
|Dedicated to||St Peter|
|Visible remains||tithe barn, parts of a building (possibly the abbot's house)|
Abbotsbury Abbey, dedicated to Saint Peter, was a Benedictine monastery in the village of Abbotsbury in Dorset, England. The abbey was founded in the 11th century by King Cnut's thegn Orc and his wife Tola, who handsomely endowed the monastery with lands in the area. The abbey prospered and became a local centre of power, controlling eight manor houses and villages. During the later Middle Ages, the abbey suffered much misfortune. In the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, the last abbot surrendered the abbey and the site was given to Sir Giles Strangways.
The first reference to the site of Abbotsbury may be in a charter of King Edmund (r. 939-946) recording a grant of five hides of land at Abbedesburi to the thegn Sigewulf. The name (Abbedesburi) may suggest that the land had once belonged to an abbot. During the reign of King Cnut (r. 1016–1035), the Scandinavian thegn Orc (also Urki, Urk) and his wife Tola took up residence in the area, having been granted land at Portesham. Edward the Confessor (r. 1042-1066) also granted him Wootton and it was early in his reign that the couple founded a monastery at Abbotsbury, previously the site of a minor church. Orc and Tola, who had no children, enriched the monastery with a substantial amount of land, some of which was bequeathed after their deaths. By the time of the Domesday survey, Abbotsbury (itself worth 21 hides) was recorded to have held more than 65 hides of land TRE. Orc also established his own guild, which according to the extant statutes, had its hall at Abbotsbury and protected the minster's interests.
During the 14th century the Black Death killed many villagers and the abbot, and the village was repeatedly attacked from the sea, reducing the power of the abbey. In 1538 Henry VIII undertook the major Dissolution of the Monasteries. The final prior at Abbotsbury was Roger Roddon, who accepted a pension, and the Abbey was dissolved in 1539.
Abbotsbury Abbey was ruined as a condition of its sale so that its stone could be reused. The Great Barn, which at 272 ft by 31 ft is the largest thatched tithe barn in the world, and St Catherine's Chapel were spared, the latter used as a lookout across the sea. Both are Grade I listed buildings and scheduled monuments. The dissolution left the village impoverished.
Sir Giles Strangways (died 1546), the commissioner who had dissolved Abbotsbury, bought the abbey buildings, manor houses, water mills and Abbotsbury Swannery and much of the abbey's land for £1,906, 10s (equivalent to £1,260,000 in 2018). Much of the land still belongs to Strangways' descendant, the Earl of Ilchester.
Heads of Abbotsbury
|Æsuuerdus||?||appears in 1075|
|[ Roger, bishop of Salisbury ]||1107–1139|||
|Roger||?||appears in 1129 x 1150.|
|Geoffrey II||?||appears in 1166.|
|vacant||1175, 1 – 8 July|||
|Roger II||?||appears in 1201.|
|Hugh||?||appears in 1204 x 1205.|
|vacant||1213, 15 July|||
|Hugh II||? – 1246?|||
|Roger de Brideton||1246–1258?|||
|Joan of Hilton (Helton)||1258–1284|||
|Philip of Sherborne||1284–1296|||
|[William of Kingston]|||
|Benedict of Loders (Lodres)||1297–1320|||
|Ralph of Sherborne||1320–1321|||
|Peter of Sherborne||1321–1324|||
|William le Fauconer||1324–1343|||
|Walter de Saunford||1343–1348|||
|Walter de Stokes||1348–1354|||
|Henry (of) Toller (or Tolre)||1354–1376|||
|Richard Percy||1426–1442||resigned in 1442|
|John Abbotsbury||1496 (elected)|||
|John Portesham||1505 (elected)|||
|Roger Roddon||1534–1539||last abbot, surrendered.|
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