Caldey Abbey

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Caldey Abbey
Caldey Abbey - - 1804245.jpg
Caldey Abbey is located in Wales
Caldey Abbey
Caldey Abbey
Location of Caldey Abbey within Pembrokeshire
Coordinates: 51°38′14″N 4°41′04″W / 51.637303°N 4.684337°W / 51.637303; -4.684337
Location Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire
Country Wales
Denomination Roman Catholic Church
Status Abbey
Founded 1910
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Grade II* listed
Deanery Pontypridd[1]

Caldey Abbey is an abbey and monastery of the Cistercian order of the Strict Observance (commonly called Trappists), situated on Caldey Island off the coast of Pembrokeshire, Wales, south of Tenby.

Caldey Island has been known as one of the centres of Cistercian activity since Celtic times and thrived during medieval Europe.[2][3] However, the current abbey was built in 1910 by Anglican Benedictine monks. At the time of building, the abbey was called "the greatest phenomenon in the Anglican community at the present time". The abbey passed to the Cistercian order in 1929.[4] Today there are some 10 members.[5] They are known for their lavender perfume, shortbread and chocolate production, and opened an online shop in 2001.

The Abbey came under scrutiny in 2017 when some historic instances of child abuse emerged.


A Celtic monastery was founded on the island in the sixth century, and a Benedictine foundation existed from 1136 until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 (Benedictian monks were from the St Dogmaels Abbey located on the River Teifi.[citation needed]

Pyro was the abbey's first abbot;[6] Saint Samson was also one of Caldey Abbey's pioneer abbots.[7]

William Done Bushell offered the island to Dom Aelred Carlyle in 1900. An Anglican Benedictine community, led by Carlyle, arrived six years later in 1906, and built the current abbey in the Italian style with assistance from Lord Halifax and others between 1906 and 1910. Initially a row of cottages were built for the people working on the building; hence the abbey was named as "cottage Monastery." The chapel was added in 1910. Three years later the monks were received by the Roman Catholic Church,[8][4] except for a small Anglican remnant which left Caldey and moved into Abbey House, next to Pershore Abbey, Worcestershire. This was a house which had belonged to Caldey Abbey, but was returned in 1913 to its original, Anglican donor.[9] The Anglican Benedictine community moved on from Pershore to Nashdom Abbey in 1926.[10]

The Catholic Benedictines moved to Prinknash Abbey by 1928.[8] The much stricter Cistercian Order, who now occupy the abbey, came in 1929 from Scourmont Abbey in Belgium.[11] The monastery was rebuilt in 1940 after a fire.[7]

Monastic life[edit]

Perfume, shortbread and chocolate production all provide income for the monks,[12] as well as the sale of prime beef.[2] The monastery opened an internet shop in 2001.[12] Their lavender perfume is said to be "simply the best lavender soliflore on earth" by the perfume critic Luca Turin.[13] Chocolate is also sold under the "Abbot's Kitchen" brand.[14] The monastery used to operate a now-defunct dairy which would sell iced confectionery and cake.[2]

Lavender perfume[edit]

Profuse growth of wild lavender flowers in the Caldey Island prompted the monks of the abbey to create scents with new fragrances. They branded the scents and marketed them with the brand name “Caldey Abbey Perfumes.” With booming demand for this brand of scent there was need to import scent oil from outside the island.[15] The scent is now manufactured throughout the year and is partly based on the island's gorse.[2]

Architecture and fittings[edit]

Post Office, with abbey buildings to the left

The structure is considered to be the most complete example of the Arts and Crafts style in the country.[16][not in citation given] It was also John Coates Carter's largest project.[16] The roofs are of white roughcast with red tiling, while the large basement arches are of brick. The abbey church has a south tower, with five side-windows, and has a "tapering" tower with primitive crenellations. The windows are simple, with lead glazing. Originally the fittings included silver and ebony altar decorations and other luxurious items, but many were destroyed in the 1940 fire. The refectory of the Abbey was made from fine timber, and although inspired by an ancient pattern, it was modern in design.[4][17] Two large water tanks underground and a narrow water shaft eliminate the threat of water scarcity in dry seasons.[7]

It is a Grade II* listed building.[18]

Child abuse lawsuit[edit]

In August 2016, three women launched legal action against the abbey seeking compensation for sexual abuse they had suffered at the hands of one of the abbey's monks between 1972 and 1987, when they were children. They alleged that Father Thaddeus Kotik, who lived in the abbey from 1947 until his death in 1992, abused at least six girls. He is said to have used chocolate from the abbey dairy and sweets in a chest in the garage to strike up relationships with girls whose families holidayed on the island, before assaulting them. The abbey reached a financial settlement with six claimants[19] and apologised for failing to report the abuse[20] when they became aware of it in 1990; Dyfed–Powys Police were made aware in 2014 and 2016.[21]

In November 2017, as a result of media coverage of the allegations, a further five women came forward to accuse Kotik of abusing them.[22] At the same time it emerged that Paul Ashton, a fugitive child sex offender, had fled to the abbey in 2004 and remained there until 2011 using a pseudonym. He was arrested after a visitor recognised him from Crimestoppers' "Most Wanted" list. During his time at the abbey Ashton, who had absconded from West Sussex, operated the island's satellite internet and telephone systems, managed online accommodation bookings and accounts, and worked in the mail room. Ashton pleaded guilty to possessing more than 5,000 indecent images of children, including on computer equipment at the abbey.[22]


  1. ^ "Pontypridd Deanery". Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Williams 2001, p. 294.
  3. ^ "Caldey Island Pembrokeshire Wales". Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Lloyd, Thomas; Orbach, Julian; Scourfield, Robert (2004). Pembrokeshire: The Buildings of Wales. Yale University Press. pp. 142–. ISBN 978-0-300-10178-2. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
  5. ^ "Cistercian Order statistics". Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  6. ^ "The Monks of Caldey Island". Caldey Island. Retrieved May 4, 2013.
  7. ^ a b c Williams 2001, p. 293.
  8. ^ a b Gordon Beattie (1997). Gregory's Angels: A History of the Abbeys, Priories, Parishes and Schools of the Monks and Nuns Following the Rule of Saint Benedict in Great Britain, Ireland and Their Overseas Foundations : to Commemorate the Arrival of Saint Augustine in Kent in 597 AD. Gracewing Publishing. pp. 88–. ISBN 978-0-85244-386-6. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  9. ^ Dunstan (2009), p. 22.
  10. ^ Dunstan (2009), p. 73.
  11. ^ "Our Monastic Island - a brief history". Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Monks get internet shopping habit". BBC News. 24 October 2001.
  13. ^ Sexton, David (27 November 2008). "Perfumes: The Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
  14. ^ "Chocolate Bars 5 x 69g". Caldey Island Webshop. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
  15. ^ "Perfume Making on Caldey". Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  16. ^ a b Thomas, Phil. "Building a Sense of Place". Building Conservation. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  17. ^ Eugène Augustin Roulin (1947). Modern Church Architecture. B. Herder Book Company. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  18. ^ "Caldey Abbey, Tenby". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  19. ^ Gearing, Amanda. "Revealed: monk who abused children on 'crime free' Caldey Island for decades". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  20. ^ "Caldey Abbey apology over handling of monk sex abuse claims". BBC News. 22 November 2017. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
  21. ^ "Caldey Island monk sexual abuser was warned by abbot". BBC News. 21 November 2017. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  22. ^ a b "Caldey Island: Sex offender evaded justice at abbey". BBC News. 25 November 2017.