Croxden Abbey

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Croxden Abbey


Croxden Abbey
Grid reference: SK064397
Location: 52°57’19"N, 1°54’17"W
Village: Croxden
Order: Cistercian
Established: 1179
Founder: Bertram de Verdun
Dedication: Virgin Mary
Disestablished: 1538
Condition: Ruined
Owned by: English Heritage
Public access: Yes
Website: Croxden Abbey

Croxden Abbey, also known as Abbey of the Vale of St Mary at Croxden, was a Cistercian abbey at Croxden in Staffordshire, now in ruins. The abbey was founded in the 12th century by the de Verdun family as a daughter house of the abbey in Aunay-sur-Odon in Normandy.

The abbey was dissolved in 1538.


Foundation and early history

The ruins of the abbey chapterhouse

In 1176, Bertram de Verdun, the lord of the manor of Croxden, endowed a site for a new abbey near Alton, Staffordshire, to a group of 12 Cistercian monks from Aunay-sur-Odon, Normandy. Bertram founded the abbey, like many noblemen of his time, for the souls of his family and on the condition that the monks would celebrate mass "for the souls of his predecessors and successors".[1]

The monks remained at the Alton site until 1179, before moving to land near Croxden, a few miles south. Grants of land were made to the abbey across Staffordshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire, along with the churches of Alton and Tugby, and two chapels at Keythorpe and East Norton.[1]

The abbey continued to expand into the 13th century, and King John awarded the monks an annuity of £5 from the Exchequer of Ireland in 1200, before exchanging it for land in Adeney in Shropshire in 1206. Croxden was relatively prosperous at this time, drawing the majority of its wealth from sheep farming. By 1315, the monks were supplying more wool to the continent than any other religious house in the county, with transactions being recorded with Florentine merchants well into the 1420s. The abbey's wealth is reflected in the purchase of a house in London by abbot William of Over for £20.[1]

Decline and dissolution

By the 14th century, Croxden's financial situation had worsened. The strains of royal taxation, the repayment of loans and the imposition of a corrodian combined with bad harvests and plague were a drain on the abbey's resources.

With the death of the last of the Verduns in 1316, the patronage of the abbey passed to Joan de Verdun and her husband Thomas de Furnivalle. A number of serious disputes broke out between the monks and de Furnivalle concerning his use of abbey lands and property, culminating in the monks' barricading themselves within the abbey for 16 weeks in 1319. It was not until July 1319, with the help of other local landowners, that the monks received an assize of novel disseisin and their property usage was returned to them.[1]

With an income of less than £200 per year[1] the abbey should have been suppressed under the Suppression of Religious Houses Act 1535, which dictated that all religious houses with a low annual income should be dissolved.[2] The monks paid a fine of £100 for a royal licence to continue, until 1537 when the abbey was surrendered and the land and property sold off. The king granted the monks pensions, with the last abbot receiving an annual sum of £26 13s. 4d.[1]

After dissolution

The mid-13th century chapel survived as the church for the parish of Croxden until 1886, when it was replaced by newer building to the north. In 1936 the site passed into the care of the Ministry of Public Building and Works,[1] and is today managed by English Heritage.[3] A number of the buildings can are still standing and, thanks to excavations in 1968, the foundations of some demolished buildings are also traceable.[1]

Layout and architecture

The design of the church was based on the abbey's mother church in Aunay-sur-Odon and is considered more elaborate than most Cistercian architecture. The west wall, including two doorways and lancet windows above them, is still almost complete.[1]

The conventual and service buildings were situated to the south of the church, and include a sacristy, chapterhouse, kitchen and dormitory. The upper floors which included the dormitory and a treasury are no longer extant.[1]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Croxden Abbey)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Croxden - A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3
  2. The Monthly Review or, Literary Journal. 21. London. 1759. pp. 275. 
  3. Croxden Abbey