History of the Cistercian Abbey of Stanley, In Wiltshire,



By W. de G. BIRCH, F.R.S.L.

HE Cistercian Abbey of Stanley, in Wiltshire, is perhaps as little known as any of that interesting Order. It is not my intention to write the history of the House, for that work has been already performed, in a fairly satisfactory manner, by the Rev. W. L. Bowles, in his "Parochial History of Bremhill in the county of Wilts," London, 1828. The editors of the new edition of Sir William Dugdale's "Monasticon Anglicanum" have drawn their account of the abbey principally from this work; and, in all probability, the amount of literary information respecting the monastery would never have received any very extensive additions, if an accidental discovery of a very important nature had not enabled me to identify a manuscript, among the untold treasures of the British Museum, with the fortunes of Stanley Abbey. This manuscript, of which I shall presently give a detailed description and transcript, forms the bulk of my paper, which I here offer to the Wiltshire Archæological Society for publication, for I feel sure that that body is fully aware of the great importance of printing original documents bearing so directly upon the medieval archæology of the county, and of the increasing necessity of putting on record everything we can find to throw a light, however faint, upon the monastic age,



when religious establishments formed the only, or almost only, centres of refinement and civilization. To the circumstances of the foundation, as narrated by the author I have mentioned, I do not attempt to add anything, or to say more than that I believe the account he gives of the first erection, of the consequent removals, or of the final establishment at Stanley, are in the main quite correct, and in all respects borne out by the manuscript indicated. The fasti of the abbots is very meagre, and I have been happily able to assist in forming a fuller list. The great value of a correct chronological sequence of heads of a Religious House is universally recognized by all historians and topographers, for by its aid we are enabled to assign dates to deeds, and to portions of the fabric of the buildings, which without such aid must be attributed only to conjectural epochs.

The book which claims so interesting a place in the history of Stanley Abbey is a manuscript in the Harley Collection of the British Museum, and bears the number 6716. It is thus described in the folio catalogue :

"Liber membranaceus in folio, in quo habentur Tituli Privilegiorum et Indulgentiarum, finales Concordiæ et tituli Cartarum ad varia loca pertinentium. Folia membranacea."

It will be readily perceived from the above description that, the manuscript had not been identified with any locality, and it was my good fortune to be arranging a series of uncertain descriptions of manuscripts, when my attention was drawn to the peculiar form of this one, which appeared to me to be a species of Calendar, or Register of Charters and Documents belonging to some Religious House, and to contain a schedule of the contents of the muniment room or archives of the Library. A very cursory examination of the manuscript enabled me to assign the probable locality to be near Calne, in Wiltshire, for almost the first sentences of the book make mention of an affair "between us and the Rector of the Church of Calne," and another affair "between us and the Abbot of St. Augustine's, Bristol." The constant mention of Lambourne, Lokcesuuell, Malmesbury, Coderyngtone, and Wynterbourne, led me to

1 See further on.

assign the county of Wilts as the positive locality of the Religious House whose register I was examining, and the tenor of the Papal deeds, plainly indicated by such terms as "quod decimas dare non tenemur de laboribus propriis," and other similar expressions, shewed me that the Order of the house I was seeking to which to attribute this book was of Cistercian rule.

Finally, the Bull of Pope Alexander III., "De Protectione Abbatiæ de Stanleg," plainly indicated that the Abbey of Stanley was the one which only satisfied the search; and on consulting the meagre account in the "Monasticon" I was fully satisfied that I had discovered a calendar of the archives of that Abbey, and thereby was enabled to make a valuable addition to the scanty records of that house.


The MS. is a thin long folio of 17 pages, written in a fine clear hand of the 13th century, and carefully ruled and prepared in such a way that additions may be made from time to time without cramping or want of space. Many such additions have been made down to the period of the suppression of monasteries by King Henry VIII. It is written along the broad way of the leaf, and there are occasional erasures, but these do not appear to be numerous nor of any importance. The book commences with an account of method in which the Compositiones" or "agreements" of the house are arranged, namely, "by alphabet according to names of places." After these are described, the compiler commences a new section with the "Titles of the Privileges and Indulgences" granted to the Abbey, and apparently arranged according to the chronological list of the Roman Pontiffs. The series commences with several of Pope Celestine III., some of which appear to be grants made to the Cistercian Order in general, others to the Monastery of Stanley in particular. After enumerating a very interesting Bull, entitled "Concerning the absolution of the first vow of Ralph Fitz-Stephen and concerning the confirmation of the second vow," documents ratified by Pope Alexander III., to the number of twelve, are calendered. Then follow those of Popes Clement III., Honorius III., Gregory IX., Innocent IV., and other Bishops of Rome, with two of Otho, the Papal Legate.

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The next section is of interest, as it introduces to our notice, for the first time, I believe, Brother Michael the Monk, whose labours for the benefit of his order have merited a special paragraph entitled "Titles of the Privileges which were acquired in the year of grace MCCXLV by brother Michael the Monk, whose labour may God requite in the kingdom of heaven. Amen." This worthy religious appears to have been the means of obtaining no less than eighteen papal documents of privileges and liberties from Pope Innocent IV., and these the compiler of the calendar has numbered consecutively from A to S. The tenor of all, from the titles or docquets appears to be of a nature general to the Cistercian Order.

The next division of deeds is devoted to "Final Concords made before the Justiciers of our Lord the King," and relate to lands at Childenoel, Rudes or Heland, Stanleg, Cudel [inton], Wappel', Winterbourn, Nethermore, Blakedun, Calestun, Aubree, Wiltun, Heiwude, Cokelberg, Ruteshale, Jettun, Stodleg, Bradenstok, and Eston, most of which localities are I believe circumjacent with the Abbey. This section contains a variety of valuable historical, biographical, and topical information, such as names of several Abbots, Nicholas, Thomas, Stephen, Robert, Peter, and William. The list of Abbots which I give at the end of the paper is materially assisted by these names. The last entry is perhaps curious, as it relates to the Jew "Jocepinus" of Bristol, who had acquitted to the Abbey his claim to a debt owing by Ralph de Beauchamp, a scion of a noble family well known in Wiltshire at that time.

The next division of the calendar is devoted to "The Titles of charters of Sovereigns, which are enrolled and not in order." This class embraces grants and charter of liberties from Richard I., Henry III., and Edward II. While the next series is of those which are "in order" viz., of chronology, and these leading off with two of the Empress Mathildis, proceed with several of Henry II., and Richard I. Mr. Bowles has printed the text of some of these from the original deeds in the possession of E. Bayntun, in his work, to which reference has been already made.

Then succeeds the body of the work, with an introductory

paragraph in which are explained the scope and method of the arrangement, and the signification of the marks. This method is so interesting as affording us a glimpse at the way in which the Monks were accustomed, in the Cistercian Order, to arrange their title deeds, that I think it worth while to translate it:-" Here begin the titles of the charters. Firstly, of the charters pertaining to places whose names begin with 4, then with B, and so on. In this arrangement of titles this method is carried out, viz., immediately after the title of each charter are placed the confirmations, if any, of that charter, after these confirmations are placed other deeds appertaining to the same. And it is to be noted that the number which is written at the head of the titles indicates in what place. the separate deeds are deposited. But the dots represent in what order they are. The small circles shew which are the charters placed in the broad chest."

I think it will be unnecessary for me to point out modern localities equivalent to those indicated by this list, which is so long that we may fairly take it the abbey of Stanley was very richly endowed. The majority of the localities are in Wiltshire, and a few appear be in Berkshire and other surrounding shires.


[MS. Harl. 6716, f. 2b.] Isto ordine collocantur Omnes compositiones istius domus quæ fuerunt inter nos et diversas personas pro diversis causis per alphabetum secundum quod loca nostra se extendunt. Primoque Alphledemour vocatur mora nostra quæ ante portam scita est, de qua quondam inquisicio fuit facta per dominum Regem, et ad modum cirographi post inquisitionem fuerat inde littera confecta. Secundo, de Compositione inter Episcopum Bathoniensem et nos pro una hyda terræ in Eston. Item, inter nos et ejusdem Episcopi Capitulum apud Welles de decimis Ovium nostrarum apud Eston. Item, inter nos et priorem de Bradenstoke de duabus acris apud Costowe et clauso nostro de mora. Item, inter nos et abbatem de Bello loco pro aqua Thamisiæ apud Wodeleye. Item inter nos et Rectorem Ecclesiæ de Calne. Item inter nos et abbatem Sancti Augustini de Bristoll, pro decimis apud Coderynton. Item compositiones inter nos et rectorem Ecclesiæ de Pharendon quæ sunt quinque in universo, quarum tres faciunt mentionem de Centum Solidis pro decimis de Wadeleye,+ et una de duabus marcis et dimidio annuatim solvendis pro eisdem decimis. Item inter nos et priorem de Farleye, quæ sunt duæ unius tenoris per quas tenemur solvere eidem unam Marcam annuatim pro decimis de Stanl et NutheItem, inter nos et Rectorem Ecclesiæ de Westbury pro decimis de


⚫ Thamisia; Thamaisie, with the second a expuncted, MS.

+ Centum

Wadeleye, and underlined with a red stroke, MS.

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