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Full text of "History of St. Mary's Abbey of Buckfast, in the County of Devon, A.D. 760-1906"

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ii 



HISTORY OF ST MARY'S ABBEY 
OF BUCKFAST 



D. MAURUS M. SERAFINI 

Abbas Generalis 

Cong. Cas. a Prhncsva Observaniia, Ordinis S. Benedicti 

Cum duo ex Patribus Congregationis nostra:^ Provincice 
Gallicce Censores, examinaverint opus cut titulus : History 
OF THE Abbey of Buckfast : a Rev. P. D. Adavio Hamilton, 
ejusdcm monasferii et Provincice vwnacho presbyiero elabo- 
ratuvi, et nihil in eofidei aut bonis moribus contrarium depre- 
henderint, dignumque judicaverint quod typis publice edaturj 
Nos, quantum ad potestatem nostra fn pertinet prafatum Opus 
evulgandi licentiam con^redimus, si iis ad quos spectat ita 
videbiiur. 

In Proto-Cosnobio Sublacensi, die 12 Mali 1906. 



nihil ©bstat: 

Joannes Higgins 

Censor deputatus. 

£m}rrimiitnr : 

Carolus 

Episcopus Plymuthensis. 

Die a JaniMrii MCMVII. 



I hereby -protest my complete submission to the decrees of the 
Holy See wherever 1 have given to anyone in this volume the 
title of Saint or Blessed, or related occurrences which may 
appear supernatural. 







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HISTORY OF ST MARY'S 
ABBEY OF BUCKFAST 

(IN THE COUNTY OF DEVON) 
A.D. 760—1906 



BY 

DOM ADAM HAMILTON, O.S.B. 



SOLD BY THE PROCURATOR 



AT 



BUCKFAST ABBEY, BUCKFASTLEIGH 

DEVON 



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TO THE 
RIGHT REVEREND FATHER ABBOT 

DOM ANSCAR VONIER, O.S.B. 

AND THE 

MONKS OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

THE HISTORY OF OUR DEAR MONASTIC HOME IS 

REVERENTLY AND AFFECTIONATELY 

DEDICATED 



PREFACE 

This history has been written primarily for the 
monks of St Mary's venerable Abbey at Buckfast, 
and, in the second place, for Devonshire men. 

Their love for our county will make them readily 
understand that the writer could not but delight in 
a tale of " Fair Devon," He could never see from 
the railway the towers of Exeter Cathedral without 
emotions of pleasure and affection at the thought 
that in that dear old city his mother was born. 

One hundred years ago, in 1806, the walls of our 
Abbey Church, which for two hundred and sixty-seven 
years had been left to ruin and decay, were finally 
levelled, the materials sold or employed in building 
a mansion on the site of the former guest-house, and 
every trace of the sacred edifice effaced. Nothing 
was left when the monks took possession of the 
Abbey in 1882 to tell them that under the turf of 
the meadow that adjoined the mansion at its north- 
east corner, they would find the buried foundations 
of St Mary's Abbey Church. 

Now, in 1906, its walls are being reared anew, by 
the labour of the monks, on those twelfth-century 
foundations, which rest in part on earlier masonry 

Tii 



viii PREFACE 

of Saxon days, dating perhaps from the Heptarchy. 
The centenary year from the final effacement of the 
consecrated fabric marks the beginning of the joyous 
work of building up again what had been in days of 
infinite sadness laid low. 

But not to Devonshire men alone, we may hope, 
will the story of the monastery on the Dart be of 
interest. Only in its almost unbroken tranquillity 
did the mission of the children of St Benedict at 
Buckfast differ from their work in other parts of 
England, and their part in forming the English 
nation may be here studied with advantage. How 
they first formed agricultural and pastoral settle- 
ments, created villages round a parish church, 
obtained royal grants for these colonies of husband- 
men, till they grew into flourishing market towns 
under the sway of the Abbot's crozier, and educated 
them in the Christian Faith and the arts of civilisa- 
tion, is well illustrated in our history. Some perhaps, 
like the writer himself, will find greater pleasure in 
the little incidents of social life contained in what 
has survived to us of our records. The spirit of the 
Ages of Faith gives them a charm in which later 
times are sadly lacking. 

It would be idle to hope that no errors will be 
found in the course of the volume. These will be 
corrected, and ampler materials brought to light, no 
doubt, by the researches of future writers. 

It may appear to some that a mythical antiquity 
has been claimed for our monastery. But in reality 
there is no getting away from the fact, certified in 
Domesday Book, that none of the Kings of Wessex 
or of England before the Conquest ever ventured to 



PREFACE ix 

assess the little manor on which our Abbey was 
situated, while every acre besides in the county was 
rigorously assessed. So remote is its antiquity, that 
no memory of its founder is to be discovered in the 
most ancient records. 

The historic names of Denys Petre, Drake, 
D'Oyley, Rolle, Clinton, Mainwaring, and Baker 
would have given interest to an account of the lay 
possessors of the Abbey and its estates since 1539, 
but it has not been found practicable in this edition. 

Among the authorities that have been the histori- 
cal sources of the narrative, three living Devon- 
shire historians have been chiefly followed. The first 
place is due to Mr J. Brooking Rowe, in his most 
valuable work on the Cistercian Houses of Devon. 
The Rev. Oswald Reichel, than whom no man living 
is better versed in the gesta of Anglo-Saxons in the 
West, in his contributions to the Transactio7is of the 
Devonshire Association^ and the Rev. Prebendary 
Hingeston-Randolph in his colossal labour of editing 
the Episcopal Registers of the Exeter Diocese, come 
next in order. The late Mr Davidson's Saxon 
Conquest of Devon, Dr Oliver's Mofiasticon of the 
Exeter Diocese, and Mr Charles Worthy's books on 
Devonshire have helped to clear up many obscure 
points in our history and add names to the list of 
our Abbots. The neglect of civil and ecclesiastical 
records between 1450 and 15CXD leaves that period a 
very dark one. 

Besides those Devonshire antiquaries mentioned 
above, who are still happily with us, I owe a debt of 
gratitude to Mr F. Walters, the architect of the 
restoration, for several illustrations ; to the Chi- 



X . PREFACE 

Chester family of Calverleigh, for their pedigrees of 
Chichester and Beaumont ; to Dom Norbert Birt, 
O.S.B., Miss Henrietta Walton, the Rev. Canon 
Edmonds, librarian of Exeter Cathedral, Mr H. 
Hems, and others, for much valuable help. 

The circumstances attending the death of Abbot 
Boniface Natter in the wreck of the Sirio on the 
4th August in this year, and the election of his 
successor, Abbot Anscar Vonier, necessitated the 
addition of two chapters. Both these prelates were 
" children of the Abbey," and grew up from boyhood 
within its walls. On both the nameless charm of 
Devon cast its spell, and made them fervent lovers 
of their monastic home, and their names will be 
chronicled by some future annalist as worthy suc- 
cessors of Abbots iElfwyne and Eustace, Philip 
Beaumont, William Slade, and John Rede. 

BuCKFAST Abbey, 

Feast 0/ All Saints of the Order of St Benedict^ 

\j)th Noveniber 1906. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER I 

PAOB 

" Bucfaesten," the stag's fastness. The Kingdom of Wessex, 
A.D. 760. King Cynewulf and Bishop Ethelmode. The 
Saxon conquest of Devon. Battles round Hembury Fort. 
The Manor that "never paid the geld." The Saxon 
Monastery. Antiquity of St Mary's Abbey. The Lady 
Beornwyn. St Petrock's territory . . . • I 

CHAPTER II 

The earliest home of the monks ; its surroundings. The 
great moor. The Dart. The Holy Brook. Buckfast and 
Buckfastleigh. Existing portions of the old Abbey. 
Children of the Abbey. Its dependent oratories. Festivals 
at Buckfast in Saxon days. Abbots ^^Ifsige and ^Ifwine . 1 1 

CHAPTER III 

The Northmen in Devon. Tavistock Abbey destroyed. Abbot 
^Ifwine. A meeting of the Shire-mote ; its members. 
Earl Godwin. The Bishops of Crediton and Sherburne. 
The Abbots of Buckfast and Tavistock. Other thanes. 
A legend of Earl Ordulf . . . . .18 

CHAPTER IV 

A Journey from Buckfast to Exeter in the Reign of the 
Confessor. Bishop Leofric of Crediton installed by the 
King in his new Cathedral of Exeter. The Abbots of 
Buckfast and Tavistock in the Confessor's Reign at the 
Exeter Shire-mote. The Norman Conquest. St Mary's 
Abbey not disturbed. Domesday Book and the estates of 
Buckfast Abbey. Serfdom in Anglo-Saxon times . .25 

CHAPTER V 

Lands of St Mary's Abbey in the reign of Edward the Confessor. 
The South Devon estates. Brent, Ash, Heathfield, Church- 
stow, Kingsbridge. Dodbrooke and the Lady Godeva. 
Trusham near Chudleigh. Zeal Monachorum. Down 
St Mary and Petrockstow in North Devon . . .32 

xi 



xii CONTENTS 



CHAPTER VI 



PAoa 



The earliest of our extant charters. A deed in the reign of 
Henry I., now in the possession of the Abbey. Judhel 
the son of Alured the Giant. Sir Roger de Nunant and 
his family. The " Mary Mass." The wood and meadow 
on the banks of the JSJorth Brook. " Priestaford." The 
knightly witnesses to the charter. The Earl of Totnes. 
The arms of Buckfast. . . . . -37 



CHAPTER VH 

The religious revival in England in the reign of Henry I, His 
charter granted to St Mary's Abbey. Extinction of the 
Saxon community. The Grey Monks at Buckfast. Robert 
de Mortaigne and Ralph de Fougeres. Ipplepen. Blessed 
Vitalis and the Order of Savigny. The Synod of London in 
II02. Norman monks introduced at Buckfast about 1 105 
Death of Blessed Vitalis of Savigny . . . -45 



CHAPTER Vni 

Buckfast Abbey a Cistercian house. The General Chapter of 
Citeaux, 1148. Blessed Eugene III. The English 
monasteries of the Savigny Congregation hesitate to 
become Cistercians, Charter of Henry II. St Thomas 
of Canterbury. The Tracys of Devonshire. Foundation 
of Torre Abbey . . . . . -57 



CHAPTER IX 

Sufferings of the Monks in the reign of King John. The 
Interdict of Innocent III. The holders of the Baronies of 
Totnes and Harberton. Peace restored. The Cistercian 
Abbeys of Buckland, Newenham, Dunkeswell, and Ford, 
in Devon . . . . . . .66 



CHAPTER X 

Growing prosperity. Cistercian lay-brothers. The out-lying 
possessions of the monks on Dartmoor. Buckfast Moor. 
Agricultural labourers in the thirteenth century. Abbot 
Nicholas sells houses at Exeter. Abbot Michael. Archi- 
tectural remains of the Abbey at the present day . . 72 



CONTENTS xiii 



CHAPTER XI 



PAOH 



Sir Robert de Helion's kindness to the monks of Buckfast. A 
distinguished company assembled in the chapter-house. 
Sir William Hamehn of Deandon. Sir Reginald de 
Valletort's land. A bad bargain. Trouble about the 
pigs. Sir Stephen de Bauceyn. Everything now as in 
days of yore. Abbots of Buckfast from I142 to 1272 . 82 



CHAPTER Xn 

Sir Stephen de Bauceyn slain in battle by Rees Vaughan. His 
land at Holne, now called "Bozon's Farm." Sir Richard 
de Bauceyn. Faith and chivalry in the thirteenth century. 
The Chronicle of Newenham Abbey in Devon. The holy 
death of Sir Reginald de Mohun . . . .90 

CHAPTER Xni 

Tranquillity of Devonshire during the War of the Barons in the 
reign of Henry HI. Durand and Henry, Abbots of Buck- 
fast (1253-1272). Walter Bronescombe, Bishop of Exeter. 
The Bishop holds his court in the chapter-house of the 
Abbey (1259). His zeal and activity. Social changes in 
Devon. Bondmen become wealthy landowners, Richard 
Tyulla, The hospital of the poor at Buckfast Abbey. 
Bishop Bronescombe a friend to the community. Priory 
of St Nicholas . . . . . . -97 

CHAPTER XIV 

Abbot Simon, 1272. Amicia, Countess of Devon, founds Buck- 
land Abbey. A dispute between the Bishop of Exeter and 
the Buckland monks. Abbot Robert, 1280. Defence of 
his rights against the crown. Baronial rights of the Abbot 
in the reign of Edward I. A question concerning pasturage 
on Dartmoor. The perambulation of Dartmoor in 1240. 
A dehghtful summer ride. The Abbey moors no part of 
the Forest of Dartmoor ..... 105 

CHAPTER XV 

The new order of things in England. Cistercian decline. 
Parliament at Exeter in 1285. The Exeter Synod of 1287. 
Death of Abbot Robert. Extracts from the Buckfast 
cartulary. Edward I. visits the Abbey. Abbot Peter II. 
Distress of the monastic houses in the reign of Edward I. 
Abbot Robert II. . . . . . -US 



xiv CONTENTS 



CHAPTER XVI 



PAGE 



Enthronement of Bishop de Stapeldon. Sir Hugh Courtenay 
as seneschal. Ordinations. Names of the monks. The 
language spoken by the community at the opening of the 
fourteenth century. Ashburton ; its wollen trade and 
the monks of Buckfast. The chapel of St Lawrence. 
The service-books written by the monks. The Bishop's 
last visit. A manumission. Bishop Stapeldon murdered, 
15th Oct. 1 316 . . . . . .122 

CHAPTER XVII 

Bishops of Exeter. James de Berkeley. John de Grandisson. 
Installation of Abbot Stephen, 1327. He reconciles Thurle- 
stone Church. Bishop Grandisson at Buckfast Abbey. 
Abbot Stephen at the Council of London, 1329. The 
statue of our Lady of Buckfast. Abbot John of Church- 
stow, 1332. Abbot Gififord, 1333. The Devonshire Gififords, 
Abbot Stephen of Cornwall, 1348 .... 132 

CHAPTER XVIII 

The Black Death ; its ravages in Devonshire. Abbot Stephen 
of Cornwall, 1 349. Abbot Philip Beaumont, 1349. Abbot 
Robert Simons. Bishop Ware's grave at Buckfast ; his 
ring. The Beaumonts of Sherwell. Sherwell and Youlston. 
Chichesters of Raleigh. Chichesters of Calverleigh . .140 

CHAPTER XIX 

Wyclif and the Lollards. Troubles in Devonshire. Bishops 
Brantingham and Stafford. Abbot William Paderstow. 
Brothers William Stele and John Stourton. Abbot William 
Slade ; his education at Exeter and Oxford ; his reputation 
for learning . . . . . . . 150 

CHAPTER XX 

Churchstow, "the place of the church." The town of Kings- 
bridge. St Edmund the Martyr's Church. The monks 
build a new church at Kingsbridge. Monastic remains. 
Leigh Barton. Cistercian wood-carving. Death of Abbot 
Slade. The blind Earl of Devon. A Tiverton legend. 
Boys educated for the Church at our Abbey . .158 

CHAPTER XXI 

Abbot William Beaghe. Loyalty of the monks. A domestic 
incident. Abbots Rogger and Ffji-chett. Abbot John 
Matthew, 1449 The Matthews of Glamorgan. Three of 
the Abbey settlements developed into flourishing market 



CONTENTS XV 



PAOB 



towns. Was Bishop Bothe of Exeter Abbot of Buckfast ? 
Abbot King and his restoration work. A Buckfast monk 
Prior of St Bernard's College, Oxford. Abbots Rede, 
Pomeroy, and Gyll . . . • ■ .170 

CHAPTER XXII 

The last Abbot before the Dissolution. Dearth of records. 
Isolation of the Abbot. The Convocation of 1 531. The 
Act of Succession. The Oath of Supremacy ; was it taken 
by the monks of Buckfast ? Abbot Rede's integrity. Prior 
Arnold Gye . . . • • • .187 

CHAPTER XXIII 

Gabriel Donne. Abbot Rede's last act. The Cistercian house of 
Stratford Langthorne. Donne's earlier career. " The wolf 
rampant." Surrenders of Devonshire monasteries in 1539. 
Canonsleigh, Hartland, and Torre. The Eve of St Matthias, 
1539. A strange coincidence. Sir William Petre . . 196 

CHAPTER XXIV 

Haste of the Royal Commissioners. Hostile attitude of the people. 
Arrival of Petre and his company at Buckfast The last 
scene in the chapter-house. Names of the monks. Dis- 
mantling of the Abbey after the expulsion of the community . 206 

CHAPTER XXV 

Buckfast Abbey after the Dissolution ; its lay impropriators. 
Sir Thomas Denys ; providential consequences of his pur- 
chase of the Abbey. The Catholic insurrection of 1549. 
Descendants of Sir Thomas Denys. The RoUe family. 
The building levelled in 1806 . . . .212 

CHAPTER XXVI 

St Mary's Fountain in the forest. Pfere Muard. Arrival of the 
monks at Buckfast in 1882. The first mass. The tem- 
porary church. The Feast of St Robert, 1886. Excava- 
tions. Autonomy granted to the community . .221 

CHAPTER XXVII 

The election of Abbot Boniface Natter, 19th November 1902 ; 
his blessing and enthronement, 24th March 1903. The 
ancient statue of our Lady of Buckfast. The west front 
of the Abbey completed. Abbot Boniface and Dom Anscar 
embark on the Sii-io . . . . . .229 



XVI 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER XXVIII 



PAGE 



Tlie wreck of the Sir to, 4th August 1906. Death of Abbot 
Boniface. Election of Abbot Anscar Vonier ; his bless- 
ing and enthronement by the Bishop of Plymouth, 1 8th 
October 1906 . . . . • • -245 

Ai'PENDix — Historical Notes ..... 255 

Index of Names of Persons (chiefly with reference to times 

prior to A.D. 1 539) • • • • • .366 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Ruins of Buckfast Abbey in the Eighteenth Cen- 
tury ..... Face title-page 

Our Lady of Buckfast .... Face p. i 

River Dart, Buckfast . . . .,,11 

Arms of Buckfast Abbey, impaled with Arms of 

Clifford of Chudleigh . . . • ,, 37 
Buckfast Abbey : Plan of Ancient Foundations . „ 57 
Buckfast Abbey : The Cloister . . . „ 72 
Specimens of Thirteenth-Century Flooring Tiles . „ 80 
St Mary's Abbey, Buckfast (view from north-west) „ 97 
Buckfast Abbey : Remains of North Gate. . „ 121 
St Mary's Abbey, Buckfast (view from north-east) „ 1 50 
Buckfast Abbey : Refectory rebuilt on old Founda- 
tions ....... 170 

Door of a Thirteenth-Century Enamelled and 
Gilded Brass Limoges Work Chasse or 

Shrine ....... 187 

Buckfast Abbey : First founded in Eighth Century „ 206 
The Right Reverend Dom Boniface Natter, 

O.S.B., Abbot of Buckfast . . . „ 229 
Right Reverend Dom Anscar Vonier, O.S.B., 

Abbot of Buckfast . . . . „ 245 

Sink Stone of Large Piscina . . . . „ 254 



CORRIGENDA 



Page 65, line 2, "thus" should be "then." 

3, " Turkasia " should be " Turkesia." 
26, " Nather" should be " Natter." 
14, "accorded" should be "according." 
17, "1333" should be "1533." 
9, 'typographical" should be "topographical." 
20, "dignity" should be "dignitary." 
20, " found " should be " formed." 

In the inscription at foot of illustration facing p. 121, " ist April " 
should be " 8th April." 



93, 
135, 
178, 
190, 

230, 
256, 

263, 



xvi CONTENTS 

CHAPTER XXVIII 

PAGE 

The wreck of the Sir to, 4th August 1906. Death of Abbot 
Boniface. Election of Abbot Anscar Vonier ; his bless- 
ing and enthronement by the Bishop of Plymouth, 18th 
October 1906 ....... 245 

Appendix— Historical Notes . . . . .255 

Index of Names of Persons (chiefly with reference to times 

prior to A.D. 1539) • . . . . .266 



bnrme ..... 

Buckfast Abbey : First founded in Eighth Century 

The Right Reverend Dom Boniface Natter 
O.S.B., Abbot of Buckfast . 

Right Reverend Dom Anscar Vonier, O.S.B 

Abbot of Buckfast 
Sink Stone of Large Piscina . 



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187 


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206 




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229 




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11 


254 




Our Lady of Buckfast. Restored Fourteenth Century' Statue. 

[To face page 1. '^> 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 



CHAPTER I 

" Bucfaesten," the stag's fastness. The Kingdom of Wessex, 
760 A.D, King Cynewulf and Bishop Ethehnode. The 
Saxon conquest of Devon. Battles round Hembury Fort. 
The Manor that "never paid the geld." The Saxon 
Monastery. Antiquity of St Mary's Abbey. The Lady 
Beornwyn, St Petrock's territory. 

My story begins, as nearly as dates can be fixed, 
in the year 760. At the south-east corner of the 
wild upland known as Dartmoor, on the right bank 
of the Dart there was a dense forest, stretching along 
the riverside. The portion of this forest that lay at 
the foot of the steep hill of Hembury, whose summit 
was crowned by the still clearly traceable Hembury 
Fort, was frequented by the herds of red deer that 
roamed over Dartmoor, and came down to drink at 
the waters of Dart, at a spot now occupied by the 
Abbey meadows. Hence the English settlers of this 
part of the country give it the name of " Bucfaesten," 
the stag's fastness, and the Norman abbots who suc- 
ceeded them, learning from the Saxons the name of 
the place and its meaning, chose a stag's head 
caboshed, for the armorial bearings of St Mary's 
Abbey of Buckfast. 

The history of Buckfast Abbey, which I am writing 

A 



2 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

within its walls, begins, according to the most learned 
and critical of our Devonshire historians, whose con- 
clusions I am fain to adopt, from the year 760 or 
thereabouts, as I have just said. Cynewulf was then 
reigning over the kingdom of Wessex, that is to say, 
over the counties of Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire, 
Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, and Devon. To the 
" royal wolf," for such is the meaning of his name, the 
foundation of St Mary's Abbey is probably due. 
Half a century before, this western part of the 
kingdom of Wessex had been severed from the 
bishopric of Winchester, and was thenceforward 
governed by the Bishop of Sherburne, who in 760 
was the monk Ethelnold or Ethelmode, the fourth 
bishop of that see. 

Ethelmode must then be accounted our first bishop. 
St Mary's Abbey and the faithful of the county of 
Devon have been governed successively by the 
Bishops of Sherburne, Crediton, Exeter, and Plymouth. 
It was Cynewulfs conquest of this part of Devon 
from the British that added the territory on the 
banks of the Dart ^ to the diocese of Sherburne. For, 
by a system certainly not contemplated when St 
Gregory the Great sent St Augustine and his fellow- 
monks to England, the Anglo-Saxon bishops had 
become to a great extent tribal rather than territorial. 
Hence it is that at the Council of Clovesho in 747, 
we find them designated as "these prelates of the 
churches of Christ, beloved of God . . . the most 
reverend Bishops of the Mercians . . , the most 
approved Bishops of the West Saxons . . . the 

J Davidson, "The Saxon Conquest of Devon," Dev. Soc. 
Trajis., 1877-78. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 3 

venerable Bishops of the East Anglians," and so on.^ 
If not approved, the practice was at least tolerated by 
the Holy See, and Bishop Ethelmode is rightly to be 
numbered among the legitimate predecessors of the 
Right Rev. Charles Graham, Bishop of Plymouth, 
whom God long preserve. 

Cynewulfs final conquest of Devon was in all 
likelihood the occasion of the foundation of our 
monastery. The work of driving the British across 
the Tamar into Cornwall was only accomplished after 
a long and desperate struggle. " A sharp and severe 
contest would have to be waged by the invader of a 
thickly-wooded region like Devonshire, intersected by 
many streams, almost all flowing north and south, 
and each presenting a fresh barrier to the advance of 
an armed force. Many a desperate encounter must 
have been fought out among the tangled thickets that 
line the banks of the Exe, Teign, and Dart ; and the 
rocky fastnesses of Dartmoor would probably remain 
unsubdued to the last." - Nowhere would the fierce 
Saxons find a more formidable obstacle to their arms 
than where their heroic foes had to be driven from 
the fortified camp on Hembury. From those ancient 
entrenchments the view over the vale of the Dart is 
one of matchless beauty, but the eye of the beholder 
rests with singular interest on the venerable abbey. 
For there can be little doubt that Hembury Fort and 
St Mary's Abbey are historically linked together, and 
while recalling the scenes of slaughter, 

"When all day long the tide of battle rolled," 

1 Rev. O. Reichel, " The ' Domesday ' Churches of Devon," 
Dev. Soc, Trans., 1898. 

2 Davidson, " Saxon Conquest of Devon," Dev. Soc. Trans. 



4 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

it is with softened feelings towards the conquerors 
that one looks down on the sacred pile whose walls 
were first reared that Mass might be said and prayers 
offered up for ages to come for the souls of the slain, 
and the welfare of the new nation, in which Saxon 
and Briton were to be henceforward blended into one 
imperial race. 

For indeed, as far as the keenest students of our 
history have been able to scan those dim and distant 
times, this was the origin of Buckfast Abbey. If in 
Cynewulf we do not find the gentle piety of Ine, yet 
he none the less followed the maxim of the kings 
of the Heptarchy, to wit, that his newly-conquered 
domains could only be civilised and cultivated by the 
foundation of monasteries ; and we know that towards 
the end of his life he sought to make atonement for 
the guilt of his sanguinary wars by the endowment 
of these homes of labour, study, and prayer. 

" Mr Brooking Rowe has suggested," writes the 
Rev. Oswald Reichel, " that Buckfast Abbey probably 
existed before the coming of the Northmen ; that 
would be before 787 a.d. It may be so ; but at least 
it must be grouped with Bodmin and Glastonbury 
Abbey as one of a trio of monastic churches which 
had property in Devon before King Edgar's time, 
and is probably, with the exception of Exeter, the 
only monastery before that time existing in the 
country. Its extreme antiqtiity may be hiferred from 
the fact that Biicfestre (Bucfaesten, the original 
manor on which the abbey is built) never ivas 
assessed. The bulk of its property was, however, 
probably given by ^thalstan and Cnut. Consider- 
ing its close proximity to Stock in Holne and 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 5 

Hembury Castle, its foundation may be due to the 
desire of relatives to procure the prayers of holy men 
for those who had fallen in defending these fortified 
positions against the West Weala." 

As the Saxons were the invaders, I have ventured 
to put it that their work lay rather in driving the 
British from their strongholds. But no man living is 
more at home than Mr Reichel, to whose kindness I 
am deeply indebted, in the history of the Anglo- 
Saxons in Devon. 

As I hold in abhorrence the putting forward claims 
to a mythical antiquity, I will tax the patience of the 
reader that I may set forth the strength of the Rev. 
Mr Reichel's reasoning, which is really overwhelm- 
ing. Until the Conquest, the little manor of Buck- 
faesten, on which the abbey is built, and which 
was never confused with its other possessions 
was never assessed, even to the value of one penny. 
The statement in Domesday to this effect is explicit : 
" Bucfestre is the head of the abbacy. It never paid 
geld." 

In the whole of the vast county of Devon there is 
no second example of such an exemption ; Bucfaesten 
stands alone. So far, there is no dispute, although 
towards the end of Saxon times it was a rich abbey, 
and it had always paid the geld for all the other 
manors which it possessed. 

Now, as Mr Reichel writes me, the assessment of 
estates was made in Alfred's time, and if the manor 
had been given to the Church after the assessment, 
that assessment would have been most carefully 
noted in Domesday, as is the case with every church- 
land in the county except Bucfaesten. ^ So the 



6 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

foundation was before the reign of Alfred (871). For 
the moment, this is all I assume as historically 
certain. True, there were in Devon the four exempt 
royal estates, Axminster, Axmouth, Silverton, and 
Bampton, but there is not the slightest indication 
that Buckfast was ever dependent on any one of 
these four. 

If I have ventured to put the beginning of St 
Mary's a century earlier than Alfred, I of course do 
not claim for such an antiquity the same certainty, 
but have followed the writers just quoted (who do not 
allege it as more than probable), as I find their 
reasons worthy of their critical acumen, and of their 
freedom from any tendency to exaggerate. To the 
reasons already given for this assumed antiquity 
may well be added the total absence of any real 
or pretended charter 0/ foundation, or even a 
tradition of the name of a real or supposed founder, 
which omission would have been well-nigh impos- 
sible in the case of a monastery founded later than 
800 A.D. 

Concerning Mr Baring-Gould's suggestion, that 
before Saxon times there was at Buckfast (whatever 
name the place then bore) a centre of British 
monachism, dating from about 500 A.D., and that the 
title was changed by the Benedictines from St 
Petrock to St Mary, I shall have something to say 
further on. 

To people the new foundation, a colony of Bene- 
dictine monks would have to be brought from one of 
the already existing monasteries in the kingdom of 
Wessex. There was, of course, the great Abbey of 
Glastonbury, in the neighbouring county of Somerset 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 7 

which the holy King Ine, before he abdicated and 
journeyed to Rome (to live and die there in poverty 
and humility, maintaining himself by the work of his 
hands) had rebuilt with regal munificence, his dona- 
tions amounting to two thousand nine hundred 
pounds of silver and three hundred and fifty pounds 
of gold. But I incline to think that Buckfast was 
colonised from Sherburne; for, while Glastonbury 
owned little in Devon, if anything, beyond Uplyme 
in its south-eastern corner, near Axminster, Sher- 
burne possessed lands at Abbotskerswell, only 
eight miles from Buckfast (Abbotskerswell took 
its name from the Abbot of Sherburne), as well 
as at Littleham, Exmouth, and elsewhere in South 
Devon. 

As in the case of other monastic foundations of 
such remote antiquity, the names of its first abbots 
are unknown to us. At Sherburne itself, though the 
bishop had transferred his see to Old Sarum in 1076, 
our list of known abbots only begins with Thurstan 
in 1 122. The first Abbot of Buckfast known to us 
by name is yElfwine in the reign of Canute, a 
century earlier. Canute granted to the Abbey of 
St Mary the distant manor of Zeal Monachorum. 
But from Cynewulf to Canute no record of its 
vicissitudes has survived, though from our clear and 
minute knowledge of Benedictine usages it is easy 
to draw a picture of daily life at Buckfast on no 
uncertain lines. 

One mute witness of those olden days has been 
brought to light within these last few years, when in 
excavating the foundations for rebuilding, we have 
now and then come upon the massive Saxon founda- 



8 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

tions underlying the Norman masonry of the twelfth 
century. 

" In Saxon strength that abbey frowned, 
With massive arches, broad and round . . . 
On ponderous cokimns, short and low, 

Built ere the art was known 
By pointed aisle and shafted stalk, 
The arcades of an alleyed walk, 
To emulate in stone." 

Such was the aspect of our beloved abbey when in 
833, some seventy years after it was built, the Lady 
Beornwyn, a noble Saxon heiress, chose to give up 
her share of the paternal estate at Aimer, in Dorset, 
in exchange for the manor of Dartington, some three 
miles from St Mary's, which she no doubt would visit 
on high festivals, as was then the universal custom. 
She would perhaps find a homestead near the Abbey, 
so as to be able to carry out the usage sanctioned 
at a later date by Archbishop ^Ifric : " Let every 
Christian that can do it, come to the church on 
Saturday, and bring a light with him, and there hear 
evensong and nocturns at their proper hour, and 
come in the morning with an offering to High Mass." 
The chant of the monks was the delight of thane and 
peasant alike, and we have all read Canute's own 
verses, which I may give in modernised English : 

" Merrily sang the monks within Ely 
When that Cnut King rowed thereby ; 
' Row, men, row near the land. 
And hear we those monks sing.'" 

The Lady Beornwyn's coming to Dartington 
(which has long been the home of the Champer- 
nowncs) is the first known instance of a Saxon settle- 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 9 

ment in Devon.^ Until the day when the enormous 
growth of royal power was able — in the reign of 
Henry VIII. — to trample on the liberties of English- 
men, and when his tyranny forced "fierce men 
into treason and thoughtful men into disobedience," 
the monastic garb and tonsure were as familiar a 
sight in the valley of the Dart as now in the reign of 
King Edward the Seventh. 

I may be allowed to close this chapter by noticing 
what the Rev. S, Baring-Gould writes on the origin 
of St Mary's Abbey in his charming volumes on 
Devon and Dartmoor. Without definitely adopt- 
ing his opinion, we cannot absolutely reject it. He 
thinks it probable that the original founder and 
patron saint of our /\bbey was St Petrock. If this 
were so, then the Saxon monarch would have 
established and endowed a Saxon colony on a site 
which up to that date had been tenanted by British 
monks. Let us examine Mr Baring-Gould's reasons. 

St Petrock, one of the most celebrated British 
saints, was a native of Monmouthshire, who settled 
at Bodmin, made many excursions into Devon, and 
died in 564. His relics were kept in a beautiful 
shrine before Our Lady's altar at Bodmin, and we 
learn from Mr Baring-Gould that the ivory reliquary 
which contained them is now in the possession of the 
Bodmin municipality. His feast was kept, as it is to 
this day in Brittany, on the 4th of June. 

Now it was a noted peculiarity of the British that 
they invariably honoured the memory of their saints 
in the places where they had preached and laboured, 
so that we can to some extent trace the course of the 

1 Davidson, "Saxon Conquest of Devon," Dev. Soc. Trajis. 



10 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

saint's apostolic career by the churches which bore 
his name. These were numerous in Devon, but in 
the neighbourhood of Dartmoor, or along the Dart, 
they are clustered together as there are nowhere else. 
Thus we have St Petrock's of Lydford, St Petrock's 
of Brent, St Petrock's of Dartmouth, St Petrock's of 
Harford, St Petrock's of Clannaborough, Moreover, 
two of the six earliest dependent churches on our 
Abbey were dedicated to St Petrock, though the 
saint was not in the Saxon calendar, and Saxon 
ecclesiastics were by no means given to choosing 
British patrons for their churches. 

Of course they found the cultus of the saint already 
established among the people. But Mr Baring-Gould 
suspects that the original abbey was one of St 
Petrock's monastic foundations, though the monks 
re-dedicated it to our Blessed Lady. This establish- 
ing of Saxon communities on existing British 
foundations was common enough, but until further 
evidence is forthcoming we cannot claim for certain 
the great British missionary as a saint of Buckfast, 
though St Mary's is undoubtedly within St Petrock's 
territory. 

If Mr Baring-Gould's theory is correct, the earliest 
foundation of the Abbey would date from about A.D. 
550 and it would share with Glastonbury the dis- 
tinction of having been a centre, first of Celtic and 
then of Benedictine monastic life. 




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3. 



CHAPTER II 

The earliest home of the monks ; its surroundings. The 
great moor. The Dart. The Holy Brook. Buckfast and 
Buckfastleigh. Existing portions of the old Abbey. 
Children of the Abbey. Its dependent oratories. Festivals 
at Buckfast in Saxon days. Abbots ^Ifsige and ^Ifwine. 

The halidome of St Mary's, our Abbey's earliest 
patrimony, the caput abbaticE of Domesday, that 
royal gift so revered by our Saxon monarchs that 
it alone was exempt from the geld paid by every 
churchland in Devon, now claims our attention. 

Only its northernmost corner, seventeen acres in 
extent, is now occupied by the monks. But this is 
the most hallowed part of our Ladye's domain, for 
on this portion our forefathers built the church, the 
cloister with the chapter-house, and the other con- 
ventual buildings. It is also the fairest, and its 
meadows, sloping down to the river, are the richest 
and most beautiful of our ancient inheritance. Abbot 
Anscar at the present day holds rule where ^Elfwine 
the Saxon and Eustace the Norman swayed the 
crozier of Bucfaesten in the days of old. But I must, 
however briefly, describe our surroundings. 

The treeless " Forest of Dartmoor " dominates 

the region. Buckfast is two miles distant from the 
11 



12 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

south-east extremity of this wild granite range. 
High up on the bleak table-land, which varies in 
height from 1200 to upwards of 2000 feet, and 
measures twenty-two miles by eighteen, is Cranmere 
Pool. " The intense desolation of the spot is impres- 
sive. On such solitary stretches, where not a sound 
of life, not the cry of a curlew, nor the hum of an 
insect is heard, I have known a horse stand still and 
tremble and sweat with fear." ^ 

Within a radius of two miles from Cranmere, 
four Devonshire streams take their rise, flowing in 
different directions : the Taw, the Teign, the Tavy, 
and, most beautiful of all, the Dart. Its infant 
course is through the most rugged part of the stern 
wilderness of Dartmoor, but as it nears the monastery 
it flows between banks thickly wooded with oak 
copse. At eighteen miles from its source, it receives 
on the right, just above Buckfast Weir, a lovely little 
stream, which for the last few centuries has been 
called by the name of the Holy Brook. Our Saxon 
fathers, because it formed, as it does now, the 
northern limit of St Mary's patrimony, chose to call 
it " Northbroc," the North Brook ; just as the copse 
on its banks has been called Northwood from the 
days of Edward the Confessor at least, the Abbey 
being the centre to which everything in the neigh- 
bourhood converges. 

Holy Brook, after flowing round Hembury Hill, 
runs due east, and from its outfall into Dart to the 
site of the ancient church is only the distance of a 
few hundred yards across the Abbey meadows. 
From the weir the eye of the beholder does not now 

1 Baring-Gould, A Book of the West. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 13 

rest on the stately church whose massive foundations 
have been laid bare, but on the Abbey itself. 

Dart itself formed the boundary of the manor 
from north to south, for a mile and a half, as far as 
the broad pasture-lands on the banks of the rivulet 
called the Mardle, which at the present day flows 
through the large village of Buckfastleigh, Here, 
for convenience of pasturage, the herdsmen and 
shepherds of St Mary's formed their settlement, for 
whose benefit Abbot Philip in 1340 obtained from 
the king a weekly market at Buckfastleigh and a 
yearly fair at Brent. The relative position of 
Buckfast and Buckfastleigh is expressed in the old 
couplet, which was repeated to me by a Buckfast 
villager : 

" Buckfast Abbey was a borough town 
When Buckfastleigh was a furzy down." 

How far back from the riverside the Abbey 
manor extended in width is not accurately known, 
and the Rev. O. Reichel, while giving the exact 
extent of the other Devon churchlands, was only able 
to say : " Area unknown : was never assessed." To 
myself, from a comparison of charters, it seems clear 
that it nowhere exceeded about half a mile in breadth, 
and was perhaps bounded by what was called in 
early Norman charters, " the old road to Northbrook," 
meaning a road that had existed in Saxon days. 

To this dry description I need only add that the 
Norman arch of what is still rightly called the North 
Gate, remains to the present day, with the buildings 
on either side, which, formerly the porter's lodge and 
chapel, are now converted into cottages and are the 



14 HISTORY OF BUCKFy\ST ABBEY 

property of the monks, as well as the South Gate, of 
which only the original piers remain. The handsome 
tower which adjoined the cellarium or quarters of the 
lay brothers, is perfect. A large part of the 
cellarium still remains, built into the existing edifice, 
and the fine twelfth-century foundations have served 
to support the walls that have once more been 
reared, to the honour of God and our Blessed Lady, 
on their ancient site. 

Benedictine life in the days of St Aldhelm or St 
Dunstan is too accurately known to need description 
here. A Saxon monastery always attracted thane 
and franklin to settle near it. " The religious habit," 
wrote Venerable Bede, " was in great veneration, so 
that wheresoever a priest or monk happened to come, 
he was joyfully welcomed by all as a servant of God. 
And if they chanced to meet him on the way, they ran 
to him, and, bowing down, were glad to be signed 
with his hand or blessed from his mouth. Great 
attention was paid to his exhortations, and on 
Sundays people flocked eagerly to the church or the 
monastery, not to feed their bodies, but to hear the 
word of God." St Mary's necessarily had its school. 
It was a rule that no recompense for teaching should 
be asked of parents, nor any received save what they 
gave of their own free will. Exactly as now, boyish 
voices at play enlivened the woods and meadows 
around, and the children of the Abbey rambled along 
North Brook and climbed to the top of Hembury. In 
due time, many of the boys would chant their Suscipe 
and make their profession in the Abbey Church. 

To clear the forests and till the ground, to bridge 
the streams and make roads, was a great part of the 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 15 

work of the monks. The " Abbots' Way " across the 
desolate moor from Buckfast to Tavistock and 
Plympton, an object of wonderful interest to anti- 
quarians, is marked by a succession of low stone 
crosses at intervals, of which many still remain.^ In 
the wildest part of Dartmoor, at Huntington Cross, 
" where the only signs of life are the furry inhabitants 
of the warren, and, perchance, a herd of Dartmoor 
ponies, as wild as the country over which they roam 
. . . the Abbot's Way is distinctly seen ascending 
the left bank of the river as it makes for the enclosed 
country above Dean Burn." 

Outlying oratories were of course established and 
served from the Abbey, which oratories afterwards 
became noble churches. Those referred by Reichel 
to Saxon times were the following : Petrockstow, 
Zeal Monachorum, Down St Mary, Trusham, Church 
Stow, and South Brent. Trusham Church is two 
miles from Chudleigh amid beautiful surroundings. 
It was rebuilt in 1259, each of its pillars being a 
monolith of granite. It is interesting to note the 
dedications of the churches. With our Blessed Lady, 
St Michael, and St Peter, we find two dedicated to 
the British St Petrock. These, unlikely to have been 
first so named by Saxon ecclesiastics, are relics of the 
piety of the conquered race. But the title was 
preserved by the monks of Buckfaesten. The Faith 
of Christ had tamed the fierce Saxon, and the sword 
of extermination was no longer, as in the days of 
Hengest, or in those of Penda, heathendom's last 
champion, the doom of the vanquished. The British 

* W. Crossing, Ancient Crosses of Dartmoor^ 1887; Crosses 
of the Dartmoor Borders, 1 892. 



16 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

lived on in the vale of Dart ; they gathered round the 
sanctuaries of the saints of their own race and tongue, 
and the Saxon monks ministered to Saxon and 
Briton alike, and the memory of the great British 
saint came to be in veneration among those who had 
brought his people under their sway. But when on 
Christmas or Easter, or the Feast of our Lady's 
Assumption, Briton and Saxon alike flocked to St 
Mary's for High Mass, it seemed to them a glimpse 
of Paradise. It is marvellous to read what Anglo- 
Saxon writers tell of the splendour of divine worship 
in their times ; of the countless waxlights that made 
night as bright as day ; of the sacred vestments, 
sparkling with gold and precious stones ; of the 
voices of the singers in choir, accompanied by musical 
instruments ; of the clouds of incense, and the great 
censer, filled with aromatic gums, that hung from the 
roof and was kept burning during the sacred rites. 
From infancy they were taught that this outward 
splendour was but a fit surrounding for " the renewal 
of the Passion and Death of the Lamb, the sacrifice 
of the Body and Blood of Christ." ^ That they might 
be better prepared, and have time for confession, the 
laws of Edgar and Canute ordained : " Let men keep 
every Sunday's freedom [from work] from noon-tide 
[3 P.M.] of Saturday till the dawn of light on Monday." 
But 1 must not here repeat at length what is to be 
found in all writers on Anglo-Saxon history. I have 
said above that yElfwine is the earliest Abbot of 
Buckfast known to us by name. This by no means 
signifies that the names of his predecessors are not to 
be found in our Saxon deeds and charters. But as in 
^ Lingard, Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 17 

signing these documents it was customary for the 
abbots to add simply the title abbas, without 
designating the monastery each one governed, they 
are not easily identified, though from other indica- 
tions it is possible to do so in some instances. 

Abbot i^lfwine, indeed, is expressly designated 
as Abbot of Buckfast. He flourished in the reign of 
the Confessor, and probably was already in office 
under Canute. Leaving to our next chapter what is 
to be said concerning .^Ifwine and his times, I shall 
give my reasons for assigning .^Ifsige as probably 
his immediate predecessor. 

In those Saxon times, when monastic communities 
enjoyed no exemption from Episcopal jurisdiction, 
each bishop, when invited to assist, for example, at 
the foundation of a new monastery, brought with him 
the abbots of his diocese, whose signatures, after 
those of the bishops, are appended to the act of 
foundation. From 994 to 1002, during which time 
Alfwold and Ednoth were Bishops of Crediton, in 
which diocese Buckfast was situated, we find that 
whenever the Bishop of Crediton appears, there is 
always an Abbot ^Ifsige among the signatures. He 
was not Abbot of Exeter or Tavistock, whose lists 
we possess, and he disappears when Abbot .^Ifwine 
comes on the scene. It is true that on one occasion 
we find at Shaftesbury in looi two .^Ifsiges among 
the abbots, and I cannot affirm my theory with 
certainty ; but as the abbey was certainly in existence, 
and its abbot would almost necessarily be present on 
such occasions, there is a valid presumption that 
iElfsige was the name of Abbot ^Elfwine's immediate 
predecessor. 

B 



CHAPTER III 

The Northmen in Devon. Tavistock Abbey destroyed. Abbot 
yElfwine. A meeting of the Shire-mote ; its members. 
Earl Godwin. The Bishops of Crediton and Sherburne. 
The Abbots of Buckfast and Tavistock. Other thanes. 
A legend of Earl Ordulf. 

The summer of the year 997 was a time of incessant 
alarms for our monks at Buckfast, for every messenger 
from Exeter or Totnes brought tidings of the havoc 
wrought by the Danish hordes in Devonshire. Four 
or five times already they had laid waste the county. 
But in this year Lydford and Tavistock Abbey were 
burnt to the ground. Abbot Aylmer of Tavistock, 
whose abundant charity had never failed the homeless 
peasants whose homesteads had been fired by the 
invaders, had been forced to fly. The great moor lay 
between Tavistock and Buckfast, and the natural 
course for him and his monks was to cross it by the 
Abbot's Way, and take refuge with their brethren at 
St Mary's. 

The Saxon Chronicle usually describes the route 
taken by the Danes with sufficient detail, and it does 
not seem that they ever reached Ashburton or 
Buckfast. Our abbey lay too much out of their way 
to Exeter, where they might look for plunder, and 

18 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 19 

they seem never to have got nearer than Totnes. 
The men of Devon were stout warriors ; and for the 
Danes to have entangled themselves among the 
thickly-wooded hills was unsafe ; and it was in Devon 
that they had met with a bad reverse, when their 
leader was slain and the Raven standard lost When 
the long struggle was over, and " Woden had yielded 
to Christ," a Danish monarch of England became one 
of our greatest benefactors ; and the Devonshire family 
of Denys has ever been proud of its Danish origin. 
The earliest of our extant abbey charters is signed by 
their ancestor " William the Dane." Before his time, 
however, Danes and Saxons had been united into 
one nation of Englishmen, and King Knut, or Canute, 
who granted to our abbey the manor of Zeal Mona- 
chorum, had surely a loyal subject in the Abbot of 
Buckfast, ^Ifwine the Saxon. (1035-1066 circ^ 

Abbot yElfvvine figures in more than one charter 
in the days of Canute and Edward the Confessor. 
Like the other great landowners, he had a seat in the 
Shire-mote, or council of the county, which was presided 
over by the Bishop with the Earl or Ealdorman, in 
which the abbots, as principal mass-thanes, usually 
signed their names before the lesser thanes. Two of 
these great meetings, at which Abbot .^Ifwine 
was present, deserve a special record. But we must 
first note that the arrangement of dioceses was no 
longer what it had been in the days of Bishop 
Ethelmode. Devon and Cornwall now formed the 
diocese of Crediton, shortly to become the diocese of 
Exeter. It was governed by Bishop Lyfing, formerly 
Abbot of Tavistock, by whom Abbot ^Elfwine had 
himself been confirmed in office after his election by 



20 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

the monks of St Mary's. Lyfing succeeded Ednoth 
as Bishop of Crediton about 1032. Dorset now 
formed the Diocese of Sherburne. Here we may also 
note that Abbot yElfwine's reign at Buckfast was a 
very long one He survived the Norman Conquest, 
and is mentioned in the Exeter Domesday under the 
heading, " The Land of the Church of the Abbot of 
Bucfestre in Devonshire," as follows : " The Abbot 
has a manor which is called Brent which the Abbot 
Alwin (the Norman form of ^Ifwine) held on that 
day on which King Edward was alive and dead." 
Now let us return to our story. 

We are in the great hall of the Shire-mote at 
Exeter, and can look round as spectators at the 
personages there assembled. The renowned Earl 
Godwin, father of the unfortunate King Harold, fills 
the chair of state. He is seated between the Bishops 
of Crediton and Sherburne. Bishop Alfwold of 
Sherburne, sometime monk of Winchester, lives as 
austere a life on the Episcopal throne as he did in his 
cell. " Amid the sumptuous feasting of the Danes he 
was wont to eat his unseasoned herbs out of his 
wooden platter, mingling his drink with water till it 
had no taste of ale," writes William of Malmesbury. 
Better accustomed to the atmosphere of the Court, 
but still a zealous Bishop, Lyfing of Crediton, learned 
and eloquent, sits on the right hand of Godwin. 
Both the great prelates wear their Benedictine habit. 

Next in rank and order come the two Abbots, 
iElfwine of Buckfast, and Sihtric of Tavistock, their 
dark cowls and shaven crowns making them con- 
spicuous among the thanes in martial garb and 
short Saxon tunic, by whom they are surrounded. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 21 

Many of these are men of note. There are the 
two noble brothers, Odda and ^Elfric, kinsmen of 
St Edward the Confessor. After the disgrace of 
Godwin, Odda was created Earl of Devon, Somerset, 
and Dorset. " A good man he was, and right noble, 
and he was professed a monk before his end," says 
the Saxon chronicler, " and he died on the 2nd 
before the Kalends of September (1056)." Both 
the brothers were professed at Deerhurst, ^Elfric 
dying there three years before his brother. Odda's 
biographers all extol his virginal purity. His body 
was laid to rest at Pershore, where it was discovered 
in 1259, in a leaden coffin with this inscription : " Sit 
ei gaudium in pace cum Christo Deo. Amen." 
(May he rejoice in peace with Christ our God. 
Amen.) 

Among the other noble thanes present is yEthel- 
maer, whose father Cola fell at the dreadful battle of 
Pinhoe that " raged from early morn till even- 
tide," when the army of the English was defeated 
by Sweyn of the forked beard, the father of King 
Cnut. Here, too, is Leofwin of Exeter ; and 
Godman the priest, who owned the church of St 
Petrock at Clannaborough ; and Dodda Child (a 
Saxon title of rank) ; and Wiking, Lord of Heavitree 
and Exminster, with others less easy to identify. 

One group of brothers may not be passed over. 
Immediately below Odda and .^Ifric, and even 
before Dodda Child, are the three brothers 
Ordgar, yElfgar, and Eschbern. That they are 
powerful thanes is clear from the fact that the names 
of Ordgar and .(dfgar will appear as the first of the 
nobles in the royal grant of Holcombe in Dawlish 



22 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

to Lcofric the King's chaplain, afterwards Bishop of 
Exeter. 

The date of this meeting of the Shire-mote is 
unknown. Thorpe assigns it ^ to 1040, others to 
even an earlier date. Of its deliberations nothing is 
known save what is contained in the single charter 
given at the end of this book, being a transfer of land 
at Holcombe (not the Holcombe mentioned above), 
to the monastery of Sherborne. If held in 1040, 
it would certainly have been occupied with prepara- 
tions for the accession of Hardecanute, to whom 
Godwin made his magnificent present of a ship 
whose stern was covered with plates of gold, carrying 
eighty of Godwin's retainers, whose splendid armour 
glistened with decorations of gold and silver. As 
Earl of Devon, Godwin would of course have to 
assemble the chief landowners on behalf of Harde- 
canute. 

We would fain linger awhile on these old Saxon 
days, when king, earl, and abbot seem to have lived 
on very familiar terms. Only a generation had 
passed since Tavistock Abbey had been founded by 
Ordgar, and completed by his son, the giant Earl 
Ordulf. Ordulf was almost revered as a saint, 
and his colossal tomb was shewn for centuries at 
Tavistock. Many a Devonshire legend was told of 
his herculean strength. I may be allowed to give 
one from William of Malmesbury. He was riding 
from Tavistock to Exeter with King Edgar, his 
brother-in-law. They loitered on the way, and when 
they reached Exeter, the city gate was barred and 
bolted, and the porter absent ; their arrival not being 
' Diplomdtarimn Anglicum /Evi Saxonici. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 23 

expected. The Earl dismounted, grasped the gate- 
posts, and tore them up, bringing down a part of 
the wall with them, completing the work with a 
tremendous kick, and king and earl rode into the 
city. The bystanders exclaimed at his marvellous 
strength ; King Edgar jestingly said it was the 
work of the devil. Earl Ordulf founded also the 
abbey at Morton. His sister was Queen Elfrida, the 
murderess of her stepson, St Edward the Martyr. 
The older members of the Shire-mote we are 
describing must have known Ordulf. Lyfing was 
the immediate successor of Abbot Aylmer, chosen by 
the Earl to govern his new foundation, and Ordgar 
and his brothers, who were present at the meeting, 
were probably his relatives. Earl Ordulfs bio- 
grapher relates that he always rose from his bed at 
midnight and remained long in prayer. 

In the days of King Canute and Bishop Lyfing 
the monks prospered in Devon. Those of Exeter 
received a new royal charter. To Buckfast Canute 
granted the manor of Zeal Monachorum in the 
hundred of North Tawton, and probably other 
possessions. Under Abbot yElfwine our community 
remained undisturbed by the troubles that followed 
on Canute's death, for Bishop Lyfing and Earl 
Godwin were the Abbot's friends. Indeed, we may 
safely say that the last half century of Anglo-Saxon 
monastic life at Buckfast was a period of profound 
peace and prosperity, a blessing that seems to have 
rested on our abbey throughout its long career. 

One would almost be tempted to find an allusion 
to the peaceful times in the very name of Canute's 
donation of Zeal Monachorum to our abbey (for zeal 



24 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

is only a corrupt spelling of the Anglo-Saxon sele or 
sett), the station of resting-place of the monks.^ 
The grant is recognised in the Hundred Rolls of 
Edward I. 

The meeting of the Shire-mote recorded in this 
chapter, if not belonging to Canute's reign, was of 
earlier date than those to be selected in the next, 
at which also our abbot assisted. 

If sometimes I seem to wander from my subject, 
as, for example, in giving the story of Earl Ordulf, I 
may plead in excuse that one cannot get a truer 
conception of the England of Saxon times and the 
thoughts of our forefathers than from listening to 
the tales they would tell their children in those old 
English homesteads. 

' Davidson, Anglo-Saxon Charters at Exeter. 



CHAPTER IV 

A Journey from Buckfast to Exeter in the Reign of the 
Confessor. Bishop Leofric of Crediton installed by the 
King in his new Cathedral of Exeter. The Abbots of 
Buckfast and Tavistock in the Confessor's Reign at the 
Exeter Shire-mote. The Norman Conquest. St Mary's 
Abbey not disturbed. Domesday Book and the estates of 
Buckfast Abbey. Serfdom in Anglo-Saxon times. 

Twice every year, in May and October, Abbot 
JElfw'me was obliged to journey to Exeter in order to 
attend the Shire-mote, of which we spoke in our last 
chapter. It was only a ride of eighteen miles, and 
he might conveniently halt at his estate of Trusham, 
a little beyond Chudleigh, the half-way station 
between Ashburton and Exeter. 

On leaving the Abbey, he would cross the Dart, 
unless it chanced to be too much swollen, by the 
usual ford at the north-west corner of the Abbey 
meadows, and pass through Ashburton, on the high- 
way to Exeter. Of course, at these times of the year, 
he would find himself in the company of the neigh- 
bouring landed proprietors, journeying, like himself, 
to the Shire-mote, and of the priests having care of 
souls, who had to be present at the Episcopal synod, 
which was held before or after the council of the 
shire. The thanes travelled each with his escort, and 

25 



26 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

they formed a numerous and goodly company, as 
they wended their way through that fairest part of 
Devon. For more than half their journey, the road 
skirted the great moor, separated by a broad valley, 
across which they could see the town of Bovey 
Tracey on the hillside. On arriving at Exeter, our 
Abbot JEUwine would go to his own residence, which 
still exists, in the Cathedral close. 

It is evident that the Abbot's absences from his 
community, by virtue of his secular offices, had to be 
more frequent than one could wish. The Abbots of 
St Mary's never incurred the censure of worldliness, 
from which some of their brethren were not immune, 
but of course there was always the danger that they 
might adopt the manners of ealdormen and thanes, 
though England was in Anglo-Saxon times more 
penetrated by the spirit of P^aith than it has been at 
any subsequent period. Besides the fixed times of 
the Abbot's resort to Exeter, there were numerous 
extraordinary occasions from which he could not 
absent himself. Concerning two more of these 
meetings at which Abbot /Elfwine was present, I 
have a few words to say. Both these occasions 
occurred in the reign of St Edward the Confessor. 

In the year 1050 the King obtained from Pope St 
Leo IX. permission to transfer the Episcopal see of 
the Bishop of Crediton to the larger, more central, 
and better fortified city of Exeter. The monks of 
the Abbey of St Mary and St Peter — they were only 
eight in number — were transferred to Westminster, 
and their monastery became the Episcopal residence. 
Bishop Leofric, one of the ro)'al chaplains (to whom 
Edward had granted Holacumb, now East Teign- 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 27 

mouth, but then part of Dawlish), had succeeded 
Lyfing as Bishop of Creditor!.^ The king resolved to 
honour the occasion by his presence and that of 
Queen Editha. In his charter he writes : " I, King 
Edward, with my own hand, lay this charter 
{firivilegiuni) on the altar of St Peter, and leading 
Leofric the Bishop on my right hand, and my Queen 
Edith on my left, I place him on his Episcopal throne 
in the presence of my ealdormen and my kinsmen, 
my nobles and chaplains, the Archbishops Eadsin 
and yElfric adding their confirmation and praise, 
with the others whose names appear at the end of 
this charter." Among these are ^Ifwine and 
Sihtric, the Abbots of Buckfast and Tavistock. 
Among the Bishops present was Aldred of 
Worcester, who had been the successor of Lyfing as 
Abbot of Tavistock. Several of the thanes are 
those who figured on the occasion described in our 
last chapter ; Ordgar with his brother, Odda, Godman 
the priest, and others, while Earl Godwin's name of 
course heads the laity. 

In place of the monks. Bishop Leofric established 
at Exeter a large community of canons, living under 
the rule of St Chrodogang. If, as is said, he likewise 
transferred a small community of Benedictine nuns, 
whose monastery he needed for his clergy, it is some 
satisfaction that to-day the noble Abbey of St 
Scholastica stands on the estate which Bishop 
Leofric received from St Edward and gave to his 
church at Exeter, where now a flourishing community 
of Benedictine nuns renew daily the life of prayer 
and praise of their sisters at Exeter in days of old. 
^ Davidson, Anglo-Saxon Charters at Exeter. 



28 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

The other instance in which Abbot ^Ifwine is 
found in an assembly of the clergy and nobles has an 
interest of its own. Nine years after the event just 
narrated, St Edward was desirous of granting to 
Eadred, Bishop of Worcester, formerly Abbot of 
Tavistock, four parcels of land in Cornwall, which are 
now known as Treraboe in the parish of St Keverne, 
Trevallack in the same neighbourhood, Grugith,^ and 
Trelan, all which Edward the Elder had given to 
Ethelward his thane. Among the signatories to this 
charter we find Bishop Leofric and Abbot ^Ifwine.^ A 
year later Bishop Aldred became Archbishop of 
York. The lands in question were at a later period 
among the possessions of St Michael's Mount, and in 
the reign of Henry VI. they were held by the Abbess 
of Syon.^ 

Abbot .^Ifwine survived the Conquest. The 
fearful oppression of his race by the Normans must 
have deeply saddened his last days. But it is quite 
clear that St Mary's Abbey was revered by the 
conquerors and its lands untouched. Judhael de 
Totnes, the powerful Norman who built Totnes 
Castle and owned the land bordering on St Mary's 
territory of Buckfast, was a man of great piety, the 
founder of Totnes and Barnstaple Priories, and to 
the latter of these he retired towards the end of his 
life. That the Abbey existed, with its ancient 
possessions, in the reign of Henry I., who came to 

* Davidson, Anglo-Saxon Charters at Exeter. 

2 There was another Abbot /Elfwine, the Abbot of Hyde or 
Newminster, but he died two years before the date of this 
charter. 

^ Oliver, Monasticon Exoniense., p. 414. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 29 

the throne only thirty-four years after the conquest, 
we know from a charter of Henry II. But when we 
next meet with an Abbot of Buckfast, in 1143, he is 
the head of a Norman community, and one would 
like to know at what date the Saxon community 
came to an end. My own opinion is that the Saxon 
monks remained unmolested till a colony of monks 
was brought over from Savigny, by the authority of 
Henry I., between 1105 and 1135. But the beginnings 
of St Mary's Abbey as a Norman foundation must 
be reserved to the next chapter. 

It will be well in our next chapter to close the 
Saxon portion of our history with a brief account of 
its possessions under Edward the Confessor. They 
were all within the county of Devon and are minutely 
described in Domesday Book. It is not unusual for 
people now owning or dwelling on such lands, though 
not Catholics themselves, to tell you with a sort of 
pride that their homes once belonged to the monks. 
Some of them have had an interesting history in 
post-Reformation times. 

The compilation of Domesday was only completed 
in 1086, twenty years after the Norman invasion. 
The English struggle for liberty had been overcome 
and the nation subdued. Yet we learn from 
Domesday that St Mary's of Buckfast was still 
under the rule of its Abbot, and that none of its 
manors had been usurped. As the men of Devon 
had risen against their oppressors, and Exeter had 
been twice besieged, it is clear that the Abbot had 
prudently kept aloof from a useless contest. In the 
times of tranquillity which followed, no change could 
have come over our community, till the religious 



30 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

revival under Henry I. introduced Norman monks, 
from Savigny/ and the reign of the Black Monks, 
which had lasted for three centuries and a half, was 
brought to an end, until they returned in 1882. 

It would be superfluous to give here at length the 
detailed account of all our possessions as it is written 
in the record of the great survey, but I may be 
allowed to transcribe the few lines that concern the 
manor of Buckfaesten, in Mr Brooking Rowe's 
English translation. 

" The Abbot has one manor which is called 
Bulfestra, and is the head of the abbacy, and that 
never paid geld. There the Abbot has one smith, 
and ten serfs, who have two ploughs, and there the 
Abbot has three pigs, and one mile in length in wood 
and a half in breadth." 

Here we see that Buckfaesten was one of our 
smallest estates. No account of course is taken of 
the meadows immediately adjoining the abbey, nor 
of the kitchen-garden and fields which the monks 
cultivated by their own labour. Only eleven of the 
Abbey dependents, with their families, lived on this 
estate. For greater tranquillity, most of it was 
retained as a wood. The arable land only comprised 
two carucates or ploughlands, each of sixty-four 
acres, according to the Devonshire custom, - though 
a ploughland was much larger elsewhere. " The 
plough, writes Bishop Brownlow, " was driven by 
four oxen yoked abreast, and often four more in front 
of them. And thus the plough was called a caruca, 

^ J, Brooking Rowe, " Cistercian Houses in Devon," Trans. 
Dev. Assoc. 

'^ Reichel, " The Hundreds of Devon," Trans. Dev. Assoc. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 31 

or four-horsed chariot ; and hence the land ploughed 
by this team of eight was styled a carucate" or 
ploughland.^ 

That the monks purposely sought after greater 
seclusion round the sanctuary of St Mary appears 
from the account given of their neighbouring manor 
of Brent, with its ten teams, thirty acres of pasture, 
fifty-five sheep, with only five acres of wood, the 
manor being cultivated by ten villeins, eight bordars 
and five serfs — in all, twenty-three families. 

Serfdom and slavery were being gradually but 
surely extirpated by the influence of the Church ; 
but the time of its total extinction was yet distant, 
though the condition of the villein or serf had been 
greatly softened. The villani of Brent owned their 
homesteads and lands almost by hereditary descent, 
and their oxen and ploughs were their own property. 
The bordars, or cottagers, usually possessed no oxen.. 
The serfs, few in number, were, as Bishop Brownlow 
puts it, " fast becoming merged in the cottier class 
above them." Voluntary manumissions were fre- 
quent ; if the lord made one of his bondmen work 
on a Sunday, he became a free man, and so in many 
other cases. Thus, without any violent disruption of 
society, a class of free men grew up, and serfdom 
gradually disappeared. The history of our abbey 
will itself give us some insight into the state of the 
peasantry in Devon after the Conquest. 

I must now for Devonshire readers give a brief 
survey of our abbey lands, and advise others to skip 
the next chapter, which they may find a dry one. 

^ Slavery and Serfdom in Europe^ p. 96. 



CHAPTER V 

Lands of St Mary's Abbey in the reign of Edward the Confessor. 
The South Devon estates. Brent, Ash, Heathfield, 
Churchstow, Kingsbridge. Dodbrooke and the Lady 
Godeva. Trusham near Chudleigh. Zeal Monachorum. 
Down St Mary and Petrockstow in North Devon. 

The pedestrian who, starting from Buckfast, 
journeys on southward by the high road till he 
reaches the town of Kingsbridge at the head of an 
estuary on the South Devon coast, will be following 
the line along which lay the earliest colonizing 
settlements of our Benedictine monks in Devonshire. 
Not monasteries, of course, for they were only 
dependencies on the one monastery of St Mary of 
the deer-fastness. In the manner of speaking of the 
period, they were called "churches" or oratories at 
least, as the duty of establishing a centre for the 
celebration of mass and the administration of the 
Sacraments was the first obligation incumbent on the 
monastic colonizers. The estate was usually said to 
be given to St Mary, St Peter, St Petrock, and so 
forth, according to the dedication of the church. 
" Lands of Churches, which have been given to Saints 
in Alms," is the title of a section of the Devonshire 
Domesday.^ 

^ Reichel, Domesday Churches of Devon. 

32 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 33 

But together with Christian worship, the monks 
trained the Saxons and Britons who remained on 
Saxon soil, to agriculture and pasturage, to the crafts 
of the blacksmith, the carpenter, and the mason, and 
their settlements grew into villages and towns, while 
the labourers were being prepared for the state of 
freemen to which the church laboured to raise them. 
Their condition was, as is universally admitted, in 
every way superior to that of the toilers on the 
surrounding lands, while the rule of the crozier was 
proverbially mild. The traces of the monastic 
agriculturists are distinctly visible at the present day. 
But to return to our colonies on the way from 
Buckfast to Kingsbridge. 

Brent Hill dominates the landscape for the first six 
or seven miles of our traveller's journey, but its 
summit is no longer crowned by St Michael's Chapel, 
Below it is the village of South Brent, perhaps the 
earliest of the monastic settlements made from the 
mother-church of Buckfast. The Norman Tower of 
St Petrock's Church was clearly built not long after 
Abbot iElfwine's day by one of his successors. Brent 
fair, held for three days at Michaelmas, began in olden 
times immediately after the people had satisfied their 
devotion by a visit to St Michael's, on Brent Hill. 
The annual fair was granted by Edward HI. in 
1340 at the petition of Abbot Philip. The two 
manors owned by the Abbey at Brent were part 
of the 36,000 acres of Abbey lands acquired at 
the Dissolution by Sir William Petre. That 
versatile knight showed his secret attachment to the 
faith by getting his acquisition ratified by the Holy 
See in Mary's reign. The unswerving constancy in 

c 



34 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

religion of his descendants, the Lords Petre, kept 
the greatest part of the lands of Buckfast Abbey in 
Catholic hands down to the nineteenth century, 
and was undoubtedly a help to save Catholicity 
from extinction in Devon in difficult times. The 
Devonshire estates of the Petres passed into other 
hands during the last century. 

Journeying southward, and before we reach the 
new Cistercian foundation of Wood Barton (an 
ancient home of the Fortescues), we find ourselves 
in Ermington Hundred. We are now entering the 
South Hams, a district from its fertility styled the 
garden of Devon. A small estate within the parish 
of Modbury, bearing the name of Ash, was occupied 
by the monks in Saxon times, but as it cannot now 
be identified with certainty, we pass to the neighbour- 
ing "church" and settlement of Heathfield, in the 
parish of Aveton Giffard, another of our settlements. 

The richest and most populous of St Mary's 
possessions lay southward, and within a few miles 
of Heathfield ; and it was at Heathfield, at least in 
Norman times, that the Abbot held his court of 
justice. Forty acres of rich pasturage lay within 
this monastic settlement, on which was a village 
of some twenty-five families, with of course its little 
church, and a residence for the steward of the Abbey. 
" There the Abbot," says the Domesday record of 
Heathfield, " has eleven oxen and five pigs and sixty 
sheep and sixteen goats." 

This line of monastic settlements, which began with 
Buckfaesten, and ran southwards through Brent, Ash, 
and Heathfield, ended at what is now the town of 
Kingsbridge at the head, as we have just mentioned, 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 35 

of an estuary of the sea. The monks held here the 
two estates of Churchstow and Notone, Kingsbridge 
being only a part of Churchstow. The name of 
Churchstow, " the place of the church," tells us that 
the church here built to the honour of the Mother of 
God, was a statelier and more important one than 
existed on any of their other settlements, Buckfaesten, 
of course, excepted. Kingsbridge belonged to our 
Abbey down to the Dissolution, and thenceforward, 
till nearly the close of the eighteenth century, to the 
Petre family. Nowhere, except at Buckfast itself, are 
there so many traces of the work of the monks, 
especially in architecture and wood-carving. 

Dodbrooke, however, which nowadays forms practi- 
cally one town with Kingsbridge, was not part 
of the Abbey possessions. Among the few English 
landholders in Devon who were not wholly dis- 
possessed of their estates by the Normans were the 
three noble ladies, Alveva, Alfhilla, and Godeva. 
The lady Godeva was the widow of Brictric the 
thane, and she was allowed to retain her land of 
Dodbrooke. The origin of the name is of course 
from one Dodda ; we have met with " Dodda Child " 
already. 

Kingsbridge has a special claim on us in this 
history, but its place is in a subsequent chapter. It 
was favoured by our Abbot, to whom it owes St 
Edmund's Church, and its position as the metropolis 
of the South Hams, and the marked character of the 
town, which it derives from its isolated situation,^ 
gives it a peculiar interest. 

' Robert Dymond, P.S.A., "Kingsbridge and Dodbrooke," 
Transactions of the DevotisJiire Association. July 1877. 



36 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

The other holdings of St Mary's Abbey before 
the Conquest need only be briefly mentioned. Of 
Trusham, half-way between Buckfast and Exeter, 
and of its lovely surroundings, I have already spoken. 
Trusham had the good fortune to pass after the 
dissolution, or at least in Elizabeth's reign, to the 
Catholic family of Southcote, so that it is likely to 
have been in Catholic hands for some time. The two 
estates of Zeal Monachorum and Down St Mary in 
North Devon had not the same lot. The former, 
whose church is dedicated to St Peter, was held by 
the Seymours in Elizabeth's days, and subsequently 
by the Earls of Moray. Stow St Petrock, or 
Petrockstow, which was clearly at its origin a British 
church, is also in North Devon, five miles from 
Hatherleigh. Lord Clinton is lord of the manor. 

No important addition was made to the Abbey 
estates from the Conquest to the Dissolution, with 
the exception of such lands in the immediate vicinity 
of Buckfast as were given by the neighbouring 
barons or purchased from them. The story of their 
acquisition is known, and forms a pleasant record. 
But with this brief and dry chapter I must end the 
story of St Mary's Abbey in Anglo-Saxon times. 
The year 1086, with its record of our possessions in 
Domesday, gives us the last glimpse of the old Saxon 
community at Buckfaesten. The Normans seem to 
have found the name a barbarous one, and softened 
it down to Bulfestra, though the peasantry kept to 
the old name, now abbreviated into Buckfast. 



(The field is blazoned as sable 
by Leland ; as azure in Sir 
George Carew'a Scroll of 
Arms, here followed.) 




Arms of Buckfast Abbey impaled with Arms of Clifford 

OF Chudleigh. 



[To face page 87. 



CHAPTER VI 

The earliest of our extant charters. A deed in the reign of 
Henry I., now in the possession of the Abbey. Judhel 
the son of Alured the Giant. Sir Roger de Nunant and 
his family. The " Mary Mass." The wood and meadow 
on the banks of the North Brook. '\Priestaford." The 
knightly witnesses to the charter. The Earl of Totnes. 
The arms of Buckfast. 

There is a manuscript on parchment lying before 
me as I write, which was almost certainly written in 
the dear old Abbey itself eight centuries ago, and 
has found its way back again. It bears no date and 
the seal has been cut off! But its authenticity is 
beyond a doubt. A thirteenth-century copy of it 
exists in the portion of our chartulary in the archives 
of Exeter Cathedral, which was discovered a few 
years ago, and published by Prebendary Hingeston- 
Randolph at the end of Bishop Grandisson's Register. 
It is the oldest known original charter belonging to 
St Mary's Abbey at Buckfast. 

Our last historical landmark was the account of 
the " Lands of the Church of St Mary's at Buckfast" 
in Domesday Book. Domesday Book was com- 
pleted in 1086, and the charter before me was 

written in the reign of Henry I., who came to the 
37 



38 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

throne only fourteen years later, in iioo. It tells 
its own story, a delightful little episode, illustrative 
of the simple faith and piety of our ancestors, such 
as will be more than once repeated in these pages. 
But to make it understood, I must here insert a 
fragment from the history of Devon in the eleventh 
century. 

Among the proud barons to whom the conqueror 
distributed the lands of the Saxon thanes of Devon, 
Judhel of Totnes, already mentioned, was one of the 
most powerful. One hundred and seven manors fell 
to his share, and the Abbot's territory at Buckfast 
lay in the neighbourhood in his estates. He seems 
to be the same as " Joel, son of Alured the Giant," 
mentioned by Orderic. Many a Breton legend is 
told of Alured the Giant, who ended his days as a 
monk at Cerisy, near Bayeux. His son Judhel 
incurred the anger of the Red King, who gave his 
Totnes manors to Sir Roger de Nunant, as the name 
is spelt in our charter. ^ The castle of Totnes was 
granted, or confirmed, to him by Henry I. Sir 
Roger's estates at Buckfast bordered on the land of 
St Mary's, and he himself, his wife Alice, his sons 
Guy and Henry, would of course often hear mass in 
the Abbey Church, and were our devoted friends and 
benefactors. It is possible that the charter was 
written in the reign of William II., and that the 
grant of land which it contains was made to the 
English community ; but it may with perhaps more 
probability be assigned to the beginnings of the 
French colony from Savigny, of which I shall speak 
very shortly. And now to the charter. 

^ Often Nonant or Movant in later writers. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 39 

In the monastic communities of medieval England 
it was usual to have a daily mass of our Blessed Lady 
sung early in the morning, that the labourers might 
be able to hear it before going out to their day's toil- 
It was known as the " Mary Mass," and the " Mary 
bell " of the Abbey was the first announcement to 
them that the day had begun. Of course the whole 
population used to hear mass daily. This mass used 
in the larger monasteries to be always sung, and 
bequests for its maintenance^ are frequent in wills 
during the Ages of Faith. 

Sir Roger makes known to all present and future : 

" That I, Roger de Nunant, for the welfare of my soul 

and that of my wife Alice, and for the souls of my 

children, my ancestors, and my posterity, have given 

to the Church of Buckfast, and the monks who serve 

God there, with the consent of my sons Guy and 

Henry and my other children," — Guy and Henry 

were present and consenting with a full heart, we are 

told in the next charter, when this one was read in 

our chapter-house — " as a perpetual alms, free and 

quit of all secular exaction and service, all my land of 

Sideham, with its wood, and with all my part of the 

water on both sides, that is to say, from the east side 

of the road that leads from the old ford of North- 

brooke as far as New Ford on Dart, that they (the 

monks) may thence be able to find bread and wine to 

sing mass," i.e., for the daily mass to be sung at the 

Abbey. He next affirms that he has afifixed hereto 

his seal, and continues : " Whosoever shall presume 

to annul this deed shall not escape the malediction of 

the Mother of God, the Blessed Mary, and mine ; and 

^ Bridgett, Our Lady's Dowry. 



40 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

may all they who uphold and confirm it enjoy the 
protection of the same Holy Virgin. To myself and 
my men, however, I retain free right of way from the 
North Brook road to the New Ford, on our way to 
Ashburton market, with common right of pasture as 
far as the said land extends." 

To one living at Buckfast the identifying of the 
little estate in question is easy enough. Sir Roger 
gave us the wood and meadow land which he owned 
along the beautiful stream known in his day as 
North Brook and the stream itself as far as it belonged 1 1 

to him. Now, as of old, it forms the boundary of the 
Abbey land, and if the New Ford across the Dart is 
not used now, yet the name " Priestaford," Priest's 
Ford, clung to the house above it till quite lately, and 
the path to the Ashburton market is quite distinctly 
traceable. Higher up the stream, in Sir Roger's 
part, among scenery of wonderful beauty, wood and 
meadow are just as they were, and there is still the 
"old ford" by which the track crosses North Brook. 

His son Henry, the brother of Guy, confirms the 
gift almost in the same words, and by a subsequent 
donation adds to it the contiguous estate of Schire- 
hill, with leave to the monks to draw a fosse round 
the wood if they chose. He speaks of his brother, 
who seems to have already departed this life, as 
" the Lord Guy, my brother." His younger brother, 
Roger the second, by another charter confirms all the 
donations made by his father and by " the venerable 
Lord, Henry de Nunant, m)' brother." Lasll)-, Sir 
Roger the third, the son of Sir Guy and of the Lady 
Mabel, gives the monks leave to come upon his land, 
as far as they need it, to strengthen their dam across 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 41 

the North Brook. This last Sir Roger, grandson of 
our first benefactor, closes this list of charters by a 
deed signed at the house of the Bishop of Exeter. 
It is undated, like the rest, and gives the names of 
some of the men attached to the Abbey lands. 
From the names of the witnesses, which include the 
Bishop of Exeter, the Archdeacon of Totnes, the 
Priors of Totnes, Modbury, and Plympton, this last 
charter was given before 1160. This is the same Sir 
Roger de Nunant, whose signature, with that of St 
Thomas of Canterbur}- and others, is appended to a 
charter of Henry 1 1, in favour of Buckfast Abbey. 

Sir Roger de Nunant the eldest, Lord of Totnes 
and its Castle, is the first of a long list of our 
knightly benefactors. It is pleasant to recall the 
scene of his visit to the Abbey and the ratification of 
his gift in the chapter-house, his two boys being 
allowed to be present, as Sir Henry is careful to 
remind us : " the Lord Guy, my brother, and myself 
being present." The Lady Alice, their mother, could 
of course not enter the precincts, but was perhaps 
waiting in the guest-house, just below the room in 
which these lines are being penned. Even the very 
North Gate through which the Nunants must have 
passed coming from their estate on that memorable 
occasion has not disappeared, for its early Norman 
arch still spans the ancient road. Sir Roger and 
his boys were not alone in the chapter-house 
with the Abbot (possibly Abbot Eustace) and 
the monks. There was a goodly company of 
witnesses present, and here are their names from the 
charter : Osborne the priest, surnamed Rufus ; John 
de Hode, a Norman, perhaps an ancestor of the 



42 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Hodys of Brixham, as Brixham belonged to the 
Nunants; William de Waleys, or the Welshman; 
William de Baumeis ; David, probably the royal 
huntsman, whose descendants held land not far from 
Buckfast, by the service of providing the king with 
arrows when he went to hunt on Dartmoor, name 
and office being seemingly hereditary; Roger pe de 
levre (pied de lievre, or Harefoot) ; William le Denys, 
or the Dane ; " and many others." No doubt the 
worthy knight and his friends prayed devoutly before 
our Blessed Lady's altar in the Abbey Church ; 
equally certain that the Abbot made them good 
cheer in the guest-house, to which it is likely that our 
friend David was able to contribute something. 

We would willingly linger on the family history 
of our earliest Norman benefactor. But it seems 
that the name of Nonant became extinct in the 
fourteenth century, the last heiress marrying into 
the Beauchamp family. One of the last of the race, 
Sir Guy de Nonant, together with the community of 
Plympton Priory, in 1279 presented William de 
Aldesworth to the Rectory of St Mawgan, styled in 
the Episcopal Register of Bishop Bronescombe 
Ecclesia de la Heme, the Church of LanJierne in 
Cornwall. But their power had declined ; and in 
these later times they were seated at Broadclist, the 
Totnes barony having passed into other hands at 
the death of Henry, son of Sir Roger III. The 
family of Vallctort succeeded to the Buckfast 
estates, and we shall often meet them in the course 
of our story. The noble Lady Adeleis (Alice) de 
Nonant appears in one of our charters of uncertain, 
but very early, date ; she was possibly the widow of 



^ HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 43 

the first Sir Roger. The list of witnesses to this 
latter deed is remarkable ; it contains among others 
the name of the well-known Roger de Cockington. 
As his father was Lord of Camoys, it is not surpris- 
ing to find in his company Thomas de Herbert and 
William de Kidwelly, both from Wales. 

The Lords of Totnes were our near neighbours, 
and I may not omit to record that St Thomas of 
Hereford (Cantilupe) was the son of an Earl of 
Totnes, and that George Carew, Earl of Totnes in 
Elizabeth's reign, had four sisters-in-law among the 
English Canonesses of St Monica's at Louvain, now 
at Newton Abbey in Devon. 

The arms of Nonant, the red lion rampant on the 
silver shield, may be seen among those of our bene- 
factors in the refectory at Buckfast.^ 

We have no means of ascertaining the name of 
Abbot yElfwine's successor, referred to in Domesday, 
nor that of the Abbot to whom the good Sir Roger 
granted the manor of Sideham. 

So far as is known, Sir Roger de Nonant, Lord of 
Totnes, was our earliest benefactor after the Conquest. 
Must we reckon as a contemporary benefactor, the 
Lord of Berry Castle, known then, as now, by the 
name of Berry Pomeroy ? There is a story in Leland, 
unsupported and clearly erroneous,- of a supposed 
suppression of St Mary's Abbey at this period, and 
of one Ethelward de Pomeroy, by whom it is said to 

^ Geoi-ge Carew, Earl of Totnes, is an authority on heraldry. 
In his " Scroll of Arms" for our county, lately printed in Devon- 
shire Notes and Queries, those of Buckfast Abbey differ from the 
ordinarily accepted version by the field being azure, not sable. 

- J. Brooking Rowe, " Cistercian Houses of Devon," Trans, of 
Dev. Assoc. 



44 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

have been refoundcd. For this story, the only 
possible foundation would be the exchange of Saxon 
for Norman monks about that period, or in the reign 
of Henry I., coupled with the known generosity of 
the Pomeroy family. But of the Pomeroys I shall 
have something to say when we come to the times 
of Seinclere Pomeroy, most probably Abbot of 
Buckfast, A.D. 1500, whose brother Henry was the 
great-grandfather of the leader of the Western 
insurrection for the defence of the Catholic Faith in 
1549- 



CHAPTER VII 

The religious revival in England in the reign of Henry I. His 
charter granted to St Mary's Abbey. Extinction of the 
Saxon community. The Grey Monks at Buckfast. 
Robert de Mortaigne and Ralph de Foug^res. Ipplepen. 
Blessed Vitalis and the Order of Savigny. The Synod of 
London in 1102. Norman monks introduced at Buckfast 
about 1 105. Death of Blessed Vitalis of Savigny. 

Of the great religious revival which marked the 
reign of Henry I. (1100-1135), we must needs speak 
with gratitude and reverence. But we may be 
allowed to regret one of its features, to wit, the 
universal displacement of English bishops and 
abbots, and the substitution of Norman prelates 
and Norman communities in their stead. The same 
fate overtook our monastery. 

The revival was indeed needed to soften the 
calamities of that unhappy time, and its vigour 
showed how deeply the faith had been implan- 
ted in the English race. " Everywhere in town 
and country men banded themselves together for 
prayer ; hermits flocked to the woods ; noble 
and churl welcomed the austere Cistercians, a 
reformed out-shoot of the Benedictine Order, as 
they spread over the moors and forests of the 

46 



46 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

North. A new spirit of devotion woke the shimber 
of the religious houses, and penetrated ahkc to 
the home of the noble Walter de TEspec at 
Rievaulx, or of the trader Gilbert Becket at 
Cheapside."^ Religion also did much to effect the 
amalgamation of Norman and Saxon into one 
English nation. 

Our remote corner of Devonshire must have 
escaped the horrors of baronial tyranny in Stephen's 
reign, and through the rest of this unhappy period. 
Judhel de Totnes, and the De Nonants and Valle- 
torts who succeeded to his lordship in these parts, 
were men of piety and benevolent rulers. We 
cannot be sure that Saxon monks did not still hold 
St Mary's at the time of the gift of the first Sir 
Roger de Nunant, but the grants of his son and 
grandson, and probabl)' his own, were made to a 
Norman community. To a Norman abbot and his 
monks was certainly granted the charter of Henry I., 
confirming " to the Monks of Buckfast the church 
and abbey, lands, tenements, churches, and other 
possessions " held by them. Its date and full tenor 
are not known, but its substance is briefly repeated 
in a charter of Henry II., who wills they should hold 
them " as in the days of King Henry my grand- 
father." Eor my own part, I think this charter of 
Henry I. was granted about the year 1105, for by 
that date, the ancient Abbey of St Mary of Buckfast 
must, I think, have passed to the monastic congrega- 
tion of Savigny, founded by Blessed Vitalis of 
Mortain under the rule of St Benedict. His dis- 
ciples were known as the Order of Savigny, and 
^ Green, Short History of the English People. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 47 

were popularly called the Grey Monks, from the 
colour of their habit, in reality white, but made of 
wool that had not been dyed. The story of Blessed 
Vitalis and his Grey Monks concerns too much the 
monastic history of Devonshire and of Buckfast to 
be altogether omitted in this place. On the west 
side of the ancient tower, restored in 1883, beneath 
a sculptured head of a monk, may be read the letters : 
B.V.O.P.N. {Beate Vitalis ora pro nobis) which 
were carved on that occasion at the desire of one of 
the monks, who wished to preserve the memory of 
the "flower of abbots," as he was styled in his 
epitaph written by Ralph of Caen, Canon of St 
Paul's in London. Moreover, for the space of nearly 
half a century, it is clear that the abbot and monks 
of St Mary's on the Dart lived under the sway of 
Blessed Vitalis and his holy successors, Abbots 
Geoffrey and Serlo of Savigny, to whom our 
monastic historians often give the same title of 
" Blessed." Abbot Eustace of Buckfast, who ruled 
our monastery in 1143, was of the same congrega- 
tion. But we must, first, establish the historical 
fact of the aggregation to Savigny, 

This aggregation admits of no serious doubt 
Leland,^ who first started the untenable conjecture 
of a suppression and a new beginning at the period 
of the Conquest, writes : " The Monastery of Buck- 
fast formerly began with the Grey Monks, and next 
received the Cistercians." John Leland or Leyland, 
a priest, B.A. of Christ's College, visited our abbey 

^ Collectanea^ vol. iii., p. 152, ed. 1770. See for this and 
what follows, J. Brooking Rowe's "Cistercian Houses of 
Devon," in Transactions of Devonshire Association. 



48 HISTORY OF BUCKFAS^J ABBEY 

in the course of his antiquarian tour (1534-1543) 
and catalogued our manuscripts. In the midst of 
the list he inserted the words I have just translated 
from his Latin. An absolutely conclusive confirma- 
tion of his statement is afforded by a charter of 
Henry 11./ granted between 1155 and 1161 (to 
which we shall come presently), in which occur the 
words : " Monks of Buckfast, who are of the Order 
of Savigny." It is true that the Savigny Congre- 
gation had ceased to have a canonical existence in 
1 148; but the monasteries in England declined 
for some time to accept the change. The charter 
of Henry II. only recites that of Henry I. Any- 
how, it excludes all doubts as to the aggrega- 
tion. In what circumstances it was effected may 
easily be concluded from the story I have now to 
tell. 

In the partition of lands in Devonshire made by 
the Conqueror, a splendid spoil fell to the lot of his 
half-brother, Robert de Mortain or Mortaigne, whom 
Devonshire writers often call the Earl of Moreton. 
Five manors the Earl held in his own demesne ; 
seventy-seven were held under him, among the chief 
holders being Reginald de Valletort, a name that 
will often figure in our pages, and the noble Norman 
Dru, or Drogo. Drogo seems to have obtained 
more possessions in our county than any one else, 
and his name ought not to be passed over, for his 
brother, Richard Fitz-Ponz, was the ancestor of the 
noble House of Clifford. The Earl's estates did not 
lie in our immediate neighbourhood, the nearest 
perhaps being those at Cornwood and Modbury. 

' Patent Rolls, i Edw. IV., p. 2, m. 4 (J. Brooking Rowe). 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 49 

All were forfeited to the king when his successor, 
William, Earl of Mortaign, " departed to Normandy, 
and there took arms against the king, on which the 
king (Henry I.), confiscated all his estates and 
possessions in this country."^ How Earl Robert 
came to be indirectly mixed up with our history 
will shortly appear. 

Ralph de Fougeres, whose ancestral estates lay in 
Brittany, had probably in the person of his descen- 
dant Ralph H., still more to do with the settling of 
the Grey monks at Buckfast. The Fougeres family 
were, till the reign of King John, Lords of Ipplepen, 
a few miles from Buckfast. Ralph H. made a gift of 
a manor at Ipplepen to the monastery of St Peter at 
Fougeres, And now to the story of Blessed Vitalis,^ 
and the Grey monks, who succeeded the Black Monks 
at Buckfast, only to give place half a century later, to 
the White Monks from Clairvaux, 

Vitalis was born about 1050, at Tierceville not far 
from Bayeux. His parents, Reigfred and Roharde, 
spent their lives in works of piety and benevolence. 
The boy was educated in a monastery, probably at 
Bayeux, where his schoolfellows nicknamed him " the 
little abbot." From Bayeux he seems to have 
passed to the celebrated school of Liege for the 
study of theology and Canon Law. After his ordi- 
nation, Robert, Earl of Mortaigne, made him his 
chaplain and canon of St Evroul, and he was one 
of the Earl's chief counsellors. Whether as his 

* Saxon Chronicle, A.D. 1 104. 

2 An authentic copy of the Acts of Blessed VitaHs was 
discovered at Fougeres by ]\I. Leopold Delisle. See Darras, 
Histoire de V^glise, tome vingt-quatrieme. 

D 



50 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

chaplain he visited England at this period of his 
life, is uncertain; in 1093 he obtained leave to 
retire into the forest of Craon, though he had prob- 
ably been practising at intervals the life of a hermit 
at an earlier date. In the year 11 12, Ralph de 
Fougcres, Lord of Ipplepen in South Devon, made 
him a grant of the forest of Savigny, on the con- 
fines of Normandy and Brittany : " That what I 
cannot obtain by my own merits, I may purchase 
from the poor in spirit, to wit, that Kingdom of 
Heaven, which is their heritage ; that they may be 
my advocates in the heavenly city, whereof they 
are citizens alike and princes." His grant is made 
with the concurrence of the Lady Avis, his wife, 
and of his four sons. Henry, the youngest of these, 
who alone of the four had opposed the grant, 
became in the end a monk of Savigny. 

Now it is clear, and is of moment for our history, 
that this grant of the devout Lord of Fougcres and 
Ipplepen was only a confirmation of a previous one. 
For, as far back as 1 105,^ we have a letter of William, 
Count of Mortaigne, erecting a monastery of the 
Blessed Trinity for nuns, " with the help of Brother 
Vitalis, Abbot of Savigny," and I am confident he 
had held that dignity for several years previously. 
This brings me back to England and Devonshire. 
For we must not imagine that Blessed Vitalis had 
been all these years at Savigny ; he had visited 
England, and probably Devon, and Buckfast, more 
than once before 1 1 1 2 A.D. 

Ten years before Ralph's concession to Blessed 
Vitalis, of Savigny, in 1 102, occurred the memorable 

^ Mabillon, Annalcs O.S.B., Lib. Ixx., n. xciv. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 51 

discussion between Henry I., and St Anselm of 
Canterbury in Westminster Hall, on the question of 
investitures which were a fruitful source of simoniacal 
depravity. It was immediately followed by a council 
of the Bishops and Abbots of England, held, accord- 
ing to Matthew Paris, in St Paul's Church at London ; 
the barons, by request of the Archbishop, being 
present. The ancient biographer of Blessed Vitalis, 
Stephen de Fougeres, grandson of Ralph, and Bishop 
of Rennes, relates at length how Vitalis, who was 
present at the Synod of London on the invitation 
of St Anselm, denounced more than once in the 
Synod, with unparalleled energy, the faults of the 
clergy, despite the most determined efforts to silence 
him. This makes it extremely probable that he 
sat there as abbot. 

But it is not unlikely that it was in this year, 1102, 
that St Mary's Abbey passed to the Grey Monks. 
The Saxon Chronicle has only these few words on 
the Synod : " At Michaelmas the King was at 
Westminster, with all the head men of this land, both 
clergy and laity ; and Archbishop Anselm held a 
synod, at which many abbots, both French and 
English, lost their staffs and their abbacies, because 
they had obtained them unlawfully or had lived 
unrighteously therein." Even when there was no 
charge of unrighteous living, if an English abbot 
died or became incapable, a Norman at once 
received his abbacy, and the Chronicle admits 
that the rule of St Benedict was by these Normans 
well and strictly observed. But Matthew Paris 
tells us something more. He says that a number 
of abbots were deposed at this time who had 



52 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

obtained their dignities through money from lay- 
men (which was too often done under compulsion), 
and he numbers among these those of Cerne in 
Dorset, and Tavistock in Devon, " and others, whose 
names we do not know." 

The West-country monasteries had therefore been 
visited ; Blessed Vitalis, of whom we read that he 
went "through all England," would certainly have 
visited the monastic possessions on the lands of his 
devoted patrons, William, Earl of Alortaigne, and 
Ralph de Fougeres, in our county. His sanctity and 
eloquence drew many communities in France to 
adopt his discipline, and the year 1102 is the most 
likely of any for the introduction of the monks of 
Savigny at Buckfast. He was again in England in 
1 108 and 1 1 18, always devoting his splendid gifts 
to the re-establishment of strict monastic rule, and 
his biographer relates that it was his custom to 
admit whole communities without requiring any 
renewal of their vows, if they had professed the 
Benedictine Rule. As Blessed Vitalis himself 
never used compulsion, the aggregation of Buckfast 
may have been altogether voluntary ; it is also likely 
that under Norman oppression the Saxon monks 
had dwindled in number. Those that remained 
would have still been employed in the churches 
dependent on the Abbey, at Brent, Trusham, and 
elsewhere, as the newcomers were hampered by their 
ignorance of the language. 

The observance of Savigny was almost identical 
with the Cistercian, but with the marked difference 
that Blessed Vitalis required his monks to employ 
themselves in preaching. Among the witnesses to 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 53 

an agreement between the Chapter of Exeter 
Cathedral and the Abbot of St Martin-in-the-fields, 
near Paris, appears the name of Abbot Eustace of 
Buckfast, in 1043. He was of course of the Savigny 
Congregation, and is the first of the present Abbot 
Anscar's predecessors after /Elfwine the Saxon whose 
name has come down to us. 

It was in the month of September 11 22 that 
Blessed Vitalis, whom we venerate among our 
Superiors, passed to his eternal reward. He had 
gone to visit the Priory of Dompierre. On Sunday, 
the 15th of the month, though he felt that his end 
was nigh, he celebrated mass and presided in choir 
at all the canonical hours. That night he rose 
before the rest to awaken the community for Matins, 
and with them sang the Nocturns of the day. These 
were followed by the Office of our Blessed Lady. 
The reader of the lessons, as usual, turned towards 
the Abbot's place to ask the blessing before reading 
the lesson. Vitalis uttered the words of the bene- 
diction : " Sanctce Mariae Virginia Intercessio nos 
Angelorum adjungat collegio " (May the interces- 
sion of the Blessed Virgin Mary unite us in the 
fellowship of the Angels). Even as the brethren 
were answering " Amen," the holy Abbot breathed 
his last. 

He had always loved England. Three times at 
least he visited our country. Stephen de Fougeres 
says that on one occasion his audience being 
composed exclusively of Englishmen and he speaking 
in Norman-French, to their wonder they understood 
his every word as if he were addressing them in their 
own tongue. His biographer relates also that on the 



54 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

day of his death, a certain abbot in a distant monas- 
ter)', a man of exalted holiness and greatest renown, 
sitting among his brethren, was rapt in ecstacy for 
the space of an hour. When he returned to himself, 
his monks asked him what he had seen. He told 
them he had seen the soul of Abbot Vitalis, amid 
incomparable splendour, and surrounded by angels, 
ascend to Heaven. Needless to say that the Abbot 
was St Bernard of Clairvaux. 

For ourselves it is a source of happiness that this 
great Saint of the Order of St Benedict should have 
known and loved Buckfast, and that his heart was 
gladdened by the sight of his children in our monas- 
tery, shut in by the dearly loved hills of Devon. To 
his mighty intercession is at least in part due the 
wondrous blessing vouchsafed to our Abbey, that it 
should be the first in all England whose long night of 
desolation should be ended. 

At the time of his death, a hundred and forty 
monks formed the community at Savigny, and a 
monastery of nuns under his obedience was governed 
by his sister, usually called " Blessed " Adeline, as 
their Abbess. But now we must pass over forty-six 
years from the time we have assigned for the 
aggregation of St Mary's Abbey to Savign}-, to 
reach one more landmark in our history. 

Sir Roger de Nunant the First had held Totnes 
Castle for eighteen years at the approximate date 
I have ventured to assign to his deed of gift, viz., 1105. 
That gift would be most likely to follow soon after 
the royal charter establishing the Norman monks at 
Savigny. When he died I cannot say, but his son 
Guy had succeeded to his honours in 1123, and in 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 55 

1 140 his grandson, Sir Roger was among the barons 
in arms at the siege of Winchester. Blessed Vitalis 
was a favourite with Henry I., over whom he had 
great influence, so that the king would promptly 
confirm the transfer of Buckfast to his obedience. 
On the whole, my belief is that the transfer of our 
monastery to Savigny, was at once confirmed by 
royal charter, and on that occasion enriched by the 
donation of the Lord of Totnes, who was then in all 
Hkelihood near the end of his days. (See charters of 
Plympton, Barnstaple, and Totnes Priories in Oliver's 
Monasticon). In Martene's Thesaurus Anecdoforuniy 
t.i., p. 405, may be seen in a Bull of Eugene III., 
1 148 A.D., a list of English monasteries which in that 
year belonged to the Order of Savigny, and which the 
Pontiff incorporates with the Order of Citeaux. 
Only the English houses are named, and it is known 
that some of them demurred to the transfer, which 
accounts for the unusual vehemence of the final 
clauses. This hitherto unnoticed writing finally 
settles the question of the presence of the Grey 
Monks at Buckfast. The document is addressed to 
Abbot Serlo. I give the names of the thirteen 
monasteries in the order in which they are 
enumerated, with dates of foundation from Tanner : 
Furness, 1124; Buckfast; Bildewar, 1135; Neath, 
temp. Henry I. ; Quarrer, 1132 ; Stratford Langthorne, 
1 1 34; Coggeshall or Coxhall, 1142; Basingwerk, 
1131 ; Combermere, 11 33; By land, 1143 ; Swineshead, 
1 1 34; Calder, 1134; Rushen (Isle of Man), 11 34. 
With the exception of Quarrer in the Isle of Wight, 
all are in places very remote from Buckfast, and 
with the possible exceptions of Neath, all were 



56 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

founded after the death of Blessed Vitalis. Our 
nearness to Ipplepen, the home of his friend 
and patron, makes me incline to believe that St 
Mary's is the only house he personally aggregated 
to his Order, 







[ To face page 57. 



CHAPTER VIII 

Buckfast Abbey a Cistercian house. The General Chapter of 
Citeaux, 1148. Blessed Eugene III. The English 
monasteries of the Savigny Congregation hesitate to 
become Cistercians. Charter of Henry II. St Thomas 
of Canterbury. The Tracys of Devonshire. Foundation 
of Torre Abbey. 

In Cistercian annals the General Chapter held at 
Citeaux in the month of September 1148 offers a 
scene on which one cannot look back without 
emotion. More than three hundred abbots were 
there assembled under the presidency of Abbot 
Raynard of Citeaux. Thither had come St Bernard, 
whose career was nearing its close. Among the 
Fathers, even as one of themselves, was the illus- 
trious Pontiff, Blessed Eugene III., formerly a monk 
of Clairvaux, who, after holding the Council of 
Rheims, had visited the monastery of his profession, 
and thence had accompanied St Bernard to the 
General Chapter, 

" He wore by day and night his woollen robe 
and the monastic cowl. True, his bed was splendidly 
covered, and surrounded by its purple curtain, but if 
you uncovered it you found that he lay on a heap of 

straw ; so over his monastic garb he wore his papal 

57 



58 HISTORY OF BUCK FAST ABBEY 

robes. When he spoke to the brethren, he wept, and 
his voice was broken by sighs ; }'et he consoled and 
encouraged us as a brother, and not as a Lord and 
ruler." So is he described by an eye-witness, a 
monk of Clairvaux. 

jMore than one Abbot offered himself and his 
community on this occasion to the Order of Citeaux. 
Abbot Serlo of Savigny besought the fathers to 
receive his thirty monasteries under the obedience 
of Clairvaux. His prayer was granted, with the 
sanction of the Pontiff there present. It was ordered 
that the holy abbot should hold the sixth place 
among the Abbots of the Order. Five years later 
Blessed Serlo resigned his dignity, and as a 
simple monk retired to Clairvaux, where he 
lived }'et another five years, dying there in the 
year 1 158. 

From September 1148 the congregation of 
Savigny ceased to have a canonical existence. But 
it is known that some years passed before all the 
English houses agreed to become Cistercians, so that 
we may say that the rule of the Grey Monks at 
Buckfast lasted for half a century. Cistercians held 
St Mary's Abbey for 390 years. If my dates be 
admitted, and we count the twenty-four years we 
have occupied down to the present date (1905) it 
has been tenanted by the Black Monks for about 
366 years. We have no indication that the Savigny 
Monks rebuilt the monastery in their time. Cis- 
tercians were the greatest architects of their age, 
and it is the Cistercian fabric, on Cistercian founda- 
tions, that has been already in part restored, in the 
style that was in use when it passed under St 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 59 

Bernard's rule. There is abundant evidence that 
his monks completely rebuilt our abbey, though 
they followed the ancient lines as far as they could, 
utilizing the existing foundations, as we have done 
theirs, but enlarging the monastery by carrying it 
further eastward towards the river. 

The community of Buckfast had not much to 

change in their rule of monastic life. Of course 

they had to adopt the black scapular of Citeaux 

instead of their grey one over the white robe. The 

greatest alteration was the relinquishing of the 

apostolic ministry and of preaching, which formed 

part of the life of the Grey Monks. There can be 

little doubt that this was the cause of the demur 

made by some of the English houses when the 

passing to the Order of Citeaux was in question. Of 

course their labours in agriculture, in building, and in 

many arts and crafts, were very greatly increased. 

They remained patrons of the churches dependent 

on the abbey, and till the days of Henry VIII. we 

find them in the Episcopal registers of Exeter 

regularly presenting to the parishes of Buckfast- 

leigh, Brent, Churchstow, and the rest mentioned 

above. Since the Conquest, the Cistercians, like 

other branches of the great Benedictine family, 

found a congenial home in the native land of St 

Stephen of Citeaux, himself born in the west 

country. "The Order took to itself all the quiet 

nooks and valleys and all the pleasant streams of old 

England, and gladdened the soul of the labourer by 

its constant bells.^ 

How well does not this description befit the 

1 St Stephen, Abbot, Lives of English Sain is. 



60 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

pleasant vale on the banks of the Dart, where 
these lines are being penned ! Those days were 
the golden age of Cistercian fervour, a fervour that 
lasted till far into the thirteenth century. The fiery 
ardour of St Bernard, tempered by his ineffable 
sweetness of charity, was winning to God a 
mighty host, as well among the brave and chival- 
rous as among the poor and lowly. Vain were the 
efforts of the youthful nobles, who banded them- 
selves together lest they should be carried away 
by his all-powerful word, vain the solicitude of 
mothers, hiding their children when the saint 
passed by. 

No sooner were the Cistercians fairly seated at 
Buckfast than they felt the need, a very real one 
at the time of which we are writing, to have the lands 
and rights that had been held by their predecessors, 
secured to them by royal charter, for which, needless 
to say, they would have to pay. The Savigny 
Monks had been careful to obtain theirs from 
Henry I., but there could be no certainty that 
it would be respected, now that there had been a 
change of owners. 

The duty of presenting their petition of course 
devolved on their powerful friend, Roger de Nonant, 
Lord of Totnes. But at this time (1150) this was 
out of the question. This Sir Roger, the grandson 
of our earliest benefactor after the Conquest, had 
sided with the clergy and barons who took up arms 
against Stephen, The rebellion first broke out in 
Devon, where Baldwin de Red vers held the Castle 
of Exeter against the King ; and the Lord of Totnes, 
with the whole body of the barons of the West, 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 61 

were soon arrayed in behalf of Matilda's son Henry, 
afterwards Henry H. ; De Nonant, with his vassals 
from our neighbourhood, was among those who 
fought under Matilda's banner at the siege of 
Winchester in 1 140, with the sanction and by the 
exhortations of the papal legate. To the end of 
his reign Stephen was powerless to punish the 
nobles who had taken up arms against him, and 
Sir Roger kept possession of the honour of the 
barony of Totnes. But of course he could ask 
no favour from the king for his friends of St Mary's 
Abbey. 

The good knight, however, did what he could for 
them. He confirmed the grants of his grandfather, 
of his father Sir Guy, and of his uncles Henry and 
Roger. By a deed of his own,^ " for the welfare of 
my soul and that of my wife Alice, and for the 
souls of Roger my grandfather, Guy my father, and 
Mabel my mother," he finally and without reserve 
gives " to God and the Church of Blessed Mary of 
Buckfesten " (it is noteworthy that the name is here 
still given in Saxon) all that he owns of " the stream 
called North Brook, which flows between my land 
and the land of the aforesaid Abbey ; " with the 
addition that they may come upon his land when- 
ever they like, to strengthen their dam, and may 
draw off the water of the stream to wherever it 
suits them ; adding, " moreover that they are to 
have [whatever they require] for singing Masses." 
Among the signatories we find the name of Ralph 

^ The Cartulary of Buckfast Abbey. Published by the 
Rev, F. C. Hingeston-Randolph at the end of Bishop 
Grandisson's Register. 



62 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Maine, one of the earliest instances of Monk used 
as a family name. To this Devonshire family 
belonged the celebrated General Monk. 

About four years had the Cistercians been finally 
settled at Buckfast when messengers from Canter- 
bury brought the request that they should sing mass 
for the repose of the soul of King Stephen, who had 
died " in the house of the monks " ^ at Canterbury, 
25th of October 11 54. He had deserved well of the 
monastic Orders, being the founder of Furness, 
Coggeshall, and Feversham Abbeys, in which last he 
was buried. On the 17th of December, Henry H. 
was crowned at Westminster. De Nonant was now 
in favour at court and the royal charter for Buckfast 
Abbey was solicited and obtained. It bears no date, 
and could not have been issued later than 1161, 
but is more likely to have been granted in 1155. 
From this time the Cistercian foundation began its 
legal existence at Buckfast, and its long peaceful 
career of nearly four centuries was inaugurated. The 
names at the foot of the charter have a more than 
ordinary interest for us monks of Buckfast. First 
comes Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, a monk 
of St Benedict, who had been Abbot of Bee. He 
was born at Tiercevillc, the birthplace of Blessed 
Vitalis. Thomas the Chancellor, afterwards St 
Thomas of Canterbury, signs in the next place, a 
still more pleasing memory. Then follow in order 
the names of Humphrey de Bohun, Roger de 
Nunant (here written Novant), Warren Fitzgerald, 
and William Fitzhamon, who had all four been 
companions in arms in the late civil war; Fitzgerald 

' Stow. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFA9T ABBEY 63 

being father-in-law to Baldwin de Redvers, Earl of 
Devon. 

The charter is unusually brief, and simply con- 
firms the Abbey and church in all the possessions it 
held in the reign of Henry I. But there exists a 
second and more ample copy, described by Mr 
Brooking Rowe, conferring on the Abbot the usual 
secular jurisdiction described in the phrases "soc 
and sac," etc., and exempting the monks from 
payment of taxes. In the former they are styled 
" of the Order of Savigny," in the second " of the 
Cistercian Order." It looks as if, the former being 
drawn up hurriedly, the latter had been intended to 
supply its defects. In the second the monks are 
declared exempt from " the customs of the moor," 
a reference of course to our Dartmoor privileges. 

Sir Roger de Nonant (III.) died about the tenth 
year of Henry's reign. His successor lost half the 
barony in that of John, and not long after their 
estates in this part of Devon passed to the family of 
Valletort. The De Nunants had secured for us a 
tranquil time during the dreadful calamities of 
Stephen's reign. I had already noticed that 
Buckfast seems also to have escaped a visit from 
the Danish invaders, and indeed I may repeat it 
seems to have always enjoyed, within and without, 
the blessings of peace and content. From Edward 
the Confessor to Henry VIII. our Abbots never 
materially increased their possessions, nor is there 
any trace either of disagreement with their Bishop, 
or of internal dissensions, such as often afflicted their 
more ambitious neighbours of Tavistock. 

From the opening of the thirteenth century, our 



61 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

annals contain far more copious records, with here 
and there very pleasing and sometimes amusing 
pictures of medieval country life. But to the end of 
the twelfth century notices are very scanty. In the 
first days of January 1 171 the Abbot had to announce 
to his monks the murder of St Thomas of Canterbury. 
One of the murderers, Sir William de Tracy, owned 
manors, Bovey Tracy among them, a few miles 
from the Abbey, but he fled for refuge to his estate 
of Wollacombe in North Devon. The subsequent 
misfortunes of the family gave rise to the Devonshire 
rhyming proverb : 

"All the Tracys 
Have the wind in their faces." 

He is said to have built the Church of St Thomas 
at Bovey Tracy in atonement for his crime. 

But I must bring this chapter and our history in 
the twelfth century to a close. There is a sentence 
in the close of the confirmatory charter granted to 
St Mary's in 11S9 which I may not omit: "We 
grant them (the monks) pasture on the moor 
(Dartmoor) during the whole year for every kind 
of sheep and cattle." The significance of this will 
appear later on. The charter was granted by the 
hand of William Longchamps, Bishop of Ely, the 
Chancellor. 

A glorious year in the ecclesiastical annals of 
Devon was 1196, when the splendid foundation of 
Torre Abbey for Premonstratensian Canons was 
made by William Lord Briwcre. It was the noblest 
house of the Order in England, its choir being 
seventy-two feet long by thirty broad. The founda- 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 65 

tion charter is witnessed first by the Bishop of 
Exeter, and thus by four abbots, among whom, 
William, Abbot of Buckfast, the only one whose 
abbey lay in Devon, takes the first place. He is 
the first of our Cistercian line of abbots whose 
name has come down to us. 



E 



CHAPTER IX 

Sufferings of the Monks in the reign of King John. The 
Interdict of Innocent III. The holders of the Baronies of 
Totnes and Harberton. Peace restored. The Cistercian 
Abbeys of Buckland, Newenham, Dunkeswell, and Ford, 
in Devon. 

The thirteenth century, to which we owe our 
brightest Cistercian memories and the most won- 
derful creations of Cistercian Art, was ushered in 
by the fiercest storm that the Order ever had to 
weather in England, down to the days of 
Henry VHI. From the miseries brought on the 
country by the crimes of King John and the 
sufferings entailed on the monks by the Interdict of 
Pope Innocent III., not even the peaceful seclusion 
of Buckfast Abbey could save it, though it was not 
felt to nearly the same extent as in other parts of 
England. To add to the defenceless condition of 
our community, we were at this hour of direst need 
bereft of the protection of the De Nunants ; for at the 
accession of John, the moiety of the barony of 
Totnes was given by the king to Reginald de Braose, 
and at the death of Henry de Nunant in 1206 the 
remaining portion was granted to Peter des Roches, 
Bishop of Winchester. As briefly as possible, I shall 

66 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY G7 

touch on the troubles of the Cistercians, more 
especially in Devon. 

All went well with them during the earlier years of 
this reign. John professed himself a friend to the 
Order. Exeter was faithful to him ; he enlarged its 
privileges and was a benefactor to the Priory of St 
Nicholas in that city. Hence it came to pass that 
the Devonshire Cistercians enjoyed so much of his 
favour that when his troubles with the barons began, 
the safe keeping of part of the royal treasures was 
entrusted to the Abbots of Buckfast and Ford, as we 
learn from a letter to our Abbot in 121 5, asking for 
their return. He obliged John of Devon, Abbot of 
Ford, to come to court and assume the office — no 
very enviable one — of his chaplain and confessor. 
When in 1207 the king sent his officers to all 
the counties of England to enforce a tax of 
one-thirteenth from every church and monastery, 
he forbade them to exact anything from the 
Cistercians. 

But on the 23rd of March 1208 the papal interdict 
for the whole kingdom of England was proclaimed, 
being Monday in Passion Week. " The churches 
were closed ; no bell was tolled, no service was 
solemnly performed ; the administration of the 
Sacraments, except to infants and the dying, was 
suspended ; and the bodies of the dead were interred 
silently, in unconsecrated ground." ^ 

The Cistercians, relying on their privileges, had at 
the first continued to say mass and chant the Divine 
Office as usual in their own part of their churches, 
which was separated from that frequented by the 

1 Lingard. 



68 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

laity. This was done, writes Matthew Paris, " by the 
command of their principal Abbot (the Abbot of 
Citeaux) ; when it came to the knowledge of the 
Pope, they received a second order of interdict, to 
their greater confusion." In the following year. 
Cardinal Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canter- 
bury, obtained leave for the conventual churches to 
have Mass and the Divine Offices celebrated with 
closed doors once a week ; but " the Cistercians, by 
reason of having presumed to do so before, were not 
allowed this indulgence." 

The sufferings of the poor monks of Buckfast may 
be imagined. Their daily toil was no longer relieved 
by the chant of the Office they loved so dearly ; no 
Mass or Sacraments to cheer them on their pilgrim- 
age ; as the solemn festivals of the Church came 
round, they could but pray in silence in their 
desolate church, or kneel before the great cross in 
the midst of the cloister-garth. In the year 1210 the 
king summoned to his presence " all the prelates of 
the kingdom ; abbots, priors, abbesses, templars, 
hospitallers, custodians of the cells of the Cluniacs 
and of the other alien priories. The sums extorted 
are said to have reached a hundred thousand pounds 
sterling.^ The Cistercians of England, willing or 
unwilling, without regard to their privileges, paid on 
this occasion forty thousand pounds of silver, and 
were forbidden for that year to go on their annual 
journey to the General Chapter. . . . The king 
extorted from all the religious houses, especially of 
the Cistercian Order, a writing by which they were 

* Matthew Paris, Hist. Angl. The sum indicated would be 
equal to more than a million nowadays. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 69 

forced to declare that what he had wrung from them 
had been given freely as a benevolent subsidy for the 
welfare of the kingdom." The chronicler of 
Waverley Abbey in Surrey adds that the Cistercians 
resisted him at first : " Then by violence he wrung 
from them the sum of 33,333 marks, and they were 
scattered and dispersed among other houses of 
monks and canons. Waverley lost all its posses- 
sions ; its monks and lay-brothers, dispersed all over 
England, bore the wrath of the king in patience. 
The Abbot, John III., dreading the royal anger, fled 
secretly by night." ^ How the monks fared at Buck- 
fast, I cannot say, but of course they did not escape 
the exactions. William de Braose, Lord of Totnes, 
stoutly refused to do homage to the excommunicated 
monarch, urged thereto by his heroic wife Matilda. 
They were forfeited, Totnes, Cornworthy, and 
Loddiswell being granted to the Earl of Cornwall. 

De Braose, with his wife and children, fled to 
Ireland ; John crossed over in 12 10, defeated Walter 
de Lacy, and among his prisoners were the wife of 
De Braose and her son William, whom he sent to 
England and starved to death, after most atrocious 
torments, in Windsor Castle. 

" After the interdict had lasted six years, fourteen 
weeks and two days, Nicholas the legate, on the day 
of the Apostles Peter and Paul, by apostolic authority 
declared it at an end ; and there was great rejoicing 
throughout the kingdom, and everywhere bells were 
rung, and they sang Te Deuin Laudamus." This 
was in 1 2 14. A year before it had been relaxed in 
favour of conventual churches. The monasteries had 

^ Annales de Waverleia. 



70 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

been already restored. On the night following St 
Luke's Feast, 1216, King John died at Newark. 

The storm was over, and a long period of 
tranquillity for St Mary's Abbey was to follow. 
The fruits of their useful labours surround us at the 
present day, but we must defer speaking of these to 
the next chapter. For the better understanding of 
the records in our chartulary, I must here add a 
word on the holders of the two baronies of Totnes 
and Harberton by which our own estate at Buckfast 
was surrounded, both of which baronies had been 
hitherto held by the De Nunants. 

Harberton was now held by Reginald de 
Valletort, and the Valletorts were our neighbours till 
the death of Roger de Valletort in 1275. Reginald, 
brother of the murdered William de Braose, recovered 
his part of the Totnes barony ; but before the end of 
the reign of Henry HI., Totnes belonged to the 
family of Cantilupe. Reginald's granddaughter, 
Eva, married the brother of St Thomas of Hereford, 
William, third Baron Cantilupe, and brought with 
her as dower the castle and manor of Totnes. 

Before closing the chapter it is necessary to advert 
to the other Cistercian monasteries of Devon, from 
whose history we may occasionally derive some light 
for our own history. They were four in all. 
Ncwenham was founded in 1245, Buckland in 
1280; Dunkeswell, which has the most meagre 
history of the five, was founded by William, Lord 
Briwcre, in 1201, and colonized from Ford. Ford 
was founded in 1141 by Adelicia, sister of the 
Viscount or hereditary Sheriff of Devon. Baldwin, 
the third Abbot of Ford, became Archbishop of 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 71 

Canterbury. John of Devon made it celebrated 
for learning. He died in 1220. 

Mr J. Brooking Rowe says that no Cistercian 
building in England remains in so perfect a state as 
Ford, but not a vestige of the monastic church is left. 
The twelfth century chapter-house, the north walk of 
the cloister, and the refectory, are perfect. Since 
1 84 1, Ford is no longer in the county of Devon. 



CHAPTER X 

Growing prosperity. Cistercian lay-brothers. The out-lying 
possessions of the monks on Dartmoor. Buckfast Moor. 
Agricultural labourers in the thirteenth century. Abbot 
Nicholas sells houses at Exeter. Abbot Michael. 
Architectural remains of the Abbey at the present day. 

Until the great plague of 1349, no such calamitous 
disorganisation disturbed the work of our monks 
as that which they underwent in the reign of John. 
Long before that time they had made their portion 
of the county of Devon "a good land, a land of 
wheat and barley, a land of flocks and herds." ^ In 
fact, judging from authentic records, I should say 
that in our immediate neighbourhood much more 
land was under cultivation in the thirteenth century 
than at the present day. 

Now it is quite clear from the Abbey foundations, 
which have been unearthed since the return of the 
monks in i S82, that the original Cistercian mona- 
stery was built for a community of fifty choir monks, 
and no more. The dimensions of refector}-, choir, 
and chapter-house, leave no doubt whatever on 
this point. Their duties in choir and the different 

^ J. Brooking Rowe, "Cistercian Houses of Devon," Trans. 
Dev. Assoc. 

72 




BUCKFAST Abbey : The Cloister. 



[To face page 72. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 73 

offices of the house left them small leisure, with the 
exception of the few, specially set apart for the work, 
to attend to agriculture. How, then, did they obtain 
the splendid results which it is admitted on all 
hands they did obtain ? 

By the system of aggregating great numbers of 
lay-brothers came to their Order. Fifty choir-monks 
at Buckfast meant one or two hundred lay-brothers, 
perhaps more. The houses now occupied by the 
Buckfast villagers, and separated from the Abbey 
by the width of the road, were built for that part of 
the lay-brothers, masons, carpenters, or blacksmiths, 
attached to the monastery, and were all built in 
medieval days, though now sadly disfigured. But a 
very large number lived out in granges, now farm- 
houses. I have seen near Buckfastleigh a stained- 
glass window picturing the Annunciation, in a 
farmer's kitchen, but it has since been removed. 
These more distant colonies became in course of 
time less amenable to discipline, and were for the 
most part suppressed by the Order in 1310, although 
a few trustworthy men were still left in them here 
and there. An example will not be out of place 
here. 

On Dartmoor itself, and on the outskirts of that 
part which belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall, lie 
extensive portions of pasture-land, formerly the 
property of the Abbey, which were granted to the 
Commons of Devon by one of our Abbots. These 
are : Buckfast Moor, Holne Moor, and Brent Moor. 
The boundary stones, marked with a B, are still in 
their places, and the Abbey still possesses certain 
rights of seignory over them. Now, there is a 



74 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

document in our chartulary, of late pre-reformation 
date, which I may thus translate : " The Abbot and 
monks of Buckfast, always, up to the time of the first 
P/ague (i ^4.8-49), kept on their moor of Buckfast a 
lay-brother, one succeeding another without inter- 
ruption, living in a house on Buckfast Moor, having 
a shepherd under him to keep constant watch over 
the flocks and herds of the said monks on Buckfast 
Moor and Brent Moor, and to guide and shut in at 
night the said cattle within an enclosure of a 
hundred acres adjoining the said dwelling. The 
last of the lay-brothers who lived in the said dwelling 
was Brother Henry Walbrook, and the walls and 
ditches of the said house (and enclosure) are still to 
be seen." 

Buckfast Moor alone is six miles by two, and on 
these vast pasture-lands our monks kept great flocks 
of sheep. The wool industry was a chief source of 
their income. A few years after the death of King 
John, in 1236, Abbot Michael and his monks were 
admitted into the guild of the Totnes merchants. 
The act of his admission is preserved in the roll 
now in the possession of the Corporation of Totnes. 

Life on Buckfast Moor must have been as hard 
in winter as it was pleasant in summer. In earlier 
times there was, of course, a regular colony of lay- 
brothers there; after 13 10 not more than one or 
two were left, with their secular dependents. 

These dependents, who were being gradually 
trained to cultivate their own lands and pasture 
their herds, had by this time — thirteenth century — 
attained a very comfortable position, though many 
of them were still bound to the land, and their 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 75 

families went with it when it changed hands by- 
purchase or otherwise. We shall find an example 
of this very shortly. Of course some were already 
absolutely free, but even such as were still in serfdom 
had their rights and privileges ascertained. In fact, 
Mr Thorold Rogers ^ affirms that the only difference 
in the condition of agricultural labourers in the 
thirteenth century and the opening of the nineteenth, 
was that the thirteenth century labourer was very 
much better off. He was paid for his labour. " All 
the necessities of life were abundant and cheap. 
Meat was plentiful ; poultry found everywhere ; 
eggs cheapest of all. The poorest and meanest 
man had no absolute and insurmountable impedi- 
ment put in the way of his career." Mr Rogers 
finds in England now a population (more numerous 
than the whole population of England six centuries 
ago) "whose condition is more destitute, whose 
homes are more squalid, whose means are more 
uncertain, whose prospects are more hopeless, than 
those of the poorest serfs of the middle ages." 

Still, these labourers were not free — an undesirable 
condition ; they could not leave their holdings unless 
they bought themselves out, or were fully emancipated 
by their lords. Their names are recited in deeds of 
transfer. A deed in our chartulary by Sir Roger 
de Nunant (about 1150) executed in the Episcopal 
house at Exeter in the presence of the Bishop, the 
Archdeacon, the Priors of Plympton, Totnes, and 
Modbury, and many others, declares that he 
renounces in favour of the Abbey all his rights to the 
services of " three men of their (the monks') land, 
^ Six Centuries of Work and Wages. 



76 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Ailwin Lepil, Osmer his son, and Roger of Xordtune." 
Serfs they certainly were. The final admission of 
every Englishman to complete freedom has been one 
of the greatest blessings of our race. But by the 
influence of the Church and of the monastic Order 
they received a preparation for the exercise of their 
freedom of which the fruit has not been lost. I now 
return to our history, starting from the beginning 
of the reign of Henry III. in 1216, when the good 
Abbot Nicholas was ruling at Buckfast, and doing his 
best to repair the ruin of the disastrous times of King 
John. 

No period of our domestic history is more 
copiously illustrated than the reign of Henry HI., 
thanks to numerous charters. For these charters I 
have a great fondness. They are never dry or formal. 
The simple faith of the age makes them often very 
beautiful. Then for Devonshire men they have the 
additional charm of those knightly family names, 
which with us are household words. Such is that of 
Hamlyn, to-day as well known in Buckfastleigh as it 
was in the days of Henry HI. ; of the Flemings and 
Fishacres, who gave their names to Stoke-Fleming 
and Combcfishacre ; of the Martins, lords of Darting- 
ton ; the Furneaux, who are still, like the Hamlyns, 
our neighbours, to say nothing of Pomeroy and 
Ferrers and Peverel, with Audley and Monk, and 
others of still wider renown, who took a pride in 
their favourite Abbey, and would often be our 
honoured and welcome guests. There is a picturesque- 
ness, too, in the little annual acknowledgments which 
the knightly donors would require to keep alive the 
memory of their gifts. A pound of wax, of course in 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 77 

the form of a candle, to be presented on Assumption 
Day, was a favourite one ; a red rose on the Feast of 
St John the Baptist was another. One, a lady, must 
needs have a pair of white gloves at Michaelmas, 
Abbot Nicholas — after consulting the cellarer and 
cook, I imagine — stipulates for an annual pound of 
pepper at Easter. This brings me back to my story ; 
the date of this agreement was about 1216, for 
Sampson and Roger Fitz-Henry were then provosts 
of the good town of Exeter, and Roger was elected 
Mayor for 12 17. The deed is in the possession of 
the Dean and Chapter. Abbot Nicholas and his 
monks by this deed make over to John Lambrith, the 
land and all the houses, known as the houses of 
Aylmer Atlekyn, from the name of a former Saxon 
owner, who had probably given them to St Mary's. 
This transfer includes two shops ^ with the advantage 
of a door opening on the High Street. The worthy 
citizen perhaps dealt in pepper. His shop, " in King 
Street," is described as having the cemetery (then 
within the Cathedral Close) behind it. Abbot 
Nicholas just then must have been sadly in want of 
money, after his losses, so he sold these superfluous 
tenements for twenty-five marks of silver and 
the annual pound of pepper, besides obliging John 
Lambrith to a payment of ten shillings a year as an 
alms to St John's Hospital for the poor in Exeter, 
which numbered among its chief benefactors our 
neighbours, the Martins of Dartington. 

In those days everybody sought to have his 
rights and possessions confirmed over and over 

^ Sellas was probably meant for seldasj in regno vice^ I 
conjecture, stands for in regio vico. 



78 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

again. The Abbot of Buckfast, presumably the same 
Abbot Nicholas, asked for and obtained from Sir 
Reginald de Valletort, who became Lord of Totnes 
in 1 2 17, a confirmation of all the grants made by the 
De Nunants. This is signed first by Anthony, Prior 
of Plympton (1214-1225) and immediately after by 
" Robert I'Abbe." The family of L'Abb^, or Abbot, 
were lords of the manor of Washfield ^ at this period, 
a manor which afterwards passed to the Worths, to 
one of whose descendants I am indebted for valuable 
help in matters of antiquarian interest. 

At some date between 12 17 and 3rd May 1223, 
Abbot Nicholas had gone to his reward, and had 
been succeeded by Abbot Michael, nor can I find the 
name of any other Abbot — the charters simply 
using the phrase " Abbot of Buckfast " — till we reach 
Abbot Peter in 1242. 

Buckfast shared in the tide of Cistercian prosperity 
that marked these years. The number of choir- 
monks increasing, the Church was prolonged east- 
ward, as appears by its added thirteenth-century 
foundations. To allow of an enlargement of the 
refectory, it was built out at right angles to the 
cloister, and the walls of its southern extremity are 
still standing. (Our new colony has, however, in 
the restoration, elected to adhere to the twelfth- 
century plan.) For a supply of fuel, for charcoal- 
burning, and for their sheep, it became indispensable 
that they should acquire more woodland and pasture 
than they already held. This could only be obtained 
either in the vale of Dart towards Holne chase, or 
in the valley watered by North Brook, in the direction 
* Worthy's Devonshire Parishes, vol. i., p. 133. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 79 

of Scorriton, the former stream flowing north, and 
the latter westward. Both these valleys are of 
wonderful beauty, the huge bulk of Hembury, 
crowned by the hill-fort to which it owes its Saxon 
name, being wedged in between them. 

Towards the middle of the century, and after the 
death of Reginald de Valletort, who died in 1144, 
they received some gifts of land, to which several 
delightful little stories are attached, to be given in 
my next chapter ; but during his lifetime they were 
only able to procure land by purchase. This power- 
ful baron, the son of Roger de Valletort and Alice 
the Lady of Callington, had married Johanna, 
daughter and coheiress of Thomas Basset. He 
added his mother's and wife's estates to his baronies 
of Totnes and Harberton, though part of the latter 
was held by Henry de Pomeroy, Lord of Berry 
Castle. From him Abbot Peter bought part of his 
wood in South Holne, Sir Reginald adding : " If 
they chose to make charcoal from the aforesaid 
wood, they may dig a pit where they find it may 
best suit them, and with their horses and carts may 
freely go in and out through my land with their 
wood." He also lets them have a piece of moor- 
land, as he says, " for the welfare of my soul and 
the souls of my ancestors and posterity " ; but at 
the same time, requires payment down of forty- 
six marks sterling, which was duly paid. Sir 
Reginald died childless, his estates passing to his 
brother Ralph. 

Agriculture and sheep-farming were only a portion 
of the labours of our Cistercians at this period. 
Their exquisite taste and matchless skill in archi- 



80 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

tecture and in the adornment of their churches, 
argues a refined culture and an intellectual training 
that in this province has never been equalled in 
England. Had not the hand of the destroyer 
levelled the Church of Buckfast Abbey to the 
ground, we should perhaps have had a creation 
rivalling Tintern or Melrose. 

All that could be recovered by excavation has 
been carefully collected, but the soft white stone 
used for the finer work had crumbled away under 
the soil. The slender columns of Purbeck marble, 
arranged in pairs, with some fragments of the 
arches that rested on them, belong to the days of 
Abbot Nicholas or Abbot Peter I., and tell us what 
the cloister windows must have been like. Of the 
same date is the piscina, one of the largest and 
finest in this part of South Devon. Some portions 
of window tracery, cut out of granite, proved too 
weighty to be carried off by those who for centuries 
used the Abbey ruins as a quarry. The fine tower 
at the south-western corner remains, but about 
1480, all its windows were renewed in perpendicular 
style, and from existing fragments have been 
restored as they were when John Rede was Abbot, 
and Seinclere de Pomeroy, his successor, was among 
his monks. Coming back to the days of Abbots 
Nicholas and Peter, a great number of the famous 
Cistercian encaustic paving-tiles have been preserved. 
Some of these are large and plain, covered with a 
green or yellow glaze. But by far the greater 
number are small and square, some with geometrical 
designs, others with the fleur-de-lis, or representa- 
tions of birds and fishes, the design being usually 





Specimens of 13th. centt Flooring Tiles. 



ITo face page 80. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 81 

white, on a red ground. As the mansion built in 
1806 was constructed entirely out of the stones of 
the Abbey, the havoc wrought was complete. It is 
a wonder that we were able to find even such relics 
as a little copper door of a reliquary worked in 
Limoges enamel, dating from about 1220, and an 
Abbot's ring from which the stone had been 
removed. Another stone has been substituted, and 
Abbot Anscar now wears it. The restoration has 
been conducted with painstaking accuracy, so that 
the Abbot's place in the refectory is exactly where 
Abbot Eustace or Abbot William sat in the days 
of Stephen or Henry I. Even the doorway from the 
cloister into the kitchen is the same as of old, the 
lower portion of the chamfered stone door-jambs 
being Cistercian work ; the same careful adherence 
to the old lines will be observed in completing the 
restoration. 

But it is only by an effort of unaided imagination 
that we can recall the glory of St Mary's Church. 
Its plan is given in this little work, and shows that 
it was built on perfectly normal lines according to 
the fixed traditions of the monastic order, viz., the 
church on the north, the north-east corner of the 
cloister meeting the transept; the chapter-house 
being parallel with the church and entered from the 
east cloister, the refectory on the south, and the 
guests and cellarer's quarters occupying the west 
front of the monastery. 



CHAPTER XI 

Sir Robert de Helion's kindness to the monks of Buckfast. A 
distinguished company assembled in the chapter-house. 
Sir William Hamelin of Deandon. Sir Reginald de 
Valletort's land. A bad bargain. Trouble about the 
pigs. Sir Stephen de Bauceyn. Everything now as in 
days of yore. Abbots of Buckfast from 1242 to 1272. 

The village of Ashton, some four miles from Chud- 
leigh, beyond Trusham, once a possession of St 
Mary's Abbey, is situated in one of the most 
charming parts of South Devon, The Lord of 
Ashton, about the year 1240 — for I can only be 
sure that the story I am telling happened between 
1238 and 1244 — was a devout and kind-hearted 
knight, one Sir Robert de Helion. He was a 
great friend to the Buckfast monks, and no doubt 
would often ride over to visit the Abbot, when he 
halted at his manor-house of Trusham on his way 
to Exeter. The fine old manor-house of Ashton, 
once Sir Robert's dwelling, was for centuries the 
home of the Chudleighs, for the Helions were a 
short-lived race and their name had passed away 
before the close of the thirteenth century. The 
manor-house is now an ivy-clad and gabled farm- 
house. 

82 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 83 

Sir Robert was also the owner of an estate called 
in those days Hosefenne, but now Hawson, less than 
two miles from the Abbey, over which Sir Reginald 
de Valletort claimed manorial rights. Hawson Court 
is now the residence of E. F. Tanner, Esq., J. P., one 
of the most genial of landowners, a worthy successor 
to Sir Robert de Helion. 

The austere life of our Cistercians moved the 
heart of the good knight to compassion, and he 
set himself to think how they might, at least a few 
times in the year, have their hearts cheered by some 
earthly solace, in addition to the spiritual joys of 
Church festivities. So he gathered together his 
friends and neighbours to witness — I presume in 
our chapter-house — a deed which he had prepared 
and fortified by very stringent conditions. 

They were a goodly company. The Sheriff of 
Devon himself was there, Walter de Bathe, lord of 
Colebrooke ; Sir Hugh Peverel of Ermington was 
next in dignity ; Sir Guy de Briteville had come 
accompanied by Ralph de Challons of Challons 
Leigh, perhaps his son-in-law, who was to inherit 
the Briteville estates. Sir William Hamelin of 
Deandon, a friend of our house, who was often at 
Buckfast on similar occasions, had come from his 
Widdecombe home on the great Moor, and brought 
his neighbour Michael de Spitchwick, along with 
him. Sir William was the head of his family ; he 
died without male issue, but from his brother 
Walter are descended the present Hamlyns of 
Buckfastleigh, to whose enterprise it is so largely 
indebted for its prosperity. The Vicar of Holne 
and many others were of the party. 



84 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Sir Robert's deed was read probably by the 
Vicar, to this distinguished assembly, and no doubt 
duly explained to them by the worthy knight. It 
set forth that, with the consent of his heir, he gave 
by this charter, " to God and to Blessed Mary of 
Buckfast, and to the monks who serve God in that 
place, all my land of Hosefenne, which is in the 
manor of the Lord Reginald de Valletort of South 
Holne . . . free from all exaction and service except 
the service of our lord the king, which is the fortieth 
part of a knight's fee," with the burden on the Abbot 
of an annual pound of wax on Assumption Day. 

Now comes the pith of the matter. Out of the 
income to be derived from the Hosefenne estate, the 
Abbot must annually provide sixty -four gallons of 
wine. This is to be divided into four portions, of 
sixteen gallons each, to be drunk by the community 
on these four principal feasts : Christmas, Candlemas, 
Pentecost, and Assumption Day. 

The allowance seems a liberal one. It is true we 
are now at the period when our Cistercians had to 
enlarge their monasteries to accommodate the influx 
of vocations, but more than seventy or eighty choir- 
monks there certainly could not have been at Buckfast 
at any period of its history. Of course the domestic 
lay brothers and those from the neighbouring granges 
who had come in for the festival would have their 
share. 

But the good Sir Robert had his fears. What 
was to be done if a too strict Abbot or a stingy 
cellarer should try to curtail the allowance? This 
must be provided against. So he adds : " Should it 
ever happen that the Father Abbot (he of Citeaux), 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 85 

or the Visitor, or the Abbot of this place at any 
time, should have the presumption to take away or 
diminish this allowance of wine, after the truth of 
the matter has been enquired into and the seniors 
and the graver monks of the whole community have 
been heard, I or my heirs, shall have the power, 
without any contradiction, to resume the said land 
to their own uses. That this my gift may remain 
firm and inviolate for ever, I have confirmed this 
writing by adding my seal." Then follow the names 
of the distinguished witnesses. 

The worthy knight must have had a light and 
grateful heart as he mounted his horse and rode 
away after partaking of the Abbot's hospitality, but 
I fear there was a smile on some faces, while he 
was explaining to the company the purport of his 
donation. Sir Reginald de Valletort only confirms 
it by a separate deed of his own, which concludes : 
" These are the witnesses : The Lord Hugh de 
Cardinan, William de Ferrers, John de Albemarle, 
Gilbert Fitz-Stephen, John de Shilston, knights; 
Warren de la More, William Finamore, and others." 
Fleet, now the residence of our popular representa- 
tive, F. B. Mildmay, Esq., M.P., was then the home 
of Albemarle, otherwise Damarell ; Sir John is styled 
by Risdon " of Milton Damarell." Not unknown to 
fame in the fierce " wars of the barons " are many of 
the names to be met with in the collection of the 
Abbey charters, but in their quiet Devon homes we 
only know them as devout and kindly children of 
the Holy Church. 

Out of the many similar tales of domestic life told 
in our chartulary I can select but a few, else I 



86 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

should be tempted to say more about Hosefenne. 
It looks as if Sir Robert had made the purchase for 
the purpose of his donation. About twenty years 
previously Urglas de Holne had sold it to Nicholas 
de Laya, from whom Sir Robert de Helion bought it. 
I should weary readers who are not Devonians with 
stories of the personages who appear as witnesses 
in these transactions, such as David de Skeradon, 
who held his land, two miles away from the Abbey, 
by the service of presenting the king with three 
arrows whenever he came to hunt on Dartmoor — 
a decided sinecure ; or of Sir Martin Fishacre, whose 
father, Sir Peter, lies buried in the church of More- 
leigh — near the newly built Trappist monastery — 
built by himself as a penance imposed by the Pope 
for having slain in a fit of rage the priest of Wood- 
leigh ; or of William of St Stephen, one of our 
nearest neighbours at Dean Prior ; or of Henry de 
Pomeroy, the rebel Lord of Berry Castle ; and so 
on. 

So I shall content myself with one or two more 
stories, and at once give one as amusing as it is 
instructive, of which the date must be a little after Sir 
Robert de Helion's famous gift. Ralph de Valletort 
had succeeded to his brother Reginald, deceased in 
1244. Abbot Peter, or perhaps William II., ruled at 
Buckfast Abbey. Sir Ralph made the Abbot what 
really seemed a splendid offer of an extensive 
wood, including Hembury Fort itself The Abbot, 
no doubt rejoicing at his good fortune, paid down 
ninety marks of silver, and handed over to the 
knight a handsome palfrey, of the value of ten marks 
more, the deed of transfer being witnessed by our 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 87 

old friends, Walter de Bathe, Sir Robert de Helion, 
Sir William Hamelin, and so forth. There were one 
or two burdens attached to the sale, such as a fixed 
amount of wood, which Sir Stephen de Bauceyn was 
to receive every year from the forester of the Abbey ; 
but the cellarer did not think them worth con- 
sidering. 

Very soon the Abbot found he had made anything 
but a cheap bargain. His neighbours, tenants of 
Sir Stephen de Bauceyn, turned out all their live 
stock, especially their pigs, to forage for themselves 
in the Abbot's wood. They claimed it as a right, 
and would pay nothing. They carried off as much 
timber as they chose, to build and repair their 
cottages ; and every family claimed all they needed 
of timber for one draycart and two ploughs each, 
and for the repair of the same, to be furnished out 
of the said wood. Every three years each famiily 
required wood enough for a new waggon, at the 
Abbot's expense. At Christmas each family took 
away eight cartloads of firewood and one log, besides 
five cartloads and one log for each of their husband- 
men. 

No wonder the Abbot complained ; but he was 
told it had always been so, and could get no redress. 
After a long period of disagreement, the matter 
was at last referred to arbitration, " by the advice of 
friends." Six freemen were appointed to settle the 
matter, and they decided against the Abbot on all 
points complained of, with three exceptions. First 
of all, goats were to be excluded from feeding in 
his wood. Secondly, the Abbot was to be paid for 
the pigs that fed there — the most important point — 



88 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

at the rate of one penny a year for every pig over 
a year old, and a halfpenny for every pig under 
that age. Finally, the men of Sir Stephen de 
Bauceyn were not to cut the wood themselves, tnit 
it should be delivered to them by the Abbot's forester. 
Here, however. Sir Stephen's men managed to insert 
an important proviso, to wit, that whenever the 
forester refused it, and whenever he could noi be Joimd, 
they might help themselves. The advantages of this 
last condition are obvious. 

The whole story is a good illustration of English 
life in the days of Henry HI. But for the boys and 
novices of Buckfast Abbey in our day it has a charm 
of its own, for Ralph de Valletort's land — still wood 
and copse — is their favourite walk and place for 
recreation days, and is exactly as he describes it in 
his deed of sale, and they can recognise every detail 
of his description, for nothing is altered. There is 
still "the spring that gushes out under Stephen 
Mugge's house, and flows down to the meadow," and 
the ditch of Martin Keaula and the little streamlet 
trickling beyond Hembury down to Dart, and that 
rises below Hugh Kulla's house; even the old oak 
tree at the foot of the hill on the other side of 
Northbrook is still there. Only the little settlements 
of the husbandmen have disappeared, and there is no 
chance of meeting old Hugh Kulla at his cottage 
door. The wood surrounds Hembury and extends 
up the two valleys of Dart and Northbrook, and 
few more beautiful scenes can be found even in 
Devonshire. The final settlement of disputes was 
made on St Clement's day 1256, between the Abbot 
of Buckfast and Sir Stephen de Bauceyn. Sir 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 89 

Stephen was a man of note in his day, and we shall 
meet with him again in our next chapter.^ 

^ Owing to the loss of our Chronicle, and the want of 
Episcopal Registers of Exeter before Bishop Bronescombe 
(1257-1307), we can only compose the list of Abbots of Buckfast 
from deeds in which their names appear. Peter was certainly 
Abbot in 1242 ; William (II.) in 1246. In the next year, 1247, 
Abbot Howell of Buckfast signs a deed at Exeter. In 1257 
William (III.) was Abbot, who had the dispute referred to in 
the above chapter, and was succeeded, according to Dr Oliver's 
list, by Durandus. In 1268 we find Abbot Henry. Simon was 
blessed by Bishop Bronescombe in 1272. Abbot Peter in 1243 
bought eight furlongs of land at Engleburn, near Harbertonford, 
from Thomas de Reigny and his wife Johanna. On the Feast of 
St Lambert, 1246, William II. signs an agreement with Sir 
William de Saint-Stephen about land in Dean. (Add. MSS., 
Brit. Mus., 28649). 



CHAPTER XII 

Sir Stephen de Bauceyn slain in battle by Rees Vaughan. His 
land at Holne now called " Bozon's Farm." Sir Richard 
de Bauceyn. Faith and chivalry in the thirteenth century. 
The Chronicle of Newenham Abbey in Devon. The 
holy death of Sir Reginald de Mohun. 

If Sir Stephen de Bauceyn was present in person at 
Buckfast on St Clement's Day, 1256, he must have 
left immediately afterwards, in obedience to the 
royal summons. Things were going on badly in 
Wales for the forces under Prince Edward. Llewelyn, 
the Welsh prince, after conquering Glamorgan, 
had driven the royal army before him to the gates of 
Chester. It was the most heroic age in the annals of 
the Welsh people. On the arrival of the Devonshire 
knight, he was given the command of an army to 
repel the invader. It was in vain ; the English were 
surrounded ; two thousand were slain, and the 
gallant Sir Stephen perished by the sword of Rhys 
Vaughan, a noble Welshman, on whose land the 
battle was fought. This must have been early in 
1257. 

This " valiant and famous knight " was the 
younger son of Sir Guy de Bauceyn of Yardbiry, near 
Colyton. His brother Richard, who was also 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 91 

knighted, married Ellen, daughter of John de Shilston, 
and lived at Norton Bauceyn ; Sir Stephen held 
manors at Holne, in our neighbourhood, and at 
Dodbrooke, adjoining the Abbot's manor of Kings- 
bridge. 

On receiving the news of his brother's untimely 
death. Sir Richard de Bauceyn, his heir — Sir Stephen 
seems to have died unmarried — at once resolved, for 
the good of his soul, to present to the monks the 
manor at Holne, which had been the cause of dispute 
from the inroads made by its cultivators on the wood 
which the Abbot had bought from De Valletort. In 
his deed he gives — " for the souls of my father and 
mother, and of my brother Stephen Bauceyn, to the 
monks, who are the servants of God and Blessed 
Mary at Buckfast," — all his land at Holne, wood and 
pasture, ways and paths, and the service of his 
freemen, whom he names. The gift was confirmed 
by Henry HI. at Westminster on the 28th of 
October, Feast of SS. Simon and Jude, 1258. 
Though not the last of our royal charters, it is 
worthy of special notice. Its tenor is brief, only 
repeating and confirming the donation of " the 
aforesaid Stephen, who died in our service, for the 
welfare of his soul to the aforesaid Abbot and 
community and their successors." The witnesses 
are: Boniface, Archbishop of Canterbury (Blessed 
Boniface of Savoy, a Carthusian monk) ; Walter de 
Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester (one of whose 
nephews was Earl of Totnes, and another St 
Thomas of Hereford); Richard de Clare, Earl 
of Ulster ; Roger le Bigod, Earl of Norfolk ; Hugh 
le Bigod, Justiciary of England ; Humphrey de 



92 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Bohun, Earl of Hereford ; James de Audley, and 
others. 

The manor given to us by Sir Richard de 
Bauceyn (whose name is variously spelt) still bears 
the name of Bozon's Farm and is part of the estate 
of the Hon. Richard Dawson of Holne Park. Sir 
Ralph de Valletort died in 1257, leaving a son, 
Reginald, under age. As Lady of the Manor, 
Johanna, Sir Ralph's widow, made over by a grant to 
Abbot Henry her own dower-lands at Holne, and in 
the deed it is said that " to this writing, cut into two 
portions, the Abbot and the Lady Johanna affixed 
their seals," Among the signatures is one Alexander 
de Oxton. Oxton manor-house, on the road between 
Chudleigh and Exeter, was in the days of Protestant 
persecution a place of refuge for Ven. Philip Powell, 
O.S.B., martyr, and other hunted priests. This 
charter of the Lady Johanna was drawn up at her 
manor-house of Inceworth, in the parish of Maker in 
Cornwall, a possession of her husband's family. In a 
brief document, the same noble and pious lady 
commands "her men" at Holne to be henceforward 
obedient and dutiful to the Abbot as they hitherto had 
been obedient to her. The Bauceyn family continue 
for some time to figure in the county history ; in 126 1 
Dame Agnes Bauceyn presents Robert de Hille to 
the rectory of Clist St Lawrence. 

From what our chartulary and other documents 
tell us, it seems that from the days of Edward the 
Confessor till the dissolution almost the sole additions 
to the lands of the Abbey were in the two valleys 
of the Dart and of Northbrook, with some pasture- 
land on Dartmoor. I fear I have wearied my readers 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 93 

with the subject of these donations. Much might be 
added, but I forbear. Only I may be allowed to 
record the names of three sisters : Oresia, Turkasia, 
and Alicia, daughters of William Crocke of Crocke- 
tune, to whom we owed the wood of Birigge (Bridge) 
on the Dart, which may be the same wood that now 
forms part of the beautiful estate of Holne Park. It 
is Dame Turkesia who chooses a pair of white gloves 
for her annual present, as I mentioned before. 

The year 1258, which we have now reached, was 
long remembered by our monks. On St Stephen's 
Day in 1257 Bishop Blondy of Exeter died. His 
successor's election was made on the 23rd of the 
February following. But of Bishop Bronescombe I 
must defer speaking to my next chapter. A month 
after Bishop Blondy's death, Sir Reginald de Mohun, 
Lord of Dunster and founder of the Cistercian 
Abbey of Newenham, died at Torre. Though the 
name of this holy servant of God is not in any of our 
charters — for his ancestral estates lay chiefly in 
Somersetshire — yet he was for certain well known to 
our community and Abbot. But it is for another 
reason that I wish here to insert from the chartulary 
of Newenham the singularly beautiful account of his 
holy death. 

It is impossible in reading the annals of those 
days not to be struck by the simple piety of the 
Nunants, Helions, Bauceyns, and their knightly 
compeers. Faith and chivalry, intimately blended 
together, made the ideal knight, alike without fear 
and without reproach. There were many whose 
lives fell short of the ideal, but many realised it. 
Of these was Sir Reginald de Mohun. His death 



94 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

is thus told by the chronicler of Newenham. No 
doubt a like tale could be truly told of many others. 

" On Sunday, the Feast of SS. Fabian and Se- 
bastian, in the year of our Lord 1257 (1258), Sir 
Reginald de Mohun, Lord of Dunster and founder 
of Newenham, entered the way of all flesh at Torre 
in Devonshire ; and this was the manner of his 
death : Sir Reginald, being stricken with a grievous 
sickness, sent for a Franciscan friar, Henry by name, 
a learned man who was then directing a divinity 
school at Oxford. He arrived at Torre on the 
Wednesday preceding the death of Sir Reginald, 
and heard his humble, devout, and entire confession. 
Early on the morning of Friday, as Friar Henry 
• entered his room, Sir Reginald said : ' I have had a 
vision this night. I thought I was in the Abbey 
church of the white monks, and when I was on the 
point of quitting it, a venerable man, in the habit of 
a pilgrim, appeared and said to me : " Reginald, I 
leave you to choose whether you will come to me 
now in security and without peril, or wait till the week 
before Easter in your present danger." " My Lord," 
I said, " I will not wait, but will follow you now " ; 
and I was going to do so, when he said : " You cannot 
follow me now, but in three days you shall be safe 
with me." And this was the dream that I saw.' The 
friar spoke many words of consolation to the sick 
man, and then went to his own chamber, and sat 
down at the foot of his bed, where he also fell asleep, 
and dreamed he was in the church of a Cistercian 
monastery and beheld a venerable man in white 
garments, leading by the hand a boy, more resplen- 
dent than the sun, whose garments were brighter 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 95 

than the clearest crystal, from the font to the altar, 
as is done with children after baptism. Asking who 
the child was, he was told : ' This is the soul of the 
venerable Reginald de Mohun.' The friar awoke, 
and understood that his dream confirmed that of 
Sir Reginald ; for by the baptismal font is signified 
contrition of heart and true confession, because 
in penance sins are washed away even as in baptism. 
The going to the altar represented the entering of 
Sir Reginald's soul into heaven. The third day 
being come. Sir Reginald, who had been wont every 
day to assist at all the divine offices, asked Friar 
Henry to recite Prime and Tierce, as his time was 
fast drawing nigh. The friar began, and Sir Reginald 
said : ' For God's sake, recite quickly ; my hour is at 
hand.' Henry then went to the church to celebrate 
mass, and on that day the Introit was Circiim- 
dederunt. When mass was over, the friar came to 
him in his sacred vestments, bearing the Body of our 
Lord. Sir Reginald strove to rise from his bed, but 
his weakness and the care of his attendants, of whom 
ten stood round him, withheld him. ' Alas ! ' he said, 
Met me rise and meet my Saviour and Redeemer.' 
These were his last words, but he received the 
Communion, being in his senses, and was anointed- 
The friar, priests, and clerics there present recited 
the recommendation of the departing soul. As he 
was still living when it ended, they began it again, 
but at the words : Omnes sancti orate pro eo, without 
groan or any sign of pain, he slept in the Lord." 

Seventy-six years afterwards, in 1333, his tomb 
was opened, and an eye-witness declares that his 
body, entire and incorrupt, exhaled a fragrant odour ; 



96 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

that it was exposed for three days to public view, 
and that he both saw and touched it. Though 
Reginald de Mohun died at Torre, yet both the 
brothers were buried in Newenham Church, before 
the High Altar. A few ruined walls are all that 
remain of the Abbey Church of Newenham. 

We cannot but gain much by lingering over these 
records of the Ages of Faith and chivalry. Where 
Faith burns bright and clear the spirit of chivalry 
can never be extinguished.^ 

^ For the extract just given from the Newenham Cartulary, 
I have availed myself, with some slight alterations, of Mr 
Davidson's translation in his History of Newenham Abbey. 




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CHAPTER XIII 

Tranquillity of Devonshire during the War of the Barons in the 
reign of Henry III. Durand and Henry, Abbots of Buck- 
fast ( 1 253-1272). Walter Bronescombe, Bishop of Exeter. 
The Bishop holds his court in the chapter-house of the 
Abbey (1259). His zeal and activity. Social changes in 
Devon. Bondmen become wealthy landowners. Richard 
Tyulla. The hospital of the poor at Buckfast Abbey. 
Bishop Bronescombe a friend to the community. Priory 
of St Nicholas. 

The year 1258, which our story has now reached, 

stands forth in English history as one of its stormiest 

epochs. It was the year of the " Mad Parhament " 

at Oxford, and of a great success of the barons under 

Simon de Montfort in the struggle with King 

Henry III. and his foreign favourites. How little 

these fierce contests disturbed the tranquillity of our 

remote county, and how completely the peaceful 

work of the Catholic Church was left undisturbed 

by them, is forcibly brought home to us as we turn 

over the pages of the acts of Walter Bronescombe, 

Bishop of Exeter, now made accessible to all by the 

truly colossal labours of Prebendary Hingeston- 

Randolph. Richard, Earl of Cornwall, the king's 

brother, was Lord Paramount of Exeter and its 
97 ^ , 



98 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Castle, and would sometimes hold his court there, 
and we recognise some of our old friends in the 
names appended to his Exeter charters. But city 
and county flourished and prospered. 

Under Abbots Durand (1258), Henry (1268), and 
Simon (1272), the Abbey enjoyed unbroken tran- 
quillity. It is, indeed, remarkable that though the 
great Bishop's fiery zeal for ecclesiastical discipline 
and his Episcopal rights led him — I do not say 
always with reason and moderation — into disputes 
with the religious houses of Ford, Tavistock, Buck- 
land, Plympton, Launceston, Bodmin, and others, 
and, perhaps even more frequently, with members 
of his diocesan clergy, there is no trace of any 
shadow of discord between the Bishop and the 
Abbot and monks of Buckfast. Nay, more, I have 
found no trace of any such disagreement in all the 
seven hundred years that our Abbey is known to 
have been the home of a monastic community. It 
is, indeed, a singular blessing, and may in part 
account for the still more signal blessing of its 
restoration. Even what I have already noted — that 
St Mary's patrimony seems neither to have suffered 
from Danish cruelty nor from Norman oppression — 
makes it look as if the blessings of peace had been 
granted as its inheritance from the beginning. 

Bishop Bronescombe was enthroned at Exeter on 
the third Sunday after Easter, the 14th of April 
1258. On the 19th of March 1259, we find him at 
our Abbey accompanied by two of his clergy. Master 
Bartholomew Larder (of Upton Pyne) and Master 
John Noble. The cause of his visit was, with the 
assistance of Abbot Durand and brother William of 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 99 

Poundstock, monk of Buckfast, to hold a judicial 
investigation into some strange proceedings that 
had occurred at Exeter, while his predecessor? 
Bishop Blondy, was at the point of death. Whether 
it was that the two accused, Walter of Loddiswell 
and Richard of Totnes, were likely to be well known 
to the Abbot, or for some other reason, the Bishop 
elected to hold his court in our chapter-house. 

The case was a very singular one. Already, on 
the 7th of February, the Bishop had addressed a 
letter to the Dean of Exeter to proceed to an 
examination of several charges of forgery of the late 
Bishop's signature. Those guilty, it seems, had 
confessed, and were now to repeat their confession 
and receive sentence in the chapter-house of 
Buckfast. 

The register opens as follows : " On the Wednes- 
day immediately preceding the Feast of St Benedict, 
being the fourteenth day before the Kalends of 
April (March 19), in the Chapter-house of Buckfast, 
before the Lord Bishop, appeared Walter de 
Loddiswell, chancellor and chamberlain of Richard, 
Bishop of Exeter, deceased, of happy memory, and 
Master Richard of Totnes, his notary, who, returning 
into themselves by repentance, voluntarily and on 
oath, in the presence of the Lord Abbot of Buck- 
fast, of William of Poundstock, monk, etc." 

In short, they confessed that during the Bishop's 
last illness, they had, in his bedroom, drawn up and 
put his seal to certain documents, especially for 
conferring benefices and the like, which his Lordship 
never saw, he being at the time unconscious ; and 
they implicated some others as accomplices. They 



100 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

now submitted themselves to the Bishop's sentence, 
as they had incurred excommunication. As nothing 
had been carried away from the Bishop's Palace 
(and it does not appear that any harm had really 
ensued), they were absolved after canonical 
penance. 

I take it for granted that Bishop Bronescombe 
stayed at Buckfast for St Benedict's Feast, the first 
time that feast came round after his taking posses- 
sion of his Cathedral. I should have liked to know 
more of William of Poundstock, who seems to have 
been in the Bishop's confidence. The Bodrigans 
were then lords of the manor of Poundstock, and John 
de Bodrigan was in 1262 rector of the church. He 
had shown himself contumacious to the Bishop's 
orders in some matters not specified ; and Bishop 
Bronescombe was no respecter of persons, as his 
acts abundantly prove. So he deprived the Rector 
for three years of the administration of his parish, 
at the same time absolving him from censures. On 
this occasion he held his court at Horseley in Surrey, 
and had with him one Brother Henry, a monk of our 
Abbey. This was on St Agnes's Day, 1 262. 

I may be here allowed a few words on this great 
and good Bishop, from whom three of our Abbots — 
Henry, Simon, and Robert — received their confirma- 
tion and benediction. He was the twelfth Bishop of 
Exeter, and, like his predecessor and his immediate 
successor, was born in that city, and at the time of 
his election was only in deacon's orders. Of a zeal 
and energy almost without parallel,^ we find him 

1 See Prebendary Hingeston-Randolph's Preface to Bishop 
Bronescombe's Register. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 101 

visiting sixteen widely scattered parishes in little 
more than a month, from the Tamar to the wildest 
districts of Cornwall, where scarce a bridle-path 
existed ; then after a week's rest crossing the great 
moor, and consecrating thirteen churches in one 
month. Nothing escaped his reforming zeal. The 
proud barons who dared to invade churches by acts 
of violence found themselves suddenly brought to 
their knees, and Sir William de la Pomeroye, the 
powerful Lord of Bury, and the scarcely less power- 
ful Sir Henry de Tracey, had to petition the fearless 
Bishop to absolve them from excommunication ; and 
even Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, found it useless to 
maintain a contest with Bishop Bronescombe. By 
his flock he was deeply loved, and his simple piety 
and beneficence won for him the title of " Walter the 
Good." The motto over the gateway of his manor- 
house of C\yst. :' Janua patet ; cor inagis ; was the 
ruling principle of our Bishop, whose hospitable door 
was ever open wide to all, but his heart still wider. 
From affairs of State he held as much aloof as he 
could, but could not avoid being nominated the head 
of the commission appointed to settle the differences 
between the king and the barons after the battle of 
Evesham. 

On the 2 1st of November 1259 Bishop Brones- 
combe consecrated our then newly finished Church of 
St Michael at Trusham, at which solemnity, of course, 
the Abbot and some of the monks of Buckfast were 
present. An aisle was added in 1430, but the church 
is to-day mainly the work of the monks, and on the 
1 6th of August in the following year, William of 
Brideford was presented as Rector by the Abbot and 



102 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

community as Patrons. Brideford, or Bridford, on 
the Teign, lies a few miles to the north-west of 
Trusham, and was at that time a manor of the 
Valletorts. 

A very pleasing little episode, bearing witness to 
the growing emancipation of our English peasantry 
who were rapidly passing from serfage to the condi- 
tion of free yeomen, occurs at this period of our 
annals. 

Some time before the death (1244) of Sir Reginald 
de Valletort he had made over to Henry de Valletort 
a portion of his estate at Holne, but with sundry 
burdens, Henry being, among other things, bound to 
pay for the feeding of Sir Reginald's hounds. As 
usual. Sir Reginald gives the names of the Saxon 
serfs, who were transferred with the estate, and 
rather odd names they are ; Stephen Budd, or Bodda, 
Stephen Top, Asbert Wrench, and among them one 
Richard TyuUa. Twenty years have gone by, and 
on the 5th of June 1264, Richard Tyulla, in the 
presence of witnesses, grants his own charter to 
the Abbot and monks of Buckfast, making over to 
them, for himself and his heirs for ever, all his rights 
in the estate of Chalveleigh at South Holne, which 
was a gift to him from Sir Ralph de Valletort. The 
new landholder is careful to add : " To this writing I 
have appended my own seal," and to begin it in the 
usual form : " To all the faithful of Christ to whom 
this deed may come, Richard Tyulla wishes eternal 
welfare in the Lord." The list of witnesses embraces 
not only his Saxon neighbours Stephen Mugg and 
VVymund Cole, but the Norman knights Guarin de 
Bodetone and Nicholas de Kingdon. This is our 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 103 

earliest charter since the Conquest that is not a 
Norman grant. Saxon and Norman are now alike 
Englishmen, at least in Devon. Bodeton is now 
Button, a farmhouse, and the writer remembers 
asking the name of it, and getting for answer : 
" Button, sir ; just as if you were to say, a button off 
your coat." It still retains a medieval arched passage 
of about the period on which we are now engaged. 

But, indeed, about this time, the names of these 
Saxon owners of land became very frequent. We 
find Edward Husband — house-bondman is the 
original form of husbandman — Meliora, relict of 
Stephen Cole, Corbyn, and many another. The 
estate of Chalveleigh lay to the south of the stream 
called the Mardle, and was bounded by the property 
of Husband and Cole. 

Abbot Henry had succeeded Durand before 1268, 
and was probably governing St Mary's Abbey at the 
time of Tyulla's charter. He lived till 1272, with 
which date I choose to close this chapter, as it gave 
us a new king and a new Abbot. As I shall not 
have many occasions of reverting to our charters of 
the reign of Henry HI., I will only mention one 
more — a deed of Robert de Walworth, giving to the 
Abbey " along the course of the rivulet as far as the 
green path," a portion of his Walworth estate, 
" wood, meadow, pasture-land, moorland," and so 
forth. The donor adds that he had undertaken to 
defend and guarantee, for himself and his heirs, 
against all men, this portion of the Abbey lands, 
on payment of five marks of silver. This sum was 
duly paid to him by an official of the community, 
" Roger, who was over the hospital (Jnfiri/iitoriuin) of 



104 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

the poor." The existence of this institution, with 
its special superintendent, is one more evidence of 
the beneficent character of our monastic foundations 
in the Middle Ages. 

Abbot Henry's reign was not marked by any 
incident of note. Of course, he had often to journey 
to Citeaux for the General Chapter, and would be in 
attendance on Bishop Walter de Bronescombe when 
he visited the neighbourhood. In 1268 we find him 
signing an agreement with Richard Fitz-Alured, and 
presenting in 1264 VVahvan as Vicar of Buckfastleigh, 
in 1269 Richard of Teignmouth as Vicar of Brent, 
and in 1270 Master Henry de Hamsterfort as 
Rector of Petrockstowe. A new order of things 
was, indeed, in preparation throughout the country, in 
which the Commons of England would make their 
power felt ; but its influence had not yet been realised 
in Devon. 

Bishop Bronescombe's esteem for our community 
appears from his taking Brother Henry with him on 
his journeys. In the Bishop's confirmation of Robert 
of Rye as Prior of St Nicholas at Exeter, granted 
at London on the 29th of June 1262, "Henry the 
Monk" again appears among the witnesses. It is 
likely that ecclesiastical studies, for which we find 
the community distinguished at a later period, were 
even at that time sedulously cultivated at St Mary's 
Abbey, and the Bishop needed learned men among 
his counsellors. Henry of Poundstock is perhaps 
identical with Abbot Henry, who died in 1272. 



CHAPTER XIV 

Abbot Simon, 1272. Amicia, Countess of Devon, founds Buck- 
land Abbey. A dispute between the Bishop of Exeter and 
the Buckland monks. Abbot Robert, 1280. Defence of 
his rights against the Crown. Baronial rights of the Abbot 
in the reign of Edward I. A question concerning pasturage 
on Dartmoor. The perambulation of Dartmoor in 1240. 
A delightful summer ride. The Abbey moors no part of 
the Forest of Dartmoor. 

Close to the ancient parish church of Paignton in 
Devon, which still retains its Norman west entrance, 
may be seen some remains of the palace of the 
Bishops of Exeter. 

On the Feast of St John the Baptist, 1272, Bishop 
Bronescombe, who had returned from visiting Chud- 
leigh and Bishopsteignton, entertained a number of 
guests from Buckfast at this palace. He had that 
morning blessed a new Abbot for our monastery, 
who had been duly elected by the monks in place 
of Abbot Henry, lately deceased. Abbot Simon had 
taken the oath of fidelity to the Bishop as follows : 
" I, Brother Simon, Abbot of Buckfast, of the Order 
of Citeaux, do promise that I will for ever give 
submission, reverence, and obedience, as commanded 
by our Holy Fathers, according to the rule of St 

105 



106 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Benedict, to thee, my Lord Bishop and Father, and 
to thy canonical successors, and to this Holy See of 
Exeter, saving our Order." 

If we knew the day of Abbot Simon's death, we 
should perhaps find that he ruled for exactly eight 
years. At all events, his time could only have exceeded 
or fallen short of that term by a very few days, for 
his successor received his blessing at Chudleigh, 7th 
July 1 280, from the hands of Bishop Bronescombe, only 
a fortnight before the Bishop's death. 

On the i6th of November in this year, 1272, died 
King Henry HI., his son Edward I. being absent in 
Palestine, whence he only returned in August 1274. 
Up to 1280, the year of Abbot Simon's death, I do 
not find any indication of the troubles by which the 
Church was harassed in the reign of this monarch in 
consequence of his need of money, and which /\bbot 
Simon's successor had to meet immediately after his 
election. But the last months of his life must have 
been deeply saddened by the serious discord between 
the Bishop and the Abbot's Cistercian brethren at 
Buckland Abbey in Devon. This Abbey was founded 
by Amicia, Countess of Devon, in 1280, her foundation 
charter stating that : " We found this Abbey, which 
we desire shall be called St Benedict's of Buckland, 
which is in our manor of Buckland, for the perpetual 
maintenance of an Abbot and monks of St Benedict 
of the Cistercian Order." She then names those who 
are to be forever remembered in the prayers of the 
monks, including the King, Queen Eleanor, herself, 
her daughter Margaret (a nun of Lacock), and others. 
The monks forgot or neglected to ask the licence of 
the Bishop before saying mass in their new founda- 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 107 

tion, and were at once excommunicated and their 
church put under an interdict. Queen Eleanor inter- 
fered in their behalf, and the Bishop agreed to 
suspend his sentence for a time. On the 22nd of 
July, the dying prelate revoked all his censures 
pronounced against them. Before midnight he had 
given up his soul to God. Both the Abbots, of 
Buckfast and Buckland, who entered on office in 
this year, bore the name of Robert. 

The only act of Abbot Simon's career on record 
is the presentation of Sir Peter of Dean, priest, to 
the parish of Zeal Monachorum, 6th December 
1276. 

Abbot Robert, his successor, found himself in 
difficulties with a royal commission at the very 
outset. 

In the year 1280 Edward I. appointed special 
Commissioners to make enquiry throughout the 
kingdom by what right the landholders held their 
estates, franchises, or other privileges. Many estates 
came to be forfeited to the crown, and could only 
be redeemed by payment of an arbitrary fine. 
This was in virtue of the Quo Warranto Act. No 
doubt many abuses were remedied, but much hard- 
ship was also inflicted, on those, for example, whose 
title deeds had been lost. 

Abbot Robert was called upon to show by what 
title he held through his official representative a 
court of justice at Buckfast, Heathfield, Churstow, and 
elsewhere on his demesnes. As holding lands of the 
crown by various charters, he was by his office a 
baron of the king. " The Church of Buckfastleigh " 
appears among the tenants-in-chief of the crown for 



108 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

twelve manors held in demesne, and to all such the 
title of baron, in its more extended sense of lord of 
a manor, was applicable. But at a very early period 
a distinction was made between the greater and lesser 
barons, and in the words of Sir Harris Nicolas,^ while 
the greater barons " held both a civil and criminal 
jurisdiction, each in his Court Baron, the lesser 
barons held only a civil jurisdiction over their 
vassals." Abbot Robert by his attorney rightly 
pleaded the charter of Richard I., granting him civil 
and criminal jurisdiction. The crown lawyers seem 
to have had no answer to his plea, and the case seems 
to have been allowed to drop." 

From this we can better estimate the secular position 
of our Abbots in the reign of Edward I. If it did 
not always conduce to the maintenance of monastic 
contemplation, and was a distraction from their 
religious occupations, it had been in earlier times 
of incalculable advantage to those who lived on their 
domains, and who were envied by the neighbours, 
although we do not find the Lords of Totnes dis- 
graced by the atrocities recorded of many lay barons 
in England. Baronial jurisdiction, however, was in 
the time of Edward I, being gradually narrowed. 
Our Abbot's position was of course a higher one 
than most of the lords of the surrounding manors. 
But this was by legal right, not by encroachment. 

A second question was brought forward, and I 
give it as stated in the " Hundred Rolls," as translated 
in the Dartmoor Preservation Association Pubiica- 

' Historic Pecmi^c, " Preface." 

2 Mr J. Brooking Rovve, "Cistercian Houses of Devon," 
Trans, of Dev. Assoc. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 109 

tions: "The Jurors of the Hundred of Stanborough 
say that the Abbot of Buckfast and his convent 
(community) have made purpresture (encroachment) 
of a certain great waste of the common moor in 
the south part of Dartmoor, to the injury of all the 
country, because, in the time of King Henry HI., 
Howald, the Abbot, and the convent of Buckfast- 
leigh, appropriated to themselves the aforesaid waste, 
and held it, and sell fuel, turf and pastures from year 
to year, and take rent therefor, by what warrant 
they know not, to the yearly damage of forty 
shillings." I may say at once that this charge, 
which was tried at Exeter in 1281, was not sus- 
tained ; but the whole question, which was brought 
up at different times from the days of Henry HI. 
even to our own, is so extremely interesting that I 
propose here briefly to give an account of the 
Dartmoor rights, and must begin with some in- 
formation, necessary for non-Devonians. 

" The great irregular tableland of Dartmoor," says 
the Rev. S. Baring-Gould,^ "occupies two hundred 
and twenty-five square miles of territory. Of that, 
however, less than one-half is the ' Forest,' and 
belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall. Around the 
Forest are the commons belonging to the parishes 
contiguous to the moor." My readers, or most of 
them, may not need to be told that the word Forest 
does not necessarily mean a tract of land covered 
by trees, of which there are few on Dartmoor. " It 
was an extensive territory of uncultivated ground, 
kept in a virgin condition for the wild beasts of the 
forest, beasts of chase, and beasts and fowls of 

J A Book of the West, Chapter X. 



110 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

warren," ^ with fixed boundaries, special officers, 
and laws. 

Now, when the Black Prince obtained for himself 
and his successors a confirmation of the property of 
Dartmoor Forest, every Pevonshire parish, except 
Totnes and Barnstaple, had immemorial rights of 
pasturage there, and could take off the moor "what- 
ever might do them good, except green oak and 
venison," and the grant was made subject to these 
rights. Despite many deplorable encroachments, 
the exercise of these rights is in full use at the 
present day, and the flocks and herds of sheep, 
bullocks, and more especially of the wild Dartmoor 
ponies, add both to the value and picturesqueness 
of our great moor. 

Now, was the Abbot of Buckfast the earliest of 
the encroachers on the Commons of Dartmoor ? In 
other words, were the tracts of land known as Buck- 
fast Moor, Brent Moor, and Holne Moor, parts of 
his manors of Buckfast, Brent, and Holne, as Abbot 
Robert maintained, or were they part of the Forest? 
Not only before the Dissolution, but since the Abbey 
lands have passed to other hands, has the question 
arisen. The decision, when any was given, has 
always been in favour of the Abbey. At the same 
time, it is clear that before the suppression, the 
Abbot, without relinquishing the scignory of the 
land, had allowed the free use of his pasture-land 
on the moor to the Commons of Devon. Their 
consequent rights, being of course irrevocable, are 
exercised at the present day, while in absence of any 
proof to the contrary, the lordship belongs presum- 
^ Rev. J. C. Cox, Hoio to write the History of a Parish. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 111 

ably to the present owners of the Abbey. Some 
singularly interesting records bearing on the question 
are to be seen in the preserved portion of our cartulary, 
and I must give a brief notice of them. 

Long before the days of the Black Prince, in the 
year 1240, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, the king's 
brother, had a dispute with four Devonshire knights, 
Sir William Hamlyn, our old friend Sir Robert de 
Helion, Sir Henry de Merton, and Sir William de 
Pruz, concerning the bounds of his (Richard's) Forest 
of Dartmoor, and those of the knights and free 
tenants — among whom was, of course, our Abbot 
Peter — whose manors were contiguous to the said 
forest, and who were represented by the four 
knights, who now asked to be allowed to make a 
perambulation of the forest bounds. The royal 
assent was granted, and an order issued from West- 
minster, on 13th June 1240, to the Sheriff of Devon, 
that he himself, accompanied by twelve knights of the 
shire bound by oath, should go with them, take 
careful note of the exact bounds, and forward the 
result to the king, " Wherever we may be, clearly and 
distinctly, and under thy seal, and the seals of the 
four knights aforesaid." This was done on the eve 
of St James, the 24th of the following month ; and a 
more delightful summer ramble could not be con- 
ceived than that enjoyed by the distinguished 
company of sixteen knights, with Sir Walter de 
Bathe at their head. They must have been in the 
saddle from early morn till late at night, and I 
hope they got a dispensation from the Fast of St 
James's Vigil. All their names are given. There 
was the devout Sir William le Bruere, the founder 



112 HISTORY OF BUCK FAST ABBEY 

of Torre Abbey, and Sir Roger Gififard, presumably 
of Awliscombe, whose line was to end with an Abbot 
of Buckfast, and our friends Sir Guy de Bryteville 
and Sir William de Widworthy, and Sir Hugh de 
Boley, a vassal of the Church, who held five knights' 
fee at Hilton of the Bishop of Exeter, and Durand, 
whom I cannot identify, but suspect was the father 
of our Abbot Durand. Needless to say, a crowd of 
moormen followed them, and, unless I am much 
mistaken, the Cistercian habit was to be seen 
among the riders, and if not my Lord Abbot himself, 
at least his cellarer was there, for in the cartulary the 
bounds of Buckfast moor and of Brent moor are 
appended to those of Dartmoor itself, and nothing 
was more easy than to take them at the same 
time. 

It was a glorious ride. As the knights came from 
homes rather widely scattered round the moor, I 
presume they had slept the night before at Okehamp- 
ton Castle, where Sir Hugh Courtenay would give 
his friends a hearty welcome. After hearing mass 
in the castle at an early hour, they rode to Costen- 
donne, now Cawsand Beacon, their starting-point, 
a hill 1800 feet high, and then followed the track to 
Hound Tor, so-called from the stones of the summit, 
" weathered into forms resembling the heads of dogs 
peering over the natural battlements." Thence their 
route lay south, and as the perambulation says, 
" through a boggy place to the King's Oven," a name 
which remains to this day — changes are few on 
Dartmoor — and then, getting out of the fenny 
portion, they rode along the Walla Brook till it 
joined the East Dart, which they followed to Dart- 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 113 

meet. To follow them throughout their circuit 
would be out of place ; suffice it to say that the 
" Abbot's Way " was a relief from the rough bridle 
tracks for a part of their journey, and that they 
reverently saluted Syward's Cross as they passed it. 
It is still in its place, the largest of the Dartmoor 
crosses. 

The monks carefully copied into the cartulary the 
perambulation, and it is most unlikely that Abbot 
Howell, only seven years later, should have ventured 
on encroachments ; and in fact, anxious as the Com- 
missioners were to find such delinquencies, the charge 
fell through. 

In 1 53 1, Sir Thomas Denys, Sir Philip Champer- 
nowne, and others were again charged to investigate 
whether the moors occupied by the monks were part 
of their own manors or not. The verdict was that : 
" The three moors called South Holne Moor, Buckfast 
Moor, and Brent Moor, be parcel of the Abbot's 
manors called South Holne, Buckfastleigh and-Brent ; " 
and the document in our cartulary closes with these 
words : " And the said Abbot (John Rede) and his 
said convent daily hath done, and shall continue 
their daily prayer to God for your prosperous 
continuance long to endure." 

Ten years later Abbot and monks had been cast 
adrift and the moors in question were in the hands 
of Sir Thomas Denys ; and it is significant that we 
find the men of Buckfastleigh complaining that Sir 
Thomas refuses to allow them the pasturage on the 
foresaid moors " whicJi they used and had in the time 
of the late Abbot of the late mojiastery of Buckfast!^ 
In short, so far from encroaching, the Abbots, though 

H 



114 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

they asserted the rights of their monastery, allowed 
the people to pasture their cattle on the Abbey 
land without payment. The council ordered that 
the people should be allowed to do " as in the Abbot 
of Buckfast's time," 

But the Commissioners had not yet done with 
Abbot Robert. David of Skeriton, no doubt a 
descendant of that David who figures in our earliest 
charter, held his land by the services of finding three 
arrows for the king's use, when he chose to hunt on 
Dartmoor. From David it passed to Roger de 
Mirabel, who had forfeited it for felony ; and it had 
been re-granted to Walter, the king's physician, and 
had subsequently been alienated to Buckfast. It 
was contended by the Commissioners that the aliena- 
tion without the royal consent was not legal, but 
nothing more seems to have been heard of the 
matter. 



CHAPTER XV 

The new order of things in England. Cistercian decline. 
Parliament at Exeter in 1285. The Exeter Synod of 1287. 
Death of Abbot Robert. Extracts from the Buckfast 
cartulary. Edward I. visits the Abbey. Abbot Peter II. 
Distress of the monastic houses in the reign of Edward I. 
Abbot Robert II. 

On the Octave of St Martin, 128 1, the case of the 
Crown against Abbot Robert of Buckfast was tried 
at Exeter, Walter de Fursden being his attorney. 
The Abbot appears to have made good his defence, 
as we have seen. Not only were no further proceed- 
ings taken, but he continued in the exercise of his 
ancient rights, in so far as they were not curtailed 
by subsequent Acts of Parliament. 

Buckfast Abbey could not but be affected by the 
changes which began at this date, and which by the 
close of Edward I.'s reign had so transformed 
the kingdom that " with the reign of Edward we 
are face to face with modern England, the England 
in which we live." ^ The number of the greater 
barons was lessening day by day ; that of the 
smaller landholders was rapidly increasing. Aliena- 
tions of land to monasteries were checked by the 
Statute of Mortmain. " This restriction," writes the 
^ Green, Short History of the English People. 

115 



116 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

historian just quoted, " was probably no beneficial 
one to the country at large, for churchmen were the 
best landlords." 

Moreover, as Cistercians gradually declined from 
their primitive austerity, their influence waned, and 
their numbers diminished. Mr J. Brooking Rowe 
rightly affirms that no scandal tarnished the fair 
fame of our monastery in its long career ; " no greed 
of wealth, no undue accumulation of riches ; " in 
what remains to be told of their story we find them 
still as of old, peaceful, studious, beneficent. But 
we know that the heroism of their early days of 
fervent austerity and penance had given place to 
a life, edifying indeed and useful, but not formed 
on the model of St Robert or St Bernard, in the 
strictness of silence, abstinence, and manual labour. 
The invariable consequences followed in the few- 
ness of vocations and the decline of the reverence 
in which the Order had been held. The exuberant 
invigorating joyousness of their pristine austerity 
would have better supported them against outward 
attacks and oppression. 

Edward I. and his Queen spent the Christ- 
mas of 1285 at Exeter. There they remained for 
fifteen days, and the king held a Parliament. From 
this it seems impossible that our Abbot should have 
been absent. The right of attendance of all the 
tenants-in-chief in Parliament was still unaltered, 
though the lesser barons did their best to shirk the 
duty on account of the expense. But at this tim.e 
an effort was being made to secure their attendance, 
and so large a landholder as the Abbot of Buckfast 
could not be passed over. The king had been 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 117 

invited to Exeter by Bishop Quivil, but it is not 
clear whether the royal pair were lodged in the 
Bishop's palace or in the Dominican convent. The 
Abbot would, of course, during the Parliament, stay 
at his own town-house near the Cathedral. 

A more welcome occasion occurred two years 
later, when Bishop Quivil held the celebrated Synod 
of Exeter. The acts of the Exeter Synod of 1257 
are of great interest. Among other statutes it 
decreed that infants should be confirmed shortly 
after baptism ; that no parishioner, save a patron 
or a noble, should have a fixed seat in the church ; 
that no priest should say mass more than once in 
the same day, except on Christmas Day, Easter 
Sunday, or when a parish priest had an interment 
in his own church. 

Specially dear to the Buckfast monks was another 
decree of the Synod of 1287. It was enacted that 
in every parish church of the vast diocese, besides 
the statue of the Patron Saint, there should also be 
a statue of our Blessed Lady. The statue of our 
Lady of Buckfast, however, now restored and vener- 
ated in our Abbey Church, seems to belong to the 
following century. It was also decreed that in 
addition to the four festivals of our Blessed Lady 
already observed in England, that of her Conception, 
the 8th of December, should be kept in the Exeter 
diocese as a holy day of obligation. Bishop Quivil 
built in Exeter Cathedral the Lady Chapel, in which 
he was buried. His decree making the Immaculate 
Conception a feast of obligation for his diocese 
was in 1328 extended to the whole Province of 
Canterbury. * 



118 HISTORY OF BUCKFyXST ABBEY 

I have not found the year of Abbot Robert's 
death, but his successor was in office in 1290. As 
the history of Buckfast is so largely identified with 
that of our county, and Abbot Robert's term of 
office marks the division between the old order 
of things and the new, I cannot help giving one 
lingering backward glance at some details of our 
domestic history between 1240, the year of the 
famous perambulation of Dartmoor and the date of 
the good Abbot's death. They all throw light on 
life in Old Devon, though they have not the dignity 
that surrounds events of national interest. 

Mr Baring-Gould, in his Book of the IVest, 
describes Hound Tor Farmhouse as "nestling pictur- 
esquely enfolded in a sycamore grove." It was the 
first station made by Sir Walter de Bathe and his 
sixteen companions after leaving Cawsand Beacon. 
Should any of our monks ever visit it, they may 
recall to mind that it was once the manor-house of 
our friends, the knightly family to which belonged 
Sir Richard de Hound Tor, who signs one of our 
charters in company with Sir William Hamlyn and 
Sir William Brewer. The date of the charter is 
1 201, when Ralph de la More was Sheriff of Devon, 
and by Abbot Robert's time Hound Tor had passed 
to the Langdons. 

In Abbot Robert's own time, on St Andrew's Day 
1280, we find a case in which the Abbot has to 
exercise the power of wardship, granting leave to 
Michael Cole to marry Mariota, the daughter and 
heiress of Stephen Mugge, to any one of his sons 
whom he may choose, the said Michael being her 
guardian. Poor Mariota's own inclinations were 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 119 

not likely to be consulted in those days. If she 
wished to exercise her own choice, she could only do 
so on payment of a fine. 

I do not know if the cellarer of the Abbey was 
sometimes slow in paying his debts. But in one 
deed I find inserted a special condition, that if the 
messenger sent for the money does not find it in 
readiness, he is to be allowed to live and board at 
the Abbey till he gets it ; in another, that he is to 
get six pence — ten shillings it would be nowadays — 
for every day that payment is overdue. This last 
instance, also in Abbot Henry's time, was in the 
case of a lady entitled to a life annuity for some 
grants made to the monastery, and her quarterly 
payments were made " at the Abbey gate," that is to 
say, at the gate-house of which so much still remains 
and is transformed into two cottages. The lady's 
name was Eleanor de Ashleigh, in the parish of 
Lifton. 

While entering on the new order of things, it is 
well to bear in mind that developments were slow in 
Devon, and that nowhere in England was the growth 
of change more gradual or more tranquil. Even in 
the formidable insurrections of the latter part of the 
fourteenth century, when the labourers rose all 
over the country, Devon remained quiet.^ This 
was in part owing to the traditionally kind rela- 
tions between landowners and labourers. But it 
was also due to the influence of the great Bishops 
of Exeter, in whose diocese Lollards and Wyclififites, 
with their preachings of revolution and sedition, were 
unable to gain the footing they found elsewhere. 
1 Bishop Brownlovv, Slavery and Serfdom^ p. 164, note. 



120 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Peter II. was our Abbot in 1290, if not for some 
years before, and governed his monastery for at 
least twenty-six years; Robert II. succeeding him 
in I 3 16. 

The sixty years which preceded the Great 
Plague (1288- 1 348) were marked by many troubles 
and not a few scandals in the Exeter diocese, both 
among the laity and the clergy, secular and regular, 
though they were also distinguished by many saintly 
lives and by the virtues of our great and heroic 
bishops. The ecclesiastical history of the diocese 
is told with marvellous detail in the splendid 
Episcopal registers, and for the last forty years of 
that period its record is complete and minute. 

Four Abbots ruled over St Mary's during these 
sixty years. As " not a single entry relating to 
acquisition of land or disputes leading to legal pro- 
ceedings " can be discovered, there must have been 
profound peace in our valley, and the traces the 
Abbey has left in the Episcopal registers confirm 
this conclusion. The monks, however, had severe 
trials to encounter during the reign of Edward I., 
on account of that monarch's exactions — trials shared 
by every owner of land in England. How Abbot 
Peter managed to keep his community in existence 
is hard to imagine, and the small number of the 
monks was a necessary consequence of the king's 
rapacity. In 1294 Commissioners were sent to search 
the treasures of monasteries and churches, and under 
the derisive title of loans, they swept off both the 
money of the clergy and the sums deposited with 
them for safety. In another year half their income 
was exacted. The laity did not fare much better : 




!5. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 121 

first a heavy tax was imposed on every sack of wool, 
and then the wool was seized, to support the 
expense of the king's wars. Eventually all the 
clergy, secular and regular, of the Southern Province 
were Soutlawed. But the spirit of the nation was 
roused ; under the guidance of Archbishop Win- 
chelsey, St Thomas of Hereford, and the Earls of 
Norfolk and Hereford, the crown was compelled to 
relinquish the right of levying taxes without the 
consent of the nation : the greatest victory over 
tyranny Englishmen had ever won. 

During the struggle the monastic communities 
were reduced to beggary, but it is likely that at 
Buckfast, from its remote position, they suffered less 
than elsewhere. On the 8th of April 1297, Edward 
I. visited Buckfast Abbey on his way from Exeter 
to Plympton. 

In 1307, the last year of King Edward's life, sixty- 
one Abbots attended the Parliament he had sum- 
moned to meet him at Carlisle, but neither Abbot 
Peter nor any Abbot from our county was present. 
The death of King Edward on the 7th of July in 
that year was followed by that of Bishop Bytton of 
Exeter on the 17th of September. The loss of this 
Bishop's register and the troubles of the time have 
left us no records of Abbot Peter's career beyond 
some agreements about the Abbey estates in Brent 
(1296) during the reign of Edward I. But we shall 
meet with him during the first nine years of Bishop 
Stapeldon's Episcopate. 



CHAPTER XVI 

Enthronement of Bishop de Stapeldon. Sir Hugh Courtenay 
as seneschal. Ordinations, Names of the monks. The 
language spoken by the community at the opening of the 
fourteenth century. Ashburton ; its woollen trade and 
the monks of Buckfast. The chapel of St Lawrence. 
The service-books written by the monks. The Bishop's 
last visit. A manumission. Bishop Stapeldon murdered, 
15th Oct. 1316. 

When Abbot Peter, on the 23rd of December 1308, 
returned home from Exeter, where, as in duty 
bound, he had assisted at the enthronement of the 
new Bishop, Walter de Stapeldon, he must have had 
much to tell them on the magnificence of the 
festival. 

Perhaps he may have omitted to relate, as savour- 
ing too much of the world, how Sir Hugh de 
Courtenay, Baron of Okehampton and claimant 
to the earldom of Devon, had claimed and exercised 
his right of meeting the Bishop at the door of the 
church, as he dismounted, and walking on his right 
hand as far as the choir "to keep off the crush of 
people," and afterwards serving him at the first 
course at dinner in the Episcopal hall ; in short, 

exercising the office of seneschal. Sir Hugh claimed 
122 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 123 

in recompense for his services the right to carry 
away with him four silver dishes, one silver cup, two 
silver basins, besides the ewer and salt-cellars of the 
same precious metal. The said Sir Hugh did not 
forget in the deed solemnly drawn up on this 
occasion to claim hay and oats for the horses of his 
whole company. 

It was hard on the Bishop, who was penniless, 
and had been obliged on that account to defer his 
enthronement till he had collected or borrowed 
money for the occasion. Though most frugal and 
hardworking, Bishop Walter loved magnificence, 
and it was a bitter humiliation for him to beg the 
Bishop-elect of Worcester, who was consecrated 
with him at Canterbury, to bear even his expenses 
for food and drink. 

The Bishop had only arrived at Exeter the night 
before (21st December) from Crediton. In the 
morning he had held in Crediton Church his first 
ordination ; and it is astounding to read that no 
less than one thousand and five candidates were 
present ! Were not all the names given, it would not 
be believed ; but every name is there, and the names 
of those by whom they were presented. There 
were one hundred and fifty-five sub-deacons, seventy- 
seven deacons, and forty-two priests ; the rest 
received minor orders or the first tonsure. 

Bishop Stapeldon's ordinations are given in full 
in his register, and if we had the surnames of our 
monks, it would assist our history. But the Cis- 
tercian usage of giving only their place of origin is 
still adhered to, with a few exceptions. 

I give, as I find them, the names of those ordained 



124 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

by Bishop Stapeldon ; Brothers Walter of Totnes, 
Walter of Plympton, Adam of Lidford, Hugh of 
Brent, Adam of Bridestowe, John of Ashburton, 
Alan of Exeter, William Gifford, Walter Gifford, 
Michael de la Stone, Philip Cole ; only eleven in 
eighteen years. The community must have 
dwindled in the hard times of Edward I.'s 
reign. Of course, I have no means of ascertaining 
how many were professed when already in orders, 
a numerous class at all times with Cistercians. 

In addition to his monks the Abbot presented to 
Bishop Stapeldon some twenty secular clerics, 
whom he provided with a title, becoming respon- 
sible for their maintenance till they found a benefice, 
or placing them in his dependent churches. I am 
sorry to say that one of these, Peter of Pyne, was 
put back with this note opposite his name : " Not to 
be admitted till he has learned to sing." As the 
same misfortune befell several of his companions, I 
suspect one of the examiners was an enthusiast in 
Plain Chant. Poor Peter learned his chant, and was 
duly admitted on the next occasion. The Buckfast 
monks were usually ordained at Exeter Cathedral 
or in the Priory Church of Totnes. Our own church, 
though a large one, was unsuitable, as Cistercian 
churches were divided into three separate parts — 
for the people, the lay-brothers, and the monks 
respectively. 

Not till the August following was the Bishop 
able to visit our Abbey, after closing a visitation of 
his diocese. On what day he arrived I cannot say, 
but he passed the 12th and 13th with our community 
and left on the 14th for Chudleigh, where he kept 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 125 

the Feast of the Assumption. As a matter of 
course, he gave a discourse to the monks in our 
chapter-house. And I can surmise with tolerable 
certainty, that the Abbot heard all about the work 
he was doing in the glorious choir of his Cathedral ; 
the High Altar of silver, the wonderful stalls, the 
forty stained glass windows,^ and the rest. The 
Bishop had appealed to Buckfast for help towards 
the expenses, and I hope Abbot Peter was able to 
assist him. At all events, our community granted a 
participation in all their spiritual works to all who 
should contribute. 

It would be of wonderful interest if we could but 
listen to the converse held by the great statesman- 
bishop with the Abbot. They did not converse in 
English, but in Norman-French. English was, 
indeed, making its way, and the monks had to use 
it with the lay-brothers and the peasantry on their 
estates. Bishop Stapeldon disliked its use among 
ecclesiastics. In his statutes for the scholars of 
Stapeldon Hall (now Exeter College), his noble 
foundation at Oxford, he writes ; " Whenever the 
scholars are met together, at dinner, supper, or 
otherwise, let them, as a rule, speak only French or 
Latin, so as to exercise themselves better in those 
languages, which will afterwards be to their greater 
advantage and reputation." A few years later, when 
it was laid to the charge of some ecclesiastics that 
they had been guilty of irreverence by making some 
remarks in choir, it was added as an aggravation 
that they had been uttered in English. That our 

1 See the Rev. Hingeston-Randolph's Preface to Bishop de 
Stapeldon's Register, an admirable biography. 



126 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

monks now and then talked English among them- 
selves is very likely, but in chapter or conference, 
Abbot Peter would certainly address them in French 
or Latin. That such was the usage in religious 
houses, we see from Bishop Stapeldon's letter to 
the Benedictine nuns of Polslo, written in Norman- 
French, with the admonition that if it should be 
absolutely necessary to say a word in places where 
silence is prescribed, the nuns are to whisper it in 
Latin : " I do not mean Latin according to the rules 
of grammar," writes the good Bishop, "but just a 
word, such as caiidela, liber, missale, panis, cercvisia 
(candle , book, missal, bread, beer), and so forth." 
Whispering in English he would not have tolerated ; 
I am afraid the nun guilty of it would have been 
proclaimed at chapter next morning. His Lordship 
repeats the same for the Canonesses Regular of 
Canonsleigh, a house founded sixteen years before 
by the Countess of Gloucester for fifty Canoncases. 
Then, as now, there was one community of Bene- 
dictines, and one of Canonesses, in our diocese. 

Bishop Stapeldon was not to enjoy in peace his 
walks with the Abbot by the Dart in the Long Meadow 
during his stay. The Burgesses of Ashburton, only 
two miles away, waited on him to ask him to get 
them from the king an annual fair to St Lawrence's 
Feast, which he promised at once. Then a mes- 
senger came with a letter from Sir Nicholas Lovetot, 
Rector of Stokenham, who wanted iJ"i8, supposed 
to be in his Lordship's hands, on behalf of Robert 
and Cecilia dc Buthan, whose father had lately died, 
to whom the Bishop's secretary was directed to 
answer : " No effects." And so, on Assumption Eve, 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 127 

by the road which to the writer and his brethren is 
so familiar, he journeyed to Chudleigh, passing 
through Bishop Stapeldon's favourite borough of 
Ashburton, past Bickington, and through Chudleigh 
Knighton, till he reached the Episcopal manor-house, 
whereof the remains are still to be seen near 
Chudleigh Rock on Lord Clifford's estate, for 
Ugbrooke in those days belonged to the Bishop of 
Exeter, 

The good people of Ashburton were then as 
familiar with the sight of the Cistercian habit as they 
are nowadays with the Benedictine. Being about 
half-an-hour's walk from the Abbey, it had been from 
old Sir Roger de Nunant's time the usual market for 
the Buckfast folk, and the cellarer and his men were 
as often to be seen there as at the present time. 
The weekly market was on Saturday. 

In Abbot Peter's time Ashburton flourished ex- 
ceedingly, and was really a large town, sending two 
members to the Parliament of 1297. During our 
Abbot's time, it was made one of the Stannary 
towns, and in the records of the coinage of tin at 
Ashburton in 1303 and 1305, may be read the old 
familiar names of our cartulary, Michael Cole, 
Stephen Mugge, and the rest, from among the Abbey 
tenants. 

Nearly 22 tons of tin were coined at Ashburton 
in 1303.1 

In the prosperity of the then thriving and active 
borough the neighbouring Abbey had a large share, 
whereof the fruits are enjoyed at the present day, 

1 R. N. Worth, "The Ancient Stannary of Ashburton," 
Trans, oj the Devon, Assoc. 1876. 



128 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

when the Ashburton woollen trade is all that remains 
of its industries. " The Cistercians," writes Mr J. 
Brooking Rowe, " were the great wool traders of the 
times in which they lived, and the owners of the 
large mills (at Buckfast) are but carrying out in the 
same locality the work of former years." But it 
seems certain that in the days of Abbot Peter the 
Ashburton woollen trade of our monks received its 
greatest development. " An exchange place for 
metal," says Mr Amery, " would soon become a mart 
also for raw produce, such as wool and skins. The 
farmer monks of Buckfast doubtless set an example 
of industry, and perhaps introduced the process of 
manufacturing cloth among the many useful occupa- 
tions in which they employed their time." ^ He also 
notes that for the arms of the borough was adopted 
the seal of the Guild of St Lawrence at Ashburton, 
including the teasel, the badge of the fullers. The 
mention of this celebrated guild brings me back to 
Abbot Peter and Bishop Stapeldon. 

In 1 3 14 — I am abridging from Mr Amery — the 
Bishop made over to St Lawrence's guild the chapel 
of St Lawrence, of which only the beautiful tower 
and one wall still remain, as their chantry. The 
priest, with a salary of £8. 13s. 46. (perhaps over 
;;^ioo of our money), was to "say mass in perpetuity 
for the Bishop, his predecessors and successors," and 
to keep a grammar school. The grammar school 
exists ; though the chapel has been swept away, and 
mass has not been said at Ashburton for centuries. 

The day after the Feast of the Assumption, 13 14, 

' Amery, " Ashburton and the Woollen Trade," Trans, of the 
Devon. Assoc. 1876, 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 129 

was a proud day for Ashburton. The burgesses 
met in their new guildhall under their provost or 
portreeve, to read and put their seal to a deed by 
which they accepted the Bishop's noble gift, and 
bound themselves and their successors to provide 
the new chapel with missal, vestments, and all the 
needful for mass and the chaplain's maintenance. 
At the end, the names of the witnesses may be read, 
as follows (translated) : " Robert, by the grace of 
God, Abbot of Tavistock ; Matthias, Prior of 
Plympton; Peter, Abbot of Buckfast; Jocelyn, Prior 
of Totnes ; Roger de Charleton, Archdeacon of 
Totnes ; and others." ^ The Chapel of St Laurence 
was built in the form of a gridiron, as churches in 
honour of the martyr often were, Ashburton has 
always honoured the memory of Bishop Stapeldon 
as its chief benefactor. 

A year later, he was again the guest of Abbot 
Peter at St Mary's Abbey. There we find him on 
6th September 131 5, and he probably remained 
some days with us. Here he perhaps received the 
king's letter on ist September, asking for money 
to equip his army against Robert Bruce, King of 
Scotland. In the year before, the king had been 
defeated at Bannockburn, and the cares of state 
weighed heavily on the loyal Bishop of Exeter. 

Abbot Peter!died, probably in July 1 3 16 ; for on Sun- 
day, the 1st of August in that year, Abbot Robert II. 
received his blessing from Bishop Stapeldon at 
Crediton, and I find him soon after presenting to 
the parishes of Down St Mary and Petrockstowe. 

One of the occupations of our monks at this period 
^ Oliver, Lives of the Bishops of Exeter. 

I 



130 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

was the writing and illuminating of missals and other 
books for the service of the neighbouring parishes, 
such as Ashburton and Staverton. It is instructive 
to read the Bishop's notes at the visitation of these 
churches. At Staverton he finds an Antiphonarium, 
Hymnarium, Collectarium, and Venitarium (chant 
for the Venite Exultemus) in one volume, " very 
good." A good Psalter in large letters. One 
Ordinal is described as " sufficient," another in a 
bad state. A Legenda (book of lessons for Matins) 
first-rate (optima), another worn out. One good 
Missal, new, with good notes for the chant, and so 
on ; very creditable on the whole. But the pyx for 
the Blessed Sacrament (suspended, in form of a 
dove) had no lock. The processional cross was 
handsome, the frontal of the High Altar poor, 
the cruets tolerable. The priest exemplary ; the 
parishioners say he instructs them well in spiritual 
things ; no fault to be found in him, they say. As 
a rule, the parish priest, " the poor parson of a town," 
as Chaucer calls him, was beloved and esteemed. 
When otherwise, it was an exception. 

At Ashburton, matters were not so satisfactory : 
the pyx quite unworthy, and made of wood ; no 
nuptial veil, nor any frontal, except for the High 
Altar ; books in a state of decay ; windows made of 
wood ; no cope. Unless all this is set right before 
Michaelmas, a fine of i^20 to be paid for the benefit 
of the Cathedral. 

Ten years had gone by since Abbot Robert's 
installation. A little after the middle of October 
1326, messengers reached Buckfast Abbey with the 
appalling news of the murder of their Bishop by a 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 131 

London mob. The contemporary accounts are given 
by Prebendary Hingeston-Randolph and Dr Oliver. 
With a brief summary of the same I shall close this 
chapter. 

Edward II., as soon as he heard of the landing of 
his faithless queen, " the she-wolf of France," fled 
from London, on the 2nd of October, after entrusting 
the city to the custody of his faithful Bishop of 
Exeter. On the 15th, the Bishop, who was well 
aware of his danger, and wore an " acton " under his 
clothes as defensive armour, met the rabble as he 
was riding home from the country, between two and 
three in the afternoon. They had just come from 
the burning and plunder of his house. The fearless 
Bishop was assailed on all sides with shouts of 
" Traitor ! " and turned his horse towards the north 
door of St Paul's. Before he could enter, he was 
seized, dragged from his horse, and hurried, wounded 
and bleeding, to Cheapside. There they proclaimed 
him a traitor, and struck off his head, two of his 
household meeting the same fate. The body was 
carried to St Paul's by the canons, after being 
stripped by the rebels, who set his head upon a 
stake. From St Paul's it was taken by the queen's 
partizans, and cast into a pit without any Christian 
rites. It was afterwards buried in St Clement 
Danes, and finally brought back to Exeter, where it 
rests under a canopied monument in the choir of 
the Cathedral. As a bishop, Stapeldon's life was 
irreproachable ; as a statesman, his integrity and 
justice were without blemish. It was his misfortune 
to serve a weak and indolent king, and he died a 
victim to his unswerving loyalty. 



CHAPTER XVII 

Bishops of Exeter. James de Berkeley. John de Grandisson. 
Installation of Abbot Stephen, 1327. He reconciles Thurle- 
stone Church. Bishop Grandisson at Buckfast Abbey. 
Abbot Stephen at the Council of London, 1329. The 
statue of our Lady of Buckfast. Abbot John of Church- 
stow, 1332. Abbot Gifford, 1333. The Devonshire 
Giffords. Abbot Stephen of Cornwall, 1348. 

Bishop Stapeldon's successor in the See of Exeter, 
James de Berkeley, only survived his consecration 
for fourteen weeks. He died on the Feast of St 
John the Baptist, 1327. Not till the Octave of the 
Assumption, on the 22nd of August, in the following 
year, did his successor, John de Grandisson, "the 
most illustrious and most devoted of our Bishops," 
as Prebendary Hingeston-Randolph calls him, take 
possession of his Cathedral. His enthronement 
was celebrated without any pomp or display beyond 
the ecclesiastical rite. 

The Bishop had entered his diocese on the 9th 
of June, and on Friday, the 24th of that month, in 
the chapel of his manor of Clyst, he confirmed the 
elections of Stephen, Abbot of 13uckfast, and John 
of Chudlcigh, Abbot of Ford, received their profes- 

132 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 133 

sion of obedience, and gave them the abbatial 
benediction. 

A week later, on the 2nd of July, the Bishop 
issued his mandate, being then at his favourite manor 
of Chudleigh, to Abbot Stephen of Buckfast, to 
reconcile the parish church of Thurlestone, a village 
four miles from Kingsbridge, where the Avon from 
Dartmoor flows into the sea. In one of the 
sanguinary quarrels that abounded at this time, 
the parish church had been profaned by bloodshed, 
and in consequence had been placed under interdict. 
The Abbot reconciled the church according to the 
form assigned by the Bishop, sprinkling it "with 
water blessed by us," as Grandisson writes, on 
the 25th of the month, but it was not till the 20th 
of October that the Bishop removed the interdict, 
after the payment of the usual fine by the rector 
and parishioners. On the same day, he issued a 
commission for promoting to Holy Orders Robert 
Arch, a poor clerk of Crediton, for whose main- 
tenance Abbot Stephen and his chapter assumed 
the responsibility. 

The new Bishop found the finances of the 
diocese in the greatest confusion, owing to the 
state of chaos that followed Stapeldon's murder. 
He earnestly appealed to our Abbot, among others, 
for pecuniary assistance, and renewed his appeal 
by letters issued on the 15th of September. That 
Abbot Stephen responded, I believe, from the fact 
that on the 2nd of October, Bishop Grandisson 
was at our Abbey, the first religious house in the 
diocese to receive that honour. Five of his letters 
are dated from Buckfast on that day, and they are 



134 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

no bad indication of the Bishop's activity. The 
Vicar of Denbury, a parish not far from Buckfast, 
is granted leave of absence ; the Abbot of Tavistock 
is informed that the Bishop intends to be with him 
on the 7th ; the clergy of the diocese were com- 
manded to afford free access to their churches to 
the collectors of money for repairing the bridge at 
Totnes, and to recommend them to the charity of 
the faithful at Solemn Mass on Sundays and holy- 
days ; and so on. 

From the Episcopal Registers of this period we 
are made painfully conscious of a relaxation of 
ecclesiastical discipline and a tendency to revolt 
against authority which it needed all the patient 
energy of Bishop Grandisson to control. The 
frequent enforced absences of Bishop de Stapeldon 
from his diocese were a misfortune ; and, perhaps, 
the extraordinary number of ordinations during his 
episcopate included some who had no true voca- 
tion to the priesthood. The emancipation of the 
bondmen was now far advanced. Those that 
remained became naturally restless, and their lords 
used oppressive measures. Compared with other 
parts of the kingdom, the men of Devon remained 
tranquil on the whole, as may be judged from the 
total absence of disputes or lawsuits in the case of 
our monastery under four successive abbots ; but 
even Devon did not escape altogether the contagion 
of lawlessness. 

Abbot Stephen was among those summoned to 
attend personally, and not by proxy, at the Pro- 
vincial Council convoked by Archbishop Simon 
Mepham for the 27th of January 1329,10 be held 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 135 

in London, in St Paul's Cathedral. Among regulars, 
only the abbots were personally summoned, Buck- 
fast taking the first rank among the five Cistercian 
houses. Before starting for London, those summoned 
held a meeting at Exeter, in which it was resolved 
to lay these three grievances before the Synod : 
that the lords of manors denied their bondmen the 
right of making wills ; that lay-judges took upon 
themselves to judge and decide causes of a purely 
ecclesiastical nature ; and that the jurisdiction of 
the Bishop of Exeter had been in some cases unduly 
hampered in his efforts for reform by appeals to 
the Archbishop. 

The Bishop did not go to the Synod. He wrote 
to it that his house in London had been wrecked, 
that the murderers of his predecessor had been left 
unpunished, and that his own life would be in 
danger. He therefore appointed his proctor, who, 
with the abbots, archdeacons, and proctors of 
chapters and communities, should attend the Synod 
from the Exeter diocese. 

In this Provincial Council the Feast of our Lady's 
Conception was made a holyday of obligation for 
the whole Province of Canterbury. The now 
restored statue of our Lady of Buckfast, which 
Abbot Boniface Nather solemnly blessed and 
placed over the Lady Altar of our present 
temporary church, belongs to this period. 

The last act I find of Abbot Stephen's brief 
career is the presentation of Sir Thomas de 
Harewold as rector of Down St Mary, on the 
nth of April 1332. He was dead before the Feast 
of All Saints, on which day John of Churchstow 



136 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

was blessed as Abbot of Buckfast in the Bishop's 
chapel at Chudleigh. 

At the very date of his receiving the blessing he 
was obliged to inform the Bishop that, as it seems, 
during the brief interval since the death of Abbot 
Stephen, a serious robbery from his abbey had 
been committed. Large sums of money and other 
objects of value had disappeared, and no clue to 
detect the thieves could be found. It was clear that 
the guilty parties belonged to the neighbourhood. 
Bishop Grandisson three days later issued orders 
that in all the churches of the archdeaconry of 
Totnes sentence of excommunication against them 
should be published on Sundays and festivals 
" with ringing of bells, extinguishing of candles, 
and uplifted cross " ; all suspected persons to be 
arrested and tried in the Episcopal Court. Whether 
the money was ever recovered is not recorded. 
No doubt, at Abbot Stephen's decease there was an 
unusual concourse of outsiders to the monastery, and 
lawlessness was ripe at that time. Abbot John ruled 
his monastery about eight months, dying towards 
the end of May in the following year. 

On the 6th of June, Bishop Grandisson, in the 
chapel of his manor-house at Clyst, gave the abbatial 
blessing to our newly elected Abbot, William Gifford, 
He must have been comparatively young in the 
order of profession, having been ordained priest by 
Bishop Stapeldon in the Cathedral, on the 22nd of 
September 1319.^ 

^ Unhappily the list of Bishop Grandisson's ordinations has 
been lost, but to the names of Buckfast monks who were priests 
in Bishop Stapeldon's time, as stated above, we must add 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 137 

Abbot Gifford is the first on our list whose family 
name is given, a departure from the earlier Cistercian 
usage. But for us it is pleasing to read a name 
so illustrious in the annals of Catholic England. 
William Gifford was Bishop of Winchester in the 
days of the Conqueror; under Henry III. Walter 
Gifford was Archbishop of York, and Godfrey Gifford 
Bishop of Worcester. In the days of persecution, 
William Gifford, O.S.B., first President-General of 
the Anglo-Benedictines, was Archbishop of Rheims, 
and Bonaventure Gifford Vicar-Apostolic in England 
from 1688 to 1734, when he died at the age of 93. 
A great multitude of the scions of this noble house 
joined the ranks of the clergy and helped to fill our 
cloisters, as may be seen in books like the Chronicle 
of St Monica's, or Foley's Records, S.J. Among 
Bishop Grandisson's clergy I find at least five 
Giffords. 

Aveton-Gifford, Wear-Gifford, Clovelly, Whit- 
church, and Auliscombe were the principal seats of 
our Devonshire Giffords, who were subdivided into 
several branches. I am inclined to place our Abbot 
William among the descendants of Sir Roger Gifford, 
one of the Dartmoor perambulators mentioned in our 
Cartulary A.D. 1240. Sir Roger was a cadet of the 
Giffords of Wear and Aveton. Their lands bordered 
on our manor of Kingsbridge, and Sir Roger, like so 
many of his companions of the Perambulation, 
probably held also lands in our immediate neigh- 
bourhood. 

For fifteen years almost to a day, Abbot Gifford 

Peter, Robert, John of Churchstow, and the two Stephens who 
were afterwards abbots. 



138 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

governed the community of Buckfast. He was 
among those summoned by name to the Provincial 
Council held in London in 1348. There he had the 
satisfaction of seeing justice done to his relative, 
Richard Gifford, priest of the Exeter diocese. 
Richard, with some other priests, had been cruelly 
ill-used by John de Sodbury and certain other royal 
commissioners. In such cases the fire and energy 
of Bishop Grandisson never failed him. He instantly 
excommunicated and ordered the arrest of the whole 
gang of petty tyrants. They submitted in sheer 
terror ; without waiting for arrest, they sought his 
presence in abject fear as he was walking in his park 
at Clyst, or wherever they could find him. To a 
royal order to stop his proceedings, he replied by 
forcing John of Sodbury, whom he styles a notorious 
apostate and pestilent blasphemer, to crave pardon 
of the Synod. 

The loss of our Chronicle conceals from us our 
domestic history. But as not a discord or trouble in 
a religious community escapes notice in these formid- 
able Exeter Registers, we may fairly infer its history 
was peaceful. Abbot Gifford died in less than two 
months before the tremendous scourge known as 
the Black Death, or Great Plague, made its appear- 
ance in England. It unhinged the ecclesiastical 
order to an incredible extent, and we must devote 
our next chapter to some account of its ravages in 
Devon and their effect on our community. 

On Whitsunday, the 8th of June 1348, Stephen of 
Cornwall was blessed as Abbot of Buckfast, in succes- 
sion to Abbot Gifford, in the episcopal chapel at 
Chudleigh. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 139 

But before closing this chapter we may not omit 
to record the most splendid celebration ever seen 
within Exeter Cathedral from the days of the 
Confessor, which is also the last time we meet with 
our Abbot Gifford. On the 8th of July 1347, being 
Sunday, the day following the Translation of St 
Thomas of Canterbury, Richard Fitz-Ralph, Dean 
of Lichfield, was consecrated Archbishop of Armagh 
and Primate of Ireland by Bishop Grandisson in the 
Cathedral of Exeter. The Acts of his consecration 
record the presence of three Assistant Bishops — 
Salisbury, Bath and Wells, and St Asaph — as also 
of the Abbots of Buckfast, Torre, Hartland, and 
Newenham, and of the Prior of Plympton. 

The consecration over, the new Archbishop " rode 
through Exeter on a palfrey covered with a white 
cloth, after the use of the Roman Curia." 

Few prelates of his day are better known in 
history than Archbishop Fitz-Ralph. Renowned for 
his learning and his preaching, he is even more 
widely known for his opposition to the privileges of 
the Mendicant Orders. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

The Black Death ; its ravages in Devonshire. Abbot Stephen 
of Cornwall, 1349. Abbot Philip Beaumont, 1349. Abbot 
Robert Simons. Bishop Ware's grave at Buckfast ; 
his ring. The Beaumonts of Sherwell. Sherwell and 
Youlston. Chichesters of Raleigh. Chichesters of 
Calverleigh. 

The Black Death made its first appearance in 
England at Weymouth, in Dorset, on the 7th of July 
1348. In Devonshire it had begun its ravages before 
the end of that month, and by abridging from 
Prebendary Hingeston-Randolph's admirable Preface 
to Grandisso7is Register, I shall best be able to give 
an idea of the havoc it wrought in our county. As 
Cornwall suffered comparatively little, the greatest 
part of the fearful loss we are recording fell upon 
Devonshire. 

The pestilence reached its height in Devon about 
April 1349. Abbot Stephen of Cornwall, at Buckfast, 
and Abbot John of Torre, died about the same time ; 
their successors were blessed together at Clyst on 
2 1 St May 1359. At Newenham Abbey, three only 
were left alive out of twenty-six ; at Bodmin, only two 
survived. The Abbot of Tavistock, the Priors of St 
James's and St Nicholas's at Exeter, were carried off, 

140 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 141 

and the new Prior at the latter house only survived a 
few weeks. The Priors of Barnstaple, Pilton, Minster, 
Modbury, and St Michael's Mount, and the Abbot of 
Hartland, died within six months. At Ashburton 
there were four vicars in succession within three 
weeks. So fearful was the mortality among the 
secular clergy of our diocese, that in March 1349, the 
Bishop had to make sixty appointments to the places 
vacant by the deaths of the incumbents ; in April, 
53; in May, 48; in June, 46; in July, 37. These 
numbers represent, not the number of deaths, but 
only the number of priests the Bishop could find to 
supply the vacancies. He obtained a dispensation 
from Rome to ordain fifty illegitimates and a hundred 
others who had only reached their twenty-first year, 
as otherwise in many churches mass could not be said. 
There seems to have been no cowardly desertion of 
their posts by the diocesan clergy. The heroic 
Bishop Grandisson set the example, remaining at 
Chudleigh or Clyst in the thick of the pestilence 
during the whole time, and every day filling up by 
new institutions the ranks of the fallen. Through the 
months of November and December he ordered 
penitential processions at Exeter on Wednesdays 
and Fridays till Christmas. 

From the disastrous effects of the Great Pestilence 
on ecclesiastical discipline England never recovered. 
Among the papers of Richard Dove, monk of Buck- 
fast, is the regular form by which our novices were 
allowed to petition for an abridgment of their year of 
noviceship.^ We read as follows : " I, Brother Richard, 
accepted novice in this Monastery of Blessed Mary of 
^ Brooking Rowe, from Sloane MS., No. 513. 



142 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Buckfast, of the Order of Citeaux, desiring by divine 
inspiration to make my solemn profession according 
to the Rule of St Benedict in this monastery, in 
virtue of the canonical permission granted to novices 
of religious orders, of my own free will and from no 
compulsion or fear, voluntarily, simply, and absolutely 
do by this writing renounce what remains of my year 
of probation, and earnestly petition to be now 
received to my profession as aforesaid." A note is 
here appended to the effect that this has been 
sanctioned by the General Chapter of Citeaux in 
1373) because "in some parts of the world piety has 
grown cold, and monasteries suffer a lessening in 
divine worship from the fewness of monks." But, it 
is added, this concession is temporary and revocable 
at any moment ; the novice must have reached at 
least his fifteenth year ; he must have learned the 
whole Psalter by heart, as well as everything else 
appertaining to the monastic life ; finally, he must 
himself make the prescribed renunciation and petition. 
Still, such renunciations are to be regretted, and they 
show a lack of vigorous life. How often they occurred 
at Buckfast, I cannot tell. Richard Dove lived in the 
earlier part of the fifteenth century. 

To Abbot Gasquet's work, The Great Pestilence^ 
I must refer my readers for a full account of the 
consequences of the Black Death throughout the 
country. Some of them, which concern Buckfast, 
will enter into our narrative. 

Abbot Philip received his benediction together 
with Abbot John of Torre, on Ascension Thursday, 
2 1st May 1349. He at once interested himself in 
behalf of the men of Buckfastleigh, for whom within 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 143 

his first year of government he obtained from the 
king a weekly market on Tuesday — the Ashburton 
market was on Saturday — as Buckfastleigh had now 
grown almost into a town, from a mere settlement of 
herdsmen which it had originally been. Brent was 
the richest of the Abbey manors, and the most 
populous, and Abbot Philip obtained for it by the 
same charter the annual fair for three days at 
Michaelmas, still represented by the September fair 
(which brings down to Brent the herds of Dartmoor 
ponies). On Brent Down in Abbot Philip's time, the 
sellers set up their booths ; itinerant jugglers and 
musicians came to ply their vocation ; and we learn 
with regret from Bishop Grandisson, that the ale 
sometimes flowed too freely, with the usual results, on 
such occasions. We may well hope, however, that at 
the Abbot's fair, in a place where his officers held 
judicial control, good order was kept. The fixing of 
the time for Michaelmas was in order to combine 
religious observance with gaiety, for on the summit 
of Brent Hill, overlooking the town, was the Chapel of 
St Michael — as also on Brent Tor, near Tavistock — 
and of course the good people of Brent and the 
neighbouring village would visit the sanctuary and 
hear mass there. No doubt Abbot Philip went there 
in person to open the fair for the first time. A feast 
to the people, in the shape of an ox or some sheep 
roasted at the fair, at the Abbot's expense, must be 
taken for granted, together with the barrels of ale to 
accompany it. 

Here I am at an obscure point in our history. 
Nine years after Abbot Philip's election, I find Abbot 
Robert Simons in possession. But there is nothing 



114 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

to tell when he succeeded, and if he was the 
immediate successor of Philip. On the other hand, 
there is in Rymer's Foedera'^ a royal proclamation, 
dated 1372, addressed to the Bishop of Exeter, the 
Earl of Devon, and seven other tenants-in-chief of the 
crown, who had estates near the coast, ordering them 
to array their men in all haste for the defence of the 
coast. One of the seven is John Beaumont, Abbot of 
Buckfast. Now, in 1372, Robert Simons, the date of 
whose institution I cannot discover, was Abbot of 
St Mary's. There is some mistake ; but I conclude 
as certain that there had been an Abbot Beaumont 
between Abbot Stephen of Cornwall and Abbot 
Robert Simons. This was clearly our Abbot Philip — 
Philip being the favourite baptismal name with the 
Devonshire Beaumonts. This is confirmed by a 
curious incident in the time of Abbot Simons. 

Bishop John Ware, a bishop in partibus, whose 
title is given in Latin as Cumanagzensis(Coma.gene?), 
acted for many years as Bishop-Auxiliary in the 
diocese of Exeter, and there are several commissions 
addressed to him in Graudt'sson's Register. After 
Bishop Grandisson's death he acted for some time in 
the same capacity in the diocese of Hereford. He 
must have been growing too old for work, for he 
returned to Devon, and retired to end his days at our 
Abbey, which of course he knew well as the most 
tranquil place in the diocese. At all events he died 
at Buckfast Abbey in, or a little before, the year 

1393- 

Before going further, I may as well mention that 

during our excavations on the foundations of the 
^ See Brooking Rowe, p. 79. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 145 

ancient church, we came upon a walled grave, in a 
most distinguished place, within what was the 
sanctuary, in front of the centre of the High Altar. 
It is the only one of its kind ; the abbots are buried 
simply in the clay soil down the middle of the nave, 
each with his feet to the head of the next. I believe 
the walled grave, which is still open to view — as the 
church has not yet (1906) been rebuilt — to be that of 
Bishop Ware, It had been broken into and rifled. 
This was no doubt done at the same time as the 
rifling of the tombs of some of the Bishops of Exeter 
in Elizabeth's reign, as Prebendary Randolph records 
with just horror. The object was of course to steal 
any precious episcopal ornaments, and the vile 
thieves knew there was a bishop buried at the Abbey 
of Buckfast. 

A ring which Abbot Anscar now possesses was 
found on the site of the ancient church. As it was of 
inferior metal, only a minute portion of the setting 
being of gold, the plunderers wrenched out the stone 
that adorned it and threw it away. So far is clear ; 
I think it is not unlikely to have belonged to Bishop 
Ware, and to have been thrown away when the 
grave was broken into. Now to return to my story. 

In 1393 William Beaumont (the name is often 
spelt Beaumond or Beamond with this Devonshire 
family) brought a legal action against Abbot Robert. 
He claimed from the Abbot a certain box containing 
his family muniments, with its contents. His father, 
the late John Beaumont, had, on the Feast of St 
Andrew, 1380, given this box, sealed, into the 
keeping of Bishop Ware at Exeter. The Bishop 
had taken or sent it to Buckfast Abbey, perhaps at 

K 



146 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

the direction of John Beaumont, and his son now 
claimed it. 

The Abbot's attorney, John Lacche, produced the 
box in court. He said that the only difficulty was 
that it had been claimed as his own by one John 
Brightricston, and he only asked that the said John 
should be allowed to plead for himself. He (the 
Abbot) had received it from Bishop Ware, with 
directions not to give it up to anyone but the rightful 
owner, but was not at all sure \\ho was the owner. 
It was ordered that notice should be given to the 
other claimant, and time allowed him. He did not 
appear at the time fixed, and the box was handed 
over to William Beaumont. It is a curious case, and 
looks as if the papers in question could not be safely 
kept by John Beaumont. If, as I believe, his uncle 
had been Abbot of Buckfast, Beaumont must have 
known the Abbey well, had talked over family 
matters with the Abbot, and was aware that the 
sealed box could be safely concealed there. 

William, the son of John Beaumont, plaintiff in 
this case, was the great-grandfather of Margaret, the 
daughter and heiress of Sir Hugh, the last of the 
Devonshire Beaumonts. Margaret married John 
Chichester of Youlston, from whom descend the 
Chichesters of Calverleigh, who have remained loyal 
to the ancient Faith, and represent the Beaumonts of 
Devon, who gave, as it appears from the proclamation 
I have quoted from Rymer, an abbot to our 
monastery, at some date between 1350 and 1358. A 
few words on the grand old family of Devonshire 
Beaumonts, long since extinct, will not be out of place 
here, more especially as our diocese owes a singular 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 147 

debt of gratitude to the Chichesters of Calverleigh, 
by whom they are now represented, though not by 
them alone. 

Youlston, in the parish of Sherwell, four miles 
from Barnstaple, seems to have been the earliest 
home on English soil of the Devonshire Beaumonts.^ 
Since the days of Elizabeth it has a title to a higher 
renown, for it was the birthplace of Blessed Cuthbert 
Mayne, the proto-martyr of the seminary priests. 
Blessed Cuthbert won his crown at Launceston, 29th 
November 1577. At Youlston, his ancestral home, it 
is likely that our Abbot Beaumont was born, and the 
precious relic of the glorious martyr, now at Buckfast, 
is one more link in a chain that is not one of 
memories alone. 

Robert de Beaumont, under Baldwin the Sheriff, 
held the manor of Sherwell when the Domesday 
survey was taken. In the reign of Henry I., Roscelin 
(or Jocelyn) de Beaumont, Viscount Maine,^ whose 
dwelling was at Youlston, married Constance, the 
king's daughter, and their daughter Armegard 
became Queen of Scotland by her marriage with 
William the Lion.^ But our Beaumonts were never 
peers of Parliament; they remained simple Devon- 
shire knights, and are unconnected with the noble 
English family of that name. The fifteenth in the 

^ Most of what follows on the Beaumont and Chichester 
families is taken from the excellent History of the Family of 
Chichester^ by Sir Alexander Bruce Chichester, Bart. 

2 I do not know of any connection between this title of 
nobility and the family name of the Maynes, who lived at 
Youlston. It is perhaps only a coincidence, but such 
connection is not impossible. 

^ So Sir A. Chichester. 



148 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

pedigree is that Sir John who gave the mysterious 
sealed box into Bishop Ware's keeping to be 
deposited at Buckfast. He was, I presume, a nephew 
of our Abbot, and I am not surprised at the story of 
the precious family papers, which William said in 
court were of immense value to him. The fact is 
that Sir John's mother, Joan Beaumont, an only 
surviving child, had married her cousin William, and 
made over the estates to him, and the papers had to 
do with these transactions. 

Sir John was still living when he acquired some 
new and very desirable neighbours, though he little 
thought a day was to come when their descendants 
would be heirs to Sherwell and Youlston, and enjoy 
them down to this twentieth century in which we live. 
His friend Sir John, Lord of Raleigh, lived only four 
miles from Youlston, and had an only child, 
Thomasine, heiress to his ample estates. The road 
from Youlston to Barnstaple skirts Raleigh Park, 
just before you reach the town on the Yeo. 
Thomasine in 1384 married John, son of Sir Roger 
Chichester, both being aged nineteen. The 
Chichesters, an ancient Sussex family, not inferior to 
the Beaumonts in honours and achievements, 
thenceforward made Raleigh their principal seat, 
dropped their own arms, and assumed those of 
Raleigh. 

In the tract of country bounded by Exmoor, the 
river Taw, and the sea, with its mighty herds of red 
deer roaming at large inland, and its wild and 
beautiful coast-line, the Chichesters were now the 
most powerful manorial family. As one looks on the 
beautiful recumbent statue of the Lady Thomasine 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 149 

under its sculptured canopy in Arlington Church, a 
student of Devonshire history must feel a kind of 
reverent affection for that medieval chivalry to which 
England owes so much. 

A century later, the last Beaumont of Youlston, 
like the Lord of Raleigh in 1384, had an only 
daughter to inherit the vast possessions which 
fortunate marriages with the families of Scudamore, 
Willington, Punchardon, and others had brought to 
the house of Beaumont. Margaret Beaumont gave 
her hand to John Chichester of Raleigh in the reign 
of Henry VII., and Youlston became the home of the 
Chichesters. Anne Chichester, a daughter of this 
marriage, married John Rowe, of our neighbouring 
parish of Staverton. At Kingston, the home of the 
Rowes, mass was always said in days when it was 
pain of death to say it, as it was in the house of the 
Chichesters at Arlington, and afterwards at 
Calverleigh. 



CHAPTER XIX 

Wyclif and the Lollards. Troubles in Devonshire. Bishops 
Brantingham and Stafford. Abbot William Paderstow. 
Brothers William Stele and John Stourton. Abbot 
William Slade ; his education at Exeter and Oxford ; 
his reputation for learning, 

A DANGEROUS period of English history is that of 
the thirty-seven years or more (1358- 1395), during 
which Buckfast Abbey was governed by the ener- 
getic and intrepid Abbot Robert Simons. His 
birthplace I cannot find, but from this date forward 
the surname is frequently met with in Devonshire, 
especially among the clergy. 

Abbot Robert lived through the national con- 
vulsion in which Wyclif and the Lollards played 
their part. The Great Plague practically emanci- 
pated the serfs that still remained in England. 
Food was very cheap and labour enormously dear ; 
in fact, the labourer could set his own price on his 
work. In time this might have settled down to an 
improved condition for the population. But Wyclif's 
socialistic doctrines fired the peasantry with other 
thoughts. By the slaughter of the owners of land, 
the rich, and the clergy, they thought to inaugurate 

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HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 151 

a new era of prosperity. In a dozen counties they 
rose in arms. Their march to London was marked 
by fire and bloodshed, and the murder of the 
Archbishop of Canterbury, whom they seized as he 
was making his thanksgiving after mass in the 
Tower, showed the ferocious spirit of their leaders. 
At the eighth stroke they cut off his head, and after 
nailing his episcopal hat to the skull, set it up on 
London Bridge. The citizens of London were 
roused from their apathy at the sight, and the 
insurrection was finally extinguished by the loyalty 
of the nation. 

In Devonshire no armed rising occurred, for which 
we are largely indebted to the traditional firmness 
and zeal of the Bishops of Exeter. But the period 
was marked by sanguinary quarrels, and even the 
churches of the diocese were often polluted by 
bloodshed. The Abbot had to complain that his 
crops had been destroyed, his oak-trees cut down, 
and the fish taken from his weirs and fish-ponds. 
On one occasion, one, Richard of Trusham, who had 
lands in villeinage, declared himself not only a 
freeman, but the owner of all that he held of the 
Abbey, and by his own account it would represent a 
value at the present day of several thousand pounds. 
In this last instance, the Abbot recovered the cattle 
by force on his manor of Trusham, as he was legally 
entitled to do ; in the other instances, he prosecuted 
the wrongdoers. 

That he was known for a fearless and able man, 
appears from the fact that the Bishop of Exeter 
entrusted him with the charge of collecting the tenth 
that was required for the king from all church 



152 HISTORY OF BLXKFAST ABBEY 

property in the county of Devon. Only a universally 
respected ecclesiastic could have undertaken a task 
of such difficulty in those days. From the report of 
the prosecution, we incidentally learn something of 
the value of the Dart fishery at that period. The 
salmon taken at Staverton alone are estimated at 
^40 a year. According to high authorities given 
by Prebendary Randolph, this would represent 
nowadays something like iJ^Soo, though it seems 
incredible. 

After all, half a dozen lawsuits in forty years was 
not much, if we take into account the lawlessness of 
the times. Our Abbot survived Bishop Grandisson 
for twenty-six years, living through the whole 
epi.scopate of Bishop Brantingham, who held him in 
high esteem, as appears from the appointment 
mentioned above ; and he seems to have died about 
two months after Bishop Stafford took possession of 
his diocese, in August 1395. In the preceding 
chapter we have seen the transactions in Abbot 
Robert's time concerning the sealed box claimed by 
William Beaumont. I find him in 1373 summoned 
to attend the meeting of Convocation, and in 1374 
the Bishop authorises him to say mass, or have it 
said, on feast days, in his private chapel at Brent. 
In the same year, Bishop Brantingham granted in 
favour of the Abbot an indulc^ence to all who should 
assist in repairing the bridge over the Dart, now 
known as Austen's Bridge, a little below the Abbey, 
and he grants another to such as should contribute 
to the ransom of some prisoners in the hands of the 
" French pirates," as he calls them. One of these, 
Deghere, seems to have been a Buckfast man. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 153 

Towards the end of his days the country had become 
calmer. He had lived through stormy times. In 1380 
he had published in the Abbey church the episcopal 
excommunication of a royal sergeant-at-arms who 
had beheaded a Cornish priest and borne publicly 
the severed head on a pike to London. Even in 
Devonshire, the wanton murder of blameless priests 
was not unknown. 

Abbot William Paderstow succeeded him in 
September 1395, and was at once appointed by 
Bishop Stafford to the office of collecting the tenth, 
held by his predecessor. I cannot find the date of 
his death, but he cannot have held office long. He 
had to exercise his manorial authority over Robert 
Knight, vicar of Brent. Knight was not charged 
with any laxity in his priestly duties, but had been 
already in trouble with Bishop Brantingham for 
certain high-handed proceedings, and for procuring 
illegal excommunications when he thought his rights 
had been infringed, even by the Bishop's officials. 
This is all I find concerning Abbot Paderstow (or 
Paderston). Before I come to his successor, the 
most distinguished among our abbots, I may as 
well put on record, for the sake of Devonshire 
genealogists, the few names I have been able to 
collect of our Devonshire monks, between 1370 and 
1419. 

The Abbots — Robert Simons, William Paderstow, 
William Beaghe, William Slade : Brothers Edward 
Stele, Henry Haredon, Robert Ash, Stephen 
Rowland, Richard Gorwet, John Stourton, Thomas 
Roger, John Barlynch, John Budde, William Budde, 
Walter Chester, Richard Dove, John Fytchet, William 



154 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Gyst, John Martyn, John Matthew, John Roddon, 
Edmund Coffin, John Northwhych, John Sturgeon, 
Robert Marchaunt, John Turgeyr. 

The Hst is an instructive one. Almost all are 
Devonshire men, if not all, and several are from our 
immediate neighbourhood. The children of the 
recently emancipated bondmen find their home in 
the cloister with the sons of knightly houses, for the 
distinction between Norman and Saxon has by this 
time disappeared from the land, and noble and 
peasant are equal in the house of God. Exeter 
citizens are well represented. John G}-st was several 
times mayor of Exeter, while Brother John Gyst — 
his son, I presume — was a monk at St Mary's 
Abbey. The Buddes were Buckfast men, and a 
century earlier their ancestors had been serfs on the 
Abbey lands. The names of Fytchet, Martyn, 
Stourton, Matthew, and others, show that the 
descendants of the Norman knights still cherished 
their traditional love of the monastic cowl. On the 
whole, it affords a pleasing picture of the elements 
that formed the religious family of the Abbey at the 
opening of the fifteenth centur)-. 

Brothers Matthew, Fytchet, and Roger became 
abbots of Buckfast, of whom more hereafter. 
Edward Stele, monk at Buckfast in 1393, ^vas 
probably the son of William Stele and Jane his wife, 
to whom in 1375 Bishop Brantingham granted a 
licence to have mass said in their private oratory 
Sir Thomas Fytchet and his wife Richardyne 
obtained a similar privilege in 1581, when our Abbot 
Fytchet and his brother, the future vicar of Brent, 
must have been little boys. The chief scat of the 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 155 

family was in Somersetshire. Somewhere on the 
site of our ancient church Hes buried the good vicar 
of Brent, Edmund Fytchet, who left it in his will that 
he should be laid to rest with our monks. 

If any of my readers should visit the village of 
Yarcombe, on the borders of Somersetshire, they 
may find there a farmhouse called Penshayne. It 
had once belonged to Otterton Priory, but about the 
time of which I am writing was a residence of the 
noble house of Stourton. In Bishop Stafford's time 
(i 395-1419), Sir William Stourton was Justice of the 
Peace for Devon, and John Stourton was a monk of 
Buckfast. A generation earlier, I find Elizabeth 
Luttrell married to John Stourton (possibly the 
parents of the Buckfast monk), while her brother. Sir 
Hugh, is married to Catherine, a daughter of Sir 
John Beaumont,^ and a relative, probably a niece, of 
our Abbot Beaumont ; so that Buckfast Abbey and 
its abbot would be well known to the Stourtons of 
Penshayne at Yarcombe. The loyalty to the 
Catholic Faith of the Stourtons makes their con- 
nection with our community a matter of interest. 

Such were the members of the community at the 
time when Abbot William Slade was elected to 
succeed Abbot Paderstow. There was a family of 
the name living at Salcombe Regis (where Slades 
are still numerous, and there is an estate called 
Slade) about this time, and I find, not long before, a 
William Slade, warden of Ottery, and another 
William Slade, or De la Slade, vicar of the neigh- 
bouring parish of Dean. In the Exeter Registers I 
do not find the date of Abbot Slade's installation. I 
1 Pole's Devonshire Pedigrees. 



156 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

believe this to be owing to the long absence of 
Bishop Stafford from his diocese. He was away 
on affairs of State in 1401 and 1402, and I am 
inclined to refer our Abbot's election to this 
date. 

William Slade's early education was at the school 
attached to Exeter Cathedral. In the glorious 
episcopate of Bishop Grandisson he could not but be 
deeply imbued with ecclesiastical traditions under 
the shadow of the noble Cathedral. No better 
guide for the education of youth ever lived than 
the great Bishop. Every year at Christmastide 
William Slade assisted at the beautiful ceremony of 
the Boy Bishop on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. 
Perhaps he may have been elected Boy Bishop 
himself In due time he was sent to Oxford, where 
he lectured on Aristotle. " He was born in Devon, 
and brought up at the school in Exon, and from 
thence sent to Oxford, where he became very well 
learned, especially in Aristotle, whose works he did 
read openly in the schools, to his great commenda- 
tion. When made Abbot of Buckfastleigh, he 
furnished the house with fair buildings, and adorned 
the commonwealth with his learning, leaving behind 
thirteen books of his own penning." ^ 

Three of his works, the Floyes Moralium, 
Qcestio7ies de A?nvia, and his Commentaries on the 
Libri Sententiarum^ were seen by Leland when he 
visited our Abbey. A man of large and cultivated 
mind, eloquent and learned, a schoolman and archi- 
tect, trained at Exeter and Oxford, must necessarily 
have done much to guide his monks, according to 

' Hoker's MS. quoted in Oliver's Monasticon Exomense. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 157 

monastic tradition, in their intellectual pursuits. His 
beneficent influence was not confined to his 
monastery. But I must defer to my next, an account 
of the work by which he is best remembered in 
Devonshire. 



CHAPTER XX 

Churchstow, " the place of the church." The town of Kings- 
bridge. St Edmund the Martyr's Church. The monks 
build a new church at Kingsbridge. Monastic remains. 
Leigh Barton. Cistercian wood-carving. Death of Abbot 
Slade. The blind Earl of Devon. A Tiverton legend. 
Boys educated for the Church at our Abbey. 

Among the earliest possessions of Buckfast Abbey 
granted to it by the piety of the kings of VVessex 
was Churchstow, " the place of the church." The 
monks built a church there in honour of our Blessed 
Lady, on the summit of a lofty hill. As it was, and 
still is, the most striking and conspicuous object 
from the surrounding country, the village that grew 
up at its foot enjoyed for centuries before the 
Norman invasion the impressive name which it 
retains to this day. 

Within the limits of Churchstow manor, and at 
the head of that inlet of the sea whereof Salcombe 
commands the entrance, a second village, now the 
town of Kingsbridge, came into existence at an 
early date, which soon outgrew Churchstow, and no 
wonder, for the fisheries afforded a ready means of 
subsistence. The villagers of this coast settlement 
were, as they describe themselves in 1414, "sailors or 



158 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 159 

shipmasters, tradesmen and merchants, artificers and 
mechanics," and as late as 1877 they are described 
as unaltered in character. " Your agricultural 
labourer hereabouts can handle the oar as deftly as 
the plough, while his master holds shares in ships 
and in mercantile ventures on the sea. The local 
traditions are of great storms with their welcome 
harvest of wrecks, or of smuggling adventures. . . . 
Shakespeare would have found in the narrow drang- 
ways ' a very ancient and fish-like smell.' " ^ 

Now, the sailors and fishers of Kingsbridge had 
for their parish church St Mary's, on the hill of 
Churchstow, two miles off. But they had also a 
little church of their own within their village. It 
was cruciform, and, being on the Abbey land, was 
certainly, as well as that of Churchstow, the work of 
our Buckfast monks, as builders and architects for 
the welfare of their Kingsbridge dependants. Though 
dependent on the mother-church of Churchstow, it 
had a quasi-parochial status of its own, but without 
the right of sepulture. That this little church, 
of which some traces still remains within the more 
recent building, existed as early as 1250, we have 
proof positive. But it is more likely to have been 
first erected at least two centuries earlier, and its 
dedication to the East Anglian king and martyr, 
St Edmund, put to death by the Danes in 870, 
suggests that our Saxon monks first established an 
oratory here in his honour after some signal delivery 
of Devon from the Danish hordes, before the time of 
Canute, and in the latter part of the tenth century. 

1 R. Dymond, " Kingsbridge and Dodbroke," in Transactions 
of Devonshire Associations^ July 1877. 



160 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Otherwise the choice of this East Anglian saint by 
the monks of Buckfast would have been a little 
singular. 

As Kingsbridge grew in size and importance, the 
Chapel of St Edmund not only became too small for 
the people, but they found it a serious grievance to 
have to carry their dead for burial to the top of 
Churchstow Hill. " Living by the labour of their 
hands," as they represent it in their petition to 
Bishop Stafford, " they could with difficulty even 
attend to the burial of their dead when so long and 
tedious a journey was necessary." But before 
addressing themselves to the Bishop, they had 
appealed to the Abbot of St Mary's, on whose 
manor they lived. He quite entered into their 
views. He had a residence in the town, and a 
fine barton at Leigh, two miles away, besides the 
"Abbot's Mill" in Kingsbridge itself So it was 
decided that the monks should enlarge the existing 
Church of St Edmund, or rather incorporate it into 
a larger edifice, worthy of those erected at Trusham 
and elsewhere, and that the Bishop should then be 
asked to grant it full parochial rights. 

The consent of the rector of Churchstow had to 
be obtained, as the right of his church would be 
affected. 

In 1414 Bishop Stafford issued his Ordinatio, 
agreeing to consecrate the restored Church of St 
Edmund and its new cemetery. To indemnify 
the rector of Churchstow, it was ordained that on 
the Feast of the Assumption, the titular feast of 
St Mary at Churchstow (presumably also that of 
St Mary at Buckfast), every married householder 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 161 

of Kingsbridge should hear mass as of old in 
the mother-church, and offer one penny — equal 
to more than a shilling of our present money — for 
himself and family, the bachelors and maidens 
offering one halfpenny. As feasts of obligation, 
on which no servile work was allowed, all the 
Kingsbridge men were to keep holy St 
Edmund's day and the anniversaries of the dedica- 
tions of both churches, with an offering of one half- 
penny to the rector of Churchstow on each of the 
three days ; while the flagon of ale hitherto paid as 
tithe by every Kingsbridge innkeeper was commuted 
for a payment of one penny. The Ordinatio was 
accepted and sealed in the chapter-house of Exeter 
Cathedral by the Dean and Chapter on the 20th of 
July ; by Abbot Slade and the monks of Buckfast, 
in our chapter-house, on the 23rd ; by Roger Bachelor, 
rector of Churchstow, at Churchstow, on the 22nd ; 
by the petitioners representing the burgesses of 
Kingsbridge, on the 24th ; and by the burgesses, with 
seal of the town, on the 25th. On the 26th of August 
1414, Bishop Stafford consecrated the church, and 
on the following day the cemetery of Kings- 
bridge. 

During the two days that the Bishop and his 
assistant clergy were the guests of our Abbot and 
his monks, they had time to visit and admire the 
industrial and artistic labours of our monks in this 
their favourite manor. For here utility went hand- 
in-hand with the most exquisite and refined taste, 
as befitted the monastic order. Leigh Barton 
(wrongly called Leigh Priory nowadays), two miles 
out of the town, had of course to be visited ; now 

L 



162 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

"an almost perfect monastic building situated in a 
peaceful, umbrageous dell away from the world 
among green lawns and pleasant woods," writes the 
Rev. Mr Baring-Gould. It was full of life in those 
days, and it was harvest-season at the time. From 
a splendid description sent me by our architect, 
Mr Frederick Walters, with a ground plan, I learn 
that it is of late decorated or Early Perpendicular 
architecture, indicating (in Devonshire) a date prob- 
ably between 1400 and 1414. It forms three sides 
of a quadrangle, two stories high, the upper being 
now reached by an outside staircase, the stonework 
of some of the windows still remaining. 

But of course the Bishop and his company were 
entertained by the Abbot at his residence, towards 
the top of what is now the Fore Street. It has dis- 
appeared, and in a modern house in the same street 
we find portions of the carved ceiling of its stately 
hall. " It is panelled in squares, with moulded ribs, 
having at the intersections richly carved bosses, all 
of varied designs, some having human heads and 
faces (of hooded monks), others formed of leaves ; 
each square of the ceiling divided by smaller diagonal 
ribs into four triangles, one or two of the bosses 
being of a sacred character," So far Mr Walters, 
who assigns it to the date of which we are writing. 
" Piquant and interesting must have been Kings- 
bridge of the Middle Ages, on which the Cistercians 
set their artistic and religious mark." ^ Nor did they 
ever rest from their artistic work. In the same 
house is a noble specimen of their old oak panelling, 
transferred thither when the earlier building was 
' James Hine, Trans. Dev. Assoc, July 1877. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 163 

destroyed, and assigned by Mr Walters to about 
1480, and by him described as "about 6 ft. 6 in. in 
height, surmounted by a most beautiful and elaborate 
cresting, divided by upright pieces of oak, forming 
pedestals on which stand carved oak figures, appar- 
ently of the Apostles, though I have been only able to 
identify one or two of them." I need dwell no longer 
on these relics of old Buckfast ; they are but one of a 
thousand evidences of the influences exerted on 
Englishmen by the monastic order ; the influences 
of religious faith, industry, and a love for the 
beautiful in art. 

Abbot Slade only lived long enough to see 
the anniversary of the dedication of St Edmund's 
Church, if, indeed, he had not gone to his reward 
before that day, for on the 8th of September 141 5, 
Feast of our Lady's Nativity, his successor was 
blessed by Bishop Stafford. To trace the " fair 
buildings" he erected at Buckfast Abbey is not 
now possible ; but I strongly incline to think, from 
inspection of the existing foundations, that he rebuilt 
in greater richness of architecture the north gallery of 
the cloister which adjoins the south wall of the church. 

One little incident during his term of office I may 
not omit, as it connects St Mary's Abbey with the 
Courtenays, Earls of Devon, At some date between 
1358 and 1377, Edward III., who must on that 
account take his place among our royal benefactors, 
had granted Abbot Robert Simon the manor of 
Kilbury, adjoining that of Buckfast, on which occa- 
sion it is likely that Abbot Robert undertook to 
rebuild the bridge over the Dart now known as 
Austin's Bridge, connecting Kilbury with his land 



164 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

across the river. Now the Courtenays had claimed 
some rights in this manor, and Abbot Slade sought 
a recognition of his title from the earl. Edward, 
known as "the Good Earl of Devon," resided in 141 3 
at his Castle of Tiverton. In his day he had been 
Admiral of the King's Fleet, and held the office of 
Earl Marshal, but he was now old and blind. His 
piety was conspicuous, and at his death he was, 
according to his will, buried at the Abbey of Ford, 
and he had ever been devoted to Cistercians. To 
obtain the favour he sought, we may take it for 
granted that Abbot Slade went in person to 
Tiverton and was graciously received by the good 
earl and his countess, the Lady Matilda, daughter 
of Thomas, Lord Camoys, and brought back with him 
the charter, which is the last in date of those in our 
Cartulary. It is brief, with no names of witnesses, 
and such as the earl would have asked his chaplain 
to make out as a personal favour to the Abbot, and 
runs thus : — 

"Edward de Courtenay, Earl of Devon, to all 
the faithful of Christ into whose hands this writing 
may come, eternal welfare in our Lord. Seeing that 
the Lord Edward, sometime King of England, 
ancestor of our Lord the King that now is, gave 
and granted to Robert, late Abbot of Buckfast, and 
to the community there dwelling, the manor of 
Kilbury, with its appurtenances, to be had and held 
by the said Abbot and community and their 
successors : Be it known that we have remitted and 
made over to William, now Abbot of Buckfast, and 
the community dwelling there, whatever rights we 
have, or may have, in the said manor and its 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 165 

appurtenances. In witness whereof, we have affixed 
hereto our seal. Given at our Manor of Tiverton, 
the twelfth day of November, in the first year of 
King Henry, Fifth (of that name) since the 
Conquest" (a.d. 141 3). Though Risdon seems to 
have been mistaken in ascribing to this earl the 
inscription which before his time had existed on a 
Courtenay tomb at Tiverton, yet its last lines are in 
singular agreement with the known piety and charity 
of " the Good Earl " : 

" That we spent, we had ; 
That we left, we lost ; 
That we gave, we have." 

Earl Edward died five years later, in 141 9. His 
countess survived him forty-eight years, dying in 
1467. Two of her grandchildren. Earl Thomas and 
his brother Henry, were attainted and executed 
during her lifetime, and with their brother John, 
who fell at Tewkesbury, sealed their loyalty with 
their blood. Thus ended the descendants of the 
" Good Earl of Devon." Henry Courtenay, Marquess 
of Exeter, beheaded on Tower Hill, on the 9th of 
December 1538, was a descendant of Earl Edward's 
brother. Sir Hugh Courtenay of Haccombe. 
Wriothesley, Windsor Herald, who was then living 
in London, and may even have seen the marquess 
executed with Lord Montague and Sir Edward 
Neville, says that they were " condemned for 
treason against the king by the counsel of Reginald 
Pole, Cardinal, which pretended to have enhanced 
the Bishop of Rome's usurped authority again." 
I do not know if Matilda Camoys is the Countess 



166 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

of Devon referred to in the amusing Tiverton legend 
given in Baring-Gould's Book of the West. I give it 
here shghtly abridged from his pages : — 

" One day the Countess of Devon was taking her 
walk abroad in the direction of Hensleigh, when she 
met a tailor descending the hill, laden with a large 
covered basket. As he passed, a cry came from the 
hamper. She stayed her steps and asked what he 
was carrying. ' Only seven puppies that I be going 
to drown in the Exe,' was his reply. ' I want a 
dog,' said the Countess ; ' open the hamper.' The 
tailor tried to excuse himself, but the Countess 
insisted, and on the lid being raised, seven little 
babes were revealed. 'Alas! my Lady,' said the 
tailor, ' I am poor as a church mouse ! My wife 
gave them to me all at once. What could I do but 
rid myself of them? See, they are all boys.' 
The Countess charged herself with their educa- 
tion, and when they were old enough sent them 
all to Buckfast Abbey, to be reared for the 
Church. Four became rectors of Tiverton (for 
Tiverton had four rectors), and the others their 
curates." 

If Buckfast Abbey really educated boys for the 
priesthood, one can understand how this detail got 
into the legend in its Devonshire version, for nothing 
at the present day strikes the popular imagination 
more than the sight of our little alunini in their 
monastic habit. Ikit to educate boys, even for their 
own Order, was foreign to Cistercian rule. However, 
after the fearful havoc in the ranks of the clergy 
caused by the Black Death, the rule had to give 
way to stern necessity. Cistercians in Devon gave 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 167 

their help in training boys for the Church, and we 
have a notable example in the history of Buckland, 
the nearest of the Devon monasteries to Buckfast. 
I give it from Mr Brooking Rowe's work and Dr 
Oliver. 

In the muniment room at Powderham, the seat of 
the Courtenays, is an agreement made in 1522 
between Abbot Whyte and one Robert Derkeham, 
who was clearly an outsider, and not a monk. Robert 
undertakes to help in the choir, evidently by playing 
the organ, and to teach four boys in the monastery, 
any one of whom he may choose to wait on him ; 
to teach them also the music, and playing on the 
organ, and to teach this last to any of the monks 
who may wish to learn it. His remuneration was 
ample. He is to have a good table ; an annuity of 
£2. 13s, 4d., equal to ^^25 nowadays; a gown every 
year of the value of 12s., the reversion of a tenement 
at Milton, and in the meantime the feeding of two 
cows, with a good garden, for which he is to pay 
half-rent. Robert's room was over the west door 
of the Abbey, the exact position of that in which 
these pages are being written, and he found it 
dreary and cold in winter. To make him com- 
fortable, the Abbot further allowed thirty horse- 
loads annually of faggots for his fire, and every 
evening his servant brought him a wax candle, a 
quart of beer, and five ounces of bread. This was, 
of course, exclusive of whatever he chose to buy for 
himself. 

The indenture distinguishes between the monks 
and the boys educated at the Abbey. With such 
Abbots as William Slade, and its larger revenue, our 



168 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Abbey would not be behind Buckland, if indeed it 
did set the example, in training boys for the priest- 
hood, as indicated in the Tiverton legend. The 
doubtful assertion mentioned by Mr Brooking 
Rowe, that Bishop Bothe of Exeter (1465-1478) had 
been Abbot of Buckfast, and our lack of information 
on his early education, make me suspect that he was 
perhaps trained in a Cistercian school. He was the 
son of Sir Robert Bothe, of Dunham, in Cheshire, 
and nephew to Archbishop Booth, or Bothe, of 
York. 

Up to this point in our history, the recovered 
portion of our Chronicle and the Exeter Registers 
published by Prebendary Hingeston-Randolph have 
facilitated the work. But these now fail me, and my 
notices of the Abbey from the time of Abbot Slade 
to the eve of the Dissolution must needs be scanty, 
though the list of abbots is fairly complete. Henry 
V. had succeeded to the throne of England, on the 
2 1st of March 141 2. Though Abbot Slade did not 
live long enough to witness the complete establish- 
ment of a new power in South Devon by the transfer 
of Budleigh, Otterton, Yarcombe, Sidmouth, and other 
possessions from St Michael's Mount to Syon 
monastery, yet he heard how the first stone of the 
new monastery had been laid by King Henry, on the 
22nd of February 141 5. A year later we find 
Margaret, the recluse of Bodmin, obtaining a licence 
from Bishop Stafford to migrate to " St Bridget-by- 
Schene." By reason of the nearness of the bulk of 
the estates of Syon, Buckfast had henceforward to 
regard that powerful community as its neighbour, a 
circumstance renewed in our own time, but in a 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 169 

different way. After many vicissitudes, the Bridgettine 
nuns of Syon, our only pre-Reformation community 
in existence, are settled at Chudleigh, on the borders 
of the manor of Trusham, once among the fairest 
possessions of Buckfast Abbey. 



CHAPTER XXI 

Abbot William Beaghe. Loyalty of the monks. A domestic 
incident. Abbots Rogger and Ffytchett. Abbot John 
Matthew, 1449. The Matthews of Glamorgan. Three of 
the Abbey settlements developed into flourishing market 
towns. Was Bishop Bothe of Exeter, Abbot of Buckfast ? 
Abbot King and his restoration work. A Buckfast monk 
Prior of St Bernard's College, Oxford. Abbots Rede, 
Pomeroy, and Gyll. 

In the days of Abbot Slade's immediate successor 
we meet with the single instance in the long history 
of our Abbey of anything like a domestic disturb- 
ance, although it is an amusing, not a scandalous 
story. Once more I must say, that if I had come 
across any indication of disorders, such as occasion- 
ally are noted in the Exeter Registers in regard to 
communities, otherwise of good renown, it would 
have been my duty to chronicle them, but I had 
none to chronicle. 

Abbot Slade was succeeded, on 8th September 
141 5, by Abbot William Beaghe. Abbot Slade 
was among those who had lent money to the king 
for the French war on the security of the royal 
jewels ; Buckfast, Tavistock, and Plympton, being 
the only religious houses in Devon that did so on 

170 




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HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 171 

that occasion, when the moneys were conveyed to 
London by John Coplestone of Exeter. Abbot 
Beaghe, at his succession, at once gave a hundred 
marks for the same object, on behalf of his Abbey, 
so that, as Mr Brooking Rowe remarks, our Abbey 
had its share in the glories of Agincourt in the 
following month. The loyalty of our community is 
beyond question. With the exception of some 
insignificant legal proceedings, I find nothing to 
relate concerning Abbot Beaghe till the year 142 1. 

On the 26th of February in that year, the com- 
munity were summoned to the chapter-house under 
their Prior, Thomas Rogger, where they found the 
Abbot, with Abbot William of Hailes in the diocese 
of Worcester; the Prior of Langbynington in the 
diocese of Lincoln ; Abbot William's notary public, 
John Carnell, bachelor-of-laws ; and Henry Fortescue, 
clerk, of the diocese of Exeter. No sooner were 
they all seated, than Abbot William handed the 
notary a paper to read, of which I can only give a 
summary. 

Abbot Beaghe was old, infirm, and crippled, and 
clearly unable to govern his house, but had no 
mind to resign. His position obliged him to receive 
numerous guests, often of high rank, and to entertain 
them suitably to their condition. Not unfrequently 
he had to go to his town house at Exeter. He was 
generous and kindly in disposition, and the monks — 
no doubt the cellarer was the chief complainant — 
found that expenses were growing, and they were 
alarmed for the future. 

The visitors seemed to think that the monks had 
been too hard on the poor Abbot, who was quite 



172 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

capable of representing the dignity of his office, 
although too infirm for its most onerous duties. 
They accordingly decreed that he should continue 
to receive his guests as heretofore. But he should 
only have at his disposal for this object a fixed sum, 
payable quarterly. If he wished to make a present 
to anyone who had come as a messenger from some 
great man, he was to make it out of this allowance ; 
and if he required to ride abroad with fitting attend- 
ance, he must bear the expense out of the same 
sum. But all the government of the house was to 
be left to the Prior and his council, unless the Abbot's 
signature, for example, were needed, and then he 
must do as he w^as desired. The order is stringent, 
but always in the most respectful form, towards " the 
honourable and religious man, William, Lord Abbot," 
whose only fault seems to have been an excess of 
generosity, which his infirmities had made dangerous 
for the welfare of the monastery. He survived eleven 
years. Prior Rogger succeeding him as Abbot, 13th 
April 1432. 

The name Beaghe is not to be met with, as far as 
my knowledge extends, in our Devonshire records 
of the period, but I suspect it is the same as Baghe, 
an Exeter family, whose monument Carew found " in 
St Thomas's by Exon." 

Abbot Rogger only held office for eight years, 
but had already governed the house during the 
last eleven years of Abbot Beaghe's time. His 
record is a blank. The name was a very common 
one in Devon, and in some manor accounts of our 
Abbey lands, now in private hands, I find that in 
the reign of Henry VHI., Margaret Rogger held a 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 173 

tenement on our manor of Churchstow. Religious 
communities were largely recruited from such as 
were born on their estates. 

Abbot Ffytchett, of whom I have written already, 
succeeded, i6th October 1442. About the time 
of his birth, Sir Thomas Ffytchett acquired Trill, 
near Axminster, under the shadow of the Cistercian 
Abbey of Newenham. Here the good knight, as in 
all his manor-houses in the diocese, had his private 
oratory by licence from the Bishop, and here it is 
most likely that Abbot Ffytchett and his brothers 
passed their boyhood, though they were not Sir 
Thomas's children. There were no other Ffytchetts in 
Devon outside this family ; but besides the Abbot 
and his brother, the vicar of Dean, there was a 
third of the name among the diocesan clergy Their 
arms — Gules, a lion rampant or — are given by Risdon. 
Abbot Ffytchett was obliged to take legal proceedings 
for the protection of his fisheries on the Erme. " To 
him who can obtain permission to fish in the Erme," 
writes Mr Baring-Gould, " can be assured days to be 
never forgotten." 

Seven years after Abbot Ffytchett's election, John 
Matthew succeeded him, 3rd October 1449. That 
he should have at once set to work to make Kings- 
bride a market town, was only natural, for the home 
of his family was at Dodbroke, now part of the 
united borough of Kingsbridge and Dodbroke. At 
the beginning of his time he obtained from Edward 
IV. — if indeed it was not a confirmation of a grant 
made to one of his predecessors — the privilege of a 
weekly market and an annual fair about the Feast 
of St Margaret, 20th July. Both are still main- 



174 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

tained. He also obtained an annual fair for Buckfast- 
leigh. This was the last stage in the development, 
under the fostering care of the monks, of Brent, 
Kingsbridge, and Buckfastleigh, from the days when 
they had been simple monastic colonies. In less 
than a century, abbot and monks were to disappear, 
and the monastic garb to be seen no more at Kings- 
bridge till an Abbot of Buckfast visited it again in 
1905. But I have yet a word to say on the Matthews 
of Dodbroke, among whom Sir Bernard Burke rightly 
places John Matthew, Abbot of Buckfast, whose arms 
— the stork on the sable field — are to be seen on our 
refectory wall. 

These Devonshire Matthews were descendants of 
those of Glamorgan represented by Viscount Llandaff 
at the present day. To the same race belonged the 
celebrated Sir Tobie Matthew, knight, priest, Jesuit, 
and courtier, who figured so largely in the reign of 
James I. It was in Abbot Matthew's time that the 
Devon branch of the family assumed the arms just 
described (which belonged to the Starkey family), 
when Jenkyn Matthew married Lucia, daughter of 
William Starkey. His grandson was that Edmund 
Matthew of Dodbroke who died in 1524. We have 
seen that our Buckfast abbots were nothing if not 
loyal, and with good reason. While John Matthew 
was a monk at Buckfast under the loyal Abbot 
Beaghe, his namesake and relative, Sir John Matthew, 
was serving Henry V. as master of the artillery at 
Agincourt, 

A most tantalisingly obscure period breaks up this 
portion of our annals. From Abbot Matthew, elected 
in 1449, to Abbot John Rede the elder, in November 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 175 

1498, a space of nearly fifty years, all is a blank, 
save a single indication that John King was Abbot 
in 1483, and one other exception to which I now 
come. It is all but certain that a name has been 
left out. 

Speaking of this interval of time, Dr Oliver 
writes : " Scipio Squier, the herald, asserts that John 
Bothe was abbot here, before his promotion to the See 
of Exeter in 1465, but this wants confirmation." 
Mr Brooking Rowe adds : " On examining the 
events of his life before his consecration as bishop, 
it would seem that this could not have been." Nor 
do I venture to affirm it, but I do not reject it. Let 
us first see what the authority of Scipio Squier is 
worth, and then examine if the difficulties involved 
in his assertion are insurmountable. 

On the 3rd of June 1595, Scipio Squier witnessed 
the will of Henry Tucker of King's Nympton, in 
Devon. At the end of the will is written : 
" Witnesses — Edmonde Squier, Pastor of King's 
Nympton, in Devon, and Scipio Squier, his son, the 
writers thereof."^ Supposing Scipio to have been 
aged 21 at this date (his father died in 1620), he was 
born a little over a century after Bishop Bothe's 
death. His family had been settled in Devon, 
holding the manor of Little Fulford, before 1307, 
and had never left it. " Scipio Squier was a great 
local antiquary, and left some valuable heraldic 
manuscripts relative to the arms in Devonshire 
churches, which were among the collections of Dr 

^ For this and what follows concerning Scipio Squier, see 
Mr Charles Worthy's Devonshire Wills, pp. 105-106 : Bemrose 
& Sons, 1896. 



17G HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Jeremiah Milles, Dean of Exeter, and President of 
the Society of Antiquaries, 1765. He appears to 
have paid a visit to Exeter in 1607." At all events, 
his authority is not trifling in a matter connected 
with the bishops of Exeter, and a purely gratuitous 
assertion of such a nature is most unlikely. Even if 
a mistake, there would be some grounds for it. 
John Bothe, before being made Bishop of Exeter, 
was Canon of York, Archdeacon of Richmond, and 
Warden of the Collegiate Church of Manchester, a 
man of sterling virtue ; " very courteous and affable 
to every man, and good to the poor," says Hoker. 
If he felt a vocation to the monastic life, he would of 
course not be allowed to relinquish his benefices 
during his noviceship, which in those days unfortu- 
nately too often lasted only six months ; and even after 
his profession, many reasons might force him to 
delay for awhile sending in his formal resignation, 
though of course he could no longer exercise in 
person the duties attached to them. If the Abbot 
chanced to die soon after he had taken his vows, 
nothing was more likely than that a man of such 
eminence and experience should be chosen to 
succeed him ; though, if my supposition is true, it 
would be probable that he governed our monastery 
for a very brief time, and perhaps succeeded to 
Exeter within a year or two after leaving the diocese 
of York. Besides, it would explain more easily how, 
at the translation of Bishop Neville from Exeter to 
York, the Archdeacon of Richmond was at once 
promoted by papal provision to Exeter, if he was 
already in the diocese and Abbot of Buckfast. 

Of course I may be wrong, and I must leave to 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 177 

those that come after me the task of throwing light 
on this dark period of our history ; but even if Squier's 
positive assertion is incorrect, it can hardly have 
been without some cause, such as, for example, that 
a relative and namesake of the Bishop accompanied 
him to Devon and became Abbot of St Mary's. 

It is pleasing to find evidence of the artistic 
activity of our monks about the time of Abbot King. 
To the year 1280 or thereabouts belong the restora- 
tion of the fine tower, so ably renewed from the 
designs of Mr Walters, at the expense of the Duke 
of Norfolk and the late Dr Mivart, so that now one 
sees it as it was in Abbot King's time ; the later 
portion of the fine panelling of the Abbot's house at 
Kingsbridge, and the exquisite pulpit of Holne, which 
has on one of its panels the arms of our Abbey, 
belong to this period. Without a doubt, the Abbey 
church was restored at the same date, when a perfect 
wave of fervour for church restoration passed over 
our county under Bishops Bothe and Courtenay. 
Of Abbot King's career nothing is recorded in 
writing, and his name has only been saved from 
oblivion by a chance entry in the will of Ambrose 
Franke of Totnes, 25th February 1483. When he 
was elected, I know not. 

The long history of old Buckfast is now drawing 
to a close. One very pleasing episode has to be 
told in this place — a story closely connected, if I 
mistake not, with the events of the day on which 
the monks of St Mary's Abbey were expelled from 
their home and cast adrift on the world. 

Twice in the year 1484 were royal letters received 
by Abbot King in common with all the heads of 

M 



178 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Cistercian houses in England. Richard III. was 
doing his best to win golden opinions as a religious 
and God-fearing monarch, and in May and December 
of that year he wrote to urge on the Cistercians 
the support of St Bernard's College, the Cistercian 
House of Studies at Oxford, now St John's. Long 
before Abbot King's time, Cistercians had frequented 
the schools at Oxford. But they had no house of 
their own. " Dispersed in divers inns and halls, 
they could not fulfil the customs and statutes of 
their Order as they ought to do; for which reason 
some devout scholars, finding themselves troubled in 
their consciences, refrained the University ; and some, 
though they were elected accorded to the custom of 
their Order to go to Oxon to obtain philosophical 
learning, refused to do so, to the great detriment of 
science and renown belonging to that Order. 

" This the Archbishop (Chichelcy) considering, 
desired King Henry the Sixth that he might perform 
some acceptable thing to God in helping or contribu- 
ting towards the necessities of these holy Cistercians, 
in building them a place where they might gain 
human and heavenly knowledge. Wherefore the 
said king, by his letters patent, dated at Lambeth, 
20th March 1437, gave him leave to erect a college 
to the honour of the most glorious Virgin St Mary 
and St Bernard, in the street commonly called 
Northgate Street, in the parish of St Mary Magdalen, 
without Northgate, and on the ground of the said 
Archbishop, containing five acres or thereabouts. 
This he did, building it of freestone, in the place 
specified, on the east side of that street 

"Those that inhabited here were maintained by 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 179 

the abbeys of their Order. They were governed by 
a Provisor, and he and they were subordinate to the 
Chancellor, who was their Visitor. When they had 
gotten a competency of University knowledge they 
were to be sent for home, and exercise the same in 
their own abbeys. They preached in the Church of 
St Peter in the East, Oxon, twice in Lent time. 
Adjoining to their lodging they had pleasant walks." ^ 

This account speaks well for the religious fervour 
of our Cistercians. They had also a house of studies 
at Cambridge, but no monks from Devonshire do I 
find among its students, while St Bernard's at 
Oxford was largely, if not mainly, supported by the 
Devon monasteries. From John Staynbourne in 
1 46 1 to Philip Acton in 1535, St Bernard's had only 
seven Provisors (Priors) so far as is known, and of 
these the only one of whom any special notice is 
given by Wood, in his Fasti Oxo?tienses, was a monk, 
and afterwards Prior, of Buckfast. To complete what 
I have to tell of our monastery's Oxford connection, I 
may allow myself to anticipate some later events 
that enter into the tale of the last days of the dear 
old Abbey. 

In the days of Abbot King, or perhaps of Abbot 
Rede, his immediate successor, two brothers, as it 
would seem, were among the children of a family 
that cultivated a part of the manor of Buckfast, 
named William and Arnold. Both no doubt were 
taught in our Abbey, but only one was professed 
here. William became a Benedictine monk at 
Tavistock. According to the then prevailing custom 

^ MSS. of Anthony a Wood, in Monast. Anglic.^ vol. v., p. 744 
(abridged). 



180 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

of taking a surname from the place of their origin/ 
the two boys were known as William and Arnold 
Buckfast. William Buckfast figures on the list of the 
monks of Tavistock who received pensions at the 
Dissolution ; - Brother Arnold owned also the surname 
of Gye, under which he appears in the list of eleven 
priests of the community on the day of the 
surrender. 

Brother Arnold's progress in studies was such that 
his Abbot sent him to study at St Bernard's College, 
that he might be able by his teaching to help in 
maintaining the high standard to which Abbot Slade 
had raised the community. To Oxford he was sent, 
probably in Abbot de Pomeroy's time, for in 15 18 I 
find in Wood, among the ten who supplicated for the 
degree of Bachelor of Divinity, as " Arnold Gye, 
alias Buckfast, a Cistercian IMonk of St Bernard's 
College." His aptitude for government caused him 
to be retained or sent back to the College, for in 
1528 he succeeded Father John Ford as Provisor or 
Prior of St Bernard's, till recalled to Buckfast as our 
Prior in 1532, in which office I find him on the fatal 
day of the surrender. What became of him after the 
expulsion, I know not. But there is a special reason 
for presuming that he returned for some years to 
St Bernard's at Oxford, which we know from Wood 
to have been at this time thronged with the poor 
expelled monks. 

Prior Arnold was the only one of the Buckfast 

^ We have seen examples in a former chapter. 

2 At the dissolution of Ford Abbey, out of thirteen monks 
nine appear on the pension with the two surnames, the local 
one being given first. ^ 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 181 

monks to whom no pension was granted. It is 
possible that he may have died immediately after 
the Dissolution, but it is more probable that in defence 
of his conscience he resisted the intruded hireling 
thrust into office by the tyrant, and did what he 
could to confirm his brethren in the Faith. Since 
the death of the last legitimately elected Abbot, he 
alone was their lawful Superior by right of his office 
as Prior. To the strange coincidences that attended 
the Dissolution and restoration of the venerable 
Abbey, which have to be recorded in the sequel, this 
one, I think, will have to be added, that our last 
lawful Superior, though he bore not the title of 
Abbot, was born under the shadow of our monastery, 
and bore the name of Arnold Buckfast. It was a 
worthy thought of the first Abbot of the Restoration, 
Dom Boniface Natter, that the first novice (now 
professed) who was clothed after his entering on 
office, should bear the name of Brother Arnold. 

Wood, who thought he was Abbot of Buckfast, 
relates that he left his arms " in one of the middle 
chamber windows of St Bernard's (now St John's 
College), wherein is a crozier thrust through a buck's 
face palewise." These are the arms of Buckfast 
Abbey, not of Prior Arnold. 

I am not sure that he was the only Buckfast 
monk by whom the College was governed. John 
Ford, his immediate predecessor, is very likely 
indeed to have been one of the Fords of Ashburton 
or Bagtor, our neighbours, and a monk of St Mary's, 
John Ford of Ashburton, who obtained a grant of 
arms in 1527, married Mary Pomeroy of Ingsdon. 

The next Abbot to John King seemed to have 



182 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

been John Rede the elder, of whom Dr Oliver writes 
that he "occurs as Abbot," 24th November 1498, but 
without indication of the date of his election. Of 
the Redes there will be something to say when we 
reach his nephew (probably) and namesake, whom 
we must hold as the last true Abbot of Buckfast. 
But between 1498, when his name occurs, and the 
election of Alfred Gill as Abbot of Buckfast, we have 
a period of fourteen years. After reading the valuable 
essay on " Berry and its Ancient Lords," written 
by Mr Charles Worthy, I find reason to admit, as 
highly probable at the very least, that between 
Abbots Rede and Gill we should admit into the list 
the name of Abbot Seinclere (St Clere) Pomeroy, and 
I hope to be forgiven for giving a fragment of 
Devonshire history, interwoven as it is with the story 
of St Mary's Abbey, concerning these Pomeroys. 

Raoul de la Pomeraie, " Ralph of the Orchard," 
was a Norman, whose castle, or what remains of it, 
now called Chateau Ganne,^ may be seen in the 
Cinglais, not far from P'alaise, got his title from the 
rich apple-orchards that surrounded his Norman 
home. He was proud of it, and the crest of the 
Pomeroys was a lion seiant with an apple in its paw. 
The Conqueror rewarded his military service by the 
manor known as Beri — the walled town — of which 
for that purpose he despoiled Aluric the Saxon. 
The stately and beautiful ruins of Berry Pomeroy 
Castle, two miles out of Totnes, are distant eight 
miles from Buckfast. 

Ralph's descendants proved generous benefactors 
to the Church, as the White Monks of Ford and the 
• Worthy, " The Lords of Berry," Devonshire Assoc. Trans. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 183 

Canons Regular of Torre, among others, could well 
testify. They loved their South Devon home, and of 
course intermarried with Valletorts, Moels, and other 
knightly houses in our vicinity. One of these 
alliances is of great ' importance to my history. 

The last of the Pomeroys of Berry was the gallant 
Sir Thomas. In the reign of Henry VIII. he had 
served with distinction in France, In 1549 he headed 
the Catholic army in Devon, and fought for the defence 
of his Faith. He escaped sentence of death, but the 
noble castle and the fair manor passed away for ever 
from its ancient lords. 

For some reason the Lords of Berry seem to 
have held aloof from Buckfast until the last century 
of their career. Our Cartulary never refers to them 
between iioo and 1400, save on one occasion, when 
William de Pomeroy witnesses a deed of Reginald de 
Valletort. The Abbey lands that were surrendered 
by the intruded Gabriel Donne were those held in the 
reign of the Confessor, with a few additions of which 
the donors are known, but they were not Pomeroys. 

Strangely enough, however, Leland, who in the 
reign of Henry VIII. visited Buckfast, says that it 
was re-founded after the Conquest, by one Ethelwerd 
de Pomeroy, which we have seen could not have been 
unless in the sense that the Lord of Berry had a 
hand in introducing the Norman monks in place of 
the dispossessed Saxons, which is likely enough. 
But what is to my purpose is the testimony of John 
Prince (1643-1723), who was vicar of Berry Pomeroy, 
and affirms " that one of this name and family was 
either the founder of, or a considerable benefactor to, 
this monastery, plainly appears from the Pomerai's 



184 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

arms, not long since to be seen in several places of 
the building." This last statement is beyond dispute. 
In the last century they were still faintly discernible 
in a farmhouse, originally part of the Abbey, and 
facing its entrance. 

For this there must have been a reason, and I 
agree with Mr Worthy, that there are valid grounds 
for admitting that between 1498 and 1500, Abbot 
John Rede was succeeded in his office by Abbot 
Seinclcre (St Clere) Pomeroy, by whom our 
community was governed till 1512. From his reign 
dates the legend, which Leland heard at his visit to 
Buckfast, not many years afterwards, of Ethelwerd 
de Pomeroy. In my opinion, there may, indeed, 
have been some benefaction to the monastery, of 
which the memory has perished, but I have no doubt 
it was in Abbot Seinclere's time that the Pomeroy 
arms were sculptured on our walls. A pleasing 
incident of Devonshire family history will introduce 
this Abbot to my readers. 

Philip de Beaumont, the ancestor of our Abbot 
Philip de Beaumont, was the ancient Lord of 
Ilsington, on the outskirts of the great moor. He 
lived at Ankyston, now Ingsdon, a mile or so out of 
Ashburton, on the road to Chudleigh, and his manor- 
house, now the home of a community of nuns known 
as the White Sisters, occupied an elevated site, 
divided by a valley from the ancient village of Bick- 
ington, which in his time was a scat of the Giffards. 
Abbot Philip is not unlikely to have spent his boyhood 
at Ingsdon, and may have been born there. 

Towards the year 1465, John Pomeroy, a younger 
brother of Sir Edward of Berr}-, had the good fortune 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 185 

to win the hand of a daughter of the house of Beau- 
mont, who brought him as her dowry the manor of 
Ingsdon. He must have been of mature years, for 
his brother. Sir Edward, had died in 1446, leaving 
three children, of whom the second, our future Abbot, 
was named St Clere, a name also borne by a grand- 
son of Sir Edward, the child of his youngest son John. 

In the churchwardens' accounts for the parish of 
Ashburton, at the year I5(X), is an entry of money, 
with the following note : " From a gift of the Lord 
Abbot of Buckfast St Clere Pomeroy — Geoffrey 
Harepath, and others." There is, of course, no 
division of punctuation to be looked for, and I think 
with Mr Worthy, that St Clere Pomeroy is here 
referred to as Abbot of Buckfast. This would at once 
account for the Pomerov arms at the Abbev. The 
name of St Clere Pomeroy never occurs again in 
these accounts, though the names of the parishioners 
are constantly repeated. Besides, though a present 
to Ashburton from our Abbot would be natural 
enough, St Clere Pomeroy, when a layman, belonged 
to Ilsington parish, not to Ashburton, and his church 
offerings would go to Ilsington. 

From the time that John de Pomeroy settled at 
Ingsdon, within a short ride of our Abbey, the 
Pomeroys are certain to have been visitors at St 
^Mary's Church, and the young St Clere, after his 
father's death, would be often at his uncle's house, and 
perhaps under his guardianship. St Clere was the 
name of an ancient family of Budleigh, which more 
than once intermarried with the Fords and the 
Pomeroys of Ilsington, and I suspect that John 
Ford, Prior Arnold's immediate predecessor at St 



186 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Bernard's College, was a relation of Abbot St Clere 
Pomeroy, for the houses of Ford and Pomeroy were 
connected, and a monk of Buckfast Abbey. The 
old manor-house of Ingsdon (nothing of the ancient 
building is discernible now), at last given over to 
religion, seems thus to have been the home in boy- 
hood of two abbots of Buckfast, Beaumont and 
Pomeroy. Nor should it be omitted that Sir William 
Pole, in the Pomeroy pedigree, gives the marriage 
and issue of Henry and John, brothers of St Clere, 
but not of the last named, who appears in the 
pedigree as unmarried. He must have been at 
least fifty-five years old at the time of his election. 

In the same Ashburton accounts is a charge 
(151 1- 1 2) "for ringing the knell of the late Abbot of 
Buckfast." On Palm Sunday, 15 12, Abbot Alfred 
Gyll was blessed as his successor. 

Such is the absolute dearth of records at this 
period, that of Abbot Gyll's acts we know nothing. 
His family held land in the neighbourhood of 
Tavistock, and were till quite lately seated at 
Bickham, Buckland Monachorum. Abbot Richard 
Gyll, perhaps his brother, confirmed Abbot in 1530, 
was the last abbot of the Cistercians at Newenham. 
Robert Gyll was Prior of St Mary's, Totnes, during 
the whole time that Abbot Alfred governed Buck- 
fast. Thomas Gyll, was the youngest of our Buckfast 
monks to whom pensions were granted at the Dis- 
solution. For a century before they had figured 
among the Exeter diocesan clergy. 

To what I have written above, I may here add 
that the present Viscount Harberton claims descent 
from the Ingsdon Pomeroy s. 



ii 




Door of a 13th centy Enamelled 

AND Gjlded Brass Limoges Work 

Chasse or Shrine. 



[To face page 187. 



CHAPTER XXII 

The last Abbot before the Dissolution. Dearth of records. 
Isolation of the Abbot. The Convocation of 1531. The 
Act of Succession. The Oath of Supremacy ; was it 
taken by the monks of Buckfast ? Abbot Rede's integrity. 
Prior Arnold Gye. 

John Rede the younger, the last Abbot of Buckfast 
before the Dissolution, received the abbatial blessing 
from Bishop Veysey, 13th April 1525. Dr Oliver 
thinks he was a nephew of the former Abbot, John 
Rede. The 13th of April in that year fell on 
Maunday Thursday. 

The Redes seem to have belonged to Dartmouth 
and its neighbourhood. Simon Rede, the last Abbot 
of Torre, who entered on office only two years 
before our Abbot, and survived till 1556, was buried 
in the Church of Stoke Flemyng, and his recumbent 
effigy is still to be seen in Townstall Church, Dart- 
mouth. William Rede was a Cistercian of Ford 
Abbey at the time of its suppression. 

The want of information for our history, in the 
latter part of the fifteenth century, does not affect our 
Abbey alone. The Exeter Registers during that 
period, and until 1521, were so neglected that all 
records from the Conquest till Henry III.'s reign 

187 



188 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

were entirely lost, and little care was taken of what 
belonged to a later period. Perhaps the confusion 
caused by the Wars of the Roses, and the frequent 
absences of the bishops, contributed to this result. 
Bishop Catterick, the immediate successor of Bishop 
Stafford, died in Italy a month after his nomination, 
and was buried at Florence, in the Franciscan 
Church of Santa Croce, No complaint can be 
made against his immediate successor. Bishop 
Lacy, whose tomb is said to have been defaced 
in the reign of Henry VIII., to stop the concourse 
of pilgrims attracted to it by the fame of his miracles. 
But from that time forward our bishops were much 
drawn into affairs of State, and of twelve bishops in 
succession, beginning with Stafford, only two were 
born in the diocese. No doubt this also had to 
do with the neglect of records. 

Abbot John Rede entered on office only a 
fortnight after Blessed Richard Whiting succeeded to 
the abbacy of Glastonbury, and had to meet the 
persecutions on the part of the Government that beset 
all the religious superiors of that time, so well told in 
Abbot Gasquet's Last Abbot of Glastonbury, and 
had his own trials to undergo. From his bishop 
he could not hope for support, for Bishop Veysey 
was a favourite at Court, and his courtly ambition 
" restrained him from being honest in bad times." ^ 
And the times were exceedingly bad. In February 
1 53 1, the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury 
had acknowledged the king as Supreme Head of the 
Church in England, as far as the law of Christ permits, 
and the systematic persecution of the clergy by 

1 Oliver. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 189 

pecuniary extortions began, A charge was brought 
against Rede shortly after that he had been in the 
habit of pasturing his cattle on the " King's moors '' 
without payment, and on the 12th of July a commis- 
sion was issued to Sir Thomas Denys and Sir Philip 
Champernowne, to enquire into the matter. Sir 
Thomas Denys was bent on mending the fallen 
fortunes of his house out of the Abbey lands — in 
which he was eminently successful ; — but his trick was 
to ingratiate himself with the monks till the time for 
action arrived. So he decided in the Abbot's favour ; 
and decided, " the beasts in the same pasturing to be 
and go in quiet manner, without any further vexation 
or trouble to the said Abbot, his title and interest of 
and in the same." He thoroughly deceived the 
monks, " pretending to be their friend, and obtaining 
offices of trust, and, of course, of emolument from 
them."^ Eventually he became the owner of Buck- 
fast Abbey, 

The Abbot must have been sorely straitened for 
money in those days, but to resist demands was 
impossible. The vicar of Churchstow in 1533, put in 
a claim for a substantial addition to his annual 
income, which was of course fully granted. It may 
not have been excessive, but even if it had been, it 
was not the time to dispute it. But I do not find 
any indication of Abbot Rede having adopted the 
plan of giving out the Abbey lands on long leases, as 
was done by others in wholesale fashion at this time. 
Abbot Gyll of Newenham granted about twenty in 
1533. Only one lease do I find granted by Abbot 

' Brooking Rowe. 



190 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Rede in all his time of office, and that was a little 
before his death or expulsion in 1536. 

A darker hour was now at hand. Already, 
in July 1 531, the same month in which the royal 
commission held its enquiry concerning the Dartmoor 
pasturage, Abbot Rede had been made to feel 
painfully the complete isolation in which he stood. 
At the request of the English Cistercians the General 
Chapter of the Order had sent the Abbot of Chailly 
to make the visitation of the monasteries in England, 
but was hindered by a royal order, commanding 
him to return to France. Deserted by his bishop, 
forbidden under tremendous penalties to hold 
communication with Rome, deprived of the support 
of his Order, the Abbot of Buckfast was left to face 
the impending storm helpless and alone. In March 
1333, the royal assent was given to the Act of 
Parliament forbidding appeals to the Pope. In the 
following month Anne Boleyn was proclaimed Queen, 
and evil tidings reached Devonshire from time and 
time, which caused superiors of religious houses 
to begin hurriedly granting long leases of their 
estates to those whom they deemed their friends, as I 
have said, an example not followed by our Abbot. 

In March 1534, Parliament passed the Act by 
which it was made high treason to oppose the 
succession to the Crown of the issue of Henry and 
Anne Boleyn. The Oath of Succession, to be taken 
by the nobles, clergy, and others to whom it might 
be offered, was not contained in the Act itself It 
was subsequently framed in such a form as to make it 
an Oath of Supremacy. As tendered to the religious 
communities, it included the formula : " Also that 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 191 

they would ever hold the king to be Head of the 
Church of England ; that the Bishop of Rome, who in 
his bulls usurped the name of Pope and arrogated to 
himself the primacy of the most high Pontiff, had no 
more authority or jurisdiction than other Bishops in 
their dioceses." 

Following close on this Act of Parliament came 
the news of the execution of the Holy Maid of Kent 
and her companions. Within the year our Devon- 
shire monasteries were visited by the royal commis- 
sioners, who brought with them the form of the Oath 
to be signed by the monks of each community 
assembled in chapter. 

It has been generally believed that, with the 
exception of the Carthusians and the Observant 
Franciscans, the Oath of Supremacy was universally 
signed by the monks. There are strong reasons for 
disbelieving this assertion. However, at Hartland 
Abbey in North Devon, it was signed by Abbot 
Priest and five others, 31st August 1534; as also by 
Prior Sturgeon and his community of Frithelstock, in 
the same year ; by Prior Howe of Plympton, on 5th 
August ; by Prior Ross of Pilton and two others, 
Richard Pilton and John Caw, in the month of 
September.^ Here I may transcribe from Abbot 
Gasquet's great work a note appended to p. 248 of 
Vol. I. :— 

"Canon Dixon says that the oath was taken in 
almost every chapter-house where it was tendered. 
This is generally stated as a fact, but as far as is 
known, there is no proof of it. The list of acknow- 
ledgments of the royal supremacy, printed in the 

^ Oliver, Monasiicon Exojiie?ise. 



193 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

seventh Report of the Deputy Keeper, App. II., 
contains all the known documents as to the religious 
bodies. They number only 105, ^r very small fraction 
of the wJiole. Of these Mr F. Devon, the assistant 
keeper of public records, remarks : — ' I believe it 
contains all the original acknowledgments of 
supremacy deposited in the branch public record 
office at the chapter-house. The signatures are in niy 
opinion not all autographs, but frequently iji the same 
handwriting, and my impression is that the writer of 
the deed often added many of the names'" The 
same conclusion is confirmed by the history of Syon 
Monastery. On the whole, it is by far the more just 
and probable inference that a very great number of 
the religious were not involved in the guilt of this act 
of schism. 

Buckfast does not figure in the fatal list, and there 
are a number of circumstances, as we shall see in 
our next chapter, to strengthen the presumption that 
the unhallowed oath was refused by the Abbot and 
Prior ; that the royal commissioners found in the 
community a different spirit from that of Hartland 
or Plympton, and that their firmness was owing to 
Abbot Rede and Prior Arnold Gye. But in fairness 
to those by whom the Oath was taken, I must here 
summarise the just and wise remarks of Abbot 
Gasquet.^ 

At first sight we are startled at seeing the names 
of several of our martyrs among those who signed 
the Oath of Supremacy, But, difficult and strained 
as it may seem to us at the present day, there is at 
least sufficient evidence in what has come down to 
^ The last Abbot of Glastonbury, pp. 47 sqq. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 193 

us in contemporary writings, that among upright and 
learned men of that time, it was often thought that 
by signing the Oath of Supremacy they did not 
separate themselves from the communion of the 
Holy See. No doubt the overmastering dread of 
ruin to their monasteries to some extent warped 
their judgment. They felt sure that the king would 
return to Catholic unity some day or other, for in 
his early days he had been a loyal and devout 
Catholic. Many thought the headship of the Church 
of England might be allowed " in temporalibus," and 
that they could sign the document with this tacit 
reservation. Such reservations were by contem- 
poraries really attributed to some leading ecclesi- 
astics, and not without reason. Besides, since the 
Council of Constance and the Great Schism of the 
West, learned men might be found here and there 
in whom the divine origin of the papal authority was 
not so clear and undoubted as it had been during the 
iirst fourteen centuries of the Church, and as it 
continued to be in the faith and profession of 
Catholics. " I have, by the grace of God," said 
Blessed Thomas More, himself a martyr for the 
Primacy of the Holy See, " been always a Catholic 
never out of communion with the Roman Pontiff : 
but I have heard it said at times that the authority 
of the Roman Pontiff was certainly lawful and to be 
respected, but still an authority derived from human 
law, and not standing upon a divine prescription. 
Then, when I observed that human affairs were so 
ordered that the sources of the power of the Roman 
Pontiff would necessarily be examined, I gave myself 
up to a most diligent examination of that question 

N 



194 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

for the space of seven years, and found that the 
authority of the Roman Pontiff, which you rashly — I 
will not use stronger language — have set aside, is not 
only lawful, to be respected, and necessary, but also 
grounded on the divine law and prescription. That 
is my opinion ; that is the belief in which, by the 
grace of God, I shall die." 

For that belief he died, and his death, and the 
deaths of his fellow-martyrs, have powerfully assisted 
in sweeping away the last vestiges of doubt or 
hesitation on this article of the Catholic Faith. 
What was possible under the reign of Henry had 
become impossible in the days of Elizabeth. 

But while we may think that if the monks of 
Buckfast had really taken the Oath of Supremacy on 
this occasion, it would not be right to suppose their 
guilt to have been what it would be in our own times ; 
it is but right to bear in mind that there is no evidence 
that they did so, but a valid presumption that they 
did not. But we must hasten to continue our story 
of the events of those days of infinite sadness. 

Events were now following in quick succession 
that might have made the stoutest heart quail. The 
martyrdom of the Carthusians and their companions, 
of More, Fisher, and others, the suppression of the 
lesser monasteries, and the dismissal of all monks 
under twenty-four years of age, and of all who had 
professed under twenty, all combined to deepen the 
gloom that surrounded the community of Buckfast. 
We know not even the year in which the last Abbot 
of Buckfast died, nor whether he breathed his last 
in his beloved monastery. At the meeting of 
Convocation in June 1536, the intruded Gabriel 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 195 

Donne assisted and signed as "Gabriel, Abbas de 
Buckfestria" 

As this royal nomination of a fallen monk who 
had forsaken the unity of the Catholic Faith, by a 
king in the same condition, was of course absolutely 
null and void, Gabriel Donne has no place in the list 
of the Abbots of Buckfast During the two or three 
years from Abbot Rede's death or removal to the 
Dissolution, the lawful superior was of course the 
Prior. The last Superior of the Abbey of St Mary's 
at Buckfast was, therefore, Prior Arnold Gye, whom 
I believe to have been born on the patrimony of St 
Mary's, or, to give him what may be his true name, 
Arnold Buckfast. ^ 

* The name of Gye occurs about this period as that of a 
family living at Sandford, a little north of Crediton. In 
Worthy's Devonshire Wills, I find that of James Mortymer of 
Sandford in 1558, whose trustee is "Robert Gye, gentleman"; 
in 1623 Jane Mortimer leaves the residue of her estate to 
" Cousin Robert Gye." A William Gye was a monk of 
Buckland at the Dissolution. In Sir William Pole's Devon- 
shire Pedigrees, Robert Guy of Prouze, in Sandford, probably 
identical with James Mortimer's trustee, appears as the husband 
of Grace Dowrish. But the fact of Prior Arnold's assuming 
the name of Buckfast makes me think that he was only 
distantly connected with the Gyes of Sandford, and that he 
was born on the Abbey manor. 



CHAPTER XXIII * 

Gabriel Donne. Abbot Rede's last act. The Cistercian house 
of Stratford Langthorne. Donne's earlier career. "The 
wolf rampant." Surrenders of Devonshire monasteries in 
1539. Canonsleigh, Hartland, and Torre. The Eve of St 
Matthias, 1539. A strange coincidence. Sir William 
Petre. 

The meeting of Convocation that assembled on the 
9th of June, and was dissolved on the 20th of July, in 
the year 1536, numbered in all 109 members. All 
had of course taken the Oath of Supremacy. But 
among them were some who afterwards shed their 
blood for the Primacy of the Holy See, and more who 
underwent for the same cause a life-long imprison- 
ment, or went into voluntary exile, for their 
conscience. 

Cromwell, as the King's Vicar-General, presided in 
person, and the terror of the royal vengeance awed 
the assembly into submission. The lesser monas- 
teries had been already dissolved, and some of the 
greater ones had resigned themselves into the hands 
of the king. Anne Boleyn had been executed three 
weeks before the meeting of Parliament, and the 
king had married Jane Seymour the day after her 
execution. Efforts were indeed made by Convoca- 

196 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 197 

tion to stem the torrent of Lutheranism, especially 
by the Lower House, but in their protestation the 
members style Henry "the Supreme Head of the 
Church of England," and desire " that the Bishop of 
Rome, with his usurped authority, ... be utterly 
and for ever renounced, forsaken, extinguished, and 
abolished." Such was the Convocation of 1536, 
which Archbishop Cranmer opened by singing the 
Mass of the Holy Ghost in St Paul's Cathedral. 

The clergy of the Northern Province as yet stood 
firm. In their Convocation of this year they 
pronounced that " the King's Highness nor any 
temporal man may not be Supreme Head of the 
Church by the law of God ; that lands given to God, 
the Church, or religious men, may not be taken 
away ; that by the law of the Church, General 
Councils, and consent of Christian people, the Pope 
of Rome hath been taken for the Head of the Church 
and Vicar of Christ, and so ought to be taken." A 
formidable insurrection in Lincolnshire and the 
North strove to uphold this bold declaration. But 
the ecclesiastics of the Province of Canterbury had 
bent before the Terror, and eighteen bishops, with 
forty abbots and priors, signed the Acts of Convoca- 
tion in the chapter-house of St Paul's. 

Among the names of those who signed appears 
that of Gabriel, Abbot of Buckfast. A chain of 
circumstantial evidence leads us to the conclusions 
that Abbot John Rede was still living when Gabriel 
Donne was intruded into his place by Cromwell, 
either during the sitting of Convocation or shortly 
before ; and that the Abbot, the Prior, and the 
community, had incurred the displeasure of the 



198 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Commissioners, probably from their resistance to the 
Oath of Supremacy. 

Gabriel Donne's signature to the Acts of Convoca- 
tion could not have been written later than the 
20th of July 1536, when it was dissolved; and of 
Abbot Rede, Dr Oliver writes, " that we meet with 
his name in a lease, July 10, 1536," only ten days 
earlier. Mr Brooking Rowe says that " he was 
confirmed 13th April 1525, and lived about twelve 
years after," probably supposing him to have died 
just before Donne's appointment. At any rate, 
during the month of July he was removed from 
abbacy by death, or, as I believe, by a forced 
resignation. 

Nor were the monks of St Mary's Abbey allowed 
to elect one of their own number to succeed John 
Rede. A stranger from a distant house, a royal 
favourite, and a tool of Cromwell " was foisted on the 
monks, and put in to carry out the designs of the 
king."i 

The election, if choice had been allowed, would 
probably have fallen on Prior Arnold, an Oxford 
man, and for several years head of St Bernard's 
College at Oxford. But the Prior was so odious to 
the tyrannical government that he alone of the 
community was granted no pension whatever at the 
Dissolution. It is likely that under the influence of 
abbot and prior the community had proved so 
refractory that the Commissioners could recommend 
no one as likely to be a fit instrument for carrying 
out the royal will. It is a proceeding frequently 
met with in the history of the Dissolution. 

* Brooking Rowe. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 199 

It is to be regretted that from this critical point 
we lose sight of Abbot Rede, whom we are obliged 
to regard as the last of our abbots until the election 
in our chapter of Dom Boniface Natter, on the 19th 
of November 1902. On his memory and the 
memory of his predecessors, as far as records survive, 
we can look back with reverence and gratitude. By 
their laborious and beneficent lives they set their 
stamp on the surrounding country, and governed 
their community in tranquil seclusion. 

Though, of course, as already said, the only 
legitimate authority during the brief period that 
intervened till the surrender of the Abbey rested 
with Prior Arnold Gye, alias Buckfast, who on that 
account, though not holding the abbatial crozier, 
must be held to be our last Superior, Gabriel Donne 
entered at once at Buckfast on the work of temporal 
and spiritual destruction. The "wolf rampant" on 
his escutcheon was an apt symbol of his unhallowed 
mission, and his antecedent career a good prepara- 
tion for it. 

Gabriel Donne, a student of Trinity Hall, 
Cambridge, became a Cistercian in the Monastery of 
Stratford Langthorne of Essex, and in the Convoca- 
tion of 1536 his signature immediately follows that 
of William Huddleston, the last Abbot of Stratford. 
His abilities were considerable, and we find him 
acting as proctor for his brethren in a lawsuit 
between the community and the vicar of West Ham, 
in 1 5 17. Following Abbot Huddleston into the 
schism, he attracted the notice of Cranmer and 
Cromwell, and was employed in the arrest of 
Tyndale at Antwerp in 1535, returning to England 



200 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

in the month of June of that year. His services 
were rewarded with the abbacy of Buckfast, and, as 
we have seen, he sat as Abbot in the Convocation of 
June 1536. After the Dissolution he was gratified 
with a pension of ;i^i20, equal to ;^I200 in our own 
day ; received various benefices, was made canon 
residentiary of St Paul's, and was appointed by 
Cranmer to exercise all manner of jurisdiction in his 
name in the diocese. Utterly unscrupulous, he 
became as Protestant as heart could wish under 
Edward VI., and in Mary's reign was again a 
Catholic. He died on the 5th of December 1558, 
within three weeks after the queen, and before there 
was time to be called upon for another change in his 
religion, and was buried in St Paul's, near the High 
Altar. He left much of his ill-gotten wealth for 
purposes of charity, and £120 to Trinity Hall, 
" which was applied to the foundation of a scholar- 
ship, and the establishment of an annual com- 
memoration of the deceased, with a refection on the 
Feast of St Nicholas." ^ His arms are still to be 
seen among the shields in the roof of Trinity Hall 
Chapel. 

During the two years and eight months of his 
uncanonical rule, " he alienated," writes Mr Brooking 
Rowe, " much of the monastic property," the prior 
and community being, of course, powerless to stay 
his hand. But he had a more important work to 
accomplish, namely, by oppression or cajolery to 
dispose the monks to a so-called " voluntary " 
surrender of the venerable abbey into the hands of 

' Cooper's Athetics Cant. ; Brooking Rowe's Cistercian 
Houses of Devon. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 201 

the king. The royal agents in the work of suppres- 
sion were enjoined to obtain such surrenders by 
every means in their power; if unsuccessful, they 
were to proceed by terror and compulsion.^ 

" With the king's hand on their throats," most of 
the communities made the surrender. Where the 
abbots proved obstinate they were deprived, " and 
others more pliant put in their room," writes Sir 
William Dugdale ; as was, for example, the case at 
St Alban's and Evesham, and the dispossessed 
monks were turned adrift without a pension, to beg 
their bread. The intrusion of Gabriel Donne and 
his evil example and exhortations must have made 
the brief period that followed a time of inexpressible 
sadness for the monks, though no doubt his position 
as an acknowledged and favoured agent of Cromwell 
secured the monastery from wanton aggression by 
outsiders. 

The government of our community by the 
unhappy apostate lasted for two years and a half 
after he had sat in Convocation as Abbot of Buck- 
fast. In the latter part of February 1539,- the Royal 
Commissioners, William Petre, John Tregonwell, and 
John Smith, were hurrying on the dissolution of 
monastic houses in the county of Devon. On the 
1 6th, Elizabeth Powell, Abbess of the Canonesses 
Regular of Canonsleigh, with her seventeen sisters, 
surrendered her monastery. The names of the nuns, 

^ Gasquef, vol. i., p. 278. 

^ Both the Monasticon Atiglicanuin and Oliver place the 
suppression of our monastery on the 25th of February 1538, 
but as in official documents it is dated in 30 Henry VIII., it 
seems that this must be an error for 1539. 



202 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Pomeroy, Chudleigh, Fortescue, Carew, Pollard, and 
the rest, belong almost without exception to our 
historical families. The monastery was razed. 
Thence the Commissioners, crossing the whole 
breadth of the county from east to west 
(Canonsleigh is on the Somerset border), four days 
later were at Hartland Abbey, of the same Order. 
Here, besides Abbot Pope, only four Canons Regular 
received pensions, " assigned and appoynted by John 
Tregonwell, William Petre, and John Smyth, 
esquyers. Commissioners." The surrender was 
made on the 2ist; the assignment of pensions is 
dated on the 22nd. One of the canons is appointed 
to serve the Chapel of Bickington. As nearly as we 
can determine their route, we may now follow the 
cavalcade of the Royal Commissioners with their 
servants during the next five days. 

From Hartland to Torre they could not easily 
have ridden in one day. But if they left Hartland 
on the 2 1st, they could well have rested at Oke- 
hampton Castle, which they would reach towards 
evening of the 22nd, having halted the night before at 
one of the numerous country seats on their way. 
The 23rd was the first Sunday in Lent, and after 
hearing mass in the castle, they would be early in the 
saddle and reach the great Premonstratensian 
Abbey of Torre in time to receive the surrender of 
the canons in their chapter-house the same night, for 
the surrender is dated on the 23rd, and was made by 
Abbot Simon Rede. The importance and wealth of 
this abbey make it probable that the Commissioners 
were detained there for the following day, or at least 
part of it, though no doubt the Abbot and the 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 203 

Commissioners sat up till late at night. Of course 
all had been arranged beforehand, and Abbot Rede's 
pension, which would exceed £600 of our money, 
shows that he was high in favour with the despoilers. 
The next day, Monday, was the Feast of St 
Matthias. It was the last day on which the monks 
of Buckfast could call their abbey their home, for on 
the morrow it was to pass away, as men thought, 
from the children of St Benedict for ever.^ Gabriel 
Donne — I will not call him abbot, for to that title he 
had no right — was now busy in preparation for his 
guests and accomplices in the act of sacrilege he had 
undertaken to accomplish at the bidding of a lawless 
king. When offering up, with unworthy hands, the 
sacrifice of the mass on that day, he might well have 
pondered on the words he had to read in the Lesson 
from the Acts of the Apostles in the Missal, concern- 
ing the traitor : " Let their habitation become 
desolate, and let there be none to dwell therein ; and 
his bishopric let another take." A year of years had 
indeed to pass away, but on the first day of the 365th 
year, on this same Feast of St Matthias, which had 
brought to an end eight centuries of monastic life in 
the Abbey of St Mary of Buckfaesten, the bishop of 
the diocese was to bless and enthrone, with all the 
splendour of the ancient rite, another abbot to begin 
anew the venerable line of monastic rulers, and take 
the place usurped by the fallen Judas. None of those 
concerned in appointing the day for the blessing of 
Abbot Boniface Natter on 24th March 1903 were 

^ Cistercians are of course a branch of the Benedictine 
Order, and their profession is made " according to the Rule of 
St Benedict." 



204 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

aware of this coincidence, if, indeed, coincidence it 
should be called. 

Whether it was on the day of St Matthias, or on 
the following, that the Commissioners rode from 
Torre to Buckfast, I cannot say, but the Feast of the 
Apostle was the last of which the monks were to see 
the close as possessors of the Abbey, for on the 
25th it was surrendered. On his journey from Torre 
through the loveliest part of South Devon, William 
Petre was revisiting the scenes of his boyhood. 
Torbyran, where he first saw the light, is about five 
miles from Buckfast Abbey. The circumstance may 
well have awakened his better thoughts, for in his 
character evil and good were strangely mixed. 

It will help us to a deeper insight into the scene 
enacted in our chapter-house on that memorable 
25th of February, if I give some account here of this 
personage, whose descendants held for two centuries 
and a half the bulk of the lands that had belonged to 
our Abbey from the days of St Edward the Confessor. 
He was the eldest of the eight children of John Petre, 
Esq., and was born about the year 1505, at the family 
seat of Tor Newton, in the parish of Torbyran 
aforesaid. His father was a gentleman of small 
estate. William was sent to Oxford, where he 
entered first at Exeter College, was elected Fellow of 
All Souls in 1523, and in 1533 took his degree of 
D.C.L. It must have been some years before the 
last date that the Earl of Wiltshire, father to Queen 
Anne Boleyn, chose him as tutor to his son, the 
unhappy George Boleyn. At Court he attracted 
the notice of Henry VIII., and continued in favour 
under four sovereigns of England. Dignified, grace- 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 205 

ful, courteous, a keen observer of men, he was the 
most accomplished courtier ever known. " Wrio- 
thesley was rough and stubborn, Paget easy, Cecil 
close, Mason plain, Smith noble ; Petre smooth, 
reserved, resolved, and yet obliging " ; such is Prince's 
judgment of Petre and his contemporary statesman. 
At the time of the suppression of our Abbey he was 
not yet knighted. Out of the Abbey lands he 
obtained, in Devonshire alone, 36,000 acres, and in 
these estates was comprised the greatest part of our 
property, though not the Abbey itself. 

Withal he retained a yearning for the old religion. 
In Queen Mary's reign he obtained from Paul IV. 
a special sanction for retaining the Abbey lands for 
himself and his heirs for ever, without scruple of 
conscience, and with absolution from all censures. 
After Elizabeth's accession he gradually withdrew 
himself from Court, and spent the last years of his 
life in retirement and works of charity at Ingatestone, 
in Essex. He is generally believed to have died 
a Catholic, and is the founder of the noble house that 
has ever remained, under many trials, unswervingly 
loyal to the Faith. 

Unlike most of his fellow- Commissioners, he was no 
calumniator of the monks, and the Devon monas- 
teries were at least fortunate in being spared the 
foul ribaldry and brutal insults of men like Layton 
and his compeers. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

Haste of the Royal Commissioners. Hostile attitude of the 
people. Arrival of Petre and his company at Buckfast. 
The last scene in the chapter-house. Names of the 
monks. Dismantling of the Abbey after the expulsion of 
the community. 

The Royal Commissioners were accompanied on their 
visitation of the monasteries by a large and well- 
armed retinue, a precaution of absolute necessity, 
without which their lives would have been in danger. 
True, the ferocious revenge taken on the defenders 
of the monasteries by the king, and the wholesale 
executions of eighteen months earlier, had quelled 
for the time the spirit of resistance that was to 
break out a kw years later, only to be extinguished 
by the butchery of four thousand of the Devonshire 
peasantry. Besides, Devonshire men are slow to 
move, but they bitterly detested the foul work that 
was going on, and looked on with scowling faces 
as the band of licentious ruffians went about their 
work. Here and there some partial disturbance had 
arisen, as at the suppression of the Priory of St 
Nicholas at Exeter, but no serious rising took place 
at this time. 

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HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 207 

The hostile attitude of the people accounts in part 
for the haste with which Petre and his company 
rode from monastery to monastery through the length 
and breadth of Devon, and the brief stay he made 
at each house. As all had been arranged in time 
beforehand, it is but natural to suppose that the 
monks were assembled in the chapter-house immedi- 
ately on the arrival of the Commissioners, to append 
their signatures to the act of surrender, and that 
during the next twenty-four hours the Commissioners 
employed their time in taking over from the Abbot 
the charters, seals, and above all the inventory of 
the goods of the house, as all objects of gold, silver, 
or jewels had at once to be packed up and forwarded 
to London, and a special search was made for jewelled 
mitres, rings, vestments of cloth of gold or silver, and 
all such-like articles. The rest was put up for sale, 
especially the lead from the roof and the church 
bells, the buildings demolished, and their materials 
sold piecemeal. Once the inventory had been 
obtained, the rest of the work was left by the 
Commissioners to inferior officials. The monks of 
Buckfast knew the fate that awaited them, and there 
were sad hearts in the dear old Abbey, and great 
"grief in the convent and all the servants of the 
house, departing one from another, especially such 
as with their conscience could not break their pro- 
fession. It would have made a flint melt and weep 
to have seen the breaking up of the house, and the 
sorrowful departing." So wrote an eye-witness of the 
suppression of the Cistercian Abbey of Roche, seven 
months before that of Buckfast.^ 

* Gasquet, vol. ii., p. 318. 



208 HISTORY OF BUCK FAST ABBEY 

Taking the cross-roads in an almost straight h"ne 
from Torre to Buckfast, Sir William Petre would 
have passed close by Torbryan, his native place, and 
through Woodland, where his mother, Alice Colin, 
was born. But it is more likely that the large 
cavalcade kept the king's highway to Abbot's Kers- 
well — I am writing for Devonshire men — and thence 
to the ancient borough of Ashburton. Thence after 
a twenty minutes' ride their horses' hoofs clattered 
on the stone pavement under the arched south gate 
of the Abbey, and passing the grey old tower that 
still stands in its massive strength, they drew rein 
in front of the principal entrance. (In a room over 
that entrance, now restored, these pages have been 
written.) While the servants of the Abbey were 
busy with their horses they entered in and found 
themselves in the guest-house, where of course they 
met with all due courtesy, for Gabriel Donne and 
William Petre, old friends, were alike the Lord 
Cromwell's agents, and a goodly refection awaited 
the travellers, A brief talk round the fire, while 
the monks, who had said vespers in their choir for 
the last time, were assembling in chapter, and the 
Commissioners with their notary were led through 
the south gallery of the cloister, past the door of 
the refectory, and then turning to the left, found 
themselves at the door of the chapter-house, in front 
of which three inscribed tombstones of departed 
abbots diversified the bright green and yellow tiles 
of the pavement.^ 

' The description is no fanciful one ; much has disappeared 
in the course of restoration, as it could not be preserved, but 
the writer is accurately describing what he himself unearthed, 
though it was in a crumbling state. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 209 

Round the chapter-house ran a low bench of red 
sandstone, on which the few remaining monks were 
seated. None could have been received to profession 
for years past ; the younger monks had been com- 
pulsorily dismissed ; death had of course come as a 
relief to some of the aged, and only ten choir- 
monks remained — of course not counting the pseudo- 
Abbot — including the Prior, Arnold Gye. The walls 
of the chapter-house have not yet been raised on 
the old foundations, but one can stand on the very 
spot occupied by Sir William Petre, with Gabriel 
Donne on his right, and recall the last scene in our 
history that ushered in the long night of desolation. 
The act of surrender was then read, I suppose by 
the notary. 

By the document, which was in Latin, the Abbot 
and monks were made to say that "from just and 
reasonable motives we by these presents do give, 
grant, surrender, and confirm to our most illustrious 
Prince Henry, by the grace of God, King of England, 
Lord of Ireland, Supreme Head of the Church of 
England, all our said monastery or abbacy of Buck- 
fast. . . . Before me, William Petre," etc. The deed 
of surrender was then laid on a table in the middle 
of the chapter-house, and each monk, beginning with 
Gabriel Donne, signed it in succession. 

Throughout England there were not found many, 
even among those who had refused the Oath of 
Supremacy, to refuse the signatures. That all the 
signatures to be seen on these deeds are genuine we 
could not affirm, for there are instances, like that of 
Darent Convent, where they are all in the same 
handwriting, and clearly forged. As the penalty for 

O 



210 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

refusing to sign was the refusal of a pension, it is 
possible that the signature of the Prior of Buck- 
fast was inserted by someone else. It was a 
principal object with the king's agents that the 
monks should appear to have made a voluntary and 
unanimous surrender, and a more unscrupulous body 
of men it would be hard to find at any epoch of 
our country's history. 

So ended the memorable 25th of February 1539. 
Perhaps the hardships of the dispersed monks were 
less severe than in some other instances, for an 
inspection of the list of names shows that they 
were all, or nearly all, Devonshire men, belonging 
to the class of landholders, and in all probability 
they left at once for the homes of their families. 
The names are the following : Arnold Gye, Prior ; 
John Cowle, John Watts, Richard Taylor, William 
Shapcott, Matthew Pryston (Preston), Richard Splatt, 
Thomas G}'lle, William Avery, John Doyge. All 
but the Prior were pensioned. It is impossible to 
decide on what principle the amount was fixed. 
Six of the number received £l. 6s. 8d. each ; but 
John Cowle was allowed £6, and John Doyge 
£6. 13s. 4d., while Thomas Gill had but ^5. As 
superiors usually were paid at a higher rate, the 
exclusion of the Prior becomes more conspicuous. 

The old Devonshire families of Doidge, Amery, 
and Shapcote have numerous descendants, bearing 
these typical Devon names, in the county ; Splatts 
and Prestons still linger among us. The other names 
are common to all parts of the country. 

Once the surrender had been signed, the monks 
were not allowed to linger in their monastery. More 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 211 

than half of them would have been able to reach 
the homes of their families in one day. The dis- 
mantling of the building began at once. The lead 
was stripped from the roofs. The church bells, five 
in number, were bought from Sir Thomas Arundel 
for i^33, 15s., by the men of Buckfastleigh for 
the parish church. But the buildings were not 
razed. 

That the Abbey, or a portion of it, was used as 
a residence during the whole of the nineteenth 
century, is certain, and I think it may have been 
so at intervals at an earlier period. There was a 
curious legend among the country-people, that 
owing to a curse laid upon it by the monks at the 
time of their expulsion, none of its owners should 
ever die within its precincts, until, I presume, it 
returned to its rightful proprietors. During the 
last century the prophecy would seem to have been 
a true one ; but the spell is broken now, for since 
it came into monastic hands in 1882, one death has 
occurred, that of an old Crimean veteran, a monk 
and priest of the Abbey, Dom Herluin Capelle, 
deceased on the anniversary of his profession, nth 
July 1885, Feast of the Translation of St Benedict. 

Of course a ghost story in such an ancient build- 
ing is the correct thing, but the story of the Abbey 
ghost has received an unexpected elucidation, if I 
may so call it, which I shall relate in a subsequent 
chapter. 



CHAPTER XXV 

Buckfast Abbey after the Dissolution ; its lay impropriators. 
Sir Thomas Denys ; providential consequences of his pur- 
chase of the Abbey. The Catholic insurrection of 1549. 
Descendants of Sir Thomas Denys. The Rolle family. 
The building levelled in 1806. 

The history of our Abbey from the Dissolution to 

the return of the monks could only be told by 

relating the history of its lay proprietors during 

that interval. This I could not attempt to do, but 

a few notes on its vicissitudes will add to the 

completeness of our story. 

For a long time it remained the property of the 

descendants of Sir Thomas Denys of Holcombe 

Burnell. The ancient Devonshire family of Denys 

bore with pride the three Danish battle-axes on its 

shield. An ancestor of St Thomas was the William 

le Deneis whose name appears in the list of witnesses 

to our earliest Norman charter, in the reign of 

Henry I. But by the time of Henry VHI. the 

family had become impoverished, and Sir Thomas 

set himself to repair its fortunes. This he was 

enabled to do out of the spoils of the monastic 

houses, and he availed himself of the chance to the 

utmost. 
212 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 213 

" He lived under eight kings and queens of the 
realm, and was greatly preferred by several of them." 
Of course, he changed his religion as often as a new 
religion came in. From some words in his will — he 
died in Elizabeth's reign — I suspect he was always a 
Catholic at heart. 

As for a century or more the Abbey manor bore 
the name of Buckfast-Dennis, it would be pleasing if 
we could meet with any signs that the house of 
Denys had not abjured the ancient Faith. Although 
this cannot be shown, yet there is reason to believe 
that for a long time there were descendants of Sir 
Thomas who secretly adhered to the religion of their 
fathers. The subject is to us of such interest that I 
cannot forbear it altogether. 

A devout and charitable priest was Sir Richard 
Denys, the youngest brother of Sir Thomas, and 
rector of Powderham. His will was proved at 
Exeter, on the 24th of June 1533, and in it he leaves 
all his belongings to be divided between the poor and 
the priests and friars, who are to say mass for his 
soul. If his brother was no follower of the good 
priest's holy example, yet it bore fruit in his nephew 
George, of whom it can hardly be doubted that he 
was a younger son of Sir Thomas. I here translate 
from Davenport's History of the English Franciscans, 
published at Douay in 1665, according to Dr Oliver, 

" Brother George Denys, born of a noble Catholic 
family in the county of Devon, who had been the 
royal standard-bearer at the siege of Boulogne under 
Henry the Eighth, before the final suppression of 
the Order of St Francis received our habit at 
Greenwich in Queen Mary's time (as was told me 



214 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

some forty years ago by his brother, a man of rank, 
and an eye-witness of the events, who was then 
full of days and good works). Being only a novice, 
he betook himself to foreign parts (a proof of singular 
fervour), wearing his habit ; and going from Brabant 
to Liege, was professed in our Order, and lived long 
after, being buried in the cloister, and there I saw 
his epitaph, which has since been removed." ^ 

Father Christopher Davenport, writing after forty 
years, is clearly in error when he calls his informant 
a brother of George Denys, but that is a mere slip of 
memory. The man of rank, who from the praise 
bestowed on him by the Franciscan was probably 
a Catholic, must have been a nephew of George 
Denys. Davenport lived in Cornwall during the 
reign of Charles I. 

Returning to our history, we find the monastery 
and church, the cemetery, grange, and farm buildings 
granted by the king to Sir Thomas Denys immedi- 
ately after the Dissolution ; the furniture, church 
plate, and other valuables, including the church bells, 
being conveyed away or sold for the benefit of the 
crown. With the buildings he obtained a portion 
of the adjacent land, including the manor pound. 
Six fodders of lead (a fodder weighed upwards of 
two thousand pounds) were carried off from the 
Abbey. 

The purchase of the entire buildings by Sir 
Thomas Denys had providential consequences. It 
saved the Abbey itself from being built into and 
around, as has been done at Tavistock. It preserved 
the foundations intact for the future restorers, and 
' Oliver, Collections^ p. 22, note. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 215 

kept the Abbey isolated from the village, with its 
charming meadow-land surroundings, shut in by the 
Dart To this day, the space between the North 
and South Gates is exactly as it was, with two small 
exceptions, with respect to buildings, in the year 
1620. What was still more, the little estate of 
Buckfast-Dennis, by the possession of the manor- 
pound, remained in possession of manorial rights.^ 
It is, therefore, not without reason that we look on 
the action of Sir Thomas Denys as a material help 
towards the future restoration of the venerable 
monastery. 

The knight's eagerness for spoil was so well known 
that he was charged, rightly or wrongly, with having 
made away with a portion of the lead from the roofs. 
In great alarm he wrote the following letter, which 
I have modernised as to spelling : — 

" Right Worshipful, 

" After my hearty commendations : [I] do 
perceive by Mr Totyll ye be my very good master 
according to truth for six fodder of lead, supposed 
by Grove, Master Arundell's servant, that I should 
have the custody of. Wherefore [in] truth I never 
saw no such lead nor parcel thereof; and if I had, 
I am sure the matter is not so light but he would 
have had for his discharge a bill of my hand of the 
receipt, or some other sufficient witness to testify the 
same. I never was at Buckfast but one time since 
I did purchase it ; therefore if it may please your 

^ For these and other particulars I am largely indebted to 
the late Mr Searle Benthall, a former proprietor of Buckfast 
Abbey. 



216 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

mastership and the rest of my masters in commission 
with you to enquire for the truth hereof, if then [it] 
shall appear that I or any one of my servants to my 
knowledge or consent ever had any part of the said 
lead, I will promise you by this my writing to give 
you for every fodder of lead a hundred pounds, and 
in this way I trust you shall come to the knowledge 
of the truth, and know him (Grove) to be as he is 
and I a true man. Good Mr Barnes, for your gentle- 
ness in this behalf shewed, I shall think no less, but 
myself always bounden to gratify you or any friend 
of yours during my Hfe with such pleasures as shall 
lie in my whole power, as knoweth the Holy Trinity, 
to whom I commit you. 

" Yours assured, 

" Thomas Denys. 

" To the Right Worshipful William Barnes, Esquire, 
give this." ^ 

He had good reason for his anxiety. Had he 
been guilty, it might have cost him his Vik. The 
Commissioners referred to in the letter were Matthew 
Colthurst, Robert Grove, who acted as receiver, 
William Barnes, Thomas Mildmay, and John 
Wiseman. 

Whether it was at the time of the suppression, 
that the statue of our Blessed Lady in the Abbey 
church — now restored — was broken to pieces, I 
cannot say. It is more likely that the sacrilege was 
committed shortly after the accession of Edward VI. 

^ Copied by Mr Brooking Rowe from Land Revenue 
Records (bund. 1392, pile 31, No. i). 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 217 

The destruction of the sacred images and the sup- 
pression of the abbeys were among the principal 
causes of the formidable insurrection of the men of 
Devon and Cornwall in 1 549, when the " abbey men," 
as they were called, were among the most determined 
of the insurgents, to whom the abbey lands of 
Buckfast must have sent many a stalwart recruit. 
The seventh article of this declaration ran as follows : 
" We will have the holy bread and holy water every 
Sunday, palms and ashes at the times accustomed, 
images to be set up again in every cimrch, etc." 

The fourteenth article required two abbeys to be 
re-established in every county. Above all, they 
insisted on the mass being said in Latin as before, 
and " the Sacrament hung over the high altar, and 
there to be worshipped as it was wont to be. . . . We 
will not receive the new service, because it is but like 
a Christmas game ; but we will have our old service 
of Latin mass, and procession, in Latin as it was 
before." Drs Moreman and Crispin were their 
spiritual guides from among the clergy of the 
Exeter diocese. On W^hitsunday, the 9th of June, 
they compelled the parish priest of Sampford 
Courtenay to sing mass as usual. In a few days an 
army of 10,000 men marched from Crediton to 
Exeter and laid siege to the city. Sir Thomas 
Pomeroy and Sir Humphrey Arundal, knights ; 
Berry, Coffin, and Winslade, esquires ; Underbill 
and Segar, labouring men, were their leaders. Mr 
Raleigh, the father of Sir Walter, for attempting to 
expostulate with a countrywoman on her way to 
church, narrowly escaped with his life. 

Lord Russell, who was in command of the royal 



218 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

forces, with Sir Peter and Sir Gavven Carew, had 
his headquarters at Honiton. The first engagement 
was at Feniton Bridge, but Russell, finding his 
numbers too small, returned to Honiton. Reinforced 
by a body of German horse, and 300 Italian arque- 
busiers, he gave battle to the insurgents at Clist 
St Mary, on the 4th of August. The insurgents, 
whose standard was raised on a cart, whereon were 
a crucifix and relics of saints, were at first successful, 
and captured the enemy's artiller)', which they 
turned against them. On the following day a second 
battle was fought on Clist Heath, and the superior 
discipline of the royal army prevailed. Four 
thousand peasants were butchered in cold blood, 
the vicar of St Thomas at Exeter was hanged from 
the steeple of his church in his sacred vestments, 
and the country was ravaged by fire and sword for 
miles round. Sir Thomas Denys was active in 
repressing the revolt. He showed himself more 
remiss in quelling the Protestant insurrection in 
Queen Mary's reign. Whether mass was again said 
in the desecrated church in Mary's reign, I cannot 
say for certain, but as the church had not been 
destroyed, though left to decay, it is by no means 
unlikely. 

From Sir Thomas Denys the ownership of our 
Abbey passed to his son. Sir Robert, who died in 
1592. As his brother was a Franciscan and his 
sister had married into the very Catholic and 
recusant family of Kirkham, he is likely to have been 
one of the large class of sympathisers with the Faith, 
who in those days, as Father Gerard tells us, went 
among Catholics by the name of schismatics. This 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 219 

is also probable as regards his son, Sir Thomas, who 
took to wife Anne, the daughter of William Pawlet, 
Marquess of Winchester, the most powerful Catholic 
family in England. 

This Sir Thomas left no male issue, but his eldest 
daughter Anne, married to Sir Henry Rolle of 
Stevenson, carried the manor of Buckfast into that 
distinguished family. It is worth noting that Sir 
Henry's grandfather was that John Ford of 
Ashburton, of whom I have spoken elsewhere. 
Buckfast Abbey passed to his son, Denys Rolle, 
called by Prince " the darling of his country." 
Dr Oliver, in his Ecclesiastical Antiqzcities of Devon, 
gives an engraving of his beautiful monument in 
Bicton Church. He married Margaret, daughter of 
Lord Paulet of Hinton St George, in Somersetshire. 
Sir John Rolle, who died in 1706, held the manor of 
Buckfast at the time of his death. 

It is said that Sir Richard Baker, the historian, 
was at one time the owner of Buckfast, but his 
tenure could only have been of a temporary nature. 
During the eighteenth century it belonged in succes- 
sion to the families of D'Oyley and Bradford. 
Robert Bradford owned it in 1769. The next 
owners seem to have been the Berrys. They were 
succeeded by the late Mr Searle Benthall, who sold 
it to Dr James Gale, from whom it was purchased 
by the monks. An account of the restoration will 
be given in the next chapter. 

Until the year 1806 it had been left to decay 
under the slow hand of time. In the Gentleman's 
Magazine for 1796, a description is given by Mr 
Laskey of the ruins as they then were, in which we 



220 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

are told that " on the north side [of the still existing 
Abbot's Tower] appear the walls and foundations of 
this once splendid seat of superstition, the Abbey 
church, and remains of its tower all lying in such 
massy fragments, that it is scarcely to be conceived 
by what power so vast a fabric could be disjointed. 
The walls appear of the thickness of 9 or 10 feet, 
and entirely composed of small stones in layers and 
a compost of lime and sand, which we supposed to 
have been thrown on these layers hot, after the 
manner anciently used in such large buildings, which, 
incorporating together, formed a mass as solid as the 
native rock. The ruins of this church appear to be 
about 250 feet in length, and the ruins of the tower 
towards the south seem like huge and vast rocks piled 
on one another." 

The ruins were left in this condition till the 
year 1806, when Mr Berry levelled the still standing 
walls, out of which he built a modern house. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

St Mary's Fountain in the forest. Pere Muard. Arrival of the 
monks at Buckfast in 1882. The first mass. The tem- 
porary church. The Feast of St Robert, 1886. Excava- 
tions. Autonomy granted to the community. 

The long night of solitude and desolation that in 
1539 settled down on the Abbey of Our Lady at 
Buckfast seemed destined to be everlasting, but it 
was not so ordained in the counsels of God's 
providence. Three hundred and forty-five years 
were to pass away, and then once more the Adorable 
Sacrifice was to be offered up within these hallowed 
precincts by monks of St Benedict, and the first 
mass said there was to be that of the Patronage of 
Our Blessed Lady. How this was fulfilled I shall 
now briefly relate, but shall be obliged first to revert 
to certain events of somewhat earlier date. 

In the second week of May 1849, a venerable 
French priest might have been seen wandering about, 
under the guidance of a countryman, through a 
tangled forest in the desert tract known as the 
Morvan, not far from Avallon. Sitting down by a 
clear spring of water, he asked his guide what was 
the name of the spring, and was told that it had been 

281 



222 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

called St Mary's Fountain from time immemorial, 
though people knew not why. The servant of God 
knew then that he had arrived where he was to find 
the term of a desire that had long consumed him. 
Father John Baptist Muard — for such was his name 
— had long been known for his piety and zeal. The 
Society of Priests of St Edmund of Pontigny had 
been his first foundation. He had known by super- 
natural illustration that a greater work awaited him 
before he should die. He was to found a body of 
Benedictine monks, whose austerity should approach 
that of the stricter Cistercian observance of La 
Trappe, but who should have the active work of the 
ministry in view. Beside the fountain where he sat 
down now rises the Abbey of Ste Marie-de-la- 
Pierre-qui-vire. He died on 19th June 1854, and 
was buried in presence of a vast concourse of the 
clergy and people of the diocese. The Archbishop 
of Sens lost no time in petitioning the Holy See for 
his canonisation. His work grew and spread, and 
the French monasteries founded from that of La 
Pierre-qui-vire have since then, under the guidance 
of the Holy See, been erected into the French 
Province of the Cassinese Congregation of the 
Primitive Observance. Expelled from France in 
1880, it was not till two years later that the children 
of St Benedict, welcomed with fatherly kindness by 
the venerable Bishop of Plymouth, the late Right 
Reverend William Vaughan, found a resting-place on 
English soil. On 28th October 1882, the first 
Vespers of the Feast of our Lady's Patronage were 
chanted by Benedictine monks at Buckfast. The 
Mass of our Blessed Lady was said next morning 



t 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 223 

for the first time since the Reformation, by the 
two priests who formed part of the little com- 
pany — six choir-monks, whose lot it was to be 
the first to enter on their ancient inheritance. 
Eight months later, on the anniversary of Pere 
Muard's death, the deed was dated which conveyed 
Buckfast Abbey once more to the monks of St 
Benedict. But as yet it had not a corporate exist- 
ence of its own. Its monks formed part of the 
community of St Mary's of La Pierre-qui-vire, and for 
several years the late Abbot Stephen Denis, who 
governed that monastery — a prelate whose memory 
will forever be in blessing — was the Superior of the 
monks at Buckfast. At the date of the first coming 
of the monks he was represented by Dom Thomas 
Duperou, who died Abbot of Sacred Heart Abbey 
in Oklahoma. 

The object of the monks on the acquisition of 
Buckfast Abbey was to erect at least a temporary 
church till such time as the former one could be 
rebuilt on its ancient site. The existing neat little 
church, towards which the venerable Bishop 
Vaughan, Lieutenant - Colonel Graham, father of 
Bishop Graham, Dr Macnamara of Torquay, and 
other friends generously contributed, was opened on 
Lady-day, 1884, by his Lordship the Right Reverend 
J. L. Patterson, Bishop of Emmaus. Dr St George 
Mivart, having visited the monastery, devoted his 
energies to pushing the work of its restoration, and 
the tower that still remained was admirably restored 
under the direction of Mr F. Walters, architect, to 
which work the Duke of Norfolk and Dr Mivart 
mainly contributed. A committee was next formed, 



224 . HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

through the untiring zeal of Dr Mivart, with Lord 
Clifford as its chairman, and numbering among its 
members Cardinals Manning and Newman, the 
Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Denbigh, Archbishop 
Ullathorne, Bishop Hedley, Lord Herries, Lord 
Braye, Sir Paul Molesworth, Messrs Hussey Walsh, 
E. Gresham Wells, W. H. Lyall, H. Matthews, 
Q.C., G. S. Lane-Fox, with Dr Mivart and Mr Lilly 
as secretaries. Mr F. Walters was appointed 
architect. 

Many other generous benefactors assisted in the 
work of restoration. But it is to the noble munifi- 
cence of Lord Clifford that the Abbey mainly owes 
its restoration, and he holds with regard to the 
community even more than the place held by Roger 
de Nunant towards their predecessors of the twelfth 
century, in recognition whereof the arms of the 
Clifford family are sculptured over the door of the 
cloister. Under Mr Walters' direction as architect, 
the work began by taking accurate plans and 
measurements, down to the smallest detail, of the 
ancient monastic buildings. The London Society 
of Antiquaries gave iJ^20 towards the work. The 
work of rebuilding then began with the south portion. 
Not a foot of new foundations was laid, the old ones 
being everywhere built on, and the old walls and all 
the offices thus came to be raised on their ancient 
site, cloister and cellarium, staircase, refectory and 
kitchen, being restored to their places. Even the 
jambs of the arched doorway leading from cloister 
into kitchen are, up to a certain height, the ancient 
ones, and the fireplace stands over the old hearth- 
stone, which had been found under the turf, still 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 225 

blackened by the fire. The style chosen for the 
restored Abbey was that of the twelfth century, 
when the Abbey was restored by a colony from 
Clairvaux, in the reign of King Stephen. The 
Norman architecture, known in France by another 
name, had always been deemed by Pere Muard the 
most suitable for the monastic spirit of his children- 
The designs of the restored Abbey are simple and 
severe, yet pleasing and graceful, and in the refectory 
the carved stone capitals, bosses, doorways, and 
windows are reproduced details from Fountains, 
Rievaulx, Furness, Chertsey, etc. 

On 29th April 1886, Feast of St Robert of Citeaux, 
the restored portion of the Abbey was opened to the 
public. The Bishop of Clifton sang the High Mass, 
the Bishop of Plymouth assisting pontifically, 
attended by the Right Rev, Provost Brindle, Canons 
Woollett, Lapotre, Graham (now Bishop of 
Plymouth), and Brownlow. Lord Clifford, the Earl 
of Devon, the Comte de Bari, the Rev. Lord Charles 
Thynne, Sir Paul Molesworth, a large body of clergy, 
secular and regular, the members of the Restoration 
Committee, and a numerous and distinguished 
company of guests, were present at the Pontifical 
Mass, and dined in the refectory. The sermon was 
preached by the Prior of Fort Augustus, Father 
Jerome Vaughan. 

Since the opening of the south portion of the 
Abbey, excavations and researches have gone on, 
with a continual addition to fragments and relics of 
antiquity collected in the museum formed in the 
basement of the tower. It was found that the 
Cistercian abbots lay buried down the nave of the 

P 



22G HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

ancient church. A rather si'*gular discovery was 
made in the last week of June 1892. The eastern 
part of the foundations of the ancient walls of the 
church was being covered with concrete to preserve 
and prepare them to support the future erections, 
the expense being defrayed by a bequest left by the 
late Dowager Lady Clifford. Here, as throughout 
the whole of the church, the nave was formerly 
separated from the aisles by a massive wall 5 feet 
in width, of which only the foundations remained. 
It was discovered that the lowest part of these 
foundations was formed by flat stones, laid edgeways, 
in two tiers, the upper at right angles to the lower. 
On the outer edge of the wall — that is to say, 
looking into the north aisle — by removing the stones 
from the upper tier, a cavity 6 feet long by 2 feet 
wide had left room for a tomb, in which a skeleton 
was found by the workmen. Its position was just 
eastward of the transept, and the stones on which 
it rested about 3 feet below the level of the 
sanctuary, so that the tomb would have been visible 
to anyone walking in the north aisle. There had 
always been among the country people before the 
arrival of the monks a superstitious legend of a 
yearly apparition on the night of 3rd July on the 
foundations of the ancient church, and the Rev. Mr 
Worthy, a former Vicar of Ashburton, in a MS. I 
have seen, connects it with a certain knight. Sir VVm, 
Kingdon, who was supposed to have been buried in 
the north aisle, and who for an undetected murder 
ought not to have been laid in a hallowed place. I 
incline to think that the remains are those of a 
member of the Audley family. They were great 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 227 

benefactors to the Abbey. James and Thomas 
Audley were buried in the Abbey church about the 
close of the fourteenth century, and their armorial 
bearings were displayed in a window only a few feet 
from the place where the skeleton was found. 

For sixteen years the two monasteries of Pierre- 
qui-vire and Buckfast had been under the govern- 
ment of one abbot, Dom Etienne Denis. 

The time had come for the erection of St Mary's 
into a separate community. At the canonical visita- 
tion held in December 1898, by the Right Rev. 
Abbot-General Dom Dominic Serafini, now Arch- 
bishop of Spoleto, the erection was decided upon. 
A few lines extracted from a letter of his Grace, 
dated i8th February 1899, are worth inserting 
here : — 

" To the Monks of the Comniunity of Buckfast 

Abbey. 

" Dear children and brethren in our Lord, 

" In compliance with the wish expressed 
in the Provincial Chapter, and with the consent of 
the community of the monastery of La Pierre-qui- 
vire, we have decided to grant to your community 
its autonomy, with the right of being governed by its 
resident Superior. 

"While the autonomy carries with it certain 
privileges, it imposes on you yet more strictly certain 
obligations of your monastic life. For if fraternal 
charity has hitherto been one of the brightest adorn- 
ments of Buckfast Abbey, as we had the happiness 
of witnessing at our visitation last December, now 
that your monastic family is constituted in a still 



228 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

more intimate unity, it becomes your duty to draw 
the bonds of that union more and more closely 
together, both one with another, and with the 
Superior who will be given to you with the blessing 
of Divine Providence. 

" It is pleasing to us to trust, dear brethren, that, 
notwithstanding the diiTerent and far-distant lands 
that have given you birth, you will persevere in the 
traditions of mutual charity that have distinguished 
Buckfast Abbey from the beginning, and that you 
will ever keep before your eyes the sentence which 
our holy Lawgiver borrowed from St Paul, and 
established as a foundation-stone to his monastic 
institute — a sentence which enabled our Fathers in 
the days of old, with so much advantage to the 
Church and the Christian State, to train the mighty 
race of Cenobitical Monks : ' Whether slave or 
freeman, without distinction of Jew or Gentile, we 
are all one in Christ, under one Lord we serve as 
soldiers in one army ; since God is no respecter of 
persons or of nations.' " 

By a formal decree, dated Ash Wednesday, 1899, 
the canonical separation and erection were effected. 
This decree, however, did not restore to the 
monastery its ancient dignity of a Benedictine 
abbey. For a time, it was under deliberation 
whether this should not be done by a Papal Brief 
declaratory of the nullity of the suppression under 
Henry VIII., but it was finally decided to proceed in 
the usual way, the venerable abbey being again 
erected by a decree of the Abbot-General. 




The Right Reverend DoM BONIFACE NattiiR, O.S.B., AiiBOT OF BuCKFAST. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

The election of Abbot Boniface Natter, 19th November 1902 ; 
his blessing and enthronement, 24th March 1903. The 
ancient statue of our Lady of Buckfast. The west front 
of the Abbey completed. Abbot Boniface and Dom 
Anscar embark on the Sirio. 

On the morning of the 19th of November 1902, after 
the High Mass of the Holy Ghost had been sung, 
the monks assembled in Chapter to elect the first 
Abbot of the restored Abbey. Three hundred and 
seventy-seven years had passed since, in 1525, an 
Abbot of Buckfast had been canonically elected. The 
Right Reverend Dom Leander Lemoine, Abbot- 
Visitor of the Province, presided. The choice fell on 
Dom Boniface Natter, then absent at Subiaco, as one 
of the Abbot-General's Consultors. The election was 
confirmed on the 17th of the following month, and he 
was installed in choir at Buckfast on the Feast of St 
Maurus, 14th January 1903. 

Dom Boniface Natter was born at Moosbeuren, in 
VVurtemberg, on the 24th of April 1866, and was 
christened Anthony. The Natters were of Austrian 
descent. More than one of the family had emigrated 
to England in the eighteenth century from Wurtem- 

229 



230 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

berg, and seem to have been naturalised here. 
Lorenz Natter was the most distinguished among 
these. He was a gem-engraver and medallist of 
great skill and taste, a high authority on antique 
gems, and was for a time employed at the Mint. He 
died at St Petersburg in 1763. 

John Claude Natter, another of the family, who 
died in 1822, enjoyed considerable celebrity for his 
coloured typographical drawings, and executed 
numerous works in Great Britain and Ireland. 
Abbot Boniface showed the present writer some 
papers in German concerning another relative, one 
Captain Natter, who had the reputation in the 
family of having been "an English pirate." From 
the papers, he seemed to have been employed by 
Trinity House in some capacity. But it is not 
unlikely that he may have engaged in privateering on 
behalf of the British Government. The tendencies 
and abilities of his ancestors, at least in some 
particulars, were inherited by Abbot Boniface, whose 
tastes and sympathies were genuinely English. 

He was born on the same day of the year as 
Pere Muard, the holy founder of Pierre-qui-vire, and 
a train of circumstances in which the guidance of 
God's providence is recognisable, led him to leave 
his native Suabian village for France when only 
twelve years old, and enter among the altunni of 
that monastery. One who knew him in those days, 
and was a priest when he arrived there, but has now 
gone to his reward, often spoke to me of his fervour 
and piety at that age, and the charm of his boyish 
ways. His devout parents had instilled into his 
mind the simple and manly faith that moulded his 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 231 

whole being, and in his riper years taught him to 
repel with abhorrence whatever savoured of worldli- 
ness. Thus prepared, his monastic surroundings 
penetrated his very soul, and to the day of his death 
his ideal of true nobility, of strength and dignity, was 
for him realised in his profession as a Benedictine 
monk. I knew him very intimately, and am stating 
the simple truth. 

He had to quit the monastery for a time at the 
expulsion in 1880. On the 13th of November 1882, 
he was clothed as a novice at Buckfast, made his 
simple vows on the 30th of November 1883, and his 
solemn vows on the 3rd of May 1887. On the 23rd 
of November 1890 he was ordained priest by the late 
Bishop Vaughan of Plymouth. 

During the greater part of his career, Dom 
Boniface was Master of the Alumnate. In training 
the boys for the monastic life — one of them is now 
his successor in the abbacy — he was most successful. 
His standard of religious life was simple and 
uncompromising, and such as had a genuine vocation 
soon learned to love and revere it. There was no 
mistaking it. It was an ideal of the antique cast, 
manly, cheerful, orderly, austere, and large-minded. 
And their principles had to be of the highest order. 
What he taught, he showed by his example. 

But though he scouted the idea of a divided 
allegiance between the usages handed down by our 
Fathers and the ways of the nineteenth or twentieth 
century, he was keenly interested in the national life 
of England. He was more English in heart than 
many born in England, and obtained from his 
Superior permission to be naturalised. Perhaps 



232 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

family traditions had something to do with this. 
He was a Conservative in politics, and intensely 
loyal. For three years before his election he lived in 
Italy as one of the Abbot-General's Consultors, and 
felt keenly any disparaging remark on his adopted 
country ; so much so, that one of his Italian brethren 
— it was at the time of the Boer war — used to call him 
in joke, " Chamberlain." He rather enjoyed it. 

Always kind, courteous, and hospitable, he won 
respect by his simplicity and kindliness. His 
intellectual gifts were considerable, and he was a good 
theologian. But he was more a man of action than a 
student ; and though an excellent linguist, he never 
gave himself much to literary studies. His artistic 
taste was, however, very good. 

From childhood he had been most devout to 
our Blessed Lady, and his first work as Abbot was 
to place in the Abbey church, for public veneration, 
the restored pre-Reformation statue of our Lady 
of Buckfast. It was while praying at the sanctuary 
of Genazzano that he seemed to hear a distinct 
intimation of the work that awaited him in England. 
His piety was deep but unobtrusive, though he was 
not always able to restrain his tears when before the 
altar. I feel strongly the danger of rashly canon- 
ising our departed friends, and I know well that he 
had his failings, but what I have written is based on 
constant intercourse during many years that we 
lived together. 

The election having been confirmed by the Abbot- 
General, there remained only the solemn blessing 
and enthronement of the new Abbot. In pre- 
Reformation times, as our Abbots were not mitred. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 233 

they were usually blessed by the Bishop of Exeter 
in the episcopal chapel at Clyst, Chudleigh, or 
Paignton. (This had been done for the last time 
when Bishop Veysey blessed Abbot Rede on the 
13th of April 1525.) 

Bishop Vaughan had died on the 25th of October 
1902 ; his successor in the diocese of Plymouth, the 
Right Reverend Charles Graham, was to perform 
the sacred rite for both the first and second Abbots 
of the restored line. 

At this point one of those strange coincidences 
occurred which seem to bring past and present 
together. It so happened that while our Abbot 
was desirous to have the ceremony on the Feast 
of the Purification, the Bishop's engagements obliged 
him to fix it at a later date, and it was eventually 
decided that it should be on the Feast of St Matthias. 
To no one at the time of making the arrangement 
did it occur that in so doing, the crowning act in 
the restoration of St Mary's Abbey would fall on 
the anniversary of the day in 1539 whose sunset was 
the last that saw the monks in possession of the 
venerable Abbey. None remembered that the year 
that was to open with the reign of the new Abbot was 
the three hundred and sixty-fifth, the last of a year 
of years, from that time when men fondly thought the 
light of our sanctuary had been extinguished for 
ever ; nor did anyone reflect on the inspired words 
read at the mass of the feast concerning the election 
of him who was to fill the traitor's place. Here I 
need only subjoin the account of that memorable 
day's festivities as it was written by an eye-witness, 
slightly abridged and altered. 



234 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

" Two memorable feasts of St Matthias has the old 
tower of Buckfast Abbey witnessed. One was in the 
thirtieth year of Henry VIII., a day of sorrow and 
humiliation, the last on which the poor harassed 
Cistercians could call their beloved cloister their 
home. The second was in this third year of King 
Edward VII., and the dear old Cistercian habit 
was again to be seen under the shadow of the 
venerable tower, although now the White Monks 
were there as honoured guests of the Benedictines, 
the original founders of St Mary's Abbey on the 
banks of the Dart. Instead of the ribald crew of 
Henry's Commissioners, the Lord Bishop of Plymouth, 
surrounded by a large body of his clergy, with 
dignitaries of the Catholic Church in their robes, 
abbots, monks, and religious in the habits of their 
different Orders, among which the white cassock and 
rochet of the Canons Regular were conspicuous, had 
come to enthrone, after a lapse of 365 years, the newly 
elected Abbot of Buckfast. The white cornettes of 
the Sisters of Charity, who, on their way from their 
little dwelling to the church, passed under the very 
arch of the northern gate that had echoed to the 
tramp of armed retainers on 24th February 1539, 
added picturesqueness to last Tuesday's day of 
rejoicing. To thoughtful minds it gave food for 
reflection, that the strange coincidence of dates had 
been undesigned by man. The gay flags and 
festoons of verdure on all sides were in keeping with 
the all-pervading feeling of glad thanksgiving. 

" So great was the concourse that the stalls of the 
choir were given up by the monks to their ecclesi- 
astical visitors, the community betaking themselves 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 235 

to the organ gallery. One layman, Lord Clifford of 
Chudleigh, the quasi-founder of the restored Abbey, 
is allowed a stall in the choir, by privilege of the 
Abbot-General. Viewed from the body of the church, 
and more especially from the tribune erected for the 
day, the black, white, and purple robes of the 
occupiers of the choir, and the pontifical vestments 
of the mitred prelates, formed a scene that was 
a fitting adjunct to the sacred rites. To some of 
those present it must have suggested that if a vision 
of this day could have been unrolled to the eyes of 
some monk in the hour that he was driven forth 
by the spoiler, he would willingly have said his Nwic 
Dimittis. 

" At eleven, Terce was sung in choir, and Bishop 
Graham commenced the Pontifical Mass. To the 
great regret of the community, Abbots Gasquet and 
Ford, who had most kindly promised to be the two 
assistant Abbots for the occasion, were both hindered 
by indisposition ; their places were taken by the 
Abbots of Erdington and Dourgne (France). By 
them the newly elected was presented to the Bishop, 
and after the reading of the Apostolic mandate, the 
ancient oath of fidelity to the Holy See, in its 
medieval wording, with the promise to observe the 
Rule of St Benedict, and to administer the goods of 
the monastery unto the well-being of Holy Church, 
of his brethren, of the poor and pilgrims, was heard 
again in Devon after a lapse of well - nigh four 
centuries. Most touching of all was the closing 
ceremony, when, after the newly mitred Abbot had 
given his blessing to the kneeling crowds of the 
Faithful during the singing of the Te Deuin, his 



236 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

monks one by one did homage to their prelate 
and received from him the kiss of peace. 

" The sermon was preached after the Gospel by the 
Right Rev. Mgr. Croke Robinson. Looking on the 
great event of the day as a landmark in the history 
of Catholic England and a signal evidence of the 
indestructibility of the Catholic Church, the preacher 
passed in brief review the succession of her triumphs 
following on periods of persecution, as at the con- 
version of Constantine, and the epochs of St Gregory 
the Great, Charlemagne, and the close of the Western 
Schism. So in England, Tudor tyranny, Stuart 
bigotry. Orange malice, had brought the Faith 
almost to destruction under Hanoverian oppression, 
and no ray of hope was visible when in 1773 Alban 
Butler lay on his death-bed. Then came the 
revival ; through Milner, O'Connell, Catholic Emanci- 
pation, Newman and the Oxford Movement, Wiseman 
and Manning, down to the almost Second Summer 
of to-day. The highest advance is marked by this 
day's festival. Glastonbury, Fountains, Furness, and 
Rievaulx, still lie in desolation, but Buckfast was 
dead and had risen again ; was lost, and is found. 
To-day is the anniversary of that day of sadness 
when the old monastic community, 365 years ago, 
came to an end, by the instrumentality of a traitor 
abbot ; and the subdeacon at the altar had just 
chanted the words of St Peter, announcing to the 
infant Church that they were assembled to appoint 
one to take the traitor's place. Nor had this coin- 
cidence of dates been knowingly designed by anyone ; 
it was only discovered after all arrangements had 
been made, and was a sign of God's hidden counsels. 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 237 

The three historic revivals of monastic life at 
Buckfast had originated in France — the eldest 
daughter of the Church, yet the cradle of the revolu- 
tionary spirit. After alluding to the part of the 
noble house of Clifford in the restoration of the 
Abbey, Mgr. Croke Robinson wished to all non- 
Catholics present the greeting of peace implied in 
the Benedictine motto, 'Pax,' and closed his most 
eloquent discourse by wishing many years of life to 
the Abbot, and eternal prosperity to the community. 
" Dinner was served at 2.30 in the fine schoolroom, 
as the beautiful refectory, a gem of architecture, 
could not have contained the guests, about 130 in 
number, who had accepted the Abbot's invitation. 
As the event of the day was an historic one in the 
annals of Buckfast, a fine tableau was exhibited, 
giving names and dates of the Abbots of Buckfast 
from the reign of St Edward the Confessor, with the 
Abbey arms, impaled with those of the house of 
Clifford, in the centre ; while, to recall the connection 
of Buckfast with Devonshire history, the family arms 
of Abbots Gifford, Slade, Matthew, Gill and Rede, 
impaled with those of the Abbey, were displayed 
across the north end of the room, facing the Bishop. 
The portrait and arms of Leo XIII. held the place 
of honour, and by the side of the Holy Father was 
a portrait of King Edward VII. in his coronation 
robes. This last was by special desire of Abbot 
Natter, who, though not born in England, and of 
Austrian descent, is legally a British subject, and 
yields to none in loyalty to his Sovereign. In 
honour of the guests were ranged round the walls 
the escutcheons of the Bishop of Plymouth and the 



238 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

late Bishop Vaughan, Lord Clifford, Sir William 
Butler, the Cassinese and English Benedictine con- 
gregations, Abbots Gasquet, Ford, and Natter ; 
and of the Abbeys of Downside, Erdington, and 
St Augustine's, Ramsgate; being the work of a 
monk of the Buckfast community, and much admired. 
Letters to the Abbot, expressive of warmest 
sympathy and congratulation, and regretting their 
inability to be present, were received from the Duke 
of Norfolk ; the Earls of Ashburnham, Devon, 
Denbigh, Gainsborough, Morley, and Mount Edge- 
cumbe, Earl Fortescue, Viscount Halifax ; the Lords 
Herries, Clinton and Seaton, Lord Edmund Talbot, 
Count Torre Diaz ; ijames Hope, Esq., M.P. ; F. B. 
Mildmay, Esq., M.P. ; and many others. 

" Among the guests present with the Lord Bishop 
of Plymouth were : Lord Clifford ; the Right Revv. 
Abbots of Erdington, Ramsgate, and Dourgne ; the 
Right Rev. Mgr. Provost Lapotre ; the Right Rev. 
Mgr. Croke Robinson ; and the Very Revv. Canons 
Hobson and Poole. Benedictines of other com- 
munities were represented by the Rev. Sir David O. 
Hunter-Blair, O.S.B., Bart, head of Hunter Blair's 
Hall, Oxford ; the Revv. L. Lonergan, Adalbert 
Amandolini, P. Nugent, O.S.B. ; the Canons Regular 
by the Very Rev. Father Allaria and the Prior of 
Bodmin ; the Cistercians by the Prior of Wood 
Barton. The Superior of the Marists of Paignton 
and the Rev. Father Durand, of the Basilian Fathers, 
represented the congregations of later days. The 
diocesan clergy, worthy successors of those heroic 
secular priests of the Exeter diocese, of whom nine 
are said by Strype to have been executed for religion 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 239 

in 1 549, when they joined the stahvart Catholic laity 
who rose for the restoration of the Faith and the 
monastic houses, formed the largest body of ecclesi- 
astics present. 

"If the Catholic element among the great crowd of 
lay guests counted the historic names of Clifford, 
Chichester, Berington, Strickland, and Knowles, it 
was pleasing to see many others, in whom difference 
of creed was no obstacle to a warm-hearted sympathy 
with a revival of ancient memories of Devon on this 
day of gladness. Such were Dr Gibson, Mayor of 
Totnes, with others of the county magistrates, and 
William Hamlyn, Esq., the lineal descendant of 
those Hamlyns of Widdecombe whose family name 
so often appears in the ancient charters of St Mary's 
Abbey. Ireland was well represented by Lady 
Butler and not a few other guests, among whom Dr 
Macnamara of Torquay gave a noble example of 
Celtic generosity by an offering of £1000 towards 
continuing the work of restoration. 

"Just before dinner, the following telegram was 
received from Rome : ' The Pope sends special 
blessing to Abbot Natter, Lord Clifford, and all 
present at religious ceremony to-day, and all bene- 
factors, past, present, and future. Ad multos annos.' 
Several other telegrams of congratulation, notably 
one from the proto-monastery of Subiaco, arrived 
during the day. After reading the telegram from 
Rome, the Abbot expressed the pleasure he had 
found in the congratulations even of those who were 
not Catholics, and added that Catholic obedience to 
the Pope in things spiritual in nowise lessens but 
confirms the loyalty of Englishmen to the King. He 



240 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

therefore proposed the health of the Holy Father 
and King Edward. He was himself proud of being 
an Englishman by the allegiance he had sworn and 
would ever maintain. 

" The Bishop, in proposing the health of the Abbot, 
wished him many years of happy and prosperous 
rule, and expressed himself delighted with all that 
had been done on that day. His lordship described 
in brief the Abbot's career from the time he had 
known him. He related also the early days of the 
community, and how on one occasion a monk who 
had to be ordained was acting as cook, and in his 
stead a novice, who had scarcely ever seen a fish 
before, was put to take his place in the kitchen, with 
the result that the fish was burnt on one side and 
raw on the other. In subsequent visits, his lordship 
was always careful to inquire ' if it was the cook who 
was to be ordained.' The long line of monks he had 
seen to-day showed how the community had grown, 
and their teaching and example would bear abundant 
fruit in those around them. 

" The Abbot returned thanks to those present for 
the way in which they had received the toast. 
Though 365 years had elapsed since Abbot Rede, 
the continuity was complete, and he was his lawful 
successor. He wished all prosperity to his lordship, 
who could always rely on the services of the com- 
munity. 

" Mr Tozer proposed the health of the clergy, to 
whom Catholics must ever look for help, guidance, 
and consolation. Too often those who had been 
educated in the faith took these things as a matter 
of course ; but without the labour of the clergy, our 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 241 

children would have been lost. To the credit of the 
clergy it was, that, since 1870, not a single Catholic 
school had been given up. He was pleased to say 
that the laity were doing more now than heretofore 
to assist their clergy. 

"Canon Lapotre gave thanks in behalf of the 
clergy. 

" Canon Hobson proposed the health of the Bishop, 
and spoke of his long work under Bishop Vaughan, 
whom he had succeeded. 

" The Bishop briefly responded. 

" Lord Clifford proposed the health of the com- 
munity. His lordship said that he had had the 
pleasure of being among their friends from the time 
of their first arrival. He likened them to the chosen 
people coming into their own inheritance, or, accord- 
ing to more modern ideas, they might be compared 
to a colonial settlement, with which none would be 
more in sympathy than Englishmen. He then 
wished all happiness and prosperity to the Abbey, 
and would always be their firm friend to the best of 
his power. 

" The Abbot ended by saying that he would always 
do all in his power to help the diocesan clergy, and 
trusted to see them often at the Abbey." 

One of the earliest works undertaken by Abbot 
Boniface was to restore to its place of honour in the 
Abbey church the ancient statue of our Lady of 
Buckfast, of which mention has been made more 
than once in these pages, and this work of reparation 
is almost a landmark in our history. 

Among the causes that provoked the insurrection 
in 1549 of the men of Devon and Cornwall, as 

Q 



242 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

declared by the insurgents themselves, one was the 
taking away from the churches of the statues of our 
Blessed Lady and the Saints by the Royal Commis- 
sioners. One of these, the image of our Lady, 
venerated in the church of Buckfast Abbey, was in 
part recovered by the monks some twenty years ago, 
and has since, under the care of ]\Ir F. Walters, 
been completely restored and the recovered portion 
incorporated with the rest, yet so as to leave the 
marks of the sacrilegious destruction distinctly visible. 
It is 3 ft. 8 in. high, and represents the Blessed Virgin 
crowned, and with the Divine Child on her right 
arm. When the statue, or rather the fragment of it, 
was brought to light, the original colour of our 
Lady's azure mantle, studded with gold circles, and 
a broad band of gold down the fold of her robe, was 
still perfect, and has been accurately reproduced. 
To make reparation, in these happier times of 
Edward VII., for the outrage done to the Mother of 
God in the reign of Edward VI., the restored statue, 
a work of great beauty, was solemnly blessed and 
replaced in the Abbey temporary church by Abbot 
Boniface, on Sunday, Feast of our Lady Help of 
Christians, 24th May 1903. 

South Devon was of old the heart of Mary's 
Dowry ; in her honour were dedicated the abbeys 
of Buckfast and Buckland, and churches at Holne, 
Bickington, Totnes, Abbotskerswell, Chudleigh, 
Dartington, Denbur}', Broadkempstone, St Mary 
Church, and many another. This it is that invests 
with special significance the unique ceremony at 
Buckfast Abbey, when, in the presence of a crowded 
congregation, amid the blaze of tapers, with the 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 243 

chant of hymns and the rites of the Church, our 
Blessed Lady's beautiful image, placed in a niche 
above an altar specially constructed for it, was 
solemnly blessed by the Abbot. 

Dr Macnamara's generous gift was devoted to com- 
pleting the west front of the Abbey, according to 
the simple but noble designs of Mr Walters. This 
new portion of the monastery was blessed by the 
Bishop of Plymouth, on St Joseph's Feast, 19th 
March 1904. 

Abbot Natter's time of government only lasted a 
little over three years and a half His zeal for 
monastic discipline and his devotedness to the 
welfare of his monastery were conspicuous. He had 
a deep and affectionate reverence for his Bishop. 
Beloved by his community and wonderfully popular 
among his neighbours, he seemed destined to enjoy 
a long and tranquil term of office. In the month 
of May he was elected Abbot- Visitor at the Pro- 
vincial Chapter held at the monastery of Kain-la- 
Tombe, near Tournai, and was soon after directed by 
the Abbot-General to visit the monastery of Niiio- 
Dios, in the Argentine Republic. 

Leaving Buckfast on Monday, 23rd July, he stopped 
for a day at St Augustine's Abbey, Ramsgate, to 
take part in the festivities of the jubilee of that 
monastery. Thence he travelled to Paris to meet 
Abbot Lemoine, who was to discharge the duties of 
office of Visitor during his absence. From Paris he 
journeyed to Barcelona, where Dom Anscar Vonier, 
who was to be his companion, had arranged to meet 
him. They were to embark for Buenos Ayres on the 
Sirio. The Sirio, a vessel belonging to the Italian 



244 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

General Navigation Company, was a steel screw 
steamer, of 2275 net tonnage, built in Glasgow by 
Messrs Napier in 1883. The Abbot and Dom Anscar 
went on board her on Friday, 3rd August. Accord- 
ing to the Company's official statement, she had on 
board 60 first and second class passengers, 695 
emigrants, and a crew of 127. 




Right Reverend DoM Anscak \ uNihK, O.b.B., AisBoT oK BuCKFAST. 
Elected I4lh September 1906. Received the Abb;iti:il Blessing from 
the Bishop of Plymouth, i8th October 1906. 



[7"o face page lib. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

The wreck of the Sirio, 4th August 1906. Death of Abbot 
Boniface. Election of Abbot Anscar Vonier ; his bless- 
ing and enthronement by the Bishop of Plymouth, i8th 
October 1906. 

Our Abbot was, according to his companion's account, 
quite as cheerful as was his wont during the last three 
or four days of his life. His conversation was chiefly 
on Buckfast and its community, on his plans and 
hopes for the welfare of his Abbey. The sea was 
calm and the voyage prosperous, until about three 
in the afternoon of the second day, when the ship 
struck on the rocks off Cape Palos, not far from 
Cartagena. Here we may best let Abbot Anscar 
give his account of his predecessor's last hour 
of life. 

" I left Barcelona with Father Abbot on 3rd 
August, and as far as we could tell, the vessel 
seemed to be manoeuvred all right, and nothing 
occurred till it struck the rocks the next afternoon, 
about three o'clock. I was in my cabin at the time. 
It was like a heavy grinding, and the impact was 
so great that it threw me on the floor. As soon as 
I realised what had happened, I hastened on deck 

245 



246 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

to see the Abbot, 1 found him on deck with several 
hundred other passengers, but several of the first- 
class passengers never came on deck at all. I 
asked the Abbot what he thought of it. He said, 
with perfect equanimity : ' I don't think there is 
any danger, provided the people keep quiet.' We 
were in view of the coast, and just then a steamer 
was passing astern of us, and all on deck shouted 
themselves hoarse to draw her attention, but the 
steamer did not change its course. The shouting 
created a pandemon ium, but the scene described in some 
newspapers, stating that arms and knives were used, 
had no existence. I know that many of the emigrants 
helped their companions to get into the boats that 
came later on. The Abbot smilingly said : ' Perhaps 
you will go down to the cabin and fetch our life- 
belts?' I rushed down, but could find only the 
Abbot's belt, which I brought up, and found the 
Abbot, with two bishops and two priests, on their 
knees preparing to die. One of the bishops gave 
general Absolution. I put the life-belt beside Father 
Abbot, but he did not take it at the moment. When, 
a second later, he turned round and said calmly, 
' Where is my life-belt ? ' it had disappeared, and 
he quietly remarked, ' Someone has taken it.' Four 
or five minutes had passed since the ship struck, 
and she was still keeping the same position. Just 
then we felt the deck sinking under our feet, and 
understood it might be our last hour. 

" I fell on my knees, asking the Abbot for Absolu- 
tion, which he gave me, and I gave him Absolution. 
Then we embraced each other, and I said in French : 
' Good-bye, Father Abbot, for it is the Will of God 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 247 

that we should die ; we die happy, we have nothing 
to lose ? He replied, ' Good-bye, Father Anscar,' with 
great tenderness, and I left him to go to the third- 
class passengers, in order to prepare them for death. 
I had hardly gone five or six steps when the sinking 
ship settled by the stern. Nearly all the first-class 
passengers, and a few hundred of the emigrants — 
for what reason I do not know — rushed towards the 
stern and sank with the ship. I was far enough 
away not to be carried down, but at the same time 
the Sirio lurched from left to right. This pitched 
me into the sea. As soon as I felt the water, I 
made an effort to get out, and succeeded, but how 
I cannot tell. The only thing I remember is that I 
clutched something, which I determined not to let 
go. Very soon I found myself on a part of the 
vessel that was still above water, with two or three 
hundred people. Every moment I expected a 
complete sinking of the ship, and I therefore 
availed myself of the time to prepare my com- 
panions for death, and I witnessed many heroic 
incidents of resignation to the Will of God with 
Christian hopefulness. However, the sea being very 
calm, the bow of the ship kept wedged between the 
rocks. I could see the rocks under water. The 
cries of the people, especially the women and 
children, were most pitiful. The ship's boats, as 
soon as they were put on the water, were filled 
with people and capsized, and this several times . . ." 
After relating how they were taken off by the fish- 
ing smack Joven Miguel^ he continues : " I had not 
landed half an hour when I heard cries in the street 
that a Bishop (the Archbishop of Para) had just 



248 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

come ashore, so I ran to a house where he was, and 
he told me that he had been floating on the sea 
with his Hfe-belt for four hours. Darkness was 
coming on when he hailed a passing steamer and 
was taken on board. He told me that after the 
sinking of the stern, he came to the surface with 
five or six others — among them Abbot Natter. 
Then he saw the Abbot for about a quarter of an 
hour clinging to a plank, till he was out of sight, 
and the last thing he saw was the Abbot placing 
his hand to his face as if to make the Sign of the 
Cross." — {Tablet, 8th September 1906.) The good 
Bishop wished to conceal awhile from Father Anscar 
the Abbot's death, lest he should be in his agitated 
state too much overpowered. He told others that 
he saw the Abbot's hold on the plank loosened, and 
that he immediately sank. An Austrian banker, 
employed in the Austrian consular service, was swim- 
ming towards land, and, as he related to Father 
Anscar, he heard the Abbot behind him praying 
aloud in English. They had become acquainted on 
board the Sirio, but the Austrian was himself too 
exhausted to render any assistance. Three days 
after the wreck, about 550 were known to have been 
rescued and 382 were reported missing. The brave 
captain of the Joven Miguel, revolver in hand, 
compelled his crew to stay by the Sirio as long as 
there was the chance of saving a single life. The 
Brazilian Archbishop of St Paul, who was drowned, 
gave his cross to be kissed by one of his diocesans, at 
the last moment, and met his death with heroic calm- 
ness, speaking words of comfort to those around him. 
So swift and sudden was the last catastrophe that 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 249 

our Abbot had not time, like his companion, to 
exercise his ministry on behalf of the passengers 
around him. Though calm, and resigned to die, 
yet there was a deep sadness in his last tender 
farewell that added to the greatness and merit of 
his sacrifice. His last ardent prayer, as we well 
know, was for his beloved community. 

The grief and consternation of the monks at the 
first news of the shipwreck was aggravated by the 
painful suspense of the next few days. Very soon 
there was no room left for hope, and on the Wednes- 
day after the death of the Abbot the first solemn 
Requiem was sung. All around the monastery there 
was bitter grief in every household, as if for the 
loss of a dear relative, and for weeks afterwards a 
stream of letters of condolence bore witness to the 
esteem and affection Abbot Boniface had inspired in 
all who had known him. 

On the 2 1st of August, the Bishop of Plymouth 
sang a Requiem Mass at Buckfast for our beloved 
prelate. Abbot Bergh of Ramsgate, Mgr. Courtenay, 
Vicar-General of the diocese, with the Provost and 
the greater past of the Cathedral Chapter, many of 
the diocesan clergy, and the Cistercian Prior of 
Wood Barton, were present in the sanctuary. The 
church was densely crowded, and tears streamed 
down the faces of many as the solemn chant of the 
mass was sung by the monks. Very touchingly did 
Canon Keiley, who preached, allude to the call of 
our Lord to St Peter over the waters : " Come." 
That call Abbot Boniface heard in his hour of 
sacrifice, and obeyed it. 

Thirty days have to pass from the death of one 



250 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

of our Abbots to the election of his successor, and 
ten days more are allowed for possible appeals 
against the election. On the Feast of the Exaltation 
of the Holy Cross, Dom Anscar Vonier was elected 
to succeed Abbot Boniface Natter. 

Dom Anscar was born at Ringschnaitt, in 
Wurtemberg, not far from the celebrated but now 
suppressed Benedictine Abbey of Ochsenhausen, on 
St Martin's day, 1875, and was christened Martin. 
He entered among the Buckfast alumni in 1888, at 
the age of thirteen, and was ordained priest at 
Buckfast on the 17th of December 1898, by Bishop 
Graham of Plymouth. In November 1905, he was 
sent from Buckfast to teach philosophy at S. Anselmo, 
in Rome, where he had taken his academical degree 
a few years before. Leaving Rome for Spain in 
July 1906, he joined his Abbot at Barcelona, and 
was shipwrecked with him on the 4th of August, 
as we have just related. His strenuous resistance 
to his own election, his attachment to regular 
observance, and his intellectual gifts, are a guarantee 
of future success in his office. His monastic patron, 
St Anscar (Oscar), Apostle of Sweden, entered the 
monastery of Old Corbie at the same age as Abbot 
Anscar's, when he came to Buckfast ; both held the 
office of Master of the boys and teacher in the 
schools of the cloister. Abbot Anscar may be even 
the hundredth Abbot of Buckfast, for it existed 
before the days of Old Corbie or St Anscar. 

On the 1 8th of October 1906, he was blessed and 
enthroned at Buckfast by Bishop Graham. 

The eagerness to assist at the ceremony, and the 
intense emotion felt by those who had the good 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 251 

fortune to be present, were even greater that on the 
former occasion. Recent events were in everyone's 
thoughts, and it is no wonder that the features of 
the youthful Abbot were eagerly scanned as he 
passed down the church with his two assistants, 
giving his blessing to the people. The two assistant- 
abbots were those of Ampleforth and Caermaria, 
the Abbots of Erdington and Farnborough occupying 
the first stalls in choir. Other stalls were occupied 
by the Canons of Plymouth with the Provost and the 
Vicar- General, the Priors of Ramsgate and Wood- 
barton, and members of the secular and regular 
clergy. The scene was impressive and beautiful. 
About fifty of the diocesan clergy had come to 
honour the Abbey by their presence, and their 
trained voices had a noble effect at the singing of 
the Penitential Psalms and the Litany while the 
Abbot lay prostrate before the altar, and at the final 
" Te Deum." Among the laity, Lord Clifford alone, 
by his privilege as quasi-founder of the restored 
Abbey, occupied a stall in choir, being next to the 
Abbot of Erdington, Among the unseen influences 
that gladdened the hearts of the monks, the presence 
of their beloved and venerated Bishop was of the 
most powerful. 

Canon Keily preached. He touched a chord that 
vibrated in the heart of every one of his hearers when 
he spoke of the election of Abbot Anscar at so early 
an age. Men might think he lacked the experience 
that could only come through age and sorrow, " But 
God had given him ' one crowded hour of glorious 
life,' in which had been focussed the experiences that 
made up a long life. He had been to the gates of 



252 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

death, and had returned, and if his heart had not 
grown, like the prophet's gourd, in a night, all 
lessons were lost, and the human heart could learn 
nothing." 

Not a few Anglicans were present among the 
invited guests, and their kindly and sympathetic 
interest was an indication of the mighty change 
that has passed over England during the past fifty 
years. 

Devonshire was as worthily represented by Lord 
Clifford, Lord and Lady Seaton, the Hon. Richard 
Dawson of Holne Park, and many others, as by the 
De Nunants and De Helions in the days of Abbot 
Eustace, or by the Ordgars and Ordulphs in those 
of Abbot ^Ifwine. 

Dr Macnamara, to whom the latest addition to the 
Abbey buildings was due, could not be absent from 
such an occasion ; and though it would be out of 
place to give the names of the i8o guests who sat 
down to luncheon after the ceremony, I must not 
omit Herr Vonier, the Abbot's brother. 

Nor would it be to the purpose to go through the 
healths proposed and speeches made at luncheon, but 
a few sentences from the latter will not be super- 
fluous. 

The Abbot's speech was indeed worthy of the 
occasion. He professed his resolve to walk in the 
footsteps of him whose last blessing he had received 
on the deck of the sinking ship in the Mediterranean. 
Many hearts had gone out in sympathy to the monks 
in their great trial, and the hidden source of this 
sympathy had been a true appreciation of the vivi- 
fying principle of their own, as of every religious 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 253 

community. That principle was a firm faith in the 
supernatural, a realising by faith of things unseen, 
the faith that had built up all the old English abbeys, 
among which Buckfast alone had risen from its ashes. 
With all his might he would labour to uphold that 
high ideal which through weal and woe had been the 
strength of the Abbey. He had just received a 
telegram from Rome, conveying the Holy Father's 
blessing and felicitations. All knew that the Papacy 
was the strongest power on earth for the maintenance 
of the supernatural ideal. The present Pontiff had 
shown it in the tremendous sacrifice he had made in 
France sooner than give up one tittle of what his 
sense of duty forbade him to abandon. He (the 
Abbot) was about to propose the health of Pope 
Pius X. and King Edward, so he would wish to add 
a word on the latter subject. It was sweet to serve 
Almighty God under the English flag. (These words 
evoked loud applause.) Loyalty to the Holy See, 
loyalty to the King, loyalty to England, were blended 
together in one in the heart of a monk. 

Most kind and genial was the speech of his 
Lordship the Bishop, as he expressed his delight at 
the choice of Abbot Anscar by the monks. He 
recalled with pleasure that from the first tonsure 
upwards he had conferred every grade in the 
priesthood on the new Abbot, 

Lord Clifford spoke at length on the late Abbot 
Natter. He felt that there had been a special 
interposition of God's Providence, disposing that 
Abbot Natter's last days should be spent in con- 
ferring with his future successor on the interests of 
their monastery. They had all loved and revered 



254 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Abbot Boniface. Abbot Anscar was one of them- 
selves, one whom they had known from childhood, 
and he felt assured of the future prosperity of the 
Abbey under his rule. So ended another memorable 
day for Buckfast Abbey. 




Sink Stone of Large Piscina. 



[To face page 254. 



APPENDIX 

HISTORICAL NOTES 
I. 

Thorpe^ s translation of charter granted in the Exeter Shiremote 
A.D. 1040 {or earlier). 

Here is made known, in this writing, how the compacts 
were made at Exeter before Earl Godwine and before all 
the shire, betwixt Bishop Alfwold and the convent at Sher- 
borne, and Care Toki's sons, concerning the land at Holcombe. 
That was, that they were agreed that the brothers should all 
go from the land save one who is named Ulf, to whom it was 
bequeathed ; that he should have it for his day, and after his 
day the land should go as it stands, with meat and with men, 
without litigation and without contention, to the holy monastery 
at Sherborne. 

Of this are witnesses : Godwine, Earl ; and Alfwold, Bishop 
in Dorsetshire ; and Lyfing, Bishop in the North ; and ^Ifwine, 
Abbot at Buckfast ; and Sihtric, Abbot at Tavistock,; and Odda, 
and ^Ifric his brother, and Ordgar and his two brothers, 
^Ifgar and Escbern ; and Dodda Child, and Alon, and 
^thelmaer Cola's son, and Osmaer, and Leofwine, at Exeter ; 
and ^Ifweard Alfwold's son, and Wiking, and ^Ifgar, at 
Minehead ; and Wulfweard, at Winsham ; and Hunewine 
Heca's son, and ^Ifwig, at Haydon ; and Godman, priest, and 
Lutsige, in Wight. And whoever will avert this, or think to 
withdraw it from the holy place, he shall be averted from God 

255 



256 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

in domesday, and be cast down amid the boiling fire of hell 
torment, with Judas Christ's betrayer, ever eternally con- 
demned, unless he here the more deeply make amends. Of 
these writings there are two ; one is at Sherborne, and the 
second at Crediton. One speaks for both. 



II. 

Sir Roger de Nunanfs charter, granted to the monks of 
Buckfast about 1 105 ; origittal now in the Abbey. 

[The acquisition by Abbot Natter of the original of our 
earliest charter after the Norman Conquest, referred to in 
Chapter VI., is almost a landmark in our history. It is 
beautifully written, and as the writing was in all probability 
executed by the monks at Buckfast, it gives it an additional 
interest. 

The list of witnesses is headed by the name of " Osbern 
Rufus, priest." As the knights whose names follow are for the 
greater part among the most distinguished of the lesser barons 
in our county, it is likely that there was some reason besides 
piety for giving the first place to a priest who was not an 
ecclesiastical dignity. 

About the date which I have assigned to this charter as the 
probable one, died Bishop Osbern of Exeter, the brother of 
William Fitzosbern, Earl of Hereford, an intimate friend of 
the Conqueror, and one of his most valiant followers at the 
battle of Hastings. The Earl received extensive grants in the 
west. The brothers were near relatives of St Edward the 
Confessor, and Bishop Osbern had been the Confessor's 
chaplain. Osbern, the priest who held the place of honour 
among the knightly signatories, is almost certainly a relative of 
the Bishop of Exeter, perhaps his nephew. He may even have 
written the deed. Of course, it is not to be presumed that the 
noble knights were able to sign their names. The original 
charter is beautifully written. I have ventured to give my own 
translation.] 

" Notum sit omnibus tam presentibus quam futuris, quod Ego, 
Rogerus de Nunant, pro salute anima; meas et uxoris mese 
Aliciae, et liberorum meorum et pro animabus omnium ante- 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 257 

cessorum meorum et successorum meorum, dedi ecclesiae de 
Bocfestria et monachis ibidem Deo servientibus, concessu 
Guidonis filii mei, et Henrici et ceterorum liberorum meorum 
in perpetuam elemosinam, solutam liberam et quietam ab omni 
exactione et servicio seculari, terram meam de Sideham, cum 
bosco et cum tota mea parte aque ex utraque parte, scilicet ex 
orientali parte vie que venit a veteri vado de Norbroc usque ad 
Niweforth in Derta, ut inde inveniant panem et vinum ad 
missas cantandas. Et ne perversorum hominum malignitate 
hec nostra cartula irritata cassetur, banc ipsam sigilli mei 
munimine confirmo. Qui autem eam cassare presumpserit, 
maledictionens beate Dei genitricis Marie et meam non evadet. 
Sed qui cam ratam habuerint et firmam, ejusdem Virginis 
proteccione letentur. Libertate tamen retenta eundi et 
redeundi mihi et hominibus meis per viam de Norbroc ad 
Niwefort ad forum de Aspernetune et communione pasture 
quantum terra ilia porrigitur. His testibus : Osberno rufo 
presbitero, Henrico de Nunant, Jordano de Hode, Willelmo 
Walense, Willelmo de Baumes, David-Rogero pe de levre. 
Willelmo Daco juniore et multis aliis." 



Translation. 

Be it known to all present and to come hereafter, that I, 
Roger de Nunant, for the welfare of my soul, and the souls 
of my wife Alice and my children, and for the souls of all my 
ancestors and my descendants, have given to the Church of 
Buckfast and to the monks that serve God there, all my land of 
Sideham, with the wood and all my portion of the water (the 
North Brook), on both sides ; that is to say : eastwards from 
the road that cometh from the old ford of Northbrook,' as far 
as New Ford on the Dart ; that they may therefrom find bread 
and wine for masses to be sung. And that this our charter be 
not made null and void by the iniquity of wicked men, I confirm 
it by the security of my seal. But whosoever shall presume to 
annul it shall not avoid the malediction of Blessed Mary, the 
Mother of God, nor mine. And may they who shall keep it 
firm and inviolate enjoy the protection of the same Blessed 
Virgin. The right of way, however, being reserved to me and 

^ /.(?., the road that crosses the brook at the Old Ford. 

R 



258 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 



my men going and coming to and from Ashburton market by 
the way of Northbrook^ to New Ford, with rights of sharing in 
the pasture, as far as the land aforesaid extends. 

These are the witnesses : Osbern Rufus,^ the priest, Henry 
de Nunant, Jordan de Hode, WilHam de Walys, WiUiam de 
Beaumes, David Roger Pe-de-levre (/'/^^-^^-//t'7/r^==Harefoot), 
WiUiam Le Denys the younger, and many others. 



III. 

Abbots of Buckfast from the reign of Ethelred II. whose names 

have been preserved. 

Those marked * are not absolutely certain, and the name of Bishop 
John Bothe is inserted only on the authority of Scipio Squier, the 
Devonshire antiquary. Only in a minority of cases has the date of 
institution been ascertainable ; in the rest the date given is the earliest 
on which the name appears in authentic documents. The list is still 
very incomplete, i^lfwine was still living in 1 066 ; then follows an 
interval of seventy-six years to Eustace, and then a gap of half a century 
to William I. Thenceforward the list seems fairly complete, but in the 
latter part of the fifteenth century there was a deplorable negligence in 
the custody of registers. With the exception of Bishop Bothe, whose 
whole career at Buckfast could not have exceeded two years, we have 
an interval of thirty-four years between Abbot Matthew and Abbot 
King. 



*994 
1040 

1143 
1 196 
1207 
1225 
1242 
1246 
1247 
1257 



ydfsige. 
ytlfwine. 
Eustace. 
William I. 
Nicholas. 
Michael. 
Peter I. 
William II. 
Howell. 
William III. 



A.D. 

1258 Durandus. 

1268 Henry. 

1272 Simon. 

1280 Robert. 

1290 Peter II. 

1316 Robert II. 

1327 Stephen I. 

1332 John I. (of Church- 

stowe). 

1333 William IV. (GiflTord). 



1 I.e.., the path along its banks. 

2 I.e., the red-haired, or the ruddy, 
but afterwards a family name Rede. 



Perhaps a personal designation 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 259 



A.D. 



1348 Stephen II. (of Cornwall). 

1349 Philip (Beaumont). 
1358 Robert III. (Simons). 
1395 William V. (Paderstow), 
1400 William VI. (Slade). 
1415 William VII. (Beaghe). 
1432 Thomas (Rogger). 
1440 John I. (Ffytchett). 
1449 John II. (Matthew). 

*I464 John III. (Bothe, afterwards Bishop of Exeter). 

1483 John IV. (King). 

1498 John V. (Rede). 

*i5oo Seinclere (Pomeroy). 

15 12 Alfred (Gill). 

1525 John VI. (Rede). 

(Gabriel Donne, intruded in 1536, cannot be counted 
among our Abbots.) 

1902 Boniface (Natter). Elected 19th November 1902. 
Confirmed 17th December 1902. Installed 14th 
January 1903. Received from the Bishop of Ply- 
mouth his abbatial blessing, and was enthroned in 
the Abbey Church, on the Feast of St Matthias, 
24th February 1903. Perished in the wreck of the 
Sirio^ 4th August 1906. 

1906 Anscar Vonier. Elected 14th September 1906. Con- 
firmed 31st September. Installed 9th October. 
Received the abbatial blessing and was enthroned 
by the Bishop of Plymouth, i8th October, Feast 
of St Luke, 1906. 

Among the very numerous Anglo-Saxon Abbots from the 
western counties whose names appear in Wessex charters, are 
necessarily those of Buckfast. But as they do not hold the 
names of their monasteries, they cannot be identified without 
great difficulty. 



260 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

IV. 
The Artns of Buckfast Abbey. 

These are given by Mr Brooking Rowe as — sable, a crozier in 
pale argent, the crook or, surmounted by a stag's head caboshed, 
of the second, horned gules. A sketch is given in Leland's 
Collectanea. 

But in Carew's Scroll of Arms (Harleian MS. 2129 and 5871 
in Brit. Mus.) they are twice given azure instead oi sable. The 
authority of Sir George Carew, Earl of Totnes, is very great, 
and it is clear that there was some variation in use in the arms 
of our Abbey. Abbot Anscar has decided to ;follow Carew's 
description. Lord Clifford has most kindly granted permission 
to the community to impale the arms of Clifford with their 
own. 

V. 
St Edmund! s Church at Kingsbridge. 

Kingsbridge forms part of Churchstow, one of the Abbey 
possessions in Saxon times. Even in those times it is not 
unlikely that it had its oratory, in addition to the parish 
church of Churchstow, for the use, at least on week-days, of 
a priest from the Abbey who would be there occasionally, or 
of the Abbot himself, and the labourers would hear mass there, 
though on Sundays and feast-days they would hear it in the 
parish church. 

A substantial church, built by the monks of Buckfast, 
certainly existed at Kingsbridge in the thirteenth century, if 
not earlier. From W. Davies, Esq., of Kingsbridge, to whom I 
am much indebted, I learn that a document extant among 
the Kingsbridge Church records, contains an examination of 
witnesses before Bishop Stapeldon, a.d. 1309. The witnesses 
affirm that for sixty years at least before that date, a church 
had existed in Kingsbridge with all ecclesiastical rights save 
that of sepulture. This takes us back to at least a.d. 1250, 
possibly to an earlier date. 

Either Howell or William (III.) was Abbot in 1250. The 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 261 

Abbey was prosperous at that date, and it was a likely time for 
the monks, who were fond of building, to undertake the erection 
of a substantial church at Kingsbridge. 

Now Mr Brooking Rowe has given, from Hawkin's History 
of Kingsbridge^ an undated document which he says was written 
"probably late in the twelfth century." This is, of course, quite 
possible, but it is also possible that it belongs to the earlier half 
of the thirteenth. The latter part must have presented some 
difficulty to the transcriber, perhaps from the writing being 
decayed, though one can see, at least in part, what was intended. 
It is with the first lines that we are concerned, which are quite 
clear, and may be translated as follows : — 

" Be it known to all, present and future, that I, M. (perhaps 
for Magister) de Littlecumba, Rector of the Church of Church- 
stow, have granted to the Abbot and Monks of Buckfast that 
they may build a church in honour of Blessed Edmund, King 
and Martyr, in their demesne, in the vill that is called 
Kingsbridge." This is clearly the church referred to in 1309. 
Now, as it is not possible that a church having all rights save 
that of sepulture could have remained unconsecrated for over a 
century and a half, and as a church whereof the principal walls 
remain standing would not be re-consecrated, what are we to 
say of the consecration of Kingsbridge Church by Bishop 
Stafford, on the 26th of August 1414? Clearly this: that at 
some date between 1309 and 1414, perhaps about 1400, in which 
the enterprising Abbot Slade entered on office, the church was 
so enlarged that the greater part of the walls were levelled to 
make a larger church. The parishioners in 1414 say that it 
had been built " long ago " ; but they might well have thought 
ten years quite long enough to wait for the consecration. The 
style of the church would help to settle the question, though 
changes of style appear somewhat later in Devonshire churches 
than elsewhere. 



VI. 

Possessions of the Abbey at Buckfastleigh itself at the time of 
the Dissolution. 

For the information contained in this note the writer is 
indebted to the kindness of E. F. Tanner, Esq., of Hawson 



262 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Court, Buckfastleigh, secretary to the Dartmoor Preservation 
Association. 

The society in question is fortunate in having for its chair- 
man Mr J. Brooking Rowe, to whom I am indebted for by far 
the greatest part of what is contained in the preceding pages. 
The first volume of the society's pubHcations is of the greatest 
value, both for antiquarian research and as a defence of the 
rights of common, exercisable on Dartmoor. It contains an 
admirable historical introduction by Sir F. Pollock, a History 
of the Rights of Common upon the Forest of Dartmoor and 
the Commons of Devonshire, by Mr Percival Birkett, a 
Summary of Evidence for the said rights, and upwards of 
sixty pages of hitherto unpublished documents in support of 
the Summary. What is mainly of interest for the Abbey of 
Buckfast is the evidence, in the first place, in the reign of 
Henry VIII., that "John, Abbot of the Monastery and House 
of Our Blessed Lady of Buckfast," held in right of the said 
Monastery, South Holne Moor, Brent Moor, and Buckfast 
Moor. 

Another document of great interest is a list of " Ye demeanys 
that belongyth to the Abbe of Buckfast . . . the whiche Sir 
Thomas Denys Knyght hath purchasyd of the Kyng. Here 
foUowith, the tennts namys that holdith the Demeanys and the 
rente of ev'y pcell thereof 

" Peter Rowland and Thomas Golde holdith a close 

called the brode furlong for . . . v']li. 

The same Peter holdith a close called Byrcherd 

Parke for . . . . . xxxiiij. 'n\ut 

John Ferys, Thomas Styrges, and Thomas Bove 

holdith Howkemer wood and lower Byrgyer 

mede for . . . " . . \n]li. 

Wyllym Langeworthye holdith the hier Byrgerd 

mede and Byrgerd Ball for . . xl. . . . 

Thomas Bovey holdith Bremelby and Whaythill 

for ...... iii//. vij, viiidT. 

John Serell and John Goolde cf Chageforde holdith 

a certen ground callyd betwene ii styles for \\li. 

Robert Hamelyn holdith the Northwode and 

Henbery woode and Henbery downe for . vi//. 

Wyllym Felbert holdith the daye house at Graunge 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 263 

and a close callyd Langb . . . and a lytell 
medowe for ..... iiii/z'. 

Robert Bovey, James Madoke, Saund Skynner, and 
Walter DoUyng, they holdith the fysshin with 
c'tayne gardens for . . . vi//. xiijj'. ind. 

John Dolling holdith the south pke for . Ivij. viii^. 

Robert Bovey holdith Shippery parke for . . xVis. 

John Chase holdith Laverens mede and c'tayne 

howeses in the Abbey for . iii/z. vis. viud. 

John Beryd at Stert holdith a medowe . v\s. viud." 

Almost all of these demesnes'stili bear the same names, and 
many of the families named therein are still living in the 
neighbourhood. Among the Abbey possessions was likewise 
that part of Dartmoor, as we have said, known as Buckfast 
Moor, the limits whereof are still marked out. 



VII. 

Some discoveries during excavations. 

In the basement of the now-restored tower, formerly belong- 
ing to the master of the lay-brothers, and adjoining their 
quarters (the cellarium), a museum has been found of many 
hundreds of fragments of masonry, or other objects, discovered 
in the course of excavation. A large number of blue, yellow, 
and green encaustic tiles ; a fragment of stained glass with 
the figure of a pelican; a "leaden" bulla of John XXII.; 
pieces of carved stone and statuary in every variety of style 
(from Early Norman to Late Perpendicular), coins, etc., are in 
the collection. Some of the objects form the illustrations to 
these pages ; one deserves a special description, which I give 
in the words of a learned member of the Society of Anti- 
quaries : — 

"The French Benedictine monks, now at Buckfast in 
Devonshire, whilst digging out the foundations of the old 
Abbey church, came upon a circular-headed copper-gilt door of 
a small shrine, enriched with enamel, which, through the kind- 
ness of our Fellow, Mr Walters, is exhibited here to-night. It 
measures almost 4 ins. in height by 2\ ins. in width. Mr 



264 HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 

Franks, C.B., and Mr Charles H. Read, F.S.A.j say it was 
made in Limoges, and is of early thirteenth century manufacture. 
The design on the door is a gilt half figure of an angel issuing 
out of a white and blue cloud. The wings are erect and 
crossed in saltire over the head. The left hand is raised in 
prayer, and the right hand is hid by the keyhole. This keyhole 
Mr Franks believes to be as old as the rest of the shrine. The 
face of the angel is three-quarters shown. The nimbus is 
green. The background is blue, powdered with eleven roses. 
A perfect shrine, of the same date and ornamented with like 
roses and clouds, is in the possession of the Soc. Antiq., London. 
These enamelled reliquaries of Limoges are often called in 
inventories Cofra Lemovicensis or batent de Limoges. The 
British Museum and South Kensington Museum have several 
perfect examples, and in Laberte's Handbook of the Arts of the 
Middle Ages at least three are engraved." 

VIIL 
Holcombe Burnell, the home of Sir Thomas Denys. 

The following interesting description of Holcombe Burnell, 
the home of the first lay proprietor of our Abbey, in whose 
family it remained for several generations, I owe to the kindness 
of a friend, Mr H. Hems of Exeter : — 

"After getting clear of St Thomas, on the opposite bank of 
the Exe, it is an almost continuous ascent to Long Down (three 
miles), which is part, I believe, of Holcombe Burnell. The 
place consists, in the main, of a few small houses, standing on 
the right-hand side of the main road from Exeter. It faces a 
deep pitch of combe, wild and hilly. Here the road forks. 
Taking the highest, the right-hand one (the way to Tedburn- 
St-Mary), in a short space and upon the highest ground in the 
neighbourhood, a wood of considerable extent is reached (on 
the left). At its very commencement is a path which by 
tortuous windings leads right through to the other side, and 
communicates with a bridle road. Following its slight descent, 
the manor-house, now known as Holcombe Burton, is seen 
almost immediately, and the embattled western tower of the 
adjacent church of St John the Baptist. The farm is in the 
occupation of Mrs Sophia Channing. Hard by is a modern 



HISTORY OF BUCKFAST ABBEY 265 

village school that jars on the medieval grouping of the 
surroundings. 

"Although really nestled in a dell, the church and adjacent 
manor-house stand upon well-wooded high ground, and from 
the south side of the former there is an extensive view of the 
surrounding country. 

"The house is of Tudor character. Its windows are low, 
square-headed, and divided by three stone mullions, with lead 
glazing. The brick chimneys are covered with ivy. The back 
faces a rather deep dingle. The original building appears to 
have extended still further westward, for some old oak panelling 
on the south end of that side, looking to the uninitiated like a 
blocked window, was once internal panelling, and indicates that 
part of the fabric has gone. The old brick boundary wall, 
separating the front garden, is original, and shows how an 
ancient brick wall appears that has never been re-pointed. It 
is as old as any of the brickwork at Hampton Court. 

" The church is small ; simply nave, chancel, north aisle, 
S.-W. porch, and low embattled western tower — a distinctly 
fifteenth-century edifice. There are indications of a much 
earlier building ; the belfry windows are lancet ones. But 
oldest of all is the head to the south-west doorway, a small 
well-preserved specimen of good Norman. It shows three 
carved heads, one the keystone, the others terminals, with 
circular paterse between. Part of the granite-coped fifteenth- 
century boundary wall remains, to the south of the church. The 
monolith octagonal shaft of the old cross still remains." 

IX. 

Abbot John Rede. 

That our last pre-Reformation abbot was expelled to make 
room for Gabriel Donne is very probable from a letter, dated from 
Antwerp, 31st July, of Thomas Tebolde to the Archbishop of 
Canterbury, where he writes that "within these five or six weeks 
he (Donne) is come to England, and by Mr Secretary's help 
has obtained an Abbey of 1000 marks in the west country." 
Abbot Rede would naturally apply to the Bishop of Exeter for 
a benefice. A few months after the intrusion I find a John 
Rede vicar of Davidstowe in Cornwall. 



INDEX OF NAMES OF PERSONS 



(Chiefly with Reference to Times Prior to 
A.D. 1539) 

PAGE 

Acton, Philip ...... 179 

Adam of Bridestowe . . . • .124 

Adam of Lidford . . . . . .124 

JElfrlc, monk at Deerhurst . . . . .21 

yElfwine, Abbot . . . . . 7, 19, 27 

^Ifsige, Abbot . . . . . .17 

.^thelstan, King of England .... 4 

Alan of Exeter . . . . . .124 

Albemarle, John de . . . . . -85 

Alfwold, Bishop ...... 20 

Allaria, Abbot . . . . . .238 

St Anscar ....... 250 

Anscar, Abbot (see Vonier) 

St Anselm, Archbishop . . . . -5' 

Arnold, Prior (see Guy) 

Ash, Robert . . . . . . -153 

Audley, James and Thomas .... 227 

Avery, William . . . . . .210 

Aylmer, Abbot . . . . . .18 

Bari, Comte de . . . . . .225 

Barlynch, John . . . . . • iS3 

266 



INDEX OF NAMES OF PERSONS 



267 









PAOl 


Bathe, Walter de . . . . . -83 


Bauceyn, Stephen and Richard de 




. 90-92 


Baumeis, WiUiam de . . . 




42 


Beaghe, WiUiam, Abbot 






153, 170 


Beaumont, Philip, Abbot . 






. 142 


Beaumont, William . 






. 145 


Bede, Venerable 






14 


Beornwyn, the Lady 






8 


Bergh, Thomas, Abbot 






238, 249 


St Bernard of Clairvaux 






• 58 


Birt, Don. Norbert . 






10 


Blondy, Richard, Bishop . 






99 


Bodmin, Prior of . 






• 238 


Boniface, Abbot (see Natter) 








B. Boniface of Savoy, Abp. 






91 


Bothe, John, Bishop 






• 175 


Braose, William de 






. 69 


Braye, Lord . 






224 


Brindle, Mgr. 






225 


Briteville, Guy de . 






• 83 


Bronescombe, Walter, Bishop 






97 sqq. 


Brownlow, Bishop . 






. 225 


Buckfast, Arnold and William 






. 179 


Budde, John and William . 






. 153 


Canute (see Knut) 


Challons, Ralph de . . . . . .83 


Champernowne, Sir Philip . 






. 113 


Chester, Walter 






• 153 


Chichester, family of X. 






149 


Clifford, the Dowager Lady 






226 


Clifford of Chudleigh, Lord 






225, 235 


Clifford, Rt. Rev. Bishop . 






. 225 


Clinton, Lord 






. 36 



268 



INDEX OF NAMES OF PERSONS 



Coffin, Edmund 
Cole, Philip . 
Courtenay, Hugh de 
Courtenays (see Devon, Earl of) 
Cowle, John . 

David the huntsman 
Dawson, Hon. Richard 
Davidson, J. B. 
Denbigh, Earl of , 
Denis, Stephen, Abbot 
Denys, Sir Thomas . 
Denys, William le . 
Devon, Countess of. 
Devon, Edward, Earl of 
Devon, Earl of 
Dodda Child 
Donne, Gabriel 
Dove, Richard 
Doyge, John 
Durand, Abbot 

Edgar, King 
Edmonds, Canon 
Ednoth, Bishop 
Edward the First 
Edward the Seventh 
Erdington, Abbot of 
Ethelmode, Bishop . 
B. Eugene III., Pope 
Eustace, Abbot 

Ferrers, William de 
Ffytchett, John, Abbot 
Ffytchett, Sir Thomas 



PAOE 

154 
124 
122 

210 

42 

252 

2, 3 
225 
227 
214 
42 
166 
164 
225 

35 

195 sqq. 

141 

210 
98 

23 

X 

17 

107 

240, 253 

235 

2 

57 sqq. 
41,47, 53 

. 85 
• ^11 



INDEX OF NAMES OF PERSONS 



269 



PAOB 



Finamore, William . 
Ford, Edmund, Abbot 
Ford, John . 
Foug^res, Ralph de 

Gasquet, Aidan, Abbot 

Gifford, Walter 

Gifford, William, Abbot 

Giffords 

Godman the Priest . 

Gorwet, Richard 

Graham, Rt. Rev. Charles, Bishop of Plymouth 

Grandisson, John de, Bishop 

Guy, Arnold, Prior . 

Gyll, John, Abbot . 

Gyll, Thomas, 

Gyst, William 

Hamelin of Deandon 

Hedley, Rt. Rev. Bishop . 

Helion, Sir Robert de 

Hems, Harry 

Henry, Abbot 

Henry of Poundstock 

Herries, Lord 

Hingeston-Randolph, Rev. F. C. 

Hode, John de 

Howell, Abbot 

Huddleston, Abbot . 

Hugh of Brent 

Hunter-Blair, Rev. Sir David Oswald 

Innocent HI., Pope 

Keaula, Martin 
Keily, Canon 



• 




85 


• 


235 


• 


181 


■ 


49 


142, 


235 


• 


124 


112, 


124 


• 


137 


. 


21 


. 


153 


225, 233, 


249 


132 sqq. 


188, 195, 


209 




186 






186 






IS3 






83 






224 




82 


sqq. 
X 




92,98 






98 






224 






140 






41 






89 






199 






124 






238 






66 






88 






251 



270 



INDEX OF NAMES OF PERSONS 



PAOI 



King, John, Abbot . . . • • 


■ 175 


Knut ....... 


. 19, 23 


Kulla, Hugh 


88 


Lane-Fox, G. S. . 


224 


Lemoine, Abbot Leander . . , . 


229 


Leo XIII., POPE 


. 237 


Leofric, Bishop . . . . . 


28 


Lilly, W. S 


. 224 


Llandaff, Viscount . . . . . 


224 


Lyfing, Bishop . . . . . 


19 


Macnamara, Dr . 


239, 252 


Manning, Cardinal .... 


224 


Marchant, Robert .... 


• 154 


Margaret, nun at Lacock . . . . 


106 


Martyn, John .... 


. 154 


Matthew, John, Abbot 


154, 173 


Matthews (see Llandaff) 




Michael, Abbot .... 


. 78 


Mivart, Dr St George 


225 


Molesworth, Sir Paul 


225 


More, Waryn de la . 


. 85 


Muard, P^re .... 


221 


Natter, Boniface, Abbot . 


229 sqq. 


Newman, Cardinal .... 


224 


Nicholas, Abbot . • . 


77 


Norfolk, Duke of . 


177, 224 


Nunant, Sir Roger de . . . 


. 38 


Nunants, de .... 


. 39-43 


Odda, Earl of Devon 


21 


Ordulf, Earl .... 


22 


Osbern ..... 


41 



INDEX OF NAMES OF PERSONS 



271 



Patterson, Bishop . 
Paderstow, William, Abbot 
Peter (I., II.), Abbots 
Petre, Sir William . 
St Petrock . 
Philip, Abbot 
Pius X., Pope 
Pomeroy, Seinclere, Abbot 
Pomeroy, Sir William 

QuiviL, Bishop 

Rede, John, Abbot . 
Reichel, Rev. O. 
St Robert of Citeaux 
Robert, Abbot 
Robinson, Mgr. Croke 
Roddon, John 
Rogger, Thomas, Abbot 
Rowland, Stephen . 

B. Serlo, Abbot . 
Shapcott, William . 
Shilstone, John de . 
Simon, Abbot 
Simons, Robert, Abbot 
Slade, William, Abbot 
Spitchwick, Michael de 
Splatt, Richard 
Stafford, Bishop 
Stapeldon, Bishop 
Staymbourne, John 
Stele, Edward 
Stephen, Abbot 
Stourton, John 
Sturgeon, John 



PAQB 
78, 80, 89, 120, 127 

33, 201, sqq. 
9, 10 

33 

253 

44, 80 

lOI 

117 

113, iZy sqq. 

5 
225 



100, 



107, I 



20, sqq. 
236 

154 

172 

153 

58 
210 

85 

105 

138 

173 

83 
210 

160 

122 

179 

153 

133, 135 

153, 155 

• 154 



272 



INDEX OF NAMES OF PERSONS 



Taylor, Richard . 
Theobald, Archbishop 
St Thomas of Canterbury 
St Thomas of Hereford 
Tracy, Sir William de 
TyuUa, Richard 

Ullathorne, Archbishop 

Valletorts 

Vaughan, Dom Jerome 

Vaughan, Rt. Rev. William, 

Veysey, Bishop 

B. Vitalis of Savigny 

Vonier, Anscar, Abbot 

Walsh, Hussey 
Walter of Plympton 
Walter of Totnes . 
Walters, Frederick . 
Walton, Miss' 
Ware, John, Bishop 
Watts, John 
Widworthy, Sir William de 
William, Abbot 
Woodbarton, Prior of 
Worthy, Charles 



Bishop of Plymouth 



PAOB 

2IO 

62 

62 

91 

64 

102 

224 

70, 85 
225 

222, 225 
223 

245 

224 
124 
124 

224 

X 

144 
153 

112 
89 

ix 



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2596 History of St. Mary's Abbey 

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