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History and Research: Croxden Abbey

Bertram de Verdun, Lord of Alton, an important local nobleman at the time, founded a Cistercian monastery in 1176 for the salvation of the souls of his family.

Croxden Abbey plan

Plan of the abbey with surviving walls shown in black.

Self-sufficient community

The Verdun family, originally from Normandy, granted land in Cotton (a few miles north) and Croxden to monks from the Cistercian abbey of Aunay-sur-Odon.

The monks moved from Cotton to the more remote site of Croxden in 1179. The church was built first, followed by the buildings around the cloister. Completion and further enlargement followed under the prosperous leadership of Walter London, abbot in 1242–68.

Despite the lack of historical records in the later periods, it is evident that Croxden was never particularly wealthy. The abbey flourished in the 13th century when it may have supported as many as 70 monks but during the 14th century the community suffered from the effects of crop failure, cattle disease and plague. Henry VIII eventually suppressed the abbey in 1538, and the site became part of a farm.

Cistercian monks observed the strict Rule of St Benedict, originally written in the 6th century.  Monasteries of the order favoured remote sites and their buildings were often austere as at Croxden. These communities endeavoured to be self-sufficient and much of the surrounding land belonged to the abbey. Indeed, the abbey precinct covered 30 hectares of fertile land and included a mill and fishponds.

Sources

Baillie Reynolds, P 1969. 'Croxden Abbey, Staffordshire', London: HMSO

Disclaimer

The text and pictures on this page are derived from the 'Heritage Unlocked' series of guidebooks published in 2004. We intend to review, update and enhance the content in the near future as part of the Portico project, whose objective is to provide information on the history, significance, research background and sources for all English Heritage properties.

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