Cherstey Abbey


The Victoria County History of Surrey


The Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter of Chertsey was founded in the year A.D. 666 1 by Erkenwald, afterwards Bishop of London 2 who became its first abbot, the new foundation being endowed with lands by the munificence of Frithwald, Subregulus of Surrey, under Ulfar, King of the Mercians, who in subsequent accounts is associated with Erkenwald as co-founder.  In the first charter of the foundation Frithwald recites that, for the augmentation of the monastery first built under King Egbert, he had granted 200 dwellings and 5 dwellings in a place called Thorpe to Erkenwald the abbot.3 This charter was witnessed and confirmed by King Ulfar and specifies the boundaries of the donation.4  A charter of privileges granted by Pope Agathon (678-82) was brought personally from Rome by the abbot then raised to the metropolitan see.5

Subsequent kings confirmed the possessions of the monastery : Offa, King of the Mercians, in 787, at the request of Cynedritha his queen, and Ceolnod the abbot; 6 Ethelwulf in 827 7 and King Athelstan in 993.8 From the year 850, and onwards through

1 This is the year given in the account of the abbey in the Chertsey chartulary preserved among the Cott. MS. Vitel. A. xiii. f. 20. The Annals of Dunstable (Ann. Mon. [Rolls Ser.] iii. 8) give the year 678, and Reyner, from Capgrave's Life of St. Erkenwald, makes it as early as 630.

2 Bede records that after building Chertsey the saintly Erkenwald raised the abbey of Barking, where he established his sister as abbess. This famous house was therefore a sister foundation to Chertsey (Hist. Fccles. lib. iv. cap. 6).

3 Cott. MS. Vitel. A. xiii. f. 2o.

4 Grave doubts have been cast upon the authenticity of the early charters, and particularly as to the charter above referred to. The style of the king, witnesses and bounds all contain errors probably of a thirteenth century scribe.

5 Cott. MS. Vitel. A. xiii. f. 25. 6 Ibid. f. 32.

7 Ibid. f. 32d.

8 Birch, Cart. Sax ii. 697.

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the ninth century, the monastery shared the perils of the country threatened by the incursions of the Danes. This contact with national history is reflected in the pages of their chronicle; it narrates the story of the struggle against the heathen, describes the dangers to which all the coasts were exposed, and in particular the counties of Kent, Surrey and Sussex, the fruitless efforts of the kings, the death of King Ethelbert `broken with many labours,' and culminates in the account of the attack on the monastery itself, the slaughter of Beocca the abbot, Ethor the priest, and ninety monks, their home burnt down, and their lands wasted 1

Many years elapsed before the work of restoration was begun. Then Ethelwald, Bishop of Winchester (936-84), sent to the abbot and convent of Abingdon commanding that thirteen monks be sent to colonise a new house on the old site. There they elected one of their number abbot, and a new church was raised. 2 It was also divinely revealed to a certain monk that the bodies of those who had been slain by the heathen should be removed from the place where they were resting and honourably collected and placed in a wooden shrine, which was accordingly done.

The new colony however, did not remain long undisturbed. In 964 King Edgar, inflamed by the reforming zeal of Dunstan, drove forth the inmates sent by Ethelwald and established regulars there with Ordbright as their abbot 3 After these vicissitudes the house seems to have entered upon a period of ease and prosperity wherein its borders became enlarged.

Edward the Confessor certified by charter to Stigand the archbishop and Harold the earl that he had granted to Christ and St. Peter of Chertsey that town with the towns of Egham, Thorpe and Chobham, 4 and that the abbot and convent should have soc and sac, tol, theam and infangnethef within all their manors, and also confirmed the gift by a previous charter of the Hundred of Godley. 5 The `Saint of England' further added to the endowment the village and church of White Waltham, Berks, with woods and 20 acres of pasture at Cookham 6

The house seems to have enjoyed the favour and protection of the Conqueror, 7 who confirmed the possessions which the abbot and convent held in the time of King Edward with soc and sac, and conferred on them rights of warren, liberty of the chase, the right to keep dogs, and take hares, foxes, etc., within all their lands in Surrey, with a mandate addressed to the sheriff, the king's foresters and ministers that the abbot and convent should not be molested. 8

The Domesday Survey shows that the estates held by the abbey were already very considerable and not confined to the county of Surrey alone, 9 and they were later increased by further donations from the descendants of the Conqueror.

Royal favour was accompanied by support from Rome. Pope Alexander III., recalling the privileges accorded by his predecessors, confirmed to the abbey the tithes of Chertsey, Egham, Thorpe and Chobham, 10 and ordained that the abbot should not retain them in his own hands, or expend them in other uses, but that they should be applied by two honest men to the repair of the abbey and the maintenance of its offices. 11 The Welsh priory or cell of Cardigan with its appurtenances, the churches of Holy Trinity and of St. Peter of 'Berwyke,' the chapels of St. Peter of Cardigan and St. Michael of Tremain which had been granted to the abbey by Rees Ap Griffin, Prince of South Wales, for his soul, and the souls of his wife, his parents and his sons, was confirmed by successive bulls of the popes, Alexander III. and IV 12  Alexander III also forbad the

1 Cott. MS. Vitel. A. xiii. f. 33-34.

2 Ibid. f. 35.

3 Anglo-Sax. Chron. (Rolls Series), i. 222-3.

4 These indeed formed the nucleus of the original endowment.

5 Cott. MS. Vitel. A. xiii. f. 50

6 Ibid. f. 51.

7 It is recorded, however, in the chartulary before mentioned that 'at this time the monastery was again destroyed and all its possessions carried away, so that there remained only that little which the inhabitants of the monastery now possess.' An account is given of the battle of Hastings and of the burial of the vanquished Harold at his abbey of Waltham (ibid. f. 47)

8 Ibid. f. 53

9 V.C.H. Surr. i. 307, and Hants, i. 472. 

10 Cott. MS. Vitel. A. xiii. f.69.

11 Ibid. f. 74.

12 Ibid. ff. 72, 75. During the administration of John de Hermondesworth a petition was presented to the Bishop of St. David's by the abbot and convent, and John Barnet, prior or rector of the parish church of Cardigan, praying him to terminate the contentions and brawls which had arisen in connection with the tithes of this church, and to determine whether they were received by right of the said church being an impropriated benefice or a dependant cell of Chertsey. The abbot appointed proctors to represent him when the case should be heard, but the bishop's decision is not given (Exch. K.R. Misc. Bks. f. 62).


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promulgation of any sentence of interdict or excommunication on any abbot or monk, 1 and Alexander IV. enacted that the chrism, holy oil, consecration of altars or churches, and ordination of clerks should be undertaken by the diocesan bishop, and forbad that any chapel or oratory should be built within the bounds of the parish save by the consent of the abbot and diocesan. 2

During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the abbey was engaged in many disputes, the settlement of which, involving litigation and papal arbitration, must have greatly taxed its already diminishing resources. Finally in the case of disputes involving but slight issues the house resorted to less official mediation ' in order to save extortion.' 3

Up to the end of the thirteenth century there was a marked absence of appropriation in connection with this house. The taxation roll of 1291 shows that the annual value of the various Surrey manors of the abbey amounted to 135 19s. 8d. 4  There was in addition an income of 7 0s. 7d. from temporalities in seven London parishes,5 and 7 from the diocese of Salisbury. 6  The only spirituality reckoned is a pension of 1 19s. from a London church.7 The monastery probably began to realise the fluctuating nature of the greater part of an income derived mainly from land and subject to agricultural depression, and sought to remedy this distress by resort to appropriation. The Bishop of Winchester in 1292 permitted the abbot and convent to retain to their own uses the church of Bookham which was of their patronage, then void by the resignation of John of London, the late rector, so that they presented a suitable person to perform divine service there. It was stated as a reason for this concession that the funds of the monastery had of late materially decreased by exactions, by pestilence', and by inundations of water that affected animals, flocks, and other property of Chertsey. The grant which was confirmed by the Crown, recited the permission granted to the abbey by Pope Clement III. in 1190 whereby they might retain in their own hands the parish churches of Bookham, Epsom, Ewell, Waltham, Horley, Cobham, and Coulsdon, and the chapels of Chertsey and ' Wetesdon.' 8  In 1313 licence was obtained from the king for the appropriation of the churches of Horley and Epsom, 9 and in 1380 Richard allowed the convent to appropriate the church of Ewell, 10 the three churches being already of their advowson. John de Benham obtained the church of White Waltham, Berkshire, in 1348.11

In 1402, during the vacancy of the see of Winchester, the Archbishop of Canterbury ordered an inspection of the muniments of the abbey of Chertsey, in order to ascertain what spiritualities were held by the abbot and convent and the genuineness of their title, that an exemplification of the documents might be made at the request of the brethren. The petition of the convent sets forth that whereas they held lands `in various parts of the world,' they possessed only the muni

1 Cott. MS. Vitel. A. xiii. f. 71. 2 Ibid. f. 72.

2 These disputes had relation chiefly to tithes and can be briefly enumerated. In 1198 with the rector of the church of Compton (Exch. K. R. Misc. Bks. 25, f. 34).  Early in the thirteenth century Peter des Roches effected a compromise between the abbot and the parishioners of Chobham (ibid. f. 44-5), which, as in many other instances, required adjustment later on. In 1228 a dispute was settled with the rector of Cobham, who was also dean of the cathedral church of Old Sarum (ibid. f. 52). In 1297 silence was imposed on the rector of Walton, and the claim of the abbey upheld (ibid. f. 54d).  In 1237 an amicable arrangement was made with the priory of Newark as to tithes within the parish of Chertsey (ibid. f. 53). Twice the abbey had to settle with the abbey of Westminster as to rival claims (Cal. of Anct. Deeds, ii. B. 1853, and Exch. K. R. Misc. Bks. 25, f. 57).  In 1279 a contest took place with the rector of Fetcham (ibid. f. 5o), and in 1308 a dispute between John de Rutherwyk and the rector of Chipstead was settled by the arbitration of Philip de Barthon' (ibid. f. 36). By a compromise in 1283 the parishioners of Bisley agreed to pay 3 lbs. of wax yearly to the abbey for right of sepulchre (ibid. f. 48).  The most heated dispute of all arose in 1405 between Thomas de Colverdone and the vicar of Chertsey as to the tithes of the parish church, it being one with the conventual church (ibid. f. 55).

4 Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. COM.), 206. 5 Ibid. xib.

6 Ibid. 192.

7 Ibid. 20b.

8 Pat. 20 Edw. I. m. ii.  Repeated bulls from Rome show that alienation of the property of the abbey was taking place. In addition to bulls of Alexander IV., addressed to the Chancellor of Salisbury, of Gregory X. to the Prior of Dorchester, and of John XXI. to the Prior of Reading, revoking any such alienation, a bull of Gregory X. deputes the Abbot of Dorchester to hear and determine the complaint of the convent against the Rectors of Walton and Bisley and the Vicar of Chertsey for the retention of tithes (Exch. K.R. Misc. Bks. 25, ff. 8, 9,10).

9 Pat. 6 Edw. II. pt. ii. m. 17.10 Ibid. 4 Rich. 11. pt. i. m. 27.

11 Abbrev. Rot. Orig. (Rec. Com.), vol. ii. 182d.


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ments which they required for their own use and had no duplicates. It was found on examination that the abbey held the parish churches of Chertsey and Egham with the chapel of Thorpe, the parish churches of Chobham, Great Bookham, Epsom and Horley. They had also the following pensions 20s. from Ewell, 20s. from the vicarage of Epsom, 8s. from Compton, 5s. from Ash, 6s. 8d. from Weybridge, 3s. from Cobham, 10s. and 6 lbs. of wax from the vicarage of Chobham, 3 lbs. of wax from Bisley, 50s. from the prior of Merton for a portion of tithes from Effingham, 15s. from the rector of Chipstead for tithes of Pirbright and Lovelane, and 13s. 4d. from the rector of Esher. The exemplification subsequently made was examined and compared with the originals and passed by a public notary of the Court of Canterbury. 1

A long and complicated series of negotiations 2 resulted in the acquisition by the abbot and convent of the church of Stanwell 'in proprios usus' in 1422, the grant being confirmed by Henry VI. in 1433. 3 Several years later Edward IV. granted a licence for the appropriation of the church of St. Andrew, Cobham, providing that a perpetual vicarage should be founded and due provision made for the yearly distribution of a competent sum to the poor of the parish from the issues. 4

That the abbey of Chertsey, in common with other monastic foundations, suffered much from the diminution of its revenues during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is evident. In the December following the election of Abbot John de Uske in 1370 5 the bishop of Winchester wrote to the abbot of Hyde that the king had excused the abbey and convent of Chertsey from payment of the triennial tenth. In the petition of the king and abbot to the Bishop of London for the appropriation of Stanwell church are assigned various reasons for the poverty of the house that charges had considerably increased owing to the concourse of people to the hospice and the demands on hospitality, which the monks were unable to meet on account of lessened resources. The abbey derived its sustentation mainly from arable land, and this remained sterile and uncultivated owing to the scarcity of labour following on epidemics and pestilences. The houses and buildings pertaining to the monastery had been reduced to ruins by violent storms, and had collapsed through no neglect on their part, in consequence of which their rents were much reduced. 7 In 1421 Henry V. made them a grant of 15 a year out of the great custom of London, which was subsequently confirmed by Henry VI. 8

It is natural to find the head of a large and influential house like Chertsey filling an important position in the county, and contemporary records frequently mention him as chosen to fill offices outside this limit, and enjoying the personal favour of the king. In 1058 Abbot Siward was made Bishop of Rochester. 9 Wulfwold was one of the six abbots (four of them Englishmen) who entered into a curious bond of confederation with Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester, and his monks between 1072 and 1077. 10 Odo was dismissed by William Rufus in 1092, and his place taken by Ralph Flambard of ill fame; but immediately on the accession of Henry I. Odo was restored to his former position. 11 A few years later Abbot Hugh was sent on an embassy with Ralph, Archbishop of Canterbury and Herbert, Bishop of Norwich, from the king to the pope, returning the following year .12 In the same way the abbot of Chertsey was sent with Raymond, a monk of St. Albans, in 1198, by Richard I. to treat with the pope. 13 The abbey is said to have been rebuilt in 1110 by Abbot Hugh, 14 pre-

1    Exch. K. R. Misc. Bks. 25, f. 32, et seq.

2    The abbot and convent conceded to Henry V. the manor of Petersham, which he was desirous of obtaining, and the advowson of the church of Ewell, reserving to themselves an annual pension of 20s. out of the church, in exchange for which the king granted to them an acre of land, and the advowson of the church of Stanwell.

3     Pat. I Hen. VI. m. 20, 21.

4     Ibid. 5 Edw. IV. pt. ii, m. 2

5     A full account of the proceedings at the election of this abbot is given in the Register of Bishop Wykeham (Hants Rec. SOC. i. p. 27).

6     Ibid. ii. 123.

7     Exch. K. R. Misc. Bks. z5, f. 25d

8     Pat. I Hen. VI. pt. iii, m. 29.

9     Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii. 187.

10    They agreed to adopt the Benedictine rule and to be in unity as if all their seven monasteries were one monastery, and to be `quasi cor unum et anima una,' to sing two masses every week in each monastery for all the brothers on Monday and Friday. The abbots also professed obedience to God and to their bishop for their common need, that is, that each of them should perform, and for his own account buy a hundred masses, and bathe a hundred needy men, and feed them and shoe them. And each to sing himself seven masses, and for thirty days set his meat before him and a penny upon the meat (Hist. et Cart. Mon. Glouc. [Rolls Ser.], iii. xviii.).

11     Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii. 37,40. 

12     Ibid. p. 45.

13     Matt. of Paris. Hist. Minor. (Rolls Ser.), ii. 75. 

14     Anglo-Sax. Chron. (Rolls Ser.), i. 369,


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sumiably a relative of King Stephen, whose charters refer to him as nepos meus.1 Abbot Aymer returned the knight-service of the house in 1166 as three knights and the knights' fees held of it as four.2 Martin, prior of Thetford, was appointed abbot during the lifetime of his predecessor, Bertan, in 1197, and is said to have been uncanonically elected.  An incident which occurred at his installation heightened this impression of illegality among the monks. Just as the abbot was entering the church in procession, the servant who was holding the pall fell to the ground and died.3 Abbot Alan was one of the signatories to the re-issue of Magna Carta in 1225.4

In 1273 Edward I. addressed a mandate to Abbot Bartholomew bidding him attend at Kingston on the following Monday and see to the due observance of the king's prohibition of a tournament, which it was proposed to hold on that day.  If not able to go personally, he was to send the sub-prior and cellarer or two discreet monks .5

The administration of the successor of Abbot Bartholomew was marked by great increase of the estates held by the abbey, and much improvement of their property and buildings, due to the energy and administrative ability of John de Rutherwyk (1307-46). Much space is devoted in the chartulary of the monastery to an account of the improvements and additions of the abbot, whom it described as `religiosissimus pater, prudentissimus et utilisvmus dominus.' His attention was not confined to territorial undertakings alone. In 1311 he presented the conventual church of Chertsey with red velvet vestments,6 and a few years later had the tabula hanging above the high altar painted,7 and bought images of St. Catherine and St. Margaret and a new pastoral staff 8  By his care also the chapel at Chobham 9 and the chancel at Epsom church were repaired, 10 and a new chancel built at Egliam.11   With the exception of the year 1335, during the whole of his rule, which lasted nearly thirty-nine years, the abbot's ardour as a landlord suffered no check.  In that year a spirit of discontent seems to have manifested itself among the brethren, for a complaint was made containing among other things that the abbot has acquired many possessions, the value and extent of which they were unable to estimate, `The abbot,' it is stated, `being not a little troubled in his mind ceased from such acquisition, and rested that year from the labours of his body and the fatigues of his heart.12

John de Rutherwyk seems to have met with favour from Edward II and his queen. In 1308 he obtained a pardon from the Crown for a debt of 10 of his predecessor,13 and in 1310 a licence to acquire lands and rents to the value of 50. 14 In the same year the king notified the barons of the Exchequer that by request of ` notre treschere compagne,' the Queen of England, he had pardoned the abbot of Chertsey the service which he owed the king for the war in Scotland, and that this release is to be inscribed on the rolls of the Exchequer.15 In connection with the same war, the following December the king acknowledged his indebtedness to the abbey for 22 7s. 6d, for 5 quarters of wheat and l00 quarters of malt, being part of the supplies levied by the king for the war.16      In July 1322 Edward II called upon the abbot to admit a married couple as royal life pensioners, sending to them John de Ardern of Chobham, who had long served the Crown, together with Agnes his wife.  They were to receive as much as Gunnora de Windsor, then deceased, had for her maintenance at the late king's request. 17  A relative of the abbot's, William do Rutherwyk, who had granted to the monastery all his goods and chattels in Egham and Thorpe, also received a life pension with Alice his wife.18

The rule of Abbot John was marked by the erection of two chantries within the conventual church. In 1318, in return for the sum of 100 granted by Philip de Barthon', archdeacon of Surrey, the abbot arranged that a monk should be specially deputed to celebrate masses at the altar of Holy Cross for the good estate of their benefactor, and for the souls of Richard his brother, his parents and all the faithful dead; and that the two brothers, Philip and Richard, should be had in remembrance by the brethren in all their masses, and their names inscribed on

1 Cott. MS. Vitel. A. xiii. f. 57.

2 Red Book of the Exch. (Rolls Ser.), i. 198.

3 \Vharton's Anglia Sacra. i. 303.

4 Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), i. 232

5  Pat. 1 . Edw. I. m. 15.

6 Exch. K. R. Misc. Bks. 25, f. 174

7 Ibid. f. 177d.

8 Lands. MS. 435, f. 108

9 Exch. K. R. Misc. Bks. 25, f. 179

10 Lands. MS. 435, f. 140

11 Ibid. f. 133d.

12 Ibid. f. 156.

13 Exch. K. R. Misc. Bks. 25, f. 17314 Pat. 3 Edw. II. m. 24.

15 Exch. K. R. Misc. Bks. 25, f. 173.

16 Pat. 4 Edw. II. pt. i. m. 6.

17 Close, 16 Edw. If. m. 34d.

18 Exch. K. R. Misc. Bks. 25, f. 232.

each missal of the church and in their martyrology, and named daily in the chapter with other benefactors. Also that the sacrist should distribute yearly on the anniversary of the said Philip 20s. to the brethren and 6s. 8d. to the poor, and that both he and his brother should be participants in all the spiritual privileges and exercises of the house.1

When Philip de Barthon' died in 1327, he bequeathed a sum of 250 to the abbey for the augmentation of the two chantries already founded within the conventual church. By a covenant with his executors the abbot and convent agreed to provide two secular chaplains in their house, and to maintain them in food and lodging and everything necessary for divine service ; to pay them 5 1/2 marks a year, and to provide them a fitting chamber near the great gate of the garden within the abbey, and to keep the same in repair, and to find them a clerk to minister to them, sufficient bedding, and two cartloads of firewood, when provision was made for the chamber of the abbot.  The chaplains were to officiate, one at the altar of St. Leonard in the nave, and the other at the altar of St. Thomas the Martyr. One mass was to be celebrated early in the morning before the mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the other at a fit hour at midday between the end of the mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the celebration of high mass.  They were to take the oath of obedience to the abbot, and to be removed if found unfit or disobedient.  'And always in the principal mass, they should turn to the people who were hearing mass, and should say a paternoster for the souls of Philip de Barthon, his brother, and his family and the faithful departed.'  The former distribution of 26s. 8d. on the anniversary of Philip de Barthon' was to be kept up.2

By another agreement, in 1314, with the rector of the church of Coulsdon the abbot and convent consented, in return for a certain tenement in Coulsdon, to provide a secular chaplain to celebrate for the good estate of the donor when living, and for his soul and that of Geoffrey de Conductu his brother, when dead.3

In February 1342, on the strength of recent legislation,4 John de Rutherwyk obtained an important concession that on the voidance of the abbey the prior and convent should retain the custody and full and free administration of the temporalities (saving to the king knights' fees and advowsons) at a rent to the Crown of 50 marks for each four months, or part of four months, of such voidance. No escheator, sheriff or other bailiff or minister of the king, was to intermeddle in the custody, further than that at the beginning of each voidance the escheator or his minister should take a simple seisin within the gates of the abbey in the name of the king, and not stay there more than one day.5

The abbey is said to have been attacked in an insurrection of 1381 during the abbacy of John de Uske ; the record states that the court rolls and other muniments were burnt by the malice and rebellion of the insurgents against the peace of the king.6

In consequence of complaints of great dilapidations committed by Thomas Angewyn, who was elected abbot on the death of John de Hermondesworth in 1458, an inquiry was instituted by commission of the Bishop of Winchester to William Wroughton, a monk of Winchester, and the abbot was compelled to resign. The bishop at the request of the convent selected Wroughton to fill the vacant place in March 1461-2. 7 In 1464 Wroughton himself was deposed, and on 12 February Edward IV. granted a licence to the abbot and convent to elect a head in the place of William Wroughton deprived,8 whereupon they re-elected Angewyn.9  The bishop, however, on the grounds of a lack of due formality in the election, collated John May to the vacancy on the 19 March 14645. 10 During his rule the abbey was called on


1 Exch. K. R. Misc. Bks. 25, f. 187.

2 Ibid. f.188.

3 Ibid. f. 326.    Similarly in return for a grant of lands made by Hawysia, the widow of Walter de Gloucester, knt., the abbot and convent agreed to pay annually l0 marks towards the sustentation of two chaplains serving a chantry founded by Hawysia for the soul of her husband in the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Haydor in the county of Lincoln (ibid. f. 180), and 5 marks to a chaplain at the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the church of Littleton (London Diocese) founded by Thomas de Littleton, former rector of Spaxton, and now of Harrow (ibid. f. 191).

4 In consequence of waste and damage done to ecclesiastical property during voidance it was enacted in 1340 that in the case of the vacancy of a bishopric or abbey or priory, etc., the value of the voidance might be paid in money (Stat. 14 Edw. III. cap. 4).

5 Pat. 16 Edw. III. m. 36.

6 Exch. K. R. Misc. Bks. 25, f. 173d.

7 Pat. 2 Edw. IV. m. 21.

8 Ibid. 4 Edw. IV. m. 9.

9 Ibid. 5 Edw. IV. pt. i. m. 13

10 Winton Epis. Reg., Waynflete, i. Pt. ii, f. 137. The causes which led to the deprivation of Abbot Wroughton cannot now be ascertained, but there appears to have been some great irregularity.      An entry on the Pat. Rolls 15 March 1465, recites that the king was entitled to 50 marks from the abbey when it became void by the cession of Thomas Angewyn ; that the said sum was granted by the king in 1462 to his sister Anne, Duchess of Exeter (Pat. r Edw. IV. pt. v. m. 18) ; that the new abbot, William Wroughton received the letters patent of this grant and letters of acquittance of the duchess ; that afterwards, on 6 February 1464-5, when the abbot was deprived of his office and dignity, there was another voidance of the abbey ; that the deprived abbot carried off the said letters to places unknown, so that John, now abbot, and the convent cannot exonerate themselves of the 50 marks, having no receipt to show, but that the king was willing not only to pardon them that sum, but also the 50 marks due for the second voidance (Pat. 6 Edw. IV. pt. i. m. 17).

to give a resting-place to the remains of Henry VI. The body of that unfortunate king `found dead' in the Tower was shown for some days in St. Paul's in order to disarm suspicion, after which it was taken on a barge to the abbey of Chertsey to be buried, 1 where it remained till removed to Windsor by Henry VIII.

In comparison with the abundance of material for the external history, there is but scanty information as to the internal condition of this house. It is probable, however, that as the abbots were held in so high esteem their rule was satisfactory, and as we hear of no scandal touching the abbey it may be inferred that its condition was good.  It was diligently visited during the administration of Bishop Wykeham of Winchester, either personally or by commission, but no comment throws light on this point.2  During the abbacy of John de Rutherwyk, a dispensation was applied for on behalf of John de Winton, priest, a monk of Chertsey for wounding a thief. The petition recounts that a thief at night time broke into the infirmary where the monk was lying ill in bed. A struggle took place between the robber and some servants who were roused, in which the thief received deadly wounds on the head, but by whom the blows were struck was uncertain in the confusion.  The monk, suddenly aroused from sleep by the noise of this conflict, and hardly conscious of what he was doing, leapt from his bed and seizing a sword from one of them struck the thief on the ear and jaw ; but in the opinion of the medical men and others this particular wound was not a deadly one. The abbot suspended the monk from celebrating mass and sought counsel of the bishop, who, inasmuch as John de Winton had not mutilated any member of the thief, nor, in the judgment of the medical men, been the cause of his death, decided that he need no longer abstain from celebrating mass.3

Certain regulations made in the thirteenth century mention the various officers of the monastery and illustrate their duties. Abbot Adam by the consent of the convent as signed certain rents for the celebration of his anniversary, to be received by the almoner, and distribution made to the brethren of bread, wine and fish, and of bread to the poor. The same distribution was to be made on the anniversary of Abbot Alan, and the almoner should also on the Feast of Blessed Mary Magdalene, according to ancient custom, distribute bread, wine and curd cheese-cakes.4  Among other customs we read that the cellarer was bound to provide cheese for the refectory of the convent; the chamberlain was to receive 20 from the cellarer for clothing for the brethren, and grease to anoint the shoes of the preaching brethren seven times in the year; the chamberlain had to provide towels for the lavatory and for the ceremony of the washing of feet, and on the Vigil of All Saints he was to find the abbot and convent sandals of white cloth.5 The office of the pittances is not mentioned till the time of John de Benham, and it is stated that he founded it.6

When the abbey was visited on 28 April 1501, by Thomas Hede, commissary of the prior of Canterbury, during the voidance of the sees of Canterbury and Winchester, the number of the inmates had fallen, and it would seem, in spite of conflicting witness, that the house was largely in debt. The abbot 7 testified to the due performance of all their religious duties, both in the day and night offices; that there was not the full statutory number of monks; that the rents


1 Gale's Hist. of Croyland, i. 556. Warkworth, Chron. of the first Thirteen Years of Edw. IV. (Camden Society), 21

2 On 29 October 1381 the house was visited by commission of the bishop (Wykeham's Reg. [Hants Rec. Soc.], ii. 328). The bishop gave notice of his intention to visit the abbey on Monday next after Feast of St. Peter ad Vincula, 1378 (ibid. 404). And the abbot and convent were cited to appear for a visitation at their chapter house on Wednesday next after St. Matthew, 1392 (ibid. 436).

3 Reg. of Rigaud de Arserio (Hants. Rec. Soc.), p. 423.

4 Cott. MS. Vitel. A. xiii. f. 82d.

5 Ibid. f. 79.

6 Exch. K. R. Misc. Bks. 2;, f. 173.

7 Thomas Peket or Pigot was consecrated Bishop of Bangor in 1500, but was allowed to retain the abbey in commendam.


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of assize amounted to eighty marks ; that the seal was kept in the treasury under four keys, which were in the respective custody of the abbot, the prior, the sub-prior, and one of the senior monks ; and that the monastery was not in debt, nor had it any valuables pledged. Robert Pendu, the prior, stated that silence was observed by the monks in the proper places and times, and that the officials rendered annual accounts of their respective offices. Thomas Grey, the almoner, said that the constitutions of the order of St. Benedict were not read in the chapter house, and that he had heard it said that the house was 1,000 in debt. John Parker, the sub-prior, testified that the house was in debt, but to what extent he knew not, as the abbot during the preceding years had omitted to render his accounts. Thomas Marshall, a monk, returned omne bene, save that there was a debt of 100 marks for the bull permitting the abbot to be bishop of Bangor. William London, sub-chanter, had heard it said that the house was in debt, but he knew not to what extent. John Batyn, a professed monk in acolite's orders, considered that omne bene save that the constitutions were not read in chapter. Other monks had either nothing to depose or returned omne bene. 1

The Valor of 1535 gives the clear annual value of the abbey as 659 15s. 8d.

Dr. Legh was Cromwell's agent in the visitation of this abbey during the rule of John Cordrey, who was elected on the resignation of John Parker in 1529.2 Writing on 29 September 1535, he takes exception to the report made at a recent visitation of the Bishop of Winchester and Sir William Fitzwilliam, undertaken by the king's orders, stating that all was well.  He forwarded his 'compertes' in which he alleged that seven were incontinent, four guilty of unnatural offences, and two apostates.3  It is difficult to reconcile this account with the report of the Bishop of Winchester, an experienced monastic visitor, reinforced by Sir W. Fitzwilliam, the treasurer of the king's household, little likely to err on the side of indulgence towards such gross irregularities in a religious house, nor did succeeding events bear out the probability of the existence of such immorality. It is impossible to believe that the king would have translated the abbot and convent of Chertsey to so important a new foundation as he eventually did, if he had given general credence to the report of Cromwell's agent. 4 Moreover Cordrey was placed on the commission of the peace for Berks in 1537, so soon as he had removed to Bisham.

On 5 July 1537, a charter was granted for a new foundation of the late priory of Bisham.5 It was to consist of an abbot and thirteen monks of the Benedictine order, who were to pray for the good estate of the king, and of his consort, Queen Jane, and its style was to be 'King Henry the Eighth's new monastery of Holy Trinity of Bustelesham.'          Of this foundation John Cordrey was to be the first abbot with the privilege of wearing a mitre.6

The following day, 6 July, Chertsey Abbey was surrendered by John Cordrey, the abbot, William the prior, and thirteen of the brethren. Their deed of surrender 7 recites unmistakably that they did so on the understanding that the king intended to re-establish them at Bisham.

On 18 December 1537 the late community of Chertsey entered their new home, endowed with the lands of their late abbey as well as those of the dissolved priories of Cardigan, Beddgclert, etc. Six months later Richard Layton, writing to Cromwell, describes the state of poverty in which he found the house of Bisham.  It had not existed long enough to receive the new revenues. `Plate and household stuff very little, I had to borrow a

1 Canterbury Sede Vacante Register.

2 In the same year of his resignation John Parker granted the manor of Mylton or Middleton, with 100 acres of land, 200 acres of pasture, and a watermill in Egham and Thorpe to the Bishop of Winchester at his request for the benefit of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and its scholars. Exch. K. R. Misc. Bks. 25, f. 245

3 Dr. Legh's report goes on to state that among the abbey relics was the arm-bone of St. Blasius, through which they gave wine in cases of illness; there was also an image of St. Faith before which they placed a candle on behalf of sick persons, and maintained that if the candle remained lighted till it was consumed the sick person would recover, but if it went out he would die (L. and P. Hen. VIII., ix. 472).

4 Probably there was a lack of agreement among the brethren, and on 1 November of the same year six of the monks sent a joint letter to complain of the abbot's ` mis-doings,' and to beg that Cromwell would consider their case. They stated that since the visitation he had sold wood, and was bargaining away Chobham Park, had conveyed away the plate, and whereas he had stated in his letter that the portership had been given away, which ` you requested,' it had not been granted under the common seal (ibid. ix. 736).

5 An old house of Austin Canons in Berkshire which had been dissolved and granted to the king by William Barlow, Bishop of St. David's, the late commendatory prior, on 5 June 1536.

6 Ibid. xii. (a) 1311 (22).

7 Court of Aug. Surrenders, No. 54.

bed from the town for Dr. Carne and myself. Cattle none, but a few milch kine ; grain none ; vestments few. The abbot has sold everything in London, and doubtless within a year would have sold the house and lands for white wine, sugar, burrage leaves, and ' seke,' whereof he sips nightly in his chamber till midnight.       For money to despatch the household and monks we must sell the copes and bells, and if that will not suffice, even the cows, plough oxen and horse ; the church we stir not.  The grain crop is the fairest I have seen, and there is much meadow and woodland.  Because of the hay harvest we retain the carters and ploughmen. To-day we despatch the monks who are desirous to be gone.  Yesterday when we were making sale of the vestments in the chapter house, the monks cried a new mart in the cloister and sold their cowls.       Bissham, 22 June.' 1

In the same letter Dr. Layton refers to John Cordrey as ' a very simple man, the monks of small learning and less discretion.'

Whatever the cause the king's royal foundation was doomed, and on 19 June 1538, only six months after his establishment, the abbot again made surrender.2  With this broken man ended the long line of the abbots of Chertsey. 3


Erkenwald,4 666

Ceolnod,5 occurs 787

Beocca,6 occurs end of ninth century


Ordbright,7 964.

Daniel, circa 1025

Siward,8 consecrated bishop of Rochester 1058

Wulfwold,9 occurs 1072, died 108410 Odo,11 1084-92 deposed

Ralph Flambard,12 1092

Odo,13 1100 re-elected

William,14 circa 1106

Hugh,15 1107


Aymer,16 occurs 1166 Bertan

Martin,17 1197

Adam, 18 circa 1206

Alan,19 1223

John de Medmenham,20 1261-70

Bartholomew de Winton,21 1270-1307

John de Rutherwyk,22 1307-46

John de Benham,23 1346-61

William de Clyve,24 1361-70

1 L. and P. Hen. VIII. vol. xiii. pt. i, 1239.

2 Ibid. 1218.

3 Two references to John Cordrey occur after his deprivation. The payment to him of a pension of 33 6s. 8d. for the last half year ending Mich. 30 Hen. VIII. among the treasurer's accounts (Aug. Office).  And in connection with a bill of complaint of Jane Bastyan for a certain tenement or brewhouse within the parish of Chertsey, which she claimed against Mary Merrye, tenant in possession, by right of a lease of the late abbot of Chertsey to one Leonard Henry of Chertsey, by whom the interest in the estate was sold to the plaintiff. The indenture, dated January 1529, was to have taken effect at Michaelmas last past The defendant suggested that the deed exhibited by the plaintiff was secretly drawn up by the abbot at the time of the dissolution ` with intent to deceive the King's Majesty of his good and perfect right in the premises without the consent or as sent of the convent, and without their knowledge and agreement.' (Aug. Off. Pros. 1/7 4/8.) A writ was issued for the case to be tried to determine whether the indenture in question was made, sealed and delivered with the knowledge and assent of the late monastery, and whether the date it bore was the correct one. The witnesses were two former inmates of the late abbey, one of whom deposed to the effect that he remembered Leonard Henry, servant of John Cordrey, and brought up in the monastery from his childhood, obtaining a lease of the abbot by indenture under the common seal which was deposited in the chest whereof the abbot kept the key, for which seal Leonard Henry paid 10s. to be divided amongst the convent after the custom of the house. He further deposed that the deed shown him by the Commissioners was that very true deed and seal of the abbot and convent above referred to, delivered about a year before the suppression of the house. The other witness corroborated the statement of the first (Aug. Off. Miss. Bks. III. f. 4). Probably this deed was not surrendered to the king's Commissioners with the other muniments of the house.

4 Cott. MS. Vitel. A. xiii. f. 20.

5 Birch, Cart. Sax. i. 349.

6 Cott. M.S. Vitel A. xiii. f. 34.

7 Anglo-Sax. Chron. (Rolls Ser.), i. 222-3.

8 Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii. 187.

9 Hist. of Church of York (Rolls Ser.), iii. 13.

10 His death is recorded Anglo-Sax. Chron. (Rolls Ser.), i. 352 ; Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii. 34

11 Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii. 37

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid. p. 40.

14 Cott. MS. Vitel. A. xiii. f. 55.

15 Wharton's Anglia Sacra, ii. 297. He was a physician. Hist. of Church of York (Rolls Ser.), ii. 143.

16 Red Book of the Exch. (Rolls Ser.), i. 198.

17 Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii. 65.

18 Cott. MS. Vitel. A. xiii. f. 92

19 Pat. 7 Hen. III. m. 4.

20 Ibid. 45 Hen. III. m. 7.

21 Ibid. 56 Hen. III. m. 1.

22 Ibid. 1 Edw. 11. pt. i. m. i8.

23 Ibid. 21 Edw. III. Pt. i. m. 7.

24 Ibid. 35 Edw. III, pt. iii. m. 14

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John de Uske,1 1370-1400

Thomas de Culverdone,2 1400-19

John de Hermondesworth,3 1419-58

Thomas Angewyn,4 1458-61-2

William Wroughton,5 1461-2, 1464 deposed

Thomas Angewyn,6 1464-5, re-elected

John May,7 1464-79

John Peket or Pigot,8 1479-1504

John Parker,9 1504-29

John Cordrey,10 1529-37 Afterwards abbot of Bisham for six months.


An eleventh century oval seal,11 showing the north side of the conventual cruciform church with central tower of three decreasing stages, and with round-headed windows, north and west porches, and east apse. Legend

+ SIGILLUM - SANCTI - PETRI - CEROTIZ AECL'E ; the 's' in ' SANCTI' is angular ; the 'c' in ' SANCTI' and 'AECL'E' is of square form.

A thirteenth century oval seal.12 Obverse Damaged; remains of same legend as on previous seal.  Reverse : A small pointed oval counter seal ; St. Peter crucified head downwards.  Legend :    SOLUE - JUBTE - DEO CULPAR' PETRE - CATENAS.

Pointed oval seal13 of John Medmenham, abbot (1261-70).     Obverse: Full length of abbot on a corbel under a trefoiled canopy, in right hand a crozier, in left hand a book. Legend : + JOHANNIS . CERTESEYE. Reverse : Same as in the previous seal.

Pointed oval seal 15 of Bartholomew de Winton, abbot (1270-1307).  Full length of abbot on a corbel under a trefoiled canopy, in right hand a crozier, in left hand a book ; on each side a small niche containing a saint's head, on the left St. Peter with the keys, on the right St. Paul with the sword.  Legend


Fragments of pointed oval seal16 of the Sacristy, 1466. St. Peter under trefoiled niche; below a half length kneeling figure, probably of the sacrist.

Pointed oval seal 17 of Thomas Pigot, abbot 1489. The abbot full length in enriched canopied niche, right hand raised in blessing.    Legend defaced in each instance.

Imperfect pointed oval seal 18 of John Parker, abbot, 1520. The abbot standing in enriched niche, a crozier in right hand. Legend : . . . BATIS DE CHERTSEY.

Very imperfect seals19 of John Cordrey, abbot, 1531.


1 Pat. 44 Edw. III. pt. ii. Winton Epis. Reg., Wykeham, i. f. 27. Pat. i Hen. IV. pt. viii. m. 12. 

2 Winton Epis. Reg., Wykeham i. ff. 309-11; Pat. 2 Hen. IV. pt. i. m. 38. 19.

3 Ibid. 7 Hen. V.

4 Ibid. 2 Edw. IV. m. 21. 

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid. 5 Edw. IV. pt. i, m. 13.

7 Winton. Epic. Reg., Waynflete, i. p. ii, f. 137.Pat i9, Edw. IV. m. 18.

8 Pat. i9 Edw. IV. ms. 16, 13.

9 L. and P. Hen. VIII. iv. Pt. iii. 5522. 

10 Ibid. 5627, 5782.

11 B. M. Seals, 2899.

12 Add. Chart. 5546, 5547.

13 Ibid.

14 Ann. Man. (Rolls Ser.), iii. 425.

15 B. M. lxxii. 59.

16 Add. Chart. 5487.

17 Harl. Chart. 44, B. 5t, 52, 53, 54, 55.

18 Ibid. 62.

19 Ibid. 46.


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