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Cistercian Abbeys: FLAXLEY

Name: FLAXLEY Location: Forest of Dean, nr Cindeford County: Gloucestershire
Foundation: 1151 Mother house: Bordesley
Relocation: None Founder: Roger de Fitzwalter, earl of Hereford
Dissolution: 1536 Prominent members:
Access: Private property

This abbey was founded by Roger, son of Miles Fitzwalter, earl of Hereford, in 1151. The site, located in the forest of Dean, was chosen to mark the spot where his father had been killed in a hunting accident in 1143.(1) The first monks arrived from Bordesley Abbey in Worcestershire, which was founded in 1138. Between 1151 and 1154 Roger's grants were confirmed by Henry, duke of Normandy and count of Anjou, and reconfirmed in 1158, following Henry's succession to the throne of England. Henry II also gave the monks the right take wood and other building material from the forest, which was a royal prerogative.(2) In 1234 Flaxley abbey was used as a safe haven against the Crown when the rebels who had supported Richard Marshal against Henry III sought refuge here.
Flaxley was never a wealthy monastery, although it did have a library of considerable size, housing almost a hundred books at the beginning of the thirteenth century.(3) The survey of 1535 valued the annual income at £112, and the abbey was dissolved with the smaller monasteries in 1536.(4) It seems that at the time of the Dissolution the abbey was already in partial ruin, with the church damaged by fire. During the late 1530s the abbey was converted into a house and the gateway chapel became a local church. The small country house, which takes is name from the abbey, still occupies the site today and the chapel is now the parish church of St. Mary’s. The house is privately owned and is not open to the public but the general layout of the site can be appreciated from St. Mary’s churchyard.(5)