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Cistercian Abbeys: GARENDON

Name: GARENDON Location: nr Loughborough County: Leicestershire
Foundation: 1133 Mother house: Waverley
Relocation: None Founder: Robert ‘le Bossu’, earl of Leicester
Dissolution: 1536 Prominent members:
Access: No remains to see

Garendon was founded in 1133 by Robert, earl of Leicester and was the first of five daughter houses to be colonised by Waverley. The initial grants were centred around Charnwood Forest, but the community soon acquired substantial endowments which extended to the neighbouring counties of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Five years after the first monks settled at Garendon, the community had expanded to such an extent that it had the numbers to despatch a colony to Bordesley in Worcestershire, a foundation made by Robert’s brother, Waleran. In 1147 another colony was sent to Biddlesdon in Buckinghamshire.(1) The monastery clearly attracted recruits, yet by the end of the twelfth century it seems that the internal standards of the abbey were slipping. It seems that one of the abbots, Geoffrey, was actually married, and it was alleged that one of the monks was a Jew. In 1195 Abbot William resigned, reputedly at the displeasure of the General Chapter when it discovered that the lay-brothers had a habit of drinking beer, which was forbidden. The following year the new abbot, Reynold, was attacked in the infirmary and gravely wounded by a lay-brother. In response, the General Chapter at Citeaux ordered all the abbey’s lay-brothers to be dispersed.(2)
During the sixteenth century the abbey acquired some local fame when the Holy Cross at Garendon became an object of pilgrimage for the surrounding population. However, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the house struggled financially and in 1535 its net annual income was valued at £159.(3) The house was dissolved a year later.
At the time of the Dissolution the large old monastery was said to be partly ruinous.
After the Dissolution the site passed into private hands and, during the late seventeenth century, a country house was built over the site. This house, called Garendon Hall, was demolished in the 1960s leaving no significant above ground remains of the abbey.(4)