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Cistercian Abbeys: LOUTH PARK

Name: LOUTH PARK Location: nr Keddington Village County: Lincolnshire
Foundation: 1137 Mother house: Fountains (from Haverholme)
Relocation: 1139 Founder: Bishop Alexander of Lincoln
Dissolution: 1536 Prominent members:
Access: Private farmland, no public access

Louth Park earthworks and east end
© Stuart Harrison
<click to enlarge>
Louth Park earthworks and east end

The original foundation was made in 1137 by Bishop Alexander of Lincoln who offered a group of monks from Fountains Abbey a site on the Isle of Haverholme. This was one of the first houses to be settled with a colony of monks from Fountains. However, the monks soon found the site unsuitable and asked for leave to settle themselves in the bishop’s deer park, east of Louth. The site at Louth was probably chosen as the land here was more suitable for agriculture, which was the main occupation of the Cistercians; the community transferred to Louth Park in 1139. As the foundation history of Fountains Abbey (the Narratio de fundatione Fontanis Monasterii) states:
Now the seed fell into good ground and grew to a great harvest, and in a little while they became a great nation, a people whom God had blessed.

The abbey at Louth received considerable donations from several prominent aristocrats, including Ranulf, earl of Chester, Hugh and Lambert de Scotney, and Hugh of Bayeaux.(1) By the thirteenth century the abbey had acquired considerable wealth and is said to have housed sixty-six monks and 150 lay-brothers. (2) However, the abbey did not maintain these profits. Heavy losses were incurred between 1332 and 1349 when Thomas of Lissington stole cattle, hunted on the abbey’s lands, set cattle to despoil the abbey’s grasslands and assaulted the abbey’s servants. In the mid-fourteenth century the abbey was hit by the great pestilence which carried off the abbot and many monks and brought fresh losses to the abbey.(3) The house never recovered the propsperity it had enjoyed in the thirteenth century; at the time of the Dissolution the abbey had a net annual income of £147 and there were only eleven monks, including the abbot.(4) The house was dissolved in 1536 and the abbot was later executed as a traitor after he participated in the Lincolnshire rebellion, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace.(5)

There are no standing remains of the site, but the layout is clear from surviving earthworks. The site lies on private farmland and cannot be accessed by the public.