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Cistercian Abbeys: NEWENHAM

Name: NEWENHAM Location: nr Axminster County: Devon
Foundation: 1247 Mother house: Beaulieu
Relocation: None Founder: Reginald de Mohun, lord of Dunster
Dissolution: 1539 Prominent members:
Access: Private property

In 1246 Reginald de Mohun, lord of Dunster, who sometimes styled himself earl of Somerset, invited Abbot Acius of Beaulieu to choose between three sites in Devon, one of which would then provide the setting for the establishment of a new daughter-house. Abbot Acius chose a site on a tributary of the River Axe and Reginald de Mohun thus organised the lands and endowments for the new settlement. Thirteen monks and four lay-brothers arrived at the site in January 1247.(1) The abbey took several decades to get on its feet but by the turn of the fourteenth century the house seems to have acquired some financial stability. Abbot John of Croxwell (d. 1324), was a partcularly prudent governor and his successor, John of Gettingham (1324-38), did much to strengthen the abbey’s economy. However, in 1349 the Black Death killed twenty monks and three lay-brothers, leaving a community of just three. Thereafter the abbey seems to have slowly regained its numbers, with a community of seven monks by 1377.(2) At the time of the Dissolution the annual net income of the house was valued at £227 and the abbey was dissolved with the larger monasteries in 1539.(3) Only minor fragments of masonry remain at the site, and a farm house now lies over part of the west range.(4) The site is under private ownership and cannot be accessed by the public.