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Cistercian Abbeys: SIBTON

Name: SIBTON Location: nr Sibton village County: Suffolk
Foundation: 1150 Mother house: Warden
Relocation: None Founder: William de Chesney
Dissolution: 1536 Prominent members:
Access: Private property

Sibton Abbey, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, was founded in 1150 by William de Chesney (sometimes called William fitz Robert), who died in 1174 and was sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk. It was one of three daughter-houses of Warden and was the only Cistercian abbey to be established in East Anglia.(1) The abbey was colonised by the usual thirteen monks and numbers increased during the thirteenth century, at which time there was also a large number of lay-brothers.(2) The abbey owned considerable areas of land scattered throughout south-east England. By the end of the thirteenth century Sibton held estates in Norfolk, on the borders of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, and in up to ten parishes in the city of Norwich. From the first half of the thirteenth century the abbey was also responsible for a hospital at the precinct gate which cared for the poor and the sick.(3) At the time of the Dissolution the net annual income of the house was valued at £250 and thus the abbey should not have fallen for another two years. However, it seems that the recently appointed abbot, William Flatbury, had been elevated to this position through the influence of the duke of Norfolk and with the involvement of Cromwell, for the purpose of bringing about a speedy surrender.(4) The house was afterwards sold to Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk (d. 1554), which seems to reinforce his involvement. The site is situated in a wooded area in the village of Sibton. The remains include parts of the refectory and the south wall of the nave but these are heavily overgrown. The land is privately owned and is not accessible to the public.