go to home page go to byland abbey pages go to fountains abbey pages go to kirkstall abbey pages go to rievaulx abbey pages go to roche abbey pages
The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

Text only version

About the Project






Contact Us

Cistercian Abbeys: THAME

Name: THAME Location: nr Thame County: Oxfordshire
Foundation: 1137 Mother house: Waverley
Relocation: c. 1140 Founder: Robert le Gait
Dissolution: 1539 Prominent members:
Access: Private property – no public access

The abbey of Thame was founded in 1137 by a small landowner, Robert le Gait, who provided a plot at Otley. The initial endowments were made by a group of local tenants and the site was settled by a colony of monks from Waverley. The site at Otley soon proved inadequate and the community was rescued by Alexander, bishop of Lincoln (1123-48), who provided the monks with a new site within the boundaries of his park at Thame, and was subsequently considered founder of the abbey. The community moved to its new site some time between 1139 and 1142 and thereafter the abbey was called ‘St. Mary’s of Thame’. Building must have started immediately and the church was dedicated in 1145. King Henry III is known to have donated new choir stalls to the abbey in 1232 and other timber in 1236. The abbey grew in size throughout the thirteenth century and in 1381 had a sufficient number of monks to send out a colony to Rewley, founded by Edmund, earl of Cornwall. The contemporary historian, William of Newburgh, describes one of the lay-brothers at Thame (c. 1160) as being of such sanctity that he had the gift of prophecy.

A visitation in 1526 claimed that the abbey was falling into ruin through neglect and that the standard of internal discipline was inexcusably low. The abbot was replaced by Robert King, who was later to become bishop of Oxford. At the time of the Dissolution the net annual income of the abbey was valued at £256 and was surrendered by the abbot and his twelve monks in 1539. Following the Dissolution, the site was acquired by Lord Williams of Thame and twenty years later it passed to the Wenman family. During the mid-eighteenth century a house was built on the site for the sixth Viscount Wenman. The house still occupies the site today, although there are significant remains of the monastery within and around it. The main remains of the abbey, including parts of the abbot’s lodge and the cloister ranges, have been incorporated into the house, while there is chapel that survives to the north-west of the house, which probably served as the capella ante portas or the gatehouse chapel. Thame Park House is privately owned and is not accessible to the public.