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Cistercians Abbeys: TRACTON

Name: TRACTON Location: Tracton Abbey parish County: Cork
Foundation: 1225 Mother house: Whitland, Wales
Relocation: None Founder: Odo de Barry
Dissolution: + 1541 Prominent members:
Access: No remains

Tracton was founded in 1225 and was colonised with monks from Whitland, in Wales. The Cistercian General Chapter approved Odo’s petition to found an abbey in 1222 and again in 1223. Although the tabula lists Maurice MacCarthy as founder, it is generally accepted that Odo de Barry was responsible. The abbey was situated on the coast of County Cork beside a small river, which flows into Ringabella Bay. The Latin name of the abbey was Albus Tractus ('the white coast') which was a variant of the name for Whitland, Alba Landa. The monks of Tracton were known as the 'Monks of the White Tract Vale'.
During his visitation of 1228, Stephen of Lexington criticised the monks at Tracton for speaking Welsh and ordered that the Rule was to be expounded in French so that ‘the disorderly cannot hide themselves when visitors come . . . but all will understand and will be understood by all . . . otherwise visitors will waste their time building a tower of Babel in the confusion of languages’. In 1301 the abbot was indicted and fined £40 for receiving and protecting his nephew, Maurice Russell, who had raped an English woman. From 1483 onwards the abbacy was exclusively held by members of the Barry family, who were descendents of the original founder.

In 1463 the income of the abbey was said to have been much diminished and by the time of Dissolution most of Tracton’s lands had been laid to waste by war and rebellion. In 1540-1 the abbey could only collect a mere fraction of its potential income; just £5 per annum, as opposed to a peace time revenue of £71. In 1541 the royal commissioners reported that the abbey church had been used as the parish church for some time prior to the Dissolution and all other buildings were needed by the farmer. The monks seem to disappear from the records c. 1542. In 1568 the property was granted to Henry Gylford and by the early seventeenth century it had been acquired by Thomas Daunt of Gloucestershire, who was thought to have lived in the abbey. The Daunts later built a new house and from approximately 1639 the abbey fell into decay. A Protestant church was built on the site of the abbey, c. 1817, by which time the buildings had probably been destroyed. There are no surviving remains, although the old graveyard near the Protestant church marks the site of the abbey.