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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

And the lands belonging to Walfric


To the above must be added the handsome donation of 500 pounds from Thomas Graham, Esq., formerly clerk to the Dean Forest Commissioners.

CHAPTER XI.

The history of the Abbey of Flaxley, or St. Mary de Dene--Its foundation by Roger Earl of Hereford in 1140--Confirmed and enriched by Henry II. and III., and Richard II.--Suppressed in 1541--Existing remains--St. Anthony's Well--The Abbey, &c., granted to Sir W. Kingston--His descendants--Mrs. C. Riches (Boevey), supposed to be Sir R. de Coverley's "perverse widow;" her benevolent life, and death in 1726--Nature and cessation of the Flaxley iron-works--Erection of the present church in 1856.

The link which connects the Abbey of Flaxley with the Forest of Dean is chiefly of an antiquarian nature; for instead of being included as formerly within the limits of the Forest, it is merely approached on one side by a promontory of Crown land, called "Pope's Hill." The incident which led to the foundation of the abbey, as related by Leland, who visited it a short time before it was suppressed, shows the Forest character of its precincts. He tells us--"ther was a brother of Rogerus Earl of Hereforde that was kylled wythe an arowe in huntinge in the very place where the abbay syns was made. There was a table of the matter hanggid up in the abbay church." The date of its institution is assigned to the year 1140, or the reign of Stephen, its chief founder being the aforesaid Roger, aided by a Bishop of Hereford "that holped much to the buildinge," and who was probably Robert de Betune, by whom the north-west transept of that cathedral is said to have been erected. They designated it "the Abbey of St. Mary de Dene, or Dene Abbey," and devoted it to the use of the White Monks of the Cistertian order. Tintern, the other abbey of that order, established near the western border of the Forest, was founded nine years before. The dress of the monks was a white cassock, with a narrow scapulary; and from this doubtless comes the name of "St. White's," on Little Dean Hill, in the parish of Flaxley, as well as of another spot called Whitecross.

The institution of the abbey was confirmed, and its endowment augmented, by two charters, granted by Henry II., to the following purport:--"Know ye that I have granted and confirmed to God and St. Mary, and to the monks of the Cistertian order, a certain place in the valley of Castiard called Flaxley, to build an abbey there; and all that land called Wastdean, and one iron forge free and quit, and with as free liberty to work as any of my forges in demesne; and all the land under the Old Castle of Dene, with liberty to plough it up, to wit 100 acres, which remains to be assarted, and that which is already assarted; and a certain fishery at Redley called Newerre, and a meadow of Reidley called Pulmeade, containing four acres; and all easements in the Forest of Dean, to wit, common of pasture for their young cattle and hogs and for all other beasts, and wood and timber to repair their houses and buildings, and for other necessaries, without committing waste in the Forest; and I have given them tithes of chesnuts out of the same Forest, and all my demesnes at Dymmock; and five yard lands and a half, besides the demesnes and half my wood at Dymmock, and half my nets which I have in my hands, for the conveniences of my men, because I would have my monks enjoy that part of the wood peaceably and quietly, without any interfering with any other persons; and I straightly command that no person offer to disturb them upon this account; and the lands belonging to Walfric; but so that if Uhred the clerk continues in the abbey with the lands he exchanged, to wit, two yard lands, that then he shall give no account of it to any body but the abbot; and all the land of Jeoffry, son of the aforesaid Walfric, which the Earl of Hereford did release, and all the land which Leffric de Staura gave to them in alms, and the farm which I gave them at Wallemere, out of my new ploughed ground containing 200 acres with the meadows and pastures, and all other easements; and four acres of Northwood. I further give to them my new ploughed grounds under Castiard, called Vincent Lands;" added to which, there was a grant of two oaks out of the Forest every seven days, for supplying their iron-forge with fuel.


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