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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Surrounded by the words CONTRA SIGILLUM ABBATIS DE FLAXLE


Few of the properties here named can now be traced. Castiard is unknown, but perhaps the "old Castle of Dene" is identical with a circular ditch and bank, about fifty yards in diameter, on Camp Hill, between Flaxley and Little Dean. It may also be observed that the present Chesnuts Enclosure is probably the site of the chesnut groves referred to in the above grants. A century later (42 Henry III.) the two oaks weekly were commuted for a tract of woodland in the Forest, containing 872 acres, reserving, however, the herbage for the King's deer and wild beasts, and all mines and quarries, and a power to the grantee to enclose one-tenth part thereof, and to hold the same enclosed against all animals except the King's deer and wild beasts, leaving nine tenth parts always open; all which peculiarities of tenure are connected with a tract of land yet identified by the name of "the Abbot's Woods." Between the years 1206 and 1215 King John paid several visits to Flaxley. In the terms of a Papal taxation levied in 1291 by Pope Nicholas, the property of this abbey was thus valued:--

pounds _s._ _d._ In the diocese 14 0 1 of Hereford, at ,, Bath and 11 0 0 Wells ,, Worcester 7 5 0 -- - - Total 32 5 1

Ere long it acquired the dignity of a mitred abbey, though never of a peeral one, its abbot being summoned to Parliament 21st Edward III. During the reign of Richard II. these additional grants were made to it:--"Certain tenements in Leye, Bosteley, and Rodley; the manor and impropriate church of Flaxley; the manors of Blaisdon, Newnham, and Ruerdean; distinct manors in the parishes of Dean Parva, Dymock, and Arlingham, with a house in Abbenhall." A document in the Chapter-house at Westminster, dated 10th Edward II., has the abbot's seal attached, representing an abbot standing erect with his crosier under a canopy slightly ornamented, with the legend S . ABBATIS . DE . FLAXLE. The counter seal is a hand with a crosier, and other ornaments, viz., a fleur-de-lis, &c., surrounded by the words CONTRA SIGILLUM ABBATIS DE FLAXLE. The names and dates of the following abbots have been preserved:--

Elected. 1288 Nicholas. 1314 William de Rya. 1372 Richard Peyta. 1509 John ---. 1528 William Beawdley. 1532 Thomas Ware.

The last of these, Thomas Ware, survived the suppression of the house and the dispersion of its brethren, of whom there were nine at that time, the abbey being delivered up to the King's Commissioners in 1541, valued at 112 pounds 13s. 1d., according to Dugdale. Tintern Abbey was suppressed four years previously. Ware retired to Aston Rowant, near Thame, in Oxfordshire, where he spent the rest of his life in seclusion, and was there buried in 1546.

The vicissitudes of 300 years have left little of the original structure remaining: only in 1788 the pavement of the Chapter-house was discovered at a small depth, on the east side of the refectory, extending about 45 feet, and 24 wide. At the upper end a circular stone bench was exposed, and in the centre the carved base of a pillar. Several coffin-lids of stone were likewise found, sculptured with ornamented crosses, and upon one a hand and arm holding a crosier, under which probably one of the abbots was interred. The view of the abbey as it appeared about the year 1712, according to Sir R. Atkyns's print, exhibits traces of the ancient residence of the abbot and monks, respecting which the Rev. T. Rudge remarks--"It was low, but long in front, being 60 feet in length, 25 feet wide, and only 14 high; the whole arched with stone, and the vault intersected with plain and massy ribs, and seems to have formed the refectory. The first floor contained a long gallery, and at the south end one very spacious apartment which was supposed to have been the abbot's chief room. The dormitories or cells were connected with the great gallery."


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