The History of Tewkesbury

By James Bennett

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2015



IN the year 1102, Girald, a monk of Winchester, who had been originally chaplain to Hugh Earl of Chester, was transferred by Fitz-Hamon from Cranbourn, and was constituted first abbot of Tewkesbury: not, as Stephens asserts, in 1104, but in 1102,[153] in which year he received the benediction from Sampson bishop of Worcester. The abbots of Tewkesbury and Gloucester visited Wulstan bishop of Worcester, whilst he was upon his death bed, and received absolution.[154] Girald retired to Winchester in 1109, being compelled to resign the abbacy in consequence of the offence he gave to King Henry the first, in not submitting to some exactions which that monarch attempted to make upon the property belonging to the monastery.[155]

Robert, who succeeded Girald, became abbot in 1110. Stevens says he died in 1124, but the manuscript Continuation of Florence of Worcester says that his death occurred on the 6th of the ides of December, 1123.[156]

Benedict became abbot in 1124, and died in 1137.

Roger, sometimes called Robert, was the next abbot. He died in 1161, after having governed the monastery upwards of twenty-four years.

Fromund was made abbot of Tewkesbury in 1162, and died in 1177 or 1178.


Robert, the next abbot, did not receive the benediction until the 29th of September, 1182,[157] and he is said to have died in the following year.

Alan, prior of Canterbury, was elected abbot in 1186, and received the benediction at Canterbury on the 16th of the kalends of June, 1187. He is said by some to have been a native of Tewkesbury: he was first a canon of the church of Benevento, afterwards a monk of St. Saviour's at Canterbury, and became prior of that convent in 1179. He was the contemporary and friend of the proud but unfortunate Thomas a Becket, and probably witnessed his tragical death: he has been sometimes termed one of his evangelists, in consequence of being thought worthy by Archbishop Langton to be employed in writing the history of the passion and miracles of Becket, in order to promote his canonization. - Quadrilogus de vitâ et processu S. Thomae Cantuariensis et Martyris super Libertate Ecclesiasticâ, a book collected out of the four historians, who were contemporary and conversant with Becket, viz. Hubert de Hoseham, Johannes Carnotensis, Gulielmus Canterburiensis, and Alanus Tewkesburiensis, who are introduced as so many narrators of facts alternately, was printed at Paris in 1495, and is known by the name of Quadripartita Historia.- Abbot Alan was distinguished for his great learning and abilities, and died in 1202.

Walter, sacrist of the monastery, was consecrated abbot in 1203, and died in 1213, or according to the Cotton manuscript in 1214.

Hugh, prior of Tewkesbury, became the next abbot, and received the benediction, by the bishop of Worcester's permission, from Giles bishop of Hereford, and died in 1215. He was succeeded by

Bernard, one of the monks of this place; but the bishop of Worcester, not approving of the appointment, refused to grant him his benediction; upon which,


Peter, a monk of Worcester, was elected in his room, and received benediction from the bishop of Worcester on the 3d of April, 1216. From an entry in the Cotton manuscript, it appears, however, that there was subsequently no great cordiality between the bishop and the abbot.[158] Abbot Peter died on the 3d of the kalends of April, 1231, though Willis says it was in 1232. He was succeeded by

Robert, prior of the monastery, whom Willis calls Robert Fortington, and who has been frequently called Robert the third.[159] He died, Willis says, in 1253, but, according to the Cotton manuscript, on the 12th of the kalends of December, 1254. His successor was

Thomas de Stoke, or Stokes, who was installed on the 2d of the ides of March following. He had been prior of St. James at Bristol; and died, according to Willis, in 1275, but, according to Bishop Kennett's Diptycha, in 1277. The election of his successor,

Richard de Norton, however, was confirmed on the 13th of the kalends of September, 1276.[160] He died on the 18th of the kalends of March, 1282; and was succeeded, on the 12th of the kalends of June, in the same year, by

Thomas de Kemsey. In 1300, he assisted at the funeral of the Earl of Cornwall;[161] and during his administration, in 1301, John prior of Worcester came to visit the monastery of Tewkesbury, but the abbot shut the gates against him, alleging that it had been visited in the same year twice before; but Robert archbishop of Canterbury, by the sentence of the Court of Arches, in 1303, condemned the abbot of


Tewkesbury for contumacy in resisting the above visitation.[162] From the Pat. Roll, 10 Edw. II. p.1, it appears, that Abbot Kemsey was at Rome in 1328.[163] After being at the head of the monastery forty-six years, he died in 1328.

John Cotes was the next abbot.[164] He was elected in 1328, and died in 1347. His successor was

Thomas Legh, or de Legh, who was elected on the 20th of August, 1347,[165] and died on the 16th of Oct. 1361.

Thomas Chesterton,[166] cellarer of the monastery, was elected abbot on Nov. 24th, and confirmed on Dec. 9th, 1361. He died in 1389, according to Kennett; but Willis, by the transposition of a figure, says in 1398.

Thomas Parker, or Pakare, was the next abbot, and was elected in 1390. He was a considerable benefactor to the church, and in the year 1397 erected a very handsome chapel of carved stone-work over the grave of Fitz-Hamon the founder, for whose soul and for that of his wife he appointed a daily mass to be celebrated for ever. He died in 1420, or 1421, and was succeeded by

William de Bristol, or Bristow, who was elected in 1421, and died, it is said, in 1442.


John Abington, or de Abingdon, is the next abbot on record; and he, in 1443, in the first year of his abbacy, stood godfather to Anne daughter to Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury. The time of this abbot's death is unrecorded.

John de Salys is the next abbot mentioned by Willis, but without any date of election: he notices him as living in 1468. He was probably identified with John Galeys, mentioned as the abbot in 1453, in one of Cole's manuscripts. It has been conjectured that John Abington and John de Salys were the same person. The time of his death is uncertain.

John de Streynsham received the benediction as abbot in 1468. In 1475, Abbot Streynsham performed the baptismal ceremony for Edward the eldest son of George Duke of Clarence; and on Oct. 6th, 1476, Richard the second son of the Duke was born in the new chamber of the infirmary within the monastery of Tewkesbury. He died June 30, 1481.

Richard Cheltenham was elected abbot Aug 3, and confirmed Sept. 2, 1481. He assisted in his pontificals at the funeral of Prince Arthur, eldest son of King Henry the seventh, who was buried at Worcester in 1502. He died in the first year of the reign of Henry the eighth.

Henry Beoly succeeded him, and was confirmed abbot Nov. 22, 1509. In Blomefield's Book of Chevrons, the arms are given of "Lord Henry Beley, abbott of Tewkesburie"; and they also appear in the curious roll of parchment, representing the procession of all the lords walking to parliament in 1512, impaling those of his convent. The abbot of Tewkesbury leads the procession, being the first on the roll.[167] He was appointed visitor of the black monks in the diocese of Worcester, at a chapter of the monks held at Westminster in 1522.[168] His name occurs in Lord Herbert's History of Henry the Eighth, and in Collier's Ecclesiastical History, 1529. The time of his death is unknown, but his successor was


John Walker, who is supposed to have been elected in 1531, and to have died the same year. Willis says, "he was buried under a marble stone, whereon was his coat of arms affixed, as I am informed from my worthy friend John Hare, esq. out of a manuscript at the Herald's Office".[169] On his decease,

John Wakeman, or, as Wood calls him, Robert Wakeman, succeeded to the abbacy. He was the second son of William Wakeman, of Drayton, in the county of Salop, and as an alias Wich, Wick, or Wyth, is sometimes appended to his name, the pedigree (Harl. MS. 6185), makes him rector of Wyth supposed by some to be Withington, in the county of Gloucester; others assert that the word Wyth is an error for the Mythe, where he is said to have had a residence. He was educated among the Benedictine monks in Gloucester College, Oxford, and held the abbacy of Tewkesbury ten years, until he surrendered the monastery at the time of the Reformation. Shortly after the surrender, Wakeman was appointed by Henry the eighth a king's chaplain, and, in Sept. 1541, being then bachelor in divinity, he was consecrated first bishop of Gloucester. He died in Dec. 1549, and was succeeded in the see of Gloucester by the protestant martyr, Bishop Hooper. During the time he held the abbacy of Tewkesbury, he erected a tomb for his place of burial, on the north side of a little chapel standing north-east of the high altar. Bishop Godwin says he was buried at Worthington, but he evidently meant Forthampton, where Wakeman had a house and private chapel. Hearne says, in his introduction to Robert of Gloucester's Chronicle, that, at a convocation, 32 Hen. VIII. when several bishops were appointed to peruse the translation of the Bible, the Revelations of St. John were assigned to John Wakeman bishop of Gloucester and John Chambers bishop of Peterborough.

[153] Dugdale's Monasticon.
[154] Malms. de vitâ Wulst. Angl. Sac. II. 267.
[155] Angla Sacra.
[156] Kennett, MS. Diptycha.
[157] There seems to have been a vacancy of four years between the death of Fromund and the admission of his successor; and at Abbot Robert's death there appears also to have been another vacancy.
[158] "A.D. 1225. P. Abbas Theok. Rom. proficiens in crastino sancti Gregorii papas absolutus est a papa Honorio III. ab iis quibus falso accusabatur per episcopum Wigorn". - MS. Cotton ut supr. fol. 17.
[159] The form of Abbot Robert's election is given in the last edition of Dugclale's Monasticon.
[160] Reg. Giffard. Episc. Wigorn.
[161] Upon the death of Edmund Earl of Cornwall, in 1300, the king wrote letters, among others, to the abbot of Tewkesbury, requiring him to meet the body at Hayles, upon Thursday after Palm Sunday, there to give his assistance in the celebration of the funeral. - Dugdale.
[162] Angl. Sac. I. 527-8.
[163] Harl. MS. 6958.
[164] In the first year of the abbacy of John Cotes, at a public ordination in Tewkesbury abbey, on the vigil of Trinity Sunday, Adam de Orlton, bishop of Worcester, ordained acolytes 218, subdeacons 47, deacons 79, presbyters 62 - in all 466; and at a subsequent public ordination, by Thomas Hemanall, bishop of Worcester, in this convent, on the 8th of June, 1338, there were ordained by him acolytes 204, subdeacons 141, deacons 117, priests 149 - in all 611. - Annal. Wigorn.
[165] In 1353, Reginald Brian, bishop of Worcester, made Thomas de Legh, abbot of Tewkesbury, his vicar-general. - Thorn. Wore. Cath.
[166] On the 13th of July, 1362, Thomas Chesterton, abbot of Tewkesbury, and the abbots of Gloucester and Winchcomb, were commanded by the pope to enthrone John Barnet bishop of Worcester, which was performed on the 18th of Sept. following. A few days after, the new bishop ordained that the priest in every church throughout the diocese should enjoin the people to pray for the cathedral church at Worcester; and that to all who should say a sufficient number of paternosters, ave marias, &c. or who should give any thing to the said church, he would grant forty days' indulgences. - Thom. Worc. Cath.
[167] Cole, MS. Brit. Mus. vol. XXVII.
[168] Archdeacon Furney, in his MS., notices an order from Abbot Beoly to the abbey of Gloucester, dated May 22, 1522, commanding all the monks of that abbey to appear at his visitation on the 2d of June.
[169] Mitred Abbeys, I. 186.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in October 2015.

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