On the way back from our visit to Sudbury last Saturday we diverted from the road home to visit Croxden Abbey. It is a few years since we last visited, and I wrote a post at the time, but it was nice to visit again and to take advantage of the afternoon sunshine, although it did make for some difficulties in taking photos as the sun, low in the sky, cast long shadows across the ruins.
The abbey was founded around 1179 by Bertam de Verdun, Lord of Alton for the Cistercian order of 'white monks' who came from Normandy in France. Quite a lot of it still stands including the imposing remains of the 13th century church, infirmary and abbot's lodgings.
The Monks who lived here observed the strict rule of St Benedict. They also bred sheep and made a good income from wool production. They tried also to be self-sufficient and there would have been a mill and fish ponds in the grounds of the abbey.
The monks lived in peace with their surroundings for 350 years until the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII.
When the Abbey was in it's infancy the community of monks were French but the first Abbot, Thomas of Woodstock, was an English man
The Abbey flourished in the 13th century and supported as many as seventy monks but during the 14th century this community suffered and was depleted by successive crop failures, cattle disease and the plague.
When the Abbey was finally closed in September 1538 there were still 12 monks and an Abbot living there, probably the same number of residents as in it's first years.
Bertam de Verdun founded the Abbey for the purpose of the salvation of the souls of himself, his wife, his mother and other family members. The plan for the Abbey was based on that of the 'mother-house' at Aunay-sur-Odon. Many of the 13th Century additions were instigated by Abbot Walter of London.
The stone coffins that can be seen near the remains of the high altar are the tombs of the founding family and other benefactors.
The road through the small hamlet of Croxden passes through the middle of the ruins which are on private farm land but administered by English Heritage.