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Cistercian Abbeys: BINDON

Name: BINDON Location: nr Wareham County: Dorset
Foundation: 1171/2 Mother house: Forde
Relocation: 1172 Founder: William de Glastonia/Robert de Newburgh
Dissolution: 1539 Prominent members:
Access: Private property

William de Glastonia originally proposed that a group of monks should be sent out from Forde abbey and colonise a new foundation at the coastal site of Little Bindon. The monks, however, soon found the new location physically too demanding. Not long after, Robert de Newburgh and his wife stepped in as patrons, and it was through their endowments that the monks were able to move, in 1172, to the more suitable location at Bindon.(1) The house was much favoured by the Plantagenet royal dynasty: the abbot was employed by King John in affairs of a confidential nature; in 1215 some of the royal treasure was deposited there; Henry III was known to favour the community to whom, in 1229 and 1247, he granted them letters of protection; in 1272 Henry and his wife Eleanor accepted their election as patrons of the house; in the reign of Edward II the house was twice called on to assist in the war against the Scots.(2) Nevertheless the community at Bindon was still to have its share of strife. By the fourteenth-century the house was troubled by internal disorder: in 1296 the abbot was accused of causing the death of two monks and by 1329 the house was said to be ‘grievously burdened with debt for want of good rule’.(3)

In 1535 the abbey was recorded as having a net annual income of £147 and thus came under the first act of suppression which dissolved all houses with an annual income under £200. In 1536 Abbot John Norman paid the sum of £300 to avoid suppression, but the respite lasted only a short while and the house fell with the larger monasteries in 1539.(4) In 1559 Thomas Howard built a house on the site of the abbey, although it was burnt down almost a century later during the English civil war. During the eighteenth-century a small house and gothic-style gatehouse were built on the site. Both of these buildings survive today. The ruins of the abbey, which are privately owned, include the low outer walls of the church, together with various traces of the monastic buildings.(5) Recently, Bindon Abbey has gained additional fame as the proposed site of fictional events in Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891). Hardy made the nearby Woolbridge Manor House the site of Tess and Angel Clare’s ill-fated honeymoon.