Name: BOXLEY Location: nr Maidstone
County: Kent Foundation: 1146 Mother house: Clairvaux Relocation: None Founder: William de Ypres Dissolution: 1538 Prominent members: Access: Private property
The abbey of St. Mary, Boxley, was founded in
1146 by William de Ypres, son of the count of Flanders. It was
by monks from Clairvaux, one of the four principle daughter houses
of Citeaux. (1) William
de Ypres was King Stephens military commander
during the civil disorder and controlled practically the whole
of Kent. It is thought that Queen Matilda placed William de Ypres
power in Kent during the crisis of 1141 and had later given him
permission to found a Cistercian abbey at Boxley, which was a
manor, so that William might build an abbey as a mark of his authority.
Apparently the monks of St. Augustines, Canterbury, were
particularly irked by his power and referred to his rule of
Kent as a tyranny,
which is a rather exaggerated statement of Williams presence
in the county.(2) The abbots of Boxley
acquired a prominent place in
parliament. In 1171 the abbot was one of those who quickly buried
Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, after he was murdered.
In 1193 the abbots of Boxley and Robertsbridge were
sent abroad to look for Richard I, whom they found in Bavaria
on Palm Sunday.
During the reign of King Edward I the abbot of Boxley was summoned
to parliament several times, but was not called thereafter.
The abbey acquired some fame through its possession
of the celebrated Rood of Grace, a cross with an image supposed
to be miraculously gifted with movement and speech. More than a
century before the Dissolution the abbey was described as the
abbey of the Holy Cross of Grace.(3) But
at the abbeys
dissolution in 1538 certain engines and old wire were
found in the cross which, when operated by the monks, caused the
eyes and mouth to move. News of the exposure appears to have been
widely spread and was probably staged as a warning to the credulous;
indeed, it was probable that nothing was more damaging to the cause
of the monasteries.(4) The 1535 assessment
put the net value of the house per annum at £208.
Today, only fragmentary remains of
the abbey still exist, and these are situated within the grounds
of an eighteenth-century private house which takes its name from