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Cistercian Abbeys: NEWMINSTER

Name: NEWMINSTER Location: nr Morpeth County: Northumberland
Foundation: 1138 Mother house: Fountains
Relocation: None Founder: Ranulf de Merlay, lord of Morpeth
Dissolution: 1537 Prominent members:
Access: Open to the public

Chapter-house door at Newminster
© Stuart Harrison
<click to enlarge>
Chapter house door at Newminster

In 1138 Ranulf de Merlay, lord of Morpeth, established the abbey of Newminster, which was one of the first daughter houses of Fountains. Under the energetic leadership of the first abbot, St. Robert, who presided over the community from 1138 until 1159, Newminster became one of the largest Cistercian abbeys in the north of England. During this time three colonies of monks were sent to establish daughter houses at Pipewell (1143), Roche (1147) and Sawley (1147).(1) By the later thirteenth century, Newminster also had two hospitals dependent upon it, at Mitford and Allerburn.(2)
The abbey also owned vast tracts of land, which extended to the Scottish border. However, the location of the abbey did mean that it was vulnerable to border raids at the hands of the Scots. In the assessment of 1535 the annual net income of the abbey was valued at £100 although in 1536 theincome was returned as £265. Whilst the monks resisted, the abbey was dissolved in the first round of closures, in 1537.(3)
Following the Dissolution the abbey was acquired by the Grey family who later robbed the abbey for its buildings materials, leaving few upstanding remains. The site is now marked by earthworks, slight walling of the church, large quantities of displaced stonework, and the re-erected cloister arcades.(4) The remains are generally accessible to the public.