Name: THAME Location: nr Thame
County: Oxfordshire Foundation: 1137 Mother house: Waverley Relocation: c. 1140 Founder: Robert le Gait Dissolution: 1539 Prominent members: Access: Private property no public access
The abbey of Thame was founded in 1137 by a
small landowner, Robert le Gait, who provided a plot at Otley.
endowments were made by a group of local tenants and the site was
settled by a colony of monks from Waverley.
The site at Otley soon proved inadequate and the community was
rescued by Alexander, bishop
of Lincoln (1123-48), who provided the monks with a new site within
the boundaries of his park at Thame, and was subsequently considered
founder of the abbey. The community moved to its new site some
time between 1139 and 1142 and thereafter the abbey was called St.
Marys of Thame. Building must have started immediately
and the church was dedicated in 1145. King Henry III is known
have donated new choir stalls to the abbey in 1232 and other timber
in 1236. The abbey grew in size throughout the thirteenth century
and in 1381 had a sufficient number of monks to send out a colony
to Rewley, founded by Edmund, earl
of Cornwall. The contemporary
historian, William of Newburgh, describes one of the lay-brothers at Thame (c. 1160) as being of such sanctity that he had
the gift of prophecy.
A visitation in 1526 claimed that the abbey
was falling into ruin through neglect and that the standard of
discipline was inexcusably low. The abbot was replaced by Robert
King, who was later to become bishop of Oxford. At the time of
Dissolution the net annual income of the abbey was valued at £256
and was surrendered by the abbot and his twelve monks in 1539.
the Dissolution, the site was acquired by Lord Williams of Thame
and twenty years later it passed to the Wenman family. During
mid-eighteenth century a house was built on the site for the sixth
Viscount Wenman. The house still occupies the site today, although
there are significant remains of the monastery within and around
it. The main remains of the abbey, including parts of the abbots
lodge and the cloister ranges, have been incorporated into the
while there is chapel that survives to the north-west of the house,
which probably served as the capella ante portas or the
gatehouse chapel. Thame Park House is privately owned and is
accessible to the public.