Kingswood Abbey

The gatehouse of the abbey

Kingswood Abbey was a Cistercian abbey, located in the village of Kingswood near Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, England. The abbey was demolished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and all that remains is the gatehouse, a Grade 1 listed building. Through the gatehouse arch are a few houses and the small village primary school of Kingswood.


Kingswood Abbey was founded in 1139 by William of Berkeley, provost of Berkeley,[1] in accordance with the wishes of his late uncle, Roger II of Berkeley, and colonised from the Cistercian house at Tintern, Monmouthshire.[2] The founding family were the feudal barons of Dursley, who intermarried later with the progeny of Robert Fitzharding (d.1170), 1st feudal baron of Berkeley Castle.

In the mid-12th century the abbot and all but a few monks removed, first to Hasleden near Rodmarton and then, for want of water at that site, to Tetbury, Kingswood becoming a grange until the return of the community to "Mireford" in Kingswood, close to the earlier site.[3] According to the taxation of Pope Nicholas IV in 1291, annual spiritualities and temporalities came to £54 1s 6d, and at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries the abbey was variously valued at about £245.[4]

The replacement of the old abbot by a royal appointee in 1517 occasioned a riot in which the monks were joined by their neighbours: the displeasure of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, effected the restoration of order.[5] Henry VIII leased the monastery estate to the courtier Sir Nicholas Poyntz for a period of 21 years, and in 1559 Elizabeth granted it to Sir John Thynne, the builder of Longleat.[6]

The cellarer's and bursar's accounts that survive for 1240-41 (Cellarer's accounts) and 1241-2 (Bursar's accounts) may well be the earliest accounts of their kind now in existence,[7] but all that survives at the site today is the early 16th-century abbey gatehouse (illustration), which is under the care of English Heritage.[8]

The abbey and its church were so efficiently demolished that their precise location is unknown. The gatehouse is noteworthy for its embellishments, with gable ridge decorations, a pair of niches with statues (only one remains), pinnacles and fine windows with carved mullions. The lodging to the right is merely a facade, but that to the left is still inhabited.[9]

Calcot Manor, a few miles to the northeast, was built as a tithe barn by the monks of the abbey. Forty-eight original charters of Kingswood Abbey, covering the years 1225 to 1444 and preserved in antiquarian collections, last went on sale at Sotheby's in 1945.[10]


  1. Barkly, H, p.200
  2. Archives Hub, 2006
  3. John Caley et al, tr. and eds. Dugdale, William. Monasticon Anglicanum vol. 5 (1846) s.v. "Kingswood Abbey" 424ff.
  4. Dugdale, eo loc; see also Lindley, E. S. "Kingswood Abbey, its lands and mills." Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Arch. Society, 73 (1955): 115-191.
  5. Rawcliffe, Carole, The Staffords: Earls of Stafford and Dukes of Buckingham, 1394-1521 1978:98, quoting archives.
  6. Dugdale 425.
  7. Harvey, Barbara F. The Obedientiaries of Westminster Abbey and Their Financial Records 2002:xvi.
  8. Alison, Judith et al, Tree-ring analysis of timbers from Kingswood Abbey Gatehouse, Kingswood, Gloucestershire (Centre for Archaeology report 21 2003.
  9. Anthony Emery (2006). Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, 1300–1500: Volume 3, Southern England. Cambridge University Press. pp. 110–111. ISBN 978-1-139-44919-9.
  10. Austin, Roland. "Kingswood Abbey charters", in Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 65 (1944:220) (pdf file); the charters were calendared in Historical Manuscripts Commission. vol. 5, and transcribed in Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 22:178-256.


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Coordinates: 51°37′35″N 2°22′00″W / 51.62639°N 2.36667°W / 51.62639; -2.36667

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