World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Tavistock Abbey

Seal of Tavistock Abbey affixed to a lease of 1542, showing St Mary with the infant Jesus seated on her lap, with a mitred abbot seated below, all surrounded by the legend: SIGILLUM ECCLESI(A)E S(AN)C(TA)E MARI(A)E ET S(AN)C(T)I RUMONI TAVISTOCK ("seal of the Church of Saint Mary and of Saint Rumon of Tavistock")

Tavistock Abbey, also known as the Abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Rumon, is a ruined Benedictine abbey in Tavistock, Devon. Nothing remains of the abbey except the refectory, two gateways and a porch. The abbey church, dedicated to Our Lady and St Rumon, was destroyed by Danish raiders in 997 and rebuilt under Lyfing, the second abbot. The church was further rebuilt in 1285 and the greater part of the abbey between 1457 and 1458.


  • History 1
    • Foundation 1.1
      • Account by Dugdale 1.1.1
    • 1193 Papal Bull 1.2
    • Later abbots 1.3
    • Dissolution 1.4
    • Saint Rumon 1.5
    • Cornwall 1.6
  • Burials 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6


Remains of the cloister arches
The abbey still house


The abbey was founded in 961 by Ordgar, Ealdorman of Devon, and completed by his son Ordwulf[1] in 981, in which year the charter of confirmation was granted by King Æthelred II (c.968-1016) The Unready, nephew of Ordwulf. It was endowed with lands in Devon, Dorset and Cornwall, and became one of the richest abbeys in the west of England.

Account by Dugdale

William Dugdale's Monasticon Anglicanum (1718 edition in English) states as follows concerning the foundation:[2]

"In the reign of King Edgar an Earl call'd Ordulphus had a vision commanding him to build an oratory in a certain place mark'd out to him, which he did, making it large enough to contain 1,000 persons, and erecting habitations for several monks, whom he also plac'd there under an abbat. The lands he and his kindred and friends gave to this monastery were: Tavistock, Midleton, Hatherlege (Hatherleigh), Berliton, Leghe, Dunethem, Chuvelin, Lankinghorn, Home, Werelgete, Orlege (Orleigh), Auri (Annery), Rame, Savyock, Pannastan, Tomebiry, Colbrok, Lege, Wulsitheton, and Clymesland. These never to be alienated and to be free from all impositions, except an expedition undertaken and the repairing of forts and bridges. This was confirmed in the year 981 and in the reign of King Ethelred...The Bull of Pope Celestin dated 1193 confirms all donations made to these monks..."

1193 Papal Bull

A "Bull of Exemption and Confirmation" dated 1193 granted by Pope Celestine III (reigned 1191-1198) records the landholdings of the abbey thus:[3]

Later abbots

Abbot Lyfing and his successor Abbot Ealdred both became Bishops of Worcester, and the latter is said to have crowned King William the Conqueror. The thirty-sixth abbot, John Dynynton, was granted leave in 1458 to use various pontificalia and the mitre, which latter gave him a seat in Parliament.[4] The thirty-ninth abbot, Richard Banham or Baynham,[5] was made a lord of Parliament by King Henry VIII in 1513.


In 1538 the last abbot, John Peryn, together with twenty monks, surrendered the abbey to the king, receiving a pension of a hundred pounds. The abbey was the second wealthiest in Devon at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536–1541), estimated at £902, only very slightly behind the wealth of Plympton Abbey. Both were far wealthier than the next wealthiest, Buckfast Abbey, with an annual income of about £460.[6] In 1540 the Abbey and its lands were granted by King Henry VIII to John Russell, 1st Baron Russell of Chenies in Buckinghamshire (created in 1550 1st Earl of Bedford).[7] The Russell family long maintained a close connection with Tavistock, and in 1694 the family received the additional titles of Marquess of Tavistock and Duke of Bedford. They erected many 19th-century public buildings and statues in the town at their own expense. Before 1810 the family had only one formal residence in Devonshire, namely the townhouse of Bedford House in the City of Exeter. In 1810 John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford built to the designs of Sir Jeffry Wyattville a new residence named Endsleigh Cottage at Milton Abbot, near Tavistock, a former manor belonging to the Abbey. It was a large cottage orné used as a summer holiday home, still standing but sold in the 20th century by the Russell family.[8] It is now the Hotel Endsleigh, managed by Alex Polizzi and owned by her mother.[9]

Saint Rumon

St Rumon, also known as Ruan, Ronan, and Ruadan, was probably a brother of St Tudwal of Tréguier, but nothing else is known of him beyond that he was probably an Irish missionary and many churches in Devon and Cornwall in England were named after him. Some authorities have identified him with St Ronan (1 June), venerated in Brittany, but others believe that he and St Kea were British monks who founded a monastery at Street, Somerset. Feast day is 28 or 30 August (at Tavistock). The translation of St Rumon is celebrated on 5 January.[10]


The abbey had considerable land holdings in Cornwall and three churches there are dedicated to St Rumon: Ruan Lanihorne, Ruan Major and Ruan Minor. In Domesday Book the abbey held the manors of Sheviock, Antony, Rame, Tregrenna, Penharget and Tolcarne, while four other manors formerly theirs had been taken by Robert of Mortain. Only Sheviock was in the hands of the abbey while Ermenhald held five manors from it. Sheviock was worth 60s per annum and the holdings of Ermenhald were worth in all £8-15s. These were the same values as formerly suggesting the monks were good at administering their estate.[11] These lands in the extreme south-east of Cornwall were the reason for that district being part of Devon from the medieval period until 1844.

In early times the Isles of Scilly were in the possession of a confederacy of hermits. King Henry I gave the hermits' territory to the abbey of Tavistock, which established a priory on Tresco that was abolished at the Reformation.[12]


See also


  1. ^ Thorn, Caroline & Frank, (eds.) Domesday Book, (Morris, John, gen.ed.) Vol. 9, Devon, Parts 1 & 2, Phillimore Press, Chichester, 1985, part 2 (notes), chapter 5
  2. ^ Dugdale, William, Monasticon Anglicanum, 1718 edition, pp.115-16, "Additions made to the Benedictines" (i.e. addenda to his original work)[2]
  3. ^ Thorn, Caroline & Frank, (eds.) Domesday Book, (Morris, John, gen.ed.) Vol. 9, Devon, Parts 1 & 2, Phillimore Press, Chichester, 1985, Part 2 (notes), chapter 5
  4. ^ A mitred abbot could sit in Parliament among the Lords and probably had the title Abbot-Sovereign
  5. ^ Richard Banham (1492 - 1523), the 39th Abbot, was more likely to have been Richard Baynham who was granted arms in the time of Henry VIII as follows: Gules a mace in bend sinister surmounted by a pastoral staff in bend dexter or on a chief argent three pierced mullets of five points sable (College of Arms Ms: 2G4/5b). Richard Baynham has been referred to as Richard Banham in a number of places. He was created Baron Hurdwick in 1514 (another name for the Hundred of Tavistock) (Richard Nicholls Worth A History of Devonshire:With Sketches of it Leading Worthies). See also - Oliver, George (1820) Historic Collections Relating to the Monasteries in Devon. Exeter: printed by R. Cullum.
  6. ^ Holdsworth, Christopher, Ecclesiastical Institutions, published in Historical Atlas of South West England, Ed. Kain, R. & Ravenhill W., Exeter, 1999, p.210
  7. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.132
  8. ^ Pevsner, N., Buildings of England: Devon, 1991, p.354
  9. ^ "Relative Values: Olga Polizzi and her daughter Alexandra".  
  10. ^ "Keltic Kalendar", in Cornish Church Guide. Truro: Blackford; pp. 9-16
  11. ^ Thorn, C. et al. (eds.) (1979) Cornwall. Chichester: Phillimore; entries 3,1-7
  12. ^ Cornish Church Guide; p. 194


  •  "Tavistock Abbey".  

  • Victoria County History: Devonshire;
  • Doble, Gilbert H. (1939) Saint Rumon and Saint Ronan; with notes on the parishes of Ruan Lanihorne, Ruan Major, and Ruan Minor by Charles Henderson. Long Compton : King's Stone Press
  • Kempe, A. J. (1830) Notices of Tavistock and its Abbey; from the "Gentleman's Magazine" for 1830. London: J. B. Nichols (only 20 copies printed)

Further reading


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.