Monastic Wales.

Event detail for site: Grace Dieu

1232: Trouble

The abbot and his monk companion were held captive by Welshmen.

According to a contemporary account which may even have been written at Grace Dieu, there was trouble in 1232 when the abbot of Grace Dieu and a monk companion crossed the River Usk with the deacon of Usk to make peace ‘with the descendents of Arthen’. It is not known who precisley these men were or why the abbot wished to speak with them but it likely concerned the disputed lands on which Grace Dieu was built; indeed the following year the same sons of Arthern burnt and sacked the abbey claiming that John had founded his monastery on land he had appropriated unjustly from others.

The party intended to effect a reconciliation but met with violence and was seized by ‘the sons of Belial’ who took the abbot and his monk captive and detained them at the River Taff for fifteen days; the monk was in fact wounded in the skirmish. The reason for their seizure was seemingly connected with the abbey's founder, John of Monmouth, for the captors promised the abbot his freedom if he negotiated their peace with Lord John. The abbot duly sent for the monk William of Strigoil to replace him as hostage but the Welsh men then rescinded on their word and although they let the injured monk companion return, retained both William and the abbot. The pair managed to escape by bluffing their captors: they took off their cowls and filled them with hay and grass so that it looked as if they were praying and then made their escape.

Bibliographical sources

Printed sources

Harrison, J., 'The troubled foundation of Grace Dieu Abbey', The Monmouthshire Antiquary, 14 (1998) pp. 26-27

Archival sources

Trinity College Dublin, 'Margam Chronicle', (Document),[E.4.23], fos 2r-13v (View website)

Other events in the history of this site

1217Preparation for foundation - John, lord of Monmouth, requested permission from the Cistercian General Chapter to found an abbey in SE Wales. [4 sources]
1226 (24 April)Foundation - Eventually a founding community was sent from Dore Abbey, Herefordshire. [5 sources]
1232Trouble - The abbot and his monk companion were held captive by Welshmen. [1 sources][1 archives]
1233Destruction - The house was razed to the ground.  [2 sources]
1235Grant - Henry III granted the monks twenty trees from the Forest of Dean to rebuild their house which had recently been destroyed. [2 sources]
1236Relocation - The community relocated from its original site (probably on west bank of the R. Trothy) to its present site [2 sources]
1240Grant - Henry III granted the community four oaks from Grosmont Forest to help with building work. [2 sources]
1253Grant - Henry III granted the community two oaks from Seinfremy Wood. [2 sources]
1276Proposed move - The community sought to relocate to escape troubles in the area. [2 sources]
c.1291Wealth - The house had an estimated net income of £18 5s 8d and some 729 ha arable under the plough. [4 sources]
1351Resignation - Abbot Hugh [or Roger?] of Chepstow sought to resign from office for he felt the burden of administering the monastery was too great.  [4 sources]
c.1356Patronage - Henry, duke of Lancaster and lord of Monmouth (d. 1361), granted the community the chantry chapel in Monmouth Castle. [2 sources]
1484Resignation - John Mitulton resigned from the abbacy on account of the persecution of his enemies. [2 sources]
1521Contributions to the General Chapter - The abbot of Neath collected a contribution of 3s 4d from Grace Dieu to send to the General Chapter. [1 sources]
c.1535Wealth - According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus the house had an income of only £19 4s 4d.  [3 sources][1 archives]
1536 Suppression - The abbey was dissolved on 3 September 1536, under the 1536 Act of Suppression. [3 sources]