The site is located in what was Bewesborough Hundred.
Langdon Abbey was founded in 1189 by William de Auberville, Chief Justiciar of England for Henry II, at the end of this monarch’s reign. It was founded as a Daughter House of Leiston Abbey, and some monks were relocated from Leiston to Langdon when it was first set up. The Abbey was a Premonstratensian Abbey dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Thomas the Martyr, and answered to the Parent House at Prémontré, France.
The Premonstratensian Order were also known as the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré or Norbertines, and they wore a white habit, so were referred to as the White Cannons. They were founded in 1120 by St. Norbert, Archbishop of Magdeburg, and were very strict on silence, fasting and labour.
The buildings included the cloister, calefactory, dormitory over the Calefactory, presbytery, nave, choir, Chapter House, chapel, fratry, slype, and an infirmary. It also included 2 fishponds. Chapels were added to either side of the Choir at a later date.
A lot of what we know about the site comes from the preserved Cartulary of the Abbey (original documents relating to the foundation, privileges, and legal rights). Churches who formed part of the holdings include Liddon Church, Waldershare Church, Langdon Church, Walmer Church, Oxney Church, and Lydden Church.
At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Richard Layton described the Abbot of Langdon as being “a drunken, evil knave, and his Cannons as without a spark of virtue.” (Zell, 2000). You can read his full description as to what happened when he visited the Abbey in the Timeline below.
An initial excavation of the site occurred in 1882 by Sir William St. John Hope. He identified how the site was mostly laid out and noted there was also a walled garden and the gatehouse stood to the north west of the Abbey. For a full account of these excavations go to https://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Pub/ArchCant/Vol.015%20-%201883/015-06.pdf. Finds included tiles, bases, and pieces of moldings. Excavated again in the 1960’s and surveyed by the Royal Engineers, finds included the remains of a tile built fireplace, roofing tiles, and oyster shells.
An embroidery said to have once belonged to Langdon Abbey hung in East Langdon Church. Being trapezoid in shape it measures as follows,
It is described in Clarke, 1845, as
“The fabric is of the finest crimson Genoa velvet, and lined with brown silk, quilted in flowers: in the centre, falling behind is the Annunciation …. The whole of the embroidery is worked in relief gold and silver tambour and silk….” (Clarke, 1845).
Timeline for Langdon Abbey,
The first Abbots included Bartholomew followed by William Unfortunately the dates for their positions are not recorded. Likewise, in the 15th century Philip was Abbot but the year is not recorded, just stated as being between Abbot John in 1415 and Abbot Thomas in 1446; and John Yorke was Abbot between Robert Coley in 1500 and William Dayer in 1535.
1189 Founded by William de Auberville.
1189 Foundation Charter witnessed by Hubert, Bishop elect of Salisbury.
1190 Charter confirmed by Archbishop Baldwin.
1192 The churches of Langdon, Walmer, Oxney and Lydden were endowed to Langdon Abbey.
1193-1205 Between: Foundation Charter witnessed by Archbishop of Canterbury, Hubert.
12th C Ice House.
1206 Richard was Abbot.
1227 Peter was Abbot.
1236 Robert was Abbot.
1248 John was Abbot.
1276 Nicholas was Abbot.
1284 W (?) was Abbot.
1288 Licence granted by Edward I to the Abbey giving them permission to receive land.
1289 Roger was Abbot.
1302 Nicholas de Crioll, Knight, confirmed the 3rd Charter for the Abbey.
1305 William de Digepet was Abbot.
1310 Abbot William acted as the mediator between the English Premonstratensian houses and Prémontré.
1313 The Abbey defended their Licence for them to receive lands.
1316 William was Abbot. He was granted the Kings permission to cross from Dover to France to attend the Chapter General at Prémontré.
1322 The King granted the lands of Sir John Malmeins to Langdon Abbey.
1323 William was Abbot.
1323 Monk Bernard de Langton was sent to Langdon Abbey after his Egglestone Priory, where he attended, was invaded and sacked by the Scots.
1325 The Abbot was granted the Kings permission to cross from Dover to France to attend the Chapter General at Prémontré.
1325 Edward II stayed at the Abbey after becoming unwell at Dover. He chose to stay at the Abbey instead of Dover Castle because it was more comfortable.
1325 Edward II granted advowson to Tange Church from the Abbey.
1325 2 September: A Deed was signed at the Abbey giving Prince Edward the province of Poitou.
1329 The Abbot was granted the Kings permission to cross from Dover to France to attend the Chapter General at Prémontré.
1336 The Abbey paid the Malmeins family for the lands the King had granted them in 1322.
1331 William was Abbot.
1331 Protection was granted in France to Abbot William when he undertook international business for the King.
1338 William was Abbot.
1345 Abbot William was Vicegerent of the Abbot of Prémontré.
1345 W (?) was Abbot.
1347 Grant of Free Warren given to the Abbey by Edward III
1348 Licence to Crenellate granted for a Gatehouse.
1369 John de Hakynton was Abbot.
1381 Robert de Estry was Abbot.
1387 Licence granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, from Saltwood Castle, “the cures of certain exile churches.’ (Elvin 1894).
1392 John was Abbot.
1400 Penitents visiting the Abbey were granted indulgence by Pope Boniface IX.
1415 John was Abbot.
c.1422 Before: Confirmation of the Abbey obtained from Henry VI.
1446 Thomas was Abbot.
1459 Thomas was Abbot.
1475 Those recorded at the Abbey included John Kentwell, John Lyon (sub-prior) and 6 Cannons. John Kentwell resigned this year.
1478 John Brohdysch was Abbot. Those recorded at the Abbey included John Brohdysch, the Abbot, and 11 Cannons.
1482 Robert Waynfleet/Wanfleet was Abbot. The Abbey is recorded as thriving and efficient. Bishop Redman, Visitor General of the Order of Premonstratensians said the Abbey was deserving of praise for their conduct.
1485 Dating from: A sliver guilded plate which is now in Walmer Church comes from the Abbey.
1488 Recorded at the Abbey were 13 Priests, 4 Novices and John Kentwell appointed Prior. Bishop Redman, Visitor General of the Order of Premonstratensians reported that one of those recorded was rebellious and “not fit to reach agreement among his Brethren.” (Elvin 1984).
1491 Robert Waynfleet/Wanfleet was Abbot. The Abbey had in its possession 121 ha of land and plenty of animals. Robert Waynfleet was Abbot, John Kentwell was Prior, there were 5 Cannons. One of the Cannons is recorded as having has his way with a married woman. For punishment he was sent away to Wendling Monastery for 40 days.
1494 Richard Coley was Abbot. Those recorded at the Abbey included Richard Coley Abbot, John Kentwell Prior, 6 Cannons and 1 apostate. The church was recorded as being in a bad state of repair.
1497 Those recorded at the Abbey included 6 Cannons and 1 apostate. The church was recorded as being in a bad state of repair. Brother John Boston was accused of being slothful and was given only bread and water between October and Christmas Day.
1500 Richard Coley was Abbot. Those recorded at the Abbey included Richard Coley Abbot, sub-prior John Kentwell, 8 Cannons and 2 Novices.
1506 Thomas Wilkinson, Abbot of Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire arranged to visit Landon Abbey. There is no record of him doing so.
1535 William Dayer/Dare was Abbot.
1535 13th November: Langdon Abbey was the first religious house Dissolved under the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the Deed of Surrender was signed by the Abbot. Those present at the Abbey are recorded as being Abbot William Dayer, sub-Prior William Loyld, and 9 Cannons. The site is recorded as being in a bad state of repair.
1535 Commissioners acting on behalf of the King went to the Abbey at midnight, broke in, and found the Abbot with his mistress.
Richard Layton’s Report of the Case of Langdon Abbey. (Cotton MSS. Cleop. E. IV. p.127.)
To The Lord Cromwell,
Please your goodness to understand that on Friday the xxi October, I rode back with speede to take an inventory of Fowlston and thens I went to Langdon, whereas, immediately descendings from my horse, I set Bartlett your servant, with alle my servants to circumcept the Abbey, and surely to keep alle back doors and starting holies, and myself went alone to the Abbot, laying watch upon the fielde and woode, it being like a coney-cliffe full of starting hoille. A good space knoking at the Abbot’s doore ‘nec vox sensus apparuit,’ saving the Abbot’s little dogge, that with hys doore fast lokked, bayed and barked. I found a short polaxe standing behind the doore, and with yt I dashed the Abbey doore in pieces, ‘ictu oculi’ – and setting one of my menne to keepe the doore, about house I goe with the polaxe in my hande ‘ne forte,’ – for the Abbot is a dangerous desperate knave, and a harde – but for a conclusion, his hore alias his gentilwoman bestyrrede hir stumps towards his starting hoil, and then Bartlett watching the pursuit tooke the damoisel, and after I had examined hir I sent her to Dover, ther to the Maior to set her in a cage for viii daies, and I broghte holy Father Abbot to Canterbie, and hope in Christ solemnly I will levye him in prison – in this sudden doinge of purpose to visit the hous and to serche, your servant John Anthonie, and his menne, marveled what fellow I was – and so died the reste of the Abbey, for I was unknowyn ther of al menne – at last I founde hir apparel in the Abbot’s coffer – to tell you alle this comedy (but for the Abbot a tragedie) hit were long, now I shall appear to gentlemenne of this County, and other the Commons, that we shall not deprive or visit on substantial growndes – surely I suppose God himself put it in my mynde thus suddenly to make a serch at the beginning, because no chanon appeared in my sight – I supposed to have found a hor or husive hyd in the Abbot’s chamber – the rest of all this knaverie I shall defer till my visite to you, which shall (be) with as much speede as I can possible, doing my assured diligens in the rest – this morning I ride towards the Arch-Bishop and visite hym, now when I have visited hys see – this night I will be at Faversham Abbey – this is to advertise your mastershippe – Scribulled this Satterdaie, and written with the hastic hande of your assured servant,
Richard Layton. Preste.
1535-1537 Site held by the Crown.
1537 The site and its possessions were granted to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
1545 The site and lands were sold to James Hales, Serjeant-at-Law.
1588 John Master died at the site.
1590 New red brick house built on the foundations of the Abbey by Samuel Thornhill.
1591 Elizabeth I granted the house and lands to Samuel Thornhill of London.
1631 James Master died in the house he had built on the Abbey foundations.
1639 Sir Edward Master held the site.
1667 James Master (a later one!) married Miss. Joyce Turner, daughter of Sir Christopher Knight, Baron of the Court of Exchequer, at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster.
1700 The Walderstone Estate bought the house and lands.
c.1702 Sold to Henry Furnese of London.
* Henry Furnese sold it to the Coke family.
1773 Edward Coke died at the site.
1828 Farmhouse on site.
1882 Excavated by Sir William St. John Hope.
19th C Alterations.
1964 Field Investigation.
1976 Aerial Photograph.
Although only a small Abbey it does have quite a history, and due to its Licence to Crenellate, falls into the category of fortified sites. I love researching the history of places like this because there is always so much more to learn about them, not just as places of worship, but the people associated with them and the deeds – good and bad – that they got up to!
References & Bibliography.
Batcheller. W. 1828. A New History of Dover. To Which is Added A New Dover Guide. William Batcheller.
Clarke. J. 1845. Letter. Proceedings of the Oxford Society. The Society.
d’Aubigné. J. H. M. 1876. History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin: England, Geneva, Ferrara. R. Carter & Brothers.
Du Boulay. F. 1952. Archbishop Cranmer and the Canterbury Temporalities. The English Historical Review, 67(262), 19-36. Retrieved January 20, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org.rp.nla.gov.au/stable/555695.
Dugdale. W. 1830. Monasticon Anglicanum. Longman.
Elvin. C. R. S. 1894. The History of Walmer and Walmer Castle. Cross & Jackman.
Froude. J. A. 1862. History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth, Volume 2. John W. Parker and Son.
Furley. R., & Mackeson. H. B. 1874. A History of the Weald of Kent, with an Outline of the Early History of the County, Volume 3. Igglesden.
Gervaise of Canterbury. 1880. The Historical Works of Gervase of Canterbury: The minor works comprising The gesta regum with its continuation, The actus pontificum, and The mappa mundi. Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts.
Hasted. E. 1799. The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Containing the Antient and Present State of It, Civil and Ecclesiastical; Collected from Public Records, … Both Manuscript and Printed: and Illustrated with Maps. and Views of Antiquities, Seats of the Nobility and Gentry, &c, Volume 4. Edward Hasted.
Historic England. 2021. Langdon Abbey. Available at https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1070055.
Hope. W. H. St. J. 1883. On the Premonstratensian Abbey of Ss. Mary And Thomas of Canterbury, At West Langdon, Kent. Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 15 p. 59-67.
‘Houses of Premonstratensian canons: The abbey of West Langdon’, in A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1926), pp. 169-172. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/kent/vol2/pp169-172.
Master. G. S. 1874. Some notices of the family of Master, of Kent, Lancashire and Surrey. Mitchell.
Philpot. J. 1863. The Visitation of the County of Kent, Taken in the Year 1619 by John Philipott, Rouge Dragon, Deputy and Assistant to William Camden, Calrencieux King-of-Arms. John Edward Taylor.
Pritchard. S. 1864. The History of Deal, and its Neighbourhood. E. Hayward.
Rowan. A. 1858. The Life of Blessed Franco Extracted And Englished From A Verie Aunciente Chronicle Of The Monastery Of Villare In Brabant With Preface And Appendix By Arthur Rowan. Hodges.
Royal Archaeological Institute. 1886. Langdon Abbey. The Archaeological Journal, Volume 43, p. 413.
Smith. J. R. 1881. The Reliquary, Volume 21. John Russell Smith.
Warren. Z, 1828. A Short Historical Sketch of The Town of Dover, And Its Neighbourhood Containing A Concise History Of The Town And Castle From The Earliest Acccounts To The Present Time: With A Description of The Villages Near Dover, Within The Distance Of Six Miles. Z. Warren.
Zell. M. 2000. Early Modern Kent, 1540-1640. Boydell & Brewer.