HOUSES OF CISTERCIAN MONKS
8. THE ABBEY OF RADMORE
The first Cistercian foundation in Staffordshire
grew out of a hermitage at Radmore in Cannock
Forest near the present hamlet of Cannock Wood,
some 3 miles east of Cannock. (fn. 1) King Stephen
granted Radmore, probably between 1135 and 1139,
to Clement, Hervey, and their companions as the
site for a hermitage; he also gave them land at
'Melesho' for tillage and pasture. Bishop Roger de
Clinton confirmed this grant and gave the hermits
permission to follow any rule they wished and to
receive and instruct any holy women who came to
them after adopting a rule. (fn. 2) At some time between
1143 and 1147 the hermits secured a charter similar
to Stephen's from the Empress Maud, presumably
as a precaution in view of the civil war. (fn. 3)
About the same time Maud, who had a great love
for the Cistercian rule, persuaded the hermits to
join the Cistercian order, and St. Mary's hermitage
at Radmore thus became the abbey of St. Mary.
New grants followed. Several of these were in
Warwickshire, notably at Radway, where a grange
was established. (fn. 4) William Croc, the steward of
Cannock Forest, gave all his rights in Great Wyrley
(in Cannock) to the monks on condition that he
should be received 'into their fraternity and into the
society of the benefactors of the Cistercian order'
and his body buried in the abbey. (fn. 5) In 1153 Henry,
Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, the son of Maud,
became a benefactor of the monks at his mother's
instigation. He confirmed them in their possession
of Radmore as 'the site and foundation of the abbey'
with Melesho and Wyrley 'for cultivation and
pasture' and Hednesford (in Cannock) as pasture
free from pannage dues. In the same year he granted
most of the royal property in Staffordshire to
Ranulph, Earl of Chester, who then gave the monks
the vill of Cannock; Duke Henry confirmed this,
mentioning also the mill of Wyrley and stating that
the grant was to enable the monks to erect a church
and domestic buildings. (fn. 6)
The monks, however, were finding Radmore an
unsuitable site as a result of the oppressions of the
foresters who rode there every week. (fn. 7) With Maud's
support the brethren approached Henry on his
coronation day in December 1154 and secured the
exchange of Radmore for the royal manor of
Stoneleigh in Warwickshire. They arrived there the
following June. A royal hunting-lodge was established at Radmore soon after the monks' departure.
William, described as prior of the hermits, became
first abbot of Radmore and then of Stoneleigh,
dying in 1159. (fn. 8)
||The whole chronology of Radmore is obscure. For a
discussion of it see Stoneleigh Leger Bk. ed. R. H. Hilton
(Dugdale Soc. xxiv), pp. xii-xvi. The dating given there
is in the main followed in this account, which supersedes
that in V.C.H. Staffs. v. 57, and V.C.H. Warws. ii. 78-79.
Stoneleigh Leger Bk. 10–11.
||Ibid. 10. The terminal date given ibid. p. xiv, is 1148,
but since Bp. Roger mentioned the monks in a charter
witnessed by the Abbot of Buildwas and left on the
Crusade in 1147 never to return (ibid. p. xv), 1147 must
be the terminal date. Maud's grant stipulated that there
was not to be excessive assarting of woodland.
||Ibid. 13, 14, 17; V.C.H. Warws. v. 142. The land at
Radway was given by Bp. Clinton and his tenant, Geoffrey
de Clinton; the bishop also confirmed the monks in their
possession of Radmore. While travelling from Radmore to
Radway Grange the monks were often entertained by the
Cistercians of Bordesley Abbey (Worcs.), and a strong
friendship developed between the two houses; it was
therefore to Bordesley that the new Cistercians turned for
instruction in the rule, probably after the move to Stoneleigh in 1155: Leger Bk. 15; V.C.H. Worcs. ii. 154.
Leger Bk. 13; V.C.H. Staffs. v. 79.
Leger Bk. 12-13; S.H.C. ii(1), 221; V.C.H. Staffs. v.
||For this para. see Leger Bk. pp. xv-xvi, 15-16, 249-50,
and map facing p. liv; V.C.H. Staffs. ii. 341–2; W. H.
Duignan, 'On the King's House and the Priory at Radmore, on Cannock Chase', Midland Antiquary, iii. 58 sqq.,
141-2. The monks surrendered all their Staffs. property
to the Crown: V.C.H. Staffs. v. 53, 57, 59. Hen. II was at
Radmore in 1155: R. W. Eyton, Court, Household and
Itinerary of King Henry II, 6. For a chapel at Radmore in
1279 see above p. 223.
Leger Bk. 12–16, 17, 249–51.