Burton Abbey – Medieval History

Burton Abbey featured in the Domesday Book in 1086 where it appeared as the abbey of Saint Mary. It was recorded as also controlling lands outside of Burton, included Mickleover, Appleby Magna, Coton in the Elms, Caldwell and Ticknall.

By 1310, the abbey had been reduced to one of the smallest and poorest Benedictine monastery in England, suffering a number of severe financial difficulties often due to mismanagement and outright criminal behaviour. At this time, the number of monks had been reduced to around thirty. Even so, as an abbot, the holder of the position between 1295 and 1322 was summoned to attend the ‘Parliament of England’.

By the 1520s, the number of monks had been reduced to less than twenty but, almost contradictary, the abbey was the most important in Staffordshire and by the 1530s had the highest revenue. The abbot was both a secular lord and, “exercised an independent spiritual jurisdiction”. He was a figure of some standing, regularly serving on papal and royal commissions and acting as a collector of clerical taxes within the diocese.

There have been a number of Royal visits to the abbey. William I came on a visit to the shrine of St. Modwen; Henry II was at Burton in 1155, John in 1200, 1204, and 1208, Henry III in 1235 and 1251, Edward I in 1275 and 1284, and Edward II in 1322 during the campaign against Thomas Plantagenet, earl of Lancaster.


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