A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 2

Sibton Abbey

Sibton Abbey & Accounts

The Cistercians monks had an Abbey at Sibton, which is about five miles south of Halesworth on the Walpole/Peasenhall road. It was founded in 1150 and housed 12 monks who were responsible for several churches in Suffolk, including those at Sibton and Peasenhall. The Cistercians were great farmers and their estates extended to Cookley, on the borders of Halesworth, and they included the present Grange Farm at Cookley which in medieval times was a farmstead called North Grange. The monks also built a medieval house at Peasenhall as a rest house for travellers, which by 1423 was also used as a wool hall. It was recently restored by the Landmark Trust.

Sibton Abbey is now within a private estate and is overgrown with shubbery as the accompanying images show.

Sibton Abbey Accounts

The Cistercians reared large flocks of sheep and at Sibton the accounts show the income from wool in 1314 as 64.10.11d (64.55p) and in 1315 63.5.8d (63.28p) from which was to be deducted two shillings (10p) each year as the annual hire of the shepherd.

From the ewes milk they made
        44s.9d    (2.24p)     (North Grange)
        43s.0d    (2.15p)     (South Grange)
        13s.4d        (67p)     (Wenhaston Grange).

Goods bought by the Cellarer for the use of the Abbey:-
             11d      (5p)     for mustard bought for the Hall
        9s.  1d    (45p)     paid for fresh herrings
        2s  .4d    (12p)     for 231bs of rice
        2s.  4d    (12p)     for 2 gallons of olive oil. 

Harvest expenses 1360 - 1361, 53s.4d (2.67p), which included :-
        102 reapers at 2d (1p) a day - 17s.0d (85p)
        Stipend of the cook, baker and brewer during the harvest 3s (15p)
        40 gallons of milk at d (p) a gallon - 2s.6d (12p)
        6 pairs of gloves for the men hired 12d (5p)
        For toothing (sharpening) the sickles 2d (1p)
        A spoon bought 1d (p)

Expenses for Guests:-
        Bread, beer, wine, fish, also horses for the Abbot and journey to Bury 13s.8d (74p)
        Expenses to Eye 23d (12p)
        Expenses: Eye to Woodbridge 20d (9p)
        A night in Ipswich 12s.6d (68p)

The Cistercians established a communal life in the deep countryside, and brought to it large numbers of 'Lay Brothers' to build, grow food and tend flocks of sheep for them. It was expected that they would be unable to read, and books were forbidden to them. They only worshipped at the start and finish of the day, so that they were available for work. Many lived at the Granges which were large farmsteads set up at a distance from the Abbey.

Of other religious houses locally, little has survived. At Blythburgh, some scanty remains of the Augustinian Priory survive in the garden of a house named The Priory, while at Holy Trinity Church at Bungay is the memorial brass of one the Prioresses of the nunnery there between 1465 to 1497 with its Latin inscription which means "Pray for the soul of Dame Margaret Dalenger, sometime prioress in this place".

Where a monastic house became the village church, such as at Rumburgh, more of the original structure has survived. It was built as the church of a small Benedictine Priory founded in c.1065, and in its present form it dates from the mid 13th century.

Sibton Abbey

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