Redressing the Balance

: Boxley 1146-1538. A Lesser Cistercian House in Southern England.

  • Elizabeth Eastlake

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The primary aim of this thesis was to investigate the history of the Cistercian Abbey at Boxley in Kent (1146-1538) through its surviving written archive to provide a comparison to existing studies of individual houses that have focused on larger Benedictine houses. The documents considered include early deeds in addition to household and estate accounts that date to the late fourteenth century.

Founded by William of Ypres, who had left England and returned to Flanders by 1157, initially Boxley Abbey had only a moderate endowment of lands. With an absent founder who had left no heir, it fell to the early abbots to build up estate holdings by any means. The surviving deeds reflect this. The abbey acquired land, piece by piece through grants, purchases and exchanges. By the beginning of the fourteenth century, they had established nine granges. They also established strong ties with a number of local families.

The estate and household accounts reveal the considerable impact that The Black Death had on the economy and administration of this small house and the subsequent response of the Boxley monks to it. The Black Death opened up career opportunities for a small group of capable young monks who held all of the main offices of the abbey in the years following it. Boxley used the same system of accounting employed by large monasteries, the obedientiary system, but adapted it for a small house with fewer monks who were capable of holding office. A partially centralised bursars’ office administered the bulk of the Boxley revenues to maintain both abbot and convent. A significant figure was John Herrietsham, who first entered the abbey in 1345, was abbot of Boxley by 1357, and held this post for at least the next fifty years. He led a number of important changes in the internal economy of the abbey His attempts to maximise the revenues of the estates and limit spending within the household culminated in the 1360 Assessment of Revenues.

An unexpected finding of this thesis was the income of the Boxley rood of grace, recorded in the late fourteenth-century bursars’ accounts. This income emerged in the accounts at a critical time in the Boxley economy and provided the monks with a valuable, and probably not therefore wholly typical, source of revenue. The abundant accounts of the bursars, sub cellarers, kitchener and granator are further analysed to reveal the positive impact their disposable income had upon lifestyle and diet within the abbey and household and they reveal just how far it had moved the monks of Boxley Abbey away from the original Cistercian ideals by the end of the fourteenth century.
Date of Award7 Sep 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorMichael Hicks (Supervisor) & Tom Beaumont James (Supervisor)


  • Medieval
  • Boxley
  • Kent
  • Cistercian
  • monastic
  • economy
  • obedientiary
  • rood
  • shrine
  • Abbot

Cite this

Redressing the Balance: Boxley 1146-1538. A Lesser Cistercian House in Southern England.
Eastlake, E. (Author). 7 Sep 2015

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis