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St Radigund’s Abbey

St Radigund’s Abbey is on the hills about 3 miles outside Dover.  The Abbey was founded by the Premonstratensian Order  sometime around 1191-1193 (the recorded dates vary).   The Premonstratensians were a monastic order founded in 1120  by St Norbert (1080-1134), a German bishop, at Premontre in  Northern France. Members were known as White canons and  dressed in white woolen habits. The rule was a stricter version  of that of St Augustine canons. This order was first introduced  into England in 1143.  It is thought that Saxons originally farmed the land where the  abbey was built and lived nearby, calling the area Bradsole, the  Saxon meaning for Broad water or Broad Pond. In the  Doomsday book Hugo de Montfort is listed as the owner. Hugo’s  son, and then grandson, inherited the property. It then passed  to William de Poulton who with his heir granted the land of  Bradsole to the canons for their abbey sometime in the early  1190s.  St Radegund lived from 518-587. She was the daughter of the  King of Thuringia, whose assassination was avenged by the  Frankish King Clotaire I. Clotaire had the twelve year old  Radegund baptised and educated, and eventually married her.  However, her ill treatment by the King, and his murder of her  brother, compelled Radegund to leave him. She became a nun  and went on to found the great nunnery of the Holy Cross at  Poitiers, where she spent the last thirty years of her life. In it's early days the abbey increased in wealth and reputation  and many notable people wanted to be buried there.  In 1302  Edward I received the great seal at St Radigund’s and delivered  it to William Greenfield his then Chancellor.  Little is known of  the abbey's subsequent history beyond a list of successive  Abbots and Priors who allowed the buildings to fall into  disrepair. The abbey was suppressed under Henry VIII in 1538  along with the lesser monasteries.   After the dissolution the church building was dismantled and  the stone reused. In 1538, 237 loads of stone went from St  Radigund’s to build Sandgate castle. Stone also went to build  Walmer Castle and also surrounding houses and farm buildings.  In 1590, Queen Elizabeth I sold the abbey site to Simon Edolph  who converted the refectory into a farmhouse. The abbey is still a privately owned working farm.   The North Tower of the abbey can be clearly seen today.  This  tower was not the gatehouse to abbey, as many people think  because the openings in the base are later alterations.
St Radigund's Abbey c.1350.  An artist's impression what the abbey may have looked like. St Radigund's Abbey, 1837. St Radigund's Abbey, 2010.  The arched opening in the base of North Tower is not original and the Tower was never the abbey gatehouse. St Radigund's Abbey c.1900.  The roof of the farmhouse can be seen beyond the ruins. Back to Churches Index