John Maxey
Welbeck Abbey
The Monastery at Welbeck began in 1143 during the reign of King Stephen who confirmed
the gift which Ralph de Bellafago made to God and the church of St James at Welbeck.
Richard de Flemmyng gave money to the abbey and later so did Thomas de Cuckney,
whose charter reads: ‘To Roger, by the grace of God, Archbishop of York, from Thomas de
Cuckney, son of Richard. Know that I have given and grant to Lord Berrengar, Abbot of
Welbeck unto all his successors, and to the brethren of the same place therein according to
the order of Premonstratensians regularly serving God, … the place of their abbey’. The
Premonstratensian order had been created in Germany and believed in absolute self-denial.
The monks became known as the white canons of Welbeck. The abbey owned land in
Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire. It also raised money through the sale of
wool and coal. Welbeck was a very isolated place, deep in Sherwood Forest, but it was
not always peaceful.
On one occasion the abbey came under serious investigation by Richard II. In the Patent
Rolls of 11 February 1393 it states: ‘Pardon to William Broun of Norton by Welbeck of suit
of the King’s peace for felonies, treasons and other offences under the following
circumstances: Robert Veel, keeper of the rolls [or records] of the King’s Bench, and John
Wynchecombe, appointed by the king to take carts for the carriage of the rolls, being
directed on Saturday before the feast of St Katherine last by Walter Clopton, Chief Justice,
and other justices to carry the said rolls from York to Nottingham, where upon by reason
of excessive rainfall affecting the roads, they could not without additional horses reach
Nottingham, where upon by virtue of their commission and the justices’ order they took at
Norton aforesaid two horses of John Levet and John Turnour of Norton, to be paid for in
due course. There upon the said William Broun, John Northeryn, Robert Bocher, all of
Norton, and Hugh Matt, servant of John Baukwell, Abbot of Welbeck, with divers other evil
doers came armed with bows and arrows, sticks and swords, and at dusk of the same
day raised all the men of Norton to insurrection, pursued the said Robert and John to
Warsop and instigated by Simon de Castleton, canon of Welbeck, and John Worsop, vicar
of Cuckney and canon of Welbeck, assaulted them, shot at and pierced the books in the
carriage and took the horses, and would have carried the same away but that by the grace
of God and their help they made too good a defence’.
Remains of the monastic buildings
at Welbeck Abbey2
In 1482 Abbot William Burton was dismissed because: ’He has squandered the abbey’s
goods both moveable and immovable, allowed the buildings to collapse through want of
repair and let out land and tithes to local rich men. He has sold timber and all the oxen
and sheep and pawned the abbey’s plate leaving not one silver dish or salt cellar to place
before guests. Even the abbey’s services have suffered, there being no candles, oil or
wine without which it is impossible to celebrate mass. All this he has done in order to
finance his gambling which he carries on night and day in the company of disreputable
people. In addition, he is living with several women in fornicating relationships, out of
which he has begotten several children who have been raised at the abbey’s expense’. He
was sentenced to 10 years’ exile but within a year he had been recalled to the abbey and
became the vicar of Cuckney. Little more is known about the abbey until the 16
A plan of the abbey Doorway to the west cloisters
On 21 September 1533 John Maxey, Abbot of Welbeck, wrote to Thomas Cromwell
about the impending dissolution of the monastery: ‘I send you your poor fee. I received
your letters dated 5 September by your chaplain, Richard West, and according to your
desire, I send you a good bay gelding, the best I have. At our next meeting I will further
show you my mind concerning religion. I hear that in the Lower House an Act has been
conceived touching vicars, from which no man can obtain any advantage except the
Bishop. My religion was mostly founded on spiritualities, and if vicars are called home,
and their benefices given to secular priests, it would undo the third part of our houses.
By the Pope’s bulls and the King’s grants, we may give our vicarages to our religious
brethren. Welbeck. St Matthew’s Day’.
By the time of the dissolution, John Maxey had died and ‘Richard, Abbot of the
monastery of the Blessed Virgin and St James the Apostle of Welbeck of the
Premonstratensian Order and the convent there, surrendered the said monastery and all
its possessions to King Henry VIII by a writing under their common seal bearing the date
in their chapter house the 20
June, 1538’. The abbot, Richard Bentley was awarded a
pension of £50, and the 17 canons received pensions of between £40 and £4 a year.
After the dissolution Welbeck Abbey was granted to Richard Whalley in 1539. He sold
the property to Gilbert Talbot, 7
Earl of Shrewsbury for £555 6s 6d in 1599. It was
described at this time by Talbot’s valuers: ‘There is a fair house having been an Abbey,
a gatehouse with a part and other grounds adjoining’. Part of the west range of the
cloisters remain in the basement and more survived until rebuilding took place in 1750

Welbeck Abbey

John Maxey, 1520, died 1536


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