Stanley Abbey was a medieval Cistercian abbey between Chippenham and Calne, on the banks of the River Marden, which flourished between 1151 and 1536.
Land was given by Empress Matilda in 1149 to monks from Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight at Loxwell, to the east of Chippenham, where an abbey was founded in 1151. The Cistercian community moved to nearby Stanley in 1154. The abbey church was dedicated in 1266. The abbey grew in size throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, reaching a size of 450 acres at its largest. Its influence also grew, Abbot Nicholas entertaining King John in October 1200 and in 1210 Abbot Thomas of Calstone attending the meeting of King John and the Cistercian abbots at York.
Thomas of Calstone was succeeded as Abbot after a short interval by Stephen of Lexington, Abbot from 1223 until 1229. He had left Oxford for Quarr Abbey under the influence of Edmund Rich, (Saint Edmund), and when Stephen of Lexington became Abbot Edmund Rich, then Treasurer of Salisbury, stayed with him at Stanley Abbey for months at a time.
In 1280 King Edward I gave stone to the abbey for a chamber to be built for his own use and according to the abbey chronicle he used this chamber in the spring of 1282. Princess Mary, the Bishop of Salisbury and Edward II were all reported to have stayed at the abbey during the first years of the fourteenth century.
Its operation finally ceased as a result of the dissolution of the monasteries. The last Abbot was Thomas Calne (also called Morley), and the abbey was dissolved in February 1536.
Sir Harold Brakspear’s writings on the site and the buildings of the abbey after his archaeological excavations of 1905 – 1906 are authoritative. The abbey precinct covered about 24 acres, enclosed by dykes and causeways, with a cross before the outer gate which marked the boundary of Chippenham or Pewsham Forest; the demesne covered some 450 acres. The church was about 180 ft. long with a cloister on the south side. By 1342 the Abbey had a Chapter House, a ‘separation’ for the old or infirm monks between the monk’s choir and the lay brothers’ choir, a refectory, an inner and outer gatehouse, a fulling mill with a millrace and fishponds.
On 19th September 1955 the then Parish Priest of Saint Edmund’s, Father Daniel O’Callaghan, purchased stonework from Stanley Abbey from a Mr. Harding the owner of Stanley Abbey Farm for the sum of £10. This original stonework included glazed decorated tiles, pillars, and parts of archways. This stonework was used to fashion the baptismal font for the present church; other stonework is in place in the presbytery garden and car park.
The glazed stone tiles from Stanley Abbey are displayed in the entrance porch of the present church and are shown in the photograph at the top of this page.
The photographs below show original carved stonework from Stanley Abbey in the presbytery garden and church car park.