Thomas Stevens (or Stephens), Abbot of Netley Abbey and later of Beaulieu Abbey; (b. probably. c. 1490) (died 1550) was an English and Cistercian monk and clergyman. As abbot of Netley and later of Beaulieu he had the right to a seat in the House of Lords.
Little is known of Stevens' early life, but at some time in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century he became a monk at the small and poor Cistercian monastery of Netley Abbey in Hampshire. There he took holy orders and rose through the ranks so that by 1529 he was elected abbot of Netley, succeeding John Corne.
Stevens was evidently a skilled administrator and agriculturalist. Under his stewardship his often financially troubled abbey of Netley remained solvent (a difficult task given the small endowment and the heavy cost of providing hospitality to travellers by land and sea and the king’s sailors) and he was able to build up a farm surplus worth more than £100, a sum not far off the annual net income of the abbey, and to pay down the debts.The amount of £100 was considerable for this period. He also maintained high standards of religious life at the abbey, and he and his seven monks were the object of good reports to the king from the local gentry and were much respected in the neighbourhood. That the Abbot was also trusted by the government, is shown by his being given custody of two Franciscan friars, who presumably had offended the king by opposing his religious policies.
Notwithstanding the Abbot's apparent complacency, those policies were soon to have a dramatic effect on his own life. In 1535 Netley's income was assessed in the Valor Ecclesiasticus, Henry VIII's general survey of church finances, at £160 gross, £100 net,which meant the following year that it came under the terms of the first Suppression Act, Henry's initial move in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which closed all monasteries with incomes of less than £200 per year. Abbot Stevens and his seven monks were forced to surrender their house to the King in 1536.
Yet this was not the end of Thomas' career as an abbot. In fact, shortly before the closure of Netley, Henry appointed him abbot of Netley's mother house, Beaulieu Abbey,a wealthy royal foundation across Southampton Water. This was unusual, and is symptomatic of the general breakdown, since the post was elective. Thomas and six of his monks (the other desired to resign and become a secular priest) crossed Southampton Water to join Beaulieu in 1536. At Beaulieu Stevens continued the policy he had presumably already begun of currying favour with the government, especially Thomas Cromwell, King Henry's chief minister, who held the fates of the English clergy in his hands, as well as bribing Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, another minister who had his eyes on taking over the abbey for himself, with the fine horses from the abbey stables. Now the currying aimed ostensibly at saving Beaulieu.
However, there came a setback. Stevens had barely been abbot of Beaulieu for a year when a crisis occurred which enabled to the government to put pressure on him to surrender his monastery, were this needed, and perhaps to menace a worse fate. In September 1537 James Manzi (or Mangii), a Florentine on the run from the government for unspecified offences that might be construed as treason, took sanctuary at the abbey.Cromwell sent agents to arrest him, but the abbot was absent when they arrived and in the meanwhile the fugitive escaped. The abbot conducted an investigation into the affair and Manzi was soon recaptured, but suspicion remained that he had been somehow involved in the escape in the spirit of the old laws of sanctuary (thus potentially incurring serious criminal charges) and Stevens was obliged to throw himself on the mercy of Cromwell and Wriothesley.
Since by early 1538 it was clear that Beaulieu was doomed, the abbot began to make provision for his future. One of his last acts as abbot before he was finally forced to surrender was to grant the mill and parsonage of Beaulieu to a friend and give his sister a manor house belonging to the abbey,a conduct not uncommon practice among heads of institutions suppression by Henry's government, as insurance against not getting a decent pension (compare the similar transactions at neighbouring Titchfield Abbey). The king’s commissioners arrived at the gates of the abbey in March 1538 and, after negotiations, the great monastery surrendered on 2 April 1538, the deed being signed by Thomas and 20 of the monks. It is probable that by now Stevens had had a change of mentality, after all his attachment to Beaulieu was not that of a lifetime, and his appointment there, despite the tensions, had been something of a windfall. Now he was destined to receive a handsome pension of 100 marks a year for a largely ceremonial role in an event he could do nothing to prevent. It made him a wealthy man, and made him disinclined to any great fellow-feeling for his fellow monks. In a letter to Thomas Wriothesley written shortly after the abbey was extinguished, he fell to describing his monks at Beaulieu as "lewd monks, which now, I thank God, I am rid of". On the other hand, he displayed more apparent sympathy for the people who had taken sanctuary at the abbey and who lived in the abbey grounds. He pleaded with the government for their lives, with the result that they were given either pardons or protection and the right to remain living in the former abbey precinct.
Thomas continued his career in the church after the fall of Beaulieu and already in 1539 was made rector of Bentworth in Hampshire.In May 1548 he was also made Treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral and given the prebend of Calne while retaining his rectory. Since he could only be in one place at a time, somewhere he was an absentee incumbent. The appointment under the Protestantizing Edward VI suggests that Stevens was now of flexible theological views. At some point he married, too, and had children, who are mentioned in his will.
Stevens' will, which he wrote on 9 August 1550, perhaps already in bad health, and its codicil, written three days later, reveals more details about Thomas' subsequent life. At that date he had a daughter, Mary Stevens, to whom he left all his property, specifically noting his plate and an estate he had recently bought at Alton. Mary was clearly young because he created a trust supervised by a friend, Christofer Wallison, to manage the property and help her make a suitable marriage. Mary was present at the creation of the will and agreed not to marry anyone without the consent of Christofer. At his death Thomas was a rich man, which can be seen from the large sums he was able to leave as gifts to friends and his servants, many of whom are named in the will.It was a long way from the poor Cistercian monk of Netley.
He must have died shortly after making his will, which was probated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in London on 9 September 1550.
Kirkstall Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery in Kirkstall, north-west of Leeds city centre in West Yorkshire, England. It is set in a public park on the north bank of the River Aire. It was founded c. 1152. It was disestablished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII.
The dissolution of the monasteries, occasionally referred to as the suppression of the monasteries, was the set of administrative and legal processes between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII disbanded monasteries, priories, convents, and friaries in England, Wales, and Ireland, expropriated their income, disposed of their assets, and provided for their former personnel and functions. Although the policy was originally envisaged as increasing the regular income of the Crown, much former monastic property was sold off to fund Henry's military campaigns in the 1540s. He was given the authority to do this in England and Wales by the Act of Supremacy, passed by Parliament in 1534, which made him Supreme Head of the Church in England, thus separating England from papal authority, and by the First Suppression Act (1535) and the Second Suppression Act (1539). While Thomas Cromwell, Vicar-general and Vice-regent of England, is often considered the leader of the Dissolutions, he merely oversaw the project, one he had hoped to use for reform of monasteries, not closure or seizure. The Dissolution project was created by England's Lord Chancellor Thomas Audley, and Court of Augmentations head Richard Rich.
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Peter was the fifth Abbot of Vale Royal Abbey, Cheshire, in the first half of the fourteenth century. He is generally held to be the author of the abbey's own chronicle, which was published in 1914 as the Ledger of Vale Royal Abbey. Owing to a failure to finish the abbey's building works—which had commenced in 1277 and had been intermittently on-going ever since—the abbey was unsightly, and the monks' quarters probably near derelict. Abbot Peter oversaw the transplantation of the house onto new grounds. Much of his career, however, was focussed on defending his abbey's feudal lordship over its tenants. The dispute between the abbey and its tenantry had existed since the abbey's foundation; the abbot desired to enforce his feudal rights, the serfs to reject them, as they claimed to be by then freemen. This did not merely involve Abbot Peter defending the privileges of his house in the courts. Although there was much litigation, with the Abbot having to defend himself to the Justice of Chester and even the King on occasion, by 1337 his discontented villagers even followed him from Cheshire to Rutland—very much the other side of the country—which, following a confrontation between the Abbot and his tenants, resulted in the death of a monastic servant and the capture and imprisonment of the Abbot himself. But the King intervened, and the Abbot and his party were soon freed.