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Abington (Abbey)

also known as: Woneyum, Mainistir Uaithne, Owney, Woney

Order: Cistercian

The Cistercian foundation was founded in 1205, from the abbey of Furness in Cumbria. A colony of monks was established at Wyresdale, Lancs., from Furness, and it was endowed, c. 1196 by Theobald Walter, Butler of Ireland. In c. 1204, however, Walter transferred the colony to Ireland. He granted the island of Arklow to the Cistercians of Furness for the foundation of an abbey which he endowed, witnessed by H (Hubert), archbishop of Canterbury and others. The same Theobald, while his brother, Archbishop Hubert, was still living, granted and confirmed to the abbot and monks of St. Mary of Wodeney (sic.) much property in that district.
It seems that the monks of Furness were brought from Wyresdale to Arklow before 1204, but in 1205 a more suitable site was found at Abington. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126).

According to the Chartularies of St. Mary's Abbey, in Dublin, the monks of Abington complained that an Irish abbot had been placed over them, and they complained of their treatment. A submission, subsequently addressed by monks of Woney, or Abingdon (sic), Limerick, to James, Earl of Ormonde (AD 1436). The petitioners stated that a monk of the Irish nation had been appointed abbot over them, through the influence of the Irish laity of the district. This act they represented was contrary to law, and they complained of the proceedings of the Abbot and the treatment they had received from him. To prevent Irish enemies from appropriating an establishment which had been founded and richly endowed by the house of Ormonde, the Earl was solicited by the petitioners to substitute an Abbot of the English race. (Chartularies of St. Mary’s Abbey, Dublin, and Annals of Ireland, 2 (1100 – 1600) (preface)

Very little remains of what was once a fine Cistercian house, built on the banks of the River Mulkear, a tributary of the Shannon. The best record of the architecture of Abington is the illustration made by Thomas Dinely, which shows the buildings roofless, but otherwise intact. Professor Roger Stalley has commented on the Early English style of its architecture, most marked in the steep lancets of the east gable. From this drawing, it is possible to see that the presbytery had an addition buttress at the angle, which might suggest the presence of a vault, and there is a tower at the crossing. All remains were removed during the building of a manor house on the site by Josept Stepney. Stalley has also drawn links between the Early English character of this monastic foundation and aspects of St. Brendan’s Cathedral, in Ardfert, Co. Kerry. (Stalley CMI) A magnificent boss survives, probably from a vault, which gives some sense of the scale of the building when it was first erected.

Excavations works were carried out at the site of the 16th century house near Abington Cistercian abbey in 1992. Two cuts were opened by machine in the field immediately north of the modern graveyard extension wall. Both yielded deposits of an archaeological nature, and 17th-century sherds. In Cut 1, a Charles II copper farthing (1672-9), was recovered. The cuts were located on 2 of 3 ridges aligned north-south and it is possible that these may have been the site of the house built by the Walsh family who acquired the lease on the Abbey lands in 1562. (Limerick the Rich Land, Spellissy and O'Brien, p 136).(R714536, SMR 014:01412) (www.excavations.ie)

Name of Foundation: Abington
Dedicated to: St. Mary
Affiliated to: Furness

Barony: Owneybeg/ Uaithne Beag
Civil Parish: Abington/ Mainistir Uaithne
Townland: Abington (Mainistir Uaithne)
Kingdom/Lordship: Thomond
Early mediaeval Kingdom/Lordship: Uaithne/Tuadmuman
Late mediaeval Kingdom/Lordship: Butler

Main events in the history of this site

1205Foundation - A colony of monks was established at Wyresdale, Lancs., from Furness, and it was endowed, c. 1196 by Theobald Walter, Butler of Ireland. In c. 1204, however, Walter transferred the colony to Ireland. He granted the island of Arklow to the Cistercians of Furness for the foundation of an abbey which he endowed, witnessed by H (Hubert), archbishop of Canterbury and others. The same Theobald, while his brother, Archbishop Hubert, was still living, granted and confirmed to the abbot and monks of St. Mary of Wodeney (sic.) much property in that district.
It seems that the monks of Furness were brought from Wyresdale to Arklow before 1204, but in 1205 a more suitable site was found at Abington. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126).
 
1206Burial - Theobald Walter was buried in the abbey of Abington in 1206. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1228 - William was abbot. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1276 - The archbishop of Cashel complained to the general chapter about the abbot of Vetinex (sic.) (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1290 - The abbot was fined 60m. for harbouring the King’s enemies. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1292 - Abbot Hugh mortgaged the church of Thurles. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1297 - Abbot Thomas was deposed. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1300s - There were various payments and suits dealing with Abington during the fourteenth century. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1301, 29 December - 1301, Wednesday Dec. 29. Limerick. The Abbot de Wetheny, of fine for transgression – 33s. 4d. (Gross receipt in the time of Richard de Bereford, Treasurer of Ireland, containing the following among other entries)CDI, Vol. 4, 378 (1293 – 1301)  
1302 - 06 - In the taxation of 1302 – 06, rent and revenues, abbot of Wethney (sic.), was valued at 28m. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1302 - 1307 - Rent and revenues of the abbot of Wetheny (Value: 28 marks, tenth: 37s, 4d.)(CDI, Vol. 5, 1302 - 1307), 287
 
1428 - Abbot Nicholas died in 1428, and William Odwirti, archdeacon of Emly, was appointed abbot in commendam. In 1437, William had resigned, but unlawfully detained the abbey for three years afterwards and John Latharn was collated. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1452 - 1460 - Abbot Richard Symur was to be deprived and replaced by Malachy O’Mulryan in 1452, but in 1454-5, he appealed, promising to amend, and was reinstated, but was acceded by Malachy O’Mulryan in 1460. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1480 - The rectories of Huena (called Hucycny in 1485) abbey, O.Cist., dioc. Emly, had been leased out. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1533 - Queen Mary confirmed the grant of the abbey to Walter Aphoell which had been made by Edward VI, and the lease passed to Piers (Peter) Walshe in 1562. Walshe paid a rent of £57 2s 3d. (Irish) maintaining 1 horseman. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1540 - Lord Deputy Gray was accused of compelling the abbot 40 pounds to preserve the abbey from destruction. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1540 - The abbey was changed to a secular establishment Abbot John being called provost. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1540 - 1540 – “And in the morning, being the 30th day, the Lord Deputy being at mass in the abbey of Owney, which payeth the 20th part to the King as other houses did, while the army was pilfering and spoiling the same houses, the abbot, seeing that, for saving of his abbey from utter spoil and breaking down must have given the Lord Deputy 40l. sterling, as the deponent credibly heard, besides that was given to intercessors that interceded for him.’ (From ‘An Information against the Lord Leonard Grey, Lord Deputy of Ireland, in anno 32 H. VIII, mense Oct.) Carew MSS. (166) 
1548 - Burning of abbey by O'Carroll (AFM) 
1553, 17 November - 1553
88. Letter from the Queen to the Lord Deputy and Council of Ireland: - ‘Right trusty, we greet you well, and let you wit that our dearest brother, King Edward the Sixth, whose soul God pardon, in consideration of the acceptable service done by the bearer, Walter Aphoell, rewarded him with a lease of the Abbey of Woney, in the county of Limerick, for the term of 19 years; we have, upon his humble suit made unto us, granted him two years more, and therefore will and command you to make him forthwith a new one, under our great seal, for 21 years. Nov. 17. (Membrane 18)
(CPRIre, Hen VIII – Eliz), 321
 
1553 - It was found that the abbot, John O’Mulrean, was seized of eight rectories, including Arklow, with an interest in eight other rectories, and other property val. £44 19s. 4d. At a later date, the property included c. 14 carucates of land (c. 1,680 acres), three mills etc. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1553 - Abbot John remained at Abington. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126) 
1557 - A community still existed at Abington. 
1561 - 1561. The Queen to the Earl of Sussex, directing a lease to be passed to Piers Walshe, of the late Abbey of Owney, with all its possessions, both spiritual and temporal. June 20th.(CPRIe Hen VIII – Eliz., 472)(Membrane 13. 104)
 
1567 - 1567 - Pierse Walshe, having in fee farm the monastery of Woney, in the county of Limerick, and desiring to be discharged of the arrears of rent for five years, for that he was by force kept out of the possession thereof by O’Donoyle O’Mulrian, bring maintained (as he saith) by the Earl of Desmond; we, upon information duly given to us, that, although he was kept from the possession of the more parte thereof, yet he was not kept out of the possession of all the parcels, whereupon the arrears do growe; but that he ought to unto us, for the same, £52, and, for the rest of the arrears he is to be with our favour considered, for by commission it hath been found that he was kept out of possession of the greater part.
(CPRIre, Hen VIII – Eliz), 515
 
1600 - Killing of Baron of Castleconnell near abbey (AFM) 
1684 - The abbey was again in existence in the early seventeenth century. An abbot, though perhaps titular, was recorded at Abington as late as 1684. (Med. Religious houses, Ire., 126)  
+ 19 minor events. Show minor events

Bibliographical sources

8 Printed sources

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Archival sources

National Library of Ireland, 'Award of arbiters in a dispute regarding the temporalities of the Abbey of Owney', (Document), (View website)

Belfast Public Record Office, 'Conveyance of part of the lands formerly of the Abbey of Woney', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Copy of the foundation charter of Owney (or Wotheny) Abbey', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Indenture by which former abbots of Owney agree to be liege servants to the Earl of Ormonde', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Inspeximus of an indenture dated June 16, 1563', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Late copy of the Charter of Theobald Walter (le Botiller)', (Document), (View website)

Royal Irish Academy Manuscripts Collection, 'Notes, relating to the history, antiquities and topography of the parishes of Abington, Carrigparson', (Document), (View website)

Royal Irish Academy Manuscripts Collection, 'OS Letters by Thomas O'Conor (Limerick area)', (Document), (View website)

Royal Irish Academy Manuscripts Collection, 'OS Notes made by John O'Donovan (Nenagh, Co. Tipperary Area)', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Petition of the Abbot and Convent of Owney for the removal of an intruded abbot', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Ireland, 'Quit-claim by brother William, abbot of Wotheney (Woney)', (Document), (View website)

Royal Irish Academy Prints and Drawings, 'Walsh arms at Abington Abbey, Westropp Drawing', (Document),

Related articles on Monastic Ireland

4. Report of Stephen of Lexington of the rebellion at Maigue. (Letter 89), Extract from Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229 (translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O\'Dwyer), Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1982
6. Letters from Stephen of Lexington to the King and Queen of Thomond (Letters 92 and 93), Extract from Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229 (translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O\'Dwyer), Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1982
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Limerick, OSI Grid:R7143153551