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Waltham Abbey

The Abbey of Waltham Holy Cross stood in Essex, some ten miles to the northeast of London, on the Middlesex border.

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Waltham Abbey.—The Abbey of Waltham Holy Cross stood in Essex, some ten miles to the northeast of London, on the Middlesex border. In the reign of Kent, one Tofig, a wealthy landowner, built a church at Waltham for the reception of a miraculous cross, discovered through a vision in Somerset, and gave endowment for two priests. On Tofig’s death his Waltham property lapsed to the Crown, and King Edward the Confessor granted the estate to Harold. The latter enlarged the foundation of the church and established a college of secular canons. In 1060 the church was solemnly dedicated to the Holy Cross by Cynesige, Archbishop of York, and Wlwin became its first dean. It is said that Harold’s body was brought to Waltham for burial after the battle of Hastings, but the story has been disputed. The secular canons were displaced in 1177 by Henry II in favor of Augustinian Canons, and a prior was appointed. Seven years later Walter de Gant was made the first abbot, and Waltham became the most important Augustinian house in the country. Its abbot was mitred, sat in Parliament, enjoyed peculiar exemption from episcopal visitation, and received at various times special favors from Rome. The abbey also obtained a number of valuable privileges and charters from the Crown. At the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537, Waltham was assessed at a gross annual value of £1079 2s. 1d., and was the richest religious house in Essex. It outlasted every other abbey in the country, and was only formally surrendered on March 23, 1540, by its last abbot, Robert Fuller, who retired with a pension of £200 and with several manors and church advowsons. The abbey lands were leased to Sir Anthony Denny, and were subsequently purchased outright by his widow in 1549. The choir and transept were destroyed, but the west end of the abbey church was set apart as a parish church for the new service of the Church of England, and remains to this day as a place of worship for Anglicans.



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