Dissolution of the monasteries


Burnham Abbey, which was and is a nunneryMonasteries are religious communities for monks or nuns. Monks and nuns take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Many monasteries acted as schools for local children, especially for those who were going to join the religious community, as hospitals for the sick and as places to stay for travellers.


In 1536 Henry VIII ordered that smaller monasteries were not helping their local areas and should be shut down. All the monastery lands and possessions went to the crown. The monks and nuns were given pensions but were not allowed to marry. By 1540 all monasteries, large and small, had been closed or dissolved and the land sold off to the gentry and nobility.


Do a search on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal to find all the monasteries, abbeys, priories, friaries and nunneries on the database. Read the descriptions of each. Which of them are described as being ruined, abandoned or poor before the Dissolution? Write them here and mark where they are on the map of monasteries in Buckinghamshire attached to this page:











Try to find out what happened to the following monasteries by searching on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal:Notley Abbey



What happened?

Notley Abbey


Snelshall Priory


Burnham Abbey




Grange Farm, QuaintonGranges

Monasteries often owned farms, or granges, but they were also sold or confiscated at the Dissolution. Search for the following granges on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal and the sources mentioned there and find out what happened to them at the Dissolution:



What happened?

Grange Farm, Quainton


Stewkley Grange


Grange Farm, Saunderton Lee


Temple Manor Farm, High Wycombe



Chetwode priory church, now the parish churchWhat affect did this have on the landscape?


Large areas of land that had once been owned by the monasteries were taken by the king and sold to the gentry and nobility.  Some monasteries were destroyed; some were converted into houses.


Do a search on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal and work out which monasteries are still standing. Mark where they are on the map of monasteries in Buckinghamshire attached to this page.The remains of Snelshall Priory 




How did people feel about the Dissolution?


Your class will be split into three groups. Each group will think about what it would feel like when the monasteries were dissolved in Henry VIII’s reign. One group will think about what the monks and nuns felt; one group will think about what the gentry and nobility felt and the last group will think about what the local people around the monasteries and nunneries felt. Remember to take into account everything you have learnt. Each group needs to devise a speech, performance or song to express how they feel as if they were presenting their feelings to King Henry VIII.


Go back to find more Changes in the landscape.