Act for the Dissolution

of the

lesser Monasteries


Parliament met Feb 4, 1536; it received a digest of the report of the monastic visitors, and soon after passed the first Act of Suppression, dealing with the lesser monasteries, and covering, retrospectively, previous suppressions.
[Transc. Statutes of the Realm, III, 575.]

Forasmuch as manifest sin, vicious, carnal and abominable living is daily used and committed among the little and small abbeys, priories and other religious houses of monks, canons, and nuns, where the congregation of such religious persons is under the number of twelve persons, whereby the governors of such religious houses, and their convent, spoil, destroy, consume, and utterly waste, as well their churches, monasteries, priories, principal houses, farms, granges, lands tenements, and hereditaments, as the ornaments of their churches, and their goods and chattels, to the great infamy of the King's highness and the realm, if redress should not be had thereof.  And albeit that many continual visitations hath been heretofore had, by the space of two hundred years and more, for an honest and charitable reformation of such unthrifty, carnal, and abominable living, yet nevertheless little or none amendment is hitherto had, but their vicious little shamelessly increases and augments, and by a cursed custom so rooted and infested, that a great multitude of the religious persons in such small houses do rather choose to rove abroad in apostasy, than to conform themselves to the observation of good religion; so that without such small houses be utterly suppressed, and the religious persons therein committed to great and honourable monasteries of religion in this realm, where they may be compelled to live religiously for the reformation of their lives, there cannot else be no reformation in this behalf.

In consideration whereof, the King's most royal majesty--being supreme head on earth, under God, of the Church of England, daily finding and devising the increase, advancement, and exaltation of true doctrine and virtue in the said Church, to the only glory and honour of God, and the total extirping and destruction of vice and sin, having knowledge that the premises be true, as well by the accounts of his late visitations, as by sundry credible informations, considering also that divers and great solemn monasteries of this realm, wherein (thanks be to God) religion is right well kept and observed, be destitute of such full numbers of religious persons, as they ought and may keep--has thought good that a plain declaration should be made of the premises, as well to the Lords spiritual and temporal, as to other his loving subjects, the Commons, in this present Parliament assembled; whereupon the said Lords and Commons , by a great deliberation, finally be resolved, that it is and shall be much more to the pleasure of Almighty God, and for the honour of this his realm, that the possessions of such religious houses, now being spent, spoiled, and wasted for increase and maintenance of sin, should be used and converted to better uses, and the unthrifty religious persons so spending the same, to be compelled to reform their lives;  And thereupon most humbly desire the King's highness that it may be enacted by authority of this present Parliament, that his majesty shall have and enjoy to him and to his heirs for ever, all and singular such monasteries, priories, and other religious houses of monks, canons, and nuns, of what kinds or diversities of habits, rules, or orders soever they be called. . .manors, lands, tenements, rents, services, reversions, tithes, pensions, portions, churches, chapels, advowsons, patrinages, rights, entries, conditions, and all other interests and hereditaments to the same monasteries, abbeys, and priories, or to any of them appertaining or belonging; to have and to hold all and singular the premises, with all their rights, profits, jurisdictions, and commodities, unto the King's majesty, and to his heirs and assigns for ever, to do and use therewith his and their own wills, to the pleasure of Almighty God, and to honour and profit of this realm...

And it is also enacted, by... King's highness shall have and enjoy to his own proper use, all the ornaments, jewels, goods, chattels, and debts, which appertained to any of the chief governors of the said monasteries. . .appertaining to any monasteries, abbeys, or priories heretofore given to the King's highness, or otherwise suppressed or dissolved, or which appertain to any of the monasteries, abbeys, priories, other religious houses that shall have and enjoy the said sites, circuits, manors, lands. . .and also his majesty will ordain and provide that the convents of every such religious house shall have their capacities, if they will, to live honestly and virtuously abroad, and some convenient charity disposed to them towards their living, or else shall be committed to such honourable great monasteries of this realm wherein good religion is observed, as shall be limited by his highness, there to live religiously during their lives; and it is ordained by the authority aforesaid, that the chief governors and convents of such honourable great  monasteries shall take and accept into their houses, from time to time, such number of the persons of the said convents as shall be assigned and appointed by the King's highness, and keep them religiously, during their lives, within their said monasteries, in like manner and form as the convents of such great monasteries be ordered and kept.

The King will pay the debts of the suppressed monasteries... The King by grant, may continue undissolved and religious house... Monasteries to keep up hospitality and husbandry as before accustomed...

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