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A monastery of the Cistercian Order, situated on the left bank of the Rainworth Water, about two miles south of Ollerton in Nottinghamshire, was founded by Gilbert de Gant in or about 1147, and colonized with monks from Rievaulx abbey. Gilbert endowed it with the manor of Rufford, and shortly afterwards added "Cratil" (Wellow), Barton, and Willoughby; these donations were confirmed by Stephen and Henry II, who also granted exemption from certain tolls and customs. Other benefactions followed and the abbey grew rich enough to be required in 1310 to supply victuals for Edward II's expedition to Scotland, and to be asked in 1319 for a contribution towards making good the losses suffered by the Archbishop of York through the Scottish war; yet in 1409 it escaped payment of a tenth to the king on the ground of extreme poverty. The published lists of abbots, in Dugdale and the Victoria County History, begin with Philip de Kyme, a well-known Lincolnshire magnate, whose inclusion is due to a mis-punctuation in a Pontefract charter. Both lists also omit the following early abbots: Gamellus, who occurs as witness to a Kirkstead charter of 1148-49 (Dugdale, V, 420) and is eulogized in two epitaphs contained in a Rufford manuscript now in the British Museum (Tit. D. xxiv, ff., 81b, 88); Elias (1156 and 1160), in Bulls of Adrian IV and Alexander III (Harl. Ch. 111, A.2,5); Matthew (c. 1170-80), in various undated charters (Harl. MS. 1063, ff. 10b, 65b, etc.); William, oc. between 1189-95 ("Reg. of Abp. W. Gray", Surtees Soc., p. 39); Walter, 1212 (Harl. MS. 1063, f. 66); Robert, 1228 (ib., f. 127b); John, c. 1260-70 (ibid., f. 22b). The last abbot but one, Rowland Blyton, or Bliton, left Rufford in 1533 to become Abbot of Rievaulx. His successor, Thomas Doncaster, was given a pension of £25 at the dissolution in 1536; but relinquished it within a few months on becoming rector of Rotherham. The dissolved abbey, with its estates, valued at £246 15s. 5d. yearly, was granted in 1537 to George Talbot, fourth Earl of Shrewsbury. On the death of Edward, eighth earl, in 1618, it passed to Sir George Savile through his marriage with Lady Mary Talbot; and it has remained ever since in the possession of the Savile family, the present owner being John, Lord Savile. The remains of the monastic buildings are incorporated in the modern mansion.
DUGDALE, Monast. Anglicanum, V (1825), 517-21; PAGE, Victoria History of co. Nottingham, ii (1910), 101-5; WARNER AND ELLIS, Facsimiles of Brit. Mus. Charters, I (1903), no. 48; authorities cited, especially Harl. MS. 1063, a seventeenth cent. transcript of Abbot John Lyle's chartulary compiled in 1471.