Boxley Abbey in Kent was a Cistercian monastery founded in about 1146 by William of Ypres, a Flemish nobleman who practically ran all of Kent under King Stephen and populated the abbey with monks from Claravalle, France. The abbey is perhaps most famous for a relic called the Rood of Grace, a wooden cross, the figure upon which was said to have been bestowed with the gifts of movement and speech. Indeed, during the 15thCentury, the abbey became known as ‘the abbey of the Holy Cross of Grace’. Its prized object’s ability to perform miracles, writes Archbishop Warham in a letter to Thomas Wolsey, makes it “much sought after by visitors to the Rood from all parts of the realm”. Geoffrey Chamber, a commissioner of Thomas Cromwell, charged with overseeing the closure of the church as part of King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries examined the relic and discovered it be a fake, observing the levers and wires that enacted the so-called miracles. This wasn’t an entirely uncommon practice according to Diarmaid MacCulloch, a biographer of Thomas Cromwell, who says that having movable parts, “for devotional and not fraudulent purposes”, were occasionally a feature of early religious statuary. Given its significance in the local community, the rood was taken down and displayed in Maidstone Market before being sent to London where it was hacked to pieces in front of St Paul’s Cathedral. The scandal rather suited the king’s purposes, doing little to improve the situation for the monasteries. In 1540, the site of the abbey and many of its manorial estates were granted to Sir Thomas Wyatt. Most of its property has since been demolished. Like many of the roads on the St Helier’s estate this is named after British monasteries and abbeys in remembrance of the area’s historic ownership by Westminster Abbey. The road names are in alphabetical order, of which Aberconway Road in the north west of the estate is first.
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