The Dissolution of Monasteries

Time required – 60 minutes

The ruins of Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire
The poignant ruins of Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire, which was 'Dissolved' and rendered uninhabitable by King Henry's Commissioners in 1538.

Today England’s landscape is littered with ruinous reminders of King Henry’s programme of 'Dissolution'. This fascinating presentation seeks to explain how and why this nationwide vandalism came about.

In 1534, an Act of Parliament confirmed England’s break from Rome and consolidated the role of Henry VIII who became Supreme Head of the Church of England. The presentation shows how the King took full advantage of his enhanced power and wealth by siphoning revenue from religious houses to the Royal coffers, primarily to fund military endeavours.

The programme looks at the enormous tracts of land owned and controlled by England’s medieval religious houses; it explains the gradual decline in the relationship between the English and the monasteries during the 14th and 15th centuries and shows how it culminated in Thomas Cromwell's purge of around 800 establishments.

The presentation looks at winners and losers between 1536 and 1540 and comments on the loss of some of England’s greatest treasures. It highlights the impact on society of the greatest transfer of property in the county’s history.

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