Chapter Seven: The Founding of St Mary’s Abbey, Stanley Park
A major contributory factor to the demise of all three attempts at founding Depedale Priory was lack of funding. The de Grendon family was comfortably off, but it took considerable wealth to found, build and adequately endow an abbey. A new benefactor was required, and manifested itself in the person of William FitzRalph.
William was the son of Ralph FitzGeremund who first met the Hermit, the brother of Serlo I and the uncle of William de Grendon. He became an important, influential, and presumably wealthy man, being Sheriff of Nottingham and Derby between 1168 and 1180 and frequently attending the king in the years between 1170 and 80. In his later years he was also Seneschal of Normandy.
It appears that William FitzRalph obtained from William de Grendon, lord of Ockbrook, a grant in free alms of the adjoining [sic] Depedale and its buildings, together with an annual rent of six shillings on condition that the refectory provide bread and beer for the poor and masses be said for William and his family in the chapel of Depedale. He seems also to have bought Stanley village from Nicholas Chylde of Trowell to give to his daughter Matilda (of whom also more later) but then to have sold it to her husband Geoffrey de Salicosa Mara for £100 seven years after he married Matilda. This may have beena fictional sale in order to put the Abbey on a securer legal footing.
Whatever the mechanism of funding the fledgling abbey, it seems likely that William FitzRalph conferred with William de Grendon and co-founded St Mary’s Abbey, but took no part in the actual setting up of the monastery, since he was a busy and important man. He was possibly also an elderly or infirm man by this stage, as the founding charter is dated 1196, and he was deadby the end of the century. The tomb at the east end of St Margaret's Chapel in the abbey may well be his final resting-place. He was aided in the venture by the Salicosa Maras.
Royal assent was given to the founding in a charter dated 1st April 1196: it’s possible that this was given to the Welbeck canons, but Professor Colvin implied that it was the Newhouse ones. The precise date of the founding of the abbey is the matter for some conjecture, but the most reliable sources say 1199 or 1200. For this major new initiative of founding an abbey in Stanley Park, canons from Newhouse Abbey in Lincolnshire were summoned.