Erected on site of the Cistercian abbey founded 1135 by Walter Espec.

The patron was Walter Espec, who had founded the mother house and settled the new community on one of his inherited estates, on unprofitable wasteland, as its early name, St Mary de Sartis, implied, just the kind of remote, uninhabited sites specified by the founders of the Cistercian order. The first abbot, Simon, was a pupil of Aeldred, Abbot of Rievaulx. The success of the abbey may be inferred from the foundation of a daughter house, Sibton Abbey, Suffolk, as soon as 1150. The village of Old Warden, Bedfordshire grew up under the Abbey's protection. Great accumulated Cistercian wealth enabled Wardon Abbey to be rebuilt on a grand scale in the early fourteenth century, with complex tiling in carpet-patterns and pictorial vignettes pieced together in shaped tiles that approached a boldly scaled mosaic.[5] Gilding of the carved details was so lavishly laid on that in 1848, after demolition and burial, recovered fragments retained their brightness. By 1252 the monks had more land under cultivation than they could work by their own labour in the early Cistercian way: nineteen granges were recorded in that year. From the orchards at Wardon came the Warden pear, rated the best of English pears, and so distinctive that a pie made from them was a "wardon pie": "I must have Saffron to colour the Warden Pies" (Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale iv.3). In Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, edited by Thomas Austin for the Early English Text Society (Original Series, Volume 91), a recipe is given  for Quyncis or Wardouns in past.

The later fourteenth century was a period of retrenchment and decline, in the wake of the Black Death. Wardon Abbey was dissolved in 1537 under Henry VIII, and the estate was sold for £389 16s 6d. The new owner demolished most of the buildings in 1552 to sell the materials, and then built a new red brick mansion, bearing the name Warden Abbey House. Later in 1790, the remaining part of this Tudor house was pulled down by its owners, the Whitbreads of nearby Southill,  leaving only a north-east wing, which still stands today. The Landmark Trust rescued the building from dereliction in 1974 and renovated it in exchange for a long lease; it can now be rented for holidays.

None of the religious of Bedfordshire suffered more severely from the outrages and brutal violence of Fawkes de Bréauté than did the monks of Warden. They dared to dispute with him the ownership of a certain grove, and he set upon them with his retainers, killing one and wounding others; and finally dragged about thirty of them 'through the mud' to his castle at Bedford. But even Fawkes de Bréauté was sometimes aware that he had gone too far; not long afterwards he submitted to penance in the assembled chapter of the monastery, and gave up the disputed grove.  At the siege of the castle the monks of Warden sustained further losses from injuries done to their woods by the royal forces; but these were carefully made up to them by the king. In 1254 the abbot (perhaps Alexander de Reynes, whose name occurs in 1259, or William de Sheldwick, his predecessor) had the courage to attack another enemy of the public peace— William de Beauchamp, son of the founder of Newnham Priory. As many as seventeen writs were issued by the abbot against him before the justices itinerant at Bedford: and when he contemptuously refused to answer any of these, the case was carried before Richard, Earl of Cornwall ( Richard of Cornwall 1209-1272 son of King John  of Magna Carta fame ), then guardian of the kingdom, and William's barony was seized in consequence.

Alternative spellings Sir Falkes de Breauté (died 1226) (also spelled Fulk de Brent) was an Anglo-Norman soldier.

Breauté rose to power during the First Barons' War as an unquestioning subject of King John, earning the hate of baronial and monastic leaders alike. He earned the title of John's steward in 1215, a title he kept until the following year.[4] On 28 November 1215, de Breauté captured Hanslope, Buckinghamshire, a castle of William Mauduit, and he soon after captured Bedford Castle belonging to William de Beauchamp, and in reward was allowed to keep it.

  • The emphasis of Cistercian life is on manual labour and self-sufficiency, and many abbeys have traditionally supported themselves through activities such as agriculture and brewing ales
  • The term Cistercian (French Cistercien), derives from Cistercium,[2] the Latin name for the village of Cîteaux, near Dijon in eastern France.
  • The Cistercians were adversely affected in England by the Protestant Reformation, the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII, the French Revolution in continental Europe, and the revolutions of the 18th century, but some survived and the order recovered in the 19th century. In 1891 certain abbeys formed a new Order called Trappists (Ordo Cisterciensium Strictioris Observantiae – OCSO), which today exists as an order distinct from the Common Observance.