The goode lorde primere fundator and Chanon of the Monastery of Seint Augustines be Bristowe began the fundacion of the same in the yere of our Lord MCXL

Abbot John Newland, 1481-1515

St Augustine's Abbey, founded in 1140 by the wealthy and powerful nobleman Robert Fitzharding, was the richest and most important religious house in medieval Bristol.

The abbey was situated on the opposite side of the River Frome to the medieval town on Robert's lands at Billeswick. It was established as a place of piety and worship for a highly respected religious order of Augustinian canons (monks), also known as the 'Black Cannons' after the long black cassocks and hoods they wore.

When the canons outgrew their existing buildings, Robert, King Henry II and other wealthy patrons funded a grand abbey-church and other buildings. These were built to the west of the original site and included the chapter and gatehouse that survive today. By 1170 the new church building was complete enough to be dedicated by the Bishops of Worcester, Exeter, Llandaff and St Asaph.

Robert continued to support the abbey throughout his life and granted it generous estates to help fund it. A few years before his death Robert became a cannon at St Augustine's Abbey and was buried there.

The abbey was in use until 1539 when it was dissolved by King Henry VIII. Later, elements of it became part of the new Bristol Cathedral.