In 1182, Sir Ranulf de Granville had established an abbey at nearby Minsmere. Minsmere however is marsh land and 200 years later after numerous floodings it was decided to move the abbey to Leiston. As Suffolk does not have many quarries it was decided to dismantle and move much of the stone from Minsmere in order to build the new abbey at Leiston. All that remains of the monastic estate at Minsmere is a ruined chapel that has recently been excavated and conserved.

The order of Augustinian Canons who lived at Leiston were know as the White Canons after their white habits. They remained at Leiston until all monasteries were dissolved by King Henry VIII. After this time the Abbey fell into disrepair, the stone was looted to build other buildings and by the 1920's it was a farmyard.

In 1928 the Abbey ruins and farm was bought by Miss Ellen Wrightson for use as a religious retreat. When she died in 1946, she bequeathed the house, ruins, land and buildings to the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. It was purchased in 1977 by the
Pro Corda Trust.

Since that time the buildings have been saved from further looting and the ruins are now in the care of English Heritage. Open to the public all year round, free of charge, donations accepted.