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Abbeys

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BATTLE ABBEY

Battle Abbey was built on the orders of William the Conqueror, in penance for the bloodshed, on the traditional site of where some of the fiercest fighting during the Battle of Hastings took place on 14th October 1066.  The high altar is supposed to mark the spot where Harold, last King of the English Saxons, fell.  The abbey was dissolved and largely ruined in 1558.  It then became a country house and, later, a school.  The school is still there and not normally open to the public, but the abbey ruins, which include store rooms and wonderful vaulted ceilings, can be visited and there is a particularly fine 14th century gatehouse.

The abbey is managed by English Heritage alongside the battlefield of 1066.

High Street, Battle
East Sussex
TN33 0AE
Medieval
Bodiam Castle, Bateman's
English Heritage
CARTMEL PRIORY

Apart from a gatehouse off Cartmel's village square, the Priory Church of St Mary and St Michael is all that remains of the priory founded in 1190 by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, and one of the premier knights of the realm. The Augustinian priory was dissolved in 1536, but, having nowhere else to worship, the village was allowed to keep the church. Hence, for a parish church, it is very grand - with an enormous east window and many fascinating features and fine monuments.

Cartmel
Cumbria
LA11 6PU
Medieval
Cartmel Priory website
Holker Hall, Levens, Sizergh Castle
Church authorities
CASTLE ACRE PRIORY

Impressive and extensive ruins, which include a virtually complete west range with the prior's lodging and several wonderful features - including a ceiling with original painted Tudor roses. The site is enormous, and varied. There's also an exhibition and a herb garden.

Castle Acre
King's Lynn
Norfolk
PE32 2XD
Medieval
English Heritage
EGGLESTONE ABBEY

The evocative ruins of a small Premonstratensian monastery in a picturesque location just above the River Tees. The monks that lived here were often short of money. It is a charming spot now; perhaps it was then too.

There is a small car park.  It is also possible to walk from Barnard Castle.

Bowes Village
Co Durham
DL12 9TN
Medieval
Egglestone Abbey
Barnard Castle, Bowes Museum
English Heritage
FOUNTAINS ABBEY

Atmospheric ruins of the great Cistercian abbey that stood here from the 12th century for 400 years.  Fountains Abbey is the largest monastic ruins in the United Kingdom.

Near Ripley
North Yorkshire
HG4 3DY
Medieval
Fountains in Yorkshire
Studley Royal
National Trust
FURNESS ABBEY

The ruins of one of the most impressive abbeys in the land - and in its day, one of the richest. Founded by Stephen, later King of England, the remains date mainly from the 12th and 13th centuries. As well as the abbey church and other buildings, there's a fascinating display of rare effigies of knights. Also on display is the 'Furness Crozier' and abbot's ring, excavated from a grave.

Manor Road
Barrow-in-Furness
Cumbria
LA13 0PJ
Medieval
The great abbey of Furness
Piel Island, Holker Hall, South Lakes Safari Zoo
English Heritage
GLASTONBURY ABBEY

The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey are associated with two famous legends: firstly that Joseph of Arimathea visited Glastonbury in the 1st century AD, planting his staff which grew into a thorn tree and, secondly, that Glastonbury is Avalon and the burial place of King Arthur and his Queen, Guinevere. There is a thorn tree on the site that, it is claimed, descends from Joseph's staff. And there is a grave that purports to be that of Arthur and Guinevere. The abbey is said to date from 7th century; by 1086, it was allegedly the richest monastery in England and, in the 14th century, only Westminster was wealthier. The community was dissolved on the orders of Henry VIII in 1539 and the last abbot, Richard Whiting, was hanged, drawn and quartered on nearby Glastonbury Tor.

Magdalen Street
Glastonbury
Somerset
BA6 9EL
Medieval
Glastonbury Abbey website
Glastonbury Tor
Independent
HOLYROOD ABBEY

The legend is that while King David I was hunting in the area he had a vision of a stag with a cross glowing between its antlers. Interpreting this as an act of God, the King declared that an abbey should be built on the same spot, and the Augustinian Abbey of the Holy Rood was accordingly founded in 1128. Holy Rood means ‘Holy Cross’, a fragment of which had allegedly been brought to Scotland by David’s mother, St Margaret, and kept at the Abbey until the 14th century.

Holyrood Abbey is part of the Palace of Holyroodhouse and can only be visited as part of a visit to the Palace.

Canongate
The Royal Mile,
Edinburgh
Lothian
EH8 8DX
Medieval
Royal Collection Trust
LEICESTER ABBEY

Leicester Abbey was an Augustinian House, founded by the 2nd Earl of Leicester, Robert le Bossu, in 1143. It is famous for being the place where Cardinal Wolsey died on 29 November 1530, on his way south to face the wrath of his king, Henry VIII, and a charge of treason. Wolsey was also buried in the abbey, but his remains have never been found.  The abbey was dissolved on Henry VIII’s orders in 1538 and the stones were re-used to construct what became Cavendish House, a mansion acquired by the Earl of Devonshire, William Cavendish, where Charles I lodged before the Battle of Naseby in 1645.  Cavendish House was plundered and destroyed by Royalist troops after the battle.  Though a massive complex in its heyday, the exact location of the abbey was lost until the 1920s/30s. The lines of its walls are now marked by low stone walls and there is a memorial to Wolsey near what would have been the high altar of the abbey church.

Abbey Park Road
Leicester
Leicestershire
LE4 5AQ
Medieval
Leicester City Council website
In Abbey Park, which includes gardens and leisure facilities
Local Authority
MUCHELNEY ABBEY

Muchelney Abbey was a Benedictine house, founded in 939AD - though religious buildings were on the site as early as the 8th, or possibly 7th, century. It was dissolved in 1538 and many of its materials were re-used in the adjacent parish church of St Peter and St Paul, and other local buildings. Most abbey buildings survive in outline only, but the monk's thatched lavatory building (reredorter) is exceptionally complete, there is a section of cloister and the abbot's early Tudor lodgings are virtually intact. Spot the Tudor rose painted on a ceiling more than 400 years ago.

Muchelney
Nr Langport
Somerset
TA10 0DQ
Tudor
Priest House in village, Montacute House
English Heritage