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.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
High Street, Battle
County
East Sussex
Post Code
TN33 0AE
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Tip/Nearby
Bodiam Castle, Bateman's
Primary Management
English Heritage
BAYHAM OLD ABBEY

The ruins of Bayham Old Abbey are relatively remote – and would have been even more so when it was founded in 1208 by Robert de Thurnham, for the Premonstratensian order of ‘white canons’.  The abbey existed for 300 years until being dissolved by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525.  Wolsey wanted to use its endowments for other causes, such as founding colleges.  The closure provoked local fury.  On 4 June 1525 over a hundred men with painted faces, armed with longbows, crossbows, swords and clubs, assembled at the abbey in an attempt to reinstate the evicted canons. They stormed the abbey gatehouse and temporarily restored the community, but it made no difference.  The estate was eventually sold off and the buildings were left to decay. The Pratt family bought the estate in 1714 and part of their house overlooks the ruins.

Bayham is reckoned to be the best surviving example of a Premonstratensian abbey in England.  There are extensive, and interesting, ruins in a picturesque setting.  The abbey church is distinctly narrow – a hallmark of the Premonstratensians, apparently.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Furnace Lane
Little Bayham
Nr Lamberhurst
County
Kent
Post Code
TN3 8LP
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Useful Website Address
Tip/Nearby
Sissinghurst Castle, Scotney Castle, the Weald, Tonbridge
Primary Management
English Heritage
BOLTON ABBEY

Bolton Abbey is an estate about 6 miles east of Skipton that is owned by the Cavendish family, the Dukes of Devonshire.  Much of it is open to the public (there is a charge for parking), offering the opportunity for a dip in the river in good weather, as well as miles of family-friendly picturesque walks by the riverside and through ancient woodland..  The estate is named for Bolton Priory, which was founded on the banks of the River Wharfe in the 12th century by the Augustinian order, and which was dissolved in 1540.  The ruins of the east end of the abbey church are still there, but the west end is still a functioning church.  The estate includes Bolton Hall (a private residence), Barden Tower (a ruined 16th century hunting lodge), tea rooms and the Devonshire Arms hotel.

Location/Address
Nr Skipton
County
North Yorkshire
Post Code
BD23 6EX
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Useful Website Address
Tip/Nearby
Embsay Steam Railway, Yorkshire Dales
Primary Management
Private - open to the public
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.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Cartmel
County
Cumbria
Post Code
LA11 6PU
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Useful Website Address
Tip/Nearby
Holker Hall, Levens, Sizergh Castle
Primary Management
Church authorities
CASTLE ACRE PRIORY

The ruins of Castle Acre Priory are impressive and extensive. They include a virtually complete west range with the prior's lodging and several wonderful features - including a ceiling with original painted Tudor roses. There's also an exhibition and a herb garden.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Castle Acre
King's Lynn
County
Norfolk
Post Code
PE32 2XD
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Primary Management
English Heritage
CREAKE ABBEY

The flint ruins of the crossing arch from Creake Abbey’s church are pretty much all that remains of a medieval Augustinian house.  And it’s a sad tale.  The abbey probably began as a small chapel founded in 1206 by Sir Robert and Lady Alice de Nerford. In 1217, they established a hospital of St Bartholomew there, which developed into a priory dedicated to the rule of St Augustine.  A devastating fire in about 1484 left the place much reduced.  Then, early in the 16th century, the plague struck; one by one, the canons died until only the abbot remained.  When he too died, alone on 12 December 1506, the abbey closed.  The cloister and monastic buildings became a private house and the south wall of the old nave is now the garden wall.

Under separate management, Creake Abbey is also home to a small retail complex, with a café, food hall and farmers’ market.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Burnham Road
North Creake
Fakenham
County
Norfolk
Post Code
NR21 9LF
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Tip/Nearby
Walsingham Abbey, Holkham Hall, north Norfolk coast.
Primary Management
English Heritage
Crowland Abbey

Croyland, or Crowland, Abbey was a monastery first founded in the early 8th C by Ethelbald, King of Mercia from 716-757, on the site of the hermitage of St Guthlac.  It was destroyed by the Danes in 866 and re-founded as a Benedictine abbey in the mid-tenth century. From the 10th to the 15th centuries the monastic buildings were extended and rebuilt and the abbey was one of the wealthiest in East Anglia. It was dissolved in 1539 and the monastic buildings demolished, with the exception of the nave and aisles of the abbey church which were taken into use as the parish church. During the 17th C Civil War, the church served as a Royalist stronghold, defended by earthworks.  The nave and south aisle of the church fell into disrepair in the 18th C and parish use became restricted to the north aisle, which remains the case today. Both the existing church and ruins have some fascinating features.  As well as the visible remains, the site is also important as that of a pre-conquest monastery, the buried remains of the Anglo-Saxon hermitage and monastery, the medieval monastic buildings and the Civil War defences.

Crowland is also known as the likely home of the Croyland Chronicle, a unique primary source for English medieval history.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
46 East Street
Crowland
Peterborough
County
Lincolnshire
Post Code
PE6 0EN
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Link to featured article
Useful Website Address
Tip/Nearby
Don't miss Trinity Bridge in Crowland
Primary Management
Church Authorities
Culross Abbey

Culross Abbey was founded by Malcolm, earl of Fife in 1217-1218 as a daughter house of the Cistercian monastery at Kinloss. The abbey church was built soon after, with work continuing into the 1300s. The abbey had a reputation for producing fine books, but monastic life came to an end with the Reformation of 1560. The choir and presbytery of the abbey church were taken over as the parish church, but most of the abbey buildings fell into ruin, so little remains. What there is is fascinating, however (including a climb up a ladder into the remains of the vaulted refectory). The church itself is cruciform and contains several items of particular interest. Probably the most impressive is the Bruce Vault, built in 1642, which houses the marble memorial to Sir George Bruce, builder of Culross Palace, and his wife. The memorial includes eight kneeling statues, representing the couple's children, in front of the memorial. There are also the effigies of a knight in armour and a lady, John Stewart of Innermeath, Lord of Lorn, and his wife, dating from 1445 but badly defaced during the Reformation.

There are rumours of ghosts.  And a legend of a tunnel beneath the abbey, where a man in a golden chair sits waiting to give valuable treasures to anyone who succeeds in finding him.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Kirk Street
Culross
County
Fife
Post Code
KY12 8JD
Main Historic Period
Tudor
Link to featured article
Tip/Nearby
Culross Palace, St Mungo's Chapel
Primary Management
Historic Scotland
EGGLESTONE ABBEY

Egglestone Abbey - the evocative ruins of a small Premonstratensian monastery sit 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.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Bowes Village
County
Co Durham
Post Code
DL12 9TN
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Link to featured article
Tip/Nearby
Barnard Castle, Bowes Museum
Primary Management
English Heritage
FOUNTAINS ABBEY

Atmospheric ruins of the great Cistercian abbey that stood here from the 12th century for 400 years, adjoining Studley Royal Water Garden and park.  The extensive remains of Fountains Abbey are the largest monastic ruins in the United Kingdom.

Location/Address
Near Ripley
County
North Yorkshire
Post Code
HG4 3DY
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Link to featured article
Tip/Nearby
Studley Royal
Primary Management
National Trust

This is a growing listings directory – over 950 entries have been listed as of September 2022. 

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