Forde Abbey


Joined June 2008

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Forde Abbey is a privately owned former Cistercian monastery in Dorset, England. The house and gardens are run as a tourist attraction while the 1,600-acre (6.5 km2) estate is farmed to provide additional revenue. Forde Abbey is a Grade I listed building.

Between 1133-36, wealthy nobleman Richard de Brioniis built a priory on his land at Brightley (meaning “bright” or “clear” pasture) and invited Gilbert, Abbot of Waverley in Surrey, to send 12 monks to form a new Cistercian community there. One story is that the agricultural land surrounding the new priory was insufficiently fertile, forcing the monks to consider returning to the mother house in 1141. However, Adelicia de Brioniis, the sister of Richard and successor to his estate, offered them an alternative site close to the River Axe in the manor of Thorncombe. Here, between 1141–48, they built a new priory which came to be known as “Ford” due to its proximity to an old river crossing. The monastery was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

John of Ford (c. 1140 – 21 April 1214) was the prior of Forde Abbey, then from 1186 abbot of its daughter house of Bindon, and between 1191 and 1214 the abbot of Forde. He was a friend and ally of King John during the papal interdict, receiving remuneration from the king. The foundation grew and became very wealthy, eventually possessing lands over 30,000 acres (120 km2) by the 14th century. The third abbot, Abbot Baldwin, became Archbishop of Canterbury. Abbot Chard, the last abbot of Forde at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, surrendered the abbey to the Crown peacefully in 1539. The abbey buildings and lands were leased to Richard Pollard. For a century, the abbey was neglected and parts of the buildings were demolished to provide stone for other construction. In 1649, the estate was purchased by Edmund Prideaux (died 1659), Member of Parliament for Lyme Regis. He supported the Parliamentary cause during the English Civil War and was the attorney-general for most of the Interregnum. He made a fortune practising law and running the Parliamentary postal service. Having purchased the property he converted the buildings into his private home.

The house remained largely unchanged during the 18th century, though the gardens were created during this period. In 1815, the house was rented to the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. During the 19th century the house was owned by a succession of owners, some of whom neglected the house while others attempted to renovate it. In 1905, the cousin of the last owner inherited the house and moved in with her husband Freeman Roper, whose descendants still own and occupy the house and estates.

Camera Olympus E-30, Focal length 14.0mm,
Shutter speed 1/640s, f/5.6. ISO200

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