Friday, 28 March 2014

Buckland Abbey, Devon

Buckland Abbey is tucked away in its own secluded valley above the River Tavy on the Devon side of the Tamar Valley. A Cistercian Abbey which was founded in 1278 by Amicia, Countess of Devon. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries King Henry Vlll sold it to Sir Richard Grenville who converted it into a residence with the help of his son Roger. Whilst Roger was Captain of King Henry Vlll's flagship, the ill fated Mary Rose, he drowned. When Sir Richard died the property and title passed to his grandson, another Richard, who continued the renovations. Young Richard, a swashbuckling seafarer, took part in the early English attempts to settle the New World, and participated in the fight against the Spanish Armada, dying in 1591 at the Battle of Flores.

The Revenge
A Ballad of the Fleet
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay,
And a pinnace, like a fluttered bird, came flying from far away:
'Spanish ships of war at sea! We have sighted fifty-three!'
Then sware Lord Thomas Howard: "Fore God I am no coward;
But I cannot meet them here, for my ships are out of gear,
And half my men are sick. I must fly, but follow quick.
We are six ships of the line; can we fight with fifty-three?"

The rest of the Ballad can be read here
Swashbuckling Sir Richard Grenville aged 29 years in 1571
National Portrail Gallery
Buckland Abbey eventally became the home of another great seafarer, Sir Francis Drake, Grenville's cousin. It remained with the Drake family until it was given to the National Trust.
Sir Francis Drake 
The Great Barn is one of the largest medieval barns remaining in the country - it would have been filled and emptied many, many times. Piled high at harvest time with grains, apples and root vegetables. Later in the year, sacks of flour would take their place along with barrels of cider, and during the late spring bundles of sheep fleeces.
Here it is possible to see where the original church crossing was removed
Window etchings celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Armada in 1988
A page from a Medieval Antiphonal - a winter choir book giving the sung parts of the service for each day until Pentecost - the manuscript was made in Italy around 1390.
This window is in The Drake's Chamber which was probably used as a bedroom or study. Following a fire the ceiling has been given a new hand crafted plasterwork ceiling part of which shows medieval bee skeps.
Rembrandt self portrait
In 2008 the National Trust were gifted six Dutch paintings. The highlight of the generous donation was a painting that could be a 'lost' Rembrandt. It arrived at Buckland Abbey in 2010 where it has been hanging in the Georgian dining room. Ernst van de Wetering, Dutch art historian and Chair of the Rembrandt Research Project in Amsterdam, visited Buckland Abbey to study the self portrait. He was convinced that the painting is an authentic Rembrandt work. Currently it is undergoing tests by a specialist team at the University of Cambridge that will include things such as x-rays, dendrochronology and analysis of the pigments used. 
Look up and down!
In the kitchen, cooks were making an authentic Tudor meal, one of which was Chicken in Almond Milk. Recipe below if you fancy giving it a try.
The Great Hall is positioned within the centre of the original crossing area in the church, and is the most lavishly remodelled room in Grenville's conversion. The beautiful 16th century floor tiles are thought to have been imported from Holland. The floor level is above that of the original church, as it is where a number of monks remain buried.
The property has always had access to its own spring water 

46 comments:

  1. A very well preserved medieval building with a lot of history connected to it. Especially love the barn with those magnificent wooden beams.

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    1. Dear Marian - the great barn is very impressive, its proportion feel similar to being in a cathedral.

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  2. Lovely photos and very interesting history.
    Amazing how it still stands in good condition.

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    1. You are right, when you consider that it is almost 800 years old - I wonder how much of what we build today will still be standing in 800 years time.

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  3. Hello Rosemary, A remarkable house, especially that barn. I wonder are those the original beams, or from a restoration? My favorite aspect of this house is the setting--lots of stone and green lawns. The fact that it is not overly polished or elaborate adds to its charm for me.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - because of the setting you do feel as if you are stepping back in time - there are no intrusions anywhere to be seen from modern day living.
      The beams in the great barn are original - made of oak, which over the centuries becomes as hard as concrete.

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  4. What a stunning place - one I've heard much about but never visited. Of course your photographs bring it to life - they're so artistic and technically good, and succeed in conveying the atmosphere of the place, so I could think, "yes, this is what it really IS like being in a house of this age!" I particularly liked the image shot through the archway, and the wonderful looking-down-the-stairwell pictures.
    I have tried several Tudor recipes, some of which are very nice. Others are odd. This is not one of the odd ones - and look very make-able. I'll give it a try.

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    1. Oh good! Jenny, I am pleased you are going to give it a try. I intend doing so myself too - I can imagine almonds being pleasant with chicken.
      You are very kind about my photos, unfortunately, although warm, the clouds rolled in, but that is England in March isn't it?

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  5. That barn roof is just amazing...and the photos of the staircases are brilliant Rosemary. Another wonderful place to wander around. Jx

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    1. My first visit to this property Janice - there are so many interesting houses and gardens to see in our little country. Since I have been recording them it has really struck home to me just what a lot there are.

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  6. Thanks for the tour, Rosemary. I love all of your photos, but especially the ones looking up and down the staircase. Wonderful! Love the arches and barn, too.

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    1. The Abbey was built in a remote valley all by itself, and so it remains even today.
      Glad you enjoyed seeing it.

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  7. So many lovely images, as usual Rosemary. Thank you for the tour.
    Jean

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    1. We would probably never have ended up there if it had not been recommended to us. It was a little bit off the beaten track, hence its unspoilt ambience.

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  8. Thank you for sharing this interesting, well-preserved place, Rosemary. Beautiful. Happy weekend!

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    1. It really is in very good order when you consider that it is nearly 800 years old. Hope your weekend is good Satu - will you be in your garden?

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  9. Dear Rosemary,

    I can't decide which I like better, the portrait of young Richard Grenville or that ceiling of bees. I like what I see of the interiors, but have to admit that the exterior still looks like a monastery!

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    1. You are right Mark - there is no getting away from its ecclesiastical origins. I think I would select the portrait, if I had a choice. He looks very dashing, and did you notice those wonderful ostrich feathers on his helmet.

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  10. Rosemary, you are doing an excellent job of giving me a tour of my own county around the places I have not yet been. Buckland Abbey was on our list last year but we didn't quite make it. Mike was particularly keen because of the Drake connection. You certainly travelled about on your trip. Where did you stay?

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    1. It is surprising what you can fit in during a few days especially when you are not having to do any cooking or chores. We stayed near the Lost Gardens, but did Castle Drogo on the way down through Devon, and Knightshayes on the way back. We usually stay at Carbis Bay, but this gave us access to some different properties and gardens.

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  11. I love the bee-themed plaster ceiling. How wonderful that we still have craftsmen who can produce this work!

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    1. The whole ceiling was a work of art - it was crisp and very detailed.

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  12. I adore those bee skeps in the ceiling - fabulous!! I love how the rings at the top intertwine. That would make a brilliant logo. Thanks for this tour, Rosemary.

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    1. I loved that way the bee skeps were just like mine - end of March it is time for mine to go out into the garden now.

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  13. Looks like a Rembrandt to me. I hope the researches find it to be so. What a coup. And what a beautiful ceiling in that barn. Amazing woodwork. I also love the stone work and the gorgeous windows. Thanks for sharing this, Rosemary.

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    1. There were so many lovely things to see here Yvette, it is as if time stood still with its remoteness and lack of any intrusions from modern day life.

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  14. Another wonderful post Rosemary, so full of history and nice things to see. The bee-skep mouldings are beautiful, and these days, I think of you whenever I spot them anywhere! The 1390 music is fascinating (you know I sing in choirs), and I can barely read it, it is so different from today. Do tell us if you try the recipe which looks delicious and actually quite modern! And you have reminded me very well of the day we went to see the Mary Rose in Portsmouth about 10 years ago. It gave me the shivers to see something which had been under the sea all those centuries. And here is the house of the captain! Thank you for showing it all.

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    1. You have done more than me Patricia, for I have yet to visit the Mary Rose. They now have a 'supa dupa' museum that opened last year where it is housed. The final stages of the conservation of the Mary Rose have now begun.
      I think that the music shown is known as Medieval Plain Song - a type of chanting song that was often sung by Monks.

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  15. Loved the tour of this wonderful and interesting abbey . The chicken recipe doesn't seem bad :-) Have a nice weekend.

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    1. I do intend to give the recipe a try at some time - the flavours should be interesting and a bit different.

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  16. Thank you for this interesting post - I never get to this part of the world so am grateful for your visits to these fine places so full of delights and historical interest.

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    1. I agree that Cornwall & Devon are not the easiest places to visit unless you live on the west side of the country.

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  17. Very interesting and so beautiful pictures...I just love your blog!
    Have a great weekend, we have a sunny and warn day here on the island...
    Love,
    Titti

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    1. Dear Titti - thank you so much for your kind comment - you have just made my day♡

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  18. Dear Rosemary,
    so brilliant photos, so lovingly - and expertly - presented, thank you! Your post always make me want to throw away the work I'm sitting at and hurry over to look for myself - beautiful England!

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    1. Dear Britta - I am sure that soon you will be having a break, especially now the better weather is on its way - leisurely tootling along some canals maybe!
      Thank you for your kind comment about the photos - sometimes they work, other times they don't.

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  19. Another interesting post, Rosemary with so much art and architecture to look at and think about. Of course, I had to go back to the original building and it's use and the characters associated with those times - tracing back the family tree. The lady, Amicia, Countess of Devon, caught my imagination and the fact that monks are still buried on the site.
    The grounds all look very unspoilt and I'm sure you were interested in the bee keeping aspect.

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    1. Dear Linda - my impression was that the grounds have really hardly changed over the centuries, and that is why it felt like stepping back in time.
      It is surprising how many of the Abbeys were founded by aristocratic women - I am reminded of my visit to Lacock Abbey at the end of January which was founded by Ela, Countess of Salisbury.

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  20. Thank you for a lovely tour of Buckland Abbey. Brilliant photos and I love the gardens too.

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    1. Several people have mentioned the gardens which appear to be a feature that has remained the same over hundreds of years. It gave the whole place a timelessness which felt untouched by the modern world.

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  21. Rosemary you have been visiting some interesting places recently and I have thoroughly enjoyed the virtual tours. I must give some serious thought to a road trip to explore some of these places for myself, thasnks for wetting my appetite.

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    1. We tend to dash off to other places, but really there is so much on our own doorstep. I do hope that you do manage to visit some of the properties and gardens for yourself.

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  22. What a fascinating place with such a wonderful history. I remember learning 'The Revenge' in school! The Great Barn is fabulous, I can imagine it full of the harvest; and the grounds and surroundings look beautiful.
    I really love the bees and the bee skeps on the ceiling - that would be my choice of plasterwork, too!

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    1. Dear Wendy - Poor Sir Richard Grenville - my husband also learnt The Revenge at school, and he began reciting it to me as we wandered around.
      I thought that you would also enjoy the ceiling.

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  23. We have passed the turning to Buckland Abbey so many times over the last decade. You have shown us what we have missed. Next time we will have to visit there!
    Sarah x

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    1. There is something special about Buckland Abbey - it is as if time forgot.

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