Ancient Monuments

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Forde Abbey

A Scheduled Monument in Thorncombe, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.8422 / 50°50'32"N

Longitude: -2.9109 / 2°54'39"W

OS Eastings: 335959.541025

OS Northings: 105141.272384

OS Grid: ST359051

Mapcode National: GBR M9.W8C9

Mapcode Global: FRA 46SW.3RJ

Entry Name: Forde Abbey

Scheduled Date: 1 January 1900

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002347

English Heritage Legacy ID: DO 853

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Thorncombe

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset


Part of Forde Abbey.

Source: Historic England


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 18 February 2016. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

This monument includes part of the Cistercian Forde Abbey situated on the southern valley side of the River Axe. The part of the abbey which is not otherwise still occupied by standing and Grade I Listed buildings includes the church, northern cloister and additional features to the east of the church which all survive as entirely buried structures, layers and deposits with no visible surface remains buried beneath the formal lawns and gardens of the Grade II* Registered Park and Garden. The original abbey was founded in 1136 by Richard Fitzbaldwin but the original site at Brightley proved to be unsuitable so it was moved to this location in 1141 and was dissolved in 1539. Most of the original buildings connected with the abbey were converted into a country house by Edmund Prideaux in 1649.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

From the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597 to the reign of Henry VIII, monasticism formed an important facet of both religious and secular life in the British Isles. Settlements of religious communities, including monasteries, were built to house communities of monks, canons (priests), and sometimes lay-brothers, living a common life of religious observance under some form of systematic discipline. It is estimated from documentary evidence that over 700 monasteries were founded in England. These ranged in size from major communities with several hundred members to tiny establishments with a handful of brethren. They belonged to a wide variety of different religious orders, each with its own philosophy. As a result, they vary considerably in the detail of their appearance and layout, although all possess the basic elements of church, domestic accommodation for the community, and work buildings. Monasteries were inextricably woven into the fabric of medieval society, acting not only as centres of worship, learning and charity, but also, because of the vast landholdings of some orders, as centres of immense wealth and political influence. They were established in all parts of England, some in towns and others in the remotest of areas. Many monasteries acted as the foci of wide networks including parish churches, almshouses, hospitals, farming estates and tenant villages. Some 75 of these religious houses belonged to the Cistercian order founded by St Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century. The Cistercians - or `white monks', on account of their undyed habits - led a harsher life than earlier monastic orders, believing in the virtue of a life of austerity, prayer and manual labour. Seeking seclusion, they founded their houses in wild and remote areas where they undertook major land improvement projects. Their communities were often very large and included many lay brethren who acted as ploughmen, dairymen, shepherds, carpenters and masons. The Cistercians' skills as farmers eventually made the order one of the richest and most influential. They were especially successful in the rural north of England where they concentrated on sheep farming. The Cistercians made a major contribution to many facets of medieval life. The scheduled part of Forde Abbey is buried beneath formal gardens and has been subject to some landscaping it will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the construction, development, social, economic and political significance of the abbey, the demolition of the church and its subsequent re-use.

Source: Historic England


PastScape 191411

Source: Historic England

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