Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Ruins of Netley Abbey

Netley Abbey lies in the parish of Hound close to Southampton. Hound was named for the Hoarhound plant which once grew in abundance there. The Abbey was founded in 1239 by the austere Cistercian Order and when the founder died before construction was complete it found patronage under Henry III. His name is etched into one of the central stone pillars in the church, the base of which, bearing the inscription to Henry, can still be seen some 770 years later. 
The Abbey became a victim of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell's Dissolution in 1536 when it was turned into a Tudor Manor. Six monks and the Abbot sailed across Southampton water to Beaulieu Abbey, which suffered the same fate two years later. After that the monks were pensioned off and the  Abbot (who had become Abbot of Beaulieu) then became Treasurer to Salisbury Cathedral until his death in 1550. 
Now managed by English heritage, the site is free to get in to, welcomes well behaved dogs on leads, and has open access to all the ruins.  Being a History Buff, it is the sort of place I love and can wander around happily getting lost in for ages. I think I've said before I'm not good with prissy stuffy historic houses and Netley Abbey definitely aint that. You are free to wander where you choose without anyone jumping on you trying to guide you round or direct you. There are info boards at various locations which tell you all you need to know. It also wasn't busy this morning with only a handful of fellow visitors (all of whom were very friendly- as there were only a few of us wandering through the ruins people tended to chat and share info which was lovely) and a couple of families picnicking, so we were able to soak up the atmosphere in peace.

















19th Century Graffiti.
Were this modern I would hate it and be scandalised, but because it is old I find it intriguing. What is this impulse that makes people want to leave their mark in the stonework of ancient buildings?
 

The one below is my favourite, because it was left exactly 100 years before I was born. Ancient graffiti is so much more elegant than the modern equivalent. People then seemed to take real care over inscribing their names. We found some horrible stuff today that had been recently scribbled on the walls with pen! It looked so coarse and slap-dash in comparison and I doubt anyone will consider it a work of art in a hundred years.








We couldn't figure out what was going on in the pic above. It isn't a bricked up doorway as we initially thought because the stones either side of the gouged line match in places. Was it where a door was going to be made?
The pic below is a bricked up doorway; presumably from the time the Abbey morphed into a Tudor Manor House.





The Abbot's lodgings
(above)

Love this Interesting Mix of higgeldy piggeldy brick and stone


Elegant ceilings





The Church (above) which is a good deal longer than this pic suggests. The inscription to Henry Rex is on the pile of stones near where the people are standing at the far end. This pile is all that is left of a tall stone pillar that would once have supported the roof, much as you see in larger Cathedrals today.

The inscription to Henry III. You can just make out the word "Rex" on the right. Henry III took an interest in the Abbey during the 1240's. He was son of John and father of Edward I the Warrior King. This inscription is therefore likely to be over 770 years old. Here is a drawing of it below.



Medieval Heraldic Floor Tiles.
These were just lying beneath the dust at our feet. We couldn't believe what we were seeing when we brushed it away. There were several more broken up in other places but this one was the best preserved. Originally there were tiles in the Abbey that displayed coats of arms from England, France, and the Holy Roman Empire, as well as those of Queen Eleanor of Castile and Richard of Cornwall (who was Count of Poitou 1225-1243 and one of the wealthiest men in Europe- no, I'd never heard of him either!). The chapels in the south transept had tiles with symbols of Edward The Confessor and the Virgin Mary on them. I did a pottery course years ago where we made replica medieval tiles and what a business that was. It made me appreciate the art and craftsmanship of tile making, as so many of ours split or wobbled out of shape, or the markings ran or didn't take properly, so to see this one, several hundred years old and still surviving in situ, was quite remarkable. Lovely old thing.

This is where the monks would have washed, with each archway containing a basin. I get a bit shivery in places like this- it's so easy to imagine people standing here centuries ago, looking at the same stones we were looking at.

Hound Exploring

Another great place to visit if you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, and free too, which is a bonus in my book and something that doesn't happen all that often these days with beautiful places.

Hope you're all enjoying the weekend, I'm off to watch the repeat of the butterfly and moth programme which failed to record last night. We had a BBQ with friends and got back after dark, which meant all my moths (who'd been fast asleep in their box since morning) had woken up and were busy bumbling around the windows trying to go out. L, M and I spent the best part of an hour gently potting 150 moths and releasing them into the garden!!

CT :-)

16 comments:

  1. Very interesting post CT and as you say certainly worth a visit if I'm ever in that part of the world :-) That medieval floor tile is remarkably well preserved !

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    1. Thanks David. We couldn't believe they were just there, hidden under the dust, not roped off or protected in any way. Remarkable! A really lovely place to visit.

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  2. The monks may have led a life of austerity, but they built well. Love those ceilings.

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    1. I always find monastic ruins sad places. They are invariably magnificent, yet that very magnificence was ultimately their downfall. There is such rich irony in the dichotomy of a life dedicated to simplicity being lived in buildings of magnificence and wealth, and a clever man like Cromwell was able to exploit that in order to get rid of them. All to satisfy the greed of a wife-slaying King who bumped off his Protestant wife and beheaded Cromwell anyway soon after. There's rich irony in that too.

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  3. Really interesting post and lovely photos CT :) I will certainly visit if in the area. The floor tile is beautiful and what a great find :)

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    1. Thanks :-)

      Glad you enjoyed reading it. The tile was really lovely.

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  4. This looks a fascinating place - thanks for sharing the information. I would, like you, spend some time imaging how it would have been when the monks were there. Beautiful photos on your last post, too, especially the fabulous moths.

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    1. I always find my mind wandering off in these types of places- they are so evocative. I think we've agreed before that we both prefer simpler old houses than fussy ones and the Abbey is simple in a grand inspiring way, if that makes sense?

      Glad you enjoyed the previous post pics too- I had great fun taking them.

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  5. Wonderfully atmospheric, these ruins. I love the sense of standing against a stone wall that has been there for hundreds of years and wondering about all the other humans from king to serf who have connected with that very same piece of stone.

    It reminds me a bit of Ludlow Castle - a massive place with hardy any floors left, but you can see the chimney breasts and the arches of doors and windows. Full of the history of the Welsh Marches.

    As for historic houses where you get jumped on by guides wanting to share their infinite knowledge and wisdom, well, we are off to Buckingham Palace on Wednesday - but only because I am desperate to see the Coronation Robe Exhibition. All that embroidery and design!! Hope you enjoyed moth programme.

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    1. I know Ludlow Castle well- it's a beautiful place, steeped in so much history :-)

      Will they let you take pics at Buck Pal? I shall very much look forward to reading all about it after Weds. Try not to get yourself thrown into the tower.

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  6. Hi CT This has been a great informative post with great photos to illustrate it. Wonderful arches, ceiling anf floors and I liked the way you used some of the arches to frame the scene. Hope you are having a great weekend.

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    1. Hi Margaret,

      Glad you enjoyed, I suspect it's quite hard to take a bad pic of such a beautiful place :-)

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  7. What a lovely post CT. Certainly looks like a lovely place to visit. I love vaulted ceilings and beautiful ruins like this. We have some ruins of the Napoleonic Fort at Berry Head which I'll be doing a post on later.

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    1. It's a superb place and well worth a look if you find yourself near Southampton. Apparently there is also a castle (tudor) near Netley too which we'll do another time x

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  8. Very interesting post. I'd love to visit there some day.

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    1. Hi Dave,

      If you're ever in the UK it's worth putting it on your list of places to see (no bears there tho sadly!). CT :-)

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x