14 March 2006

Milton Abbey

Our final stop on the Saturday was Milton Abbey. Rather a surprise, as we were expecting to find a ruin. Instead we came across half an abbey church and a rather ugly eighteenth century 'gothick' mansion now in use as a rather exclusive boys school. A rather surreal experience as the whole place was deserted... but lights were on and we had the feeling of being under surveillance.

The abbey was founded in the 10th century, but the church and library were destroyed by fire in 1309. Rebuilding continued for the next two hundred years, but the church was never completed. At the dissolution of the monasteries, the man who had arranged Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon (and who had indeed set up the whole dissolution process itself) managed to acquire Milton Abbey for £1000. Perhaps typical of the legal profession. Sadly, property prices are no longer what they were in the sixteenth century.

Kate on the stump of a recently-felled tree in front of the church. I counted 185 rings.

This arcading on the south transept was part of the cloister range demolished after the dissolution.

Sir John Tregonwell (Henry VIII's lawyer) used Milton Abbey as his home, and subsequent generations of the family lived there and 'improved' it. They seem to have had God (or at least the forces of fashion) on their side, as the story of Sir John's grandson John demonstrates...

(Click on the photo for a bigger version)

After various marriages and changes of ownership (the details of which can be found on the Milton School website), the Abbey finally came into the hands of Sir Joseph Damer in 1752. To cut a long story short, Sir Joseph built a new house (although he fell out with several eminent architects whilst doing so) and had the grounds landscaped by 'Capability' Brown. He also moved the village, creating a very pretty model village of thatched semi-detached houses in 1779.

A bit like Walpole's contemp-orary efforts at Strawberry Hill, but less extravagant and less successful.

The church was partly restored in the eighteenth century, but most of what is visible today was done by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the 1860s. By this time the Abbey was in the hands of the Hambro family of merchant bankers, who continued to live at Milton until the 1930s. It then became a school.

Interior of the church.

Light was fading at the end of this visit, so we went back to Weymouth for a kebab and a quiet evening in...


Anonymous said...

Really interesting site this Paul keep it up. Where do you find the energy to do everything.

Anonymous said...

It is all fueled by tea!


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