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The Ruined Abbeys of England page 2


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Another great Cistercian Abbey of the North was founded by King Stephen on the site of a Roman station in a spot known as Beckanges Gill - the Vale of Deadly Nightshade. This became known as Furness Abbey, from the district of Lancashire in which it stands. The red sandstone buildings are of great extent, their chief beauties being the chapter house, and the canopied quintuple sedilia added to the church in the fifteenth century. The military organization of the adjacent turbulent Border district was under the Abbot's control, so that the house partook of a warlike character not always in keeping with the sacred calling of the monks.

The winding Wye, reflecting the old grey walls in its waters, and the lofty background of wooded hills help to make the attractiveness of "the most perfect ruin in England" - Tintern Abbey. It is truly so called because of its fine proportions and faultless stone-work of Early English style, with tracery in its great west window of the Decorated period - the golden age of English architecture. It was the third Cistercian house to be founded in England, owing its origin to Walter de Clare in 1131, but the walls we see now do not belong to its earliest period, for the church was begun in the thirteenth century. In the same part of the country, but in a wild and gloomy spot shadowed by the Black Mountains, lie the ruins of Llanthony, founded by Hugh de Lacy, a famous Norman baron of the Welsh Marches. But the monks did not like the bleak and sunless situation, and the Abbey was exposed to raids by chieftains of the Welsh border. Accordingly they moved to a new Priory near Gloucester, and the original Llanthony was only used as a retreat for infirm monks who needed bracing air. The shell of the church remains, with two sides of its central tower, and two western towers, with a fine doorway between.

Of later Cistercian houses, Beaulieu, in the New Forest (1204), has some scanty ruins. Its best preserved building is the refectory, now a parish church, in which there is a stone pulpit of beautiful Early English work. Netley Abbey, near Southampton, has in a lovely and secluded spot large portions of its graceful east end and of its chapter house still standing, but more fragmentary are the ruins of Bayham, near Tunbridge Wells.

Many important houses in England belonged to the Augustinians, who were not monks, strictly speaking, but clergy bound together by rule in a community life for meditation and prayer, after the pattern of St. Augustine of Hippo and the kindred spirits he gathered round him.

Bolton Priory (Yorks), belonging to this Order, was founded about 1150 by Adeliza de Nowille, who caused it to be built in a beautiful spot by the banks of the Wharfe in memory of her only son, who perished in the river. Wordsworth tells the story in "The White Doe of Rylstone." The lad was returning from hunting, but his hound, being tied to his girdle by a cord, struggled to get free as they forded the river and pulled the heir of Nowille from his horse.

Lanercost Abbey, in Cumberland, was founded a little later (1169) by Robert de Vallibus, Governor of Carlisle. It was built of stones from the Roman wall, and its church is distinguished by tall lancet windows of the Early English style. The ruins of two Shropshire Augustinian houses remain at Lille-shall and Haughmond. The former is remarkable for a richly adorned Norman doorway, late in the style. The latter, a foundation of William Fitz-Alan of Clun (1135), was specially favoured by royal benefactions of the Empress Maud and Henry II.

The fragmentary ruins of Leicester lie in Abbey Park. Cardinal Wolsey arrived there, a broken man, in 1530, and while with the hospitable brethren breathed his last. Within a few years the house itself was ruined and the Cardinal's grave obliterated.

With the great amount of good work done by the monasteries there was some admixture of disadvantage, and at times it became difficult to check abuses. With their growing wealth there came a decline from their strict ideal, followed in some cases by laxity of life. Then, in the later half of the fourteenth century, the pestilence known as the Black Death depleted the monasteries, so that not only were monks fewer in number from that time, but the religious life deteriorated through novices being accepted on a lower spiritual level to fill vacancies.

From this state of things the religious orders had not recovered when their Dissolution came about in the reign of Henry VIII. The far-seeing Cardinal Wolsey realized that their best work had been done, and that their endowments would better serve the Church if turned to the advancement of learning. Hence he obtained from the Pope a bull to suppress thirty of the smaller and less efficient monasteries for the foundation of his colleges at Oxford and Ipswich. For the final measures of suppression and spoliation which followed, for the false charges and injustice that accompanied them, or for the greed of King Henry and his courtiers that suggested them, there can, however, be no sort of excuse.

The work accomplished by the monasteries for the country is sufficiently evidenced by the many kinds of institution which since their fall it has been found necessary to maintain: - workhouses, hospitals, dispensaries, and hostelries where the monastery had been the only refuge of travelers. Thus the injury which was done to the national life when the monasteries were dissolved has been partly repaired.

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Pictures for The Ruined Abbeys of England page 2

ABBOT'S KITCHEN, GLASTONBURY
ABBOT'S KITCHEN, GLASTONBURY >>>>
GREY STONE AND GREEN IVY OF MUCH WENLOCK'S CRUMBLING WALLS
GREY STONE AND GREEN IVY OF MUCH WENLOCK'S CRUMBLING WALLS >>>>
ALL THAT REMAINS OF WHAT WAS BYLAND ABBEY
ALL THAT REMAINS OF WHAT WAS BYLAND ABBEY >>>>
NORMAN ARCHES OF HAUGHMOND'S TWELFTH CENTURY CHAPTER HOUSE
NORMAN ARCHES OF HAUGHMOND'S TWELFTH CENTURY CHAPTER HOUSE >>>>
ARCH BY ARCH WHITBY ABBEY CRUMBLES AND FALLS BEFORE THE HUNGRY NORTH SEA GALES
ARCH BY ARCH WHITBY ABBEY CRUMBLES AND FALLS BEFORE THE HUNGRY NORTH SEA GALES >>>>
ABBEY GROUNDS AT BURY ST. EDMUNDS USED AS A PUBLIC PARK AND THE RUINS AS A PRIVATE HOUSE
ABBEY GROUNDS AT BURY ST. EDMUNDS USED AS A PUBLIC PARK AND THE RUINS AS A PRIVATE HOUSE >>>>
FAIR FOUNTAINS ABBEY RESTS IN WOODLAND PEACE IN THE VALE OF SKELD
FAIR FOUNTAINS ABBEY RESTS IN WOODLAND PEACE IN THE VALE OF SKELD >>>>
OLD CROWLAND, WITH ITS ABBEY CHURCH STILL IN PARTIAL USE
OLD CROWLAND, WITH ITS ABBEY CHURCH STILL IN PARTIAL USE >>>>
TINTERN'S NOBLE COLUMNS AND STATELY WALLS STILL DEFY OLD TIME
TINTERN'S NOBLE COLUMNS AND STATELY WALLS STILL DEFY OLD TIME >>>>
BEAULIEU PARISH WORSHIPS WHERE THE BEAULIEU PRELATES DINED
BEAULIEU PARISH WORSHIPS WHERE THE BEAULIEU PRELATES DINED >>>>
ABBEY CHURCH OF MALMESBURY SAVED BY USE FROM FURTHER RUIN
ABBEY CHURCH OF MALMESBURY SAVED BY USE FROM FURTHER RUIN >>>>
ABBEY CHURCH OF MALMESBURY SAVED BY USE FROM FURTHER RUIN
ABBEY CHURCH OF MALMESBURY SAVED BY USE FROM FURTHER RUIN >>>>
BEAUTIFUL AUSTERITY OF COOL GREY COLUMNS IN KIRKSTALL'S BROKEN NAVE
BEAUTIFUL AUSTERITY OF COOL GREY COLUMNS IN KIRKSTALL'S BROKEN NAVE >>>>
NORMAN WEST FRONT OF LILLESHALL
NORMAN WEST FRONT OF LILLESHALL >>>>
FOURTEENTH CENTURY GATE-HOUSE OF BATTLE ABBEY
FOURTEENTH CENTURY GATE-HOUSE OF BATTLE ABBEY >>>>
RED SANDSTONE RUINS OF A GREAT CISTERCIAN HOUSE, FURNESS ABBEY
RED SANDSTONE RUINS OF A GREAT CISTERCIAN HOUSE, FURNESS ABBEY >>>>
REMAINS OF THE EARLIEST CISTERCIAN HOUSE IN YORKSHIRE: RIEVAULX IN ITS LOVELY VALE
REMAINS OF THE EARLIEST CISTERCIAN HOUSE IN YORKSHIRE: RIEVAULX IN ITS LOVELY VALE >>>>
WATERSIDE RUINS OF ROCHE AMONG THE YORKSHIRE MOORS
WATERSIDE RUINS OF ROCHE AMONG THE YORKSHIRE MOORS >>>>

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