Rufford Abbey
Rufford Abbey
The partial remains of a 12th century Cistercian abbey, incorporated into a 17th century mansion. Unusually, the monastic buildings were complete by 1170 and remained practically unaltered until the abbey was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1537. The abbey and mansion stand within Rufford Country Park.
History
Rufford was the fifth and last daughter house of Rievaulx (Yorkshire), and was founded under the patronage of Gilbert de Grant, Earl of Lincoln, in 1146. At that time the abbey grounds were within the traditional boundary of Sherwood Forest. To make space for the abbey three existing villages wee cleared and the villagers forced to move.

It took at least a dozen years for construction to begin, and it seems that the abbey church was not finished for a century. In the early 16th century the monastic buildings were heavily damaged by fire, but there was little time to rebuild, for Rufford was suppressed in 1536.

Approaching the abbey (c) Peter Kochut
Approaching the abbey (c) Peter Kochut
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries Rufford Abbey was granted to Sir John Markham, but within a year Markham traded the Rufford estates with the Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot, in exchange for lands in Ireland. Over the 30 years from 1560-1590 Talbot rebuilt the abbey as a grand country house. Further expansion took place in 1679, and the house was remodelled by Anthony Salvin on the mid-Victorian period.

In 1936 Rufford was purchased by the Nottinghamshire County Council. It was used by the War Ministry during WWII, but in 1956 the house was in poor condition and much of it was demolished. All that remains are the converted west range of the mansion, and the lay brother's range of the original medieval monastery. This provides an excellent example of Cistercian architecture. The ground floor is almost intact. Most of the architecture dates to about 1160, though with minor alterations in the later medieval period. The undercroft vaulting is atmospheric and extremely well-preserved, giving a real sense of what life was like for the 12th century monks who lived and worked here.

The surrounding country park has obliterated any traces of the monastic granges that once surrounded the abbey proper.

NB Don't confuse this Rufford with the National Trust's Rufford Hall in Lancashire.

The undercroft (c) Dave Hitchborne
The undercroft (c) Dave Hitchborne
Rear of the abbey (c) Alan Heardman
Rear of the abbey (c) Alan Heardman
The Jacobean house(c) Alan Heardman
The Jacobean house(c) Alan Heardman
The Tudor and Jacobean ranges (c) Richard Croft
The Tudor and Jacobean ranges
(c) Richard Croft

Images are the coyright of their respective photographers as noted, republished with gratitude under a Creative Commons license