History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 12th century lay brothers range
Rufford was the fifth and last daughter house of Rievaulx Abbey in 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 were 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.
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.
Images are the copyright of their respective photographers as noted, republished with gratitude under a Creative Commons license
About Rufford Abbey
Address: Rufford, Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, England, NG22 9DF
Attraction Type: Abbey
Location: Off the A614 2 miles south of Ollerton. Open daily, all year except Christmas. Currently free entry.
Website: Rufford Abbey
English Heritage - see also: English Heritage memberships (official website)
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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