History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Buckland Abbey was founded in 1278 by the Cistercian order of monks, the last Cistercian foundation in England. As with most Cistercian foundations, the abbey is located in a secluded spot, making it one of the more enjoyable historic houses to visit in Devon.
After the monastery was disbanded by Henry VIII in the English Reformation, Buckland was purchased by Sir Richard Grenville, the former Marshal of Calais. Sir Richard intended Buckland as a prestigious country estate for his son Roger. Roger, however, did not live long enough to enjoy his new property; he died a few years later while commanding the warship Mary Rose.
The estate passed to Sir Richard's grandson, also named Richard. At that time it was common among gentry who acquired former monastic buildings to create their new homes from the domestic ranges of the property. Grenville decided instead to convert the abbey church into a house, in the process creating a cosy and intimate home. He retained the church tower and inserted three floors in the church interior.
The result is a comfortable Elizabethan house, though the interior decorative elements can be startling; Grenville was reputed to be quite eccentric, and the plaster and wooden carvings are not to everyone's taste.
Just four years after completing Bucklands, Grenville sold it to his great rival, Sir Francis Drake. Drake had just returned from his voyage around the world, and his pockets were flush with rewards bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth. As well as Bucklands he purchased about 40 properties around Devon.
Although he lived there on and off for 14 years, Drake did not make any major changes to the property. The house stayed in the Drake family until 1948 when it passed to the National Trust. The chapel contains stained glass rescued from Reims Cathedral after World War I.
In 1988 four stained glass windows were installed in the windows of the stairwell to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada. A special video presentation and displays within the house trace Drake's career and accomplishments, and there is a regular programme of events and historical re-enactments.
An Elizabethan garden has been established at Bucklands, as well as an aromatic herb garden, and there are enjoyable walks through the secluded estate. The abbey Great Barn has also been restored to its medieval splendour.
About Buckland Abbey
Address: Yelverton, Devon, England, PL20 6EY
Attraction Type: Historic House
Location: off the A386, just south of Yelverton
Website: Buckland Abbey
National Trust - see also: National Trust memberships (official website link)
OS: SX489 668
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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