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Buckland Abbey

A Grade I Listed Building in Buckland Monachorum, Devon

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.4813 / 50°28'52"N

Longitude: -4.1335 / 4°8'0"W

OS Eastings: 248725

OS Northings: 66783

OS Grid: SX487667

Mapcode National: GBR NX.M02F

Mapcode Global: FRA 277S.FGC

Entry Name: Buckland Abbey

Listing Date: 14 June 1952

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1163369

English Heritage Legacy ID: 92635

Location: Buckland Monachorum, West Devon, Devon, PL20

County: Devon

District: West Devon

Civil Parish: Buckland Monachorum

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

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Buckland Monachorum

Listing Text

BUCKLAND MONACHORUM BUCKLAND ABBEY
SX 46 NE
3/43 Buckland Abbey
14.6.52

GV I

Built as a Cistercian Abbey, converted into a house and at present used principally
as a museum. The abbey was founded in 1278 by Amicia, Countess of Devon. At the
Dissolution it was acquired by Sir Richard Grenville in 1541 and it was converted by
his famous grandson of the same name, into a house with various additions in c.1576.
Further alterations were made in the C18 and the building was extensively renovated
in the mid C20. Rubble walls with granite dressings. Gable ended slate roof with
coping stones. Numerous rubble stacks some with moulded granite caps dating from
C16 and C17.
The original abbey church had a cruciform plan of nave with north and south
transepts and 2 adjoining chapels each side. There was a central tower over the
crossing. The accompanying abbey buildings appear to have been situated mainly to
the north, some fragments still survive. Sir Richard Grenville probably demolished
a large part of these buildings but a C18 print portrays the building as extending
further to the north-east than it now does. When Sir Richard converted the abbey
church into a mansion house he incorporated a large part of the medieval fabric,
adapting it to his own uses. The transepts were demolished and the nave divided the
eastern end being converted into a single storey great hall with a screens pasage to
the east. This room was sumptuously fitted out and a fireplace inserted with the
overmantel dated 1576. To the south of the hall a stair wing was added to the west
of the former transept. Grenville also built on a large kitchen and service wing at
the rear of the screens passage with 2 large fireplaces in the kitchen. 2 further
floors were inserted, subdivided into smaller rooms. Other, more minor late C16
alterations were made by Sir Francis Drake, who bought the property in 1581,
including probably the addition of a porch in front of the hall. In the later C18 a
staircase was inserted in the service wing at the rear of the screens passage, the
gothic refenestration and dormer windows at the east end of the building probably
date from this period. Few major alterations then seem to have been made until
after the 1st World War when Lord and Lady Seaton excavated the former Chancel of
the Abbey Church - then the servants hall - to discover the position of the High
Altar; they then converted the room into a chapel. In 1938 a severe fire damaged
the west end of the house which was afterwards restored. The next major work took
place in 1949-51 when an extensive restoration and modernisation programme was
undertaken in preparation for opening the property to the public by the National
Trust and Plymouth City Museum.
Main block is 3 storeys with basement and an extra storey in the tower. South wing
is 3 storeys with attic.
Asymmetrical and crenellated north entrance front of 8 windows with single storey
projection to left and single storey porch at centre. The plain square tower over
the original crossing is to the left of centre. On the lower ground floor level
are 3 single light granite framed windows to right of centre, the centre one is very
narrow with a trefoil head, probably C15; the right-hand one has a depressed 4-
centred arched head and may be early C16. The left-hand one is square-headed and
later C16. Above it is another single light window with a late C16 3-light mullion
to its right and a similar 2-light mullion to the far right with a hoodmould.
Between these 2 is a circa late C15 2-light mullion with cinquefoiled heads and
square hoodmould. On the 1st floor are late C16 granite mullion windows,
predominantly 4-light but also some with 3-lights with a 2-light and single light
window towards the left-hand end. The far left-hand window on this floor has
clearly been built into the pointed arch of an original window and there is evidence
of original windows over some of the other windows on this floor. The 2nd floor
windows occur only to the right of the tower; they are granite mullions in hipped
dormers incorporated in the crenellation; 3-light to the left, the 2 right-hand ones
have 4 lights. The 1-room projection to the left on the ground floor was originally
a chapel adjoining the chancel and transept - the blocked transept arch is clearly
visible at its right-hand end, inserted into which is a late C16 3-light mullion
window. On its front wall three 2-light mullion and transomed windows were inserted
probably in the C17, the right-hand of which has had a stone arched doorway built
into it in the C19 or early C20. The projection has probably original granite
ashlar buttresses between the windows and diagonally on the corners. The central
late C16 porch also has diagonal buttresses. At its front is a heavily moulded
granite segmental headed doorway with leaf design to spandrels. C19 double doors
part-glazed with gothic tracery in the fanlight. Above the doorway are 3 plaques
bearing various Drake heraldic symbols; the left-hand one has an upraised glove, the
right-hand one a Knight's helmet and the central one carries the Drake arms. If
Drake himself did not build the porch then he probably added these designs when he
bought the house. The right-hand wall of the porch has a similar but simpler
doorway, now a window. The main front of the house also has buttresses - the 3 to
the right are of rubble and were probably added by Grenville; the 2 left-hand ones,
now partially obscured by the former chapel, are of ashlar and may be original.
On the north face of the tower the position of the steeply gabled transept roof is
evident with the blocked transept arch below.
The fenestration of the south front dates mainly from Grenville's time apart from 2
window with Perpendicular tracery to the left. The principal features are
Grenville's stair projection to the left of centre, the blocked transept arch to its
right (the infilling and hall windows are early C20) and Grenville's kitchen wing to
the far right which shows evidence on the ground floor of 2 blocked arches to the
south chapels from the transept. The east front has arched windows with gothic
tracery inserted probably in the later C18).
Interior features reflect the status of the building with some evidence of its
original function still visible.
In the chapel, originally the chancel, the shafts of its original pillars are
visible in the corners. 2 piscinas have also been revealed. The former north
chapel retains its stone cross vaulted roof. On the 2nd floor at either side of the
partially exposed chancel arch are 2 carved corbels at the point of the springing.
On the 3rd floor the crossing of the abbey church can be clearly distinguished with
all 4 arches surviving. The chancel arch was lower and directly above it was a
Decorated window of which the head with its tracery and rear arch can still be seen
although it has had a door inserted beneath. Much more survives of the late C16
domestic conversion and modernisations carried out by Sir Richard Grenville and then
Sir Francis Drake.
The great hall is the most impressive result of this and remains little altered.
Its north, south and west walls are lined with ornate high quality panelling. The
top panels are arcaded each with a carved lion's head at the apex. The panels are
divided verticlaly by fluted pilasters with Corinthian capitals. Above each
pilaster are figures, some grotesque, in high relief. The frieze is inlaid with
arabesques and has a modillion cornice above. It is arguable however that this may
be the later work of Drake as stylistically it is more typical of c.1600. A
decorative plaster frieze above has a running foliage and flower motif. At the east
end of the hall are 4 fluted pillars with inlaid frieze running above, the screen
may have been open at this end. On the north wall of the hall is a large moulded
granite fireplace with the heavy roll moulding rising to an ogee at the top with a
ball motif underneath. The fireplace back is constructed of slates in a herring-
bone pattern. The granite framing is enclosed by a probably C18 wooden surround.
Above is a plaster overmantle depicting the figures of Justice, Temperance, Prudence
and Fortitude with the date 1576 at the top in Roman numerals. Elaborate narrow
moulded rib plaster ceiling in geometric design of interlaced squares and lozenges
with 2 pendant finials. The ceiling curves downwards to meet the plaster frieze and
on this curve are 4 moulded plaster corbels with satyrs on them holding scrolled
shields. At the west end of the hall is an allegorical plaster frieze depicting a
knight seated under the tree of life with his war eauipment beside him, his shield
hung in the tree and his unsaddled horse resting nearby. A skull and hourglass are
beside him. The corresponding frieze at the east end is purely decorative. The
floor may also be contemporary and is laid with triangular slabs of red tile and
white limestone. The C16 kitchen has 2 very large fireplaces. One in the gable end
wall had a segmental arched lintel inserted below. The lateral fireplace has a
square opening with chamfered lintel and 2 stone ovens. Partly obscuring this
fireplace are four C16 charcoal burning ovens. The high ceiling with simple plaster
cornice is probably C18. Adjoining the lateral fireplace is a 4-centred arched
granite doorway, chamfered with pyramid stops. Grenville's original staircase has
been replaced by a C20 one but the C16 roof of the stair wing survives consisting of
substantial principal rafters with morticed curved collars, all richly moulded,
purlins and wall plate are also moulded. The room on the first floor at the west
end was probably a parlour in the late C16. It is also panelled, in a very similar
style to the hall except the panels are not arcaded. There is a small depressed 4-
centred arched granite fireplace with decorated spandrels and moulded jambs. A
similar fireplace survives in the adjoining room. Beyond it is a room refitted in
the C18 with a fielded panel dado and doorcases with projecting frieze and cornice.
A bolection moulded wood surround with projecting cornice frames an earlier granite
fireplace. The back of one panel bears the inscription "Mr Tho.Rowe, April 1st
1772, Master of this job and foreman of the Sawyers" - presumably this refers to the
C18 joinery in the room although the panelling and fireplace surround are of a
slightly earlier style. The C18 staircase is however fairly typical of this date
being open well with cut string and 3 turned balusters to each step, carved scrolled
thread ends and wreathed handrail. Fielded dado panelling to stairs incorporates
fluted pilasters opposite the newels. There are also 2 good dog gates both of open
fretwork with inverted segmental tops. In the tower room is one of the few features
definately attributable to Drake. It is a granite framed moulded fireplace with
plaster overmantel bearing Drake's arms with the Latin inscription "Sic Parvis
Magna". (Thus great things from small). Alterations appear to have been made,
however, as one side of the overmantel bears the date 1655 and initials R.N.
This building has an unusual historical background. It is one of the few medieval
abbeys to undergo conversion into a house, incorporating much of the medieval
fabric. It has also passed through the ownership of 2 illustrious Elizabethan
sailors and adventurers and remained in the Drake family for over three hundred
years. It is the combination of these historical associations with the preservation
of so much of the early fabric and high quality internal features of the later C16
which give this building its importance.
Sources: Country Life March 11th 1916; G W Copeland: Buckland Abbey - An
[Architectural Survey]


Listing NGR: SX4885866812

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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