Buckland Abbey

Coordinates: 50°28′52″N 4°08′01″W / 50.48111°N 4.13361°W / 50.48111; -4.13361
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Buckland Abbey, front
Buckland Abbey, rear view

Buckland Abbey is a Grade I listed[1] 700-year-old house in Buckland Monachorum, near Yelverton, Devon, England, noted for its connection with Sir Richard Grenville the Younger and Sir Francis Drake. It is owned by the National Trust.

Monastic history[edit]

Buckland Abbey was founded as a Cistercian abbey in 1278[2] by Amicia, Countess of Devon and was a daughter house of Quarr Abbey, on the Isle of Wight. It was one of the last Cistercian houses founded in England and also the most westerly. The remains of the church are about 37.6 metres (123 ft) long. The width across the transepts is 28 metres (92 ft). The nave and presbytery is 10.1 metres (33 ft) wide.

In the Bishop of Exeter episcopal registers show the abbey managed five granges at Buckland plus the home farm at the abbey. A market and fair at Buckland and Cullompton were granted in 1318. In 1337 King Edward III granted the monks a licence to crenellate.

The Grade I listed Tithe Barn

In the 15th century the monks built a Tithe Barn which is 180 feet (55 m) long and survives to this day. It is Grade I listed[3]

It remained an abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII. At this time the revenues were placed at £241 17s. 9d. per annum[4] (equivalent to £172,700 in 2021).[5] The Abbot was given a yearly pension of £60 (equivalent to £42,800 in 2021),[5] and the remaining 12 monks shared £54 10s. 6d.


  • Robert
  • Galfridus ca. 1304
  • Thomas ca. 1311
  • William ca. 1333
  • Thomas Wappelegh ca. 1356
  • John Bryton 1385
  • Walter ca. 1392
  • Wiliam Rolff ca. 1442 - 1449
  • John Spore 1449 - 1454
  • John Hylle 1454 - 1463
  • Thomas Olyver 1463 - ????
  • John Brandon
  • Thomas Whyte ca.1511 - ca.1528
  • John Toker or Tucker 1528 - 1539 (afterwards Rector of St Andrew's Church, Buckland Monachorum)[6]

Post monastic history[edit]

In 1541 Henry sold Buckland to Sir Richard Grenville the Elder (Sewer of the Chamber to Henry VIII, poet, soldier, last Earl Marshall of Calais) who, working with his son Sir Roger Greynvile (Gentleman of the Privy Chamber of Henry VIII, Captain of the ill-fated Mary Rose), began to convert the abbey into a residence, renaming it Buckland Greynvile. Sir Roger died in 1545 when the Mary Rose heeled over in a sudden squall while the English Fleet was engaged with the French Fleet in the Narrow Sea off Portsmouth. He left a son aged 3, also named Richard Grenville, who completed the conversion in 1575–76. After being owned by the family for 40 years, Buckland Greynvile was sold by Sir Richard the Younger to two intermediaries in 1581, who unknown to Grenyvile, were working for Drake, whom he despised. The abbey is unusual in that the church was retained as the principal component of the new house whilst most of the remainder was demolished, which was a reversal of the normal outcome with this type of redevelopment.

Drake lived in the house for 15 years, as did many of his collateral descendants including the Dowager Lady Seaton, Born Elisabeth Fuller-Elliot-Drake, who died on 9 May 1937.[7] She left a life interest to Captain Richard Owen Tapps Gervis Meyrick.[8] In 1946 he sold it to Captain Arthur Rodd,[9] who presented the property to the National Trust in 1947.[10]

Buckland today[edit]

Rembrandt self-portrait in museum

Following a restoration between 1948 and 1951 which cost around £20,000 (equivalent to £670,000 in 2021),[5] largely funded by the Pilgrim Trust[11] the property has been open to the public since 1951 and is operated by the National Trust with the assistance of Plymouth City Council — the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery use the building to house part of their collection. The collection is noted for the presence of "Drake's Drum". A number of independent craft workshops are located in the converted ox sheds. The Cider House garden includes both a wild garden and a kitchen garden. There is also a medieval Great Barn next to the house.[12]

In March 2013 the portrait of a man wearing a white feathered bonnet was re-attributed to Rembrandt by the Rembrandt expert Ernst van de Wetering. In June 2014, after eight months of work at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, the painting's authenticity was confirmed and its value estimated at £30m.[13]

Costume Group[edit]

The National Trust Costume Group operate at Buckland Abbey, creating authentic Elizabethan costumes using traditional materials and methods. There is a complete Francis Drake costume, based on the famous portrait of Drake in the National Gallery, and the group are currently working on a costume for Lady Drake, also based on a portrait.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Historic England. "Buckland Abbey (Grade I) (1163369)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  2. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus (1952). The Buildings of England. South Devon. Penguin Books. p. 70.
  3. ^ Historic England. "Tithe Barn directly to east of Buckland Abbey (Grade I) (1105493)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  4. ^ Rowe, J. Brooking (1875). "The Cistercian Houses of Devon. Buckland". Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature, and Art. 7: 329–366. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  5. ^ a b c UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  6. ^ Oliver, George (1846). Monasticon Diocesis Exoniensis. Hannaford, Longman. p. 380.
  7. ^ "Dowager Lady Seaton. Death at Buckland Abbey". Exeter and Plymouth Gazette. England. 14 May 1937. Retrieved 30 September 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  8. ^ "Bequests by Lady Seaton". Western Morning News. 21 October 1937. Retrieved 15 October 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  9. ^ "Buckland Abbey Sold Privately". Western Times. England. 22 November 1946. Retrieved 30 September 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  10. ^ "Buckland Abbey for the Nation". Western Times. England. 20 June 1947. Retrieved 30 September 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  11. ^ "Buckland Abbey". Western Morning News. England. 15 April 1950. Retrieved 30 September 2019 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  12. ^ National Trust
  13. ^ "Buckland Abbey Rembrandt self-portrait is genuine". BBC News. 10 June 2014.

External links[edit]

50°28′52″N 4°08′01″W / 50.48111°N 4.13361°W / 50.48111; -4.13361