Three reasons you should visit a ruin site near you this summer:
- They are usually free!
- You will learn something new
- It is a brilliant way to unwind
As a history undergrad, one of the ways I like to relax is by visiting local ruins. You’ll be surprised by how many historical sites reside unnoticed near you: monasteries, castles and estates lying fornlorn from their former glory. They can be a beautiful way to unwind and remember the past of the place you live. These are my top three ruins sites I have visited this year:
13th century monastery and church in the village of Netley placed in the Royal Victoria Country Park. It is neatly set next to the Southampton Water estuary and proves for a neat place to sit after walking around the abbey.
Founded in 1239 by the Bishop of Winchester as a home for the Cistercian order, it currently stands as the most complete surviving abbey. Almost all the walls of its impressive church at the back remain, alongside its monastic buidings. Henry III was patron of the abbey. It was home to 15 monks and 30 lay brothers, officials and servants.
The building was converted to a fashionable Tudor house after the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Sir William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester. Reusing the abbey ruins, he built a Tudor courtyard house fit for his standing. The courtyard replaced the cloister, and Paulet demolished the monk’s refectory for a grand turreted entrance. These changes are mainly in brick, whilst the original abbey is in stone. Most of the brick renovations were removed by the Romantics.
This conversion was stripped back as in the 19th century the abbey in the woods became a celebrated medieval ruin by Romatic writers and poets. The ivy-covered abandoned site inspired authors and artists such as John Constable, Horace Warpole and even Jane Austen, who is said to have drawn her ideas for Northanger Abbey here.
Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote
These Oxfordshire ruins of a 15th century Manor House stand besides the River Windrush. The traces of the impressive fine hall, dovecote and four-storey tower remain. This makes for a picturesque walk through the beautiful thatched roofs of the Minster Lovell village, the church, and along the wooded bank of the Windrush.
Built in 1430s by the wealthy Baron of Lovell and Holland, the house was a manifestation of his good fortune. After the defeat of the House of York at the 1485 Battle of Bosworth, it was owned by Richard III’s ally, Francis, Viscount of Lovell. After renovations, the hall was neglected and later demolished in the 18th century for building stone.
Located in Farnham, Hampshire, Titchfield is a medieval abbey, later used as a country house by the 1st Earl of Southampton. Built in the 13th century, the abbey housed Premonstretensian canons. They served the local community as priests and lived communally like monks. Henry V stopped here in 1415 prior to his famous expedition to France. This dissolved in the 1536 Suppression of the Monasteries.
Henry VIII gave the abbey to Sir Thomas Wroithesley as a reward for his key part in enacting his Protestant policy. who transformed the building into a grand mansion, Place House, in 1537. He notably built the large nave as a gatehouse across the front (pictured). It hosted numerous impressive guests, including Edward VI, Elizabeth I, Charles I and wife Henriette Maria. Henry, 3rd Earl of Southampton, was Shakespeare’s patron and some of his plays might have been first performed here.
After the death of the 4th earl of Southampton, Titchfield passed through several families. However in 1781, most of the building was demolished for stone. 20th century archaeological excavations revealed the original layout of the monastery.
So, grab your coat and see what your area has to offer!