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Forde Abbey, Dorset

Historical Description

Forde Abbey, a hamlet in Thorncombe parish, Dorsetshire, on the river Axe, at the boundary with Somerset, 4 miles SSE of Chard. The abbey from which it takes its name was begun in the year 1141, in the reign of King Stephen, by Cistercian monks; was erected in lieu of a previous abbey at Brightley, near Okehampton, Devonshire, founded by Richard de Brioniis; was endowed and patronized byAdeliza deBrioniis; and subsequently by the Conrtenays, Earls of Devon; was restored, adorned, and extended by its last abbot, Thomas Chard; was given at the dissolution to Richard Pollard, who was afterwards knighted; passed to the families Poulett, Rosewell, Prideaux, and Gwyn; and in 1847 to the Miles family. The buildings, escaping demolition or damage both at the dissolution and in the Civil War, were altered by Inigo Jones, and are now the finest specimen of a monastic edifice in England. The front facing the terrace and lawn, presents a facade 300 feet long adorned with sculpture and much coloured with lichens and mosses, and comprises chapel, cloister, saloon, porch, tower, refectory, and state apartments. The chapel, formerly the chapter-house, continues principally as built in the time of Stephen, is mainly Norman or transition Norman, but with Tudor east window, and has a vaulted roof with pendants, a finely carved screen, and a pulpit. The cloister, the tower, and the abbot's hall are the work of Thomas Chard, continue nearly as he left them,, and bear his initials and the arms of the families of Courtenay, Poulett, and Prideaux. The cloister measures 82 feet in length. The abbot's hall is 55 feet long and 28 feet high, and has four large Tudor windows. The saloon and the state apartments are the work of Inigo Jones, present the characteristic features of his style, and are adorned with elaborate old English furniture and famous tapestries. Jeremy Bentham tenanted the abbey in 1815-17, and wrote here some of his works. The abbey, which stands in a beautifully undulated park, has since 1864 been the seat of the Bertram-Evans family, and contains some noble apartments.aos

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyDorsetshire 
DioceseBristol1542 - 1836
DioceseSalisbury1836 -

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Dorset is available to browse.


Online maps of Forde Abbey are available from a number of sites: