When you look at the ruins of this Abbey and remember all the other abbeys that were brought low by Henry V111th it is almost a 'Palmyra' experience, take the following figures and see what a profound effect it must have had on the country.....
The dissolution of the monasteries in the late 1530s was one of the most revolutionary events in English history. There were nearly 900 religious houses in England, around 260 for monks, 300 for regular canons, 142 nunneries and 183 friaries; some 12,000 people in total, 4,000 monks, 3,000 canons, 3,000 friars and 2,000 nuns....one adult man in fifty was in religious orders (the total population estimated at the time was 2.75 million).
money needed to fund war, the king's need for a divorce settlement, there were obviously many other reasons, the acts of destruction as the buildings were handed out to the favoured, but it must have sparked off a revolution of sheer panic in the countryside. Removing lead roofs leading to the decay of the buildings and then the taking of stone to build other houses added to the onslaught. True the religious houses had got rich over time acquiring wealth from rich patrons, land that was bountiful in its produce, but it must also have been a very stable way of life for the peasantry.
The monks were served by lay brothers in their brown habits, who did the manual labour, but they got tired of being the unpaid worker and slowly over time left the monastic houses. Which meant the monks had to employ, and pay, local people.
There is little doubt that these great monastic houses, edifices to the power of religion, are stunning in their ruined grandeur, the works of men brought low by greed, or perhaps history moving on, the power of the crown against the church.......
|Restored colonnade around the green space of the cloisters|
|The chapter house|
|Shrine of Abbot William|