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HER Number:MDV7808
Name:Buckfast Abbey

Summary

The present abbey is modern. It stands on the site of a medieval abbey originally founded in the 12th century; an earlier Saxon abbey may also have stood here or perhaps more likely around Holy Trinity Church. The medieval abbey was dissolved in 1539 and the site purchased from the king by Sir Thomas Dennys. In 1806 Samuel Berry, owner of an adjacent mill, levelled the remains of the church and built a mansion on the west side of the cloister. The mansion and immediate grounds were purchased by a fraternity of Benedictine monks in 1882 and who founded the present monastery.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 741 673
Map Sheet:SX76NW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishBuckfastleigh
DistrictTeignbridge
Ecclesiastical ParishBUCKFASTLEIGH

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 1266782
  • National Monuments Record: 444830
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX76NW/24
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*): 392218
  • Old SAM Ref: 29672
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX76NW18
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX76NW43

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • ABBEY (X to XXI - 1000 AD to 2009 AD (Between))

Full description

Oliver, G., 1846, Monasticon Diocesis Exoniensis, 371-2 (Monograph). SDV57424.


Virtue, O. H., 1868, Untitled Source, 406 (Article in Serial). SDV345566.

Brief history given. At the Dissolution the estate was given to Sir Thomas Dennis and subsequently many houses were built in the village from the ruins of the abbey. Some slight remains of the old abbey existed in 1867.


Birch, W de G., 1870, On the Date of Foundation Ascribed to the Cistertian Abbeys in Great Britain, 294,358,366 (Article in Serial). SDV241947.

Birch argues for an extremely early foundation date and dedication to St Petrock, on the basis of having daughter churches at Hollacombe and South Brent of that dedication.


Birch, W de G., 1872, On Three Lists of Monasteries Compiled in the Thirteenth Century, 45-64 (Article in Serial). SDV256356.

'Bucfestre' appears on a list of monasteries compiled in the 13th century.


Brooking Rowe, J., 1876, The Cistercian Houses of Devon, Part 3: Buckfast, 809-886 (Article in Serial). SDV348424.

History given. Ethelwald de Pomeroy was probably a benefactor and the Pomeroy crest appeared on several parts of the ruined buildings. After the surrender of the abbey (by Gabriel Donne), the land passed through several hands, eg the D'Oleys who sold it off in parcels. Before 1806 when the remaining buildings were almost entirely destroyed, the ruins were very extensive. A house was built on the site in 1825, and much of the building material was used in the erection of the adjoining mill.


Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

'Remains of St Mary's Abbey (Benedictine)' shown on 19th century map.


Anon, 1884, Antiquarian Intelligence, 128 (Article in Serial). SDV348446.


Rowe, J. B., 1884, Recent Excavations at Buckfast Abbey, 590-594 (Article in Serial). SDV348426.

In 1882, monks expelled from France took possession of the house built in 1825. A temporary chapel was erected and the monks excavated the footings of the old church and some other conventual buildings.


Rowe, J. B., 1886, Report of the Committee on Scientific Memoranda, 75 (Article in Serial). SDV348447.


Reichel, O. J., 1898, The Domesday Churches of Devon, 292-3 (Article in Serial). SDV863.

Foundation date discussed. Possibly as early as 787 AD. Antiquity suggested by the fact it was not assessed at Domesday.


Baring Gould, S., 1900-1901, St. Petrock, 13 (Article in Serial). SDV19012.


Chanter, J. F., 1910, Christianity in Devon before AD 909, 489,497 (Article in Serial). SDV870.


Davies, W., 1913, Buckfast Abbey and its relation to Kingsbridge. (Article in Serial). SDV141008.


Chanter, J. F., 1913, Extracts from the Leger Book and other Ancient Documents of the Abbey of Buckfast, 152-168 (Article in Serial). SDV348423.

St Petrock may have been the first founder of a monastery at Buckfastleigh.


Stephan, J., 1924, Some Artistic Remains of Buckfast Abbey, 195-6 (Article in Serial). SDV348439.

A portion of the statue of Our Lady restored to the Lady Chapel circa 1924. Also some of the oak panels of the original abbots residence used to make the abbatial throne in the new abbey church.


Aerofilms, 1930, Aerofilms LTD Oblique Aerial Photography 60713, AFL 60713/EPW033162; EPW033240 01-JUL-1930 (Aerial Photograph). SDV354848.

The abbey and grounds are visible, including a works compound, tennis courts, beehives and what appears to be a cricket pitch next to the river, on which several monks seem to be playing or practising.


Stephan, J., 1930 - 1931, Buckfast Cartulary, 90 (Article in Serial). SDV348427.

Buckfast Cartulary was discovered in 1895, about 2/3rds of the original surviving. Now on permanent loan to the abbey library.


Masterman, J. H. B., 1931, Address of the President: The Monasteries of Devon, 65-7,70 (Article in Serial). SDV136066.

The present structure was erected directly on top of the foundations exposed in the late 19th century, following the original plan as nearly as possible. The church was consecrated in 1932. Probably the earliest religious house in Devon. Its trade in wool helped to foster the Ashburton wool weaving industry. The monks grazed their flocks on Buckfast Moor, which was part of the abbey estate.


Stephan, J., 1932 - 1933, The Ancient Abbots of Buckfast, 49-51 (Article in Serial). SDV348436.

Stephan gives list of abbots from AC 994 to dissolution, adding some 20 more to Olivers list.


Stephan, J., 1944, Savigny and Buckfast Abbey, 133-9 (Article in Serial). SDV348433.

An account given of the history of relations between the Norman abbey of Savigny and Buckfast.


Benson, J., 1947, Buckfast Abbey, 46 (Article in Serial). SDV348430.

Acquisition of Buckfast Abbey by Sir Thomas Dennys (circa 1539).


Stephan, J., 1947 - 1949, Extracts from the Powderham Manuscript Entitled 'Antiquities of Various Abbeys in Devon (1540)', 55-64,332-6 (Article in Serial). SDV348429.

Extracts from the Cartulary, made at the time of the dissolution are examined and reproduced.


Stephan, J., 1947 - 1949, Extracts from the Statutes of the Cistercian General Chapters (Article in Serial). SDV348428.

References to Buckfast Abbey in the statutes of the Cistercian General Chapters, a record of Cistercian administration throughout its existence (1147-1533) are examined. Other details: 84-8.


Dennys, R., 1947 - 1949, Gabriel Donne, Abbot of Buckfast, 34-8 (Article in Serial). SDV348431.

Relationship of Gabriel Donne to the Dennys family at the time of the dissolution referred to.


Cambridge University, 1948, CUCAP AX, AX 72-5 (Aerial Photograph). SDV16233.

Other details: AX 75 in HER. also HR 70-1, BFO 98, BIM 51-4, BMC 37-8.


Ordnance Survey, 1951, SX76NW18 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV294759.

Other details: Photograph.


Knowles, D. + St. Joseph, J. K., 1952, Monastic Sites from the Air, 36-8 (Monograph). SDV241952.


Stephan, J., 1952 - 1953, Buckfast Abbey Library Charter (1440): Incomplete (Article in Serial). SDV348435.


Stephan, J., 1954 - 1955, Ancient Oak Carvings at Buckfast Abbey, 138-40 (Article in Serial). SDV348438.

Some items acquired by the abbey earlier this century are described. They are items of furniture and wooden panelling which have some connection with the earlier abbey.


Stephan, J., 1954 - 1955, Two Abbots Slade at Buckfast Abbey, 216-7 (Article in Serial). SDV348437.

In the 14th century there were two abbots from the Slade family at Buckfast.


Everett, A. W., 1960, 3116Z/6/Plan (Record Office Collection). SDV294762.


Walker, H. H., 1961, Notes for a Study of Bishop Walter de Stapledon and the Church in the West Country in the Early 14th Century, 325 (Article in Serial). SDV18677.


Stephan, J., 1963, Presidential Address: Devon Cistercians in English Literature, 26 (Article in Serial). SDV241993.


Youings, J., 1965 - 1967, Monastic Wool Sales, 71-2 (Article in Serial). SDV342767.

The Medieval wool sales are discussed.


Knowles, D. + Hadcock, R. N., 1971, Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales (Monograph). SDV323253.

Buckfast Abbey. Modern abbey on site of Medieval Cistercian and Saxon Benedictine abbey. See subsheets for details of buildings, and for south gate. Abbey for Benedictine monks founded 1018 by Cnut, and dissolved in 1136. At the time of the Domesday survey (1086) it had considerable possessions. In 1136 it was granted by King Stephen to the Abbot of Savigny, and thus became Cistercian.14 monks are recorded in 1377. Surrendered in 1539 by the abbot and 10 monks. Rebuilt by Benedictine monks who reoccupied the site in 1882. Other details: 52,61,112,116,469.


Blair, W. J., 1981, Buckfast Abbey: Features of Architectural and Archaeological Interest (Report - Assessment). SDV348441.


Dartmoor National Park Authority, 1981, Reports and Plans on the Archaeological Implications of Proposed Development at Buckfast Abbey (Report - Assessment). SDV348440.

Reports by Dartmoor National Park and Devon County Council on antiquity of some of the standing buildings, and the archaeological implications of development on the west side of the road.


Department of Environment, 1985, Images of listed buildings in Buckfastleigh, 15/07/1985 (Photograph). SDV359974.

Photographs of the Abbot's Tower and house incorporated into the abbey to the south-west of abbey church.


Brown, S., 1986, Buckfast Abbey (Un-published). SDV348449.


Griffith, F. M., 1988, DAP/JP, 6-11 (Aerial Photograph). SDV292049.


Brown, S. W., 1988, Excavations and Building Recording at Buckfast Abbey, 13-89 (Article in Serial). SDV348443.

Excavations at the site of the Benedictine Abbey at Buckfast between 1982 and 1984 located the 12th century precinct boundary on the west of the Cistercian (previously Savignac, 1136-47) monastery and uncovered the remains of contemporary and later buildings which stood at the west side of the outer court. Evidence was found to suggest that the monastic enclosure was enlarged in the early 13th century but the outer enclosure appears never to have become built up. The standing remains of the abbey guesthouse were recorded and shown by excavation to date from the early 14th century. This guesthouse was amongst the largest Medieval halls known in Devon and Cornwall. It overlay the remains of an earlier hall, probably the 12th century guesthouse. An adjoining building known as 'Abbey Farm' was also examined and shown to represent a Late Medieval south wing added to the guesthouse. Nothing was found to indicate the extent of the Saxon foundation (founded or confirmed in 1018) which may lie further east closer to the River Dart.


Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N., 1989, The Buildings of England: Devon, 222-6 (Monograph). SDV325629.

Other details: Plan.


Allan, J. P. + Pope, P., 1990, A new class of south-west English pottery in North America, 51-9 (Article in Serial). SDV177637.

Totnes Type ware is the predominant fabric in the Post-Medieval ceramic assemblage.


Beverley, S. M. + Margeson, S. + Hurley, M., 1992, Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1991, 207 (Article in Serial). SDV58456.

Rescue excavation and building recording carried out in 1990-1. South gate incorporates re-used moulded stones from a Late Medieval gateway. External walls contain extensive areas of two-phase Medieval fabric at ground and 1st floor level. Earliest phase was a single storey late 13th or early 14th century building, possibly an almonry, hospital or guest house for poor travellers. Gutted by fire in the mid-late 14th century and reconstructed possibly as a stable. Enlarged and upgraded early in the 16th century.


National Monuments Record, 1999, 444830 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV348516.

St. Mary's Abbey, a monastic house with four stages. At the Dissolution the lands of Buckfast Abbey came to Sir Thomas Dennis of Holcombe Burnell, who stripped the buildings reducing them to ruins. In circa 1800 Samuel Berry, a local woolen manufacturer who had bought the site, levelled the standing walls and built a house and woollen mill. The whole site was purchased in 1882 by French Benedictines, of La Pierre-Qui-Vire, who settled down, remodelled the house and gradually built quarters for themselves with a temporary church to the south. In 1806, a small Gothic mansion was built on the old site of the Cistercian Abbey of Buckfast. This is now incorporated in the present Benedictine Abbey. In 1906: The present Benedictine Abbey was commenced, built on the foundations of the Cistercian plan. Immediately south-west of the Abbey Church stands a substantial part of the 1806 house incoporated into the new abbey. Other details: Number 444830.


Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2000, Buckfast Abbey (Schedule Document). SDV348444.

Although Buckfast Abbey began life as a Benedictine monastery it was under Cistercian rule for much of its life. Certain of the abbey buildings survive well as adapted structures from the earlier periods of the abbey's history whilst others have been rebuilt directly on 12th century Cistercian foundations. Those remains of the abbey included in the scheduling have been demonstrated from partial excavation and survey to retain information about the abbey, the lives of its inhabitants, and their relationship with the outside world. The remains convey, along with the archaeological and historical material presented by the abbey to the public, a sense of the monastic life of the Middle Ages. This combination of standing remains, coupled with academic and popular accounts of the abbey buildings, enhances the educational quality of this monument which still functions as a monastery.
The monument includes part of the north west area of the precinct of the outer court of Buckfast Abbey including the standing arch of the North Gate, the below ground remains of buildings and courtyards of the outer court, the standing remains of a kitchen and service block, and the below ground remains of the Medieval guesthouse and Abbot's guest hall. The abbey is sited on the west bank of the River Dart on the southern edge of Dartmoor, just north of the town of Buckfastleigh. Although originally a Benedictine foundation, and for a short time under Savignac rule, the plan of the abbey largely reflects the Cistercian monastic arrangement following the absorption of the abbey into the Cistercian order in 1147. The present plan of the abbey also reflects the ancient division between an inner and outer court, a common feature of Cistercian houses, the inner court being reserved essentially for the monastic community whilst the outer court catered for the needs of guests and visitors. The abbey was in monastic occupation from its foundation until 1539 when it fell victim to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It reverted to the role of a monastery from 1882, however, and was rebuilt largely on the original foundations. The inner court of the monastic complex at Buckfast has as its focus the abbey church, a Grade II* Listed Building, which was re-erected on exposed 12th century foundations. The claustral ranges were also rebuilt on the existing plan and they incorporate the remains of a barrel-vaulted undercroft of probable 12th century date. The building known as the 'Abbot's Tower,' which dates from around the 14th century and which adjoins the south west corner of the claustral block, survived later depredations largely through its incorporation into a mansion built on the site in about 1806 by Samuel Berry; both the claustral block and the Abbot's Tower are Listed Buildings, Grade II*. Further below ground remains, suspected but not confirmed to be those of the abbot's house and the infirmary, have been recorded to the south east of the claustral block, those of the suspected abbot's house have been reported by Brown in 1996 to be in a particularly good state of preservation. The inner court does not form part of the scheduling owing to the presence of a monastic community at Buckfast, where regular worship takes place in the abbey church and where other buildings and areas of the inner court are utilised for prayer and contemplation. The scheduling encompasses part of the area of the outer court of the ancient abbey on its north western side. Visible remains exist within the outer court in the form of a number of ruined and adapted structures and archaeological investigations have demonstrated the presence of the below ground remains of buildings, enclosure walls, surfaces, and archaeological deposits of the 12th-19th centuries. The principal above ground survivals of the Medieval period are the 14th century guesthouse, the 15th century Abbot's guest hall, and the southern arch of the North Gate. In addition, there are fragmentary standing remains of what is considered to be a kitchen block and service buildings attached to the guesthouse and guest hall. The two adjoining buildings of the guesthouse and Abbot's guest hall, both Listed Buildings Grade II, are in use and only the ground beneath them is included in the scheduling. The 14th century guesthouse has been shown by the excavator (Brown) to have developed from a smaller 12th century building of likely similar function. It comprised a ground floor hall, an upper end, probably of two floors providing sleeping accommodation, and the lower end of a chamber above two service rooms. In post-Dissolution adaption the building was narrowed and the original outer west wall survives exposed at ground level with modern consolidation. Also surviving are the remains of an 18th century garderobe. The Abbot's guest hall, known as 'Abbey Farm' after its later period of use, survives as an adapted structure with all four of its Medieval walls standing to nearly full height. It was a 15th century addition to the guesthouse suite standing almost at right angles to it and it has been shown in archaeological excavations to be overlying earlier remains including 12th century drainage channels. Abbey Farm is a Listed Building Grade II. Excavations have also taken place both to the south and north of the guesthouse. Those to the south revealed a structure interpreted as the guesthouse kitchen whilst to the north a building complex with a long sequence of use dating from the late 13th or early 14th century, and extending into the 15th century, was discovered. Recovered in excavation was a building with an associated cobbled courtyard which lay above disturbed 12th century levels. The excavator, Brown, has demonstrated that the building fell into disrepair but was restored and refurbished including the laying of new underfloor drains. The building was subsequently replaced by a smaller and narrower structure towards the end of the 15th century. An archaeological trench east of the guesthouse also revealed evidence for what may be wooden buildings and a good depth of archaeological stratigraphy was recorded including Dissolution deposits resulting from the demolition processes of the 16th century when the monastic buildings were stripped for salvage. The abbey at its outset was enclosed by a precinct wall on at least three sides, the fourth side being bounded by the River Dart. However, at some stage in the 13th century the decision appears to have been taken to enlarge the area of the outer court without replacing the western precinct wall which was removed and robbed of its stone. The robber-trench of the wall has been located in excavation and a length of this wall line along the north west side of the outer court of the abbey, where it is known or inferred, is included within the scheduling. The precinct wall would have turned east at its north western corner but it is unclear whether it took a line below the standing Post-Medieval wall abutting the southern arch of the North Gate or whether it included a greater area of the north west-corner, perhaps linking to the northern arch of the north gate and thus enclosing the gate passage within the monastic bounds. Either way, there is a high potential for the below ground remains of monastic buildings or deposits flanking the western side of the gatehouse passage. The North Gate, which is included in the scheduling, would have comprised a gatehouse with an inner and outer arch in the precinct wall. This is considered likely to have been the main entrance into the abbey; its southern inner archway survives almost complete. It is considered to be of 12th century date with extensive later alterations and is a Listed Building Grade II. The east passage wall of the gatehouse survives incorporated into a building in use which is also a Listed Building Grade II. The east passage wall is excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath it, including the foundations of the wall and the wall footings, is included. The remaining part of the building of which the east passage wall forms part, is not included in the scheduling. The abbey, which was first confirmed in the Benedictine order, is known from documentary sources to have been founded by at least 1018 although part of its cartulary is missing. In 1136 the abbey was granted by King Stephen to the Abbot of Savigny in Normandy and it was briefly under Savignac rule until 1147 when it was transferred to the Cistercian order and subsequently became one of the richest Cistercian abbeys in the south of England. The abbey was in monastic occupation from its foundation until the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII in 1539. Following the Dissolution, Buckfast Abbey passed through a number of private owners and the buildings of the outer court were converted into a farm, before the whole site was purchased by an exiled group of French Benedictines in 1882. The Benedictine rule was re- introduced and Boniface Natter blessed as first abbot in 1903 whilst work began on the restoration of the abbey church and other buildings. These works resulted in the consecration of the new church in 1932 and its completion in 1938. The abbey was still functioning as a living monastic community at the turn of the 21st century. Included in the scheduling are the fragmentary standing remains of the kitchen block, the south west exposed walling of the guesthouse where this does not form part of the adapted standing building, and the exposed western foundation wall of the guesthouse. Some of this walling has been rebuilt and consolidated as part of 20th century measures to display the ruined walls to the public. Also specifically included in the scheduling is the North Gate arch and, although recognised to be post-medieval in date, the stretch of wall immediately west of, and abutting, the North Gate. Excluded from the scheduling are the standing buildings of the guesthouse, the building known as the Abbot's guest hall, the post-medieval cow shed west of the guesthouse (in use as a video display area), the east passage wall of the North Gate, the Methodist chapel building of 1881, the modern walkway which connects the guesthouse and the Abbot's guest hall, and all modern surfaces and pavings, street furniture, telegraph poles, and fencing, although the ground beneath all these features is included. Other details: Monument Number 29672.


National Monuments Record, 2001, 1266782 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV294799.

Saxon and Mediaeval Benedictine Abbey, later Cistercian. The Benedictine abbey was founded by King Cnut in 1018. It became a daughter-house of Savigny in 1136, thus becoming Cistercian. It was surrendered in 1539. The site was used as a stone quarry after the Dissolution. In 1907 a new Benedictine Abbey was begun. Limited excavations were undertaken by the monks in 1882 which recovered most of the plan of the Medieval monastery, demonstrating that it was a normal plan for a Cistercian house. Rescue excavations were undetaken in 1982 and 1983 on the site of the Guest House to the West of the Abbey complex, and showed that two buildings of 12th centurydate were replaced in the 14th century by a single great hall, to which an east wing was added in the late Medieval period. Parts of this are incorporated in a farmhouse and it is hoped that the remaining standing Medieval structures will be conserved and consolidated. Other details: SX76NW43.


Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2001, Monument Number 29672 (Correspondence). SDV348445.

Scheduled Monument Consent granted for a limited archaeological field evaluation.


Brown, S., 2003, Buckfast Abbey: Archaeological Evaluation of the Area to the west of North Gate (Report - Evaluation). SDV292055.

Trial excavations in 2002 on the site of the Holy Trinity Church circa 750 metres south of the Abbey in Buckfastleigh uncovered remains of a high status Saxon church with associated burials belonging to an earlier minster.


Robinson, D. M. + Harrison, S., 2006, Cistercian Cloisters in England and Wales. Part 1, 170 (Article in Serial). SDV361751.

Buckfast (Devon) 1136 - 1539. Summary: south; form of garth known only from excavation in the 1880s; no information on arcades (citing Fergusson, Architecture of Solitude, 115-16; Robinson, Cistercian Abbeys of Britain, 75-76).


Brown, S., 2007 - 2008, Buckfast Abbey: Archaeological Excavation (Report - Excavation). SDV348629.

Excavations on the site of the 'New East Wing' and the adjacent kitchen garden at Buckfast Abbey exposed the west wall of the Medieval dorter range and part of a 14th or 15th century building which stood to the west. The building was either the refectory or a structure which infilled previously open ground between the dorter range and the refectory. Other excavated features included three Medieval drains and a 19th century culvert. Finds included Medieval pot sherds from the 12th to the 16th century.


Brown, S., 2010, Buckfast Abbey. The Grange. Archaeological Watching Brief (Report - Watching Brief). SDV351188.


Brown, S., 2010, Buckfast Abbey: Archaeological Recording of Mill Leat and Early 20th Century Standing Structures: Interim Report (Report - Assessment). SDV348509.

Recording work covered a 19th century mill leat and early 20th century buildings at Buckfast Abbey.


Brown, S., 2011, Buckfast Abbey: Archaeological Recording of Mill Leats and Buildings Associated with Lower Buckfast Mill and the Early Modern Abbey and Archaeological Watching Brief (Report - Watching Brief). SDV348511.

The groundworks undertaken in 2011 exposed a number of stone artefacts from the modern abbey's mason's yard. Some were stones that were cut and never used while others had been salvaged from other buildings including moulded Beer stone voussoirs from a very large arch, moulded Ham Hill stone window jambs and sills, moulded granite window sills and lintels and some long unmoulded granite pieces. The remains of a boundary wall of local limestone rubble running west to east was exposed which was probably erected shortly after 1882 when the modern abbey grounds were enclosed. A later yard or garden wall of re-used masonry and brick fragments was also exposed.


Ordnance Survey, 2011, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV346129.

'St Mary's Abbey (Benedictine) on remains of Cistercian Abbey' shown as an irregular shaped building on modern mapping.


English Heritage, 2011, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV347072.

The main block at Buckfast Abbey includes the probably 14th century Abbot's Tower, a circa 1800 mansion built for Samuel Berry, incorporating a Medieval vaulted undercroft, and a building programme begun in 1883 to the designs of F A Walters for the Benedictine monks who purchased the site. Local grey limestone rubble, some Bathstone and Ham Hill stone dressings; slate roofs. Walter's designs are a simplified Romanesque "no doubt influenced by the history of the site" (Pevsner).
Plan: the programme begun in 1883 largely followed the site of the Medieval cloister and incorporated the Berry house with undercroft, the Abbot's Tower and an 1882 church (now the Chapter House) into a courtyard range. The 1882 church preceded Walter's rebuilding of the abbey church, largely on the foundations of the Medieval abbey church. The Abbot's Tower is at the south end of the west range with Berry's house at the north end; church south of and broken forward from the Abbot's tower. North and east ranges to Walter's designs. Exterior: Abbot's Tower. three storeys. Octagonal stair turret at south-west corner. Set-back buttresses with parapet above moulded string. 2-light stone mullioned windows to west and north faces upper windows with flamboyant tracery. Berry House. Partly concealed by Walter's building, the three-storey circa 1800 building reused Medieval masonry. The house was originally castellated, the entrance, with octagonal corner towers and a central projecting bay with 2-light transomed mullioned window is visible above the single storey gabled entrance block of the Walter phase. West end has blocked ground-floor doorway, 3-light west window with intersecting cusped tracery and lancet windows to the sides. Claustral buildings. West elevation, the most prominent, has a 7-bay Romanesque-style front, the bays divided by pilasters, corbelled eaves. Ground floor has round-headed windows with recessed architraves, glazed with square leaded panes. Round-headed doorway in the 2nd bay from the north with double chamfered arch. Battered string at first-floor level rises as a gable over the door, gable carved with 'pax' the motto of the Benedictines. First-floor windows in large round-headed recesses. Windows mostly paired and round-headed, glazed with square leaded panes. First-floor windows, similarly glazed, also paired to each bay with blind round-headed tympana. North and east claustral ranges in the same style.
Interior: plain Medieval vaulted undercroft below Berry House, with access from the abbey church. Interior of other buildings not inspected but Pevsner notes classical fireplaces in Berry House. The Grade II* reflects the importance of the Medieval buildings incorporated in this complex and the significance of the whole site. Other details: LBS Number 392218.


Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R., 2018-2019, The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 1, Haldon Ridge to Dart Valley (Interpretation). SDV361305.

The Abbey is visible on aerial photographs taken from 1930 onwards, and features have been described in the child records of individual elements of the complex. Features that have not been transcribed because they do not fall within the remit of the survey include tennis courts, a cricket pitch near the river, and rows of beehives north-west of the Abbey, visible on aerial photgraphs taken in 1930.


Copeland, G. W., c1965, Photos (Record Office Collection). SDV358497.


Gent, T. + Manning, P., Nov 2011, Archaeological Assessment of St. Mary's School and St. Mary's Convent, Buckfast, Devon, 2-3, 6 (Report - Assessment). SDV351589.

An abbey at Buckfast was founded or confirmed by Ealdorman Aethelweard in 1018, although this early community may have been located around Holy Trinity Church. The medieval abbey was dissolved in 1539 and the site and adjoining properties were purchased from the king by Sir thomas Dennys. In 1800 certain 'orchards and old walls' were granted to Samuel Berry, owner of the adjacent mill. He levelled the remains of the church and adjacent buildings in 1806 and built a mansion on the west side of the cloister. A fraternity of Benedictine monks acquired the mansion in 1882 and founded the present monastery. New buildings were gradually erected on the site of the ruined medieval church and claustral ranges.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV136066Article in Serial: Masterman, J. H. B.. 1931. Address of the President: The Monasteries of Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 63. A5 Hardback. 65-7,70.
SDV141008Article in Serial: Davies, W.. 1913. Buckfast Abbey and its relation to Kingsbridge.. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 45. A5 Paperback.
SDV16233Aerial Photograph: Cambridge University. 1948. CUCAP AX. Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs. Photograph (Paper). AX 72-5.
SDV177637Article in Serial: Allan, J. P. + Pope, P.. 1990. A new class of south-west English pottery in North America. Post-Medieval Archaeology. 24. Unknown. 51-9.
SDV18677Article in Serial: Walker, H. H.. 1961. Notes for a Study of Bishop Walter de Stapledon and the Church in the West Country in the Early 14th Century. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 93. A5 Hardback. 325.
SDV19012Article in Serial: Baring Gould, S.. 1900-1901. St. Petrock. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 1. Unknown. 13.
SDV241947Article in Serial: Birch, W de G.. 1870. On the Date of Foundation Ascribed to the Cistertian Abbeys in Great Britain. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 26. Unknown. 294,358,366.
SDV241952Monograph: Knowles, D. + St. Joseph, J. K.. 1952. Monastic Sites from the Air. Monastic Sites from the Air. Unknown. 36-8.
SDV241993Article in Serial: Stephan, J.. 1963. Presidential Address: Devon Cistercians in English Literature. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 95. A5 Hardback. 26.
SDV256356Article in Serial: Birch, W de G.. 1872. On Three Lists of Monasteries Compiled in the Thirteenth Century. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 28. Unknown. 45-64.
SDV292049Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1988. DAP/JP. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 6-11.
SDV292055Report - Evaluation: Brown, S.. 2003. Buckfast Abbey: Archaeological Evaluation of the Area to the west of North Gate. Stewart Brown Associates Report. A4 stapled + Digital.
SDV294759Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey. 1951. SX76NW18. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV294762Record Office Collection: Everett, A. W.. 1960. 3116Z/6/Plan. Devon Record Office Collection. Unknown.
SDV294799National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2001. 1266782. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV323253Monograph: Knowles, D. + Hadcock, R. N.. 1971. Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales. Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales. Unknown + Digital (part).
SDV325629Monograph: Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N.. 1989. The Buildings of England: Devon. The Buildings of England: Devon. Hardback Volume. 222-6.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV342767Article in Serial: Youings, J.. 1965 - 1967. Monastic Wool Sales. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 30. Unknown. 71-2.
SDV345566Article in Serial: Virtue, O. H.. 1868. National Gazetteer. 1. Unknown. 406.
SDV346129Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #104990 ]
SDV347072National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2011. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV348423Article in Serial: Chanter, J. F.. 1913. Extracts from the Leger Book and other Ancient Documents of the Abbey of Buckfast. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 45. A5 Hardback. 152-168.
SDV348424Article in Serial: Brooking Rowe, J.. 1876. The Cistercian Houses of Devon, Part 3: Buckfast. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 8. A5 Hardback. 809-886.
SDV348426Article in Serial: Rowe, J. B.. 1884. Recent Excavations at Buckfast Abbey. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 16. A5 Hardback. 590-594.
SDV348427Article in Serial: Stephan, J.. 1930 - 1931. Buckfast Cartulary. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 16. Unknown. 90.
SDV348428Article in Serial: Stephan, J.. 1947 - 1949. Extracts from the Statutes of the Cistercian General Chapters. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 23. Unknown.
SDV348429Article in Serial: Stephan, J.. 1947 - 1949. Extracts from the Powderham Manuscript Entitled 'Antiquities of Various Abbeys in Devon (1540)'. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 23. Unknown. 55-64,332-6.
SDV348430Article in Serial: Benson, J.. 1947. Buckfast Abbey. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 23. Unknown. 46.
SDV348431Article in Serial: Dennys, R.. 1947 - 1949. Gabriel Donne, Abbot of Buckfast. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 23. Unknown. 34-8.
SDV348433Article in Serial: Stephan, J.. 1944. Savigny and Buckfast Abbey. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 76. A5 Hardback. 133-9.
SDV348435Article in Serial: Stephan, J.. 1952 - 1953. Buckfast Abbey Library Charter (1440): Incomplete. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 25. Unknown.
SDV348436Article in Serial: Stephan, J.. 1932 - 1933. The Ancient Abbots of Buckfast. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 17. Unknown. 49-51.
SDV348437Article in Serial: Stephan, J.. 1954 - 1955. Two Abbots Slade at Buckfast Abbey. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 26. Unknown. 216-7.
SDV348438Article in Serial: Stephan, J.. 1954 - 1955. Ancient Oak Carvings at Buckfast Abbey. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 26. Unknown. 138-40.
SDV348439Article in Serial: Stephan, J.. 1924. Some Artistic Remains of Buckfast Abbey. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 56. A5 Hardback. 195-6.
SDV348440Report - Assessment: Dartmoor National Park Authority. 1981. Reports and Plans on the Archaeological Implications of Proposed Development at Buckfast Abbey. Dartmoor National Park Authority Report. Unknown.
SDV348441Report - Assessment: Blair, W. J.. 1981. Buckfast Abbey: Features of Architectural and Archaeological Interest. Unknown.
SDV348443Article in Serial: Brown, S. W.. 1988. Excavations and Building Recording at Buckfast Abbey. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 46. Paperback Volume. 13-89.
SDV348444Schedule Document: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2000. Buckfast Abbey. The Schedule of Monuments. Website.
SDV348445Correspondence: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2001. Monument Number 29672. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Letter.
SDV348446Article in Serial: Anon. 1884. Antiquarian Intelligence. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 40. Unknown. 128.
SDV348447Article in Serial: Rowe, J. B.. 1886. Report of the Committee on Scientific Memoranda. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 18. A5 Hardback. 75.
SDV348449Un-published: Brown, S.. 1986. Buckfast Abbey. Devon Religious Houses Survey. Unknown.
SDV348509Report - Assessment: Brown, S.. 2010. Buckfast Abbey: Archaeological Recording of Mill Leat and Early 20th Century Standing Structures: Interim Report. Stewart Brown Associates Report. A4 Stapled.
SDV348511Report - Watching Brief: Brown, S.. 2011. Buckfast Abbey: Archaeological Recording of Mill Leats and Buildings Associated with Lower Buckfast Mill and the Early Modern Abbey and Archaeological Watching Brief. Stewart Brown Associates Report. A4 Spiral Bound.
SDV348516National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 1999. 444830. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV348629Report - Excavation: Brown, S.. 2007 - 2008. Buckfast Abbey: Archaeological Excavation. Stewart Brown Associates Report. A4 Grip Bound.
SDV351188Report - Watching Brief: Brown, S.. 2010. Buckfast Abbey. The Grange. Archaeological Watching Brief. Stewart Brown Associates Report. A4 Bound.
SDV351589Report - Assessment: Gent, T. + Manning, P.. Nov 2011. Archaeological Assessment of St. Mary's School and St. Mary's Convent, Buckfast, Devon. Archaedia Report. A4 Comb Bound. 2-3, 6.
SDV354848Aerial Photograph: Aerofilms. 1930. Aerofilms LTD Oblique Aerial Photography 60713. NMR Aerial Photograph. Digital. AFL 60713/EPW033162; EPW033240 01-JUL-1930.
SDV358497Record Office Collection: Copeland, G. W.. c1965. Photos. Photocopy + Digital.
SDV359974Photograph: Department of Environment. 1985. Images of listed buildings in Buckfastleigh. Photograph (Paper). 15/07/1985.
SDV361305Interpretation: Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R.. 2018-2019. The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 1, Haldon Ridge to Dart Valley. Historic England Research Report. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV361751Article in Serial: Robinson, D. M. + Harrison, S.. 2006. Cistercian Cloisters in England and Wales. Part 1. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 159. Digital. 170.
SDV57424Monograph: Oliver, G.. 1846. Monasticon Diocesis Exoniensis. Monasticon Diocesis Exoniensis. Unknown. 371-2.
SDV58456Article in Serial: Beverley, S. M. + Margeson, S. + Hurley, M.. 1992. Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1991. Medieval Archaeology. 36. Unknown. 207.
SDV863Article in Serial: Reichel, O. J.. 1898. The Domesday Churches of Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 30. A5 Paperback. 292-3.
SDV870Article in Serial: Chanter, J. F.. 1910. Christianity in Devon before AD 909. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 42. A5 Hardback. 489,497.

Associated Monuments

MDV7809Parent of: Abbots Tower at Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV123375Parent of: Boundary Wall at Buckfast Abbbey, Buckfastleigh (Monument)
MDV7810Parent of: Cemetery at Buckfast Abbey (Monument)
MDV7810Related to: Cemetery at Buckfast Abbey (Monument)
MDV123364Parent of: Garden features at Buckfast Abbbey, Buckfastleigh (Monument)
MDV123371Parent of: Landscaping and Garden features at Buckfast Abbbey, Buckfastleigh (Monument)
MDV20065Parent of: Mansion at Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV20065Related to: Mansion at Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV123367Parent of: Possible Garden features at Buckfast Abbbey, Buckfastleigh (Monument)
MDV20063Parent of: St Anne's Chapel at Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV20063Related to: St Anne's Chapel at Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV20064Parent of: St Mary's Abbey Church at Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV20064Related to: St Mary's Abbey Church at Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV7814Related to: Abbey Farmhouse , Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV103755Related to: Abbey Guesthouse Kitchen, Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV105578Related to: Beeboles at Buckfast Abbey (Monument)
MDV65649Related to: Buckfast Abbey Higher Mill Leat (Monument)
MDV80420Related to: Buckfast Abbey Lower Mill Leat, Buckfast (Monument)
MDV7782Related to: Buckfast Abbey tithe barn, Buckfastleigh (Building)
MDV7810Parent of: Cemetery at Buckfast Abbey (Monument)
MDV7810Related to: Cemetery at Buckfast Abbey (Monument)
MDV7786Related to: Chapel to the east of Holy Trinity Parish Church in Buckfastleigh (Building)
MDV103753Related to: Cottage to south of Buckfast Abbey Guesthouse (Building)
MDV7797Related to: Higher Mill, Buckfast (Building)
MDV15043Related to: Holy Trinity Parish Church, Buckfastleigh (Building)
MDV7783Related to: Lower Buckfast Woollen Mills (Building)
MDV20065Parent of: Mansion at Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV20065Related to: Mansion at Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV47943Related to: Methodist Chapel, Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV7846Related to: North Gate at Buckfast Abbey (Monument)
MDV105582Related to: Quarry Pit or Pond to south of Buckfast Abbey Guesthouse (Monument)
MDV20067Related to: Range of buildings to south of Abbot's Tower, Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV20066Related to: South Gate at Buckfast Abbey (Monument)
MDV20063Parent of: St Anne's Chapel at Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV20063Related to: St Anne's Chapel at Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV20064Parent of: St Mary's Abbey Church at Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV20064Related to: St Mary's Abbey Church at Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV102966Related to: St. Anthony's, Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV7848Related to: Stone cross north-west of St. Mary's Abbey Church, Buckfast (Monument)
MDV105581Related to: Trackway to south of Buckfast Abbey Guesthouse (Monument)
MDV16260Related to: Trusham Settlement (Monument)
MDV42017Related to: WALL in the Parish of Buckfastleigh (Monument)
MDV7813Related to: Well in Crypt of Buckfast Abbey (Monument)
MDV104530Related to: Western boundary of Monastic Outer Court, Buckfast (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV5678 - Watching Brief at Buckfast Abbey
  • EDV5698 - Excavation at Buckfast Abbey
  • EDV6144 - Archaeological Watching Brief at The Grange, Buckfast Abbey
  • EDV7071 - Heritage assessment of buildings associated with the former Buckfast Spinning Mills, Buckfast (Ref: 1113)
  • EDV7515 - The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping (formerly NMP) Survey (Ref: ACD1748)

Date Last Edited:Mar 29 2019 11:40AM