2019 Day 134 – Buckland Abbey

I love it when pieces of the historic jigsaw click firmly in place. There’s a one such pleasingly moment today, at Buckland Abbey, linking it to Portsmouth’s Southsea Castle, which we toured on our return from France earlier on this year.Seven hundred years ago, Buckland Abbey was home to an order of Cistercian monks. Built in 1278, with extensive grounds and farmland, it was a productive site. So productive in fact, that the monks needed to build a 55 metre tithe barn to house all their produce.Himself and I were expecting a typical Abbey tour, the only difference being that Buckland Abbey is intact, unlike many others which stand in ruins. But there’s a lot more to the Abbey’s history. It was, like many others, victim of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries Act. Having seized the property, Henry sold the Abbey to Sir Richard Greynville the Elder in 1541, who had great plans to convert it to a private home for his son, Sir Roger Greynville, then the Captain of the ill fated war ship, the Mary Rose.The Mary Rose, engaged in battle with the French in the Solent (Portsmouth Harbour), heeled over and sank in 1545, losing 400 men on board: there were only 45 survivors. Henry VIII watched the battle, no doubt in horror, from Southsea Castle.Despondent at the loss of his son, Sir Richard shelved his plans. The Abbey stood unfinished until Sir Roger’s son, 3 years old at the time of his father’s death, fulfilled his grandfather’s vision in 1575 – 1576.Meanwhile, as the Greynville’s were dealing with loss and mediaeval architects, Francis Drake was busy making his mark on the world. In a classic “local boy made good” story, he took to the seas and in a spectacular raid, plundered a Spanish ship bringing home a £25 million fortune (today’s equivalent). He sailed home with so much treasure, it’s said he used silver coins for ballast. As you do. In an epic three year journey, Drake also famously became the first person to circumnavigate the earth.Freshly minted as a self made man, he purchased Buckland Abbey from Roger Greynville, apparently via an intermediary – Greynville allegedly loathed him, for reasons unclear. A favourite of Queen Elizabeth I (how could one not be fond of a man who brings you glory and treasure) Drake went on to many more seafaring victories, and one rather spectacular failure, being knighted by the Queen along the way.Despite two marriages, Francis Drake died relatively young, at 55, without issue. I’m guessing too much time at sea may have played its part there, the marriages lacking that key element needed to make babies. Buckland Abbey stayed in the Drake family however, for generations.It was remodelled in the 1800s and its last Drake resident was Baroness Seaton, a distant relation of Francis Drake’s brother who live here from 1916 – 1937. She’s painted below wearing the Drake jewel, a gift from Elizabeth I. The grounds are lovely, divided into a series of gardens,a hotel and a cider house.There’s also a cafe full of tasty treats – hot pasties for lunch. Yum!Finally, it’s time to get back on the road and continue our journey west. We farewell the last of the glorious moorsand even see some Dartmoor ponies.They, like their sheepy counterparts, wander freely.It’s not long before we’re in Cornwall. It always strikes me, as I see it afresh, how lovely it is.We settle just outside of St Austell late in the afternoon and having had such a lovely day this far, decide to extend it with dinner. There’s a 17th century carriage pub right next door where himself has a fabulously good seafood curry,while I succumb to the pork belly. Delightful, but very rich.I’m glad we took the time to really enjoy today. Tomorrow, the hard work of packing and cleaning begins. Dobby rests no more.