We are so privileged to be able to call Abbotsbury our new home. It is a very special place, with a unique atmosphere, and amazing views in every direction.
Founded in 1044 by a thegn of King Cnut, Abbotsbury Abbey grew to be a formidable centre of prayer and learning, also managing all the agricultural activity necessary to support a large community of monks.
Most of the remains you can see today date from the 13th and 14th centuries, and the impressive thatched tithe barn, built around 1400, was once the largest in England.
The view is dominated by the instantly recognisable silhouette of St Catherine's Chapel, high on its hill overlooking Chesil and the Fleet. Its isolated setting allowed the monks to retreat and find solitude during fasts such as Lent. St Catherine is the patron saint of virgins, especially those seeking husbands, and so it became customary until the late 1800s for young women of Abbotsbury to visit to seek her aid. They put their hands and a knee into 'wishing holes' in the south doorway and wished for a husband. It probably survived the Dissolution because of its use as a sea mark for sailors, and a navigation light used to be kept burning at the top of its stair turret.
Nowadays it is more popular as a destination for walkers to get the panoramic views over the Isle of Portland, Chesil Beach and the South Dorset Ridgeway.
Benedictine monks were master gardeners, and it’s exciting to be bringing gardening back to the abbey grounds. English Heritage says “From the daily lives of medieval monks we can see that attention to gardens was of importance. Gardening was part of the daily ritual and was valuable to both recreation and spirituality.” We hope that our flower patch can offer a little oasis for our visitors to continue that tradition.