SOMERSET: Cleeve Abbey

Cleeve lr

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By Tim Saunders

Peace and solitude are really difficult to find in today’s busy constantly connected world. So it’s a real joy to discover Cleeve Abbey in Washford, Watchet, Somerset – a gem of a find.
I won’t deny the weather always helps when making a new discovery and as we arrive the sun is shining brightly, the grass is luscious green after what feels like months of rain and the April day feels more like a summer’s day. Some recently born lambs are with their mums in a nearby field as we make our way down the driveway towards the entrance.
It’s as if a duvet of tranquillity has enveloped us. Those hours of sitting in traffic jams long forgotten, we want to stay here for as long as possible. You can see why monks lived here for over three hundred and fifty years and it’s as if their calm presence somehow remains. What a peaceful community it must have been. But perhaps a little too quiet for us modern souls.
We are walking through history dating back to the thirteenth century and the property would have been surrounded by farms and orchards. Inside, we see original tiles and the monastery itself is an inspiring work of architecture, which includes the most magnificent ceiling I have ever seen. As we walk through the dormitory we can imagine the number of monks who must have lived here – there would have been a large lavatory to one side, long since gone.
It’s a large site, which of course was necessary for such a self-sufficient community.
We learn that the monastery was founded by the busy Earl of Lincoln and that the monks prayed on his behalf - a common practice at the time. An interesting way of looking at life…
Apparently, this was an unremarkable monastery, often ill-managed and financially troubled and in 1536 it was closed by Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries and converted into a country house.

For more information visit:
English Heritage

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