Quarr Abbey

Ryde, United Kingdom

Quarr Abbey is a monastery between the villages of Binstead and Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight in southern England. The Grade I listed monastic buildings and church, completed in 1912, are considered some of the most important twentieth-century religious structures in the United Kingdom. They were constructed from Belgian brick in a style combining French, Byzantine and Moorish architectural elements. In the vicinity are a few remains of the original twelfth-century abbey.

History

St. Mary's Abbey at Quarr was part of the Cistercian Order and was founded in 1132 by Baldwin de Redvers, 1st Earl of Devon, fourth Lord of the Isle of Wight. The founder was buried in the Abbey in 1155, and his remains, along with those of a royal princess, Cecily of York (died 1507), second daughter of King Edward IV of England and godmother of Henry VIII, still lie on the site of the mediaeval monastery, as do other important personages. Arreton Manor was part of the abbey from the 12th century until 1525.

The name Quarr comes from 'quarry', because there used to be a stone quarry in the neighbourhood. The original title of the monastery was the Abbey of Our Lady and St John. Stone from the quarry was used in the Middle Ages for both ecclesiastical and military buildings, for example for parts of the Tower of London.

This site became a valuable and productive property. Because of this, it was the tradition for the abbot to be appointed warden or lord of the island. The prevalence of piracy in the area led to the granting in 1340 of special permission to fortify the area against attack. A stone wall, sea gate and portcullis were constructed. The ruins of these defences are still visible.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, the land was acquired by a Southampton merchant, George Mills who demolished most of the abbey. Its stone was used for fortifications at the nearby towns of Cowes and Yarmouth.

One of the three abbey bells is preserved in the belfry of the nearby Anglican parish church, originally built by the monks of Quarr Abbey for their lay dependants. Salvaged stone was also used to build Quarr Abbey House.

Modern abbey

The first monks arrived at Quarr Abbey House from Appuldurcombe on 25 June 1907 to prepare the grounds and the beginnings of a kitchen garden. They also put up fencing around the property, established a chicken farm and planted an orchard.

One of the monks, Dom Paul Bellot, aged 31, was an architect. He designed and draughted plans for the new abbey, incorporating and extending Quarr Abbey House, some distance from the ruins of the medieval monastery. 300 workers from the Isle of Wight, accustomed to building only dwelling-houses, raised a building whose design and workmanship is admired by all who visit the Abbey. The building of the refectory and three sides of the cloister began in 1907 and was completed inside one year. The rest of the monks came from Appuldurcombe and, in April 1911, work began on the Abbey church which was quickly completed and consecrated on 12 October 1912. It was built with tall pointed towers of glowing Flemish brick, adding a touch of Byzantium to the skyline. The monastic buildings are considered some of the most important twentieth-century religious structures in the United Kingdom.

In 1922, after World War I, the community of Solesmes returned to France. A small community of monks was left at Quarr which, from being a priory of Solesmes, became in 1937 an independent abbey, with English monks recruited to the community.

With a shrinking community and ageing buildings the World Monuments Fund identified Quarr Abbey as one of the 100 most endangered historic sites in the world. In July 2012 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded Quarr a £1.9 million matching grant. The project included repair and conservation of the abbey remains and existing abbey church, as well as a visitor information centre and education and training placements in construction for local college students. In the Bellot Abbey, repairs were carried out to remedy rain penetration.

A community of fewer than a dozen monks maintains the monastery's regular life and the attached farm.

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Address

Quarr Road, Ryde, United Kingdom
See all sites in Ryde

Details

Founded: 1132/1912
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Brian Ridley (2 years ago)
Very unusual relatively (early 1900's) modern abbey. Unusually all brick built and very striking design. The monks are still present and we saw some working. There is a small museum which describes the Benedictine order of monks and history of the abbey Well worth a visit and it's free!!
Marc Farmer (2 years ago)
Lovely place to visit with an impressive church building. The grounds are beautiful to look at while strolling around. The kids loved the piglets. There is a visitors information area and shop with books, rosaries and other religious items to purchase. The video was a bit jumpy but gave a good and informative overview of the monastery past and present, as well as the printed displays. The produce in the farm shop is a bit expensive but good quality (beer is lovely). The cafe is also a bit steep with the baguette and sausage roll in the vegetarian ploughman's lunch being a bit pale but the coffee was very nice and my wife really liked her jacket potato. A worthwhile visit if you have a couple of hours/half day to fill.
Vanita Jones (2 years ago)
Recommend everyone to visit this hidden gem. The abbey is tranquil and beautiful. There's a silence request when inside as respect for the abbey and the monk's. The cafe offer's good food and drinks but there are plenty of places to eat a picnic. The pig's are worth a visit too. There's food in the shop if you want to feed them as they're not allowed other foodstuffs.
Alan Cobb (2 years ago)
Quarr Abbey is a great (and free!) place to visit. The grounds are beautiful and if you can respect the silence, a visit inside the Abbey is quite the experience. The food shop is exquisite with a good range of quality and well priced items which of course all help with the good cause of the Abbey. The resident pigs (and, depending on the time of year, piglets!) are beautiful and feeding them is a great activity for the kids. The cafe is also amazing with good quality food and drinks available. If you’re passing, this is one of the best underrated places to visit on the Island!
Tracey Stonehouse (2 years ago)
Parked here in free car park to walk the coastal path into Ryde. A wonderful walk with beautiful scenery at the Abbey and along the pathways. A lovely tea room/cafe, yet to try but on the to do list, as near to the ferry terminal. Fed the pigs and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful and tranquil surroundings. Obviously very popular with the locals for dog walking, and for meeting up for a cuppa and a chin wag.
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