Netley Abbey

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HCC Site ID: 1994 Parish: Hound
Designations: Scheduled Ancient Monument Area: 6.7 ha
Access: Public Access – check opening times Ownership: State, managed by English Heritage

Location and Site

Netley Abbey, a ruined medieval monastery, lies in wooded parkland to the west of the village of Netley and about four miles to the east of Southampton. It stands on a gently elevated site a short distance from the eastern bank of Southampton Water. It is sheltered by high ground on the north and east and open to the west and south west.

Historic Development

The Abbey was home to monks of the Cistercian order, founded in Burgundy, France, at the end of the 11th century. Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, intended there to be an abbey at Netley but did not live to see his wish fulfilled the Abbey being founded in 1239 the year after his death. The eastern parts of the church, chapter house and the frater with the warming house and kitchen were all included in the first work together with part of the southern end of the western range being the quarters of the lay brothers. The church was not finished until the early years of the fourteenth century. From this time until the suppression of the monastery (1536) there is no evidence of further major building work. On the suppression of the monastery the monks returned to Beaulieu and the Abbey was granted to Sir William Paulet and converted into a substantial Manor House, incorporating new brickwork into the stone buildings. It continued to be inhabited until the Abbey was bought by Sir Berkeley Lucy in 1704 mainly for the building materials it could produce. (Page, W,)After a workman was killed moving stonework, it was left to become a ruin (Hamilton, T W). The Abbey ruins eventually attracted the attention of Alexander Pope, who in 1734 wrote in a letter to Martha Blount of ‘..a great number of vaults and rooms covered with ivy and weed and some flowers, particularly rose trees’ and ‘..when we come to the shore, were both struck by the beauty of the it, a rising Hill very steeply hung with Woods, that fell quite into the water…’ Twenty years later, Horace Walpole was equally struck with the words ‘But how shall I describe Netley to you?….they are not the ruins of Netley but of Paradise’ (PQ). Thomas Lee Dummer bought Netley Abbey and the Castle in the mid-18th century and Dummer’s son who inherited in 1765, also Thomas, removed an arch and part of a gateway tower in the 1770s and erected it as a folly  in  Cranbury Park which he also owned (Yonge C). Dummer willed the Estate to his friend William Chamberlayne to be inherited in the event of there being no heirs after the death of his wife, Harriet (HRO102M71/T104) . Dummer died in 1781 and his widow, Harriet, married again dying in 1825 with no heirs. The Netley Estate passed to William Chamberlayne (son of the first William Chamberlayne), and then Chamberlayne’s nephew, Thomas, in 1829. (HRO137M71/D1 and F1/1). The 1st ed OS map 25”, 1867 shows overgrown fishponds to the east and the remains of a moat to the south. The site is well tree’d. Archeological excavations were undertaken by Charles Pink and the Rev. Edmund Kell from 1860-63 and the Chamberlaynes moved many of the Tudor features to create a more romantic feel to the site (BAA). The ruins continued to be both a tourist attraction as well as a place of archeological interest (Brammon, P). The 2nd ed, 1898 shows St Edward’s Church, built to the South in the moat area. The trees appear to have been removed on the southern part of the grounds. The fishponds have been cleared. There is little change on the 3rd ed, 1909, but more trees are shown to the south on the 4th ed, 1933.

The Abbey remained part of the Netley estate (which until 1873 included Netley Castle) until 1922 when it was gifted to the State by Tankerville Chamberlayne. when it became a Scheduled Ancient Monument (AHBR/EH).

Current Description

Remaining today is the shell of the church and monastic buildings around the cloister and the abbot’s house. Little of the post-dissolution mansion remains apart from the south range, foundations, alterations to the medieval structure in tudor brick and traces of the formal gardens. The sacristy/library, the south west transept chapels, the treasury, the reredorter undercroft and the lower floor of the abbot’s house still have their vaults intact. The abbey was once surrounded by a moat, of which traces are still discernable. There are also two large ponds in private hands not far from the buildings on the eastern side, which probably once supplied the brethren with fish and running water from the ponds down to the abbey and on to Southampton water. The ruins are an ancient monument and the site is cared for by English Heritage and free to visitors.

Summary

One of the best preserved ruined medieval monastries in the south of England. The ruins reflect over 800 years of transformation from a monastery into a Tudor mansion and later, a romantic ruin.

HGT Research: 2012/13

References

HRO Hampshire Record Office
102M71/T104 Extract of the will of William Chamberlayne 11 May 1798
139M71/D1/4 General deeds, abstracts and surveys (1766-1867) Netley Estate
139M71/D2 Chamberlayne family
139M71/F1/ Will of Thomas Dummer
Maps
Ordnance Survey (OS) maps from Hampshire County Council
1st ed.25” 1867
2nd ed 25” 1898
3rd ed 25” and 6” 1909
4th ed 25” 1933
Books
Hare. J 1994
Varilone, B Netley Castle
Ford, K Netley Abbey village
Adams guide to Netley Abbey
Yonge, C Old Otterbourne, John Keble’s Parishes
Thompson, A Hamilton Netley Abbey HMSO (1953)
PQ Philological Quarterly XLV, II, April 1966
Kell, Edmund Historical Paper on Netley Abbey (Hampshire Advertiser & Salisbury Gazetteer, 21 August 1858)
Brammon, Phillip The Stranger’s Guide and Pleasure Visitor’s Companion to Netley Abbey 1861
VCH Page W Victoria County History, Vol 3 1908
BAA Collectanea archiologicaI Vol 2 pt1 (1863) British Archeological Association and Account of the Recent Excavations and Discovery (1860))
Other Sources
AHBR Archaeology and Historic Buildings Record
Electronic Sources
EH http://www.english-heritage.org accessed 2012/13
http://www.galegroup.com accessed 2013
http://www.taylorbooks.co.uk/local-history accessed 03/2013 for Brammon, P


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