Historic Hartland Abbey

I was treated to a wonderful tour of Hartland Abbey this week by local historical, Stephen Hobbs, who has his own website Harton Forum. This contains a wealth of material on Hartland past and present.

I was treated to a wonderful tour of Hartland Abbey this week by local historical, Stephen Hobbs, who has his own website Harton Forum. This contains a wealth of material on Hartland past and present. It makes a real difference when one has a knowledgeable tour guide, but for the background information, go yourself and talk to the well-informed stewards; they love you to ask questions. The Abbey remains open this year until 30th September and then re-opens next spring. On the doorstep, within the Hartland Peninsula, it is a visit not to be missed…….
Splendid Hartland Abbey – the view everyone recognises as they sweep down the drive!!
A beautiful time of year for the Virginia Creeper at the Abbey
The Abbey is hidden in a valley leading to the sea. Having walked in the grounds down to the coast a few times, I can recommend it as a very pleasant outing. Whether it was paradise in winter for the Augustinian monks, I can’t be sure, but it remains sheltered from the worst of the Atlantic gales which can affect the area. The circular walk to the sea was created in 2010, which now has an established woodland walk, beautiful in spring (snowdrops, daffodil and bluebell days are offered).. There is also a Gazebo. Understandably, given its location and beauty, the Abbey has been used for television and film work, including the BBC’s 2007 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility and more recently, in 2011, the Antiques Roadshow. It was also the setting for the 2005 version of The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher.
Another Hrtland Abbey peacock – was rather taken by them!
Hartland Abbey (sadly, no photos allowed inside) is well worth a visit, and certainly yielded much more of interest than I expected. Built in the 12th century, 1157 to be precise, it remained a monastery for 400 years until the dissolution in the time of Henry VIII, when it was one of the last monasteries to be dissolved. Henry gave it as a gift to the Sergeant of his Wine Cellar at Hampton Court, William Abbot. Subsequently, it has never been sold, and thus contains, as a lived-in home, a number of accumulated items from many generations. Today, the Abbey is home to Sir Hugh and Lady Stucley, with their four married children, eight grandchildren and numerous dogs.
Not a peacock!!
The Abbey has undergone many renovations and reconstructions over time, as one might expect. Inside, my favourite room was probably the Drawing Room. Here you can see panelling with an additional set of twelve murals. These depict historical events in which the Stucley ancestors were involved. Stephen kindly explained all of these to me, which linked the Abbey beautifully to both national and global history but also provided a very real sense of the pride the family have in their ancestry and heraldic history. The Library is also rather stunning, and said to be "the most complete Regency room in the house in the Strawberry Hill gothic style", Strawberry Hill being the rather fanciful building in Twickenham, created by Horace Walpole in 1749. I was also continually drawn by the Alhambra Passage, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, with its vaulted, stencilled ceiling, based, of course, on the Alhambra, which was visited by George Stucley. This is one of the first sights you will encounter upon entering the Abbey.
External stairway to the Abbey
For evidence of the original Abbey, you need to head for the basement where the cloisters run the whole length of the passage and some original doorways remain. Here, you will find documents and photographic displays from the vast archive of material which remain stored at the Abbey. If you wish to keep up to date with the day to day happenings at the Abbey, Lady Stucley writes her own beautifully written blog. It is easy to ignore the history on our doorstep but here we have a wonderful building and some fabulous website resources to draw upon…..why not make the most of them?
View to "North Devon Cathedral", St Nectan’s, Stoke
Historic Hartland Abbey