Buckfast Abbey
Buckfast Abbey forms part of an active Benedictine monastery at Buckfastleigh, Devon, England. Dedicated to Saint Mary, it was founded in 1018 and run by the Cistercian order from 1147 until it was destroyed under the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In 1882 monks began living there again, and today it is a Benedictine foundation.

Buckfast Abbey was founded by Earl Aylward in the reign of King Cnut in 1018. In 1147 it became a Cistercian abbey and was rebuilt in stone. In medieval times, the abbey became rich through fishing and trading in sheep wool, although the Black Death killed two abbots and many monks " by 1377 there were only fourteen monks at Buckfast. On 25 February 1539, William Petre arrived at Buckfast and declared the abbey to be dissolved by order of King Henry VIII. The monks were compelled to leave and the buildings were looted and destroyed. The abbey then stood in ruins for over two hundred years.

19th century: rebuilding
On 28 October 1882, six Benedictine monks arrived at Buckfast having been exiled from France. The land had been leased by monks from the St. Augustine's Priory in Ramsgate and it was later bought for £4,700. The first new abbot was Boniface Natter, who died in a shipwreck in 1906. His travelling companion Anscar Vonier became the next abbot and pledged to fulfil his dying wish, namely to rebuild the abbey. The monks lived among the ruins and gradually rebuilt the abbey church upon the foundations of the abbey constructed in 1147. The church itself was restored between 1905 and 1937. Over the thirty two years, there were never more than six monks working on the project at any one time, although the whole community had repaired the ancient foundations up to ground level. Construction methods were primitive " wooden scaffolding was held together by ropes and no safety protection was worn by the monks. One monk fell 50 feet but survived and three monks fell off a hoist without serious injury in 1931. Construction continued through World War I, with the German monks being unable under local law to leave the abbey grounds. The Abbey was consecrated on 25 August 1932, but the building was finally finished with the laying of the last stone in late 1937.

The grounds
There is a conference and seminar centre, and a restaurant (the Grange). On the west side of the Abbey are two gardens with plants ranging from herbs used in cooking or medicine to poisonous plants. Behind the public area is an enclosed garden for the monks. A bridge leads over the river to the abbey farm.

Self sufficiency
The Abbey is self-supporting, with a farm where vegetables are grown and bees, pigs and cattle are kept, a shop which sells wine, honey beeswax, fudge and other items made by religious communities throughout the world, and a gift shop, book shop, and restaurant.

Buckfast Tonic Wine
The monastery's most successful product is Buckfast Tonic Wine, a strong tonic wine which the monks began making (to a French recipe) in the 1890s. The strength of "Buckfast", and its misuse, have been a controversial issue for the abbey.

Brother Adam (born Karl Kehrle in 1898 in Germany, died in 1996) was put in charge of the Abbey's beekeeping in 1919, and began extensive breeding work creating the honeybee known as the Buckfast bee. Brother Adam had to replenish the bee colonies as 30 of the monastery's 46 colonies had been wiped out by a disease called "acarine", all the bees that died were of the native British black bee. The remaining 16 hives that survived were of Italian origin.


Buckfast Abbey Preparatory School
From 1967 until 1994, the abbey ran a prep school for boys aged 7 to 13. Two former monks were later convicted and imprisoned for sexually abusing boys during this period.

St Boniface's Catholic College
With the outbreak of World War II, Plymouth-based St Boniface's Catholic College evacuated its pupils to Buckfast Abbey between 1941-1945. The school later named one of its Houses "Abbey" in memory of this period in their history.

  • Alwin (Aelwinus) first mentioned as having attended Shire-mote in Exeter in about 1040. Known from the Doomsday Book to have been Abbot in 1066.
  • Eustace first mentioned in 1143 in a Totnes Deed. He was Abbot when Buckfast was affiliated to the Abbey of Citeaux (Cistercian).
  • Buckfast still followed the Rule of St. Benedict, as the Cistercians also live by that Rule.
  • William acted as Papal Legate in 1190.
  • Nicholas elected in 1205.
  • Michael mentioned in the Cartulary of Buckfast Abbey (C.B.A.) in 1223.
  • Peter (I) mentioned in the C.B.A. 1242.
  • William (II) mentioned in the C.B.A. 1249.
  • Howell mentioned in the Leger Book (L.B.) of Buckfast (Brit. Mus.) - no dates.
  • Henry mentioned in C.B.A. 1264 and 1269.
  • Simon mentioned in C.B.A. and Petre Archives (P.A.) between 1273 and 1280.
  • Robert mentioned in L.B. and Exeter Episcopal Registers (Ep. Reg.) between 1280 and 1283.
  • Peter de Colepitte mentioned in the P.A. between 1291 and 1313
  • Robert II mentioned in the Ep. Reg. 1316.
  • William Atte Slade mentioned in the Banco Rolls 1327.
  • Stephen I mentioned in the Ep. Reg. 1328.
  • John of Churchstowe mentioned in the Ep. Reg. 1332.
  • William Gifford mentioned in the Ep. Reg. 1333.
  • Stephen of Cornwall mentioned in the Ep. Reg. 1348.
  • Philip (Beaumont) mentioned in the Ep. Reg. 1349.
  • Robert Symons mentioned in the Ep. Reg. and P.A. between 1355 and 1390.
  • William Paderstow mentioned in the Ep. Reg and P.A. 1395.
  • William Slade mentioned in the Ep. Reg. and by Leland - "Com. de Scriptoribus Britanniae" and Boase - "Annals of Exeter College, Oxford" between 1401 and 1415.
  • William Beaghe mentioned in the Ep. Reg. and P.A. between 1415 and 1432.
  • Thomas Roger mentioned in Ep. Reg. and P.A. He was Prior Administrator c. 1422 - 1432, and blessed as Abbot in 1432.
  • John Ffytchett mentioned in the Ep. Reg. 1440.
  • John Matthu (Matthew) mentioned in the Ep. Reg. 1449.
  • John King mentioned in the Statuta Cap. Gen. Ord. Cist. from 1464 to 1498.
  • John Rede (I) mentioned in the Ep. Reg. 1498.
  • John Bleworthy mentioned in 1505 - Cal. of Early Chancery Proceedings, also in Powderham MSS.
  • Alfred Gyll mentioned in the Ep. Reg. 1512.
  • John Rede (II) mentioned in the Ep. Reg. 1525. There is no record of death or resignation from his office.
  • Gabriel Dunne (or Donne) imposed on the Community in 1535 by Thomas Cromwell. He surrendered the Abbey to the king on 25 February 1539.
  • Monastic life was restored at Buckfast in 1882.
  • Thomas Duperou - Superior: 1882 till 1884 (became Abbot of Sacred Heart, USA)
  • Leander Lemoine - Superior: 1884 till 1885
  • Benedict Gariador - Prior: August 1885, till February 1899
  • Leander Lemoine - Superior: March 1899
  • Ignatius Jean - Superior: April 1899, till March 1900 (not a Monk of Buckfast)
  • Leander Lemoine - Superior: March 1900 to July 1902 (was also Abbot Visitor)
  • Savinian Louismet - Superior: July 1902 to November 1902
  • Boniface Natter elected 19 November 1902. Died 4 August 1906.
  • Anscar Vonier elected 14 September 1906. Died 26 December 1938.
  • Bruno Fehrenbacher elected 10th January, 1939. Resigned 1956. Titular Abbot of Tavistock till his death on 18 July 1965.
  • Placid Hooper elected 5 January 1957. Ruling Abbot till 1976. Titular Abbot of Tavistock till his death on 11 December 1995
  • Leo Smith elected 30 January 1976. Ruling Abbot till 1992. Titular Abbot of Colchester till his death on 10 July 1998
  • David Charlesworth elected 3 January 1992. Ruling Abbot till 1999. Titular Abbot of Malmesbury.
  • Sebastian Wolff appointed Prior Administrator in January 2000
  • Philip Manahan elected Abbot 10th December 2003. Resigned December 2006. Sentenced to 15 months in prison for child sex abuse in November 2007.
  • Richard Yeo appointed Abbot Administrator February 2007 until January 2009
  • David Charlesworth elected 27 January 2009