Forde Abbey
Forde Abbey is a privately owned former Cistercian monastery in Dorset, England. The house and gardens are run as a tourist attraction while the 1,600-acre (6.5 km 2) estate is farmed to provide additional revenue. Forde Abbey is a Grade I listed building.

History
Between 1133-36, wealthy nobleman Richard de Brioniis built a priory on his land at Brightley (meaning "bright" or "clear" pasture) and invited Gilbert, Abbot of Waverley in Surrey, to send 12 monks to form a new Cistercian community there. One story is that the agricultural land surrounding the new priory was insufficiently fertile, forcing the monks to consider returning to the mother house in 1141. However, Adelicia de Brioniis, the sister of Richard and successor to his estate, offered them an alternative site close to the River Axe in the manor of Thorncombe. Here, between 1141”“48, they built a new priory which came to be known as "Ford" due to its proximity to an old river crossing. The monastery was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The foundation grew and became very wealthy, eventually possessing lands over 30,000 acres (120 km 2) by the 14th century. The third abbot, Abbot Baldwin, became Archbishop of Canterbury. Abbot Chard, the last abbot of Forde at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, surrendered the abbey to the Crown peacefully in 1539. The abbey buildings and lands were leased to Richard Pollard. For a century, the abbey was neglected and parts of the buildings were demolished to provide stone for other construction. In 1649, the estate was purchased by Edmund Prideaux (died 1659), Member of Parliament for Lyme Regis. He supported the Parliamentary cause during the English Civil War and was the attorney-general for most of the Interregnum. He made a fortune practising law and running the Parliamentary postal service. Having purchased the property he converted the buildings into his private home. The house remained largely unchanged during the 18th century, though the gardens were created during this period. In 1815, the house was rented to the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. During the 19th century the house was owned by a succession of owners, some of whom neglected the house while others attempted to renovate it. In 1905, the cousin of the last owner inherited the house and moved in with her husband Freeman Roper, whose descendants still own and occupy the house and estates.

House and gardens
Much of the original monastery, including the abbey church was demolished in the period after the dissolution, only two statues, now on display in the Great Hall, have been found from the original church. The monastic parts of the current house are the Great Hall, the north side of the original square of the cloisters as well as the monk's accommodation, the Upper Refectory and the Undercroft which was the abbey's working area and the Chapter House which has been converted into a chapel. Other rooms have been subsequently converted into State Rooms and show no evidence of their earlier use. Prideaux added some bedrooms and a reception area in the front of the building as part of his conversion of the abbey to a private house. The gardens of Forde Abbey are one of the main attractions. The Roper family has maintained and improved the gardens during their tenure. The gardens cover 30 acres (120,000 m 2) including several water features, planted gardens and an arboretum. The lawns were laid out in front of the house in the 18th century and many of the trees were planted in the 19th century. The Great Pond, which was originally the head pond for a watermill feeds a series of cascades down the hill to three smaller ponds which were a part of the gardens laid down in the 18th century. On the edge of the Great Pond is the Beech House, a structure formed from beech hedges which was created in the 1930s to provide a bird watching hide overlooking the pond. There is also a Bog Garden by the pond. In the second largest pond, the Mermaid pond, the Roper family installed the Centenary fountain in 2005 to commemorate the centennial of their ownership of Forde Abbey. At 160 feet (49 m) in height, it is claimed to be the highest powered fountain in England. Closer to the house surrounding the Long pond, there is extensive planting of flowering plants which provide a colourful sight in the summer months. Behind the house, there is a Victorian walled kitchen garden which originally supplied the house with food but is now mostly used as a nursery to provide plants for sale to the visitors.

Building Activity

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