A Tale of Two Abbeys:their construction, reconstruction and legacy

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On November 21st, Christine Bury entertained her audience at the local Community Centre with an illustrated talk on two nearby abbeys. The abbeys at Titchfield, near Fareham and Netley, close to Southampton owe their origins in the 13th century to one man, Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester. Abbey 2For 300 years these religious communities studied, prayed, gave generous hospitality to travellers, looked after the local villagers but did not impinge much on worldly affairs. They were austere in their rule, a fact which appealed to wealthy benefactors who helped embellish the abbey churches.

Life in the abbeys changed irrevocably though with the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII. The monks dispersed and the lands were given to palace officials and courtiers. Thomas Wriothesley and William Paulet, later the Earl of Southampton and the Marquess of Winchester respectively won Titchfield and Netley abbeys among other benefices. The two men turned their acquisitions into Tudor mansions that were family homes for more than 200 years.
In the 18th century the abbey fortunes changed again. Both mansions were demolished and the abbeys reverted to being romantic medieval ruins. Little remains of Titchfield beyond a spectacular turreted gatehouse and a medieval tiled floor. Visitors to Netley however can see the finest Cistercian abbey ruins in Southern England. Both sites are scheduled ancient monuments under the care of English Heritage. Check for opening hours but admission is free.