Photo Diary

Buckland Abbey

DSC_0014, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

This is one of those magical places that are so common still, thank God, in England. It was a Cistercian abbey from the 1270s or so through to the reformation. On the south-western edge of Dartmoor, it was one of the three main abbeys in the area, along with Tavistock and Buckfast. The Abbot’s Way was a great walk created to link the east and western edges, and I’m looking forward to walking that later in the year.

But Henry VIII took a dislike to abbeys – or, rather, he saw the potential to make money out of them while forcing the clergy to follow his lead, and closed them down. Many were ripped apart for the lead on their roofs and the glass in their windows. They had the catholic symbols stolen, the brasses torn from graves, and all the carvings vandalised. Some, like Buckland, were sold on to friends of the royal family.

Buckland was luckier than most. It had been built in a quiet, out of the way place, nestling in a little valley, and was bought by a local family who maintained their local interests for centuries. They only gave it up after successive English governments decided to impost appalling taxes on death, so that there’s no point in saving to pass money on to children any more. It’s all to be ‘redistributed’, which is another word for state theft.

However, Buckland became the home to a family of cheerful pirates. The Drakes. It was here that Sir Francis Drake lived as a boy, and it was from here that he went down to Plymouth to sail to America to rob any Spanish ship he could find, before winding up as England’s hero when he defeated (with a little help from the wind, storms, and the almighty) the Spanish armada, the most enormous fleet ever seen.

If you have never visited this tranquil little site, it’s worth it. The displays this weekend were superb, and the whole area very attractive.

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