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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - The Thames Valley: survey



ABINGDON ABBEY, Berkshire and monastic granges

At the time of the Dissolution, Abingdon Abbey was the sixth wealthiest Benedictine monastery in England and one of the most high-profile communities in the region. The scanty monastic remains have some relevance to contemporary residential work, while its granges are even more pertinent to our purpose.

The site is now almost completely covered by the borough offices, houses, and gardens of Abingdon town, so that only the abbey gateway and a line of domestic buildings of the monastic base court survive. The latter consist of the bakehouse and granary (twelfth century with mid-fifteenth-century roof), the two-storeyed exchequer (c. 1260) and a residential range (mid-fifteenth century) now used as a dwelling, a theatre, and an empty area respectively. For our purposes, the residential range is of considerable value for comparison with contemporary secular ranges. Over 70 feet long, this two-storeyed range is stone-built towards the millstream and river Thames, but timber- and brick-built towards the abbey court, the upper part open-framed. It is now curtailed by about 25 feet at the east end, and with the lower half of the inner wall stone rebuilt after 1820 (possibly during the 1895 restoration), but the brick noggin between the studs is original, as are the first-floor windows towards the river of paired cinquefoil lights, transomed, under square heads, dating the range between the mid and late fifteenth century.

The significance of the range lies not in its drastically modified ground floor, possibly used for storage initially, but in the layout of the upper floor.