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Review: Leiston Abbey

Attraction - Ruins

Leiston, Suffolk, IP16 4TD, United Kingdom

All that is left of one of Suffolk's most important monastic sites

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2359 reviews

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  • June 2013
  • Husband

6 people found this review helpful

Set back from the road and surrounded by fields, the flint built Leiston Abbey is one of the most extensive monastic sites in Suffolk.  The choir and transepts still stand to almost their full height. Like many of the Suffolk churches, the abbey was built using flint as there was little good building stone around.

The Abbey was founded in 1182 by Ranulf de Glanville, Henry II’s Chief Justiciar, on swampy ground near Minsmere and was liable to flooding. In 1363, the canons obtained a papal licence to rebuild on a new site further inland. Much of the old abbey was dismantled for use as building stone for the new abbey. 

Fire destroyed much of this new building in 1380 and it was rebuilt. As well as the main abbey church, there were several chapels. 

The abbey was home to Augustinian canons who followed the Premonstratensian rule. Their main duties were preaching and pastoral work.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries,  the king bestowed the abbey on his brother-in-law Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Little of the abbey buildings remain, although a timber frame farmhouse was built into the corner of the nave and north transept and the abbey ruins were used as farm buildings, the church itself being used as a barn. Later, a Georgian front was added to the house.

The abbey is currently owned by music school Pro Corda, an international Chamber Music Academy, a charity running music courses for children and adults. The chapel has been restored and is occasionally used for services and weddings.

The site itself is in the care of English Heritage and is open all year with free access. It receives few visitors and it does rather feel as if you are trespassing when visiting!

The post code is IP16 4TD and the grid reference is TM443642

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