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Cistercian Abbeys: QUARR

Name: QUARR Location: nr Ryde County: Isle of Wight
Foundation: 1132 Mother house: Savigny
Relocation: None Founder: Baldwin de Redvers
Dissolution: 1536 Prominent members:
Access: Accessible subject to permission

In 1131 Baldwin de Redvers (d. 1155), lord of the Isle of Wight and later created earl of Devon (1141), granted some land near the north shore of the Isle and in the parish of Binstead to Abbot Geoffrey of Savigny, for the purpose of constructing a monastery. This abbey was dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin, and was one of the first Cistercian monasteries to be founded in Britain. The small colony of monks, headed by Abbot Gervase, arrived at the site some time during 1132. Baldwin’s initial endowments included sizeable estates across the island, property at Chark on the Hampshire mainland and at Farwood in Devon.(1) Quarr Abbey was absorbed into the Cistercian Order, along with all the other Savigniac houses, in 1147. The community grew quickly and in 1151 sent out a colony to establish the abbey of Stanley in Wiltshire. Over a century later, in 1278, Quarr was chosen again to provide monks for Buckland Abbey in Devon.(2)

The Isle of Wight was particularly exposed to attack and the war with France during the fourteenth century brought great suffering to the community at Quarr. In 1365, Abbot William was licensed to build stone walls to fortify the abbey against invaders. In 1535 the annual net income of the abbey was valued at £134 and the abbey was dissolved with the smaller monasteries in 1536. The locals attempted to save the abbey by showing how much it did to relieve the poor and the seamen, but this had no impact upon the royal officials to whom the house was surrendered.(3) Within four years of the Dissolution the abbey had been completely demolished and the stone used to build new coastal fortifications at East and West Cowes. There are few remains of the monastic buildings apart from a section of the lay-brothers’ range, which is now incorporated within a barn, and traces of the kitchen and refectory. The site now belongs to the nearby Benedictine abbey of Quarr, and is accessible subject to permission.(4)