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Cistercian Abbeys: RUFFORD

Name: RUFFORD Location: Rufford County Park County: Nottinghamshire
Foundation: 1146 Mother house: Rievaulx
Relocation: None Founder: Gilbert de Gant, earl of Lincoln
Dissolution: 1536 Prominent members:
Access: English Heritage – open to the public

Rufford west range and doorway
© Stuart Harrison
<click to enlarge>
Rufford west range and doorway

Rufford Abbey, dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin, was founded some time between 1146 and 1148 by Gilbert de Gant, earl of Lincoln (d. 1156). It was the fifth and final daughter house of Rievaulx abbey.(1) The abbey, located within the area of Sherwood Forest, took a considerable amount of time to construct and the permanent buildings may not have been finished until a century after the initial foundation. Rufford was never particularly prosperous and the buildings were damaged by a serious fire in the early years of the sixteenth century. At the time of the Dissolution the net annual income was valued at £176 and there were seven monks in the community.(2) The house was suppressed with the smaller monasteries in 1536. When Rufford was visited by royal officials in 1536, they recorded that the abbey claimed to possess some of the Virgin’s milk.(3)

Following the Dissolution the abbey site and its granges were granted to Sir John Markham and then to the Talbots, earls of Shrewsbury, in exchange for lands in Ireland.(4) They converted the west range into a house which was extended in the seventeenth century. The house was further remodelled by its owner, Anthony Salvin (d. 1881), in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1938 the house was sold to the Nottinghamshire County Council but requisitioned by the War Ministry during the Second World War. The house was partly demolished in 1956 and shortly afterwards placed in State care. The west range has been discovered to be intact and is conserved for public display. Rufford is now in the care of English Heritage and is situated within the confines of Rufford Country Park, although landscaping has destroyed much of the evidence of the abbey precinct. The park is can be visited by the public during opening hours.