Sunday, 6 January 2008

Beauchief Abbey: a timeline

Following my visit to Beauchief Abbey yesterday, I decided to find out more about the site and its history.
(NB There seems to be some disagreement about dates, especially during the early history of the abbey.)

From 1172 or 1183 onwards
Beauchief Abbey is founded by Robert FitzRanulf de Alfreton.

The abbey was part of the Premonstratensian order and like other Premonstratensian orders was small, although the abbey at Beauchief was one of the smallest in the country with an abbot and approximately 12 canons. It was not an enclosed order, the canons are likely to have been ordained and to have acted as priests for local churches. The abbey may have been dedicated to St Thomas a Beckett, his image appears on one of the abbey's seals.

Abbey Seals

The layout of the abbey is subject to some conjecture, but it is believed to have contained a range of monastic buildings including a church, cloister garth and chapter house. The photograph below is taken from the information board on the site and shows the likely layout of the original abbey.

Abbey Layout

The abbey also controlled a large area of land, including several mills, farms and some industries including iron smelting. The land controlled by the abbey expanded over the years and included property as far afield as Hathersage and Chesterfield.

Dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII forces the abbot, John Sheffield, to surrender Beauchief Abbey and its property to the crown. A large area of the estate was purchased by Sir Nicholas Strelley.

Edward Pegge married Gertrude Strelley, heiress to the Strelley family's property, starting Beauchief Abbey's association with the Pegge family.

Edward Pegge built Beauchief Hall. Some of the stone used in the building was taken from the ruined sections of the abbey.

Samuel and Nathaniel Buck create an engraving of the abbey, this is the earliest image that still survives. At this point the tower is still at its original full height, with a belfry and pinnacles. The wall contains arches which are believed to be those either side of the present day building. This picture of the engraving was photographed from the information board on the site.

Engraving of Beauchief Abbey

Between 1820 and 1827
Two stone arches are moved from their original positions to the current positions on either side of the tower.

Beauchief Abbey

Mr Frank Crawshaw purchases the abbey and much of the surrounding land from descendants of the Strelley and Pegge families. Some of the land was later sold for housing development.

Excavations are carried out at the site, with the support of the owner, Frank Crawshaw. Most of the work is done by boys from the King Edward VII School under the supervision of Mr W.H. Elgar, a master at the school.

Beauchief Abbey and the surrounding land is presented to Sheffield Corporation.

The Abbeydale Brewery opens and
uses Beauchief Abbey as the inspiration for its logo

Logo © Abbeydale Brewery

Beauchief Abbey remains open to visitors and is still in use for Evensong and Holy Communion services.

Service Times

Beauchief Abbey is now a scheduled ancient monument.
nb the exterior is freely accessible and no prior booking is required. There is some on street car parking nearby. Wheelchair access is very limited, there is a path to the main door, but most of the site is grassed and the ground is soft and somewhat uneven. We did spot a homemade (wood and chicken wire) ramp for disabled access to the interior!
Information leaflet about the Abbey

Wikipedia: History of Beauchief Abbey
Development of Abbeydale Brewery's Ruined Abbey Logo

Information board at the Beauchief Abbey site
Information leaflet about the Abbey

Wikipedia: History of Beauchief Abbey
Development of Abbeydale Brewery's Ruined Abbey Logo
Originally published here on my main blog