Bayham Old Abbey - History and Facts | History Hit

Bayham Old Abbey

Tunbridge Wells, England, United Kingdom

Bayham Old Abbey was a medieval monastery dissolved by King Henry VIII.

Lily Johnson

16 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Bayham Old Abbey

Bayham Old Abbey is a ruined 13th century monastery located on the Kent/Sussex border, whose ruins today provide an atmospheric look at what remains of Britain’s monastic past.

Bayham Old Abbey history

Bayham Old Abbey was founded around the year 1207 by the Premonstratensians, a religious order of Canons regular of the Catholic Church. In keeping with the Premonstratensian preference of building in secluded areas, the Abbey was placed in the valley of the River Teise, which also supplied it with water and sufficient drainage.

As Bayham had been founded in conjunction with the failings of two other abbeys each with different mother houses, it came under the parentage of Prémontré Abbey – the founding abbey of the Premonstrensian Order. Through this, Bayham gained much prestige and over the next 300 years expanded and improved its eminent structure.

During in the 16th century however, Bayham fell victim to Henry VIII‘s dissolution of the monasteries. Following its dissolution, it was leased by the King to Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu, before Elizabeth I sold off the estate in its entirety. It then passed through a number of different hands – including the Pratt family who owned it for over 250 years – before in 1961 it was donated to English Heritage.

Bayham Old Abbey today

Today Bayham Old Abbey remains in the keeping of English Heritage and is set amidst picturesque landscaped gardens. Though in ruins, some of its original structure and room layouts can still be made out, including the stone framework of three large windows that made up the nave.

Ornate stone carvings may be found throughout Bayham’s imposing remains, in an example of particularly beautiful craftsmanship for a 13th century abbey of its kind. Visitors may also admire the 14th century gatehouse located at the site, known as the Kentish gate, that likely served as the main entranceway between the counties of Kent and Sussex.

Getting to Bayham Old Abbey

Bayham Old Abbey is located off the B2169 road west of Lamberhurst, near Tunbridge Wells in Kent. Parking is available onsite, however the Autocar 256 bus service also runs to the area, with the nearest stop on Clay Hill Road, a 15-minute walk away. The nearest train station is Frant, 4 miles away, from which the 256 can be taken towards the site.

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