Dunkeswell Abbey Celebration

Dunkeswell Abbey Celebration

We had a great day at our Dunkeswell Abbey celebration event in September, organised as part of our Discovering Dunkeswell Abbey project (funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund). The sun shone and our volunteers turned out in force to help make the day a success. We’d timed our celebration event to run over the Heritage Open Days and had 50 people of all ages join us for tours, which were partially led by some of our fantastic Dunkeswell Abbey Ambassadors. Whilst everybody who came was local to the area (either within the surrounding villages or within Devon/Somerset), a surprising number had either never been to the abbey or had been but didn’t know anything about it.

Heritage Open Day Dunkeswell Abbey Devon

We were lucky enough to have been given a tour of the abbey and tour notes in advance by Charlotte Russell from Historic England. This allowed our volunteers to feel more confident in assisting with tours of the abbey and talking to visitors about the abbey and it’s historic context on the day. Volunteers also participated in, and helped run, activities. Riley, one of our younger volunteers, helped with tile tracing and talked to visitors about the tile decoration, pointing out patterns and motifs.Heritage Open Day Dunkeswell Abbey Devon

We got some great feedback from participants:

Extremely interesting tour of Dunkeswell Abbey and environ by knowledgeable and enthusiastic people who were very happy to take time to allow questions and explore ideas. It would be great to find out more about the abbey and how it affected the countryside.”

I’ve lived here 3 years and didn’t know much about the abbey at all. Really interesting to find out more about it.”

Really interesting morning. Knew the abbey was here but always wasn’t sure what there was to see. Also not clear which bits are accessible. So to be shown was lovely. All volunteers and staff so friendly and helpful.”

I found the tiles and their amazing drawings on them very fascinating – they are 800 years old!” – primary school aged child

One of our participants found the tour really informative and wrote about her experience and findings on Dunkeswell Abbey on her building history blog here.

Here’s a few more pictures of what turned out to be a really successful day. Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for supporting this community project.

Heritage Open Day Dunkeswell Abbey Devon   

Dunkeswell Abbey Tours for Heritage Open Day

Dunkeswell Abbey Tours for Heritage Open Day

We’re delighted to be organising three guided tours of 13th century Dunkeswell Abbey on September 14th for Heritage Open Day.

Join volunteer ambassadors from the Heritage Lottery Funded Discovering Dunkeswell Abbey project for a guided tour of the remains of this important monastic site, nestled in the Madford Valley in the Blackdown Hills. The Abbey was founded in 1201 by William Brewere as a colony of the mother house of Forde Abbey in Dorset. By the time of its dissolution in 1539, it had a substantial estate and was a major monastic house. Today, the gatehouse and fragments of the west range survive.

This special Heritage Open Day tour will help bring Dunkeswell Abbey to life. It will give you an insight into what Dunkeswell Abbey would have looked like and allow you to find out what life was like for the Cistercian monks who lived there. The Holy Trinity Church, built in 1842 on the site of the Abbey, will be open with its 13th century medieval floor tiles on view.

Booking Essential due to very limited parking on site. Please book (free) tickets here.

If you intend to arrive on foot or by bike please contact us as we should be able to accommodate you on a tour.


Dunkeswell Abbey Illustrator on Board

Dunkeswell Abbey Illustrator on Board

We’re really pleased that we have Exeter archaeologist and illustrator Richard Parker on board as part of our Discovering Dunkeswell Abbey team. Richard worked for many years as an archaeologist with Exeter Archaeology. During this time, and since he went freelance in 2010, he has worked on a range of buildings, from churches and cathedrals to merchant houses and even 1950s and 60s town centres. Richard is also a talented illustrator and because of his background in historic building recording and archaeology he is able to base his reconstruction drawings on archaeological evidence and expert knowledge. His drawings are always full of both detail and personality, with monks, nuns and villagers going about their daily lives or celebrating special events a common feature in his drawings.

Here’s Richard during our recent site visit to Dunkeswell Abbey, examining the standing remains. Once we have carried out the surveys and investigations at Dunkeswell Abbey over the next few months Richard will be ready to start work, basing his illustration on the new information we will have discovered about the site.

Here’s an example of Richard’s work. We look forward to seeing what he comes up with for Dunkeswell Abbey!

Launceston Priory in around 1530

Read more about Discovering Dunkeswell Abbey, a National Lottery Heritage Fund project, here.

New project Discovering Dunkeswell Abbey wins National Lottery Heritage Fund support

New project Discovering Dunkeswell Abbey wins National Lottery Heritage Fund support

We’re delighted to announce that we’ve just received £9,700 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund towards an exciting new community archaeology project called Discovering Dunkeswell Abbey. Working with local communities and project partners, The Blackdown Hills AONB Partnership, we will be uncovering the rich heritage of this nationally significant abbey complex through participatory and fun events and activities.

If you visited the site of Dunkeswell Abbey in East Devon you’d struggle to understand the significance of this substantial monastic complex, since there is currently no signage or interpretation information at the site and only fragments of the 13th century Cistercian abbey survives above ground. There are also many questions left unanswered about the extent and significance of Dunkeswell Abbey, which the community archaeology programme will help to solve.

The project is expected to run for a year, with opportunities for people of all ages to explore and enjoy their local heritage, both as participants and volunteers. Surveying the remains of the abbey and river walking to look for pottery are just a couple of the volunteer activities on offer. Watch this space for more details on ‘Dunkeswell Abbey on Tour’, a series of interactive workshops and events taking the project into schools and the community.

By the end of the project, a newly-commissioned interpretation drawing of the abbey will be installed at the site, alongside information informed by the community archaeology programme. We are also looking forward to training up 5 volunteers as Dunkeswell Abbey Ambassadors – local people who would like to gain an in depth understanding of the abbey and could share it with others in the future.

If anyone would like to volunteer, please contact Catherine Farnell on Catherine@heritageartspeople.uk to register your interest.

Read the full press release here: DDA – Project Launch Press Release

Read updates on this project here (re our Dunkeswell Abbey celebration event) and here (re our Dunkeswell Abbey illustrator)