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Report - Bradenstoke Priory, Wiltshire - May 2015

Discussion in 'Other Sites' started by Bertie Bollockbrains, May 20, 2015.

  1. Bertie Bollockbrains

    Bertie Bollockbrains 28DL Regular User
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    A mini-report this one. This was a Plan B for the day after a much more interesting site in the area which was to be a fail.

    Bradenstoke Priory is a medieval priory in the village of Bradenstoke, Wiltshire. It is noted for being bought by a wealthy American in the 1920s and it’s structures then being dismantled and crated all over the place for various projects such as the renovation of St Donat's Castle, Wales, in the 1930s.

    All that remains today is the tower, which has a Welsh flag flying from it, and the undercroft. It lies on private land within the garden of a farm. Access to the public is not allowed but since my visit I discovered that the farmer is welcoming to those with a genuine interest who politely ask for a look around. Had I known that then I wouldn’t have had to crawl through thick nettles and brambles.

    HISTORY

    The priory was founded in 1142 as the Augustinian priory of Clack, and dedicated to Saint Mary. It was well-sited on a high ridge near a holy well, with further springs nearby; there is some evidence that a chapel of the era of Henry I already existed at the holy well.

    The founder, Walter FitzEdward, was the son of Edward De Evreux of Salisbury, a High Sheriff of Wiltshire; he gave lands for a priory as a daughter house of St. Mary’s Abbey, Cirencester, according to its charter, "to serve God forever!". After the death of his wife, he "took the tonsure and habit of the canons" and on his death in 1147, was buried in the Priory near the choir. His descendants, the Earls of Salisbury remained closely connected with the priory for many years. In 1190 thirteen of the monks migrated to Cartmel Priory, Cumbria.

    Throughout most of its early history, the priory also enjoyed royal support, being granted a charter by Henry II sometime between 1173 and 1179; Richard I also lent assistance for the priory to break away from the abbot of Cirencester to become a priory in its own right, and King John, a frequent visitor, intervened to confirm this secession. This tradition continued with the grant of royal protection by Henry III, who visited in 1235.

    By the 14th century Bradenstoke Priory had gained wealth and lands in nine counties besides Wiltshire. The priory was dissolved on 17 January 1539 at the Dissolution of the Monasteries; at about this time, its total income was £270 10s 8d. It then passed from The Crown to a Richard Pexel (or Pecsall) and his heirs sold it to the Methuen family of Corsham.

    Painting of Bradenstoke Priory by unknown artist in unknown year - Held by the WIltshire Museum
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    And as she appears in 1792
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    Photo from the 1890s
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    In 1925 a wealthy American William Randolph Hearst had seen St Donat's Castle advertised for sale in Country Life magazine and cabled his English agent to buy it. He also bought and removed the guest house, Prior's lodging, and great tithe barn of Bradenstoke Priory; of these, some of the materials became a banqueting hall, complete with a sixteenth-century French chimneypiece and windows; also used were a fireplace dated to c.1514 and a fourteenth-century roof, which became part of the Bradenstoke Hall, despite this use being questioned in Parliament. The tithe barn was crated and sent to Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California, and sold again when Hearst lost interest. Its whereabouts are now unknown.

    All that remains of the priory in the 21st century are its tower and undercroft, the latter being identified by English Heritage in its 1996–97 programme as being at risk and requiring emergency remedial works. My visit confirms that this remedial work has been done.


    THE EXPLORE

    The priory is so close enough to the farm that I could hear talking as I crept around. Approaching from the far side, it was obvious that few had ventured this way. I was still stinging from the brambles the day after!

    Why the Welsh flag I do not know. Have they invaded Wiltshire?
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Round the back, the door is locked. Only on getting home and looking at this photo did it occur to me that really I should had climbed in. Didn’t occur to me at the time for some reason :(
    [​IMG]

    Anyways the undercroft:
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    And lets compare with how it looked in the 20th century:
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    Finally lets have a look from the public footpath and you can gauge how close it is to the farm. May not be an epic explore my heart was pumping on this one.
    [​IMG]

    Thanks for looking. Will be overseas a lot in the next couple of months, hopefully something more interesting will be found.
     
    Killerkelly03 likes this.

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  2. GRONK

    GRONK 28DL Regular User
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    Nice report mate, shame it is in such a poor shape. :(
     
  3. Miss Mayhem

    Miss Mayhem 28DL Regular User
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    Very nice, the architecture is lovely :thumb
    it is a shame how beautiful buildings are
    Left like this
     
  4. Killerkelly03

    Killerkelly03 28DL Full Member
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    I also went to visit this recently and loved it! The chair and fireplace I found the most interesting (and a bit creepy!) great pics, thanks for the extra info on it's history!
     
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