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Sacred Sites | Muchelney Abbey

Sacred Sites

Muchelney Abbey

Muchelney Abbey is two miles south of Langport off the A372, set in a delightful hamlet. Opening times: daily April - October 10 - 6 (5pm in Oct).

There is not too much of the Abbey left in our day, but it is a lovely location. Muchelney was once a verdant island in the Levels and a quiet haven for monks nd recluses. The Saxon abbey was founded around 693 in the time of King Ine, and it became the second largest abbey in Somerset after Glastonbury. It became Benedictine in the mid-900s.

By the 1500s, the abbey included an Abbey Church and associated buildings, together with a desmesne farm barton, an almonry, a parish church with its vicarage, and a Cross from the 1400s (which was moved in 1829-30 to its present position outside the parish church).

The south cloister walk and the north wall of a refectory else survive from the 1100s. The abbot's house, dating from the early 1500s, is a delightful combination of farmhouse practicality and monastic beauty. On the external walls much of the finely carved stonework survives, and internally there is carved woodwork, some wall paintings and several pieces of stonework.

At the time of the Domesday survey in 1086, Benedictine Muchelney owned Muchelney, Midelney and Thorney islands. In the survey, it was stated that:

The Church of St. Peter of Micelenye has 4 carucates of land which never paid geld in these islands; Michelenie, Midelenie and Torelie. There is demesne and 2 ploughs and 1 arpent of vineyard. There are 4 serfs and 18 bordars with 2 ploughs. There are 1 riding horse and 21 beasts and 6 swine and 30 she-goats. There are two fisheries paying 600 ells, and 25 acres of meadow and 12 acres of woodland and 100 acres of pasture.


When the monks surrendered the monastery early in 1538, during the dissolution of the monasteries in Henry VIII's time, they also surrendered their house and possessions and all the land that went with it. The Crown granted the whole property, with the manor, rectory and advowson, to Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, later Duke of Somerset. It reverted to the Crown on Seymour's execution in 1552.

No part of the abbey church now stands, though the Abbot's House still exists, cared for by English Heritage. The buildings are used for art exhibitions and music festivals. Many houses in the village were built using stone from the abbey.

There is a tale that tells of a man who fell in love with the daughter of an important knight, who opposed their union and forbade their marriage. The man was heartbroken and became a monk, eventually moving to Muchelney where he became prior. He found that his love had become a nun there, they renewed their relationship and planned to elope together. But they were betrayed. The prior was sent away to a faraway abbey, and the nun was walled up in a secret passage somewhere within the abbey.

NEXT: Burrowbridge Mump

 
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