Blog – Quarr Abbey: Quarraria: Abbey of St. Mary in the Quarries: The Abbey of Our Lade and St. John.


    • Ryde, Isle of Wight.
    • OSGB – SZ 56213 92726.
    • Scheduled Monument.
    • Grade II Listed Building – Quarr Abbey Farm.


A new Abbey was built on the site early in the 20th century of red Belgium brick. This Abbey is not included in the following history. The below relates to the original Abbey which was Dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539.

The Abbey got its name from the quarries around the area, which also supplied some stone for the Tower of London. In its Foundation Charter it is called The Abbey of Our Lade and St. John. The site was surrounded by trees of Oak and Elm and was next to the sea on the north side of the Isle of Wight.

Founded by Baldwin de Redvers. Originally housed Benedictine Monks from a monastery near Auvranches in Normandy, and then very soon after Cistercian Monks from Savigny. Believed to originally have been a Daughter House of Savigny, this is still being debated, but Savigny did supply the first monks, including doctors, to the new Abbey.

The Abbey had their own ships which sailed to and from France and the West Country. They were only a handful of ships licensed by the King to do so.

The site was given a Licence to Crenellate in 1340 following threats of an attack from France. Fortifications included a crenellated wall which and enclosed the 30 acres of the Abbey, and a Seagate with a portcullis, During the French treats, during 1327-1377, Quarr Abbey provided four Men-at-Arms for the King and included armed retainers.

The site included a Great Church, library, cloisters, kitchen, refectory, infirmary, Chapter House, farm buildings, and fishponds. There was a gate located at the southern end of the site where Alms were handed out. It also included a bridge that the Abbey maintained, mills, salt works, lands in Newenham, Cumbly, Arretone, Basselegh, Lovecombe, Staplehurst et Cleybrooke, Renebrette, Shete, Sandecumbe et Cumbleton, Bamsteade, Froxore, Soroup et Gueye, Wroxall, Whippingham, Shalfleet, Benchurch, Wellow, Knighton, and some minor holdings. The churches of St. Nicholas, endowments from the Manors of Arreton, Haseley, Cantley, and Newnham. Tithes of Wilfield, Thalcombe, Luccombe, and Ticklingham. Most of this was in the original Charter and granted by Baldwin de Redvers.

The Abbot held a seat in the House of Lords, demonstrating how important it was considered. It was also granted a weekly market and fair.

There were over 500 Charters for the Abbey and many survive today in different archives. There are 28 Deeds which survive from the too. And it is mentioned in the Annals of St. Werburg as a daughter House of Savigny. One early Charter is from Engler de Bohun, granting Haseley to Quarr Abbey. It was signed in Normandy and witnessed by Serlo, Abbot of Savigny, and later Confirmed in the reign of Henry II.

There is also a Papal Bull from Pope Gregory IX giving Licence for the Abbot and Convent of Quarr to choose a Confessor from their own brotherhood in 1238.

Following the Dissolution, some of the stone was taken away to assist in the construction of Yarmouth Castle.

There are two traditions or stories associated with Quarr Abbey They are as follows,

There exists a fantastic tradition that Eleanor, Queens of Henry II was imprisoned at Quarr, and loved to wonder about the sequestered glades, affecting them so much that she directed her grave should be made ‘beneath the shade of the melancholy boughs.’ And so, even now, the peasant names this spot ‘Queen Eleanor’s Grove. (Adam 1856).

It was rumoured that the Queen was indeed buried there within a golden coffin, and many have dug around trying to locate it. Nothing has been found, except a wooden coffin which contained human remains. What happened to the coffin and the remains are not lost in time. Was it indeed Queen Eleanor?

The other relates to Monk’s Meade, near Ryde,

An Abbot of Quarr frequented the farmhouse at Ninham, where he and his horse were comfortably entertained. Wherefore he bequeathed to its successive tenants the first crop of hay, in alternate years, off these meadows, as long as a stone image was preserved at Ninham. (Adams 1856).


Known to have been buried in the original Quarr Abbey were,

      • Founder Baldwin de Redvers.
      • Adeliza, Baldwin de Redvers wife.
      • Their son Henry de Redvers.
      • William de Vernon.
      • Lady Cicely, second daughter of Edward IV.


Not much of the original buildings survive thanks to the demolition and removal of stone from the Abbey following the Dissolution, by John and George Mills who bought it. Parts of the kitchen and refectory remain, as well as the Infirmary chapel. The old dormitory used as a barn, and the old north west range now forms part of the new Abbey. The west range now forms part of Quarr Abbey Farm.

Below ground some archaeology still remains and also includes finds of

Walls, foundations, pillar bases, demolition rubble, building materials, lime mortar, roof tiles, glazed floor tiles, window glass, pottery, animal bones, oyster shells and tobacco pipes.


Quarr Abbey Plan.
“Parishes: Binstead.” 1912. A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5. Ed. William Page. London: Victoria County History, 1912. 151-155. British History Online.


Timeline for Quarr Abbey,


1131                 Building started on the site by John the Fleming, brought over from Belgium/Holland by Baldwin de Redvers.

1132                 Founded by Baldwin de Redvers, 1st Earl of Devon, Lord of the Isle of Wight. Benedictine Monks from a monastery near Auvranches in Normandy were bought to run the Abbey.

1135-1154          Many lands were granted to Quarr Abbey, including land at Locwelle in Normandy by Henry, Duke of Normandy, later Henry II.

1140                 Gervaise was Abbot.

1147                 Cistercian Monks from Savigny were bought to run the Abbey.

1150                 William was Abbot.

1154-1189          Between: A early Charter from Engler de Bohun confirmed by Richard, son of Baldwin de Redvers. Henry II confirmed lands he had granted to the Abbey previously, before he was crowned.

1155                 Baldwin de Redvers died and was buried at the Abbey.

1195                 Charter confirmed by William de Vernon, Earl of Devon.

1205                 Peter of York was Abbot.

1206                 Charter dated from granting lands to the Abbey from William de Vernon – two hundred acres. He also paid £300 for prayers to be said for Earl Baldwin, Adeliza, his elder brother Richard, Mabel his wife, and Baldwin his son, and for a monument to be erected when he died.

1228                 Henry was Abbot.

c.1235               Philip was Abbot.

1238                 Papal Bull from Pope Gregory IX giving Licence for the Abbot and Convent of Quarr to choose a Confessor from their own brotherhood

1249                 Augustine was Abbot.

1256                 Andrew was Abbot.

1270                 Hel or Elias was Abbot.

1278                 Buckland Abbey was founded with some of the monks from Quarr Abbey.

1279                 Isabella de Fortibus withheld lands her mother had granted to the Abbey. The Abbey and lands were taken into Royal Protection to ensure the lands were returned.

1284                 Free Warren over the Abbey lands on the Isle of Wight was granted by Edward I.

1290                 Adam of Arundel was Abbot.

1323                 Walter was Abbot.

1324                 Geoffrey was Abbot.

1327-1377          Between: Armed retainers were kept at the Abbey.

1330                 The king’s long time servant, Benedict de Glannvyl, was sent ot the Abbey to see out his retirement there. Paid for by the King.

1339                 The Abbey provided 10 Men-at-Arms and archers to defend the Isle of Wight.

1340                 Early: The Abbot of Quarr Abbey was appointed Warden of the Island and Captain General.

1340                 Licence to Crenellate granted against pirate attacks and the looming threat of an attack from France. Included a crenellated wall with towers, and a Seagate with a portcullis and gun ports.

1359                 William was Abbot.

1360                 Edward III appointed Abbot William as one of the Wardens of the Island.

1377                 The French attacked the Isle of Wight but could not take a hold.

1380                 The Abbot held the position of summoning men in the counties of Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex to defend the Isle of Wight should the French attack.

1381                 John of Winchester was Abbot.

1397-1399          Thomas Suell was Abbot.

1399                 Richard Bartholomew was Abbot.

1419                 Robert was Abbot.

1438                 Roger was Abbot.

1457-1462          John Cheselburgh was Abbot.

1461                 The Abbot held the position of summoning men in the counties of Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex to defend the Isle of Wight should the French attack.

1466                 John Norton was Abbot.

1477                 Geoffrey of Newchurch was Abbot.

1481                 John Fonsard was Abbot.

1493                 Thomas of London was Abbot.

1507                 Cecily of York, daughter of Edward IV, died and was buried at the Abbey.

1508                 Richard Tottenham was Abbot.

1521-1536          William Ripon was Abbot.

1536                 Dissolved as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Report stated ‘ A hedde house of Monkes of the ordre of Cisteaux beinge of large buyldinge scituate upon the ryvage of the sees by raporte greate refuge and comforte to all th’inhabitantes of the same yle and to strangers traveillinge the seid sees’.

1537                 George Mills, a Southampton Merchant, bought the site and demolished the Abbey. The stone was taken away and used on various building projects at Cowes and Yarmouth, including Yarmouth Castle.

1537                 The blockhouses at East and West Cowes were built with stone form the demolished Abbey.

1537                 Thomas Wriothesley was granted most of the rights of the Abbey’s Manors.

1544                 Sold to Sir Thomas Fleming, Lord Chief Justice.

1600                 By: The church was no longer standing.

1789-1872          Between: Quarr Abbey House built for Sir Thomas Cochrane. He levelled as much of the site that he could.

1850                 Quarr Abbey House renovated.

1865                 Sir Thomas Cochrane was made Admiral of the Fleet.

Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Thomas John Cochrane

1872                 Sir Thomas Cochrane died at Quarr House.

1896                 Percy Stone excavated the Abbey and established a rough plan of the site.

19th C                Quarr Abbey Farmhouse rebuilt.

1901                 Matilda, wife of Sir Thomas Cochrane, died at Quarr House.

1907-1914          Stable range added for the new Abbey.

1912                 Reestablished and rebuilt.

1967                 Field Investigation.

1997                 Surveyed.

2002                 Surveyed.

2012                 The Abbey were awarded £2 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund for the preservation of the remains of the Abbey.

2014                 Watching Brief.



References & Bibliography.

Adams. W. H. D. 1856. The History, Topography, and Antiquities of the Isle of Wight. Smith, Elder & Company.

Barker. M. 1995. Georges Feray, Virtuoso Architect in Brick. The Journal of the Decorative Arts Society 1850 – the Present, (19), 20-30. Retrieved January 22, 2021, from

Benjamin. S. G. W. 1878. The Atlantic Islands as Resorts of Health and Pleasure. Harper & Brothers.

Black., A. & Black. C. 1868. Black’s Guide to England and Wales. Adam and Charles Black.

Cornish. C. J. 1895. The Isle of Wight. Seeley.

DeVries. K. 1998. Gunpowder Weaponry and the Rise of the Early Modern State. War in History, 5(2), 127-145. Retrieved January 22, 2021, from

Dugdale. W. 1825. Monasticon Anglicanum. Longman.

Harvey. B. 1972. The English Historical Review, 87(342), 164-164. Retrieved January 22, 2021, from

Mate. M. 1984. Property Investment by Canterbury Cathedral Priory 1250-1400. Journal of British Studies, 23(2), 1-21. Retrieved January 22, 2021, from

No Author. 1858. The Land We Live In: The British Islands. Vol. 3. William S. Orr & Co.

“Parishes: Binstead.” 1912. A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5. Ed. William Page. London: Victoria County History, 1912. 151-155. British History Online. Web. 22 January 2021.

PEPPER. S. 1998. Abstracts of Periodical Literature. Construction History, 14, 113-121. Retrieved January 22, 2021, from

Reeves. A. 1992. Histories Of English Families Published In The 1980s. Medieval Prosopography, 13(2), 83-120. Retrieved January 22, 2021, from

Robjohns. S. 1877. Buckland Abbey and Sir Francis Drake. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6, 267-297. doi:10.2307/3677990.

Rowse. A. 1965. Thomas Wriothesley, First Earl of Southampton. Huntington Library Quarterly, 28(2), 105-129. doi:10.2307/3816801.

The London Journal. 1858. Quarr Abbey, The London Journal, Vol. 26., No. 675, p. 344.

The Tablet. 1892. News from the Diocese: Portsmouth. The Tablet, pp. 392-393.

Trevelyn. F. A. 1862. Quarr Abbey; Or, The Mistaken Calling: A Tale of the Isle of Wight in the XIIIth Century. Rivingtons.

Venables. E. 1860. Illustrated Handbook to the Isle of Wight. J. Briddon

Warner. R. 1795. Collections for the history of Hampshire, and the bishopric of Winchester: including the Isles of Wight, Jersey, Guernsey, and Sarke. Messers Rivington.

Worsley. Sir. R. 1781. The History of the Isle of Wight. A. Hamilton.


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