Warden Abbey, near the picturesque village of Old Warden in Bedfordshire, was founded in 1135. A Cistercian monastery was built in the 14th century, with a vast abbey church, but was dissolved in 1537 under Henry VIII, and the estates sold for £389 16s 6d. The new owners demolished most of the buildings in 1552 to sell the materials, and then built a new red brick mansion. Later in 1790, the main part of this remaining Tudor house was pulled down, leaving only the north-east wing that still stands today. The Landmark Trust rescued the building from dereliction in 1974 and renovated it in exchange for a lease, so that it can now be rented for holidays, providing an income to maintain it. I went to visit this fabulous place on one of their Open Days, and am now hooked on Medieval architecture.
The rooms in Warden Abbey are wonderfully spacious, with 12-foot high oak-beamed ceilings. The ground floor has a kitchen and dining room with a massive fireplace which once led to another wing of the building (no longer in existence). My favourite room was the bathroom, built next to the stair tower, with stone steps and good acoustics. Treading carefully on the creaky 500-year old wooden spiral staircase, one reaches the splendid master bedroom, fit for a king with another large fireplace and fine views over the surrounding land. Further up the stairs, one comes to the attic room, which is frighteningly high up for only a three-storey building.
[UPDATE: On the other side of the village, The Landmark Trust have recently opened the charming Queen Anne's Summerhouse to the public, and Keeper's Cottage, also within the Shuttleworth Estate.]
In the village nearby is a church called St. Leonard's which has a small but perfectly formed building in the churchyard. It's only about 3m square and seems disused and overgrown. I'm not sure if it's an elaborate crypt or some other kind of folly, but it would make a lovely studio space :-)
© copyright Malcolm Smith 2006-06-14 - last updated 2007-08-13