I recently had the pleasure of visiting one of the most beautiful and well-preserved estates in the UK. Buckland Abbey, a 700 year old estate in Devon, England, weaves a spell as you stroll through the halls and across the gardens. Currently under the ownership of the UK’s National Trust, Buckland Abbey was once owned by the legendary Sir Frances Drake.
The Abbey was built in 1278, and served as an abbey until 1541, when it was sold to Sir Richard Grenville. He and later, his son, converted the property from an abbey into a home, using the church itself as the house and demolishing the rest. This increased the historic value of the property, because most abbey churches were destroyed during that time.
The Grenville family owned the estate for 40 years, before his son sold it to Sir Francis Drake. Sir Drake lived there for 15 years, and various descendants lived there until it was sold in 1946. The new owner, Arthur Rodd, gave the property to the National Trust two years later.
The National Trust opened the property to the public in 1951. The City of Plymouth Museum keeps some of its collection there, and we got to see historic items that fed the imagination. There, we saw Drake’s Drum. Sir Drake took this snare drum with him when he sailed around the world. Before his death, he had the drum taken to Buckland Abbey. With it came instructions that if England were ever in danger, someone should beat the drum. He promised to return to defend his homeland.
The public also has access to the ox sheds, where various craftsmen demonstrate authentic crafts and skills. The wooden joinery is fascinating, and truly puts to shame some of the self-assemble stuff we find these days.
Sir Drake is a legend, himself, having sailed around the world during the years 1577 to 1580, when he was about 35 years old. He is one of the most famous seamen from that era. Unfortunately, he started a successful slave trade. After being nearly killed by the Spanish, Drake developed a hatred of that nation that eventually lead to his defeat of the Spanish Armada. He spent much of his career plundering Spanish settlements in South America for the valuable silver and gold for Queen Elizabeth I.
The National Trust Costume Group has its headquarters at Buckland Abbey. They are focused on the creation of authentic clothing pieces patterned after the Elizabethan era.
There is even a self portrait of Rembrandt at the Abbey. It was only recently authenticated, and is a wonderful representation of the creative genius himself.
The gardens at Buckland Abbey are beautiful, with breathtaking arrays of woods and farms, and a peak at wildlife at times. There are 4 different paths you can walk o and we tried all of them. The shortest walk was one mile, and the longest was three miles.
It was a beautiful place to visit, and I highly recommend it.