The history of Abbotsbury & The Abbey House
The abbey of St Peter at Abbotsbury housed a Benedictine community founded in 1044 by Orc, a house steward of King Cnut. Its layout probably followed the normal Benedictine pattern of that time, with the monastic buildings grouped around a cloister to the south of the church.
Within the walled precinct of the abbey, up to 30 black-robed monks followed the orderly routine of work, study and prayer laid down for them in St Benedict’s rule, saying mass for the soul of their founder and for the souls of anyone else generous enough to donate property to the community.
The famous swannery nearby, now an internationally famous nature reserve, was once an important source of income for the abbey, and a reminder of the wealth of the medieval monastic orders. Despite their vows of poverty, some monks lived very well, as typified by Chaucer’s monk in the Canterbury Tales: