Heritage

Forde Abbey House and Gardens, Chard

Located in Chard near the Somerset/Dorset border, Forde Abbey is home to a historic house and award-winning gardens. Spanning 900 years of history, the site is a veritable time-trap and features intriguing historical artefacts and immaculately manicured gardens. 

Founded in the 12th century, Forde Abbey was once an important centre of spirituality and learning. Flourishing as a Cistercian monastery for around 400 years, it grew in status and eventually became one of the most influential, wealthy and learned institutions of its kind in the country. Though very little remains of the monks’ gardens (where seasonal produce would have been in grown in accordance with the monks’ vegetarian diet) inside the abbey, their quarters, kitchen, refectories and chapter house remain much unchanged in structure.

Despite the abbey’s success, the dissolution changed its course for good and it eventually fell under the charge of the Crown. Since the 16th century, it has played host to a succession of politicians and philosophers, including some of the most famous thinkers of the early 19th century, like John Stuart Mill, David Ricardo, and Sir Samuel Romilly. Today, some of its most famous residents include the Mortlake tapestries. Woven from the Raphael cartoons, these tapestries depict Biblical scenes from St John’s Gospel and Acts of the Apostles and can be seen on the walls of the Saloon. 

Once you’ve explored the house, you’ll be eager to get outside and immerse yourself in the heady floral scents of the landscaped gardens. Taking shape in the early 18th century under the stewardship of Sir Francis Gwyn, nowadays the abbey’s grounds boast the most high-powered water fountain in England (reaching a height of 160 ft), stunning gardens, an arboretum and a plant nursey. Wander around at your own pace and look out over the topiary lined vistas, multi-coloured borders, specialist gardens and enjoy the many paths that lead you through the abbey’s living landscapes.  

After you have spent plenty of time exploring the 30 acres of award-winning gardens and dog-friendly grounds, you can head over to the Abbey Coffee Shop for some light refreshment. Serving a selection of hot and cold drinks, homemade sweets and savoury treats, the café is is sure to have something that will pique your interest. If you visit in the summer, you can also make the most of the site’s pick-your-own farm, filling punnets with juicy strawberries. 

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in Somerset and Dorset here.

Forde Abbey, Chard TA20 4LU | www.fordeabbey.co.uk | 01460 220 231

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