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RUFFORD ABBEY

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The Cistercian Abbey of St Mary which was founded in 1146 by Gilbert de Gaunt, Earl of Lincoln. Construction appears to have been completed by circa 1170, and few alterations seem to have been carried out. Rufford was one of the first abbeys in England to be affected by the suppression in 1536, and the whole estate was acquired by George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. The conversion of the west range of monastic buildings into a country house (1560-90) was undertaken by the sixth earl, who was the fourth and final husband of Bess of Hardwick. In 1610, a new projecting wing was added to the northern end of this range. The estate was inherited in 1626 by Mary Talbot and it passed to her husband, George Savile. William Savile, George's successor, made Rufford Abbey the seat of the Savile family. A now demolished north wing was added in 1679.The surviving roofed southern service wing (now offices) was also added by the Saviles in the 17th century. They also built the large stable block. In 1938, the third Baron Savile inherited the Rufford estate as a minor, but his trustees split it into lots and sold it off. The abbey and park were bought by Nottinghamshire County Council in 1952, and the north and east wings were demolished in 1956.The monastic remains consist primarily of the buried foundations of the buildings around the cloister, the extant cellar, outer parlour and lay brothers' frater. Partial excavation revealed the typical ground plan of a Cistercian abbey, with the church, kitchen, monks' frater and warming house, and the sacristy, chapter house, inner parlour and monks' dorter. The surviving west range is a well-preserved example of Cistercian architecture of typical plain construction. Of particular interest within the abbey's precinct are the traces of ridge and furrow cultivation. This is believed to pre-date the abbey's foundation and to relate to the two medieval villages which were abandoned to make way for it. It is in the care of English Heritage.

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