Medieval Quarr Abbey
The original title of the monastery is the Abbey of our Lady of the Quarry because there used to be a stone quarry in the neighbouring Binstead. Quarr stone was used in the Tower of London along with some used in Winchester and Chichester Cathedrals.
Baldwin de Redvers, Earl of Exeter and fourth lord of the Isle of Wight founded ancient Quarr Abbey in 1132. The foundation charter was between the abbot of Gervase of Savigny, Normandy, and Baldwin de Redvers who took his name from the township of Cotentin. Why did the monks favour Quarr over the many other areas of the Isle of Wight might be down to the fact it was near the coast and therefore and easy way to keep in touch with Normandy.
The monks at that time were Cistercians. They were aside from their monastic life a hard working farming group who made good use of the lands to which they owned. At Newnham Farm, they built a dam to force the stream to flow on a higher level so as to supply the abbey leaving the original course to supply fish-ponds on its way to the sea past the abbey. Just where the stream leaves the woodland, they constructed a tannery, finding the oak bark in abundance nearby. At Heasley, which is just outside Arreton, they introduced the fulling-mill into the Island, thus completely transforming the cleaning and preparation of wool.
During the time of Henry VIII, the crown seized monastic property. Local men made an appeal that Quarr abbey might be spared. The plea was that it was situated by the sea and was of great refuge and comfort to all the inhabitants of the Island and to strangers travelling on the sea. The plea failed and the remaining monks left in July 1536. It was so richly endowed that at the dissolution, its yearly revenue was £134. 13s. 11d. according to Dugdale and £184. 1s. 10d. according to Speed. George Mills a merchant of Southampton was granted the demesne and within four years of the Dissolution the abbey had been completely demolished and the stone used to build new coastal fortifications at East and West Cowes.
The abbey estate was afterwards purchased by Lord Chief Justice Sir Thomas Fleming, an ancestor of J. B. W. Fleming, Esq., of Stoneham Park (1859).
Portions of the boundary walls, which enclosed more than thirty acres, are still standing; together with the remains of two gates, which formed the north and south entrances, and have been defended by portcullises and towers. The Refectory is now a barn, and it is the only part of the Abbey that remains entire; though the situation of several other parts of the monastic foundations may still be traced. Part of the site is occupied by a farmhouse, build with the old materials of the ruins; some of the ancient monumental stones are seen in the pavement of the outhouses.
Several illustrious personages were buried here; and among them were the founder and his lady, the Countess Adeliza. William de Vernon bequeathed £300 for the erection of a tomb in the Abbey in memory of himself and his father. There was also a monument to Lady Cicely, daughter of Edward VI.
Quarr Abbey and lands by Father F.S. Hockey – Isle of Wight Record Series volume III
History, Gazetteer and Directory of Hampshire and Isle of Wight. Wm. White. 1859
Links: The Founding of Quarr Abbey 1132 http://homepage.mac.com/fahrenheit451/quarr/founder.html
Cistercians Abbeys http://cistercians.shef.ac.uk/abbeys/quarr.php
Quarr Abbey – Past and Present http://www.quarrabbey.co.uk