Two Abbeys Project:
900 Years of Monastic History
The Two Abbeys
The monastic site of the Abbey of Our Lady of Quarr on the Isle of Wight comprises of two Abbeys. The ancient Abbey of Quarr was founded in 1132. Cistercian monks dwelled here and worshipped God for 400 years. Owing to the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII in 1536, there followed a gap of almost another 400 years before the reestablishment of monastic presence in 1907. The modern Abbey of Our Lady of Quarr is situated on a hill adjacent to the ancient abbey and continues to thrive as a Benedictine community of monks of the Congregation of Solesmes. Thus for almost 900 years this site has shown a monastic presence.
The aim of our Two Abbeys Project is to highlight the great continuity of the monastic life here and to ensure that this heritage continues for generations to come. There is a definite continuity between both abbeys in that the life currently being led by the monks of Quarr, just like the life of the medieval monks, is founded upon the Rule of St Benedict, (see here), a monastic rule which dates back to the 6th century. An essential part of this project is therefore to preserve the buildings, both of the modern abbey and the ancient ruins.
We were greatly assisted by the award of an HLF grant for £2.2 million in 2014, for which we had to provide 13% match funding. This provided a tremendous impetus to our project. We were able to begin the consolidation work on the ruins and conduct an archaeological study of the site, carry out urgent repairs to the sanctuary roof of the church of the modern day abbey, develop a new Monastery Shop, Visitors Centre and courtyard area and greatly improve the landscape which now includes a much needed new car park, a new delivery road access, new pathways and a woodland walk with bird hide. The Friends of Quarr recently completed a new path project which has greatly improved the access, particularly for the disabled, to both the church and Visitors Centre area. We are extremely grateful to all who have contributed to these projects in various ways. But much work needs still to be done to preserve both the monastic life at Quarr and its heritage, whose 900th year anniversary will be in 2032.
The Ancient Abbey of Quarr
The first abbey of Quarr was founded in 1132 by Baldwin de Revers, who later became Lord of the Island and Earl of Devon. He brought monks from Savigny Abbey in Normandy, France, to begin the monastic community. The Abbey took its name from the nearby quarry to the east of it. Despite the good reputation of its monks, the Abbey was closed and dismantled under the orders King Henry VIII in 1536. It was purchased and demolished by Mr John Mills of Southampton. Some of its stone was used for building Yarmouth Castle on the south west of the island. A more complete history can be viewed here.
The ruins of this monastery are visible today from the bridle path that passes through the site. The ruins are listed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and are currently on the Historic England Buildings at Risk Register. Our priority is to conserve the most historically important parts of these ruins.
Modern Quarr Abbey
In 1901 the monks of Solesmes, France, under Abbot Paul Delatte, came to Appuldurcombe House on the south of the island. They chose voluntary exile from their homeland following the unjust laws against religious life in France. In 1907 the monks purchased Quarr Abbey House near the ruins of the Ancient Quarr. One of the monks, Dom Paul Bellot, was an extremely gifted architect. He was therefore commissioned to design and build a new monastery – modern day Quarr Abbey. To read more of this history see the webpage here.
The Abbey Church and ancillary buildings are classified as Grade ! on the register of Listed Buildings in the UK. Much has been done in recent years on the fabric of the church and the east side of the cloister buildings. However, with the buildings now being over a century old, there is an urgent need to continue these works of repairs. Our immediate plan over the next two years is to repair the church windows, replace the leadwork on the valleys of the church roof and do a full repair on the roof of the Old House of Quarr on the north side of the monastery. Thereafter we hope to continue with repairs to the fabric and windows on the north, east and south sides of the cloister buildings and guesthouse.
A Call to Action
The running cost of Quarr Abbey and its site are over £1 million per year. The pandemic due to Covid-19 has had a severe impact on our income and continues to do so. We have been successful in obtaining government support grants for our businesses during this time. A grant award of £27k in 2018 from Historic England has enabled us to continue the phased work of consolidating the ruins. We are hopeful of further grants for repair work to both abbeys but we also have to provide match funding to obtain these grants. We have a target of £5 million to raise over the next 10 years in order to help bring these works to a successful conclusion. But in addition to these projects we also need to find ways to increase our income through our businesses which will need funds for development. For example, we plan to expand our farmshop which will entail a new building close to the teashop.
Our goal is to be able to celebrate our 900 th year anniversary in 2032 by securing our two abbeys, both buildings and grounds, for future generations of visitors. The Divine Worship, peace and serenity of Quarr is currently enjoyed by over 70,000 pilgrims and visitors each year.
Ways to Donate.
We are extremely grateful for any donations received. You may make a donation in any of the following ways:
- By the donate button on this website here.
- Through the contactless points on our outside donations board and in the
- The cash boxes in the church and on the outside donations board
For further information, especially concerning regular donations and legacies, please contact one of the following:
Fr Brian Kelly, Procurator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tracy Osborn, Director of Fundraising and Operations, at email@example.com