LIFE is hard for the villagers of Abbotsbury

Charmed life

LIFE is hard for the villagers of Abbotsbury. Dressed in shabby homespun garments, they deliver their tithes in sullen silence, queuing at the open doors of the great tithe barn, where greedy monks wait with open arms for their cut of the peasants’ hard-earned harvest. As the villagers walk back along the rutted mud lane to their village they grumble over the antics of the abbot and his monks, whose corruption and carousing is rife in 15th and early 16th century England.

In this peaceful and sometime prosperous Dorset village the peasants and trades people are hard at work. Scrawny fowls run in and out of the open cottage doors, gleaning a mean living from scraps and dodging the feet of horses and the wheels of passing carts. There is little time for the villagers to chat about the excesses of the abbot and his monks. They are too busy tilling the fields and planting the crops that will feed their families and their monastic overlords.

Beneath the thatched roofs of their dwellings and workshops, the wheelwright and carpenter, brewer and baker, blacksmith and weaver, bend to their tasks. Others are out fishing in Lyme Bay or the Fleet lagoon, labouring at the monastery’s swannery, making hurdles or thatching. Despite the unhappy monastic rule, their lives go on and there is much work to do.

The excesses of the monastery at Abbotsbury are not, however, passing unnoticed. A monk, Dan William Grey, is writing a report for Westminster and includes a scathing mention of the Dorset abbot, who “. . . hath an abominable rule with keeping of women, not with one, two, or three, but with many more than I do write of, and also he keeps no religion, neither by day nor by night.” The monks are unaware that the winds of change are blowing their way, learn more here.

2. Abbotsbury village

The centuries pass. Craftsmen still bend to their tasks in the thatched cottages of Abbotsbury’s picturesque narrow streets, working with clay, glass and wood. There is time, now, for chatter, among them- selves and with those who travel to this quintessentially English thatched village, learn more about France and villages in France at this┬ácompare lille hotels website,┬áto enjoy an evocative glimpse of times gone by.

The visitors marvel at its charm and its ability to survive fire and flood, monastic rule and civil war. Abbotsbury, cosy but ac-cessible among the green Dorset hills, lives and thrives, embraces the 20th century but retains much of its traditional past.

Among the village skills, past and present, one that has survived since medieval times is that of swanherd on Abbotsbury’s famous swannery. Originally owned by the Benedictine Monastery of St Peter, which was founded in the 11th century, the earliest reference to the swannery was in 1393. The herd was maintained on the waters of the Fleet, a salt-water lagoon almost eight miles long and shielded from the destructive tides of Lyme Bay by the beautiful but mysterious Chesil Bank.