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Keynsham Abbey

Visited September 2023

Location Keynsham, Nr. Bath
Entrance Fee No 
Railway Station Nearby Yes- Keynsham
Parking Town centre car parks
Facilities In town centre
Map

 

Keynsham is a small town between Bristol and Bath, once the home of a Cadbury's chocolate factory, and the ruins of a medieval abbey.

 


 

 


Review

 

The remains of this once great abbey are scant, and parts have been lost forever by the building of the Keynsham by-pass which was ploughed straight through the middle of the abbey site. The small area of remains we have left today is in the Memorial Park, a large area of green space in the centre of the town. The abbey site is not often open, it is protected by railings when closed, so you need to keep checking their website if you want to visit. We visited during Heritage Open Day during September, when there were volunteers on site to answer questions but there are some other opening days during the year also.

 


 

 


 

The abbey was built by William, Earl of Gloucester in 1166. It was in use up until 1539 when it was dissolved. It was a house of  Augustinian canons, following the Order of St Victor. It became large and acquired property in the neighbouring areas and also in Ireland. From time to time it was found to have discipline problems with the monks, who were not attending prayer, not locking the gates at night (as the monks were often found to be outside of the abbey at night) and not keeping accounts correctly. The lack of security measures meant that items were regularly stolen from the church. 

 

Nevertheless it was important enough to have come under the patronage of Jasper Tudor, uncle of King Henry VII. Jasper died at Thornbury Castle in 1495, and was buried at the abbey. The site of his tomb no longer exists, which is a shame as he was one of the best known patrons of the abbey, and Tudor family still generate a lot of interest among historians today. 

 

 

 


 

 


 

As for the site today, there is not a lot left, so a visit doesn't take too long. There are some walls standing up to about a height of 3 feet, but there are even more random stones which have been excavated and remain piled up ,with no real idea of where they once belonged. The main piece of walling that is still identifiable is the corner of the chapter house; but even this is scant. 

 

The abbey ruins are looked after by a team of volunteers who maintain the grass areas and the abbey gardens, which are planted with plants which would have been familiar to the medieval monks . It is a pleasant spot and the ruins are very interesting, it is just a shame that so much stone was taken from the ruins in the past, mainly to build the town of Keynsham which grew up around the abbey. However, there were some archeological finds that were preserved, and they are sometimes on display in the town. We got to see them as part of the Heritage Open Day pop-up exhibition,and there were some beautiful and impressive ceiling bosses, and our absolute favourite exhibit- a floor tile featuring a jolly lion sticking his tongue out (or does it represent the sun? The jury is still out!)

 

The Memorial Park is a very pleasant destination for kids, so once the abbey ruins have been visited there is lots to do. The River Chew runs through the park, and the bypass runs above it, so there are several bridges to be observed whilst walking in the park. There is also a children's play area, cafe, a ground level sundial and the site of the County Bridge Stone, which used to be sited on the border between Somerset and Gloucestershire, until it was swept away in a flood, and later re-sited in the park. 

 

There is a cafe with seating, toilets and the whole park is close to the centre of the town if any other facilities are needed. On the day we went there was a live band playing tin the bandstand, which was drawing quite an appreciative audience. It was quite enjoyable to combine a trip to the abbey ruins with chilling out to some music whilst enjoying an ice cream! 

 

 

 


 

More info:  Keynsham Abbey

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