William de Missenden founded Missenden Abbey in 1133. He endowed it generously with lands, woods and tithes to provide. Others benefactors followed and the Abbey became wealthy, with extensive properties around Missenden and as far afield as Huntingdonshire, Hampshire and the Suffolk coast.
There are no direct records of the mediaeval Abbey but it was more extensive than it is now. There is evidence that a large amount of money was spent on a splendid new chapel in the late twelfth century. The Abbey was dissolved in 1538 and the chapel deliberately smashed. Elizabeth 1 gave it to her favourite, Robert Dudley. He sold it to William Fleetwood whose family lived there for 200 years, modifying the building and demolishing a substantial part of it.
In 1787 the Abbey was bought by James Oldham who almost wholly rebuilt it in the ‘Venetian’ style, with plain white stucco walls. He also landscaped the grounds, creating lakes and planting trees including the magnificent cedar at the front of the house. This did not suit the next owner, who restored it in the ‘Gothick’ style with turrets and battlements. The final family to live in the Abbey were the Carringtons, who left it largely unchanged when the last sisters died there in 1938.
Buckinghamshire County Council bought the Abbey in 1947 to use as an adult education centre. During a refurbishment in 1985 a fire broke out which destroyed the surviving mediaeval roof and all but demolished the building. The Council decided to rebuild it, uncovering significant elements of the mediaeval structure including 200 pieces of mediaeval carved stonework. It now belongs to the Buckinghamshire New University.
A History of Missenden Abbey by Elaine Kaye, published by Bucks County Council in 1992
Located on the London Road at the southern end of Great Missenden village in Bucks.
No access to the house but there is a good view of the frontage and gardens from the footpath crossing the Abbey Park to the south.
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