Abbotsbury History

Abbotsbury – a village half as old as time (so many of these dates are approximate)

170 million years ago
The Jurassic coast was formed over a period of several million years

50 million years ago
The Abbotsbury fault created the Ridgeway to the north of the village

20 thousand years ago
The end of the Ice Age led to the formation of Chesil Beach and the Fleet lagoon

6000 BC
Earliest evidence of hunters / gatherers around the Fleet

500 BC
The Iron Age fort was built on the ridge above the village

44 AD
The Roman invasion of England began : perhaps a mill was built here by the Romans

401 AD
Rome withdraws her troops from England, leaving Dorset to her own defences

597 AD
Christianity comes to England: around 50 years later, according to legend, a priest called Bertufus built a chapel in Abbotsbury

King Canute gave land, including Portesham and Abbotsbury, to his bodyguard, Orc

Orc founded a Benedictine Abbey in Abbotsbury. Its buildings (now almost completely gone) covered all the ground between the church and the Tithe Barn

The Black Death erupts in Weymouth and spreads throughout England

Earliest record of the Abbotsbury Swannery, already well established by then c1400-c1530 The Church of St Nicholas, St Catherine’s Chapel and the Tithe Barn were all built by the Abbey monks

The Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII, and its buildings and estates were bought by Sir Giles Strangways, whose descendants still own Abbotsbury village

The Manor House, built by the Strangways family on the Abbey site and acting as a Royalist stronghold and munitions depot, was destroyed during the Civil War when besieged by Parliamentary forces from the direction of the parish church

The reredos, candelabra and communion plate was given to the parish church by Susanna Strangways Horner

Susanna Strangways Horner endowed the first Abbotsbury school

The “Elizabeth Canning case” concerning kidnap, smuggling and false evidence, led to the London Journal describing Abbotsbury people as “thieves, smugglers and plunderers of wrecks”

Stephen Fox, heir to the Strangways estates, was created Earl of Ilchester

The Strangways family built Abbotsbury Castle as a home overlooking Chesil Beach and started work on what would become the Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens

The Abbotsbury branch line railway to Weymouth opened; it was designed to ship iron ore and shale oil, but later turned to general use, including tourism

Abbotsbury Castle burned down: its replacement was demolished in 1934

British and US forces temporarily occupied the Abbotsbury area prior to D-Day

The Abbotsbury Branch line was closed (well before the Beeching closures)

Abbotsbury’s school was closed and the children transferred to Portesham. In the same year, the Ilchester Estate began a development plan for the village, leading in 1975 to an award in Architectural Heritage Year and the conversion of several village buildings to studios and galleries

The Devon and Dorset coast was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as “The Jurassic Coast”

If you would like to learn more about the incredible history of Abbotsbury just click here.

Abbotsbury history - The AbbeyAbbotsbury history - The Railway Station