Set adjacent to the River Wey and within the grounds of an 18th century estate lies Waverley Abbey. If it was not for the small English Heritage sign pointing the way, you would be hard pressed to find this hidden gem of a site. But if you just explore a little deeper you will find a picturesque and fascinating site.
Built in the 12th century by Cistercian monks (also known as the White Monks) the ruins of this medieval abbey can be freely explored on foot. This was the site of the first Cistercian House in England, it gradually expanded until being largely demolished during the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century.
Fig 1: Waverley Abbey, view of the dormitory
Excavations have revealed the layout of the site, the upstanding remains consist of the dormitory, walls of the church and the lay brothers quarters. The most impressive remaining feature is the lay brothers quarters with its columns and vaulted roof. The fireplace has graffiti from the last 300 years. No doubt many curious travelers passed by these walls. If only walls could talk!
Fig 2: The vaulted remains of the lay brothers quarters
The dormitory (monks quarters) is also impressive with the gable end still fully standing. The river proved a blessing and a curse, flooding must have frequently occurred. However it was also an opportunity to trade with locals.The Cistercians were active participants in the wool trade.
Fig 3: The dormitory
Next to the river are several tank traps used to hinder the Nazi’s from any possible invasion. As you head back down the path you can also see the remains of what appears to be a bunker. So walking through this landscape you can experience almost one thousand years of history!
Fig 4: View showing tank traps and the dormitory
Author Jeremy Hallatt
Photos: All photos taken by the author