All Saints

Dale Abbey, from churchyard gate Dale Abbey, church
1 2

Dale Abbey

 

This tiny church, or perhaps more properly, chapel, measures some 25ft by 26 ft, and is just larger than Stockwood in Dorset and Culbone in Somerset in that it has an aisle as well as a nave.

It is attached to another building, a gabled Tudor house, as seen in the above two pictures (1 & 2). This house was once the Infirmary of Dale Abbey, together with its attached chapel. Following the Dissolution the infirmary eventually became the Blue Bell Inn, then a farmhouse, and now it is just a private house, the land and buildings having been sold away.

When an Inn, it is believed taht the clergy used to dress in the Bar, and entered the chapel through a now blocked doorway. Before that, in the time of the Abbey, when the sick attended service they would enter the chapel using the outside staircase (3), and thence into the upper gallery.
 

 
Dale Abbey, gallery steps Dale Abbey, east end exterior
3 4
 

The two pictures above (3 & 4) show the outside staircase and east end.

Internally there are two chambers, loosely described as the nave and the aisle, possibly originally separated by a solid wall to demarcate the canons' oratory and the parish church or nave. The late 15th century saw the church being reordered, and the wall was replaced by a wooden screen with a gallery over.
 

 
Dale Abbey, interior Dale Abbey, interior
5 6
 

These internal pictures were taken through very dirty windows, because there was nobody around to let us in, but show the aisle with the underside of the gallery. The nave itself has three pew benches and a small harmonium, the pulpit is in the far corner, behind the clerk's desk, which in turn is behind the small table which serves as the altar. As well as all this, there is a large chair, originally procured by Lord Stanhope as his bishop's 'throne', a box-pew and other beams, pews and screens. .
 

 
Dale Abbey, interior Dale Abbey, altar and desk
7 8
 

In picture 7, the front of the pulpit can just be discerned to the right of the window, under which is the harmonium. Picture 8 shows the altar table with the clerk's desk to the left, and below, picture 9 is the view from the clerk's desk, taken through the window behind it. Under enlarged magnification you can read the lectionary which is laid open on the desk top.
 

 
Dale Abbey, clerk's desk
9
 
Dale Abbey, tombstone
10
 
 

In the graveyard there is a series of tombstones cut by a local mason, which use the local stone, and are cut vigorously with a local flavour all to themselves. Pictures 10 and 11 show the detail of one of them, including a serpent piercing a skull.
 

 
Dale Abbey, detail of serpent on tombstone
11
 

The Legend of Dale Abbey

"History" would have it that in the 12th century a baker saw a vision in which he was told to leave his work and his home and become a hermit in Depedale. Having done so a knight took pity on him and paid for the building of a chapel. Further, a woman, known as the 'Gome of the Dale', subsequently took pity on him, extended the chapel and persuaded her nephew to found an abbey nearby.

Nothing remains of this Abbey, apart from a few ruins down the hillside, and all that remains are the old Infirmary and Chapel.

 

 

ACCESS

Map reference :

It is approached down the main street of the village, to the dead-end at the bottom, round the corner out of sight. The chapel is kept locked, and at the time of our visit no-one could be found who had a key.

Photographs © 2001 Edwin Macadam and Sheila Girling Smith
 

Please see our Home Page for important copyright notice
 

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This site has been constructed by, and remains the copyright of, its authors,
Edwin and Sheila Macadam,

Shelwin, 30, Eynsham Road, Botley,
Oxford OX2 9BP
July 2001 -