Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

Frater, Rufford Abbey, Nottinghamshire

In the Heart of Nottinghamshire's Sherwood Forest

Rufford Abbey and Country Park in the heart of Robin Hood country for a day out for anybody who want to combines history, crafts, walks, space for children to play and bird watching. It is also a pleasant place to break a journey when enjoying The Winding Way in North Nottinghamshire.

rufford abbey gh24152webThe abbey was established as a 12th Century Cistercian abbey with an associated estate by monks from Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire. As with many such properties ownership passed into private ownership with the Dissolution of Monasteries in 1536.

There are remains of the Cistercian abbey in the form of the Lay Brothers dormitory, now roofless, and the Frater, or dining room, in the undercroft where there is an exhibition about the abbey. The dormitory has well preserved carved stone corbels (would have supported the ceiling beams) with grotesques-like caricatures.

In 1537 George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury exchanged estates in Ireland for the Rufford Estate but he and his son did not make much use of it. It was the 6th Earl, also George Talbot and husband of Bess of Hardwick, who started the transformation into a country house.

Betting the Farm

Wager on Cremorne and the 1872 Epsom Derby

cremorne grave gh31039webAlthough the family graves have been moved there are still a number of Animal Graves complete with memorials. Whilst most are favourite dogs and hounds the largest is the most noteworthy. It is the grave of Cremorne, the winner of the 1872 Derby, the first running of the over the current course at Epsom.

If it had not been for Cremorne the estate would have passed out of Savile family ownership much earlier. Captain Henry Savile, who amongst other things was a racehorse breeder, owned the estate but was in serious debt. He wagered the estate on his horse Cremorne winning the Derby which it did by a head.

Neglect and Decline

The period after the death of Henry Savile in 1881 was Rufford’s heyday as a fine country house and centre of social activity including royalty which lasted until the 1930s. As for many country houses the Edwardian period was the swan song of high society at Rufford. By the outbreak of World War 2 it was clear that the old way of life at country houses, not just Rufford, was over and many, such as nearby Clumber, were demolished before and after the war.

frater gh31029webThe estate was sold in 1938 to the Nottingham industrialist Sir Albert Ball, father of Albert Ball VC – the First World War air ace. He then auctioned off the contents and sold the estate to Henry Talbot de Vere Clifton.

During the war the property was taken over by the army and also used as a camp for Italian prisoners of war. After the war it was used by various government bodies but by 1949 the house was in poor repair and continued to decay. The Government insisted that should it be demolished the 12th century parts of the abbey must be preserved.

grotesque corbel gh24109webNottinghamshire County Council purchased the abbey and the grounds immediately around the house. By 1956 further decay required controlled demolition of parts of the house and abbey and the ancient buildings eventually came under the care of English Heritage. The remaining parts of the house are mainly Jacobean from the early 1600s.

Revival as a Public Park

In 1969 Rufford became a country park with a ranger service and a restoration programme was initiated. The redevelopment has continued on the house, lake, mill, Orangery and other buildings. It has become a popular destination for a day out with some half a million visitors per year but rarely seems crowded especially during the week and outside school holidays.

More Than Just a House and Gardens

As well as the gift shop in the stables there are craft and outdoor shops in the Mill buildings. There is a cafeteria in the stable courtyard and a more formal restaurant in the main building. There are modern sculptures in the gardens and Orangery. The top floor of the Rufford Sawmill is a functions site and is licenced for weddings.

sculpture park gh24148webMany arts, crafts and other events are held during the year and an events calendar , opening times etc are available the Rufford Country Park's web site.

Most importantly for families there is a Childrens Play Village and plenty of open space for children to burn off energy and for family picnics.

Rufford is centrally placed in Nottinghamshire near Ollerton and is readily accessible by car from Nottingham, Mansfield, Derby. Sheffield, Doncaster and Lincoln. It is then easy to visit to the Sherwoood Forest Visitor Centre, the home of Robin Hood, and the Major Oak at nearby Edwinstowe.


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