The house from a circa 1908 postcard
The house in 2019
Earlier Houses: Buckland was originally a Cistercian abbey founded in 1278 by Amicia, Countess of Devon. It remained an abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII.
House & Family History: Buckland Abbey was founded in 1278 by the Cistercian order of monks, the last Cistercian foundation in England. As with most Cistercian foundations, the Abbey is located in a secluded location, making it one of the more enjoyable historic houses to visit in Devon. After the monastery was disbanded by Henry VIII in the English Reformation, Buckland was purchased by Sir Richard Grenville, former Marshal of Calais. Sir Richard intended Buckland as a prestigious country estate for his son Roger. Roger, however, did not live long enough to enjoy his new property; he died a few years later while commanding the warship Mary Rose. The estate passed to Sir Richard's grandson, also named Richard. At that time it was common among gentry who acquired former monastic buildings to create their new homes from the domestic ranges of the property. Grenville decided instead to convert the abbey church into a house, in the process creating a cozy and intimate home. He retained the church tower and inserted three floors in the church interior. The result is a comfortable Elizabethan house, though the interior decorative elements can be startling; Grenville was reputed to be quite eccentric, and the plaster and wooden carvings are not to everyone's taste. Just four years after completing Buckland, Grenville sold Buckland to his great rival, Sir Francis Drake, in 1581. Drake had just returned from his voyage around the world, and his pockets were flush with rewards bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth. As well as Buckland he purchased about 40 properties around Devon. Although he lived there on and off for 14 years, Drake did not make any major changes to the property. The house stayed in the Drake family until 1948 when it passed to the National Trust. The Chapel contains stained glass rescued from Reims Cathedral after World War I. In 1988 four stained glass windows were installed in the windows of the stairwell to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada. A special video presentation and displays within the house trace Drake's career and accomplishments, and there is a regular programme of events and historical re-enactments. An Elizabethan garden has been established at Buckland, as well as an aromatic herb garden, and there are enjoyable walks through the secluded estate. The abbey Great Barn has also been restored to its medieval splendour. The first new lime plaster ceiling to be sculpted in Devon for over 300 years was completed in the Drake Chamber in 1999. (This history kindly provided by BritainExpress.com, The UK Travel and Heritage Guide).
Collections: According to tradition, Queen Elizabeth I gave to Sir Francis Drake the enamel and sardonyx cameo pendant called the Drake Locket Jewel and the opal and ruby hat pin known as the Drake Sun Jewel. Both jewels remain today in the ownership of the Drake family (the family is no longer at Buckland Abbey). The Drake Locket is on loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; both jewels appeared in the 2003 exhibition "Elizabeth" at the National Maritime Museum, London.
Country Life: XXIX, 338 plan, 1916.
Title: Elizabeth: The Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum
Author: Starkey, David (Curator); Doran, Susan (Editor)
Year Published: 2003
Reference: pg. 185
Publisher: London: Chatto & Windus
Book Type: Hardback
Title: Royal Oak Newsletter, The
Year Published: NA
Reference: Spring 1999, pg. 12
Publisher: New York: The Royal Oak Foundation
Book Type: Magazine
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Not Listed
Past Seat / Home of: Sir Richard Grenville, former Marshal of Calais, 16th century. Sir Francis Drake, 16th century; Drake family here from 1581 until 1948.
Current Ownership Type: The National Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction