Bisham Abbey

Ann had kindly given us a very informative guided tour of Bisham Abbey and its grounds in October 2005 and agreed to give an illustrated talk on 29th March 2007. This was a stunning presentation of the history of the whole site since its earliest record before the conquest to the twentieth century. So much detail was available and fortunately Ann had prepared a “Brief Chronology of Bisham Abbey” hand-out for us!

Bisham has had various names since the Domesday record – Bistesha (m?), Bustelesham and now must be pronounced Bissam.

A quite considerable amount of data has been gathered about the various owners of the abbey and grounds and all the family inter-connections and intrigues covering nine centuries. The first building on the site was erected by the Knights Templars in the 13th century some years after they had been given the manor.

Bisham Abbey
Bisham Abbey

The records of the development of the buildings have been discovered, even though the whereabouts of the priory built in the 14th century has not yet been accurately located. The design of the priory church is known from the famous15th century Salisbury Roll. Ann’s theory is that it’s design,  similar to that of Exeter cathedral and Ottery St. Mary parish church,  is because William Montacute who built the Bisham church was brother in law of Bishop John Grandison who built the church at Ottery St Mary as a replica of Exeter cathedral where he was Bishop. She thinks they helped each other out!

Some of the stones were re-used during later developments after the buildings were demolished during the dissolution. The earliest part of the abbey is the 13th century Great Hall, built by the Templars, though this has now been surrounded by later rooms.

There are many heraldic features in the rooms, especially some of the stained armorial glass in the windows one of which dates back to the 14th century. Ann thinks the glass was probably recovered from Bisham priory church when it was demolished in the 16th century.

This was a highly detailed and informative talk, excellently presented.