67. Prinknash Abbey (and the neighbouring Bird & Deer Park)
Prinknash, about two miles from the lovely Cotswold town of Painswick, is worth visiting for two very distinct reasons - Prinknash Abbey and the nearby Bird & Deer Park.
Prinknash Abbey is a Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery close to the village of Cranham. The community of 12 monks belong to the Subiaco Congregation within the International Benedictine Confederation which has its base at Sant’Anselmo Rome.
The monks' life is regulated by the Rule of Saint Benedict that was written 1,500 years ago in Italy.
The Prinknash community began life in the Church of England when its founder, Abbot Aelred Carlyle, set up a small community in the Isle of Dogs, London. That community eventually settled on Caldey Island off Tenby, South Wales, and became Roman Catholic in 1913.
Financial pressure forced them to leave Caldey and come to Prinknash Park in December 1928, where they have been ever since.
Prinknash has actually been associated with Benedictine monks for over 900 years. In 1096 the Giffard family, who came to England with William the Conqueror, made a gift of the land to Serlo, Abbot of St Peter's, Gloucester.
A large part of the present building was built during the abbacy of William Parker, the last Abbot of Gloucester, around the year 1520. It remained in the abbey's hands until the suppression of the monasteries in 1539 when it was rented from the Crown by Sir Anthony Kingston who was to provide 40 deer annually to King Henry VIII, who used the house as a hunting lodge.
In 1939 a foundation stone for a new abbey was laid at Prinknash, but the Second World War intervened and the previous impracticable building plans were eventually redrawn.
The monks moved into the new abbey in 1972 and the old abbey was converted into a retreat and conference centre, known as St Peter's Grange, after being re-roofed and furnished.
In 2008 the community moved from the 1972 building back to St Peter’s Grange and the new abbey was sold for conversion into luxury apartments
Prinknash Abbey's website states: "Our aim is to live a monastic life of prayer, work, sacred reading (the Bible and other Christian authors), community life and hospitality, all of which is based on our estate of 400 acres. People come to us, rather than we go to them."
The community makes incense, rosary beads, watercolour paintings and runs a bi-annual magazine called PAX. Some members of the community are ordained priests, and occasionally are called upon to say a Sunday Mass in a local parish when the local clergy are stretched.
All are welcome to visit the abbey and grounds and to take part in its regular activities, events and services. Prinknash Monastery Shop & Café serves a selection of homemade cakes and refreshments.
The Bird and Deer Park
The Bird and Deer Park at Prinknash is as an entirely separate enterprise to the nearby Prinknash Abbey.
It was created in 1974 by Philip Meigh, an established local cartoonist and artist who had amassed a wonderful private collection of waterfowl at his home in Cranham, which was moved to the 10-acre site at Prinknash at this time.
Philip's vision was to give a superb backdrop to beautiful birds, by incorporating delightful follies and landscaped parkland.
He created lovely lakes, ponds and walkways and then started to design and build follies around the park.
The park has developed from those early days and now homes other animals including reindeer, fallow deer, miniature Mediterranean donkeys, pygmy goats and fish, including carp, golden orph, tench and trout
Philip Meigh died in 2008, leaving the legacy to be continued by his daughter Melanie Meigh who shares the same vision and has carefully added to the collection with the view to keeping the dream alive.