Netley Abbey, Southampton, Hants. 

This looks a very interesting place to visit and I will be doing so in a couple of weeks so will be posting my own photographs.


A Nun - In 1700 a body of a woman was found in the walls and is believed to have been a nun walled up alive for her sins!

People going into the ruins at night have reputably seen an apparition floating over the sacristy and also heard chanting coming from the Naive.

Drops in temperature and the feeling of being watched.

Grey Lady who worked at the military hospital during the Crimea War.  Apparently her husband died in action and she overcome with grief she jumped off the top of the Chapel which now stands in the Victoria country park.

Florence Nightingale - Florence was responsable for having the hospital built at Netley for the nursing of the injured returning from the Crimean War.  First patients arrived at Netley on May 19th 1863. 

Mr Walter Taylor, a builder crushed by a fallen wall - The story is recounted by the eighteenth century antiquary Browne Walters:
The earl (sic), it is said, made a contract with a Mr. Walter Taylor, a builder of Southampton, for the complete demolition of the Abbey; it being intended by Taylor to employ the materials in erecting a town house at Newport and other buildings. After making this agreement, however, Taylor dreamed that, as he was pulling down a particular window, one of the stones forming the arch fell upon him, and killed him. His dream impressed him so forcibly that he mentioned the circumstance to a friend, who is said to have been the father of the well-known Dr. Isaac Watts, and in some perplexity asked his advice. His friend thought it would be the safest course for him to have nothing to do with the affair, respecting which he had been so alarmingly forewarned, and endeavoured to persuade him to desist from his intention. Taylor, however, at last decided upon paying no attention to his dream, and accordingly began his operations for the pulling down of the building; in which he had not proceeded far, when, as he was assisting at the work, the arch of one of the windows, but not the one he had dreamed of (which was the east window still standing), fell upon his head and fractured his skull. It was thought at first that the wound would not prove mortal; but it was aggravated through the unskilfulness of the surgeon, and the man died.

In 1976 a lady visiting from Adelaid look saw a  picture on the Chapel wall.   It was of a young woman with long grey hair, which could have been a wig. She was dressed in rose pink and seated with a little white dog of her left foot. The background, which appeared to be a tapestry with a flower design, was of faint pastel colouring. The image only lasted a few seconds  then faded away.

According to legend there is a secret tunnel within the ruins that contains the hidden treasure of the abbey. It is said to be guarded by a ghostly monk.

Thomas Gray in 1764 wrote "I should tell you, that the ferryman who rowed me, a lusty young fellow, told me that he would not for all the world pass a night at the Abbey, there were such things seen near it!"


The earliest record of Netley I have found so far concerns the first King of Wessex Cerdic.  When according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Cerdic arrived off the coast of Britain with his son, Cynric, and a fleet of five ships in the year 495 and landed near Southhampton (Hampshire), or what the chronicle calls “Cerdic’s-ore.” That day, they fought against an army of Welsh troops.
In the year 508, Cerdic’s army slew Natanleod, a British king, along with five thousand of his men, and afterwards, the land was named Netley, as far as Charford.

Netley was founded in 1239 by Peter des Roches, who was a very powerful politician, government official, and also Bishop of Winchester from 1205–1238.  The abbey was one of a pair the bishop conceived as a memorial to himself; the other is La Clarté-Dieu in Saint-Paterne-Racan, France.   Des Roches began to purchase the lands for Netley's initial endowment in about 1236, unfortunately he died before the project was finished and the Abbey was completed by his executors.   According to the Chronicles of Waverley Abbey, near Farnham in Surrey ,the first monks arrived to settle the site on 25 July 1239 from neighbouring Beaulieu Abbey, a year after the bishop's death.   As its founder had died before the vital task of collecting the endowment was complete, the abbey started its life in a difficult financial situation. It is thought that little work took place on the permanent stone monastery until the house was taken under the wing of Henry III, who became interested in the abbey in the mid 1240s and eventually assumed the role of patron in 1251.

The Cistercians normally reserved their churches solely for the use of the monastic community. Other people had to worship in a separate chapel in the abbey grounds which was close to the main gate.  Over time this rule was relaxed to allow pilgrims to visit shrines at their other monasteries and also to allow the construction of tombs and chantries for patrons and wealthy benefactors of the Abbey.  Excavated sculpture shows that the church at Netley featured a number of elaborate tombs and monuments.

The following information is taken from entries on Ancient Deeds which you will find on the website of

D. 93. Grant by John called the prior, and the convent, of Snelleshale, to the abbot and convent of Edwardstow (Netley), for 40 marks, of all their right in the mill of Essovere, paying 4d. yearly to the attornies of Sir Thomas de Sancto Walerico. Witnesses:—Sir Richard de Harecurt, Walter de Tiwe, William de Craweleg', and others (named). [Henry III.] Much injured.
Endorsed: 'Carta de molindino de Lega.'

D. 132. Grant by Lawrence de Goldecot, with the consent of Mabel de Hamtune, his wife, daughter of William de Hamtune, to the abbot and convent of Netley, for 8 marks, of all which the said Mabel has or could have in Welewe (Wellow), of the grant of her said father, as contained in a charter of confirmation which the said abbot and convent formerly made to her, and which, together with her father's charter to her, she has freely surrendered to the said abbot and convent. Vigil of the apostles Simon and Jude, A.D. 1243.

D. 230. Arbitration of Master Ralph de S . . . . . ., official of Sir H[ugh] de Rupibus, [archd]eacon of Winchester, in a dispute between Sir Robert, the abbot of Netley (Loci Sancti Edwardi), and Thomas, vicar of Welewe, relative to the taxation of the said vicarage. Suth[ampton], Vigil of Palm Sunday, A.D. 1251

D. 302. Release by brother Peter, called the abbot, and the convent, of Lieu Dieu in the diocese of Amiens, to the abbot and convent of Netley (Loci sancti Ed[wardi]), of the manor of Nordleg', with all the muniments &c. relating thereto in the grantors' possession. A.D. 126[1].

D. 1216. Demise by John Corne the abbot, and the convent, of Netley (loci Sancti Edwardi de Letteley) near Sowthampton, to Thomas Diver of Charleton, 'husbondman,' for forty years, of the manor of Charleton, with all houses and lands &c. pertaining. 13 November, 8 Henry VIII.

3 Id. June.
(f. 148.)Mandate to the Cistercian abbot and prior of St. Edward's [Netley], in the diocese of Winchester, to receive the resignation of Nicholas de Rumsey, rector of Fontemel, in the diocese of Salisbury, of the churches of Lengham and Stokes, in the dioceses of London and Winchester, which he has successively accepted without papal dispensation, to impose on him a salutary penance, and then to induct and defend him in possession of the said churches, notwithstanding any papal indult. Dispensation also is to be granted to Nicholas to hold one other benefice with cure of souls.

Dissolution of the Monasteries

In 1535 the abbey's income was assessed in the Valor Ecclesiasticus, Henry VIII's great survey of church finances, at £160 gross, £100 net, which meant the following year that it came under the terms of the First Suppression Act, Henry's initial move in the Dissolution of the Monasteries.   At the beginning of the following year the king's commissioners, Sir James Worsley, John Paulet, George Paulet and William Berners, delivered a report to the government on the monasteries of Hampshire which provides a little information of Netley on the eve of the Dissolution.   The commissioners noted that Netley was inhabited by seven monks, all of them priests, and the abbey was:
A hedde house of Monkes of thordre of Cisteaux, beinge of large buyldinge and situate upon the Ryvage of the Sees. To the Kinge's Subjects and Strangers travelinge the same Sees great Relief and Comforte.
– Sir James Worsley
In addition to the monks, Netley was home to 29 servants and officials of the abbey, plus two Franciscan friars of the strict Observant part of that order who had been put into the abbot's custody by the king,  presumably for opposing his religious policies.   The royal officers also found plate and jewels in the treasury worth £43, "ornaments" worth £39 and agricultural produce and animals worth £103. The abbey's debts were moderate at £42.
Abbot Thomas Stevens and his seven monks were forced to surrender their house to the king in the summer of 1536.   Abbot Thomas and six of his brethren—the seventh opted to resign and become a secular priest—crossed Southampton Water to join their mother house of Beaulieu. Abbot Thomas was appointed abbot of Beaulieu in 1536 and administered it for two years until it in turn was forced to surrender to the king in April 1538.   The monks received pensions after the fall of Beaulieu; Abbot Thomas ended his days as treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral, and died in 1550.

Following the dissolution of Netley, on 3 August 1536,  King Henry granted the abbey buildings and some of its estates to Sir William Paulet,  his Lord Treasurer and subsequently Marquess of Winchester. As soon as he took over, Sir William started the process of turning the abbey into a palace suitable for one of the most important politicians in England.   He converted the nave of the church into his great hall, kitchens and service buildings,  the transepts and crossing became a series of luxurious apartments for his personal use, the presbytery was retained as the chapel of the mansion.  The monks' dormitory became the long gallery of the mansion and the latrine block became several grand chambers.   He demolished the south range and refectory and built a new one with a central turreted gatehouse to provide the appropriate seigneurial emphasis needed for a classic Tudor courtyard house.   He likewise demolished the cloister walks to make a central courtyard for his house and placed a large fountain in the centre. The precinct buildings were demolished to create formal gardens and terraces.
Paulet's successors, who included both his own family and others such as William Seymour, 1st Marquess of Hertford, who lived there during the Commonwealth, and the Earl of Huntingdon, inhabited the abbey until the close of the seventeenth century.

In 1545 a small fort was built by Sir William Paulet within the grounds of Netley Abbey at the request of Henry VIII, for the protection of the coast and the approach to Southampton. Certain manors and lands were granted to him for the upkeep of the fort and its garrison, which consisted of a captain, two soldiers, a porter, and six gunners.  This garrison was still maintained in 1627,  but the fort, known as Netley Castle, was shortly afterwards enlarged and turned into an ordinary residence.

Around 1700, Netley Abbey came into the hands of Sir Berkeley Lucy (also spelled Sir "Bartlet") who decided in 1704 to demolish the by now unfashionable house in order to sell the materials. Sir Berkeley made an agreement with a Southampton builder, Mr Walter Taylor, to take down the former church. However, during the course of the demolition, the contractor was killed by the fall of tracery from the west window of the church and the scheme was halted.

In the 1760s Thomas Dummer, who owned estates in the area, moved the north transept to his estate at Cranbury Park near Winchester where it can be still be seen as a folly in the gardens of the house.
By the second half of the eighteenth century, the abbey, by then partially roofless and overgrown with trees and ivy, had become a famous ruin that attracted the attention of artists, dramatists and poets. In the nineteenth century, Netley became a popular tourist attraction (the novelist Jane Austen was among those who visited) and steps were taken to conserve the ruins.  Archaeological excavations directed by Charles Pink and Reverend Edmund Kell took place in 1860.   During the same period the owners decided to remove many of the Tudor additions to the building to create a more medieval feel to the site, resulting in the loss of much evidence of the abbey's post-Dissolution story.
In 1922, the abbey was passed into state care by the then owner, Tankerville Chamberlayne, one time M.P. for Southampton.   Conservation and archaeological work on the abbey has continued.


In 1790, William Sotheby wrote his Ode, Netley Abbey, Midnight:
Within the sheltered centre of the aisle,
Beneath the ash whose growth romantic spreads
Its foliage trembling o’er the funeral pile,
And all around a deeper darkness sheds;
While through yon arch, where the thick ivy twines,
Bright on the silvered tower the moon-beam shines,
And the grey cloister’s roofless length illumes,
Upon the mossy stone I lie reclined,
And to a visionary world resigned
Call the pale spectres forth from the forgotten tombs.
But now no more the gleaming forms appear,
Within their graves at rest the fathers sleep,
And not a sound comes to the wistful ear,
Save the low murmur of the tranquil deep:
Or from the grass that in luxuriant pride
Waves o’er yon eastern window’s sculptured side,
The dew-drops bursting on the fretted stone:
While faintly from the distant coppice heard
The music of the melancholy bird
Trill to the silent heaven a sweetly-plaintive moan.


Surrounding Land

In 1794 the army of the Earl of Moira was camped on Netley Common.
In 1800 a duel took place near the camp between a Lieutenant Smith and Ensign O'Brie.  Smith the challenger died on the spot and O'Brie was tried for manslaughter.

Roman Coins have been found in Westwood with the following on them : Gallienus, Salonia, Valerius, Claudius 11, Alrelius and Quintillus.

Sybil Leek

20th century Witch-Astrologer

~ A Biography~
by C. Ravin, Esq.

I became a nurse in the famous military hospital in Netley, near Southhampton. Originally, when Great Britain had an empire in India, an architect was asked to design two large military hospitals, one for India and one for Great Britain. Apparently the architect's plans got crossed; Netley found itself with a huge military hospital that was suitable for a torrid climate and had a definite Indian motif about it. I ended up in the Netley hospital's Prisoner of War Department because I spoke French well and knew a smattering of German. It was a nerve-racking experience, dealing with prisoners of war who were sick, many of whom had lost a limb. The Germans were aggressive and rude to all the female staff. They were not truly interested in living, and many fought against medical attention. It was a great lesson in discipline to nurse the enemy and know he was still the enemy. We were told that we must not, under any circumstances, allow a prisoner to provoke us. In theory, it was fine; in practice, very hard. We were all high-spirited girls from good families, and every one of us had men from the family in the service. We had to withstand barrages of abuse, physical onslaught, and sexual advances, and we still had to try to be pleasant.

One day I heard that my cousin Edwin's plane had been shot down in Germany. The telegram said he was "missing and presumed lost in battle combat." I entered the ward, which was at the top of the building, and was hit full in the chest by a large bouquet of flowers still in its bowl - it was a painful experience. I became glazing mad; I stalked over to the patient, and slapped his face on both sides. Many years later, when I saw the film Patton, I knew exactly the type of demon that got into the General when he slapped an American soldier. Of course, I was reprimanded and confined to barracks for a week. The soldier was moved to another hospital, which showed tact on the part of the Commanding Officer. All the girls felt that the slap was administered on behalf of all of us, for we had had a particularly nerve-wracking week. I was working on night duty at the time, but we had so many casualties that there was no distinct changeover for any of us.

We stayed until an entire hospital ship checked into the hospital; the operating theatres were working like mad. I used to leave the theatre dazed, physically and mentally sick, wondering when it would all end. On duty in the wards, when we were alerted that a wave of bombers was coming over, we always had to check the blackouts. Not a single window could be undraped. Many of the prisoners of war who could walk would cheer when there was a raid and would sing German songs as they tried to tear down the blackout coverings. We had to fight them off and sometimes threaten them. The German soldier was inclined to despise the female in uniform, but I learned I could scream as loud as he could, and I picked up enough swear words to start a new dictionary.

The sixtieth section of the London Red Cross may have started out in Netley as a group of young society ladies, but after a few months of campaigning like this, we had forgotten what the word "lady" meant. We were hardened Boadiceas, ready to be in the thick of battle 24 hours a day. We all came form families that frowned on girls drinking and smoking, but we learned both from the male members of the 101st Bridging Company of the Royal Engineers. We all had officers' privileges, which included using officers' mess rooms when we had time. We ate fairly well, but the elegant sixtieth section was given sleeping quarters in barracks that had once been condemned as unfit for use by British soldiers. We thrived on hard conditions, hard palliasses, rough army blankets, and no sheets, because they were needed in the hospital, where supplies of everything dwindled as the war progressed.

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