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By Linda Lee

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Nevertheless, by the mid-thirteenth century the rules that had controlled the austere appearance of earlier foundations had been relaxed, and the church at Netley was built on quite a grand scale. N ollowing the Dissolution, the nave and some of the domestic buildings of the abbey were transformed into a luxurious Tudor mansion, becoming the home of the Marquess of Winchester. It remained as a private residence for nearly 300 years, until it passed to a local builder who intended to demolish and sell off the building material.

Although the ground plan of the church can be identified, there are only fragments of the original walls visible along its length of some 270ft (82m). A few column bases spring up from the undergrowth, B 47 and the Norman doorway to the night stairs exists to full height in the south-west corner of the church. However, the real beauty of the church is now vested in the profusion of wild flowers decorating the ancient stones, and providing a colourful carpet across the nave. In total, there are believed to be some 200 different species growing amongst the ruins of Jervaulx Abbey.

D indisfarne Priory is not just another ruined site on the list of ‘must visits’. It is a truly magical place, but one where imagination is far more important than looking at the physical evidence. A strong sense of being drawn back to the harsh, religious life led by Cuthbert will become apparent. Vivid images of Vikings causing havoc among this gentle community may be slightly disturbing, and the pain of those early monks who fled with the sacred treasures back to the safety of Durham will seem almost tangible.

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