Muchelney Abbey, Somerset
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In a quaint little village on the Somerset Levels stands the abbot's house of Muchelney Abbey, the only significant structure remaining of the former Benedictine monastery. Although it is believed that a religious house was located here as early as 693, the Benedictines were not established at Muchelney Abbey until the mid 10th century. Sadly, all that exists of the abbey church today are a few foundation walls, but evidence suggests that it was a rather magnificent building.

Apart from the south cloister walk, and the north wall of the refectory, very little else survives from the 12th century. The abbot's house, dating mainly from the early 16th century, is a delightful combination of farmhouse practicality and monastic beauty. On the external walls much of the finely carved stonework survives, and internally there are good examples of carved woodwork, a few fragments of wall paintings, and several pieces of stonework excavated from the ruins on display.

Much decorative work can be seen in the south cloister, including arcading and traces of the elaborate fan-vaulting, thought to have been influenced by Gloucester Cathedral. Some of the medieval floor tiles that survived from the Lady Chapel have been relaid in the small parish church of St Peter and St Paul, which stands only 3ft (90cm) from the former north transept of the monastic church. Again, records suggest that there has been a church on this site since Saxon times, but the present church was completed by the abbots in the early 1400s.

Other attractions of this most hospitable, and strangely untouched, west country village include The Priests House - in the care of The National Trust - and The Almonry Barn, which was thought to have been part of Muchelney Abbey's guest range at one time. Having chosen a very pleasant day for our visit to this enchanting site, we took full advantage of the weather and the wonderful orchard setting for an impromptu picnic, in order that we could linger a little longer amidst the monastic influence of serene beauty.

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