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Titchfield Abbey

Fareham, Hampshire

Feature Location Guide

The property known now as Titchfield Abbey has had at least three lives, first as a small monastery, then converted to an impressive house, then later part pulled down to make a romantic ruin.

The Abbey or Monastery

The abbey was founded in 1222 for Premonstratensian canons, ‘white canons’ an austere order of priests. Other accounts say it was founded by Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, for this order in 1231.

St Peters church (SU540057) on The Pilgrims Trail in Titchfield is far older, known to date from around 680, is said to be the first in the area to be founded by St Wilfrid, and later to have been a minister, as its monks served the other churches along the river. It is said to be amongst the oldest churches in Britain. The Domesday Book in 1086 mentions "Ticefelle", with a mill, a market and farms.

The abbey was a minor house of its order, and became neither wealthy nor influential during its three centuries of monastic life, the inhabitants were devoted to scholarship, as shown by their large and impressive library. The canons lived a communal life under monastic vows, but were also involved in the wider community, preaching and teaching the Gospel. Of the 14 or 15 canons here, two served as vicars to nearby parish churches.  Each day, they would have attended eight services and mass in the monastic church, spending much of the remainder of the day reading and studying. The first canons, led by Abbot Richard, arrived in 1222 from Halesowen Abbey in Worcestershire. Titchfield was to maintain a strong connection with its mother house at Halesowen throughout its existence as a monastery. A small amount remains of Halesowen Abbey, reused as farm buildings - EH .

Bishop Peter held one of the richest bishoprics in the mediaeval church and so was in a position to be generous in the endowment of his new abbey. He not only gave the manor of Titchfield itself but also extensive lands dotted around Hampshire, and this property was expanded by major grants from local aristocrats and King Henry III (who also granted the monastery important legal privileges in 1231), with the result that Titchfield was placed on a firm financial footing from the beginning.  It was generally well run over its history and maintained a good reputation for the life led by its canons. The abbey remained tolerably solvent for most of its existence, however, in common with many religious houses and secular lords it experienced severe financial difficulties in the later half of the 14th century and the early 15th century due to the economic and social crisis resulting from the effects of the Black Death.  The scale of the disaster can be judged by the fact that on the Titchfield estates, in the plague years of 1348-1349, close to 60% of the tenants died, together with a vast number of animals, and when the plague returned in 1361-1362 the agricultural population took another massive hit. When John Poole, Abbot of the mother house of Halesowen Abbey inspected Titchfield in the summer of 1420 he found the coffers empty, the abbey's accounts deeply in the red and the barns and storehouses nearly empty of food and fodder.  Despite this, in the following years the canons managed to retrieve the situation and in the last years of its existence Titchfield was again moderately prosperous.

The abbey buildings were centred around the church, which was comparatively small and plain. It was cruciform in plan with a narrow, aisle-less nave, a short eastern arm, six side chapels in the transepts and a tower with bells. It was of a design out of date already at that time, and deliberately austere, perhaps reflecting the strict doctrines of the order at the period of construction. Though it was restored once, after nearly falling to ruin, unlike many of their fellows, the canons of Titchfield never created an elaborate new church in the later middle ages, and kept their original building until the end of monastic life at the abbey.

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Next to the church stood a cloister surrounded on three sides by the domestic buildings of the house, including the chapter house, dormitory, kitchen, refectory, library, food storage rooms and quarters for the abbot. Though not large, the surviving ruins show that the abbey buildings were of very high quality with fine masonry and carving. As the Middle Ages progressed considerable investment was made to upgrade the domestic buildings to meet rising living standards, and it is probable that by the mid fourteenth century they were rather luxurious, as evidenced by the elaborate polychrome floor tiles (an expensive and high status product) still seen today all over the site.

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The central core of the monastery was surrounded by a walled precinct containing gardens, fishponds (several of which still survive close to the abbey buildings), orchards, barns, guesthouses, stables, a farmyard and industrial buildings. Entrance to the abbey was strictly controlled by several gatehouses.

Their library was at that time one of the finest in Britain, and the inventory has survived showing 224 volumes, each containing a number of different works bound together, as was common in the period, and some must have been very large to contain all the works recorded for them. The books were organised by subject, shelf and location in the library room, probably the chamber between the chapter house and the church as this was the traditional location. There were books in Latin, English and French covering theology, church history, writings of the Fathers of the Church, medicine, law, philosophy, grammar, travel, legends, romances and records of the abbey. The canons also had another collection of more than 100 books used for services that they kept in the church.  A library on this scale was huge for the period. A similar sized library to the great royal foundation of Reading Abbey who had 228 volumes. I haven't found out what happened to these works.

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When in the period of  Henry VIII, many abbeys were closed, Titchfield missed the first round of closures as its income was just over the size that was being closed. The Abbot at the time, John Salisbury (with the council of Thomas Wriothesley), was able to see the end was coming, and rather than fight decided to do as well as they could out of the situation, they sold off the abbey's livestock, treasures and church plate, pocketing the proceeds and negotiated in the surrender, securing 100 marks a year as a pension for himself and comfortable incomes for his eight canons and three novices. The government at the time needed cooperative church people, and those that could see which side their bread was buttered, Abbot John remained in government favour, in one account he is made Dean of Norwich Cathedral in 1539, and later Bishop of Sodor and Man and died in 1573, in another account he becomes abbot of Netley Abbey then abbot of Beaulieu, each time gaining an extra pension and each property going to Thomas Wriothesley. The abbot ended his days as treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral and died in 1550, I think this second account is the correct one. 

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Place house

Thomas Wriothesley, wanted the abbey for his own use, so probably worked closely with the Abbot, so that both could benefit.  He acquired the property and converted it into a grand house known as Place House. The abbot moved on to be the Abbot of Netley, then Beaulieu, both of which Thomas Wriothesley ended up with.

Thomas Wriothesley was a politician, who entered royal service at a young age, was of help to and elevated by Thomas Cromwell, being sent on several errands abroad. He became Henry VIII principle secretary in 1540. He rose higher and higher in the royal favour, and in 1542 it was said that he governed almost everything in England. He sought to bring about an alliance between England and Spain in 1543, and was created Baron Wriothesley of Titchfield in 1544. Having been Lord Privy Seal for a few months, he became Lord Chancellor in 1544. He was one of the executors of Henry VIII's will, and in accordance with the dead king's wishes he was created Earl of Southampton on 16 February 1547. Many others in favour with Henry VIII for periods, later lost their heads and property, but Thomas did not and even after the King's death went on to be a member of the privy council until his death.

He obtained extensive lands between Winchester and Southampton and around the area. He was also given Beaulieu Abbey. At Beaulieu he built a mansion Palace house,  upon the basis of the gatehouse and pulled down the church. Today the Motor museum and estate still owned by his descendents are there. Some of the remains of the site and some surviving buildings remain, SU389026. Wiki - Beaulieu   Beaulieu website 

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Central to Wriothesley’s new domain were the 11 manors and 5,000 acres (2,024 hectares) surrounding Titchfield Abbey.

Titchfield was one of the major ports on the south coast in early medieval times, being in a secure position on the River Meon. Now, however, the river serves little purpose other than as a place for a quiet country walk, with access to the Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve. London born Thomas Wriothesley, who had been on several errands abroad, may have discovered this area on one of his trips.

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At Titchfield, Wriothesley chose to convert the main abbey buildings, including the church, into his house. It was an imaginative scheme, he constructed a spectacular castellated gatehouse with four octagonal turrets, which was forced through the middle of the nave to provide the appropriate seigniorial emphasis needed for a classic Tudor courtyard house. The cloister became the central courtyard of the house with a magnificent fountain placed in the middle. The old refectory, with the addition of a grand porch, became the great hall, while the rest of the abbey was turned into fine apartments for the family. The church tower was initially kept as part of the house but it was soon demolished as it stopped some of the chimneys from drawing properly. Other features of the mansion included a private indoor theatre and a deer park.  The resulting palatial dwelling attracted favourable notice from Wriothesley's contemporaries. In 1540, the traveller and historian John Leland noted in his Itinerary, “ Mr Wriothesley hath buildid a right stately house embatelid, and having a goodeley gate and a conducte [fountain] castelid in the middle of the court of it..."

Wriothesley's heirs, including the Duke of Portland and the Duke of Beaufort lived at Place House until 1742, and then sold, forty years later in 1781 it was abandoned.

Shakespeare was a close friend of Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl, and probably visited the abbey. It is believed that some of his plays were first performed at Titchfield Abbey. Today some Shakespearian plays are still put on there.

The abbey's location near Southampton and Portsmouth made it a convenient stopping place for journeys from England to continental Europe. The marriage of Henry VI to Margaret of Anjou was celebrated there in 1445. Other royal visitors included Henry VIII, Edward VI, Elizabeth I,  and Charles I, who was chased there by Parliamentarian forces in 1647, towards the end of the English Civil War.

The Romantic Ruin

In 1781, a decision was made to abandon the mansion and deliberately demolish much of it to create a romantic ruin. When this happened local people took stone from the abbey for their homes, evidence can be seen in walls and foundations of older houses in Titchfield village. Much though is inside the buildings, in The Bugle Hotel in Titchfield, for example, one can see a big fireplace that was salvaged from the ruins.


Today there are major remains of the abbey and Place House to be seen. The nave of the church still stands to full height and with it Wriothesley's gatehouse. Fragments of the cloister buildings survive, including the entrance arches to the chapter house and library in the east range. Large areas of the late mediaeval tile floors are preserved.

As you look around you can see where windows in the abbey were part filled in to become fireplaces in the mansion, as well as many other conversions.


Further information Grid



Titchfield Abbey, nr Southampton, Hampshire

Ceremonial County: Hampshire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo: Google Aerial 



Best Times to Visit:






Other useful websites:


Nearby Locations: Netley Abbey, Bishops Palace at Bishops Waltham, Porchester Castle
Other Relevant pages: Abbey Section, including all major Christian buildings, regions orders, normal layouts and history.


Planning Grid


Titchfield Abbey, nr Southampton, Hampshire

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

Located 1⁄2 mile N of Titchfield, off A27




Free parking on site, entry through a narrow gatehouse direct off main road. Plus large free car park + public WC at junction of Mill Lane and A27


None on site. Download an MP3 audio tour from their website prior to your visit.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Buildings, architecture, views.

What to take:

wide angle lens

Nature highlights:

Country location, but did not see much except a few butterflies.




PO15 5RA


01424 775705

Opening times:

Daily. 2 Jan-31 Mar and October 10am-4pm;

1 Apr-30 Sep 10am-5pm;

Closed 24-26 Dec and 1 Jan


Free (English Heritage property)

Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions: None
Special Needs Access: Level site , no major problems
Special Needs Facilities: None.
Children Facilities: Ideal site for children, no obvious hazards.
Dogs Allowed: Guide dogs and dogs on leads

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Grid(s) or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

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By: Keith Park  Section: Abbeys Key:
Page Ref: Titchfield_Abbey Topic: Abbeys Last Updated: 02/2011

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