MDE1032 - Lee Abbey (Building)


The Cistercian grange of Ley belonged to Forde Abbey in the 12th Century. Its farmhouse was repaired and enlarged as a manor house in 1628. The current buildings, begun in 1850, may include some of the former building's fabric.

Please read the .

Type and Period (3)

Protected Status

Full Description

SS 697 492 Lee Abbey on Site of (NAT) Manor House (NR). [1] The old grange farm at Ley (now Lee) in the manor of Lynton, formerly in the possession of Ford Abbey was, in 1628, repaired and enlarged as the residence of the Lord of the manor, Hugh Wichenhalse. Ley was not the present building called Lee Abbey, which is no older than 1850, but merely a farm house with gabled ends and a gabled long porch in the centre with two long benches in the thickness of the walls inside, all roofed with thatch. The Ordnance Survey 1 inch of 1809 suggests that the former grange farm or manor house stood immediately to the north of the present building at SS 698 493. [2,3] SS 6979 4928 Lee Abbey, a modern group of buildings on the site of an older 17th Century manor house. 'Ley', recorded in the Domesday Book, was owned by Forde Abbey a Somerset Cistercian monastery in the 12th Century [4] but was never a monastic foundation [5]. The Old Grange Farm of Lee, the seat of the Wichelhalse family from 1628 until early in the 18th Century [10] was, according to Presland [6], a large, rambling, plain building, with gabled ends and thick walls, thatched roof and tall chimneys. These old farm buildings, are depicted on the 1840 Tithe Map [7] and annotated Ley. The estate was purchased in 1841 by a Charles Bailey who rebuilt the manor about 1850 to make it look like an old abbey. On the death of his son in 1921 Lee Abbey became a hotel, later a boy's preparatory school and finally, in 1946, a conference and residential centre for the Lee Abbey Fellowship, a Christian Community [4]. Snell [8] in 1906 says 'traces of the old structure were to be seen in an intermediate building' but the present occupiers have no knowledge of this. No survey action was carried out. [9] Lee Abbey was the seat of the Wichehalse family from 1628 until early 18th Century - the only period during which the Manor of Lynton had a resident squire. The present mansion was built mainly around 1850 with additions in 1921 and later, and little of the original construction appears to remain. The gatehouse, high buttressed wall etc are said to date from 1850. It has an interesting octagonal music room with windows and mantel possibly brought from elsewhere and represents good early Gothic Revival work. [10] Shown as 'Lee Abbey'. [11] Shown as 'hotel'. [12] There is evidence to suggest that the north fa├žade of the central courtyard is that of the original house, possibly dating to the early 16th Century. By 1862 the new house, built by CF Bailey in 1850 comprised of 3 wings built around a courtyard. Tower Lodge and Duty Point tower were also built around this time. At some point in the mid 19th Century there was a tower abutting the Octagonal Lounge, no physical evidence remains. The building was a school for evacuated boys during the war. Since 1951 the Lee Abbey Christian Centre have made a series of extentions and renovations to the house. [13] The buildings were visited in April 2012 as part of the rapid condition survey of Exmoor's Listed Buildings 2012-13. The Abbey received a BAR score of 6 and the wall and gateway received a score of 5A. [14] Monument record reviewed as part of NRHE to HER pilot project. [15] In 1841, Charles Bailey, a London based land agent, purchased Ley, a large farm in the parish of Lynton. He intended to created a country estate and demolished the old farmhouse at Ley, supervising the construction of a fine country house on the site, which he gave the "somewhat pretentious" name Lee Abbey. [16] Further information on the Abbey and its surroundings is available in a report produced by Hazel Riley in 2017. [17]

Sources/Archives (18)

  • <1>XY Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1889. [Mapped feature: #41390 ]
  • <2> Article in serial: Chanter, J.F.. 1906. The Parishes of Lynton and Countisbury. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 38. 114-224. P. 176-7.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1809. 1 Inch Ordnance Surveyors draft map. 1:63,360.
  • <4> Monograph: Bridle, H.. 2005. Woody Bay. Finial Publishing. P. 87.
  • <5> Monograph: Cherry, B. + Pevsner, N.. 1999. The Buildings of England: Devon. Penguin Books. 2nd Edition.
  • <6> Monograph: Presland, J.. 1919. Lynton and Lynmouth. P. 78.
  • <7> Map: 1840. Lynton and Lynmouth Parish Tithe Map and Apportionment.
  • <8> Monograph: Snell, F. J.. 1906. The Blackmore Country. P. 170.
  • <9> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 16 June 1993.
  • <10> Index: Department of the Environment. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest .
  • <11> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1963. 6 Inch Map: 1963.
  • <12> Cartographic materials: Ordnance Survey. 1938. 2SE. Revision of 1903 with additions in 1938. Provisional Edition. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 6 inch Map.
  • <13> Report: Wisnicka, A.. 2009. Lee Abbey: Historical Appraisal. Main House and the Site. Alina Wisnicka.
  • <14> Report: Lawrence, G.. 2014. Exmoor National Park: Rapid condition survey of listed buildings 2012-13.
  • <15> Archive: Historic England. 2016. NRHE to HER prototype website test. 34639.
  • <16> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 34639, Extant 28 April 2021.
  • <17> Monograph: Gray, T.. 1996. Devon documents. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 1st Edition. Travis, F.J. "An enclosure dispute at Lynton in 1854". 190-196.
  • <18> Report: Riley, H. 2017. Assessment and Metric Survey of Archaeological Features at Lee Abbey, Exmoor National Park Project Report.



Grid reference Centred SS 6981 4928 (105m by 173m) MasterMap
Map sheet SS64NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (7)

Related Events/Activities (4)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (5A): 858/1/1/64/2
  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (5A): 858/1/1/64/3
  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (6): 858/1/1/64/1
  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS64NE/5
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 29102
  • Devon SMR: SS64NE/5/1
  • Devon SMR: SS64NE/73
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20376
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE21021
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 64 NE14
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 34639

Record last edited

Mar 1 2022 11:49AM


Your feedback is welcome. If you can provide any new information about this record, please contact us.