Isle of Albion
Enigmatic ruin hidden down a quiet lane.
First Photographed: Saturday 20th January 2007
Last Photographed: Thursday 18th April 2024
Other Names: Kilve Priory
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The site referred to today as "Kilve Chantry" is part of a medieval manorial complex that incorporated a manor house, chantry and church. This entire complex was surrounded by earthwork defences and contained streams and fishponds. The lane passing through this complex leads down to a small harbour which would also have served the manor.

Kilve Chantry was founded in 1329AD when Simon de Furneaux commissioned a group of five monks to say prayers for his soul and the souls of his family "at Kylve Church". He provided a license to the monks including provision of a house, garden and land at a variety of locations. The chantry had ceased to exist by 1411AD, and by 1433AD "Kylve Church" was serving as the parish church of St Mary.

It is important to note that the remaining buildings at Kilve did not necessarily form part of the chantry. It seems more likely that these buildings were part of the medieval manor (and definitely served in this function at a later date), and that the monks' buildings were at an as yet unidentified location.

Two sets of buildings remain. "Chantry Cottage" and "Priory Cottage" are adjacent to the ruins, and contained the hall range of the medieval building. The ruins (referred to as "Kilve Chantry") contained a solar complex and a chapel. It has previously been speculated that the ruins were a later addition to the manor built to house the chantry monks, but the wealth and status indicated by their design are now thought more likely to indicate that these buildings were an expansion of the manor, indicating its increasing prosperity.

Another point to note is that while it was not unusual for a medieval lord to appoint a chantry chapel, it would have been highly unusual to appoint five monks to attend it. This would suggest some pre-existing monastic foundation at the site.

By the late sixteenth century the manor house was let as a farmhouse, after which it became know as "The Old Mansion" or "Kilve Farm". In 1848AD, the ruins that stand today were gutted by a fire - possibly an attempt by smugglers to destroy evidence of contraband brandy.

Today, Kilve Chantry is accessed by a quiet dead-end lane heading down towards the sea. The ruins are slight but charming, with a quintessentially English tea room and gardens located at their rear. The site is difficult to interpret, but an understanding of its history provides a useful background from which to gain some perspective on the surviving buildings. A knowledge of the manorial layout greatly increases appreciation of the location.

When I first visited, the ruins were in danger of collapse and supported by a large metal buttress (pictures can be seen at the end of the gallery). In recent years, extensive restoration work has been completed, and the metal buttress has been replaced by an internal concrete slab that has been effecitve in stabilising the structure. The view from the front has been greatly improved.

Kilve Chantry might be small, but it is nevertheless a delightfully quirky and fascinating site tucked away in a seclujded corner of Somerset. It feels like a carry-over from an eariler generation, when historic buildings were less sanitised and monetised. For that reason alone, it's very much worth a visit.