West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
Christmas Lunch at Waverley Abbey
December 5th 2016
Fifty nine members attended a Christmas lunch at Waverley
Abbey House, which is situated between Elstead and Farnham.
We met in their lounge area for mulled wine before going upstairs for a
short talk about the history of the house, which was presented by a
member of their staff. It was a sunny, winter’s day and the views
from all the windows were stunning, creating an appropriate back drop
to our talk.
The whole site is a conservation area. Early records show that
the now ruined Cistercian Abbey on the banks of the river Wey was built
under the auspices of the Bishop of Winchester, around 1128. The
spot chosen is typical of Norman monasteries, by a slow flowing river
providing ready water and fish. The site was much larger than the
ruins now suggest and the current Waverley Abbey House was built
centuries later in the grounds of the northernmost part of the Abbey,
Under Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries, the site was
gifted to a friend of the king, in 1536. The first Waverley Abbey
House was very likely partly erected from Abbey stones.
Apparently some stone was also taken to help build another local,
country house, Loseley Park. This is where the present Lord
Lieutenant of Surrey, Michael More-Molyneux resides.
The current House is Georgian and Grade 2 listed. Since the 18th
C the building has changed ownership several times and notable people,
such as Florence Nightingale, who was related to one of the owners,
visited frequently. During the Second World War it was used as a
military hospital and the women of the family nursed injured military
personnel. In fact they never lost a patient and were presented
with appropriate awards, medals and citations, as a result. After
the war the house fell into disrepair until the Baptist Missionary,
Selwyn Hughes, developed it into what we see today via his Christian
Charity CWR, which studies Christianity in the current world.
Hughes died in 2006 and people still recall his influential talks and
refer to his writing.
The ruins of the original Abbey still stand and are sometimes used in
films; for example, Tom Cruise arrived by helicopter recently to shoot
one of his latest films. The old Abbey is now owned by English
Heritage and the whole environment is quite breathtaking.
After our talk on the origins of the House we had Christmas lunch and
then coffee later in the lounge. Members relaxed and completed
this year’s quiz on Surrey and Cranleigh, which was designed by John Wright, who was also our
official photographer. Staff who work in the house are all
helpful and from them we caught the peaceful, calming atmosphere.
Perhaps a return could be in the offing?
Liz Trickett and Gwen Wright
Members welcomed with mulled wine ....
.... then after enjoying a festive lunch