A view of an ancient abbey lost centuries ago has been recreated.
About 100 people attended a major event in The Garden Suite at The House, Old Warden Park to witness the unveiling of a reconstruction painting of Warden Abbey (Cistercian, founded 1135).
The painting reveals what the abbey may have looked like in the late 14th century. For local people it was the first sight of their lost abbey since it was razed to the ground after suppression in 1537, and provides an important addition to knowledge of this almost forgotten site.
The event marked the culmination of a major research project by Old Warden History & Heritage Society, sponsored by the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership. The project had started with a geophysical survey of the site carried out by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) and local volunteers in spring last year.
Peter Dunn, an experienced historical reconstruction artist, was commissioned to produce an aerial view of the claustral complex based on the exceptional geophys results and all other available evidence.
He was assisted by subject-matter expert Dr Glyn Coppack and also Margaret Roberts, who has been researching the abbey’s story since 2014.
After the unveiling, kindly carried out by Charles and Jane Whitbread, guests were treated to a fascinating ‘virtual tour’ of the site by Margaret Roberts whose expert use of PowerPoint brought each section of the abbey to life.
Guests were amazed at how large the complex would have been, and just how much had been lost of the abbey, which would have been a major influence in the area for 400 years.
One visitor to the unveiling said: “I now feel very much enlightened and am surprised how large the monastic complex was and its importance to the local community. I am amazed at how generations of people from the past interlace with life today despite the passage of many centuries.
“This project and in particular the details in Peter Dunn’s work together with the detailed explanation of the facts presented by Margaret Roberts were fascinating and memorable and truly justify its valued sponsorship. Thank you - what a lovely community resource we now have.”
The site of Warden Abbey is scheduled by Historic England and is private with no public access.
The Greensand Country Landscape Partnership is led by the Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity and the Greensand Trust and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is made possible by National Lottery players. Visit greensandcountry.com