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Dorset Map

Little remains of Cerne Abbey apart from the Abbey Barn, the Abbot's Porch and the Guest House. The latter two buildings are both in the grounds of Abbey House which, although much altered over the centuries, incorporates some remains of the Abbey's South Gatehouse.

Access is at the discretion of the owner, who charges a nominal fee. There is a sign on the gate at the side of the house saying if it is open.

Although originally founded in the eighth century, the abbey buildings were extensively rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Guest House or Hospice dates from the rebuilding 1458 and 1471 and is one of the few surviving monastic guesthouses in the West Country. It was here in 1471 that Margaret of Anjou held a conference before the Battle of Tewkesbury.

The Abbot's Porch, which once gave access to the main conventual buildings, was built by the last abbot, Abbot Thomas Sam (or Salmon) in 1509 shortly before the Abbey was dissolved in 1539.

An early example of a chief executive running down the firm's assets to make try to make it less vulnerable to a take-over bid, in this case from Thomas Cromwell. The double oriel window is a very fine example of Tudor monastic architecture. The carved coats of arms are particularly noteworthy.

Elsewhere in the village look out for St Augustine's Well, a peaceful, if damp, spot in the corner of the cemetery. The monks claimed that on meeting some shepherds who claimed to prefer water to beer, the saint struck the ground with his staff crying "Cerno El" (meaning "I percieve God" but also a pun on the village's name at the time, Cernel) and the water gushed out.

It is also known as the Silver Well and it is claimed that one St Edwold (who had had a vision of a silver well) built a hermitage here after being told where he could get a drink by a similarly abstemious shepherd.

In the village itself, the locals seem to have got over their dislike of beer, as it now sports three fine pubs, lots of picturesque old buildings and (unfortunately from the point of view of a photographer) lots of parked cars.

Just to the north of the village is the famous Giant, who hardly looks as if he needs an introduction. A pleasant walk can be had from the picnic area car park near the Kettle Bridge along the old mill stream into the village.