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Visit Bayham Old Abbey in Tunbridge Wells Kent

Visit Bayham Old Abbey in Tunbridge Wells Kent

Bayham Old Abbey is a good choice if you are looking for somewhere to visit near Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

Set in a peaceful valley on the Kent/Sussex border, this 13th-century religious site is said to be the best surviving example of a Premonstratensian abbey in England.

Talley Abbey in the Brecon Beacons is an equally impressive set of ruins from the same religious order.

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It is a lovely location to bring a picnic and a good book to relax amidst the 800-year-old ruins of a once-thriving monastery.

Bayham Old Abbey Ruins

The History of Bayham Old Abbey

Bayham Abbey was home to a community of Premonstratensian canons, known as the white canons due to the colour of their habits (robes). The canons were ordained priests who lived a strict communal monastic life and provided spiritual ministry to the surrounding area.

After three hundred years of service, the abbey closed in line with Henry Vlll’s orders to dissolve the Catholic church and any religious factions with religious beliefs that could undermine him. Sadly this fate fell upon Bayham Old Abbey.

With no caretakers, the abbey fell into disrepair. A noticeable example is a tree that has reclaimed the outer wall of the high altar and engulfed it with its roots, similar to the famous Ta Prohm temple ruins in Cambodia.

tree roots growing over the high altar at Bayham abbey

You can also see the remains of the gatehouse, which would have been a grand entry and exit point for deliveries to Bayham Abbey. It is now a tranquil place to sit next to the stream and admire the ruins.


Bayham Abbey in the 18th century

In 1714 Sir John Pratt, later Lord Chief Justice of England bought the Bayham estate, and he and his successors retained the ruined abbey as a fashionable landscape feature for their country retreat. Later, the Pratt family built a vast manor house on the hill overlooking Bayham. The home is private, so visitors can not visit it.

Today, with the help of information boards and a little imagination, visitors can see how Bayham Old Abbey evolved over 300 years before its dissolution.

Arched remains of walkway at Bayham Abbey

How to find Bayham Old Abbey

If arriving from Tunbridge Wells, you will find the site on your left-hand side. It is a small opening with not a lot of signage. Address: Furnace Lane, Little Bayham, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN3 8LP

The ruins are open 10 am – 5 pm and are free to enter, with a small parking fee for non-members of English Heritage.

Why not become an English Heritage member and get free access and parking to historical sites around the UK? You can join English Heritage here.

In the Area

Discover some of the other best places to visit near Tunbridge Wells.

Bewl Water

Bewl Water

Goudhurst Village

Traditional white weatherboarded Kent house

Scotney Castle

Sissinghurst Castle

Do you like visiting historical ruins? Read here about Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire.
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