Sunday, 8 November 2009


I can’t remember exactly where it was I saw this building. somewhere between Temple Island and Temple Footbridge. Is this a civil war building rebuilt or is it an old Abbey or is it a modern building made to look old

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Anonymous said...

Medmenham Abbey, originally a 12th century Cistercian Abbey, eventual 18th century home of the infamous Hellfire Club. Tis genuine :-)

Maffi said...

Well Thank you very much, Alice. Most appreciated

Maffi said...

Ah but

The ruinous Abbey House was rented by Sir Francis Dashwood, afterwards Lord Le Despenser, and was so skilfully restored for him by Italian artists that it subsequently became difficult to distinguish the old work from the new. Here he founded about 1745 a famous brotherhood, 'The Knights of St. Francis of Wycombe,' with the motto of Love and Friendship, the dress consisting of a gown and turban of crimson and blue satin with the device in silver. This profligate society has been confused with the famous Hell Fire Club founded by Philip Duke of Wharton early in the reign of George I, and has also been erroneously styled the 'Franciscans' or 'Monks of Medmenham.' The order of which Sir Francis was grand master was limited to twenty-four members, men of rank and fashion, mostly resident in the neighbourhood, who resorted to Medmenham Abbey during the summer months. Over the main entrance was placed the famous inscription from Rabelais, 'Fay ce que voudras,' and other similar inscriptions were placed in the house and beautiful gardens. Among their other questionable amusements the brotherhood held mock religious ceremonies, for which they have been justly censured. They probably transacted a certain amount of political business. The members belonged to the Opposition, and included Frederick Prince of Wales, the Duke of Queensberry, the Earl of Bute, Lord Melcombe, Sir William Stanhope, K.B, Sir John Dashwood-King, bart., Sir Francis Delaval, K.B., Sir John Vanluttan, kt., Henry Vansittart, afterwards Governor of Bengal, and Paul Whitchead the poet, who was treasurer and steward. The brotherhood, then only about six in number, had fallen into disrepute by 1762. John Wilkes, who was introduced by Lord Le Despenser, played a practical joke which led to his expulsion. He instigated the publication in 1763 of a satirical print by Charles Churchill, The Secrets of the Convent, in which Le Despenser and his friends were lampooned. This led to the closing of the abbey and the growth of legends concerning it. The most sensational appeared in Chrysal, or the Adventure of a Guinea, and in the Town and Country Magazine of 1769. The ridiculous story that the brotherhood slept in cradles originated with Miss Berry of the Journals and Correspondence, who saw at the abbey an old cradle which had belonged to the caretaker.

From: 'Parishes: Medmenham', A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 3 (1925), pp. 84-89.