Bisham Abbey

From Academic Kids

Early History

Bisham Abbey in Berkshire was had its origins in a preceptory built about 1260 for the Knights Templars. Their order was suppressed in 1307, when King Edward II took over the manor rights, granting them to various relatives. In 1310 it was used as a place of confinement for Queen Elizabeth of the Scots, wife of King Robert the Bruce, along with her step-daughter Princess Marjorie and sister-in-law, Lady Christine of Carrick. They had been captured on the Isle of Rathlin during the Scottish Wars of Succession, and were placed in the charge of the King’s Yeoman, John Bentley, for two years, until removed to Windsor. In 1335 the manor was bought by William Montacute, 1st Earl of Salisbury and in 1337 he founded Bisham Priory for Austin Canons. The foundation stone was laid by Edward II himself, and the brass plaque placed upon it to record the event can still be seen (reused) at Denchworth. Despite holding the relics of Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian, Bisham never really became a centre of pilgrimage. In 1344 William died and became the first of many Earls of Salisbury to be buried at the priory, including Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was buried in April 1471.


Bisham Priory was dissolved on July 5th 1537, however, six months later on December 18th it was refounded as a Benedictine Abbey. This was not to last though as it was finally dissolved on July 9th 1538. The abbot of Bisham, John Cordery is said to have cursed the building thus "As God is my witness, this property shall ne’er be inherited by two direct successors, for its sons will be hounded by misfortune." as he was dragged from it. Henry VIII granted the house to Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement from him, and it was later bought by the Hoby family, who lived there until 1768. Elizabeth I was a regular visitor in the time of the Hoby family.

Modern History

The grade one listed building is now run by Leisure Connection on behalf of Sport England, and is one of five national sports centres. The facilities include:-

  • A £1.2 million international hockey pitch
  • An indoor tennis centre featuring four tennis courts
  • Three new outdoor French clay tennis courts and four new acrylic tennis courts
  • A 2-dojo judo hall for the British Judo Association
  • A fully-equipped elite strength and conditioning facility
  • A large community gym including two squash courts
  • A remodelled nine-hole par three golf course
  • A sports therapy performance centre which enables elite level sports science and medicine services to be provided on site
  • Accommodation for up to 94 athletes

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