Hey everyone, welcome back to Pinned On Places and to another UK Walking tour. We have been venturing recently around the Cotswolds and in particular the Oxfordshire area. Most medieval ruins in the UK are either monasteries, castles or abbeys but Minster Lovell Hall is one of the finest examples of a grand manor house. Constructed around 1440 and occupied for nearly 300 years before being abandoned, partially dismantled and ruined into what we are going to see today.
Unlike other ruins, these are still substantial, the remains here include a beautiful great hall, a chapel and two sections of residential buildings all moulded together of local limestone that is clad by richly coloured ashlar. The most impressive part of visiting here is that it is hidden and set in a peaceful and secluded location amongst a small village and alongside the river wind rush.
The manor itself took the form of a quadrangle shape, with ranges on three sides and a single wall to the south that faces the river. The ruins are bordered by open fields to the east. You are also able to wander through here to a walking route where you can see the medieval dovecote – this was also built in the 15th century, located on a small farm and it was large enough to house over 700 pairs of nesting birds that were bred to be eaten by the estate. Unfortunately today it remains on private land and you can’t get close or go inside, but you are able to get a good view on the walk and in the distance from the ruins.
So a little bit about the ruins and its background – The name of the village references the local landowning family, the lovels, they resided here since the 12th century. The site of the mansion was previously occupied by a Norman priory although no trace of this currently remains. There was also an earlier residence that replaced the current structure in the 1440s this was built by Willaim Lovel, the 7th baron, who became rich and successful after campaigns during the hundred years war. The lovels occupation was relatively short lived as it was taken over by the crown following the battle of Bosworth in 1485. Over the following century many people came and went until the transfer of sir Edward cooke in 1603. This stayed within the family until they moved to their main residence in Norfolk, It was then that the structure became dismantaled and materials were sold for reuse and then abandoned completely until they were required by the government in 1935.
The largest section of the ruins is the great hall in the northeast corner its here that you are able to imagine just how grand this stately home would have been. You can see the outlines of a grand fireplace that would have once brought warmth to this cold hall. this was originally accessed from the north by a cobbled path from the church, this will lead you through an arched passageway, it Is particularly beautiful and if you look up you will be able to see the rose carvings on the vaulted ceiling which I have to say is probably the most impressive and intact parts of the ruin.
Most of the property is now the foundations that outline various different rooms and buildings, these would have included residential rooms, a bake house, pantry, kitchen, well and stables. And next we explore the four story tower that resides next to the river Windrush, this was built by Williams son Francis Lovell, the upper levels were accessed via a staircase through an octagonal turret, and is illuminated by oriel windows. Something quite remarkable to see was to wait silently and watch the doves float and fly between the tower windows and around the tower itself. Another great thing to see here is the incredible detailing on the spiral staircases that you can still see even though they are inaccessible from below and the links to the different buildings. The ruins at the hall are really extensive and there has so much to see, many of the original plaster work is still visible on many of the walls.
After the death of Francis’s father who fought in the wars of the roses, no one is really certain to what happened and became of him. However, it is said that in the early 18th century during building work on the hall, an underground room or vault was actually discovered. In this room they found a skeleton, sitting upright at a table, surrounded by a number of books, papers and pens. Could this have been lord Lovel? Its also been reported that Lovel locked himself there and died of starvation.
Our visit was accompanied by the quiet and peaceful visit to St. Kenelm’s church. Its here that the 8th century king of Mercia St. Kenelm was murdered on the orders of his sister, its been said that when he was buried at Winchcombe abbey, miracles were reported at his tomb, so Kenelm’s shrine became a destination for pilgrims and a church dedicated to him was founded here on the north bank of the river at least in the early 12th century. But by 1431, the 7th baron Lovell tore it down and completely rebuilt the church in a fashionable gothic style. You enter by the north porch into this stunning church, where a holy water stoup is, this is where the churchgoers washed their hands on entering and leaving, some of the most beautiful parts are the carved corbel heads that have the likeness of lord and lady Lovel. When you are wandering through if you look above at the towers vaulting, it’s really striking as well as the effigy of William Lovel, he lays on a chest that is decorated with heraldic symbols that relate back to his family’s connections, this is fantastic to see.
I think the visit here today is one that was completely unexpected, you certainly don’t realise the scale of the grand house and the church is so peaceful and calming. But then I would say that also about Minster Lovel village itself. If you ever get some time whilst in the area we would recommend an afternoon here, its quintessentially Cotswolds and it has the best benefit of fewer crowds as people don’t really know too much about it.
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