Formerly known as St Mary’s Abbey, Leiston Abbey was founded near to the Suffolk villages of Leiston and Middleton in 1182 by Ranulf de Glanville, Lord Chief Justice to Henry II. In 1363 the Abbey was transferred to Leiston, and its patron, Robert de Ufford the 1st Earl of Suffolk, who took over the care of the Abby until his death in 1369. During the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, the Abby became home to Lord Charles Brandon, the 3rd Duke of Suffolk and brother-in-law to Henry VIII. Charles Brandon died in 1551 just one hour after the death of his older brother Henry, who had succeeded their father as 2nd Duke of Suffolk in 1545, making Charles Brandon the 3rd Duke of Suffolk, the record holder for the shortest tenure of a British Peerage.
The Abbey has changed over the Centuries and has been used for many different purposes including, becoming a farm with the farmhouse being built into the ruins. Later, a Georgian front was added to the house, which was extended in the 1920s
In 1928 the Abbey ruins and farm were bought by Ellen Wrightson, for use as a religious retreat. When she died in 1946, she bequeathed the house, ruins, and land to the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.
Today the site is used in part, as a Music School and is cared for by English Heritage, it is open to visitors and in 2012 the Composer Kurt Rampton, took inspiration from the Abbey ruins for his work ‘Ruins of Leiston.’
In 2013 Archaeologists digging at the Abby unearthed the skeleton of a very large dog which they believe might have been either loved or feared, as the bones were ‘laid out’ rather than ‘scattered’ as would be the case with bones that had simply been discarded. The bones have yet to be dated but the find has resurrected the legendary story about the devil dog, the ‘Black Shuck’ a giant ferocious hound with flaming eyes and savage claws that once terrorised East Anglia in the 16th Century, reputedly causing death to anyone who cast eyes upon the beast.
The Black Shuck is classified as both a myth and a cryptid. Perhaps, the most notable account of the mythical dog in Suffolk is a report that it burst through the doors of Holy Trinity Church in Blythburgh on August 4, 1577 killing a man and a boy and causing the church steeple to collapse through the roof of the nave. Scorch marks that can still be seen on the church door are attributed to the Black Shuck. Sightings of a large ghostly dog still continue in the region to this day.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Africa Alive Wildlife Park, Whites Lane
Suffolk, England, NR33 7TF
+44 (0)1502 742 040
- Address: Abbey Road, Theberton, Leiston, Suffolk IP16 4TD, United Kingdom, IP16 4TD
- GPS: 52.221367,1.578028
- Phone: 0044(0) 870 333 1181
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: IP16 4TD
- Entrance Fees: Free Access
- Disabled Access: Reasonable: Ground level parking with paths
- Visibility from Road: Very Good
- Image Credits: Header Image: David Harding