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The Cistercians at Buckland Abbey, from Foundation to Dissolution PhD Studentship - History

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  • Full or part time
    Prof J Clark
    Prof S Rippon
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This PhD project provides an exciting opportunity to develop an inter-disciplinary study of Buckland Abbey, an exceptional medieval site, and to gain experience of the research questions, engagement opportunities and interpretation needs arising in a contemporary heritage context. Partially based at Buckland Abbey, the researcher will benefit from the guidance of National Trust staff and will share the outcomes of their research with the property’s managers, volunteer guides and visitors; in this way they will contribute to the continuing development of interpretation at the site.

The University of Exeter are working in partnership with the National Trust to produce a new account of the medieval history of Buckland Abbey, its buildings, people and their environment, from the thirteenth century to the Dissolution. The focus of this project is a collaborative PhD project, which will be supported by a studentship funded at UKRI rates (covering full UK/EU tuition fees of £4,407 per annum, and a maintenance award valued in 2020/21 at £15,285 per annum.

Buckland Abbey was founded as a Cistercian monastery in 1278, built from locally quarried shillet and granite. Alongside the main body of the Abbey and the Great Barn (c.1300) that remains today, the Cistercian complex would also have included cloisters, a bake house, brew house and workshops.
The requisition of Buckland Abbey during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the monasteries led to 13 monks being pensioned in 1538. The land was eventually leased to Richard Grenville in 1541 whose grandson, also Richard, converted the Abbey into a fashionable, Elizabethan home. Grenville sold Buckland in 1580 to perhaps its most famous owner, Sir Francis Drake. The house remained in the Drake family until 1946; a year later it was acquired by the National Trust.
This PhD project provides an exciting opportunity to develop an inter-disciplinary study of this exceptional medieval site and to gain experience of the research questions, engagement opportunities and interpretation needs arising in a contemporary heritage context. Partially based at Buckland Abbey, the researcher will benefit from the guidance of National Trust staff and will share the outcomes of their research with the property’s managers, volunteer guides and visitors; in this way they will contribute to the continuing development of interpretation at the site.

Key themes for the project include:

- Buckland and Cistercian colonies in medieval England: Foundation, formation and development of the estate and its infrastructure and the impact on West Devon and the South West Cistercian network.

- Building Buckland: The church and complex as well as the developing landscape and its management. How did the church at Buckland evolve and how did it compare to Cistercian settlements elsewhere?

- The Cistercian experience: Monastic community, cult, craft and lifecourse: Who were the monks at Buckland and how were they occupied?

- Buckland and its world: Economy and social networks. How wealthy was Buckland Abbey and what was its value to its neighbourhood and the region?

- Ends and beginnings: Dissolution of the Cistercian network, the surrender of the Abbey and its subsequent impact. What happened to the monastic community and to what extent were the neighbourhood, and the Buckland estates, reshaped by the dissolution?

The researcher will carry out primary research at regional, national and international archives and libraries; with the advice and support of the partner organisations, there is also an expectation of fresh investigations of the material culture of the site and the history of its surrounding landscape. The researcher will engage not only with the standing buildings but also architectural fragments, the Historic Environment Record and (where applicable) grey literature. In the course of the project, they will contribute to briefings for staff and volunteers, articles for the property newsletter and assist in the preparation of exhibitions to showcase the research.

This is an excellent opportunity not only to secure funding for an ambitious, interdisciplinary PhD but also to gain experience of the application of research in heritage and public engagement. Interacting both in and between Higher Education and non-academic communities, this project will be ideal point-of-entry for a researcher considering a career in public heritage and the museums sector.

For informal discussion of this opportunity please contact: James Clark at Exeter ([Email Address Removed]) or Carol Murrin at Buckland ([Email Address Removed]).

Funding Notes

The University of Exeter are working in partnership with the National Trust to produce a new account of the medieval history of Buckland Abbey, its buildings, people and their environment, from the thirteenth century to the Dissolution. The focus of this project is a collaborative PhD project, which will be supported by a studentship funded at UKRI rates (covering full UK/EU tuition fees of £4,407 per annum, and a maintenance award valued in 2020/21 at £15,285 per annum.

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