Quarr Abbey. Ghosts of the Isle of Wight, with Margo Williams.

Spooky stuff happens at old Quarr Abbey. A ghostly funeral procession appears, escorting a coffin smothered in white flowers. A clue to its occupant's identity, some ghost hunters claim.
Photo image of window, old Quarr Abbey. Quarr, Isle of Wight.
Window, old Quarr Abbey, Quarr, Isle of Wight.

Old Quarr Abbey

Of all the ruined houses of peace in Tudor England few were so completely removed as this venerable island abbey, so broken up and used again to fortify for war.

A few chunks remain to tell of the skill of its architects, a thousand years ago. Grass grows where once stood the chapel, choir, gardens and rosemary groves. Only Quarr's ghosts know how it was for the abbey's greatness is lost in obscurity. But its ghosts still appear, from time to time.

Most Haunted island

Misted dark-clad figures sometimes are glimpsed through its broken window. On rare occasion a funeral procession appears, preceded by supernatural sounds of chanting. A procession of brown-clad monks slowly walking in pairs behind a coffin carried on the shoulders of others. The coffin is completely covered in white flowers.

Paranormalists and island historians wonder if the decoration of its coffin indicates the VIP status of its occupant. There are clues.

Quarr Abbey Data

Founded in the year AD 1132 Quarr Abbey derived its name from the quarries (De Quarrariis) in the neighbourhood. The stone from Binstead and Quarr was once highly valued and can be seen in various church structures in southern England.

The best part of 30 acres were included within the abbey walls, beyond was a vast forest to eastward, to the west woodlands sloped down to the Wootton river.

In 1148 Quarr became a Cistercian house, the second established in England. The Cistercian order, founded in the 11th century was seriously strict: wearing neither skins nor shirts, they ate no meat, eggs, milk or cheese; they slept on straw beds and observed in all their religious exercises, a devout silence.

Abbots were often jointly responsible with Captain or Warden of the island to regulate its military defences. In 1340 the abbey was fortified and its grounds enclosed by strong walls with loop-holes and portcullises at its gate. But no foreign enemy wrought its destruction.

Photo image of Original Seal of Quarr Abbey
Original Seal of Quarr Abbey

Closure of an Abbey

Quarr Abbey closed for spiritual business on the 22nd of July 1536 and became the property of King Henry VIII. Captain of the Island, Richard Worsley of Appuldurcombe was appointed as the King's Commissioner for the Sale of Church Plate.

Historians and Church leaders, dismayed by the ruthlessness of Quarr's destruction during his administration, question why it was subject to such spiteful sacrilege.

Despite blame levelled at George Mills and son, merchants of Southampton who purchased the abbey site and broke it up. It was the careless Captain who acquired something else, unexpected.

Who is Buried at Quarr Abbey?

Archaeological finds surfaced at various times, coins and other relics but not enough to throw useful light on the abbey's history.

Quarr's past is buried in obscurity, except for notes made by Sir John Oglander who visited the site in 1607 and asked the oldest, grizzledest folk he saw, what they remembered...

"Baldwin, the son of Rychard Rivors, who was Earl of Devonshire and Lord of the Isle of Wight, founded this Abbey and had fully finished it, and had the great church consecrated by Henry de Bloys, Bishop of Winchester and made a great and solemn feast there for the whole Island, for the finishing of so good a work, wherein every inhabitant in this Island was in something or other a helper and furtheror of the said work, on the first day of June 1150."
Illustration of Reconstruction by Percy Stone for Architectural Antiquities of the Isle of Wight
Reconstruction by Percy Stone for Architectural Antiquities of the Isle of Wight

Quarr Abbey was founded by Lord Baldwin de Redvers, lord of the Isle of Wight. His abbey was the beating heart of the island community.

"This Baldwin died in the Isle of Wight in the year of our Lord 1155, and was the first that was buried in his great church at Quarr, where his funeral was solemnized by procession of the Abbot and monks; all the gentlemen of the Island attending on the corpse."

Sir John noted how Baldwin's son Richard built him a stately tomb near the high altar. The abbey owned a great deal of land on the Isle of Wight and the New Forest; he also noted how the abbot represented the island in the House of Lords in Westminster. Quarr held a market three days a week, and members of the island's oldest families were officers in the abbey.

Quarr Abbey offered employment, healthcare, cheap loans, medical support, food and for anyone who thought it a good idea, confession. Quarr was the island's government.

Cicely Daughter of Edward the Fourth

"Now there is nothing left but ruins, except the cellar and buttery," Sir John sighed, and noted the second VIP to be buried in the abbey.

"Goodly monuments in the great church certainly there were, but those of chief note was Baldwin, the first founder; Cicelye, the second daughter of Edward the fourth, who married for her second husband one Kyme, an Isle of Wight gentleman."

Princess Cicely lived and died at East Standen, near St. George's Down.

"The Lord Abbot desired that they might have the honour to have her interred in their church, which was p'formed with all honour and state by the convent and gentry of the whole Island, who attended the corpse from Standen to Quarr, where the Lord Abbot preached at her funeral."

House of York child Princess Cicely, second daughter of King Edward IV was born in the spring of 1469. Her sister Elizabeth married King Henry VII, Tudor father of Henry the abbey's destructor.

Social Catastrophe

Henry VIII probably knew royalty lay buried in Quarr's graveyard.

When Quarr Abbey closed in July 1536, as elsewhere its monks and abbey staff were cast out to live as best they could, and do what good they could for the poor. They, as were the rest of the displaced, now at the mercy of Henry's new revised laws for the poor. Bailiffs and officers inflicted cruel physical punishments on the unemployed and 'valiant vagabonds' caught begging a third time were permanently removed from the community.

Some staff and priests hid in the forests watching as Quarr's doors were thrown open and the finery stripped from its ancient chapel and tombs. They prayed to the Virgin, whose Abbey it was, while others prayed for its founder Lord Baldwin and his wife and son as they were plucked from their coffins and robbed of their jewels. The stone was hauled away to build gun forts for Captain Worsley, 'the Fortifier'.

Those who complained about such sacrilege were reminded that the Scavenger's Daughter would welcome their comments. A fiendishly cruel apparatus designed for discomfort.

Scavanger's Daughter

All that suffering is lost to history, much the same as the old abbey at Quarr. But some things it seems cannot be forgotten or forgiven.

Image of Letter to the editor of the Isle of Wight Observer about a discovery at Quarr in January 1857.
Letter to the editor of the Isle of Wight Observer about a discovery at Quarr in January 1857.

Lord Baldwin's Curse

Paranormalists suggest the flowers on the coffin in the funeral procession are roses; and maybe that's a decent clue.

Good Lord Baldwin might have ordered white roses. But the abbot of Quarr probably chose them as the decoration for a daughter of the House of the White Rose, York.

Coincidence comes in every size. Some so small as to be barely noticeable, like a letter to the editor of the Isle of Wight about human remains discovered near Quarr Abbey in 1857, soon after the last of Captain Worsley's family were gone from the island.

Lord Baldwin surfaced. However, the vengeance of the lord was not complete.

Thank you for your company on this short tour of Isle of Wight mysteries and haunting. If you would like to know more about Margo Williams' investigations at Quarr and other rogues and royals, read this book. Now available from Amazon.

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Now avaialble in print and ebook from Amazon
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Quarr Abbey