Weymouth-Dorset.co.uk Local History


On the Heritage coastline and the world famous eighteen mile stretch known as Chesil Beach lies the small village of Abbotsbury. For such a small place it has an amazing amount of features. Abbotsbury lies approximately 7 miles West of Weymouth. Here we have the renowned Abbotsbury Swannery on the Fleet lagoon, the Tropical Gardens, the old Tithe Barn, the remains of Abbotsbury Abbey and St. Catherine's Chapel high up on the hill. Added to this are some stunning views from the surrounding hills.

Abbotsbury village

The village of Abbotsbury lies in a sheltered valley. The Earls of Ilchester, the Fox-Strangways family, have long held the village and entire estate of Abbotsbury. They have been a much landed and influential family in Dorset for many centuries.

Quaint cottages built of local stone and thatch line both sides of the street through the centre of the village, housing many fine crafts.

A small turning off the very sharp bend in the village leads to the parish church of St. Nicholas and the ruins of Abbotsbury Abbey. The church dates from the 14th century at the earliest with later additions. The pulpit has two bullet holes fired during the civil war in 1644. After this event, Sir John Strangways, owner of the Abbey lands, was imprisoned in the church tower.

The parish church of St. Nicholas, Abbotsbury and the gateway and ruinis of Abbotsbury Abbey

St. Nicholas Church, Abbotsbury and the gateway and ruins of the Abbey

The 11th century Benedictine Abbey remains in part along with the gatehouse. Sir Giles Strangways, Earl of Ilchester, was one of Henry VIII's commissioners for the dissolution of the monasteries of Dorset. In 1541 he was granted the Abbey of Abbotsbury, the Manor, lands and the Swannery. To this day they remain in the hands of the family.

Further down from the Abbey, past the delightful duck pond stands the ancient, thatched Tithe Barn, part of the Abbey lands. Built circa 1400, the barn is one of the finest of its kind in England and measures 272 feet in length. It now houses an exhibition of smuggling, as Abbotsbury, along with other villages along the Dorset coast, was well known for.

Tithe Barn, Abbotsbury Swannery and Sub-Tropical Gardens

The Tithe Barn, The Swannery, Sub-Tropical Gardens

The road from the Tithe Barn leads to the Abbotsbury Swannery. Famous for its colony of mute swans, which have been breeding here for 600 years, Abbotsbury provides the ideal site for them. Here you can feed the swans yourself under the guidance of the swanherd. The cygnets hatch from mid May till the end of June, maturing to semi-adult swans from July to October and finally taking to their wings.

The St. Catherine's Chapel stands proudly on the top of a steep hill overlooking Abbotsbury. The chapel is fifteenth century in origin, heavily built with a barrel-vaulted roof. It is the only part of the monastic buildings to remain. It stands 250 feet up on a hill, and being up so high it is a local landmark, which can be seen from quite a distance.

Just out of the village are the sub tropical gardens. The gardens form part of the land of the now demolished Abbotsbury Castle. Elizabeth, Countess of Ilchester built the first castle in 1765 and laid out the gardens. The gardens continued to be added to by Henry Fox-Strangways, the 3rd Earl of Ilchester around 1808. The next Earl, William Fox-Strangways, a botanist and being much travelled about Europe introduced many more plant species.

 Historical Parish Information


Parish Registers begin:


Hundred or Liberty:


Poor Law Union & Registration District:


Online Parish Clerk Project (external link):

Abbotsbury OPC




Nearby Parishes and Places

Bexington, East and West


Kingston Russell

Langton Herring

Little Bredy




Wyke Regis


Local Attractions and Places to Visit



Back to Weymouth Home Page

All text and photographs on this page are my own and I therefore hold the copyright of them. Please respect this and ask permission if you wish to copy or use them elsewhere.

The information contained on this page is accurate to the best of my knowledge and no responsibility is accepted for errors or omissions.