Buckland Abbey, Devon: 2003


This beautiful, brightly coloured, vibrant, linen tea towel is not exactly a UTT (Unidentified Tea Towel) because I can actually remember buying it; I can remember the shop; I know something about the history of Buckland Abbey but I have absolutely no memory of the house or gardens.  I keep muddling Buckland and Buckfast Abbeys in my head. I expect that I have a tea towel of Buckfast Abbey but I won’t have any memories of that either.  I remember it being a sunny day when I bought this tea towel and I remember being very excited by finding a tea towel of Buckland Abbey.  That’s the problem with the National Trust – I go into the shop first and sometimes get so excited about finding a tea towel that I forget about the real reason for the visit – hence no memories of Buckland Abbey.

Buckland Abbey is a 700 year old house near Yelverton in Devon.  It is noted for it’s connection with Sir Francis Drake and Richard Grenville (who went down with the Mary Rose.  This, of course, is very topical since the Mary Rose went on full display, for the first time, a couple of weeks ago, after 30 years of restoration).  Buckland Abbey was originally a Cistercian Abbey, founded in 1278; it remained an Abbey until, yes you’ve guessed it, Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.  Drake lived in the house for 15 years, and his descendants until 1946.  It came into the hands of the National Trust in 1948.  The tea towel has a picture of Drake’s Drum; I don’t remember seeing the Drum but I do remember the story.  Drake’s Drum is a Snare Drum which Drake took with him when he circumnavigated the world.  Shortly before he died in 1596, on his ship off the coast of Panama, Drake ordered that the Drum be taken back to Buckland Abbey; he vowed that if England were ever in danger, someone should beat the Drum and he would return to defend his country.  The Drum in Buckland Abbey is actually a replica, because the original is so fragile and is kept in safe storage. I don’t know if that vow still holds if the Drum is a replica, although legend has it that the Drum was heard to beat at the start of World War I in 1914 and at the time of the Dunkirk Evacuation in 1940.  I love a bit of a legend but am sad that I have so little memory of Buckland Abbey itself, when the tea towel is so vibrant and memorable.

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