Rufford was founded as a Cistercian Abbey in 1147 by Gilbert de Gant. It was initially populated by monks from Rievaulx in Yorkshire. Nine years later the English Pope, Adrian IV, blessed the Abbey and granted it lands from the surrounding area. Four villages were evacuated and removed to make way for Abbey lands and a new village, Wellow, was founded to house some of those dispossessed villagers.
The Abbey was dissolved early in the Dissolution, in 1536, and the Abbot pensioned off, but he lost his pension upon becoming rector at Rotherham.
The estate was then given to the Talbot family who began work on the buildings turning them from ecclesiastical ruins to a Tudor manor house. In 1626 it passed to the Savile family who sold it during the Great Depression of the 1920s by which time it was in a sorry state.
Eventually the Abbey was acquired by English Heritage. Only one wing of the Talbots house now survives, and very little of the original Abbey buildings can be discerned aside from cloister remnants and some undercrofting.
It stands today at the centre of a large Country Park.
Rufford is also well known for the Rufford Park Poachers, a gang of forty or so poachers who, in 1851, protested against the local landowners monopolising the game rights. A battle was enjoined and one of the gamekeepers from the local estates was killed. Four of the poachers were deported to Australia and a popular balled The Rufford Park Poachers was written romanticising the poachers and the events.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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