Launde Abbey is located just off the A47 west of Uppingham and is presently used as a Conference and Retreat Centre, by the Church of England Diocese of Leicester and Peterborough. The Abbey is an Elizabethan Manor House, extensively modified, and originally built on the site of an Augustinian Priory. (There were monks at Launde once-upon-a-time). The original priory was founded in 1119. Launde is set in beautiful countryside. Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister responsible for the dissolution of the monasteries, so liked its position that he wrote in his diary- “Myself for Launde”. But Cromwell never occupied the house as he was executed in 1540 for treason. Don’t worry, that won’t happen to you! In that same the year the building of the new house commenced. His son, Gregory, lived at Launde Abbey for ten years after its construction with his wife Elizabeth, the sister of Queen Jane Seymour. The chapel is thought to be all that remains of the original Priory Church. Some of its stained glass is mediaeval and Nikolaus Pevsner has described the monument to Gregory Cromwell as “one of the purest monuments of the early Renaissance in England”. The Chapel is used for daily worship by any resident or guest who chooses so to do, and is a great attraction for visitors.
Oh, and by the way, ANYONE, including royalty, can visit Launde. Any race, creed, colour, shape or size. So the next time you feel the need to completely shut down, a need for mental nourishment, treat yourself to a Launde Abbey retreat. But be warned -It’s not as easy as it sounds, this ‘thinking’ thing.
Update. On 4th May 2009 I put down on paper my thoughts at the then apparent anticipated demise of Launde Abbey. Since then, thanks mostly to the £1m cash injection by the Church of England Diocese of Leicester, the Abbey was saved. It was a close run thing! Incidentally, they eventually adopted some of my idea’s for raising some serious on-going cash generation. Concerts and the like. Pity they didn’t listen earlier!
It was with great sadness that I read recently in a national newspaper that Launde Abbey, our local Elizabethan retreat house, may have to close due to lack of funding. Indeed, it was the current Warden that brought it to my attention. Just over a year ago I wrote in this (newspaper) column about its attributes and benefits to our society in general. As a charity, Launde is better placed than many to raise serious amounts of money for its cause. There are so many ways that this could have been achieved given its historical significance and vast acreage. Massive contemporary concerts of every nature in the grounds, for example (20000 people at £20 each), weddings and receptions, murder mystery weekends: the list is endless. I find it baffling in the extreme that its current committee and administrators chose to avoid the obvious long before we got to this desperate situation. That said, and having given it a great deal of thought, I think it would be prudent of those same guardians to face facts and to have a major contingency plan in place. One that could be just as beneficial in the long term, if not more so, than the current arrangement. Launde is an Anglican retreat house for the Diocese of both Leicester and Peterborough and it exists for the benefit of people from every culture, background or faith. It would most likely be sold as a conference centre, hotel or private house. Either way we are talking about millions of pounds, even given the current economic downturn. Incidentally, it should be said that many individuals over the years have given huge amounts of cash to Launde Abbey out of the kindness of their wallets, and one can only hope that those that accepted the money did so without the promise of any returns on sale. Such an arrangement would most certainly attract the attention of the national media. My plan would be to use ALL of those funds to build a modern building, with every convenience for the visitor, somewhere between Peterborough and Leicester. Now, let me think. Ah, I’ve got it: Corby of course. Corby’s infrastructure in the heart of England is fast being recognised as a place that is open to everyone. It’s so easy to get to, by road or rail. Corby would be the most obvious choice and is, after all, in the Diocese of Peterborough. My belief is that Launde, even if it were to survive this crisis, should be taken away from any kind of committee of well meaning individuals and put into the hands of folk who would know how to run a business. It is in this way that the legacy of Launde Abbey would not have been wasted and would give benefit to generations of people long after we are all dust. It would also ensure the job security of those currently employed at Launde and would no doubt see a further expansion of the payroll. There is still time to save Launde Abbey but its days are truly numbered unless some serious cash can be raised before September (2009). A couple of major concerts in the grounds last year might just have done the trick. Tim Blewitt gets replaced. New Warden 2012