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History of Fineshade


Fineshade Abbey


In medieval times an Augustinian priory was established on the site of a Norman motte-and-bailey castle known as Castle Hymel. The priory came to an end with the dissolution of the monasteries and in 1545 it became a country residence. Later a Georgian mansion was built and it became known as Fineshade Abbey, surviving until its demolition in 1956. Only the stable block and gatehouses remained to be converted into private housing.  


Caroline Lloyd has researched a detailed history of Fineshade Abbey from earliest times.

Fineshade Abbey

"Site of Fineshade Abbey from the Jurassic Way - - 1724702" by Tim Heaton. 

Memories of Assart Farm


Cherry Bonney now lives in Easton-on-the-Hill but was born and grew up in the village of Duddington. Here she recalls her own memories of visiting Fineshade in the 1950s and 60s together with much earlier family stories. Many of her memories centre around Assart Farm which used to occupy the extreme northeast part of Fineshade Wood. 

Fineshade Wood

All that remains of Assart Farm buildings

At the moment this is a rather short history of Fineshade - there is lots more to research!  


Calling all local historians


As you will know if you're a regular visitor to the site, we've been looking for local historians who would be interesting in researching Fineshade's history and reporting it here.  And we're delighted that several Friends have been taking on this role. We could do with one or two more helpers, perhaps to take on researching a particular aspect of Fineshade's history.  

We are very grateful to Caroline Lloyd who took on the role researching the history of Fineshade Abbey - you can see the results of her research here.


But there are other things that we'd love to know more about and would make a very good project for someone interested. For example:

  • the history of the railway line that ran through the deep cutting in Fineshade Wood;

  • the farm at Top Lodge;

  • mineral extraction in the Fineshade area;

  • the deer parks in medieval times;

  • the Forestry Commission's management in the 20th century.


Calling those with long memories

Perhaps you have personal memories of what Fineshade was like 20, 30, 40, 50... years ago?
Could you recount your memories for this website and/or share any pictures you may have?

  • Can you remember what Fineshade Abbey was like before it was demolished?

  • Do you recall seeing steam trains going through the wood?

  • What was life like at Top Lodge in the 1950s?

  • Do you remember the Red Kite visitor centre?





Recent history (20th century to present)


List of key events. 

  • 1919 The country’s woodland resources had been declining since the middle ages and stood at 5% of the land area by the beginning of the First World War. The Forestry Commission (FC) was established to co-ordinate a re-afforestation plan to meet the country’s timber needs.

  • 19?? FC acquired the Fineshade Wood and signed lease for Westhay Wood. Conifers were planted.

  • 1953 FC built 7 houses for its staff around the green. The Forester's house and office was the detached one on the left.

  • 1956 The Georgian mansion known as Fineshade Abbey was demolished.

  • 1980s ? FC converted outbuildings at Top Lodge for their offices.

  • 2000 FC established the Ancient Woodland Project and began to clear conifer plantations.

  • 2001 First Red Kites bred and RSPB opened a visitor centre in the Big Barn.

  • 2003 Top Lodge Visitor Centre opened with old farm house converted to FC office. A new car park was built behind the visitor centre and the cafe opened using the old office space.

  • 2006 Community Orchard established.

  • 2011 RSPB left. Rutland Cycling moved into the Big Barn and new cycle tracks were created in the wood

  • 2014-5 Planning applications for Glamping pods and camping refused (Details here)

  • 2014-15  Planning applications for 70 cabins by Forest Holidays and FC refused (Details here)

  • 2015 Friends of Fineshade formed

  • 2019 Back from the Brink project reintroduced Chquered Skipper Butterfly(Details here)

  • 2022 Rockingham Forest Vision launched with new website (Details here)


Can you help with any of these dates? What have we missed out? 

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