Creake’s history in effect spans not more than about three centuries, but in it we may find our historic senses of justice and injustice renewed. The small abbey (most of the walls are still standing but the cloister is now a private garden and cannot be visited) was originally founded as sir Robert de Nerford’s private chapel in 1206 and converted into a hospital in 1217. Its status as an ecclesiastical edifice was confirmed slightly later and from 1231, the King, in the person of Henry III, was Creake’s patron.
This perfectly ruined site was intact until 1484 when a fire devastated the place, and it is after this calamitous event that we find an interesting moment in history. Namely, the King — the much maligned Richard III, in fact — was so saddened by this disaster that he gifted plenty of cash to rebuilt the site. So much for the heartless uncle of Shakespeare though in all fairness the modern take on Richard is far less antagonistic than that of the Poet.
It was about twenty years from this time to the actual demise of the abbey which was finalised in 1506. The slow decline was not inevitable though of course Thomas Cromwell might have disagreed a few decades later. But it was not the Dissolution which was the end at Creake (yet another beginning as well, of course) but a plague — the brothers are said to have perished one by one, with the last to leave this temporal world the abbot himself. Sic transit gloria mundi.
As ruins today, this site creates a lasting impression — there’s much to see and experience though indeed the site is small. Yet, the ruined state of it is ever-so-perfect in its Englishness. I don’t think it is quite worth the journey out on its own, but having been there twice, I might go back again if I was in the area. A visit here really doesn’t take much time, but is perhaps a wonderful place to wonder about this transitory existence.