- Ancient »
One of the most important relgious ruins in the UK.
Underneath this underpass and Sainsbury's in Merton, South London is Merton Priory - one of the most significant religious buildings in Britain. From the 12th century until its destruction during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, the abbey's remaining ruins are one of the key medieval archaeological sites in the UK.
Currently it's inaccessible, except on the occasions when the Merton Priory Trust, an organisation staffed by committed volunteers, is able to open it for visits or events such as Open House Weekends. However the remains are still visible and above ground, despite being concealed under the A24.
Thomas Becket was educated here in the late 1120s, and he wore the black cowl of the Augustinian canons of Merton when he was elected Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162. The monastery expanded during the 13th century, and was a favourite place of King Henry III. In 1217, Henry held a peace conference with Louis, Dauphin of France, in the chapter house, and later in the century stayed several times a year in private apartments at the priory.
More than 700 bodies were found on the site, and their analysis has shown people here lived longer, and were healthier, than the comparable urban populations.
The site is one of the oldest print works in the UK too with many important manuscripts being printed first here.