Following Henry VIII's break with Rome, in just five short years his chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, masterminded the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was one of the most dramatic and fast-paced upheavals of the social and architectural fabric in the history of this country. Monks and nuns were expelled, and orders went out for the deserted monasteries to be dismantled, their churches to be demolished, the lead from roofs to be melted down and sold and their sites transformed into architectural salvage yards.
Some surviving buildings became cathedrals, or colleges at the universities, while others were left to fall into ruin. Out of the scarred remains of these vast complexes there arose many magnificent new houses, created by men who seized this brief opportunity. Some of these, such as Titchfield Abbey in Hampshire, were adapted from the monastic buildings, while others, like Syon House in Middlesex, were built afresh upon the sites of destruction. Many of these houses survive, as at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, within quiet cloisters where monks once studied. Others have disappeared completely and are known only from evocative watercolours by topographical artists. This richly illustrated book gives a wide-ranging insight into a fleeting moment in this country's architectural history representing a period of great change and subsequent rebirth.