A wedding venue which is steeped in history

Notley Abbey, in Long Crendon, was the marital home of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh and has been used by royalty over the past 800 years. A bungalow in the grounds has even been a pirate radio base in its time.

Now newly-weds are likely to be able to tread in their footsteps when it is opened to the public for wedding ceremonies this summer.

As well as being a picturesque setting for a modern wedding, the 70-acre grounds and Grade 1 listed building are steeped in history, starting its life in the 12th century when the Augustinian abbey was founded. On wedding days up to 140 guests can enjoy eating in the Monk's Refectory.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the 1530s it was abandoned as a monastery and became a private home.

The Reynolds family was one of the owners and it was with them for at least 300 years. John Reynolds, who still lives in Long Crendon, is one of the descendants. The earliest record he can find of it being in his family dates to 1719.

He said for much of the abbey's life, even after the Reformation, there have been strong links with the royal family.

When his father was there it was a popular fox-hunting base. The old Prince of Wales was known to have paid a visit for a hunt.

After the Reynolds sold it, it changed hands a couple of times and then in 1943 Hollywood actors Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh bought it.

They entertained stars including Marilyn Monroe and David Niven while they were there. After their divorce in 1960, they sold it on to a Canadian millionaire named Arnold Swanson, known for dabbling with pirate radio. He fitted one of the buildings with a broadcasting studio and recorded a number of DJs there for GB-OK radio station, but it never hit the airwaves.

At one point in history Bucks was close to losing this iconic building. Mr Reynolds said: "When my grandfather took over the abbey it was in a pretty run down state and his friend told him he should knock it down but he was friendly with builder Webster and Cannon of Aylesbury. He said 'I'll do the abbey up for you.'

"Then when Olivier came they spent a fortune on it, Arnold Swanson spent a fortune on it and the Dannys spent money on it. It's a lovely home and in a lovely position down by the river."

Mr Reynolds's son, Sam, still runs the farm which was once farmed by Laurence Olivier's brother, Dick. He now lives in Notley Farm next to the abbey grounds.

After its period as a pirate radio base, Audrey and John Danny bought it and stayed for about 40 years. Mrs Danny now lives in Nether Winchendon. She said the most exciting event while she lived there was a police raid. She said: "In August 1965 we woke up to find we are surrounded by police. They had had a tip-off the great train robber Ronnie Biggs was here. He was not of course."

"It was just a home. It's a handsome house and there's still a bit left from 1250. It is the domestic quarters of the abbey still there. The ecclesiastical part is long gone."

Last year Mark and Jo Cutmore-Scott bought it and are likely to be granted full permission to hold wedding ceremonies and receptions there. The first are booked for May.

As couples take their vows and spend their wedding night in the Abbott's chamber of this historic building, they can look back on this colourful history spanning more than 800 years.

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