Titchfield Abbey is a grand ruined building, on the outskirts of Titchfield village. It was founded in the 13th century by the Bishop of Winchester for Premonstratensian Canons, an Order which was founded at Premontre in France. Entry is free and is now under the care of English Heritage. Henry VI was married in the Abbey to Margaret of Anjou in 1445. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537, King Henry VIII gave the Abbey to Sir Thomas Wriothesley, the First Earl of Southampton, who converted the Abbey into a grand Tudor mansion called Place House. He built the impressive gatehouse across the nave of the former church. He is also known for being the Earl who personally tortured Anne Askew, the English writer and Protestant martyr, on the rack in the Tower of London. She was burnt at the stake in July 1546 at Spitalfields, London.
The Third Earl of Southampton was a friend and patron of William Shakespeare. It is claimed that Shakespeare’s plays, Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, were performed here, but no records exist that Shakespeare stayed at Place House. The Fourth Earl of Southampton did not have any sons and in 1781, Place House was bought by Peter Delme, the Member of Parliament for Southampton, who dismantled the mansion to create a romantic ruin. Local people took stone from the building for their houses, which can be seen in the walls of the older houses in Titchfield and The Bugle Hotel.
Today, visitors can see the medieval tiles, which were discovered in 1923. They bear the inscription, “Before you sit down to meat at your table first remember the poor”.