For most ruins, you need a lot of imagination, as by definition, the buildings have collapsed and nothing more than an odd wall or pile of bricks remain. Not so at Minister Lovell.
As you walk through the village (past the immaculate cottages, manicured verges, and rare breeds of poultry pecking around in someone’s garden) to St Kenelm’s Church, you'd be perfectly happy with the tour of one of England’s prettiest villages. Wander through the churchyard, however, and the unexpected happens.
You are faced with the imposing Minster Lovell Hall, a haunting beauty of a ruin, the kind that the Romantics got all misty-eyed about. Dating back to the 12th century, it wasn’t until 1430 that William Lovel chose (from his 80 residences) Minster Lovell as his home. Rebuilt, it became one of the finest houses in Oxfordshire.
Bordered by a river and an ancient forest, your eye easily fills in the blanks where walls and roofs have fallen down. It isn’t hard to imagine the sounds of the 100-person household going about their everyday chores. Now the odd dove sits cooing high above in a shadowy corner. Staircases end abruptly in the sky. Towers gape open, exposing their internal structure.
The languid beauty of this place is that it’s so accessible. There are no barriers; no cordoned off areas. On a sunny day, people picnic at the water’s edge, with the swans gliding past, the wood pidgeons calling from the woods, and the wind rustling the leaves. The magic of Minster Lovell casts its spell.