The monastery was dedicated to the Virgin Mary
Sometime in the 13th Century, the body of St. Wulfric of Haselbury was buried in the western transept of the abbey's church, after an attempt by Benedictines from Montacute Priory to steal the body of the saint.
In the second largest pond, the Mermaid pond, the Roper family installed the Centenary Fountain in 2005 tocommemorate the centennial of their ownership of Forde Abbey. At 160 feet (49 m) in height, it is claimed to be the highest powered fountain in England.
In 1815, the house was rented to the philosopher Jeremy Bentham.
Jeremy Bentham was born in London in 1748 and died in 1832. He devised the doctrine of utilitarianism, arguing that the ‘greatest happiness of the greatest number is the only right and proper end of government’. He was a major thinker in the fields of legal philosophy and representative democracy, and originated modern ideas of surveillance through his scheme for a panopticon prison.
He supported the idea of equal opportunity in
education and his ideas contributed to the foundation of University
College London in
1826, the first institution in England to admit students of
any race, class or religion and the first to welcome women
on equal terms with men.
Bentham had many associates and acolytes. He was invited to Bowood, the house of William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne and 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, where he met Samuel Romilly and Étienne Dumont. He was friends with Henry Brougham, George Grote, David Ricardo and the radical artisan Francis Place.
Perhaps his most significant relationship was with James Mill and his son John Stuart Mill, both of whom were profoundly influenced by, and helped to edit, Bentham’s works. James Mill met Bentham around 1808 and spent summers with Bentham and his circle at Forde Abbey, Bentham’s country house in Somerset.
Bentham’s ideas inspired James Mill’s Essay
on Government (1820)
and the work of John Stuart Mill including On
and Utilitarianism (1863).