Abbotsbury Swannery is the only managed colony of nesting mute swans in the world. It is situated near the village of Abbotsbury in Dorset, England, 14km west of Weymouth on a 1ha site around the Fleet Lagoon protected from the weather of Lyme Bay by Chesil Beach. The colony can number over 600 swans with around 150 pairs. Written records of the swannery’s existence go back to 1393 but it probably existed well before that, and is believed to have been set up by Benedictine monks in the eleventh century.HistoryThe Fleet lagoon formed at the end of the last ice age as melt water flooded behind the already formed Chesil Beach leaving shallow salty water in which plants grew profusely producing an ideal environment for wildfowl and water birds. The Benedictine monastery of St. Peter's was established on the site in the eleventh century when King Cnut gave the land to his steward, Orc, and the monks managed the swans as a ready source of meat for use at their lavish banquets.The swannery was used by the monks until 1539 when the monastery was dissolved by King Henry VIII. The ruined remains of the monastery are still visible near the Church of St. Nicholas, Abbotsbury. The site was then purchased by Sir Guy Strangeways, and has remained in the ownership of the Strangeways family through fifteen generations up to the present day; an estate of some 61km2 in Dorset covering Chesil Beach and Abbotsbury is still held by the Ilchester Estate owned by Mrs Charlotte Townshend, the daughter of Viscount Galway, a descendant of the first Countess of Ilchester.