ABBEY SERIES SYNOPSES
Updated 7th May, 2016.
Brief outlines of each of the books in the Abbey series will appear shortly so you can find out what happened in the books you don't have.
Books are listed in reading order - the last few will be done soon many thanks to the numerous people who have helped with writing & proof reading.
I have tried to not use seagull editions - where possible for the illustrations, as many of you will familiar with them and I hope you will enjoy seeing a range of different editions. The same pictures were often used for the seagull edition as the previous edition but the part of the picture on the spine was cut off so the twins are missing on SONG and Vinny on SCHOOLGIRL JEN and so on.
1. The Girls Of The Hamlet Club
On attending school she discovers that there are two groups of girls - the town girls who come from well-to-do, paying families; and the girls from hamlets in the hills who come from poor families and are at school on scholarships. The girls from the hamlets have been excluded from the clubs conducted by the town girls by expensive subscription fees. Cicely is invited by the town girls to join their clubs but she declines. Instead she forms a country dancing and ramble club with the hamlet girls. They keep the club secret. They call it the Hamlet Club and their motto, 'To be or not to be', holds special meaning for both Cicely and her new friend Margia Lane - to make the right choices even if they entail personal sacrifice.
Cicely teaches the Hamlet Club country-dances she learnt from her previous school. Margia plays violin for the club.
Cicely's grandmother calls for her and she goes to live with her grandparents at their home, Broadway End.
Because of sickness the school play, an important annual event to which all the town are invited, cannot go on. Cicely, receiving permission from a curious headmistress (Miss Macey), appeals to the reluctant Hamlet Club to abandon their secrecy to help the school. They perform a series of dances and crown Miriam as the May Queen to save the situation. The Hamlet Club thus earn the grudging respect of the school.
2. The Abbey Girls
Cicely takes the Hamlet Club on a ramble to show them the beautiful Gracedieu Abbey and strikes up a friendship with Joan who acts as their guide to the abbey. Cicely offers Joan a "Hamlet scholarship" to Wycombe school which is funded annually by her grandfather. After much heart-searching Joan begs Cicely to offer the scholarship to Joy instead. Joan can work alone at home but Joy needs supervision and the chance to "do something" with her musical talent.
When Joy arrives at school she discovers that there are two rival factions, the "Saints" - original members of the Hamlet Club who helped the school in a difficult situation - and the "Sinners" - those who begrudge the Saints their new standing. Each faction has backed a candidate for Queen. Cicely proposes that they elect their newest member, Joy, who is too new to be either Saint or Sinner. Diplomatically (as her sympathies lie with the Saints) Joy asks Carry Carter (a Sinner) to be her "bridesmaid".
Sir Antony Abinger, owner of Abinger Hall and Gracedieu Abbey, sees Joy and Joan dancing a minuet on the cloister garth and begins to develop a friendship with Joan when he tests her on her knowledge of the abbey.
A row between Joy and Carry following the mysterious disappearance of Joys outspoken "guidebook of good advice to a queen" makes for uncomfortable times in the school but is later forgotten when Sir Antony dies after a stroke. Mrs Shirley tells the girls that he was Joys grandfather and when it is found that his estranged son died two years earlier Joy inherits Abinger Hall and Joan is left the abbey, "because of her love for it". Joan can now go to school and Joy announces that another candidate for the Hamlet scholarship must be found.
Cicely is as pleased as everyone else when Joan is unanimously elected as the next Queen of the Hamlet Club and is crowned as the Violet Queen.
3. The Girls Of The Abbey School
The caretaker of the abbey, Mrs Watson, is forced to look after the children she had previously been nanny to in London, Dick and Della Jessop, who run wild in the abbey and discover some secret passages. They are made to stay at the Hall so they cannot get into more mischief. Jen and Jack (14 years old) "adopt" Della (who is thirteen) and try to bring her up nicely. They discover the abbey treasures - the church plate, prayer book and manuscripts, the abbots crucifix. Jenny-Wren discovers amongst the treasures a book written by one of the lay brothers, Ambrose, who had fallen in love with the daughter of the abbey patron, Lady Jehane.
Joan plans a midnight feast and dance on the abbey garth with Margia to play for them.
Dick, angry that Della has deserted him, goes back into the passages with Mrs Watsons nephew, Micky, and breaks his leg falling into the old abbey well. When Joan and Miss Macey go into the tunnels to find Dick they also discover St Ethelwyns Well, the old church, Abbot Michaels tomb, and Jehanes jewels which had been hidden by Ambrose.
Joan is thrilled with the additions to her abbey and the stories which go with them. Peggy Gilks asks the question that is in everyones mind, "Has the abbey any more secrets?"
4. Schooldays At The Abbey
Jandy receives an upsetting letter from Alec who tells her about a man who had come on board his ship claiming that he had been shipwrecked with Tony Abinger who died at Christmas, not two years earlier as previously thought. As Tony's father had died before this, he would have inherited the Abbey and the Hall instead of Joy and Joan, passing his inheritance to Jandy. The sailor had Tonys ring with seven small sapphires and engraved with roses and fleur-de-lis, to prove his story.
Joy had a similar ring from her mother, Joyce (Tonys sister). Jen remembers from Ambroses book that this ring had belonged to Lady Jehane, made by Ambrose. However on inspection, Joy's ring is not Lady Jehane's as it lacks roses and fleur-de-lis.
Joan, Joy, Jandy and Jen discover the "Monks Path" and on the hill they find seven white stones and a cave that contains Tony Abinger's diary. The cave was at the end of the Monk's Path and known as the Hermit's Cell. Jandy is very relieved when Alec writes to her and tells her the original story about Tony's death was disproved by the First Mate he was also saved from the wreck and he said that Tony died before the ship was wrecked (before his fathers death). The lawyers send her Tony's ring, Jehanes ring which Tony had copied for Joys mother. Jandy insists the ring is then given to Joan as it is "part of the Abbey".
5. Secrets Of The Abbey (1939)
Jen travels to the Hall ready to greet Jandy Mac who brings with her a map that she had found among Tony Abinger's papers. The map had been drawn by the highwayman, Old Miles, whose descendants had farmed King Bottom's Farm, The map is of the old underground church and carefully marks a rubbish heap. Joan, Joy, Jandy and Jen dig behind the rubbish heap one Sunday afternoon to find a door in the wall. They climb down steps and go along a passage into a room where there is a great stone chest. They find six golden guineas in a bag, possibly left by Old Miles the Highwayman.
Joy and Jen return to the Hall for a compass and more torches. When they arrive back, Joan and Jandy Mac have disappeared - they were in the stone chest which hid the secret entrance to a tunnel. Joy accidentally pushes Jen who twists her foot and so she stays next to the chest while the other three enter the tunnel. Jen discovers that she is sitting on Ambrose's grave; meanwhile the hidden door has shut. Alternately crawling and hopping Jen struggles back to the garth and alerts a reading party from Oxford who dig out the missing three from the other end of passage near the gatehouse.
On a second trip they find the highwayman's hoard of rings, brooches, locket, purse, necklaces and, in a niche near his grave, a box containing Ambrose's diary and keepsake ring which is given to Jen. The hoard is divided between the girls and the reading party are each given a golden guinea.
The Hamlet Club have a dance at the Hall and are reminded of the meaning of their motto by the President who uses Jen as "the text of her sermon".
6. Stowaways in the Abbey
Jen arranges to spend Monday night in the Abbey alone, After an outdoor supper, Jen goes to bed in Joan's room, only too be awakened by someone trying to enter the room. Jen meets with Susan (Susie) Spindle, a housemaid at the Hall and her brother Timothy who is in service at the Marchwood house in Town. Jen learns that Timothy has run away because of his theft of Two shillings, and having been falsely accused of touching the absent Kenneth Marchwood's things. Jen feeds Timothy the last of her supper and sends Susie home, and Timothy to his hideout near the underground church
The next morning she tells Joan, Romeo & Juliet style Timothy's story and begs Joan to protect her "Stowaway". Timothy's plan had been to make his way to the seaside and stowaway on a ship. Joan explains that the Abbey is no longer sanctuary, but encourages Jen to write to Sir Keith Marchwood to give the boy another chance.
Jacky-boy arrives, and Jen tells of her plan to slip in to the Manor next door to try and locate a portrait of a girl wearing Jen's locket. Jack is at first reluctant but goes along with Jen's plan. Whilst at the Manor, they find a portrait of a girl, dressed in Elizabethan clothes wearing Jen's locket. Jen & Jack are trapped at the Manor by the unexpected arrival of Sir Keith Marchwood. The girls are nearly caught in their attempt to run away. Jen's conscience is too much for her and sneaks home for the locket and purse and returns to the Manor.
Back at the Manor, Sir Keith interviews the girls and tells them the story of the first Katharine Marchwood and her teenage marriage to Peregrine Abinger of the Hall. Jen writes her will and is given the purse and locket for her life time. Sir Keith then directs the girls to a pair of paintings of the Abbey's great church, which Jen does her best to obtain for Joan.
The girls head home only to find Joy hanging from her bedroom window. Jack, a doctor's daughter insists she go inside, but the damage is done and Joy comes down with pneumonia.
The doctor is consulted and during the night, Mrs Shirley collapses with the strain.
Jen and Jack help out around the house during Joy's illness and on the day when Joy's illness is most critical, the girls go for a walk in the hills. On their return they are told by Susie that Joy's fever has broken. In a display of joy and happiness, Jen dances a jig, and then tells Susie about the paintings.
On the day Jack is due to leave, Joan hails them from her window asking about the church paintings, saying that Susie had told her some of the story. Heart broken that her surprise had been ruined, Jen tells Joan the whole story, but is very angry at young Susie. Susie herself, rushes away to the Abbey where she cries herself into a case of the measles, but rests a little easier once she is forgiven by Jen.
The paintings are sent to the Hall and arrangements are made for them to be hung in the Refectory and a party arranged. Sir Keith visits the Abbey the day of the party and is warmly thanked by all the girls for his generosity.
7. Schoolgirl Jen at the Abbey
Sir Kenneth Marchwood visits Jen when she is still laid up with her injuries, and brings her a sketchbook that belonged to his ancestress Katharine Marchwood, who married Joy's ancestor, Peregrine Abinger. There are drawings of animals and birds, of Ambrose, and also working drawings by the artist who painted pictures of the Abbey church. Vinny also brings a book for Jen. It's a diary kept by the highwayman's little daughter, Jane Miles, who had a hidihole in the chapter house. There is also a map, which leads to the discovery of Ambrose's rosary.
There is still the problem of Boniface, living in the Abbey, and Vinny, who is unhappy living with her foster family. The girls help her to write to her father in Canada, who sends the money for her fare and for old Boniface to accompany her and live with his daughter -- Vinny's Mother was his other daughter. All seems settled until Boniface becomes too nervous to travel. In the end, Jandy volunteers to change her travel plans to help out, and escorts them both to their new homes. Jandy goes back to Sydney to marry her Alec, promising to name her first daughter after Joan.
8. Strangers in the Abbey
Rykie arrives alone; Belle has not accompanied her and the girls and Mrs Shirley feel this. Even more extraordinary--Rykie is wearing make-up and has permed hair. She is very sophisticated and can't quite hide that she despises their country ways. She is not even interested in the Abbey. But she admires Joy as the wealthy owner of the Hall. She doesn't want to go to school, intending to start training for the stage immediately, but Joan insists. Rykie is reconciled when she discovers the dramatic society is casting for 'As You Like It,' and manages to get herself the part of Jaques, even though it had already been given to someone else, Joan tells Jen that she will broaden their minds as she embodies 'The Opposite Point of View'.
Because Rykie must stay late at school to rehearse, Jen must stay too-- Joan does not trust Rykie to behave alone. Jen teaches the little ones singing games; they are a great success at a later garden party. Belle does well in Hollywood and wants Rykie to join her, but no one will provide the fare. Despite the play, Rykie is desperate to go and makes plans, sending and receiving mysterious letters.
One night Jen is awakened by noises and she and Joan surprise Rykie and a young man in the Abbey, obviously intending to steal Jehane's jewels. It is the half-brother, Angus, a talented violinist. The jewels would have paid for lessons for him and the fare for Rykie. Rykie is ashamed of herself. Joy and Joan decide to help Angus and sell a ruby to pay for violin lessons. Angus comes to apologies, and Rykie agrees to write a confession to Belle.
Belle herself arrives with a wealthy new husband, Terry. They will take Rykie to live with them in Hollywood, and see she finishes her education. First, she must choose between taking part in the school play, or accompanying the newly-weds to Europe. She is now embued with enough Abbey spirit to make the right choice.
9. Selma at the Abbey
Selma fits happily into the family. Unlike Rykie, she feels the spirit of the Abbey, likes the cats, and is a keen dancer and a good student. Terry, Angus's brother-in -law, has given him some money, and he uses this for Selma's school fees. Joan sets her a programme of reading: Dickens and Jane Austen. She also gives her hints about grammar but encourages her to keep her Scottish accent. Angus comes to stay. They see an improvement in his playing , and he sees that Selma has made a lot of progress. He plays at a dance party but the President will not allow Scottish dances to be taught.
That night, burglars break into the house, at first Jen suspects Angus, but it's a village lad and an accomplice after the jewels; Angus hears the disturbance and tackles them. He is concussed, and his arm is broken. There is a risk that he may not be able to play his violin successfully again, Selma realises how much she cares for him.
The would-be thieves are relatives of Anne Watson, One has taken sanctuary in the Abbey, the other is retarded. Angus begs them off because of his own past attempt at thieving, and the girls agree not to prosecute. But they feel the jewels are a liability. They bury most of them in the crypt but keep some aside to make brooches as a symbol of their adventure. Angus has a ring ready for Selma and they become officially engaged. His arm recovers and he takes Selma to meet her Swedish relations. Belle and Terry come to the rescue again, tale Selma to live with them in Hollywood and arrange lessons there for Angus. Jandy Mac has a daughter, Joan, and 'Beetle' is crowned as the Stripy Queen.
10. Tomboys at the Abbey
The grandmother has sent her to England with her uncle, hoping the trip will take her mind off things. Gudrun having heard about Joan's kindness from Selma, has run away to seek her advise. The girls persuade her to seek her uncle's permission to stay with them.
Uncle comes to the Abbey for advice, and tells the girls that his son Karl wants to marry Gudrun. The girls suggest she lives with them for a while. They take her to consult with the school's drama teacher. Meanwhile Joy's solicitor has regained for her the ruby that was sold to help Angus. Jen lets out that the jewels have been hidden, and Jack plagues her to reveal the rest of the secret. They quarrel about it, but Joy, with unusual tact, settles things with Jack. She and Jen get lost in the underground passages, after climbing down a likely-looking oak. They come out on the garth, and decide they must have found the highwayman's escape route. The oak could have been planted by Ambrose, in memory of an earlier sacred one.
Gudrun goes to be with her dying grandmother, sorts things out with Karl, agreeing each to have their own career, and comes back to join a repertory company. She has her grandmother's pearl ring as an engagement ring, and Joan and Joy give her a matching brooch from Jehane's jewels. Later she receives good notices in the part of Viola. Jen and Jack get brooches of wood from the Holy Oak.
No. 11 Abbey Girls Go Back to School (1922)
Jen receives an invitation from Cicely to join herself, Joan, Joy at Cheltenham dance school in August. Jack also comes to the school and they board with Mrs Hunt sharing a room with Tomentil Grant and "Miss Newcastle". They also meet Karen Wilson and Tazy Kingston, also boarding with Mrs Hunt. Tazy and Karen are from a school in Switzerland and Karen is to marry Rennie Brown, son of Sir Rennie Brown, the famous doctor.
They have their first class at the college with Madam who criticises their dancing of Newcastle, most of their dancing is wrong as they took the instructions from books. Madam agrees they can stay in the class so long as they dont mind being corrected. They meet the Director at morning school (also called the Prophet because he collects the dances and songs from all over the country and passes them on others), Joy has brought Belinda, her motor bike, and gives Jan and Jack rides in the afternoon. Later they have to change classes and have Pixie as a teacher. Pixie asks Joan to "look after Captain Raymond". Jack Raymond's friend, Dick Everett, joins then. He had met Cicely on board ship and Jen at the Grange at Christmas when his sister Avice danced with her.
Joy has an accident with Belinda; Jen, a passenger, ends up in hospital. Mrs Robins come to Cheltenham to be with Jen at the Hospital. At first it is possible that Jen may never walk again let alone dance. She gradually recovers and Joan returns with them to Yorkshire
Six months later there is a dance evening at Darley's Barn for the Hamlet Club. Madam and the Pixie attend. Joan and Cicely become engaged to Jack and Dick. Mirry brought her baby girl and Marguerite her French husband. Mirry's sister, Babs, is May Queen.
No. 12 The Go-ahead Schoolgirl
No.13. Tickles and the School was Different
No. 14. Jen of the Abbey School (1927)
Tickles, Margot, Sara and Barbara leave early to buy sweets; they go to Tin Town to visit Archie who had sprained his foot and see Rose who is a cripple. They return to tell Jen and suggest she dances for Rose. She does and they ask her to dance again for Mrs Thorburn's invalid nephew Wriggles.
A new girl, Rhoda, had seen the dancing at the Grange and was able to point out faults in Jen's dancing. Jen acknowledges she has been told so before and that she is to go to Cheltenham soon for dancing school and she will find out how bad her dancing is.
Jen returns from Cheltenham injured from the motor bike accident, Joan comes to keep her company. Rena MacKay, together with Lisabel Durrant from the valley, worked in the school garden after her father died during the time she was at school at Rocklands. Rose knits a yellow and purple jumper for Jen. Everyone brings presents for Jen's "welcome " day. Rose brings her jumper; Archie brings his morris pipe that he had from his grandfather. Jen writes to Avice Everett to find out about the pipe. On a visit, Tickles and the other juniors take the jumper and hide it in Rena's cave. The pipe is missing and the jumper has gone from the cave. Archie returns the pipe to Jen at night- his brother Charlie had taken to sell after he heard it was worth lots of money. Rena and Lisabel get the jumper (with Jen's embroidery for Madam's wedding present) back from a tramp. They then find a man in the snow with a similar pipe he is unconscious and is carrying the wallet belonging to the son (whose yacht has been lost at sea) of Jen's neighbour. Pixie identifies the pipe so that if the old man doesnt regain consciousness they may still get news of the lost yacht.
The Rocklands School Girls and Jen's villages & Tin Town children enter a dance competition and do very well..
15. The New Abbey Girls
Joy and Jen have an unexpected visitor, but realising it is Madam, they have no qualms about meeting her in their favoured morning attire of tunics. They attempt to take her through the secret passage to the Hall, to escape tourists who have arrived to see the Abbey, but the their torch battery runs out, and they are stuck in the dark. They do Morris jigs to keep warm until Ann hears them and comes to help. They emerge onto the garth to find to their dismay that the visitors are Sir Andrew Marchwood and his mother.
Ann Watson has heard from Maidlin's father that his parents are dead, leaving Maidlin the heiress to their estates in Italy on his own death. Concerned that Maidlin needs a different environment as an heiress, she asks Joy to look after her. Maidlin is furious that Ann asked, although it later transpires that she herself passionately wanted to live with Joy. Joy initially hesitates, but gradually realises that by helping the girls, she can give back something to a society which has given her so much in her inheritance from her grandfather. In addition, she can help the less fortunate children from London's East End, by taking them out for drives.
Rosamund and Maidlin move in. Rosamund leads the life of a normal, jolly schoolgirl, Maidlin widens her experience of life with trips to London, to visit her lawyer, shop and attend folk dance parties, etc. She develops a passionate loyalty to Joy, whose affections are stirred in response. Sir Andrew Marchwood and his mother make a formal call on Joy at the Hall during a Hamlet Club party. Rosamund is chosen as the next Hamlet Club Queen. Joy receives a letter from Maidlin's lawyer, telling of her father's death, which means that she now becomes heir to her grandparent's estates in Italy. Maidlin is assured that she can continue to stay with Joy, who suggests she should go to school with Rosamund.
If you spot any omissions or errors, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org