The Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century was a Europe-wide revolt against the excesses and corruption of the established Roman church, and Kilwinning Abbey was ordered to be "cast down". The monks and abbots were ousted or left and the building fell into disuse and disrepair. Since there was no question of rebuilding or preservation, wind and weather took their toll, and the crumbling site became a source of free building material for use elsewhere in the town and district over many generations.
Gradually, buildings appeared, encompassing the original boundaries of the Abbey, even on top of the medieval foundations. Surrounding the open area were tenements and businesses, including a public house and a shop, and other domestic buildings, many of 19th century origin, but possibly at least one dating back to the mid to late 16th century. Most would have been built from stones taken directly from the Abbey ruins.
As the name suggests, it may have been covered in grass at one time, but even the earliest photographs show it to have a bare stony surface, unpaved and not 'green'.
The area was used for shows, other temporary entertainments and public meetings. Old records indicate who owned properties on the Green, and what sort of entertainments took place there.
Over the course of the first half of the 20th century, due to a combination of lack of maintenance and an increasing awareness of the need for better, healthier living standards, many of the buildings on the Green were condemned as unfit for human habitation, all were finally cleared over the course of the 1950s and early 60s, and new houses built.
More information is available from the Kilwinning Heritage Series publication "The Abbey Green in the 19th and 20th Centuries" by Helen Matthews and Jeni Park, available from the Tower Heritage Centre or the Abacus shop in the Main Street.
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