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Buildwas Abbey

Shropshire

Featured Location Guide

 

Overview

Haughmond Abbey:- An Augustinian Abbey founded in 1135, although it is built on the site of  an earlier religious foundation - Prior Fulk and his brethren who it is believed was established on this site towards the end of the 10th Century. The abbey reflects the generosity of one of its patrons the Fitzalan family, Lords of Oswestry and Clun. Canons based at this abbey looked after the wounded from the nearby battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. It was dissolved in 1539 and the church and dormitory were demolished, lthough the Abbots Hall was converted into a private dwelling but was in a fire during the Civil War and the site was then used as a farm.

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Haughmond Abbey is also known as the Abbey of St John the Evangelist. A statue of St John the Evangelist with his emblem can be found carved into the arches of the chapter house. His image also appeared on the Abbey's great seal.

On site today you have the ruins of the abbey including its Abbots quarters, refectory and cloister. There are picture boards through the site giving the visitor information on what can be seen as well as a small museum which houses an exhibition with displays of archaeological finds.

History

Like many monasteries the abbey owned a lot of land, mostly local and its income came from both rents and the farming of parts of its estates. At the end of the 13th century accounts books show that income was also being generated from 26 mills in Shropshire. Some of these mills were 'fulling' mills, processing woollen cloth.

In it's earlier days it was very prosperous, but towards the end it was beset with both financial and moral problems. There were financial irregularities and the then sitting abbot was disciplined for allowing the infirmary, dormitory, chapter house and library to fall into disrepair. Moral was low and the lack of discipline was shown in the reports of official visitations that the novices were not getting proper instruction. While not being renowned as a seat of learning it was noted in a report of 1518 that the library was in a poor state of repair and earlier in the 15th century the abbey was the home of John Audelay, a deaf and blind poet.

Dissolution and beyond

It was dissolved in 1539 as part of Henry VIII's nationwide Dissolution of the Monasteries. Records show that the then Abbot and 10 cannons were present at the signing of the deed of surrender, each of them receiving generous pensions. The annual income was estimated at just under 250.

After dissolution the new owner Sir Edward Littleton converted the Abbots Hall and adjoining rooms into a private residence. Later history also shows that some of the other buildings around the little cloister continued as private accommodation, with the little cloister becoming a formal garden, up until the Civil War.

There was a fire during the Civil War and it left the hands of the wealthy being turned over for use as a farm, a small cottage was still standing in the area of the former abbots kitchen when the ruins were placed in the guardianship of the Office of Works in 1933. Now it is looked after by English Heritage.

The Augustinians

The Augustinian Order of Canons and Canonesses were ordained priests. This made them different from monks, in that only some monks were priests. Canons did not necessarily lead sheltered secluded lives, but often worked or travelled outside their monasteries and attended the needs of the local lay communities.

They based their 'rule' and way of living on the writings of St Augustine of Hippo, after which their order was named. There is a statue of St Augustine carved into the arches of the chapter house. Over 200 Augustinian houses were established in Britain, with a heavier concentration in the Midlands and East Anglia. Their houses were usually quite small, a status of a priory, but Haughmond was unusual as it attained the status of an Abbey.

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Undercroft of Dining Hall. This is where food and drink would have been stored. The refectory, or dining hall would have been on the upper floor reached by a stone or timber service stair.

Fire places in the Canons Kitchen. This picture shows the remains of 2 of the three large 14th century fireplaces where the spit-roasting of meats and cooking of food in pots and cauldrons would have taken place.

Chapter House. Impressive 3 highly decorative 12th century arches, the central one being the doorway into the building. There are 8 carved saints under canopies between the arch shafts and it is believed these were done in the 14th century.

The Octagonal font Inside the Chapter House. The canons would meet here daily to discuss religious business with the Abbot and deal with non-religious matters relating to the running of the Abbey. These meetings were preceded by a reading of a chapter from the rules of the order, hence it's name.

The remains in the foreground are of the church which is 60 metres (200 feet) long and the east end is terraced into the hillside, so the alter would have been some 4 metres higher than the floor of the nave.

Looking south, from the original north entrance, across the remains of the church back towards Abbots Hall and private rooms in the distance.

The Abbots Hall and House

The Abbots suite of rooms would have been decorated and furnished expensively appropriate to the importance and status of the head of a monastery. This can still be seen with the decoration of shields, grapes, rosettes and roundels on the inside of the bay window in the private rooms. The picture on the right shows the gable end of the abbot's hall with twin doors leading into the abbots kitchen.

These images were taken prior to DSLR cameras, we will be updating them in the future.

Click on the images
to see the
bigger picture

The Chapter House Statues

Carved within the 3 arches on the front of the Chapter House are 8 saints under canopies. It is believed they were done in the 14th century and they include St Augustine,, the head of the Augustinian Order; the martyred St Thomas Becket; St Catherine of Alexandria with a spiked wheel; St John the Evangelist with his emblem; St John the Baptist with a lamb and flag; St Margaret of Antioch slaying a dragon; St Winifred with her murderer Prince Caradog; and the winged St Michael slaying a dragon.


NOTE

Haughmond Abbey near Haughton is just a few miles NE of Shrewsbury and we were not prepared for what we saw. The write up in the English Heritage guide didn't do it justice, it was impressive and a lot more interesting than we thought it was going to be. There was no audio tour, but you can purchase a guide book which gives a map and description of the site.


Further information Grid

Location:

Haughmond Abbey, Shropshire

Ceremonial County: Shropshire

Grid Reference:

SJ542152 - OS Map 126

Map Link:

StreetMap 

Aerial photo: Google Aerial 

Route(s):

 

Best Times to Visit:

 

E-mail:

 

Website:

English Heritage

Other useful websites:

A Panoramic (360 degree) View

British History Online - Haughmond Abbey

Nearby Locations:

Lilleshall Abbey    Wenlock Priory   

Ironbridge Buildwas Abbey

Other Relevant pages:  

Planning Grid

Location:

Haughmond Abbey, Shropshire

Grid Reference

SJ542152 - OS Map 126

Getting there:

Haughmond Abbey off B5062, 3 miles NE of Shrewsbury.

Access:

Down a single track drive to a car park, the ruins are behind a stone wall which has an arched doorway to go through.

Parking:

Car park

Facilities:

Museum, Kiosk with small shop, Guide books. Picnic area and light refreshments available.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Large ruin which can be taken from many angles. It is surrounded by open country side which can give some good landscape views especially if the clouds are right.

What to take:

Camera, Tripod, Grads

Nature Highlights:

Sometimes there are animals in the surrounding fields.

Best Times to Visit:

 

Address:

Upton Magna

Uffington

Shropshire

Postcode:

SY4 4RW

Telephone:

01743 709661

E-mail:

 

Website:

 

Opening times:

1 Apr-30 Sep Wed-Sun 10am-5pm, Closed Mon & Tues

Also open Bank Holidays.

Charges:

English Heritage Members - Free

Non-Members Adults 3.40; Children 2; Concessions 3.10

Photo Restrictions:

No commercial photography is allowed in all their grounds, it is not permitted in some buildings for conservation purposes, usually a no photography symbol is present on entry to the building where this restriction is in place.

Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: Disabled access for wheel chairs is not easy as most of site is on grass with lots of levels.
Special Needs Facilities: None
Children Facilities:  
Dogs Allowed: Allowed on leads

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.

 


By: Tracey Park Section: Abbey and Religious Buildings Key:
Page Ref: Haughmond Topic: Abbeys Last Updated: 02/2011
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