Hey everyone, welcome back to Pinned On Places and to our walking tours, we are carrying on our journey around North Wales, not far from Flint castle as you can watch in our previous video, we are in Holywell exploring Basingwerk Abbey, nestled inside Greenfield Valley Heritage Park. Its here that you can wander 70 acres of woodland and 2000 years of history with ancient monuments, historic factories and lakes at every turn.
It was once part of a network of Cistercian settlements that once dotted around wales, founded in 1131 by the 4th earl of Chester, Ranulf de Gernon and then extensively altered in the 13th century. Although it is in ruin, it still gives us a great insight into the lives of the monks who once called Basingwerk Home. It is still a significant and religious site and interestingly it’s the start point for the North Wales Pilgrims way. If you weren’t sure what this is, it’s a long distance hiking and walking trail that stretches 140 miles all the way to Bardsey island.
The oldest part of the abbey is the 12th century chapter house, with remains of the benches where monks sat for daily readings. Next to it is the parlour, the only place where the usually silent monks were allowed to speak. The monks were self sufficient
and supported themselves using the land, the abbey made money by hosting many pilgrims, they often assisted the people of Holywell, whether they were poor or wealth with offers of hospital facilities, food and comfort. The fast flowing Holywell stream provided the abbey with a good water supply, this meant commercial opportunities, and the Cistercians became the first people to use the steam water to run the first industries here, such a cloth making mills and flour mills. Later in the 14th century the monks grew barley and had a brewing industry.
During the middle ages, a thriving economic and artistic community developed around the abbey and it became the home of many Welsh poets. During the 15th century and into the next, Thomas Pennant, an abbot of Basingwerk, who was a noted patron of poets. He also restored the buildings, after a long period of neglect, but then the abbey was dissolved in the 1530s on the order of King Henry VIII. Valuable items were removed. Some of the lead went to Holt Castle, near Wrexham, and some all the way to Dublin Castle! It’s thought that stained glass from the abbey is still visible at a nearby parish church.
The first to be built was the church and the eastern part of the monastery buildings. The temple was about 50 meters long, which placed it among the smallest Cistercian churches in Wales. In the mid-13th century a refectory was built in the south wing, located on the north-south axis, Its projecting south beyond the outline of the monastery buildings this was a typical feature of Cistercian monasteries in Wales, as well as neighbouring with the kitchen on the west side.
In the fourteenth century, new Gothic arcades of the cloisters were created, and the buildings on the south-east side were enlarged. This southern end of the east range was rebuilt again at the end of the Middle Ages. Most likely it was used for economic purposes, At the end of the 15th century, the abbey was also roofed with lead and decorated with glass windows, and new rooms were built for guests on the south-east side.
At just over fifty metres in length the church at Basingwerk was relatively modest for a Cistercian church. Originally there was no western processional doorway but this was added later.
I think the most impressive surviving room is the monks’ dining hall, it had beautiful and large lancet windows and a pulpit from which readings were given during the meals and a serving hatch that connects to its kitchen next door. The best thing about visiting the abbey is all the small things you don’t notice until you take the time to explore here. The outline of the crucifix church is spectacular with the columns heading all the way down and the medieval drainage system you can see too. It’s worth taking the time around every corner and to look around these extensive ruins.
Till next time!