Our next explore is based in the beautiful Shropshire area. We discover an abundance of medieval abbey ruins and castles and todays visit is to Buildwas Abbey. It was founded in 1135 by the bishops of Lichfield Roger de Clinton and became Cistercian when the Savignac order was united with them in 1147.
Parts of the site are currently barricaded for restoration work for the roofs, this is something the English heritage are doing with good signage explaining what is being undertaken, but it certainly doesn’t distract you from the rest of the beautiful abbey and its surroundings.
They abbey was greatly improved in the 12th century by Abbot Ranulf , who wanted to build a centre of learning and he installed a substantial library for the monks, who would travel from afar to visit here. It was Ranulf that built the foundations of a church and a chapter house. The remains here at unusually complete and they include the vaulted chapter house with medieval tile flooring. The abbey itself was never very large or wealthy and it only supported a small population of around 8-12 monks. Unlike typical Cistercian abbeys like fountains which became rich from sheep farming, the monks at Buildwas survived with the income from the toll charge to travellers using their bridge that lies across the River Severn.
Disaster struck at this normally peaceful abbey as evidenced in 1342 when the abbot was murdered and 8 years later when the abbot and the monks were imprisoned by welsh border raiders. the abbey also suffered an additional raid from the welsh under Owain Glyndwr in 1406.
Buildwas was then dissolved in 1536 and the property was granted to Lord Grey, its then that the abbots lodging and the infirmary were converted into a house. And finally after going through the generations of the Grey family it is now in the care of the English Heritage and a free to roam site as well as it being unmanned too, and unfortunately there isn’t much information on the site so you do have to use your imagination for some of it or alternatively you can purchase a guide book from its close neighbour Wenlock priory to find out more information here.
The abbey church is originally in a cruciform structure at around 50 metres in length and 8 metres wide and made up of north and south transepts, a large nave and a chancel. The arches of the nave are the most impressive and striking feature of Buildwas and it’s imposing as you enter the site. The columns of each side are huge and round in section and have scalloped decorations around them.
There is a number of small rooms leading you throughout the abbey, this room could have been a passageway to get to the cloister court and the eastern range. It has cupboard holes that were known for book storage for the monks and it gave access to the cemetery through a gated doorway in the east wall which is now of private residence
Above the chapter house, they had the dormitory for the staff, absolutely nothing survives of it but it would have been a very important part of the abbey. When entering the chapter house, you are blown away from its beautiful preservation with the original patterned mosaic tiles from the 11th century are still here. It’s here that they would have had entertainment, where they would have ate, drank and held their daily gatherings. Interestingly there is an outline of a supposed tomb in the floor, but unfortunately we don’t know who this is, but it’s likely it was someone attached with significance to Buildwas.
The parlour isn’t really spoken about but what we do know is that some cooking was done here and storage was housed, its here that conversation was allowed and the best and most remarkable part of the parlour is the beautiful stonework across the ceiling.
Overall, our visit at Buildwas abbey was amazing. It’s so rural in the area although you wouldn’t believe how extensive the site is from seeing above in some of our drone shots, its located in a wooded valley and its just been left at peace to decay slowly and allowing nature to take course. If you are visiting Shropshire and are interested in hitting a few historical sites within miles of one another, we would recommend a visit here along with our next video and next exploration at Wenlock Priory, till next time.