Castles · England · Travel · Wales

Exploring Wenlock Priory in Shropshire – Review

Built: The priory was built between 1140 and 1180 and largely rebuilt from 1200 to 1240.

Location: Bull Ring, Much Wenlock TF13 6HS

History: The tranquil ruins of Wenlock Priory stand in a picturesque setting on the fringe of beautiful Much Wenlock. An Anglo-Saxon monastery was founded here in about 680 by King Merewalh of Mercia, whose abbess daughter Milburge was hailed as a saint. Her relics were miraculously re-discovered here in 1101, attracting both pilgrims and prosperity to the priory.

By then Wenlock had been re-founded by the Normans as a priory of Cluniac monks. It is the impressive remains of this medieval priory which survive today, everywhere reflecting the Cluniac love of elaborate decoration. Parts of the great 13th century church still stand high.

Much Wenlock was also the home of Dr. William Penny Brookes (1809-95), originator of the still-continuing Wenlock Olympian Games, a major inspiration for the modern International Olympics.

Price: Free for English Heritage Members. For non-members it’s £7.80 per adult and £4.70 per child

Parking: Yes, Free for English Heritage Members. Parking charges apply to non-members

Review: Another wet and windy day of exploring back in February. This was the last day of our holiday, so we thought we would do a long detour on the way back home to explore a few more places.

I had seen signs for this place on several different occasions but never thought to go visit, but I’m very glad I decided to finally visit this spot now.

It’s 100% dog friendly as well, which shouldn’t be a surprise for a place like this, but there were plenty of dog bins and grassy areas to walk around in as well.

Neither of us knew what to expect when we parked up at this place, but that’s the beauty of it, there was plenty of unexpected pieces that made us go wow, okay this was a good place to come explore.

To start with though, the greeting from the lovely lady in the shop was a great start and made us feel very welcome as we started to explore the priory. She invited us to take our time and told us to enjoy the peaceful extensive ruins. She was right about the peaceful nature about this place, as you walk around it you feel a deep sense of calm.

As you walk around the ruins, make sure you see the most unusual octagonal lavabo, the huge water vessel built around 1220 and used by monks to wash their hands before eating in the nearby refectory. Embellished with 12th-century carvings, depicting Christ and the apostles, free-standing lavabos of this kind are rarely seen in the United Kingdom.

There is a very well kept topiary garden which is set against the beautiful old infirmary building, this is now a private residence.

I would suggest that you get audio guide to truly learn about the history of the place better, whilst reading the guide boards as well, you will be provided with information about the abbey and what life was previously like.

The ruins don’t take long to get around, but they are lovely to look at. The walls of the chapter house in particularly were beautifully carved and the columns were something special as well.

These picturesque ruins of the large priory of Cluniac monks, shows their love of decoration as it’s reflected in the glorious carving of its 12th-century chapter house.

A really cool part about this place is the floor in one section of the site.

Visit the priory’s library and discover the locally-made medieval floor tiles, which have been re-laid to give an impression of what they would have originally looked like.

This place is full of interesting things and you can probably spend an hour here if you use the guide and read the boards. You can even enjoy a little picnic here, so long as the weather is good.

If you fancy exploring something else, then Buildwas Abbey is close by. It’s not as big, but its chapter house has an amazingly intact tiled floor and decorative stonework that is well worth looking at.

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