Sunday, 19 August 2012

Lilleshall Abbey, Shropshire

Many times on our travels we’ve driven past a narrow winding country lane at the top of which stands a brown heritage sign pointing the way to ‘Lilleshall Abbey’.   I’ve said ‘Let’s go’, DB has always replied, ‘Not now we haven’t got time’.   Well a few weeks ago on a gorgeous sunny afternoon we finally found time to turn down that lane and visit. 

The lane winds up and down between hedges and trees before another brown heritage sign points you to the Abbey ruins partway down a narrow farm track with a small parking area.

The main entrance to the Abbey church.

Founded by Arrouasian Cannons in the mid 12 century and later absorbed into the Augustinian Order, Lilleshall Abbey is built of deep red triassic sandstone and lies on the edge of Abbey Wood about a mile south of the village of Lilleshall which is reputed to date back to Saxon times. 

Inside the main Abbey church.

The name Lilleshall is believed to originate from ‘Lillers Hill’.   Liller was a servant of Edwin, King of Northumbria and it is thought the village was given to him for services rendered to the Crown.  The village is also mentioned in the Doomsday Book as having a population of about 150 people.

A beautifully carved ceremonial doorway.

Owning extensive tracts of farmland, water mills and other properties, including the right to charge tolls on Atcham Bridge over the river Severn, Lilleshall Abbey prospered for 400 years.

King Henry III is said to have twice visited the Abbey during hunting trips in the area.

In 1538 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII Lilleshall Abbey was closed and the lands granted to the Cavendish family who later sold them to James Leveson of Wolverhampton.
This archway is one of the entrances to a narrow passage, called a slype or parlour,  that once had doors at each end.  The passage may have given access to the canons infirmary and it's thought was used as a place where important matters could be discussed without breaking the cloister rule of silence.
Two spiral staircases remain, one of which you can climb to the top, it even has some 19th century graffiti on the wall at the bottom.   Although I’m not over keen on climbing this kind of stair case, up is fine, as for down, well, let’s just say I prefer to have someone in front of me.
There is even some 19th century graffiti on the wall at the bottom of the stairs.
There is a nice view of the Abbey pond from the top

During the English Civil War the Abbey was fortified for King Charles I by Sir Richard Leveson and besieged by Parliamentarian troops in 1645. 

Reputed to be haunted, the Abbey has been visited by various ghost hunters over the years including the famous ghost hunter the late Elliott O’Donnell. 
Visitors have reported seeing what looks like the figure of a monk passing from the church to the sacristy; others have heard soft footsteps along the path from the cemetery.    During the 1930’s a boy who lived in nearby Abbey Cottage couldn’t sleep because of strange noises during the night, one of which sounded like someone turning the pages of a large book. 

I'm glad to say that as we visited on a lovely sunny afternoon, we, thankfully, neither saw nor heard anything remotely spooky.

The site is now administered by English Heritage entry is free and this year it is open from April to the end of September.

Have fun, we are!

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