With the sun out and a visit to Wenlock Priory already under our belts, we headed three and a half miles up the road from Much Wenlock to Buildwas Abbey.
The ruins of the Cistercian abbey of Buildwas sit in stunning Shropshire countryside, with the imposing Wrekin above, the River Severn below and the beautiful historic towns of Much Wenlock and Ironbridge nearby.
The impressive ruins of the abbey date as far back as the 12th century. So much of the ruins of the main building remain that I don’t think it’s hard to imagine how Buildwas Abbey would have looked in its heyday.
In its time, the abbey withstood the murder of an abbot (supposedly by one of his own monks), raiders from Powys pillaging its treasures and taking prisoner the abbot and monks, its estates being ravaged during a Welsh uprising led by Owain Glyndŵr, as well as a decline in the economy and the arrival of the Black Death.
Unfortunately, the abbey was closed in 1536 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. Valuables were reserved for the king and other disposables were auctioned off, with the monks dispersed to other monasteries.
In the following year, the abbey and its land were granted to Sir Edward Grey, Lord Powis. His son (also named Edward Grey) converted the buildings on the north-eastern side of the site (including the abbot’s lodging and the infirmary) into a grand country house with ornate gardens. By the 17th century, Buildwas Abbey was in the hands of the Moseley family and remained so until the ruins were placed in the guardianship of HM Office of Works in 1925, whilst the house remained in private ownership. English Heritage took over the care of the ruins in 1984 and still look after them today.
When we arrived, the abbey already had a few visitors, but it wasn’t too busy. Some were picnicking, some were exploring, whilst others were taking in the wonderful architecture. The kiosk sells limited drinks and snacks, so I’d advise taking your own food and drink if you’re a bit peckish. There’s plenty of room for kids to run around, as long as they’re respectful to the ruins and other visitors.
At the time of writing, Buildwas Abbey is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am until 5pm (until September, when it closes for the winter). Entry is free for English Heritage members, £4.30 for non-member adults, with concessions for children, students and OAPs. Parking is free.
I’d recommend also visiting nearby Ironbridge (home to the world’s first iron bridge) and the Ironbridge Gorge Museums, as well as Wenlock Priory and Much Wenlock. Attingham Park, Wroxeter Roman City, Haughmond Abbey, Moreton Corbet Castle and the Shropshire county town of Shrewsbury aren’t far away either.