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; and in the adjoining cloister garth is a most unusual monks’ washing fountain, embellished with 12th century carvings. Once enclosed in an octagonal building, 16 monks could wash here at once before eating in the nearby refectory.
But perhaps the greatest glory is the extravagantly decorated chapter house of about 1140, its walls bedecked with blind arcading on multiple carved columns.
All of this is enhanced by the famous topiary-filled cloister garden, and set against the backdrop of the complete infirmary wing, converted into a mansion after the priory’s dissolution and still a private residence. 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.
5 Sheinton Street,
Information courtesy of English Heritage
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