In August last year, we had a great day out visiting Ironbridge and Wenlock Priory in Shropshire, between Telford and Shrewsbury. We intended also to visit Buildwas Abbey on the banks of the River Severn, north of Much Wenlock during the same trip. But I hadn’t checked my English Heritage handbook carefully, and we found the entrance gate to the abbey securely padlocked.
Not so yesterday, and Buildwas Abbey was the focus of our second ecclesiastical foray into Shropshire, a round trip from home of exactly 86 miles.
But, as on other days out, we always look for other National Trust and English Heritage properties close by to really make a day of it. On this occasion, it was Langley Chapel, about five miles west of Much Wenlock (map) over the other side of Wenlock Edge, and perhaps one of the most rural locations I have visited in a long while. There were minor roads, very narrow, edged by tall hedges, and just wide enough for one vehicle. I was commenting to Steph that my father would have said on such an occasion – just to encourage my Mum: ‘I hope we don’t meet a double-decker bus coming the other way!‘ Well, we did. Almost. I had to slow for a right angle bend, and just ahead of us was a large truck approaching down the lane, with several vehicles following slowly behind.
Rural and isolated it might have been. But what a glorious spot, with just the sounds of the lambs bleating in the meadows, and the wind rustling through the young wheat crop.
Our first stop was Langley Chapel, an early 17th century building with its original roof dating from 1601. The chapel has no known dedication, and has not been used for services since the end of the 19th century. It was not altered during the 18th and 19th centuries (as happened in many other churches and chapels). It still retains the original Jacobean furnishings and fittings typical of a Puritan place of worship, such as box pews, a reading desk, and communion table, not an altar. the slightly raised chancel is paved with re-used medieval tiles.
Read more about the chapel and its origins below. Just click to view a larger image.
Founded in 1135 by Richard de Clinton, Bishop of Coventry, Buildwas Abbey was originally a Savignac monastery that eventually merged with the Cistercians. Situated on the Welsh borders, it suffered frequently in the civil turmoil and was often raided by Welsh princes. It was closed in 1536 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII.
We were the only visitors (as at Langley Chapel). It was a haven of peace, and sitting there in the sun, taking in the beauty of the ruins, and some the fine dressed stone that can still be seen, many thoughts raced through my mind about the people and events that those noble ruins must have seen.
A particular fine feature is the Chapter House, with its columns and beautiful vaulted ceiling, and medieval tiles paving the central part of the floor.
These monks certainly knew how to choose a location to build their communities.