Shropshire History


Religious Buildings


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As well as churches and chapels, there were a number of religious sites in Shropshire but these were closed by Henry VIII in the “Dissolution of the Abbeys”.


By 1530, Henry VIII was looking to divorce his first wife, Catharine of Aragon, but he had a problem in that the Catholic religion did not allow divorce and the Pope in Rome refused his request. As the Pope wouldn’t grant permission, Henry took a drastic step and claimed jurisdiction over the Church of England. In 1534, he issued the Act of Royal Supremacy which stated that the English Crown was reclaiming powers that it had always possessed but that had been commandeered by Rome.

As the monks and nuns were still loyal to the Pope, they posed a problem for Henry and he decided to get rid of them. They were some of the wealthiest people at the time and they not only appeared to live quite comfortable lives but also owned large areas of land, which provided them with additional income as they could rent it out or farm it.

In 1535, Henry sent out inspectors to the monasteries in England to write reports on their wealth and moral conduct. Many of the reports which favoured the monasteries were sent back and the inspectors ordered to be more critical. He then set about closing the monasteries and seizing the property for the Crown. This process was known as the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The smaller monasteries were closed by 1536, with the larger ones following over the next four years. Some of the monastery buildings were quickly reduced to ruins as the population was allowed to take what they wanted as long as all the silver and gold went to the Crown.


Abbey is a religious community of monks or nuns that has an abbot or abbess as its leader. There must be at least twelve inhabitants and it is usually built around a walled-in quadrangle that contains a novitiate, guest house, choir, oratory for prayer, infirmary, conference room, kitchen, refectory, dormitory, cellars, parlour and a chapter house for private meetings. Benedictine and Cistercian Orders have abbeys, while most other orders call them monasteries. The abbot (abbess) enjoys the same powers as a bishop and has independent power over the abbey which the local bishop has no authority over because an abbey is usually a territorial jurisdiction.


Friary is a small community of friars who work in the local community and only come together for prayer and accommodation


Grange is a farm (occasionally some distance from the religious house it belongs to) that produces food for consumption or sale.


Minster is a title first used in the 7th Century to designate any settlement of clergy living a communal life and endowed by charter with the obligation of maintaining the daily office of prayer. They were widespread in the 10th Century but declined in importance with the introduction of parishes and parish churches from the 11th Century onwards. It continued as a title of dignity in later medieval England, for instances where a cathedral had originated with an Anglo-Saxon foundation. Eventually a minster came to refer more generally to any large or important church, especially a collegiate or cathedral church.


Monastery is a building where people live the monastic life, ie monks or nuns. The inhabitants usually prefer separation from the world and can exist as small communities.


Preceptory is a community of medieval Knights Templars located on a provincial estate.


Priory is a monastery of men or women under religious vows that is headed by a prior or prioress. Priories may be houses of mendicant friars, religious sisters or monasteries of monks or nuns. Houses of canons regular and canonesses regular also use this term.  They are subsidiary to an abbey. A Conventual Priory is an autonomous house that has no abbot, either because the required number of twelve monks has not yet been reached or for some other reason.


Augustinians (Order of Hermits of St Augustine) are a Roman Catholic order founded in 1256 by Saint Augustine of Hippo.  He led a monastic life with some friends and religious vows were not obligatory but the possession of private property was prohibited. Their manner of life led others to imitate them.  They wear a belted black tunic.


Benedictines (Order of Saint Benedict)are a Roman Catholic order founded in 529 by  Saint Benedict of Nursia. They wear a black habit and are sometimes called Black Monks.


Carmellites (Order of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel) are a Roman Catholic order founded in 1214. Their guiding principles are prayer, community and service.  There are three orders, Friars (who are active in the community), Nuns (who are cloistered) and Lay Brothers who continue to live in the world and can be married. There are also offshoots such as active Carmelite sisters. The Friars are often known as the Whitefriars because of their white habit.


Cistercians (Order of St Bernard of Clairvaux) are a Roman Catholic order founded in 1098 by St Bernard.  The original emphasis was on manual labour and self-sufficiency, many abbeys have traditionally supported themselves through activities such as agriculture and brewing. Over the centuries, however, education and academic pursuits came to dominate the life of the monasteries. Often called the White Monks because of their white habit, over which they wear a black scapular.


Dominicans (Order of Preachers) are a Roman Catholic religious order founded by the Spanish priest Saint Dominic de Guzman in France in 1216. Membership in the Order includes friars, nuns, active sisters and lay or secular Dominicans (formerly known as tertiaries) affiliated with the Order. It was founded to preach the Gospel and to combat heresy, being famed for its intellectual tradition. In England and other countries, the Dominican friars are referred to as “Black Friars” because of the black cloak they wear over their white habits.


Franciscans (Seraphic Order) are a Roman Catholic order founded in 1209 Saint by Saint Francis of Assisi. They seek to follow a life of poverty to emulate that of Saint Francis and are often known as the Greyfriars because of their grey habit.


Canons Regular are priests living in a community under the Augustinian Rule and sharing their property in common. Distinct from monks, who live a cloistered life, the purpose of a canon is to engage in public ministry. They are sometimes called Black or White Canons, depending on the colour of the habit worn by the congregation to which they belong


Secular Canons are a community of priests attached to a church but they do not take vows or live in common.


Friars were monks of any of the religious orders who regularly visited the local community healing the sick and helping the poor




Alderbury Friary


Augustinian Friaries in Shropshire


Bridgnorth Franciscan Friary


Buildwas Abbey


Chirbury Priory


Franciscan Friaries in Shropshire


Haughmond Abbey


Lilleshall Abbey


Ludlow Augustinian Friary


Ludlow Carmelite Friary


Shrewsbury Augustinian Friary


Shrewsbury Dominican Friary


Shrewsbury Franciscan Friary


Wenlock Priory


Woodhouse Friary




Gazetteer of Sites


Alberbury Priory (SJ375152)

Founded in 1221 as an Augustinian monastery dependent on Lilleshall Abbey but in 1230 became one of three monasteries of the Grandmontine Order. It remained so until the expulsion of alien orders in 1414, when it became the property of All Souls College, Oxford and was maintained as a chantry chapel. It was closed in 1547 and converted into White Abbey Farm.


Bridgnorth Greyfriars (SO718935)

Founded around 1230 by Ralph le Strange as a Franciscan friary on the poorer side of town on a strip of land on the banks of the River Severn. It was closed in 1538 and surface remains destroyed by later building.


Bromfield Priory (SO482768)

By 1060, Bromfield church was a wealthy minster, served by twelve Benedictine canons and it subsequently became dependency of Gloucester Abbey.  It was closed in 1538 and part became the parish church.


Buildwas Abbey (SJ643043)

Founded for the Savignac order in 1135 by Roger de Clinton, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and inhabited by a small community of monks from Furness Abbey. It then became the Cistercian Abbey of St Mary and St Chad when the two orders were united in 1147. It was closed in 1536 and substantial ruins now in the care of English Heritage.


Chirbury Priory (SO262985)

Founded in 1190 by Robert de Buthlers, Lord of Montgomery for Augustinian canons. It was closed in 1536 and became St Michael’s Church.


Church Preen Priory (SO543981)

Founded in 1150 as a cell for two monks and two lay brothers, being a dependency of the Cluniac Priory of Wenlock. Closed in 1539 and part became the parish church.


Donnington Wood Abbey (SJ8106)

Founded in 1144 for Augustinian canons regular, who moved from Lizard Abbey.  It did not last long and was closed in 1148 when the canons moved to Lilleshall Abbey. All traces destroyed by later building.

Great Oxenbold Grange (SO 592920)

Medieval settlement acquired as a grange by Wenlock Priory in 1250. The settlement survived until the early 16th century. Visible as a series of earthworks including hollow ways and building platforms.


Halston Preceptory (SJ339313)

Founded in 1165 by Roger de Powys, Lord of Whittington, as a preceptory of the Knights Hospitallers.  Closed in 1539 and the only surface remains are those of the timber-framed chapel.


Hatton Grange (SJ763043)

Founded in 1227 by Cistercian monks from Buildwas Abbey. Closed in 1540 and there are no surface remains.

Haughmond Abbey (SJ542152)

Founded in 1110 by William FitzAlan of Clun for Augustinian Canons Regular. Closed in 1539 and substantial ruins now in the care of English Heritage.


Helshaw Grange (SJ639295)

Founded in the early 13th Century by monks from the Cistercian Comberemere Abbey. Demolished in the early 19th Century and no surface remains.


Lilleshall Abbey (SJ737141)

Founded in 1148 by Augustinian Canons Regular who moved from Donnington Wood Abbey. Closed in 1538 and substantial ruins in the care of English Heritage.


Lizard Grange (SJ788101)

Founded in 1143 by Augustinian Canons Regular as an Abbey but then downgraded to a grange when they moved to Donnington Wood Abbey in 1144. Closed in 1538 and no surface remains.


Ludlow Austin Friars (SO512728)

Founded in 1254 as an Augustinian Friary.  Closed in 1538 and all surface remains destroyed when building the cattle market.


Ludlow Whitefriars (SO511747)

Founded in 1350 by Lawrence of Ludlow as a Carmellite Friary. Closed in 1538 and surface remains destroyed when  building St Leonard’s Church.

Lydley Hays Preceptory (SO490976)

Founded in 1155 by William Fitzalan as a preceptory for the Knights Templar. Closed in 1308 and surface remains destroyed when building Penkridge Hall.


Morville Priory (SO669939)

Founded in the early 11th Century as a priory cell of Benedictine monks dependent on Shrewsbury Abbey. Closed in 1540 and surface remains destroyed when building Morville Hall.


Neachley Grange (SJ788061)

Founded in 1186 as a grange for the Augustinian Canonesses at White Ladies Abbey. Closed in 1538 and no surface remains.


Orthodox Monastery of St Anthony & St Cuthbert (SO381998)

Small monastery formed in 1959 under the Orthodox Church, solely occupied by Father Silouan. There are 3 cells for the use of day visitors.


Ratlinghope Priory (SO403970)

Founded in the late 12th Century by Augustinian Canons Regular as a dependency of Wigmore Abbey. Closed in 1538 and no surface remains.


Ridgewardine Grange (SJ678381)

Founded in the late 11th Century as a grange for Shrewsbury Abbey. Closed in 1540 and no surface remains.


Shrewsbury Abbey (SJ499125)

Founded in 1083 by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel, as a Benedictine abbey. Closed in 1540 and much of the present Abbey dates from that time.

Shrewsbury Austin Friars (SJ487126)

Founded in 1255 by the Stafford family as an Augustinian Friary, sited at “Coulon” north of the castle which is probably Coton Hill. It then transferred to the new site near Barker Street in 1290. Closed in 1538 and surface remains destroyed when building Priory School.


Shrewsbury Blackfriars (SJ493126)

Founded in 1230 by Lady Genevile, for Dominican friars. Closed in 1539 and surface remains destroyed when building the Blackfriars Apartments.

Shrewsbury Greyfriars (SJ494121)

Founded in 1245 by Hawise, Countess of Powys, for Franciscan Friars Minor from Worcester Abbey. Closed in 1538 and one building remains that has been converted into apartments.

Snead Priory (SO313917)

Founded in 1190 by Robert de Buthlers, Lord of Montgomery, for Augustinian Canons Regular.  Closed in 1195 when they moved to Chirbury Priory and no surface remains.


Stanton Long Grange (SO568898)

Founded in 1221 as a grange for the Knights Templar. Closed in 1308 and no surface remains.

Wenlock Nunnery (SJ624000)

Founded 680 by St Milburga for Saxon nuns. Closed in the 11th Century. An L-shaped stone building with two storeys remains and is in private hands.


Wenlock Priory (SJ624000)

Founded 1050 by Earl Leofric for Clauniac monks, utilising ruins of the old Wenlock Nunnery. Closed 1540 and substantial ruins now in care of English Heritage.


White Ladies Priory (SJ826076)

Founded in 1119 for Augustinian Canonesses.  Closed in 1538 and substantial remains in the care of English Heritage.

Wombridge Priory (SJ690116)

Founded 1130 by William FitzAlan de Hadley for Augustinian Canons Regular. Closed in 1536 and surface remains destroyed when building the parish church.


Woodhouse Austin Friars (SO646771)

Founded 1250 by the Turberville family for Augustinian Friars. Closed 1538 and surface remains destroyed when building house on site.