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.
Discover the Norman chapter house, built around 1140 as the “business” centre of the monastery, where the monks and the prior met each morning to discuss affairs, and administer punishments for disobedience.
Today, you can still see much of its elaborate stone carving, with interlocking round arches on multiple carved columns, and don’t miss the grotesque head, humorously carved in the lintel of the doorway
Take time to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the topiary-filled cloister garden, which is set against the backdrop of the complete infirmary wing, converted into a mansion after the priory’s dissolution and still a private residence today.
Make sure you see the most unusual octagonal lavabo, the huge water vessel built around 1220 and used by monks to wash their hands before eating in the nearby refectory. Embellished with 12th-century carvings, depicting Christ and the apostles, free-standing lavabos of this kind are rarely seen in the United Kingdom.
Visit the priory’s library and discover the locally-made medieval floor tiles, which have been re-laid to give an impression of what they would have originally looked like.
Notice the difference in the three doorways of the library, the central archway was the original entrance; the other two were added after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, when the priory was used as a farm.
Whilst you are here:
Pay-and-display car parking for 25 vehicles right outside the priory, that charges £1 per day. Additional pay-and-display parking is available in Wenlock town centre (approximately 5 minutes walk from the Priory). There is a pay and display car park in the centre of Wenlock town, approximately a 5 minute walk from the Priory.
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. There is an Olympics trail around town showing the sites.