Haughmond Abbey, Shropshire

Feature Sets (4)

Description

Haughmond Abbey lies 3 miles NE of Shrewsbury. The monastic site is built on a sloping hill. The 12thc original church (of which the foundations were brought to light during archaeological excavations in the 1950s) was replaced by the present, ruined building in the 13thc. A N aisle and N porch were added to the church in the late 13thc, whilst in the 15thc the chapel of St Anne was built N of the presbytery. The cloister adjoining the S transept was completed by end of the 12thc. The annexes were largely restored and, in some cases, rebuilt, from the 14thc onwards: the kitchens and the abbot's great hall were rebuilt during the 14thc, whilst the Chapter House was rebuilt in c.1500. 

The Romanesque parts of the ruined abbey comprise the entrance to the Chapter House, situated at the E end of the cloister, the processional doorway on the N side of the cloister leading into the nave of the church, a doorway in the W wall of the cloister, now blocked but formerly leading into the W range, a large lavatorium in the W wall of the cloister, blind arches in the SW of the refectory and sculptural fragments in the museum. 

History

A small community called Prior Fulk and his brethren was established in the later 11thc, and this was the nucleus of the Augustinian house founded formally in 1135.  The patrons were the Fitzalans, Lords of Oswestry and Clun. In the 12thc the abbey benefited from the generous patronage of Henry II, Empress Matilda, the Fitzalan family, and other notable families. The numerous endowments and grants received the papal confirmation in 1172. The abbey was suppressed in 1539 and was granted to Sir Edward Littleton in 1540; subsequently, the abbey was in the possession of Sir Rowland Hill and the Barker family.

Features

Exterior Features

Doorways

Chapter House entrance doorway

The entrance to the chapterhouse is the common 3-arched composition; the central arch forming the doorway (described here) and the flanking arches containing windows (described separately below.  The doorway is round-headed and of four orders.

Dimensions
Height of opening 4m
Width of opening 1.83m
3rd order capitals
3rd order, L capital, height (including necking) 0.30m
1st order capitals
1st order, L capital, height 0.29m
1st order, L capital, height (including necking) 0.32m
1st order, L capital, N face, width 0.21m
1st order, L capital, S face, width 0.19m
1st order, L capital, W face, width 0.20m
1st order, R capital, height (including necking) 0.31m
2nd order capitals
2nd order, L capital, height (including necking) 0.32m
1st order

In the arch there are plain voussoirs alternating with voussoirs decorated with nailhead ornament. The hollow chamfer imposts feature one horizontal groove on upright. The jambs are decorated with nail head ornament. The L capital is a modern copy. A stiff-leaf ornament decorates lower section of capital, whilst fleshy leaves are found in the upper part. The abacus and the necking are plain. The nook shaft is a later replacement. The bulbous base is original but, regrettably, very worn. Also the R capital features a stiff-leaf ornament in the lower section, and fleshy leaves in upper part. The N face is badly damaged. The abacus and the necking are plain. The nook shaft is a later replacement. The bulbous base, very worn, is original.

2nd order

This order features one edge roll in the arch. In the jambs, sculptures of saints are housed in niches. The hollow chamfer imposts feature one horizontal groove on upright, which is continuous with the first order. The L capital has an angle volute in shape of human head, but regrettably its face is damaged. The foliage decoration or, possibly, two further human heads on W and S faces of capital, is also badly damaged. The abacus and the necking are plain, being the latter much damaged. The plain monolithic nook shaft features a very damaged bulbous base. The R capital features a foliate decoration. A volute, now badly damaged, probably showing human head, seems to emerge from the foliage. The abacus, the necking, and the nook shaft with bulbous base are plain.

3rd order

It features one fillet running lengthwise across the arch, hollow chamfer on either side. The hollow chamfer imposts feature one horizontal groove on upright, which is continuous with the second order. The L capital has foliage ornament, concentrated in SW corner; there are also tendrils arch upwards and downwards. The abacus, the necking, and the nook shaft with bulbous base are plain. The R capital also features foliage ornament: the corner much damaged, but may originally have shown a human head emerging from foliage. There is no abacus. The nook shaft with bulbous base is plain.

4th order

This order features a triple roll-moulding in the arch. The hollow chamfer imposts feature one horizontal groove on upright, which is continuous with the previous orders. The L capital has a foliate decoration. The abacus and the necking are plain. The monolithic nook shaft is a later replacement. The bulbous base resembles that of the R capital of fourth order of L window (see below). The R plain block capital has a plain abacus and necking, and bulbous base. Its monolithic nookshaft is a later replacement. The label consists of a series of leaves or petals emerging from short cone-shaped buds. The foliage occurs on the face of the arch, as well as on the lower side of the label. On the L of the label, the leaves or petals are situated to R of the buds. On the R, they are to the L of the buds. On the R of the arch, the foliage is more prominent, assuming the shape of swirling leaves. Damaged human heads are carved on either side of label termination.

Doorway in W wall of cloister

In the W wall of the cloister there is a doorway that was blocked and a window inserted in the 16thc, presumably at the same time that the W cloister range was demolished.The doorway is round-headed and has one order. The voussoirs are plain and the imposts are hollow chamfered with one horizontal groove on upright. The L capital features swirling tendrils with foliage, but the NE angle is badly damaged. The abacus and the necking are plain. The R foliate capital has a damaged volute in the SE corner of capital. The necking, very worn, and the nook shafts are plain; it has bulbous bases.

Processional doorway

The doorway is sited in the N cloister walk at its W end, and gave access to the church. This doorway is round-headed and features four orders. The figures carved in the jambs date from the 14thc. The rere arch is much plainer but has suffered greater losses. It is round-headed and of 2 orders.

Dimensions
Height of opening 3.50m
Width of opening 1.51m
1st order

It has plain jambs, imposts and voussoirs.

2nd order

The voussoirs are plain; the hollow chamfer imposts, damaged, feature two horizontal grooves on the upright. The L capital is weathered and very damaged at the angle: it has a foliate decoration and one scalloped leaf on each face. The abacus, which is worn, features two horizontal grooves. Both the plain necking and the nook shaft are very eroded. The base, similarly very worn, appears to have been bulbous. The R capital has a large fan-shaped leaf set into larger fan-shape on S and W faces; two triangles border the leaf placed inside the larger fan-shape.

3rd order

The voussoirs plain, except for one horizontal groove running lengthwise across arch. The imposts are continuous with second order. The L and R jambs are carved with 14thc statue of a saint inserted in a Gothic niche.

4th order

In this order, each voussoir is decorated with two chevrons point to point on the edge, which turn into straight segments on the extrados and the soffit, forming a series of 'x'-shapes. There are two rows of straddling directional chevrons (alternate direction): the outer row is smaller than the inner, with short straight segments form a star-pattern in between 'x'-shapes. The imposts are continuous with the third order. The L capital features foliate decoration confined to the upper 2/3 of the capital. There are two superimposed scalloped leaves in the E faces of capital, regrettably very worn. The SE corner of the capital is badly damaged but may have been decorated with a human face. Also the two horizontal grooves on abacus are very worn. The R capital is carved with swirling tendrils, unfortunately worn. The abacus is also damaged. The necking is plain, an there is a monolithic nook shaft. The bases are similarly very worn but may have been bulbous. The label, very damaged, features a deeply carved foliage ornament consisting of scalloped leaves with tips pointing upwards, and swirling foliage.

Rere arch 1st order

Plain jambs carrying a segmental lintel and a plain coursed rubble tympanum

Rere arch 2nd order

It is round-headed, but unfortunately great part of the arch is missing; however, traces of carving in the surviving section of the arch on the L still survive. The hollow chamfer imposts feature one horizontal groove on upright, which turns into short segment of identically carved stringcourse on the L; this is missing on the R. The L capital features foliate decoration, plain necking, a nook shaft with triple shaft ring, and a torus base. The R capital is carved with acanthus foliage and features a plain necking; remains of shaft ring on nook shaft still survive. The torus base is similar to that of L capital. In both capitals the nook shafts are longer than those on exterior as nave is connected to cloister by means of steps leading down from cloister, which result in a taller doorway on the interior. A tiny segment of the label survives on L and a lozenge ornament, very weathered, is still visible.

Windows

Window to N of Chapter House entrance

Flanking the chapterhouse entrance doorway are windows to N and S. These are single order pointed double openings as described below, and are set within 4-order round-headed enclosing arches, also described here and in the next section.

Dimensions
Height of opening 1.50m
Width of opening 0.85m
Window opening

Originally a double opening, pointed with a central shaft that is now lost. The jambs have paired engaged half-shafts with glat leaf (N or plain concave bell capitals with plain neckings and quirked hollow chamfered imposts. The arches have keeled angle rolls between face and soffit hollows.

Enclosing arch 1st order

The voussoirs are plain; the hollow chamfer imposts feature one horizontal groove on the upright. The L capital has stiff-leaf foliage decoration. The abacus is plain and the base is square. Regrettably the necking and the nook shaft are missing. The R stiff-leaf capital is a later replacement; it features a plain abacus, a monolithic nook shaft, and a square base. The nook shafts of first order are shorter than those of second, third and fourth orders.

Enclosing arch 2nd order

The voussoirs are plain and the imposts are continuous with the first order. The L capital is badly damaged but may have been carved with a stiff-leaf foliage decoration. The abacus is similarly weathered and damaged. The necking is plain, the nook shaft consists of two elements, and the base is square. The R stiff-leaf capital is a later replacement; it features a plain abacus, a monolithic nook shaft, and a square base.

Enclosing arch 3rd order

The voussoirs are plain and the imposts are continuous with the second order. The L capital features a stiff-leaf decoration and is very weathered. The necking is plain, the nook shaft consists of two elements, and the base is square. The R stiff-leaf capital is a later replacement; it features a plain abacus, a monolithic nook shaft, and a square base.

Enclosing arch 4th order

There is a roll-moulding in the arch, damaged on the L. The imposts are continuous with the previous orders. The L capital is weathered and has plain abacus and necking. The nook shaft missing. The base is square. The R capital is foliate and has a plain abacus and necking. The monolithic nook shaft is a later replacement. It features a bulbous base. The label is chamfered; a horizontal groove runs lengthwise across the arch.

Window to S of Chapter House entrance

As its companion to the N of the entrance doorway.

Dimensions
Height of L capital of third order 0.21m
Height of opening 1.50m
Width of L capital of third order, S face 0.19m
Width of L capital of third order, W face 0.20m
Width of opening 0.86m
Window opening

As on the N side except for the jamb shaftccapitals, which are all concave block capitals.. Again the central shaft is lost. 

Enclosing arch 1st order

The voussoirs are plain; the hollow chamfer imposts feature one horizontal groove on the upright. On the L, the plain block capital has a plain abacus, plain necking, and nook shaft: the base is square. The R capital is similar to the L one and has a plain abacus and necking, a monolithic nook shaft, and a square base. The nook shafts of the first order are shorter than those of second, third and fourth orders.

Enclosing arch 2nd order

It has plain voussoirs and imposts continuous with the first order. The plain L block capital and the abacus are weathered. The necking is plain; the nooks shaft is very weathered, and the base is square. The R plain block capital is similarly weathered; it features a plain abacus, a monolithic nook shaft, and a square base.

Enclosing arch 3rd order

It is hollow chamfer, with one fillet running lengthwise across the arch. The imposts are continuous with the first and the second orders. The L foliated capital has a plain necking, a monolithic nook shaft, and a square base. The R plain block capital and its abacus are very weathered; the nook shaft is plain, and the base is square.

Enclosing arch 4th order

There is a roll-moulding in the arch, damaged on the L. The imposts are continuous with the previous orders. The L plain block capital has a plain abacus, a monolithic nook shaft, and a bulbous base which are all later replacements (capital and nook shaft resemble those on R of fourth order of the Chapter House entrance). The R plain block capital and abacus are very weathered; the nook shaft is missing. It has a bulbous base. The label consists of a series of trumpet-shaped flowers arranged lengthwise across the arch; however, extensive sections of it are missing on the L and R sides of the arch. A much-damaged human head is situated at the apex of the label. On the S side of label the termination survives in the shape of an animal head, possibly a bird with a large beak.

Exterior Decoration

Arcading

Cloister lavatorium

A double-arched lavatorium is located in the SW corner of the cloister.

Dimensions
Height of individual arch 6m
Width of individual arch 4m
L arch, 1st order

It features plain voussoirs and chamfered imposts, with foliage ornament on chamfer and two horizontal grooves on upright. The R impost is very damaged. The L capital has a stiff-leaf foliage and a plain abacus and necking; the nook shaft is missing. The R capital is Corinthian but its angle volute is very damaged; it has a plain abacus and necking, and nook shaft with shaft ring, a base, which are all much damaged. The filletted colonnettes to R of L capital and to L of R capital are similarly very eroded.

L arch, 2nd order

The voussoirs are plain and the imposts (very damaged on the R) are continuous with the first order. The L capital is Corinthian and features a plain abacus and necking; the nook shaft is missing. The R capital has a very worn stiff-leaf decoration; its nook shaft is missing. The bases are very worn, but probably may have been bulbous. The filletted colonnettes to R of L capital and to L of R capital are similarly very eroded.

R arch, 1st order

It features plain voussoirs. The L impost is continuous with the R impost of the L arch. Although the imposts are very damaged, extensive traces of foliage ornament still survive. The L capital is Corinthian and features one horizontal groove on abacus and a plain necking; its nook shaft is missing. The R capital is carved with a foliate decoration, and the edges of some leaves feature a bead ornament; there is one horizontal groove on abacus. The nook shaft has a double shaft ring in centre, but the area between the two rings, very damaged, may have been bulbous. The colonnettes on L and R of capital are filletted, though the R colonnette is damaged.

R arch, 2nd order

It features plain voussoirs and imposts as in the first order. The L capital is identical with the R capital of the second order of the L arch and features a very worn stiff-leaf carving; its nook shaft is missing. The R capital and its abacus are damaged, but remains of foliage ornament on capital and of one horizontal groove on abacus still survive. The nook shaft is missing.

Interior Features

Interior Decoration

Blind arcades

Refectory SW angle blind arcading

A blind arcade of 3 arches on the SW inner angle of the refectory survives in a fragmentary state. 2 arches are on the S wall and one on the E wall. In the descriptions that follow numbering begins at the L (i.e. the E end of the S wall. The arch supports were originally en-delit shafts, of which shat 2 is lost. Arches are badly erododed but all consist of an inner, pointed and chamfered arch and an outer arch with a double roll on the face.

Capital 1 (E end)

Tall capital with a roll necking and pointed flat leaves on the angles with crockets at their tips on the outer leaves only. 

Capital 2

Tall capital with a roll necking and keeled leaves on stems at the angles. 

Capital 4 (N end)

Similar to capital 3.

Capital 3 (in SW angle)

Tall capital with a roll necking and fluted, pointed flat leaves.

Loose Sculpture

Capital (cat. no. 78204002)

It features two scalloped ribbed leaves pointing outwards at top, with a ball placed between them. The ribbed stems turn into a trilobed leaf that furls outwards and downwards in the centre of the capital. The sculpture is probably a fragment on an engaged shaft of a doorway.

Dimensions

Diameter 0.19m
Height 0.22m
Width 0.17m

Capital with tendrils (cat. no. 78204060)

It is decorated with two plain tendrils forking out from the lower end of the capital curving upwards and outwards. There is a roll-moulding in the abacus. The piece probably belonged to the cloister arcade.

Dimensions

Height 0.26m

Corbel (cat. no. 78204150)

It is carved with flat, unornamented leaves.

Dimensions

Diameter 0.19m
Height 0.20m
Width (maximum) 0.36 m

Decorated slab (cat. no. 7820414)

The slab is decorated with one row of lozenges and, perhaps, is a fragment of a stringcourse; the piece is cracked. It dates to the late 12thc and belongs to the rebuilt abbey.

Dimensions

Diameter 0.323m
Height 0.12m
Width 0.32m

Double scallop capital (cat no. 78204163)

This capital features protruding cones separated by a deep semi-circular hollow. It is dated to c.1140-80, and is considered to belong to the first abbey church.

Dimensions

Diameter 0.10m
Height 0.15m
Width 0.12m

Double waterholding base (cat. no. 78204009)

This double waterholding base was possibly part of the cloister arcade and dates to the late 12thc.

Dimensions

Diameter 0.225m
Height 0.145m
Width 0.34m

Foliate capital (cat. no. 78204155)

This capital features a large and flat leaf at angle, with the leaf tips furling outwards and downwards. Two fillets slant inwards to meet at the top of the leaf just underneath the inward curving leaves. It was probably part of an engaged shaft and dates to the late 12thc.

Dimensions

Diameter 0.15m
Height 0.16m
Width 0.16m

Foliate fragment (cat. no. 78204059)

This fragment is decorated with scalloped leaves and swirling tendrils.

Dimensions

Height (maximum) 0.34m
Width (maximum) 0.34m

Fragment of a statue of the Virgin and Child (cat. no. 78204156)

The Virgin is seated on what appears to be a rainbow visible on the R and is holds the Christ Child in her L arm. The heads are missing and the upper parts of the bodies are damaged. Extensive traces of polychromy are visible. This fragments hails from the cloister and dates between the late 12th and the early 13thc.

Dimensions

Height 0.68m
Width (maximum) 0.41m

Fragment of tympanum (cat. no. 78204015)

It is carved with two scalloped leaves with ribbed surface. The top ends of leaves turn into long tendrils, which bend inwards and downwards. Between leaves, two fluted tendrils curves outwards. Remains of foliage are visible on the R of the fragment.

Dimensions

Height 0.19m
Width 0.36m

Fragments of a basin (cat. nos. 78204018, 7880041)

These two fragments are probably from a basin, perhaps a piscina or a holy water stoup, and date to the late 12thc. One fragment (cat. no. 78204018) is decorated with furling ribbed trefoil leaves, whilst the other (cat. no. 7880041) features two crossed stems with furling leaves decorated with bead ornament above.

Dimensions

Height (maximum) of no. 47780014 0.27m
Height (maximum) of no. 78204018 0.23m
Width (maximum) of no. 47780014 0.18m
Width (maximum) of no. 78204018 0.21m

Head of beast (cat. no. 78204160)

The head is flat and features oval eyes with drilled pupils, a prominent, wide, round muzzle, and two rows of large teeth. It may have been carved for a label stop of the first church, and dates to c.1140-80.

Dimensions

Height 0.11m
Width (maximum) 0.23m

Plain bulbous base (cat. no. 7820465)

It is carved in green sandstone and is a sculptural fragment of the first church (c.1140-80).

Dimensions

Diameter 0.20m
Height 0.17m
Width 0.33m

Slab with dogtooth ornament (cat. no. 78204067)

The slab is decorated with dogtooth ornament. It was probably part of the internal string course of the cloister arcade and is dated to the early 13thc.

Dimensions

Diameter 0.27m
Height 0.14m
Width 0.42m

Waterholding base (cat. no. 78204012)

This double waterholding base probably hails from the cloister arcade, and is dated to the late 12thc.

Dimensions

Diameter 0.225m
Height 0.19m
Width 0.22m

Comments/Opinions

Provenance and dates of the sculptural fragments kept in the museum are according to their labels. The most spectacular of the Romanesque sculpture still in place belongs to the chapterhouse entrance and the processional dooway: both of the late-12thc and both embellished with additional figures odf standing saints in the jambs in the 14thc.

Bibliography

  • B. Botfield, 'Shropshire, its history and antiquities. An address to the British Archaeological Association assembled in Congress at Shrewsbury, August 6th, 1860', inĀ Collectanea archaeologica: communications made to the British Archaeological Association, Vol. I, London 1862, 27-8.

  • G. Chitty, Haughmond Abbey: Guide Leaflet, 1992.

  • R. W. Eyton, Antiquities of Shropshire, London 1859, vol. 7, 282-303.

  • I. Ferris, Haughmond Abbey, Lilleshall Abbey, Moreton Corbet Castle, Shropshire. English Heritage Gyuuidebook 2000 (reprinted 2015), 3-14.

  • Historic England Listed BuildingĀ 361543

  • J. Newman and N. Pevsner, Buildings of England: Shropshire, London, 2006, 285-90.

  • N. Pevsner, Buildings of England: Shropshire, Harmondsworth 1958, 140-3.

  • Victoria County History: Shropshire, 2, 1973, 62-70.

Location

Site Location
Haughmond Abbey
National Grid Reference
SJ 542 152 
Boundaries
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Shropshire
now: Shropshire
Diocese
medieval: Lichfield (to 1075); Chester (to c.1086); Coventry and Lichfield (to 1541)
now: Lichfield
Dedication
now:
medieval: St John the Evangelist (Botfield 1862)
Type of building/monument
Abbey  
Report authors
Barbara Zeitler, Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
25 October 1997