Shropshire Star

Grade-I listed Much Wenlock medieval building added to at risk list due to 'poor condition'

A Grade I-listed medieval building in Shropshire which is rich in history, has been added to Historic England's 'Heritage at Risk' register.

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Priory House, Much Wenlock. Photo: Historic England Archive

Heritage experts have today revealed the ancient Priory House, which is part of the wider Wenlock Abbey, in Much Wenlock, is in "poor condition".

It is one of just 19 historic buildings and sites that have been added to the Register in the West Midlands because they are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.

The site itself dates back to the 7th century, when an Anglo-Saxon monastery was founded in about 680 by King Merewalh of Mercia – a sub-king of the 'Magonsæte' (the great Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia).

Merewalh's daughter Milburga, who later became Saint Milburga, became its second abbess – at that time it was a double monastery which meant it housed both monks and nuns.

Priory House, Much Wenlock. Photo: Historic England Archive
Priory House, Much Wenlock. Photo: Historic England Archive

The priory continued to be inhabited by monks at least until the mid 11th century, when endowments were made by Leofric, Earl of Mercia.

In 1540, the Priory fell victim to the Dissolution as a result of England's separation from papal authority – valuables were removed from the site including lead from the church roof.

The Priory site and land were purchased by the Lawley family and their successors occupied the 15th century Prior's Lodging and 12th century Infirmary which subsequently became known as the 'Abbey House'.

In 1983 the house was bought by artist Louis de Wet who restored the ancient fabric whilst re-interpreting some of the interiors to create ‘a new link in an old chain’.

The house has survived as a private residence to this day with few alterations.

Across the West Midlands, significant sites have been added to the Heritage at Risk Register 2023, including Holbeche House in Dudley, which has a direct link to the Gunpowder Plot.

In 2022-2023, Historic England was awarded £515,000 in grants for repairs to 18 historic places and sites in the West Midlands that are on the Heritage at Risk Register.

Many buildings and sites have been rescued with the help of local people, communities, charities, owners and funders including The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first national Heritage at Risk Register.

Priory House, Much Wenlock. Photo: Historic England Archive

Louise Brennan, Historic England regional director (Midlands) said: “The strength and diversity of our heritage sites across the Midlands is something to be extremely proud of, to care for and preserve for future generations.

"After a quarter of a century of the Heritage at Risk Register, we are delighted that important sites such as the Main Mill at Ditherington Flax Mill (now known as ‘Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings’) and Evesham Abbey have been saved.

"We hope the Register continues to help save more irreplaceable heritage sites and encourages local people to care for and enjoy their heritage.”