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Historic England Research Records

Vale Royal Abbey

Hob Uid: 72883
Location :
Cheshire West and Chester
Whitegate and Marton
Grid Ref : SJ6388069850
Summary : The Cistercian abbey of St Mary was founded on the banks of the River Weaver in 1277 under the patronage of Edward I. The community was set up at Darnhall on the lands of a royal estate and Edward moved the foundation to the present site in 1281. Building work was halted in about 1290 when royal patronage was withdrawn, but was resumed in 1353 under the Black Prince and continued, with various setbacks including the collapse of the nave, until about 1380. The abbey was supressed in 1539 and in 1543 the buildings and estate was sold to Thomas Holcroft who demolished most of the abbey buildings and sold or re-used the materials to build his country house on the site. He remodelled the west range of claustral buildings of the abbey to create the core of the house. Further remodellings have created what now appears as a major 19th century house. When the building work of the abbey was completed the abbey church was the longest built by the Cistercian order in England. It stood on the north side of the monastic complex. Work on the claustral buildings has been shown by excavation to have been less grand and some of the work may never have been completed to the original plan. The church formed the north side of the cloister. The refectory and kitchen on the south side of the cloister were later remodelled as the south wing of Holcroft's House. On the east side was a large chapter house whilst the size of the cloister garth was one of the largest in England. Further buried remains of ancillary buildings have been located in the garden of Bell Cottage to the south of the southern claustral buildings whilst buried remains also exists around the present house. A system of fishponds were recorded at NGR 63107030 which are no longer identifiable but are thought to have been monastic in origin. In the centre of the site of the abbey church there is now a cross known as the Nun's Grave, which has been rescued and re-erected. Scheduled.
More information : [SJ 6388 6985] Vale Royal on site of [T.I.] St. Mary's
Abbey [G.T.] Cistercian founded AD 1274 [T.I.]
[Name Centred SJ 6401 6968] Monk's Well [G.T.]
[SJ 63956990] Nun's Grave [G.T.] (1)

The Cistercian Abbey at Vale Royal was formerly at Darnhall
[SJ 66 SW 2.] In 1277 work was begun on the new site at Vale
Royal, to which the monks moved in 1281. Dissolved 1539. (2)

No trace of Monastic buildings is visible in the structure of
the present Vale Royal House.
At SJ 6392 6991 is a modern stone incised with the outline of a
cruciform church. Mr. Thompson, curator of the Grosvenor House
Museum, states that this marks the probable centre of the
Monastic Church, as deduced from excavations in 1911-12 and
1958.
The "Monks Well" is a small circular ornamental pond, at SJ 6401
6968, with a stone pedestal surmounted by the figure of a bishop
at its centre. Its stone surround is modern. (See GP A0/62/9/6).
The 'Nuns Grave' is marked by a pillar bearing an ornately
carved four-sided head with inset figures on all four faces.
It is mounted on a platform of pillar segments and surrounded
by a border of broken masonry. The whole is evidently constructed
from fragments of the monastic building (See GP A0/62/9/5). (3)

The cross head referred to has been removed and is stored inside
Vale Royal. (4)

Excavation report. (5)

SJ 638699. Vale Royal Abbey. Additional references. (6-7)

Scheduled (8)

3/23 II Vale Royal including small "black and white"
building near Stables.
*This is one of the most historic sites in Cheshire and it would
need a very long account to detail its many associations. A
Cistercian monastery was founded here by Edward I, who, with his
Queen Eleanor, laid the first stone in 1277. This Abbey became
rich and powerful and was also a sort of nucleus of the
Forest of Delamere. At the Reformation it passed into the hands
of the Holcrofts and from them to the Cholmondeleys who have
owned it down to the present Lord Delamere. It has recently been
acquired by the Cheshire County Council. Of the mediaeval Abbey
only a few foundation ruins remain. The mansion is very large but
has undergone many alterations and additions and is rather
disappointing architecturaly. It was mainly rebuilt by the
Holcrofts in the time of Queen Elizabeth but little or none
of this rebuilding now remains.
Present house has front block surrounding 3 sides of court
with centre block and projecting side wings. This is two-storey,
sandstone, with pilasters, parapet and hipped slated roof.
Centre part is prob. C.17 nucleus but from information of old
prints, structure is mainly late C.18 or early C.19 reconstruction.

At rear of R. H. wing is very large wing, late C.19 alterations
and additions, Victorian Tudor, brick with stone dressings, slate
roof, clock tower etc.
Windows to old block are gen. mullion and transome casements
(some sash with g.b.) in cavetto stone reveals with key blocks.
Projecting wings are terminated by 2 st. half-hexagonal bays.
Central entrance porch, Gothic arch flanked by stone coat of
arms, embattled parapet over. Massive C.16 - C.17 studded oak
door, later glazed ditto in front of same.
Interior Main reception rooms are on first floor, including large
Saloon, C.17 restored, decorated timber roof; Library with good
C.17 wood work, enriched door case and mantel; Dining Room with
good enriched C.18 wood work. There is also the Oak Room in
which are C.16 carved panels and c.17 dado panelling and tablets
recording foundation of Abbey and also visits of King Venry VII
and King James I. Small C.18 plain Saloon; stone staircase
with C.17 wood balusters, etc. Generally heteroganeous owing to many
alterations.
Large gardens, park etc. many outbuildings, stables, cottages,
lodges etc. All these are of no interest except a small "black
and white" building adjoining stables, timber framing removed
from N. E. front of House and re-erectd here in 1858. (9)

Turn off A556 to Whitegate, opposite church. Follow drive for 3/4m. Bell Cottage to rear of Vale Royal Abbey.
Bell Cottage. This three-acre plantsman's garden has two quite separate parts. The smaller lies to the front of the cottage where a lawn, rockery and alpine garden stand between the house and the woodland below. Behind the cottage is the walled garden which was once the kitchen garden to Lord Delamere's home, Vale Royal Abbey. A small arboretum adds interest to a far corner of the garden. The soil is acid, so many shade- and acid-loving plants thrive on the wooded slope. (10)

Architectural survey of surviving fabric. (11)

Vale Royal Abbey. Country house, formerly abbey buildings.
Grade 2*. (12)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 25" 1910
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Medieval religious houses : England and Wales
Source details :
Page(s) : 117
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : Cheshire archaeological bulletin
Source details : R McNeil
Page(s) : 24-27
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 10, 1984/5
Source Number : 12
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Vale Royal, 12-MAR-1986
Page(s) : 66-8
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 13
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 24-Nov-99
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 TPW 01-MAR-62
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F2 JR 29-MAY-64
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : FH Thompson
Page(s) : 183-207
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 42, 1962
Source Number : 6
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details : DM Wilson and JG Hurst
Page(s) : 302-3
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 3, 1959
Source Number : 7
Source : A history of the county of Chester, volume 3
Source details :
Page(s) : 156-65
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : List of ancient monuments in England: Volume 1, Northern England; Volume 2, Southern England; Volume 3, East Anglia and the Midlands
Source details :
Page(s) : 21
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 3
Source Number : 9
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Winsford UD, APR-1948 (Provisional List)
Page(s) : 06-Jul
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 10
Source : The Shell guide to the gardens of England and Wales
Source details :
Page(s) : 55
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : 1281 to 1539
Monument End Date : 1539
Monument Start Date : 1281
Monument Type : Abbey, Church, Chapter House, Cloister, Refectory, Kitchen, Fishpond
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Extant Building, Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Moved to present site in 1281
Monument End Date : 1281
Monument Start Date : 1281
Monument Type : Cistercian Monastery, Abbey
Evidence : Extant Building, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Dissolved in 1539
Monument End Date : 1539
Monument Start Date : 1539
Monument Type : Abbey, Cistercian Monastery
Evidence : Extant Building, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : C16 (from 1543)
Monument End Date : 1599
Monument Start Date : 1543
Monument Type : Country House
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : C19
Monument End Date : 1900
Monument Start Date : 1801
Monument Type : Country House
Evidence : Extant Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : CH 76
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 30398
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 57399
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : NBR Index Number
External Cross Reference Number : 32824
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SJ 66 NW 3
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 72871
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 72938
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 73051
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, ST MARY'S ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1911-01-01
End Date : 1912-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ST MARY'S ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1958-01-01
End Date : 1958-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SJ 66 NW 3
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1962-03-01
End Date : 1962-03-01
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SJ 66 NW 3
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1964-05-29
End Date : 1964-05-29
Associated Activities : Primary, VALE ROYAL
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1989-01-01
End Date : 1989-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, VALE ROYAL ABBEY (ST MARY'S ABBEY)
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, VALE ROYAL GOLF COURSE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1996-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, VALE ROYAL ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1997-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, VALE ROYAL ABBEY (SCHEDULED AREA)
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, VALE ROYAL ABBEY (SCHEDULED AREA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31