Exploring the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey, Shropshire

Take a look around the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey near Lilleshall in Shropshire, a fascinating historical site to visit.

Shropshire is full of historic sites, and the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey are well worth visiting.

It’s a fascinating place to visit, and its location in the Shropshire countryside is very peaceful. This makes it a lovely place to pass an hour or two during your visit to Shropshire. 

The abbey lies close to other historic sites such as Boscobel House and White Ladies Priory. It’s also within easy driving distance of towns like Ironbridge and Shrewsbury. So it’s worth adding into your itinerary for a holiday in Shropshire or a day trip to the county.

You’ll find Lilleshall Abbey and plenty of other historical sites in our list of Things to Do in Shropshire.

So read on to take a look around Lilleshall Abbey and discover some of the story behind this historic building.

The History of Lilleshall Abbey

Lilleshall Abbey dates back to the mid-12th century, when it was founded for a group of Arrouasians.

An elaborate arched doorway at the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey near Shifnal in Shropshire, England

The Arrouasians were Augustinian priests who lived a monastic life while also preaching in churches. They followed a more austere code of conduct than other Augustinians and were known as the ‘black canons’ due to the colour of their habits. 

View of a high arched window above a doorway at the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey near Shifnal in Shropshire, England

In the 13th century, Lilleshall Abbey was a prestigious site with great wealth and a portfolio of land and property. It even hosted King Henry III two times around the year 1240.

But financial mismanagement and other problems beset the Abbey during the early 14th century. At the time of Henry VIII’s Suppression of the Monasteries, Lilleshall initially escaped dissolution but finally closed in 1538.

It then became a private residence until the middle of the 17th century, and was a battle site during the English Civil War. It suffered severe damage during this period, and afterwards its owners abandoned the site. The remains of Lilleshall Abbey are now under the care of English Heritage.

Explore Lilleshall Abbey

Lilleshall Abbey lies at the end of a long driveway, and you’ll see the ruins as you approach.

A tower at the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey near Shifnal in Shropshire, England

Many of the original structures are no longer in place, but the main walls of the abbey remain standing. They give a sense of the grandeur that the abbey would originally have had.

It has the typical layout of a monastery, with a central cloister and the other main buildings arranged around it. Most of the surviving buildings date from the end of the 12th century and the early 13th century. They would originally have formed part of a larger precinct, which would have been surrounded by a gated stone wall.

One of the first parts of the Abbey that you’ll see is the west front of the church. This has an imposing and elaborately decorated arched doorway, and you can see the remains of a tower to the side of it.

View through the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey near Shifnal in Shropshire, England

The photograph above looks down towards the west front of the church from within. You can see the tower to the right of the picture.

The 60m long church was cruciform (in the shape of the cross) and would originally have had a stone vaulted roof. This would have been where the canons held their daily services and Mass. 

View through the main arched window at the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey near Shifnal in Shropshire, England

Mass would have been said at the high altar in the east end of the church. And the large window that dominates this end of the 12th century abbey church was added in the 14th century.

To the south of the church lies the abbey cloister which would have been used as a garden courtyard. The canons would have entered the church through the elaborate doorway that still stands in the north-east corner of the cloister. The zig-zag pattern that you can see on this doorway features throughout the abbey.

Close up on the detail of an elaborately carved doorway at the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey near Shifnal in Shropshire, England

You can see the abbey’s chapter house to the east side of the cloister. This is where the canons would have discussed abbey business and confessed their faults. It is also the burial site of the abbots, as shown by the grave slabs which remain here today.

And the sacristy next to the chapter house is where the canons’ ritual vestments and sacred vessels would have been stored.  

View of the arched roof of a room in the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey near Shifnal in Shropshire, England

The slype is a narrow passage that ran between the chapter house and the sacristy. This would probably have served as a parlour, where the canons could hold discussions without breaking the rule of silence that was required in the cloister

How to get to Lilleshall Abbey

If you plan to visit Lilleshall Abbey, we recommend travelling by car. The Abbey lies just outside the village of Lilleshall, around 10 minutes’ drive from Junction 3 of the M54 motorway. 

Visiting by public transport isn’t really practical, as the village doesn’t have a train station.

View through a doorway at the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey near Shifnal in Shropshire, England

Planning your visit to Lilleshall Abbey

The Abbey is open 7 days a week, 10am to 6pm between April and October, and 10am to 4pm between November and March. There is no charge for entry – click here to see more details of Lilleshall Abbey on the English Heritage website.

Limited parking is available at the Abbey’s entrance between April and mid-October. Outside of those months, you will need to park at the top of the driveway and walk down to the Abbey.

High arched windows in a wall of the ruined Lilleshall Abbey near Shifnal in Shropshire, England

There are no facilities available at Lilleshall Abbey, but the nearby town of Newport has several pubs, restaurants and public toilets.

If you love history, then you could combine your visit to Lilleshall Abbey with a trip to nearby Boscobel House and White Ladies Priory. The museum at RAF Cosford is also just a short drive away, this is a really interesting place to visit and a great way to pass a rainy day!

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