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Hailes Abbey

Winchcombe, Gloucestershire

Featured Location Guide

Substantial remains of parts of a Cistercian monastery and church foundations.


Much of the outer walls of the cloister are near full height. A lot of the drainage system with stream still flowing through it is able to be seen. The site has a high bank and path around it allowing good views over the remains.

A very substantial amount of the overall layout of this abbey can be identified. When you arrive you are given a two sided A3 sheet, one side contains a plan of what you can see, the other side an artists impression of the site before being destroyed, together with notes on major features. There is also information boards around the site and an audio tour available.

Outside the remains of the Abbey is Hailes Church. The church is older than the abbey, being consecrated in 1175 and then served as the Capella Ante Portas to the Abbey until its dissolution, when it returned to its role as a parish church. Inside the church are said to be fine Medieval wall paintings.

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The abbey was founded in 1245 or 1246 by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, called "King of the Romans" and the younger brother of King Henry III of England. He founded this in thanksgiving for deliverance from a shipwreck.

He was granted the manor of Hailes by his brother Henry, and settled it with Cistercian monks from Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire. In the previous generation, the manor had been the birthplace of an important theologian, Alexander of Hales, who had recently died in Paris. The great Cistercian abbey was entirely built in a single campaign and was consecrated in a royal ceremony that included the King and Queen and 15 bishops.

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It was not doing financially well until Hailes Abbey became a site of pilgrimage when Richard's son Edmund donated to the Cistercian community a phial of the Holy Blood, purchased in Germany, in 1270. Such a relic of the Crucifixion was a considerable magnet for pilgrimage. From the proceeds, the monks of Hailes were able to rebuild the Abbey on a magnificent scale. The abbey church layout shows the extension to its east end to hold this, and a group of elaborate chapels. Pilgrims flocked to the abbey for around 250 years.

Hailes Abbey was one of the last religious institutions to acquiesce following the Dissolution Act of 1536. The Abbot and his monks finally surrendered their abbey to Henry VIII's commissioners on Christmas Eve 1539.

After the Dissolution, the west range consisting of the Abbot's own apartments was converted into a house and was home to the Tracy family in the seventeenth century, but these buildings were later demolished.

Sculptures, stonework and other site finds are displayed in the on site museum.

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Phial of the Holy Blood

How this came to be at Hailes is discussed above. Many abbeys of the period claimed to hold the remains of saints, and a range of other artefacts, another of the most spectacular was the claims of Glastonbury Abbey to have the grail, cup used at the last supper and then found the remains of King Arthur and Guinevere. Today many catholic attractions throughout Europe claim to have genuine relics. There is a very long list, see the Wikipedia entry that lists some. The total weight of bits that are claimed to be pieces of the cross would form several crosses. In our age perhaps we are as over suspicious that all are fakes, as those in the middle ages inclined to believe everything told to them.

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Another phial of holy blood was deposited in Westminster Abbey earlier in 1247, another in Bruges around 1250, and is still there in the cathedral today. I think Norwich Cathedral at one point also claimed to have one.

So was it genuine:-
  • The Bishop of Jerusalem confirmed at the time it to be genuine.
  • King Henry VIII's commissioners (conveniently) declared the famous relic to be nothing but the blood of a duck, regularly renewed.
  • Abbot Stephen Sagar admitted that the Holy Blood was a fake in hope of saving the Abbey.
  • After surrendered it was said to be fake, by the Kings officers.

You also have to look at the way many Christians look at the wine transforming to Christ's blood in services, so perhaps it was an earlier version of this transformation.

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The site is maintained and managed by English Heritage, and owned by the National Trust.

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Further information Grid



Hailes Abbey, Hailes nr Winchcombe, Gloucestershire

Ceremonial County: Gloucestershire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo: Google Aerial 



Best Times to Visit:






Other useful websites:

Wiki     NT 

Nearby Locations:

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway (steam preservation)

Gloucestershire Attractions

Other Relevant pages: Abbey Section, including all major Christian buildings, regions orders, normal layouts and history.


Planning Grid


Hailes Abbey, Hailes nr Winchcombe, Gloucestershire

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

2 miles NE of Winchcombe off B4632.


Across the road from the car park through a gate.


Free 20m from entrance


Museum, WC, exhibition, and more

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Buildings, architecture, views.

What to take:

Tripod, level, wide angle lens.

Nature highlights:




nr Winchcombe




GL54 5PB


01242 602398

Opening times:

1 Apr-30 Jun 10am-5pm
1 Jul-31 Aug 10am-6pm
1-30 Sep 10am-5pm
1-31 Oct 10am-4pm

Hailes Church is outside the Abbey grounds by the side of the road. It was not open when we visited and had no opening times displayed. It can be photographed from the road.


Adults, 4.20; Child (5-15) 2.50; Concessions 32.80
EH and NT members FREE

Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions: None
Special Needs Access:  
Special Needs Facilities:  
Children Facilities: Ideal for children, full guards or walls stop children from falling into the steam/drainage system.
Dogs Allowed: On a lead

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Keith Park Section: Abbey and Religious Buildings Key:
Page Ref: hailes_abbey Topic: Abbeys Last Updated: 02/2011

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