Haughmond Abbey is also known as the Abbey of St John the Evangelist. A statue of St John the Evangelist with his emblem can be found carved into the arches of the chapter house. His image also appeared on the Abbey's great seal.
On site today you have the ruins of the abbey including its Abbots quarters, refectory and cloister. There are picture boards through the site giving the visitor information on what can be seen as well as a small museum which houses an exhibition with displays of archaeological finds.
Like many monasteries the abbey owned a lot of land, mostly local and its income came from both rents and the farming of parts of its estates. At the end of the 13th century accounts books show that income was also being generated from 26 mills in Shropshire. Some of these mills were 'fulling' mills, processing woollen cloth.
In it's earlier days it was very prosperous, but towards the end it was beset with both financial and moral problems. There were financial irregularities and the then sitting abbot was disciplined for allowing the infirmary, dormitory, chapter house and library to fall into disrepair. Moral was low and the lack of discipline was shown in the reports of official visitations that the novices were not getting proper instruction. While not being renowned as a seat of learning it was noted in a report of 1518 that the library was in a poor state of repair and earlier in the 15th century the abbey was the home of John Audelay, a deaf and blind poet.
Dissolution and beyond
It was dissolved in 1539 as part of Henry VIII's nationwide Dissolution of the Monasteries. Records show that the then Abbot and 10 cannons were present at the signing of the deed of surrender, each of them receiving generous pensions. The annual income was estimated at just under £250.
After dissolution the new owner Sir Edward Littleton converted the Abbots Hall and adjoining rooms into a private residence. Later history also shows that some of the other buildings around the little cloister continued as private accommodation, with the little cloister becoming a formal garden, up until the Civil War.
There was a fire during the Civil War and it left the hands of the wealthy being turned over for use as a farm, a small cottage was still standing in the area of the former abbots kitchen when the ruins were placed in the guardianship of the Office of Works in 1933. Now it is looked after by English Heritage.
The Augustinian Order of Canons and Canonesses were ordained priests. This made them different from monks, in that only some monks were priests. Canons did not necessarily lead sheltered secluded lives, but often worked or travelled outside their monasteries and attended the needs of the local lay communities.
They based their 'rule' and way of living on the writings of St Augustine of Hippo, after which their order was named. There is a statue of St Augustine carved into the arches of the chapter house. Over 200 Augustinian houses were established in Britain, with a heavier concentration in the Midlands and East Anglia. Their houses were usually quite small, a status of a priory, but Haughmond was unusual as it attained the status of an Abbey.
The Chapter House Statues
Carved within the 3 arches on the front of the Chapter House are 8 saints under canopies. It is believed they were done in the 14th century and they include St Augustine,, the head of the Augustinian Order; the martyred St Thomas Becket; St Catherine of Alexandria with a spiked wheel; St John the Evangelist with his emblem; St John the Baptist with a lamb and flag; St Margaret of Antioch slaying a dragon; St Winifred with her murderer Prince Caradog; and the winged St Michael slaying a dragon.
Haughmond Abbey near Haughton is just a few miles NE of Shrewsbury and we were not prepared for what we saw. The write up in the English Heritage guide didn't do it justice, it was impressive and a lot more interesting than we thought it was going to be. There was no audio tour, but you can purchase a guide book which gives a map and description of the site.
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.