Window On The Past ~ Looking In, Looking Out At Much Wenlock Priory



Our small town of Much Wenlock has been continuously inhabited for a thousand years. It grew up around the Priory and, until the Dissolution in 1540,  its citizens’ lives were ruled by the Prior who held his own  court. Of course many worked for the Priory directly, while others were farm tenants, the Prior being the preeminent landowner in the area, so fulfilling the role of Lord of the Manor.

In exchange for their tenancies of up to 20 acres, the farmers were expected to do work for the Prior. Sometimes his demands were greatly resented. So much so that in 1163 Wenlock’s peasant farmers rose up, making suit to the King to remove the overbearing prelate. It is recorded that they ‘threw down their ploughshares.’ In return, the Prior excommunicated them, the worst punishment imaginable short of execution. But still the farmers did not back down. They besieged the church and fought off the knights who had been despatched to restore order. The Prior was forced to hold an enquiry, and abide by the decision of a committee whose members were chosen by the farmers themselves – four knights and six monks whose judgement they must have trusted. And so justice was done – people power medieval style.


For more about Wenlock Priory see an earlier post HERE

And at Thursday’s Special the theme this week is WINDOWS.

Windows in Wenlock

In response to Frizztext’s  ‘Tagged W’

Here are some scenes of the town where I live, Much Wenlock, a settlement continuously lived in for the last thousand years. For more of its history see my post Of Silurian Shores.


The town grew up around a medieval monastery. This is the tower of Holy Trinity church which survived Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540. It has been our parish church since around 1100 AD. Originally it was part of the monastic complex.

The Priory ruins are now owned by English Heritage. This twelfth century Cluniac Priory was once one of the largest religious houses in Europe. It was built on the site of a much earlier abbey founded in the seventh century by St Milburga, daughter of King Merewald of Mercia. England’s Norman rulers wished to cash in on the sanctity of St. Milburga’s remains as well as making a big architectural statement on the Saxon landscape.

This is street is called The Bullring, once the place for bull-baiting, a popular local sport until the early 19th century.


The Guildhall was built around 1540 as the court house to replace the monastic court after the Dissolution. Town Council meetings are still held here. The ground floor is used for various markets. In this photo, taken in 2012, townspeople are celebrating Much Wenlock’s Olympic Games connections. See Of wolf farts, windmills and the Wenlock Olympics.


The George and Dragon is one of the few survivors of the town’s once numerous inns and public houses. The town’s main industries were limestone quarrying, lime burning and agriculture – all hard-working pursuits guaranteed to build up a thirst.


Raynald’s Mansion (above) on the High Street dates from around 1600.

Ashfield Hall, also on the High Street, was built before 1421. It was possibly built on the site of St. John’s Hospital for ‘lost and naked beggars’. For a time is was the Blue Bell Inn and then a lodging house for itinerant labourers. (A History of Much Wenlock by Vivien Bellamy.)


These ogival windows are a local ‘speciality’.

And some of my windows.

Looking down on the town from the south west, Windmill Hill top right, The Wrekin top left.

© 2013 Tish Farrell