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VALLE CRUCIS ABBEY

Site Details



NPRN 95205

Map Reference SJ24SW

Grid Reference SJ2043544154

Unitary (Local) Authority Denbighshire

Old County Denbighshire

Community Llantysilio

Type of Site ABBEY

Broad Class RELIGIOUS RITUAL AND FUNERARY

Period Post Medieval, Medieval

Site Description The Cistercian Abbey of Valle Crucis was founded by Madog ap Gruffydd Maelor in 1201, when twelve monks took occupation of a temporary wooden church and domestic accommodation, immediately beginning construction of roughly faced rubble buildings. By the time of the death of the Abbey’s patron in 1236 extensive work had been completed, but stained masonry and extensive rebuilding attest to a severe fire some time after this date. Repairs began promptly, with the later work distinguishable by its smaller, flatter stones. Further major rebuilding exercises took place in the mid-fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Following its dissolution in 1538 the east range was adapted as a mansion and occupied until about 1654. It was then in use as a farmhouse from 1800 to 1850, before falling into decay.

Extensive structures survive, including chancel walls and the west front of the church, the south transept and the east range of the cloister together with the chapter house and sacristy, and the lower part of the reredorter. The west front was restored by Gilbert Scott in 1870. Between the abbey and the Eglwyseg river is what is thought to be a monastic fishpond. This was remodelled as a reflecting pool when a summerhouse was built and the grounds landscaped, in the eighteenth century (NPRN 266505).

Royal Commission aerial reconnaissance during the drought summer of 2006 recorded extensive parchmarks around the abbey, including parchmarks of a buried wall footing to the west of the abbey which might form part of an outer precinct. The photographs were taken on 31 July 2006.

Source: Evans, D.H. 1995. Valle Crucis Abbey: Cadw Guide (Revised Edition)

K Steele, RCAHMW, 10 November 2008 and T. Driver, RCAHMW, 27 Jan 2010.

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The picturesque Cistercian abbey of Valle Crucis was founded in 1201 by Madog ap Gruffudd Maelor, the ruler of Powys Fadog and is situated 2km north of the town of Llangollen. The abbey suffered a fire in 1236 and an inscription high above the west window notes that this part of the building was completed by Abbot Adam (1330-44). During the second half of the fifteenth century, Valle Crucis was reputed for its scholarship, patronage of bards and its collection of Welsh literary manuscripts.

By the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in Britain, under the English King Henry VIII, in 1537, the abbey was already in decline. After the dissolution, the entire estate passed into the ownership of Sir William Pickering who had to strip the buildings of their valuable lead and hand it over to the Crown. This damage to the roof and extensive stone robbing caused Valle Crucis to fall into decay.

By the beginning of the eighteenth century, Valle Crucis had changed ownership multiple times before it was taken over by the Coed Helen estate. Despite the ruinous state of the buildings, the chapterhouse was converted into a farmhouse in 1800, and the former refectory was used as a barn. Many tourists who came to visit the picturesque remains during the Romantic period frequently complained about having to climb over dung heaps!

Archaeological excavations of Valle Crucis began in the 1850s and the site is now maintained by Cadw.

Record updated as part of the AHRC-funded project 'Journey to the Past: Wales in historic travel writing from France and Germany'.
R. Singer (Bangor University) and S. Fielding (RCAHMW), 2017.

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