History in Structure

Vale Royal Abbey

A Grade II* Listed Building in Whitegate and Marton, Cheshire West and Chester

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Latitude: 53.2246 / 53°13'28"N

Longitude: -2.5425 / 2°32'33"W

OS Eastings: 363874

OS Northings: 369861

OS Grid: SJ638698

Mapcode National: GBR 7S.0T1R

Mapcode Global: WH99J.X6FT

Plus Code: 9C5V6FF4+RX

Entry Name: Vale Royal Abbey

Listing Date: 11 October 1949

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1160862

English Heritage Legacy ID: 57399

ID on this website: 101160862

Location: Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire, CW8

County: Cheshire West and Chester

Civil Parish: Whitegate and Marton

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Whitegate St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Chester

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SJ 66 NW
6390 6985
4/115 Vale Royal Abbey
G.V. II*
Country house, formerly abbey buildings. Begun in 1277 and
extensively altered in the C16, C18 and C19. Founded by Edward I
after 1263. The Cistercian community which he had established at
Darnhall was moved here in 1277 and the building of this, the last
Cistercian monastery complex in the country, started. The foundations
of the abbey church which stood to the north-east of the present house
reveal it to have been at c.420 ft the largest Cistercian church in
the country, and unique in having thirteen chapels to its eastern end
7 of which were hexagonal. At the dissolution the site was sold in
1543 to Thomas Holcroft who 'plucked down' the abbey church and
altered and extended the southern and western cloister ranges to form
the house. In 1616 the house passed to the Cholmondeleys, whose
family owned the house until 1947. The C19 work was carried out by
Blore in the 1830 s and Douglas in the 1860 s and 70 s. Red sandstone
ashlar and red Flemish bond brick with ashlar dressings and a slate
roof. Entrance front: The central portion is a refacing of the range
which originally contained the Abbot's hall and its undercroft. The
short projecting wings at either side were constructed in 1796
(Lysons) and replaced larger structures. These have cross windows of
the 1830 s to both floors with casement moulded surrounds and triple
keystones, the first floor windows being taller and having ½-H aprons.
To either side of the central windows are pilasters with moulded bases
and capitals formed of three pieces of ashlar, and later, similar,
pilasters occur to the corners formed of several courses of ashlar
perhaps applied as late as the early C19. The ends of these wings
each have a canted bay window of 3 central lights divided by mullions
and transoms and single lateral lights divided by transoms.
Battlemented parapets above these and C19 iron finials to the corners.
The central range has seven bays divided by pilasters with projecting
wings of 3 bays to either side. Central ground floor Gothick porch of
1823 and similar to one formerly set at first floor level above a
flight of steps affording access to the great hall which was taken
down in 1811. The porch has angle buttresses, a pointed arch, a
battlemented parapet and shields to the upper walls of either side.
The bay window above this is of 3 lights with mullions and two
transoms and a battlemented parapet. The pilasters set at either side
of the central bays are made up of several pieces of coursed stone and
also appear to be of later date than those to the centre of the wings.
To the right of the right hand wing is a recessed entrance porch and
clock tower by Douglas of 1877 of brick with ashlar dressings.
Lean-to ground floor porch with clock tower to right having ashlar
clock stage supported on corbels and with a circular clock face within
a square surround and a pyramidal roof. Right hand facade: dated
1860, the date of its last refacing in dressed brick and extension;
adapted from a range of abbey buildings including the refectory,
altered in the period of Holcroft's ownership. Partially refaced by
Blore in the 1830 s it was further refaced by Douglas in the 1860 s in
the same style as Blore's additions There is a recessed centre with
projecting wings to either side. The centre has random fenestration
of 2 and 3-light mullioned and transomed windows to the ground and
first floors with a bowed oriel to the extreme left of the first
floor. Slightly projecting gable to the right of centre with 2
single-light ground floor windows and two 2-light first floor windows
with coats of arms below and date stones above encompassed in the same
hood mould. Single lancet to gable. All windows have ashlar
surrounds. Chimney stack at right with offset to left and 3 flues
above. To the left of this recessed portion is a projecting portion -
the outer face of which has a gable at the right with a first-floor
bowed oriel supported on an offset buttress. To the far left is a
single storey conservatory of later date with a heavy stone coping,
the inner face of this projection has an oriel at first floor level
with a gable above. To the far right is a further projection of 3
bays by Blore being a rebuilding of a similarly shaped timber-framed
wing of post-monastic date. Three-light ground and first floor
windows with a central first floor oriel supported on brackets with a
hipped roof and 2-light second floor window with hood moulds and 3
single-light windows to the gables. The inner side of this projection
has two and three-light mullioned and transomed windows. The rear of
this range is similar in the type and distribution of bays to the
garden front save that a gabled 2-storey C19 wing has been added to
right of centre. The rear of the entrance front is faced in ashlar
and has two massive projecting rectangular chimney stacks between
which is a projecting rectangular bay with a 3-light arched window to
the ground floor and a first floor window above of 3 lights with
mullions and transoms. To either side are low arched windows of 4
lights with first floor windows over of 4 x 6 panes. To the right of
this arrangement is a further low arched window of 4 arched lights
(all these low arched windows are reputedly cloister openings although
they appear to have been altered in the C18 and C19). To the right
again is an arched porchway supporting an oriel window with canted
corners and a central bow with a hipped and conical roof of copper by
Douglas of 1877.
Interior: The northern wing originally contained the Abbots hall and
Great Chamber divided by a screens passage and set above an
undercroft. The eastern wing contained the refectory, also above an
undercroft. The refectory was altered by Holcroft to form a range of
4 apartments with 4-centred doorways leading off a corridor and the
abbots hall was altered by the Cholmondeleys prior to 1811 to form a
series of state rooms, comprising the Armoury, Great Hall and Library.
Both these halls were served by a kitchen of two stories to the angle
of the two ranges in the same place as the present ground floor
kitchen which has chamfered C17 ceiling beams and a basket arched
wide hearth with lateral basket arched openings. Also at ground floor
level are the cloister corridor with early C19 Gothick plaster
vaulting and of T-shape, (the downstroke being an entrance corridor
from the Gothick porchway which retains the massive C16 door which
prior to 1811 opened to the hall at first floor level). Leading from
this corridor to the first floor is a staircase with spiral twist
balusters and heavy newel posts of late C17 form. This leads up to
the armoury which is formed from part of the Great Chamber and has two
panelled door surrounds of 1811 with steep pediments above. The great
hall has 5 ceiling bays with half bays to either end indicating the
division in the C18 or C19. Each truss consists of a pair of arched
braces resting on hammer beams with C19 wall posts below. The hammer
beams would appear to replace tie beams and marks in the lower sides
of the arched braces indicate possible vertical struts connecting the
braces to the tie beam. Brattished wooden cornice and double wind
bracing of C19 date with 4 purlins. Applied to the plasterwork of the
ceiling are a series of armigerous shields relating the marriages of
the Cholmondeley family and dated 1868 which replaced an earlier
similarly painted ceiling of 1824. The library has a wooden door
surround of C17 date and German with columns to either side carved
with trails of foliage in relief. Broken elaborate pediment above.
The chimney piece has twisted columns to either side encircled by rich
floral swags and with birds of prey also in relief. The dining room
in the south-western wing has dado panelling of C19 date and an C18
door surround with Corinthian columns to either side of a 6-panel door
with swags and a head in profile to the overdoor and a pediment above
this with a shell and rinceau ornament to the frieze and enriched
cornice above. The eastern wing has C16 small framed walling to the
imposed corridor. The corridor shows the original C16 outside wall
with chevron decorated timber-framing, a 4-light mullioned and
transomed window and a tall doorway with 4-centered head, probably
monastic and giving access from the day stairs. The studded partition
is an insertion into the monastic refectory and has one original
doorway, now blocked. The roof timbers of this refectory range which
are evident in the corridor and to the attic have deep bird beak
mouldings. The roof consists of 5 bays subdivided by further minor
cross beams and ridge and purlins which are similarly moulded into
roughly square panels and appear to have had roof bosses now removed.
Dendrochronology has revealed the date of the timbers as c.1470.

Sources: Nicholas Pevsner & - The Buildings of England:
Edward Hubbard Cheshire

George Ormerod - History of the County Palatine and
(Ed. Helsby) City of Chester 1882

Henrietta Cholmondeley - Account Book. Alterations.
Buildings. Purchases and
Improvements at Vale Royal
Abbey since 17/12/1810.
Cheshire County Records Office
DBC Acc 2309 Box 1/11

Listing NGR: SJ6387469861

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