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Monastery Buildings of Benedictine Abbey of St Michael and All Angels

A Grade II Listed Building in Clehonger, County of Herefordshire

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Latitude: 52.0387 / 52°2'19"N

Longitude: -2.7559 / 2°45'21"W

OS Eastings: 348247

OS Northings: 238077

OS Grid: SO482380

Mapcode National: GBR FJ.FP0T

Mapcode Global: VH85V.50XZ

Plus Code: 9C4V26QV+FJ

Entry Name: Monastery Buildings of Benedictine Abbey of St Michael and All Angels

Listing Date: 22 October 1986

Last Amended: 18 December 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1167050

English Heritage Legacy ID: 155341

Location: Clehonger, County of Herefordshire, HR2

County: County of Herefordshire

Civil Parish: Clehonger

Traditional County: Herefordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Herefordshire

Church of England Parish: Clehonger

Church of England Diocese: Hereford

Tagged with: Abbey

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A range of monastery buildings, designed and built by Edward Welby Pugin and Peter Paul Pugin between 1857 and 1904 with later C20 additions and alterations.


A range of monastery buildings, designed and built by Edward Welby Pugin and Peter Paul Pugin between 1857 and 1904 with later C20 additions and alterations.

MATERIALS: coursed rubble with ashlar dressings and red brick with a plain tile roof.

PLAN: the buildings are predominantly of two storeys with an attic. The principal range is E-shaped on its west front and has an additional two wings projecting on its eastern side.

EXTERIOR: the west front faces out over the enclosed abbey gardens. There is a projecting plinth and a moulded band at the level of the first floor window sills and a Mansard roof above the central, spinal range. At the southern end is the Abbot’s house, which projects forward and has two gabled wings set at either side of a central porch door. The ground-floor windows have a central mullion and sashed lights. First-floor windows are sashes with prominent hood moulds and there are small paired lancets to the attic windows in the gables. Between these gabled wings the lean-to roof above the entrance porch dies back to recessed walling. This has a large staircase window with a mullion and transoms and a traceried head, which fills much of the wall space in this central bay. At the north end of the front is a similar projecting gabled wing with mullioned windows to the ground floor and paired lancets to the first floor. The seven central bays have sash windows with hood moulds to the first floor and gabled dormer windows with two casement lights to the attic. At ground-floor level there is a lean-to porch and door to the left and four windows lighting the internal cloister corridor which have three lancet lights, each with mullions and a transom. There is a ventilation turret which takes the form of a spirelet to the ridge at right of centre, with a square lower body and swept eaves. To the left and slightly recessed is the sacristy extension of c.1928 which has a hipped roof and four windows, each of two cusped lights with a trefoil to the apex.

The north flank has five bays at right with a later lean-to masking the ground floor, but sash windows with hood moulds and gabled dormers above, as on the west front. To the left of this is the addition by Peter Paul Pugin which has five bays with ribbon windows to the ground floor and first-floor casements, each of three mullioned lights.

The east face has the rear of the Abbot’s house at far left. This has two gables, as on the west side, but between them is a third gable which has a traceried window at attic level, which marks the infirmary chapel of St Raphael. There is a stone cross to the gable above this. To right of this is the projecting wing which houses the refectory and library at its western end and the later school hall at its eastern end. This has a canted bay window at its eastern gable end. The flanks have later-C20 additions on the south side and gabled dormers lighting the library. The school extension has ashlar-framed casement lights. A single-storey range, recessed at right of this, forms a screen to mask an internal courtyard. It has an angled doorway at left in the re-entrant angle with the school wing and a gate to the courtyard at right. To the south of the main range is a single-storey block of former service buildings, one of which has been converted to form a chapel for those attending retreat at the abbey.
INTERIOR: at ground floor level the principal rooms are approached from the middle sacristy, which is aligned with the south porch of the abbey church and has a vaulted ceiling with cross ribs closely arranged. This joins, by a dog-leg at its south end to the cloister, which takes the form of a corridor along the west side of the building and has a tiled floor, panelled ceiling and wooden window seats. The refectory is of two-storey height and has wood panelling to the lower walls and a panelled ceiling with arched braces which spring from stone corbels. Windows on the south side extend further down the wall than on the north. The east end wall has three, recessed, arched panels and the west wall has a central door with traceried fanlight. The front sacristy of c.1904 has a panelled ceiling with arched braces to the pitched sides and corners, and a flat centre. The functions of several of the rooms have changed over the years. The present calefactory leads off from the cloister and has three shuttered windows looking east, a cornice and panelling below the dado. The original fire surround has been replaced. The Abbot’s parlour also has a dado and cornice and a later, Neo-Georgian fire surround.

Individual cells are approached from broad, central corridors on both of the upper floors. At the top of the Abbot’s House is the former infirmary, with the Chapel of St Raphael, which is also used by novice members of the community. This has a boarded ceiling with exposed common rafters with ties, all of which are chamfered. There is a ceilure to the east end. Running along the side walls, mounted in a continuous frame, are prints showing the stations of the cross. The traceried east window has stained glass panels showing scenes from the life of the saint.


In 1852 Francis Wegg-Prosser converted to Roman Catholicism. He was a landowner, who had inherited the Belmont estate to the south-west of Hereford, and had been MP for Herefordshire from 1847 until his conversion. He had already commissioned church work from Anglican architects, including the restoration of Clehonger parish church by William Butterfield and a set of almshouses and chapel on his land designed by RC Carpenter. Following his conversion he decided to build a school with attached chapel, dedicated to St Peter and St Paul, and schoolmaster’s house to the south-east of his own house. The architect was Edward Welby Pugin, and Wegg-Prosser would have known his father, AWN Pugin, through his father-in-law, Earl Somers, who had commissioned Crace to remodel his house with Pugin's assistance.

Wegg-Prosser first revealed his intention of building a large church at the opening ceremony of the school-chapel when he spoke of ‘a magnificent church and a presbytery’. Following negotiations with the Benedictine Order, Prosser was prevailed upon to hand over three pieces of land, but extracted certain assurances from the Benedictines about the use of the land including that the church should be a parish church for the locality and the monks should seek to spread their faith in the area. He did not want any of the monastic buildings to be used as a school, as he felt that this would distract the monks from their purpose (nuns were used for teaching in the village school-chapel that he had already founded). His third requirement was that only plain chant should be allowed in services and not ‘figured’ music which he thought ‘light and secular’. Work eventually stared on the monastery in 1857.

By contrast, the foundation stone for the abbey church was laid on 15 February 1854, before the Benedictines had made their final decision to settle at Belmont. The nave and aisles appear to have been finished by February 1856, when they were described in the Hereford Times, but over the succeeding decades the church continued to extend towards the east and to the sides. This first church had a chancel of a ‘parish’-type, which was doubled in length before the blessing of the building in 1859, by which time agreement had been reached with the Benedictines and a monastic church was envisaged. The following year a new sanctuary with side chapels was built. This formed part of the church which was consecrated in September of 1860. The sanctuary was further lengthened by two bays and the high altar was consecrated in this extended building on 24 December 1865.

In addition to this push eastward, the church expanded to its sides and upwards in height. The chapel of St Benedict, which had been added on the south side in 1862 to serve as a chapel for the novices of the abbey, was lengthened in 1869. Following the death of Edward Pugin in 1875, later work was carried out by his brother, Peter Paul.

The abbey was established with the intention of being the Central Novitiate for the English Congregation of the Benedictine Order, a function which it fulfilled from 1859 to 1917. The importance of this dual function is reflected in some measure by the lavish architectural treatment of the church and monastery buildings. A bird’s eye view of the church and monastery, dated 1878, by the Pugin practice, shows the intention to create a group of buildings which would fully reflect the importance of the Benedictine order by a considerably more elaborate treatment, including a longer nave with western towers, three spires and more extensive monastery buildings, including a cloister and a guest wing. Between 1859 and 1916 the abbey church was also the cathedral for the diocese of Newport and Menevia. However, following the death of Bishop Hedley in 1915, the cathedral was moved to Cardiff and in 1920 the abbey became an independent Benedictine community. The abbey included a school, which operated from 1926 to 1993.

The abbey buildings were started to the designs of EW Pugin in 1857 and the initial building was opened in 1859. This first range was roughly E-shaped with the Abbot’s house at the southern end, facing west and a refectory block with attached kitchens on the east front. By 1904 a further wing had been built to the east by Peter Paul Pugin, containing further accommodation, and by 1928 a new sacristy block had been added to the north-west corner as well as a further eastern block to house the newly-established school. This was itself demolished in favour of a larger, L-shaped block for the school, which was added after 1928 and built in red brick. It contained a hall which continued the line of the monk’s refectory. Following its closure, the school buildings were converted to become a centre for conferences and retreats called Hedley Lodge.

Reasons for Listing

The Monastery Buildings of the Benedictine Abbey of St Michael and All Angels at Belmont Herefordshire, a Benedictine foundation largely designed by EW Pugin, together with PP Pugin and CW Pugin in the later C19, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architect: the abbey church and monastery are one of the principal works of Edward Welby Pugin, and to a lesser extent his brother Peter Paul.

Architectural: its relationship to the abbey church at Belmont is carefully considered and the grouping of the constituent parts of the monastery, including abbot’s house, cloister, refectory and sacristy are logically planned and clearly expressed in the form of the building.

Intactness: although the function of certain parts of the building have changed, and this is clearly apparent on the eastern side, where additional construction has taken place, this should be seen as an unavoidable consequence of changing religious patterns and of the functioning of the monastery. The core of the building as originally designed by EW Pugin is still in place and retains many original fittings and details. .

Historic: the monastery building forms part of a group of related buildings which were commissioned or inspired by Francis Wegg-Prosser, an important and generous benefactor of the Roman Catholic cause in the mid-C19.

Group Value: the group of Roman Catholic buildings at Belmont, which includes the abbey church of St Michael and All Angels, the Monastery, the Almshouses, the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul which also served as a school and the attached teacher’s house and Belmont House with its chapel is one of the most complete surviving groups which resulted from the benefaction of a wealthy landowner in the mid-C19.

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