X

White Ladies Priory, Shropshire

Download as PDF

Feature Sets (3)

Description

White Ladies Priory is a ruined Augustinian nunnery, originally founded as the Priory of St Leonard at Brewood. It is situated in the far east of central Shropshire, under a mile from the Staffordshire border and 8 miles E of Telford.  All that remains are the external walls of the church with, to the S, the later wall of a catholic burial ground attached.  All of this is in brown sandstone, and the structure stands alone in a field accessed by a narrow lane on the N side of the minor road linking the villages of Albrighton and Bishops Wood. The church dates from the later 12thc, and originally consisted of a 3-bay chancel, short N and S transepts and a 4-bay nave. Both transepts are gone, although the elaborate entrance archto the N transept  remains. At the W ends of the lateral nave walls are a pair of doorways facing one another. The N doorway led into the cloister and is descibed as processional in Newman (2006), while the facing S doorway is plainer and narrower. Romanesque features recorded here are the two nave doorways.

History

Following the account in VCH (1973), nothing is known of the foundation but a community of Augustinian canonesses was fully established before the end of Henry II's reign (1154-89). The site belonged to no parish or manor, being in the Forest of Brewood and VCH speculates that either the La Zouche family, the Lacys or the FitzAlans, holders of nearby lands, may have been involved in its foundation. Be that as it may, no local landowner ever claimed rights over it during vacancies. The convent was dispersed in 1538.

Features

Exterior Features

Doorways

N nave doorway

Doorway on N wall of nave, close to W end. Round headed, 2 orders.

Dimensions
Opening
Height of opening 2.82 m
Width of opening 1.12 m
Capitals
L capital height with necking 0.25m
L capital max. width N face 0.23m
L capital max. width, W face 0.22m
R capital height with necking 0.23m
R capital max. width, E face 0.27 m
R capital max. width N face 0.27m
1st order

Plain jambs and arch, both with angle rolls, separated by impost blocks origimally quirked chamfered but with general wear and losses to face and chamfer.

2nd order

Jambs originally with detached nook-shafts, now lost along with their bases. The capitals remain, both of the flat leaf type but not identical:

L capital:Broad, flat leaf with pointed tip at angle. Two half-leaves of this type at corner. One smaller leaf with a rounded tip between two leaves on N and W faces, weathered. Plain necking

R capital: Triangular leaves at angles and on edges. A rounded leaf in centre of each face between leaves with pointed tip. One horizontal groove on abacus. Capital much squatter than that on L, abacus larger. Plain necking, some damage. 
Label: chamfered, one groove running lengthwise across arch.

L impost is missing, the R originally as 1st order but worn. 

In the arch, a row of cusping on the face, in the form of a fat half-roll.The label is quirked chamfered.

Interior (rere arch)

Plain, angular jambs. Quirked chamfered imposts and label.

S nave doorway

Round headed, 2 orders, on S wall of nave, close to W end.

Dimensions
Openings
Height of opening 2.33 m
Width of opening 1.05m
Capitals
L capital height including necking 0.18 m
L capital max. width E face 0.13 m
L capital max. width S face 0.13 m
R capital, height incl. necking 0.17m
R capital max width S face 0.14m
R capital max. width W face 0.14m
1st order

Angle rolls to plain jambs and arch, separated by quirked chamfered imposts

2nd order

Engaged  (coursed) nook-shafts carrying capitals as described below. In the arch an angle roll as the 1st order, and a label with a roll on the inner angle.

L capital. Flat leaf type. At angle, flat, oval leaf bordered with bead ornament. Similar leaves at corners. Drop-shaped hollow between leaves, weathered.

R capital. Double scallop capital. Recessed shields decorated with a small boss in each, and cones dying into the bell at mid-cap[ital height. Between the cones are rolls descending to the necking. Angle damaged. Plain necking, some damage.

Interior Features

Arches

Tower/Transept arches

N transept arch

Round-headed. two orders with shafts. Capitals and shafts on both N and S faces.
First order, S face: Arch voussoirs plain, except for chamfer at angle. Hollow chamfer imposts, damaged on L. L capital: scallop capital. Two triangles reach into cones and are linked by a drop-shaped termination on the lower end of the cone. The hollowed-out area on the cones resemble funnels. Capital continuous with R capital of first order on N face. Plain necking.
R capital: leaf ornament including scalloped leaves. Angle damaged. Capital continuous with L capital of first order on N face. Plain necking. Rounded responds. Hollow chamfer bases.
first order, N face: Arch voussoirs plain, except for chamfer at angle. Hollow chamfer imposts, damaged on R. L capital: leaf ornament including scalloped leaves. Capital continuous with R capital of first order on S face. Plain necking. R capital: scallop capital. Two triangles reach into cones and are linked by a drop-shaped termination on the lower end of the cone. The hollowed-out area on the cones resemble funnels. Capital continuous with L capital of first order on S face. Plain necking.
Second order:
(ii) S face: plain angular voussoirs in the arch. Hollow chamfer imposts. On L impost, three horizontal grooves on upright. Angle of R impost damaged.
L capital: trumpet capital. Three trumpets each on S and E faces. One ball on 'shield' of each trumpet. One horizontal groove on abacus. Rounded respond on with hollow chamfer base.
R capital: on S face, two addorsed scalloped leaves atop ornament resembling cross-section of an onion. W face: two addorsed scalloped leaves atop ornament resembling cross-section of an onion. Angle damaged, but traces of vegetal ornament. R respond missing, base damaged.
Label: chamfered. Two raised pyramids on rightmost voussoir.
(ii) N face: plain, angular voussoirs in the arch. Hollow chamfer imposts. One horizontal groove on upright on L, three on R. L capital: two scallops on N face, angle damaged. On W face, series of 'u'-shaped lines resembling a folded napkin. R capital: at angle, flat, broad leaf at angle decorated with two vertical lines of bead ornament, tip damaged. N face: flat furling leaf decorated with two vertical rows of beard ornament. E face: flat, furling leaf with two vertical rows of beard ornament. Both responds missing, bases damaged.
Label chamfered.

Dimensions
Height of opening 4.80 m
Width of opening 3.07 m
1st order (shared)

Paired engaged half-column responds carrying paired capitals sharing a hollow chamfered impost with reeding on the lower part of the face.

W capitals. Both are triple scallops with sheathed cones and round notches at the bottom of each sheath.

E capitals. Capitals are badly eroded and roughly cushion-shaped, decorated in relief with worn forms, klargely foliage including fluted and furled leaves. The impost is spongy in appearance.

The arch is plain with a slight chamfer.

2nd order (N face)

Damaged engaged nook-shafts, badly worn and broken, carrying capitals with hollow chamfered imposts differeing in detail.

W capital. leaves on the angles with furled tips and beaded spinal veins. The are joined at the foot of the faces with U-shaped linkages. The impost has reeding at the foot of the face.

E capital. A convex (bulbous) triple scallop with conical wedges between the cones on the N face. The W face is damaged but treated as vertical foliage stems rather than scallops. The impost is quirked hollow chamfered.

The arch is plain and unmoulded and there is a plain chamfered label.

2nd order (S face)

Engaged nook-shafts, badly worn and broken especially on the E jamb. They carry capitals with hollow chamfered imposts differing in their details and a plain unmoulded arch.

W capital. Triple trumpet scallop with slightly raised shields and reeding on the abacus. The impost is as the 1st order.

E capital. Damaged capital with paired furled leaves on each of the faces, with a U-shaped linkage, and a palmette on the lower angle. The W face is better preserved. The impost retains vestiges of carving on the face: like a row of eyes with drilled pupils.

The arch is plain and unmoulded. There is a chamfered label, plain except for two pyramid bosses on the chamfer of the E voussoir.

Interior Decoration

String courses

1. Nave and chancel wall lower stringcourse

Chamfered plain string course on S, W and N internal nave and chancel walls immediately below windows.

2. N chancel and nave upper stringcourse

A quirked chamfered string course on N chancel and N nave interior walls at the level of the springing of window arches. The stringcourse steps down above the transept arch to compensate for the lower level of the chancel windows.

Comments/Opinions

According to Pevsner (1958), repeated in Newmman (2006), the N nave doorway's lobed arch is familiar from the W of France, e.g. at Le Puy. The funnel-shaped ornament on the W capitals of the 1st order  of the N transept arch is similar to ornament found at Buildwas Abbey. In general the capital forms, including waterleaf, flat leaf and trumpet scallops point to a date in the 1170s or '80s.

Bibliography

  • R Gilyard-Beer, 'White Ladies Priory', in O J Weaver, Boscobel House and White Ladies Priory, English Heritage booklet, 1987, 2nd ed, 1996, 34-38.

  • R. W. Eyton, Antiquities of Shropshire, 12 vols, London 1854-60, 2, 187-90.

  • J. Newman and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Shropshire New Haven and London 2006, 695-96.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Shropshire, Harmondsworth 1958, 316.

  • Victoria County History: Shropshire, 2, 1973, 83-84.

Exterior from SE
Exterior S nave wall from SE
Interior N wall from SE
Interior to NW
Exterior from N
Nave, interior, N wall from SW

Location

Site Location
White Ladies Priory
National Grid Reference
SJ 826 076 
Boundaries
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Shropshire
now: Shropshire
Diocese
now: Lichfield
medieval: Lichfield (to 1075); Chester (to c.1086); Coventry and Lichfield (to 1541)
Dedication
now:
medieval: St Leonard
Type of building/monument
Ruined priory church  
Report authors
Barbara Zeitler, Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
24 June 1999 (BZ), 15 May 2019 (RB)