Shrewsbury Abbey was founded in 1083 by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury and a senior knight at the court of William the Conqueror. There was probably an existing wooden church here, it is mentioned in the Doomsday Survey and may have dated back to Anglo-Saxon times. This church was replaced by a large stone building complete with the necessary outbuildings of a Benedictine Monastery.
Over the years it was an important site of parliament and the monastery came to be one of the major Benedictine houses in the UK. This all came to an end in 1540 when it was closed by order of Henry VIII. The western end of the Nave was given to the parish of Holy Cross and the remainder of the church, along with many monastic buildings were demolished. The church continued as a parish church and was redesigned in 1886-7.
The old monastery site was further destroyed when the current London – Shrewsbury road was built past its doors in 1836.
In more recent years the Abbey has become famous as the home of the fictitious Brother Cadfael, a sleuthing monk of Shrewsbury. Many visitors now come to visit the Abbey because of this connection. One thing I had not realised was that some of the book characters were real people – for example, Prior Robert Pennant, Cadfael’s nemesis in the books was actually a prior of Shrewsbury and was actually responsible for acquiring the bones of St Winifred (as in the book – A morbid taste for bones).