St Mary's Abbey and boundary walls


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1116589

Date first listed: 15-Jan-1968

Date of most recent amendment: 11-Feb-2016

Statutory Address: Main Road, Little Haywood, Stafford, ST18 0UF


Ordnance survey map of St Mary's Abbey and boundary walls
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Statutory Address: Main Road, Little Haywood, Stafford, ST18 0UF

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Staffordshire

District: Stafford (District Authority)

Parish: Colwich

National Grid Reference: SK0078021303


A mid-C18 house, altered in the late 1820s/early 1830s and then from 1835 onwards for use as a priory and an abbey from 1928 onwards.

Reasons for Designation

St Mary's Abbey, a house originally of the mid-C18 converted for religious use from 1835 onwards, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: the building is a good example of design in the Gothick style, with good quality detailing; * Interior features: the building retains a good level of quality internal features, including plaster decoration, doors, and features within the chapel; * Historic interest: as an interesting example of a house converted from the 1830s for religious use.


There was a house built on this site by Charles Cope Trubshaw c.1767, which by the end of the C18 was known as The Mount. The property changed hands in 1791 and again in 1828 when it was purchased by Robert Shirley, Viscount Tamworth, who embarked upon a programme of rebuilding in the Gothick style, and renamed the house Mount Pavilion. Viscount Tamworth died around 1830, before the house could be finished.

The building sat empty for a number of years before being purchased in 1835 by the Very Rev. Mother Mary Clare Knight, who was Prioress of the Benedictine nuns then at Court House in Cannington, Somerset. The nuns took up residence in 1836 and much additional building work took place from this time onwards. The building became known as St. Benedict's Priory. The chapel was blessed in 1837.

In 1928 the Priory was raised to the rank of an Abbey and became known by its present name, St. Mary's Abbey. Shortly afterwards, in 1929 a new sanctuary was built for the Abbey Church. Some demolition of mid-C19 buildings took place in the 1970s, at which time a new wing was built to the rear. The buildings appear mostly to have remained as they are since that time.


A mid-C18 house, altered in the late 1820s/early 1830s and then from 1835 onwards for use as a priory and an abbey from 1928 onwards.

MATERIALS: the buildings are mostly constructed of stone with slate roofs, with some brick and rendered sections.

PLAN: the entrance elevation of the building faces east, with the main garden front facing south. There is a loose courtyard arrangement to the north with various buildings attached. There are further outbuildings and farm buildings to the north and east, including a small mortuary chapel (Grade II).

EXTERIOR: the main building is built in the Gothick style, with the main entrance on the eastern elevation. At the southern end of this elevation the sanctuary of the chapel projects, with pointed arch windows with reticulated tracery, and a crenellated parapet. On the main building the principal feature is a gabled section which sits between two turrets. In the gable at first floor level is a tripartite window with carved and crocketted ogee hoods above and an ornate panel with shield at the apex. These sit above a bowed projection at ground floor level with tall, square-headed windows with Gothick style tracery, one now enclosed within the chapel extension. The entrance door is to the right of this section, with a plain two-light window above, and a further canted bay and square bay to the right. There is a plain, rendered gable beyond. There is a crenellated parapet across the whole of this elevation.

The principal garden elevation faces south, with a tall central turreted section flanked by lower wings, also with turrets. There are three tall windows in the central section, with perpendicular style tracery, which light the nave of the chapel within. Above these there is a figure of the Virgin and Child under an elaborate gothic canopy, with small windows to either side with ornate pointed hoods above, and further square-headed windows beyond. The bays to either side of the central section have first floor oriel windows. The western end of the elevation has a full height canted bay, with Gothick traceried windows, those to the ground floor with pointed heads and hoodmoulds with carved label stops. At the eastern end is the sanctuary of the chapel, and a single storey projection with perpendicular style windows.

The rear of the Abbey is largely made up of plain, rendered elevations with a mixture of window styles. There is a small bell tower with louvered openings and a large clock below it at the rear of the main block, and a tall C19 wing to the west. A large, late C20 block is connected to the Abbey at its western end, and also by a cloister walk of timber construction. The C20 block and timber link and the connected single storey brick building are not of special interest.

INTERIOR: the entrance to the Abbey opens into a flagged hall with the main staircase and enclosure door beyond, and the entrance to the chapel through decorative Gothick panelled doors to the south. Through these, the chapel is approached through the sacristy and then accessed through an opening in the ornate bay window. The nave of the chapel is located in what would have been intended as one of the principal rooms of the house, with three ogee arches with decorative plaster work which now effectively form an arcade, with the organ in a recess north of this. The nave has collegiate seating with plain misericords, brought from St Scholastica's Priory at Atherstone in Warwickshire following its amalgamation with St Mary's in 1967. The nave has a flat plaster ceiling with simple decoration. Between the nave and the sanctuary is a section of painted ceiling in a Tudor gothic style, below which is a small gallery overlooking the space, with the sanctuary beyond having a compartmentalised ceiling with stencilled decoration. There are small chapels flanking the sanctuary, with decorative iron screens and gates.

A door from the west end of the chapel leads in to the nuns' chapter room, which contains the Mother Abbess's chair in a blocked door with ornate surround. This room has an ornate plaster ceiling and timber wainscoting around the walls. In the south wall is a recess with Gothick style plaster work, and three niches within under ogee hoods. In the ceiling of the recess is a plaster roundel with heraldic imagery thought to relate to a previous owner of the building.

At the western end of the building is a further room with a plaster ceiling similar to that of the chapter room and much additional plaster work, including around the bay window and in a buffet recess to one end of the room. These rooms are connected by a hall with decorative floor tiles and a quadripartite vaulted ceiling. There is a further tiled corridor with a simple plaster vault running north-south through the building. Towards the northern end of the building are servants' bells assumed to survive from before the nuns took up residence.

The principal stair, adjacent to the main entrance, has timber stick balusters rising in an open well to the first floor with a number of rooms accessed off it, all with timber panelled doors. At the base of this stair is the enclosure door, through which is a further dog-leg stair of similar character with simple timber brackets, which rises the full height of the building.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: there are extensive gardens surrounding the Abbey, with tall, brick walls enclosing much of the land, mostly mid-C19 and some later. To the north east there are ranges of brick outbuildings and farm buildings, a later C19 house and a C20 house associated with the Abbey; these houses are not of special interest. At the entrance to the Abbey forecourt is an iron gate with iron railings on a low brick wall.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 443134

Legacy System: LBS


A Short History of the Building now known as St Mary's Abbey Colwich (copywright St Mary's Abbey)
The Architectural History Practice Limited: Churches in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham: An Architectural Review prepared for English Heritage and the Archdiocese of Birmingham (2015)

End of official listing