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By Linda Lee

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The monks and servants were treated generously, and the lands were granted to the Cavendish family. A year later they sold onto the Leveson family of Wolverhampton, who retained ownership until the early twentieth century. It was The Levesons who converted some of the claustral buildings for use as a family L 56 home and, during the Civil War, they also fortified the abbey. Weeks of fighting resulted in much structural damage, and when the Parliamentary troops did eventually break through, the north transept suffered severely.

The east wall of the church was presumably retained as a ‘romantic’ feature of the landscaped site. During the 1860s it was Admiral Chaloner who began to excavate the priory church in an attempt to uncover the tombs of the Gisborough patrons. His extensive operations led to the recovery of large quantities of architectural detail that have been displayed in the Monks’ Walk. It was also G 33 through Chaloner’s efforts that most of the Brus cenotaph was reconstructed and placed in the parish church.

Then, in December 1539, Hailes Abbey fell victim to the Dissolution, all its treasures then being removed. Subsequently, the site was granted to Katherine Parr (sixth wife of Henry VIII), but then it was sold on by the Crown, passing through a succession of family connections. At some time the church was demolished, and several of the domestic buildings were later converted for use as a family home. By the end of the eighteenth century the site had suffered extensive destruction and was left in an overgrown and decaying state until it was excavated some 100 years later.

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Abbeys & Priories of Great Britain - Volume One by Linda Lee

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