The first Priory was built here around 1124 by Geoffrey de Clinton, who was also responsible for the first building of Kenilworth Castle.
Geoffrey later granted further land and a barn, gatehouse, belltower and infirmary were all built by the main priory buildings. St. Nicholas' Church was built nearby around the year 1291.
In 1447 the priory was upgraded to Abbey status and given the name St. Mary's Abbey. Less than 100 years later, though, the Abbey was signed over to Henry VIII and dismantled during the Dissolution.
Amongst the many important visitors to the Priory were Henry III (who was besieging the Castle), Edward II (who was here on his way to the Castle and then to meet destiny at Berkeley Castle, Edward III, Henry V was only a boy when injured at the Battle of Shrewsbury - he was brought to Kenilworth Castle and treated by priors from the Abbey, he later visited as King, Henry VI, Richard II and Henry VII. Others who probably visited included Geoffrey Chaucer and John of Gaunt.
By 1700 little remained except part of the cloister, the barn and the gatehouse (pictured). This is now preserved and stands mostly in St. Nicholas' Churchyard with a few bits in Abbey Park.
In 1888 a "pig" of lead was unearthed in the ruins of the Abbey which is believed to have been part of the Abbey roof, melted down and hidden from the King's Commissioners. It now stands in St. Nicholas' Church.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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