|The earliest history of the site documents that Hugh de Hatton, son of Richard, Lord of Hatton, was fighting in the Crusades. He was captured in Jerusalem and chained to a wall, where he remained for seven years. Hugh reported that one night, in a dream, he was visited by St Leonard, patron saint of captives, and, when he awoke, his shackles had fallen from him. He hastened back to Warwick, in the early 12th Century, and upon his return dedicated 3000 acres to the building of a priory, dedicated to St Leonard.Wren’s Cathedral is now the only existing part of that priory. St Leonard is an important figure to the cathedral and is the seat of the Order of the St Leonard – please click here to find out more about the Order of St Leonard.
The story of Hugh de Hatton and the Crusades is documented in a magnificent stained glass window, placed within Wroxall Abbey. Visitors to the site can view the stained glass window, situated within the stairwell of the mansion house.
The Priory of St Leonard also known as the Monastery of St. Leonard at Wroxall was founded in 1141 AD according to the rules of St. Benedict; the first Prioress’s name being either Ernborow or Erneburga. Walter de Maydenflon Bishop of Worcester dedicated the high altar of the Priory Church in 1141 AD. Twenty-two years later in 1163 a charter was granted to Wroxall Priory by Pope Alexander III giving the Prioress, Sabina, wide powers over the whole of the Wroxall Estates and parts of Hatton. King John also granted Wroxall a charter in 1199 AD.
In 1501 Isabella Shakespeare a great aunt to William Shakespeare was Prioress. Shakespeare’s grandfather, Richard and his family were members here (1500’s) and Richard was bailiff to the Church in 1534.
Church of St. Leonard, Wroxall Abbey
With the separation of the Church from Rome, Henry VIII sold the lands to Robert Burgoyne and John Scudamore after they had destroyed the Priory and Church adjacent to the present Wren’s Cathedral. The Lady Chapel was preserved as the Parish Church of Wroxall and is now the Cathedral Church. An Elizabethan house was built mainly from the accumulated rubble. Some of the ruins of the larger Church can be seen across the present driveway. Chaplains (ministers) were appointed from about 1538. The Estate took the title of Abbey (meaning Church of the House) i.e. Wroxall Abbey. The three bells in the Church date from 1663-1664. One bell remains in operation and is still used for weddings at the Cathedral. In 1713, Sir Christopher Wren the famous Architect purchased the estate for his son. While he is buried at St Paul’s Cathedral his wife and family are buried in the graveyard in Wroxall. His coat of arms is displayed on the south wall of the present Chapel. It is believed that Sir Christopher Wren constructed the the red brick bell tower during the same time as his construction of the Crinkly Crankly Walled Garden that still stands next to the Cathedral. The last family to own the estate were the Dugdales who purchased the estate in 1861.
Their successors still own the farms and buildings in the village of Wroxall. They demolished the Elizabethan house and built the present Mansion House in 1865.
In 1936 the Mansion House became the Wroxall Abbey Girls School – with facilities for boarding and day pupils, with around 150 pupils aged between 9 and 18 years, together with 12 full time and 15 part time staff. The proprietors leased 27 acres of the property, including the Church. Ministers continued to be appointed during this period. The school (and the church) closed in 1995.
Wren’s Chapel & Cathedral, Wroxall Abbey
The present owners, Wroxall Abbey Hotel and Estates, allowed worship to be re-established in the Church in 2001 and renamed it Wren’s Chapel in memory of its former illustrious owner. The Renewal Christian Centre, a large multinational Free Methodist Church in Solihull, agreed to provide ordained ministers to continue the Christian witness in Warwickshire. The ministers appointed at that time belonged to the Free Methodist Church denomination, but Wren’s Chapel was registered as an independent congregation. It became part of the Anglican & Celtic Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches in 2009 when its ministers were re-ordained and the Order of St. Leonard was established at the same time.. The Church became the seat of the Bishop. In 2011 it became an archdiocese and seat of an Archbishop then just recently it became a Province in its own right. The church therefore then became known as Wren’s Cathedral.
STAINED CLASS WINDOWS
The description of the windows was compiled by Colin Smith, a member of the Wren’s Cathedral congregation.
Stained glass has been used in church windows for many hundreds of years and the method of its production can be traced back even further. The earliest that stained glass is known to have been used in England is the seventh century although there is none now in existence from before the twelfth century. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the use of stained glass had become widespread in England, with much of it being imported from France and Germany. In the mid sixteenth century, however, the Reformation which was begun by King Henry VIII and continued by his successors led to the removal and destruction of a great deal of stained glass with religious subject matter. It was replaced with either plain glass or glass with relatively uncontroversial subjects such as heraldry.
The stained glass that we now see in Wren’s Cathedral dates mainly from the refurbishment of the church by the Dugdale family in the mid nineteenth century, who aimed to restore the chapel to how it might have appeared prior to the Reformation. Some restored fragments of much earlier glass, dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, have been used in some of the windows, particularly the figures of the saints and the Virgin Mary which are prominent features of the East window. The artwork includes scenes and characters from the New Testament (although only one from the Old Testament).
Some of the early Christian saints worshipped by the medieval Church and various heraldic and other designs are associated with the previous owners of the Wroxall estate.
EAST WINDOW (ALTAR)
The main figures from left to right, who are illustrated in red, blue and gold and all of whom are identified in Latin in Gothic lettering, are:
The North Wall has five windows, all in decorated fifteenth century style. Starting from the window closest to the East window (Altar) these are:
In the chancel. a window of three main lights. This window shows three early Christian martyrs from the late third and early fourth centuries, who became popular in the Middle Ages although the historical basis for the legends associated with them remains uncertain.
Whilst they are not named, the symbols with which they are portrayed enable them to be identified as:
On the other side of the screen and adjacent to the pulpit is a window dominated by the figure of
On its left, a further window of three lights is dominated by the figures of three of the Apostles, these being (left to right):
The main lights of the window nearest to the main door show, from left to right:
Immediately underneath, again from left to right, can be seen:
The west window, in 15th century decorated style, is dominated by the three figures, from left to right, of:
At the bottom of the west window are,
The single window in the nave is in Early English style and portrays:
The dedication reads “To the glory of God and in loving memory of Thomas and Martha Anne Crowe” (who appear to have been connected with the Dugdale family).
WALL FIXTURES IN WREN’S CATHEDRAL
Below, in abbreviated form, are the inscriptions of the installed plaques on the walls of the Cathedral. These notes show the fixtures starting from the left hand side of the church looking at the Altar window.
It should be noted that it was the tradition of the Wren family at that time to name the first born male of each generation to be named, Christopher.
Immediately below the Altar window
Immediately to the left of the Altar window.
Rev Philip Wren MA
To the memory of Rev Philip Wren MA Rector of Ipsley & vicar of Tanworth
Between first and second windows
Christopher and Mary Wren
also Thomas and Matthew sons
A nearby vault lye the bodies of Christopher Wren and Mary his wife. He died 21st July 1771 aged 60. Mary died 12th March 1773 aged 59. Near the place also interned the bodies of two sons Thomas died 22nd January 1762 age 25 years. Matthew died 13th February 1770 in his 22nd year.
Between second and third windows.
Christopher and Anne Wren
Memory of Christopher Robert Wren DCL died March 4th 1828 aged 52. Also Anne his fourth wife died 4th December 1852 aged 73 years.
.Between third and fourth windows
Miss K H Carter
A Tapestry in memory of Miss K H Carter Headmistress Wroxall Abbey Girls School 19711980. Created by the Girls of the Wroxall Abbey School
Between the fourth and fifth windows
Major Herbert Crowe & Emmeline Dugdale
Major Herbert Crowe Dugdale 13th Lancers, born April 3rd 1860. Died March 15th 1909. Emmeline his wife born May 14th 1859 died March 20th March 1909.
Bell Tower Wall
Joanna Maria Wren
Sacred to the memory of Joanna Maria daughter and coheiress of Christopher Robert Wren. Died 30th May 1830
Tapestry below the South Window. Created by the girls of Wroxall Abbey School to celebrate the silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth
Wall of vestry adjacent to the side door
Christopher & Martha Wren
Near this place lie the remains of Christopher Wren. Died 10th December 1797 aged 52. Also his wife Martha. Died in August 1779
In memory of Christopher Wren of Perry Barr. Died 1st May 1842 aged 81 years.
Coat of Arms of Sir Christopher Wren Architect and owner of Wroxall Abbey 1713
Immediately behind the screen in the sanctuary
James Broughton & Laura Dugdale
Beloved memory of James Broughton Dugdale. Born 19th September 1855. Died 14th January 1927. Also his wife Laura Jane. Born 9th March 1857. Died 11th September 1934.
Right to the organ
Large tablet in Latin dedicated to Anne Burgoyne daughter of John Robinson. Died February 1693 aged 51.
Right side of altar in small chapel area.
James & Mary Louisa Dugdale
In memory of James Dugdale eldest son of John Dugdale. Born 20th March 1813. Died 24th April 1876 and Mary Louisa