Thursday, August 13, 2009

Halesowen Abbey Trust looking for volunteers

A group of volunteers who successfully opened Halesowen Abbey to the public for the first time in eight years want to open the medieval monument up for the whole summer next year.

Halesowen News reports that the medieval ruin was first closed by the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001 (the abbey is located within a 242-acre working farm).

When the ban on public attractions was lifted following the disease, the site was deemed unfit for public use because landowner Chris Tudor was having building work done on his nearby home. But after strenuous efforts from the voluntary Halesowen Abbey Trust and English Heritage the site was once again opened last month.

There will be further openings in the weekends of the 29 and 30 of August, the 26 and 27 of September and on a weekend in October yet to be finalised. And as an added bonus the site will also be opened for English Heritage’s national open day on Saturday, September 12.

“It is wonderful to have the abbey open to the public again and we couldn’t have done it without the support of English Heritage and the landowner,” said Mick Freer, honorary secretary of Halesowen Abbey Trust.

“The people who staff the site are volunteers and we want more people with an enthusiasm for history to come forward and help. If we can recruit more volunteers we can open the abbey every weekend next summer.”

Halesowen Abbey dates back to 1215, the site being granted by King John to French monks. For over 300 years, the monks controlled around 4,000 hectares of land around Halesowen and ruled the area with a rod of iron.

An uprising was eventually staged against the Abbot who had forced Halesowen people to pay a series of unpopular taxes.

The site, in Manor Way, acted as not only a place of worship, but a court, a fish farm and mill. It was also a money spinning stop off point for pilgrims to the neighbouring St Kenelm’s spring.

The comfortable lifestyle was only ended by the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, leaving the buildings in ruins.

The surviving written records from the abbey are among the best preserved in England and show the huge quantities of goods consumed by the stream of pilgrims to the abbey who came to see the grisly relic of St Barbara’s head, before continuing to St Kenelm’s Church.

Anyone interested in helping out at the abbey can call Mr Freer on 07855 473045.