Vale Royal Abbey is a medieval abbey and later a country house. It was founded in 1270 by Edward I for monks of the austere Cistercian order. The King intended the abbey to be on the grandest scale however financial difficulties meant that these ambitions could not be fulfilled and the final building was considerably smaller than planned. The project ran into problems in other ways too; the abbey was frequently grossly mismanaged, relations with the local population were so poor as to result in large scale violence on a number of occasions and internal discipline was frequently bad.
Vale Royal was closed in 1538 by Henry VIII as part of the Dissolutions of Monasteries Act. Much of the Abbey, including the church was demolished but some of the cloister buildings were incorporated into a mansion by Thomas Holcroft, an important government official, during the 1540’s.
Over subsequent centuries, this house was considerably altered and extended by successive generations. The building still contains some surviving rooms from the medieval abbey including the refectory and the kitchen. The foundations of the church and cloister have also been excavated.
It is a scheduled ancient monument and a Grade II listed building.
Nothing remains of the great church, though archaeological work has revealed many details of its structure. A stone circular monument, known as the ‘Nun’s Grave’, traditionally commemorates a fourteenth century Cheshire nun, Ida, who tended a sick Vale Royal abbot, and on her death was buried at the site of the high altar. The monument was erected by the Cholmondeley family, possibly to lend credence to the legend of the nun. The material in its construction comes from three sources: the head made from a medieval cross with four panels depicting the Crucifixion, the Virgin and Child, St. Catherine, and St. Nicholas; the shaft, made in the seventeenth century and made of sandstone; and a plinth made from reclaimed abbey masonry. The present country house on the site incorporates substantial parts of the south and west ranges of the abbey plus Holcroft’s Tudor house.
Vale Royal was purchased by ICI in 1947. The chemical company initially used the abbey as staff accommodation and then, from 1954 to 1961, as the headquarters for its Alkali Division. ICI moved out in 1961 and for some years the future of Vale Royal was in doubt. There were abortive schemes to use the abbey as a health centre, a country club, a school and even a prison (this latter proposal was resisted by local inhabitants as strongly, though less violently, as the original foundation of the abbey had been, and did not occur). Since 1998, Vale Royal has been home to a private golf club.
The course was designed by renowned British Golf Course Architect Simon Gidman. The site itself is set in gently rolling, peaceful, Cheshire countryside.
All greens are constructed to USGA specifications which, along with the naturally free draining site, enables the course to remain open and in a fully playable condition year round irrespective of the climatic conditions. All tees remain in use throughout the year with no use of mats enabling the full summer course to be played year round, it is also permitted to use the competition tees year round even for general play if you wish to play the course at its longest at all times.
Each hole is individually characteristic and provides a true test of golf requiring imaginative shot making with every club in the bag whilst remaining enjoyable to play for all standards of golfer. The course is 6,465 yards in length from the white tees, 6,197 from the yellow tees and 5,579 from the red tees.