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The Cistercian abbey of St Mary was founded on the banks of the River Weaver in 1277 under the patronage of Edward I. The community was set up at Darnhall on the lands of a royal estate and Edward moved the foundation to the present site in 1281. Building work was halted in about 1290 when royal patronage was withdrawn, but was resumed in 1353 under the Black Prince and continued, with various setbacks including the collapse of the nave, until about 1380. The abbey was supressed in 1539 and in 1543 the buildings and estate was sold to Thomas Holcroft who demolished most of the abbey buildings and sold or re-used the materials to build his country house on the site. He remodelled the west range of claustral buildings of the abbey to create the core of the house. Further remodellings have created what now appears as a major 19th century house. When the building work of the abbey was completed the abbey church was the longest built by the Cistercian order in England. It stood on the north side of the monastic complex. Work on the claustral buildings has been shown by excavation to have been less grand and some of the work may never have been completed to the original plan. The church formed the north side of the cloister. The refectory and kitchen on the south side of the cloister were later remodelled as the south wing of Holcroft's House. On the east side was a large chapter house whilst the size of the cloister garth was one of the largest in England. Further buried remains of ancillary buildings have been located in the garden of Bell Cottage to the south of the southern claustral buildings whilst buried remains also exists around the present house. A system of fishponds were recorded at NGR 63107030 which are no longer identifiable but are thought to have been monastic in origin. In the centre of the site of the abbey church there is now a cross known as the Nun's Grave, which has been rescued and re-erected. Scheduled.

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