Leek: once, now and next

Leek: once, now and next


Dieulacres seal

800 years ago, Ranulf of Chester moved a Cistercian Abbey from Poulton in Cheshire to Leek. For the next 300 years, until its Dissolution in 1538, Dieualcres (“may God increase”) was a force to be reckoned with in the hills and moors of the western edge of the Peaks. They became one of the wealthiest abbeys in the midlands and were notorious for keeping a band of armed men who weren’t quite marauders but were used by the Abbot ‘to do all the mischief they can to the people in the county of Stafford and that they have lain in wait for them, assaulted, maimed, and killed some, and driven others from place to place…’

Sometime in the 14th century, a scribe (or scribes) in an abbey – that might well have been Dieulacres – wrote, or transcribed, or edited from earlier sources or maybe just made up, the story of Gawain and the Green Knight that was to become a classic of Old English literature


Gawain: a puppet from a version of Gawain performed in Flash a few years ago

And now it is gone. Dieualcres was dismantled, its stones spreading through the growing town. Carvings were incorporated into the buildings of what is now Abbey Farm. A hermitage stands just off the lane to the farm. A rose window gifted by the abbey shines in one of the Leek churches….

But once, Dieulacres was one of the most important institutions in the midlands and made Leek a focal point for the land around.

Leek:once, now and next is using this 800th birthday of the Abbey that isn’t there any more as an opportunity to celebrate Leek’s past, present and future


the ruins of Croxden Abbey – another centre for the Citsercians in Staffordshire

Public events will lead to a birthday part in October 2014. There will be

  • Abbey Lantern making with youth groups
  • sewing a new Abbot’s Cope using medieval and modern imagery to made a fabulous garment
  • opportunities to darw the skyline of Leek along 10 metres of paper
  • the chance to make your own pop-up abbey
  • an invitation to listen to stories of medieval life
  • to plan the town you’d like to live in….
  • lots to do!

Keep an eye on this blog and local press for event details


This is a joint project between Stone and Water (using an Awards for All grant to explore Leek: once, now and next) and Borderland Voices (drawing on other funds to delve deeper into the Abbey legacy)

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