Redemptorist International Pastoral Centre England

history of the house

When we look at Hawkstone today, we are immediately conscious of the splendid Georgian manor, which has embellished the surrounding countryside for three hundred years. A little research, however, reveals that the history of Hawkstone goes back to the Doomsday Book, six centuries earlier, when the estate was owned by Roger, Lord of Hauckestan, a spelling that later became Hawkstone. The Hawkstone family were themselves the inheritors of a long tradition of noble families in the area, barons and knights whose lives were woven into a world of intrigue and grandeur, merging with the legendary era of King Arthur.

Bought in 1556 by Sir Rowland Hill, Knight, Hawkstone remained with his descendants for three hundred and forty years. During this time the Hill Family became the largest landowner in northern Shropshire, furnishing a living for many people over a wide area. Over the years the house and the estate were developed into one of the leading attractions in England. After visiting Hawkstone in 1774, Dr Samuel Johnson wrote: “The walker congratulates his own arrival at the place, and is grieved to think that he must ever leave it.”

The Hill family played their part in the life of the nation as well as the county. One of its most illustrious sons, Lord Hill, distinguished himself as the second-in-command to the Duke of Wellington at the battle of Waterloo. When Wellington was made Prime Minister in 1824, Hill succeeded him as commander-in-chief of the army. The fortune of the Hills of Hawkstone was to change, however, for at the end of the 19th century, during the tenure of the 3rd Viscount, the Hill family was declared bankrupt. The family is now dispersed worldwide.

After the Great War, the land was divided up and bought by various purchasers. The Redemptorists, a Roman Catholic missionary congregation, have owned the Hall since 1926. The Redemptorists built a Romanesque-style church in 1932, and in 1962 the north-east service wing was demolished to make way for a new students' wing, housing a spacious refectory and kitchen on the ground floor, and 65 bedrooms on the upper floors. From 1926 until 1973 our students for the priesthood were educated here, their number reaching a peak of fifty in the 1960's.

When we moved our students to Canterbury, we developed the Hall into a Pastoral and Renewal Centre. The idea of a three-month Renewal Course for people in ministry was conceived and came into being in September 1975. Since then many hundreds of people, priests, religious and lay from five continents, have availed themselves of Hawkstone's unique course. Today, Hawkstone is known worldwide as an International Renewal Centre.

From 1985 until 1989, in association with English Heritage, the main roofs of the manor house were re-laid and the principal rooms redecorated. Beginning 2007, the house is now open to the public from 14 – 31 August from 1pm – 5pm. (see public visiting times).

Back to top

old print of house Richard Hill Lord Hill etching of the hall - 1827 etching - 1854