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Richard Earl of Cornwall (brother of Henry III) was in danger of shipwreck and to thank God for his safe delivery, he built a Cistercian Abbey at Hailes. The abbey was founded in 1246. Cistercians always built their abbeys well away from towns (e.g. Fountains, Rievaulx, Tintern etc). Isabel Countess of Gloucester, the widow of Gilbert de Clare, Lord of the Manor of Tewkesbury, had married Richard after a period of mourning for Gilbert. It was a disastrous marriage, and when she died Richard tore her heart out and sent it to the Abbot of Tewkesbury, telling him to bury it at Tewkesbury as it had always been there. It is buried in Gilbert’s grave in the presbytery of Tewkesbury Abbey. The remainder of Isabel's body was buried in Beaulieu Abbey.
Richard donated a phial of the Holy Grail to Hailes Abbey. It attracted huge crowds of pilgrims and the abbey became very rich, but the phial was analysed after the Dissolution and it was found to contain duck's blood. The abbey was closed by Henry VIII on Christmas Eve 1539, and its ruins are now owned by the National Trust and maintained by English Heritage (click here for details).
Hailes Church was built in 1130. On the walls are the remains of murals dating from 1300, and a fine St. Cecilia on the Chancel window jamb, dating from 1290. The rood screen is medieval, and the pulpit is Jacobean. This is one of the original 3-decker pulpits, where the Rector would have gone up to the top deck to preach, so that he could look over the sides of the box pews and see his congregation. The Commonwealth arrangement in the Chancel is still retained, with the oak-panelled seats and the Puritanized style of altar, as the seventeenth century table stands on the original altar stones.