The Cistercian Abbey of St Mary and St Chad was founded in 1135 by Roger de Clinton, Bishop of Coventry (1129–1148) as a Savignac monastery and was inhabited by a small community of monks from Furness Abbey. The stone from which it was built was quarried in the nearby settlement of Broseley.
The abbey's location near the border of Wales meant it was destined to have a turbulent history. Welsh Princes and their followers regularly raided the Abbey, and on one occasion in 1406 raiders from Powys even kidnapped the abbot. This however paled in comparison to an event in 1342 where one of the Buildwas monks, Thomas Tong, murdered his abbot, managed to evade arrest and then petitioned for re-instatement into the Cistercian order.