Wolston priory and moated site


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Rugby (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 41477 75857

Reasons for Designation

From the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597 to the reign of Henry VIII, monasticism formed an important facet of both religious and secular life in the British Isles. Settlements of religious communities, including monasteries, were built to house communities of monks, canons (priests), and sometimes lay-brothers, living a common life of religious observance under some form of systematic discipline. It is estimated from documentary evidence that over 700 monasteries were founded in England. These ranged in size from major communities with several hundred members to tiny establishments with a handful of brethren. They belonged to a wide variety of different religious orders, each with its own philosophy. As a result, they vary considerably in the detail of their appearance and layout, although all possess the basic elements of church, domestic accommodation for the community, and work buildings. Monasteries were inextricably woven into the fabric of medieval society, acting not only as centres of worship, learning and charity, but also, because of the vast landholdings of some orders, as centres of immense wealth and political influence. They were established in all parts of England, some in towns and others in the remotest of areas. Many monasteries acted as the foci of wide networks including parish churches, almshouses, hospitals, farming estates and tenant villages. Benedictine monasticism had its roots in the rule written about AD 530 by St Benedict of Nursia for his own abbey at Monte Cassino. Benedict had not intended to establish an order of monasteries and wider adoption of his rule came only gradually. The first real attempt to form a Benedictine order came only in 1216. The Benedictine monks, who wore dark robes, came to be known as `black monks'. These dark robes distinguished them from Cistercian monks who became known as `white monks' on account of their light coloured robes. Over 150 Benedictine monasteries were founded in England. As members of a highly successful order many Benedictine houses became extremely wealthy and influential. Their wealth can frequently be seen in the scale and flamboyance of their buildings. Benedictine monasteries made a major contribution to many facets of medieval life and all examples exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

The site preserves good archaeological evidence illustrating the way in which alien Benedictine priories were converted for secular uses in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Wolston Priory is a good example of a religious establishment which was converted into an agricultural estate belonging to a different religious order. The earthwork remains of the alien priory still survive, although ploughed, and the site will retain important structural evidence for the original priory. The moated island will retain both structural and artefactual information for the buildings that originally occupied the site, and for the activities of the site's inhabitants. Organic material will survive within the waterfilled north east arm of the moat.


The monument is situated in an area of low-lying ground on the north east outskirts of Wolston and includes the remains of an alien priory, an associated moated site and an area of ridge and furrow cultivation. The site can be divided into two parts chronologically: the alien priory and a medieval farmstead which includes the moated site and the ridge and furrow which overlies parts of the priory site. The alien priory in Wolston was founded between 1086 and 1194 by Hubert Boldran and belonged to the Benedictine abbey of St Pierre-sur-Dives. Wolston priory was a small cell and, although it did have a prior, it is thought that there were never more than one or two monks at the site. The remains of the priory are visible as earthworks in the eastern and southern parts of the site. These earthworks include a slightly raised platform in the south east area of the site. The platform has a levelled surface and is thought to be the site of one of the priory buildings. Slight earthworks are visible to the north and west of the building platform which indicate the position of further buried features associated with the priory. During the 14th century the buildings at the priory are known to have included a hall, barn, stable and grange and by 1388 a number of the priory buildings were in a ruined state. The northern and north east edges of the priory site are defined by 3m wide boundary ditches which are considered to represent the precinct boundary at these points. It is thought that the western extension of Priory Road may represent the original south east boundary of the monastic precinct. The house called The Priory is situated approximately 30m east of the priory site and dates mostly to the 16th century. Although the house is thought to have been built outside the precinct, a stone piscina and a carved corbel have been incorporated within the fabric of the house and these may have been removed from a monastic building. The house is Listed Grade II and lies outside the area of the scheduling. In 1394 the alien priory was sold to the Carthusian priory of St Anne in Coventry in order that the site and its land could be used as a farming venture. The Carthusians were probably responsible for the construction of the moated site immediately to the north west of the alien priory earthworks, at the end of the 14th century or during the early 15th century. The buildings of the priory were probably demolished at this time. The polygonal moated site measures up to 80m south west-north east and 60m north west-south east. The moat is 12m wide and approximately 1.5m deep. The north west, south west and south east arms of the moat are now dry and a stream flows along the moat's north east arm. The moated island has an area of 0.2ha and is raised above the surrounding ground surface. There are intermittent traces of an internal bank along the edge of the moated island and it is best preserved along the western edge of the island. The surface of the island rises gradually towards its western edge. There are no standing buildings on the island but slight earthworks are visible and these are considered to indicate the position of buried structures. A shallow depression is visible at the north east edge of the moated island. It is bounded by slight banks and is thought to mark the position of a bridge across the moat which provided access to the island. The earthwork remains of the alien priory, south east of the moated site, are overlaid by ridge and furrow cultivation which is visible running north-south across the site. The ridge and furrow respects the priory's boundary ditches along the north and east sides of the site and is thought to be associated with the agricultural development of the site by the Carthusians after the 14th century. The ridge and furrow provides evidence for the conversion of the priory site from a religious establishment to an agricultural estate of the Carthusian monks. In 1539 St Anne's Priory was dissolved and the site became the property of the Wigston family who constructed the house called The Priory, apparently outside the original precinct boundary. All fence posts on the site are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire, (1908), 133
Salzman, L F, Wells, H B, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire , (1951), 275


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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