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.
Warish Hall moated site remains essentially undisturbed and will retain
important archaeological information pertaining to the occupation and
development of Takeley Priory from its original foundation by William the
Conqueror until the modern period. The conversion of the site from monastic to
secular use in the late 14th century is of particular interest, and this may
account for the presence of a second, internal enclosure. The water-filled
ditches will retain environmental evidence relating to the economy of the
priory, the site's later occupants and the landscape in which they lived.
The monument at Warish Hall includes a priory site situated on high ground 2km
east of Takeley church. It contains a complete, rectangular moat which is set
within a much larger moated enclosure. The internal moat is situated in the
western part of the larger enclosure and measures 65m north-south by a maximum
of 80m east-west. The moat arms are water-filled and measure between 8m and
15m. Access to the island can be gained across bridges on the south, east and
northern arms of the moat. The western arm has an external retaining bank 3m
wide and approximately 0.5m high.
The western arm extends northwards and southwards to form the western side of
the outer enclosure. Its southern arm is 120m long, between 2.5m and 10m wide
and approximately 2m deep. The eastern arm is visible as a dry hollow 110m
long, 6m wide and approximately 0.4m deep. The northern arm of the enclosure
has been infilled and is preserved as a buried feature beneath the farm
buildings. The north-western corner of the outer enclosure, 7m north of the
internal moat, has been extended to form a large, irregular-shaped fishpond
which measures 50m east-west by a maximum of 20m north-south.
The site is identified as St Valery's Priory, Takeley, an alien Benedictine
priory founded in 1066-1086 by William I as an offering of thanks for the
Normans' safe crossing to England. The lands in Essex were held by the priory
at the Domesday Survey. No record of the community's size is given at that
point but in the 14th century there were two or three monks. In about 1391 the
priory was dissolved and the estates were assigned to New College, Oxford and
Winchester College. The internal moat is now occupied by Warish Hall, a Grade
1 Listed Building, which is of late 13th century date with later alterations.
Warish Hall, farm buildings, bridges, paths, greenhouse and swimming pool are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them all, except for
the swimming pool, is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.