Newark Priory: an Augustinian priory north of the River Wey


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.

Guildford (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 04213 57659

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. Some 225 of these religious houses belonged to the order of St Augustine. The Augustinians were not monks in the strict sense, but rather communities of canons - or priests - living under the rule of St Augustine. In England they came to be known as `black canons' because of their dark coloured robes and to distinguish them from the Cistercians who wore light clothing. From the 12th century onwards, they undertook much valuable work in the parishes, running almshouses, schools and hospitals as well as maintaining and preaching in parish churches. It was from the churches that they derived much of their revenue. The Augustinians made a major contribution to many facets of medieval life and all of their monasteries which exhibit significant surviving archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Newark Priory survives comparatively well, being one of the few religious houses in Surrey to retain substantial amounts of upstanding masonry. Documentary sources, combined with the archaeological remains and environmental evidence known from partial excavation to be contained within the monument, provide an insight into the economy and way of life peculiar to an Augustinian priory.


The monument includes the Augustinian priory of St Thomas, situated on the flood plain of the River Wey and surviving as a combination of upstanding and buried archaeological remains. The north-east part of the complex of priory buildings is partially upstanding and situated towards the centre of the monastic precinct. These buildings were constructed around a central courtyard, or cloister, with the church to the north and ranges, including chapter house, kitchens, and other accommodation for the canons, to the west, south and east. Of the church, the north and south walls of the choir and presbytery survive to a height of over 10m and the south transept is complete except for the roof. Fragments of the south wall of the nave and the north chapel also survive. The only part of the cloister ranges still upstanding is a portion of the south wall of the passage in the eastern range. This survives to a height of 2.4m. However, the plan of the cloister can be roughly traced by a slight rise in the ground where the foundations survive. Surrounding the masonry remains are the foundations of the rest of the priory buildings, which survive as buried features, and the remainder of the priory precinct. At the western limit of the precinct the ground level of the interior is 1.5m above that of the exterior. Fragments of a sandstone and flint retaining wall, as well as the remains of the gatehouse, survive along the boundary. A ditch, up to 5m wide and 0.8m deep, runs along the outside of the wall at this point and turns east and then south before meeting the River Wey which borders the precinct to the south. To the north is Abbey Stream and to the east the precinct extended to where the two water courses join. In the eastern part of the precinct are the remains of fishponds and water channels. These have become partially silted up over the years; some are visible as slight earthwork depressions but the majority survive as buried features. The upstanding remains of the priory buildings are listed Grade I. Documentary evidence has dated a founding of the priory to the reign of Richard I, during the 12th century, and it is to this period that the construction of the church dates. A long charter of inspection and confirmation was granted by Edward II in 1320 which recounts the gift of the land by Ruald de Calva and his wife Beatrice de Sandes 'to God, the blessed Virgin and the blessed martyr Thomas and to the canons there serving God'. The phraseology indicates that this was a re-founding, rather than the original founding of the priory, as the canons appear to have been part of an older establishment. The priory was finally dissolved in 1538. The site was partially excavated in 1928 when the complete plan of the main priory complex was revealed, including the 12th century cruciform church. A resistivity survey was undertaken in 1988 of the area around the standing buildings and further to the west. This was followed up by the excavation of three small trenches which verified the position of the buried foundations of the monastic buildings.

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.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
English Heritage, , Newark Priory, Surrey, (1988)
Malden, H E, The Victoria History of the County of Surrey: Volume IV, (1912), 102-5
Batchelor, D, 'Surrey Archaeological Collections' in Newark Priory, Ripley, Surrey, , Vol. 80, (1990), 231
Pearce, CMH, 'Surrey Archaeological Collections' in Surrey Archaeological Collections, , Vol. 40, (1932), 1-39
462 Surrey SMR,


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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