Ulverscroft Priory, moat and three fishponds


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


Ordnance survey map of Ulverscroft Priory, moat and three fishponds
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Charnwood (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 50063 12721

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.

The priory at Ulverscroft retains extensive ruined buildings which, together with a long water-filled moat and three large fishponds comprise the finest surviving monastic site in the county.


Ulverscroft Priory is located on the relatively high ground of the Charnwood granite upland region of Leicestershire and includes the ruined priory buildings, three arms of a moat and three fishponds.

The priory of St Mary was founded in 1134 by Robert Earl of Leicester and was taken over by the Augustinians in 1174. The visible ruins date from the 13th century with the greater part dating from the 14th-15th centuries. The ruins of the priory church are located to the north of the cloister and measure 45 x 18m overall. The church retains considerable remains of the 15th century tower, the nave and north aisle walls with a quantity of floor tiles in situ in the chancel. The cloister to the south originally measured 20 x 20m internally. It is enclosed on three sides by the remains of granite walled buildings. On the west side is a building interpreted as a guest house, and on the south side is a 13th century refectory and prior's lodging house. The refectory contains an almost complete pair of 15th century windows. An area of blank wall to the south is thought to have had an adjoining kitchen, now demolished, to the south. An 18th century cottage and a dairy were built on to the north side of the refectory. The prior's lodging was three storeys high and was later converted to a farmhouse in the 17th-18th centuries when a central chimneystack was inserted. The farmhouse, which is included in the scheduling, is unoccupied today. The east range of the cloister was demolished at the Dissolution in 1539. Following the Dissolution the priory was granted to Thomas the 1st Earl of Rutland.

The earthworks associated with these ruins include an extensive water-filled moat, the western arm measuring 125m, the southern 75m and the western 100m in length. The average width of the moat is 15m and a large retaining bank was built on the south and western sides where the surrounding ground is marshy. There is no evidence for a northern arm. A large sub-rectangular fishpond measuring 100 x 75m is situated at the northern termination of the western arm. It is water-filled and embanked on the southern and western sides. To the north of the large fishpond is a second sub-rectangular fishpond measuring 50 x 30m embanked on the western side but disturbed by a 19th century pond (Ulverscroft Pond) on the northern side. To the east of the two fishponds is a third pond measuring 80 x 15m which shows slight evidence of embanking.

Inhabited buildings and modern barns to the east of the cloister are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Farnham, G F, The Charnwood Manors, (1928)
Hartley, R F, The Medieval Earthworks of Central Leicestershire, (1989)
Pevsner, N, Williamson, E, The Buildings of England: Leicestershire and Rutland, (1984)


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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