Ulverscroft Priory, moat and three fishponds
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1008554
Date first listed: 08-Feb-1915
Date of most recent amendment: 13-Jan-1993
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Feb-2019 at 18:21:02.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: 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: 17087
Legacy System: RSM
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