Kirby Bellars Priory


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


Ordnance survey map of Kirby Bellars Priory
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Melton (District Authority)
Kirby Bellars
National Grid Reference:
SK 71738 18253

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 site of Kirby Bellars priory is an unusual example of a moated religious house. The moat island will retain evidence of the priory buildings.


The site at Kirby Bellars is situated on low lying ground on the west bank of the River Wreake, 3km west of Melton Mowbray, and includes the earthworks of an Augustinian priory comprising a moated site and boundary banks and ditches.

The earthworks cover an area measuring almost 200m square to the north of St Peter's church. The centre of the monument is occupied by a square moated site, currently dry, measuring approximately 100 x 100m in overall dimensions. The east and western arms of the moat measure between 16-18m wide and are up to 3m deep. The southern arm of the moat has been infilled and the northern arm partly infilled. Connecting channels indicating the water management system run from the north-east and south-east corners of the moat. The surface of the moat island has an uneven appearance and will contain the remains of buildings. Two small mounds less than 0.5m high connected by a low bank are situated on the eastern side of the island. Surrounding the moat is a ditch of about 3m wide, an inner bank of up to 1m high, an outer of less than 0.5m high on three sides and a low bank on the western side. This is extended northwards from the north-east corner, surviving for 25m as a bank 6m wide and 0.5m tall. To the south of this enclosure are two banks flanking two ditches of similar dimensions which extend for some 60m towards the churchyard wall and continuing for a further 50m around the churchyard to the west. A further enclosure is created on the south eastern side of the site by a ditch with an outer bank measuring 0.5m and an inner measuring up to 2m.

The priory of Kirby Bellars was founded as a chantry in 1316, becoming an Augustinian priory in 1359. The priory church was a separate chapel having the same dedication as the church to the south. By 1440 the priory possessed a chapter house. The religious house was dissolved in 1534.

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.

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Books and journals
Thompson, A H, 'Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Hist Soc' in The Chapel of St Peter at Kirby upon Wreak, , Vol. 16, (1931), 130-212


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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