Halesowen Abbey and associated water control features


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.

Dudley (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SO 97724 82701

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. The Premonstratensian order, or "White Canons", were not monks in the strict sense but rather communities of priests living together under a rule. The first Premonstratensian establishments were double houses (for men and women), but later they founded some 45 houses for men in England. The Premonstratensian order modelled itself on the Cistercian values of austerity and seclusion and founded all its monasteries in rural locations.

Halesowen Abbey is a well-documented example of a Premonstratensian monastery founded during the early 13th century. The quality of the surviving remains has been attested by excavation, though a great deal remains to be discovered. The site retains several important fragments of major monastic buildings and also the earthwork and buried remains of secular and agricultural buildings and features, the survival of which is more unusual. Organic material will be preserved in many of the water control features on the site and this will be of value in understanding the economy and environment of the site's inhabitants.


The monument is situated approximately 1km south east of the town of Halesowen. The core of Halesowen Abbey, a foundation of the Premonstratensian order, is in the Guardianship of the Secretary of State and includes the ruins of the conventual buildings which are also Listed Grade I. The monument is much more extensive and also includes parts of the associated water management system and the earthwork remains of mill sites. Halesowen Abbey was founded in 1215 by Peter des Roche and was colonised by canons from the existing Premonstratensian house at Welbeck in Nottinghamshire. The main abbey buildings lie among the agricultural buildings and the farmhouse of Manor Farm and occupy a slight eminence or spur of land which falls away quite sharply to the south into the valley of a stream which flows from west-east and joins a second stream to the south west of the conventual buildings. The conventual buildings are situated within a rectangular enclosure or precinct, which was originally defined by man-made pools of water to the north, south and south west and by waterfilled ditches cutting across the spur on the west and east sides. The precinct thus enclosed measures approximately 170m east-west and 100m north-south. The east ditch remains waterfilled whilst the west ditch is no longer visible on the ground surface. It is shown on the 1885 Ordnance Survey map and a resistivity survey at the site has indicated that the west ditch survives as a buried feature. Access into the inner precinct is thought to have been via a causeway from the north which is now overlaid by the farm track leading to Manor Farm. This causeway crosses the small valley to the north of the precinct, which was dammed in at least five places in the medieval period. The causeway itself forms the westernmost surviving dam in this group. It also crosses a channel running east-west along the north side of the precinct. The channel has been infilled but survives as a buried feature. It served as a bypass leat for the ponds to the north and, at one time, is thought to have provided the water supply for the ditches to the west and east of the conventual buildings. The monastic church, built of local red sandstone, is sited in the north part of the inner precinct and its standing remains include one bay of the north wall of the presbytery, the south west corner of both the south transept and the east end and a fragment of the south west corner of the south wall of the south aisle. The remains of the church are thought to be of early 13th century date. The standing portion of the south transept survives almost to its original height but has been considerably patched with modern work. Two doorways, one above the other, which originally connected the west range of the cloister to the church, remain visible within the transept. A range of agricultural buildings, which form a courtyard and are associated with Manor Farm, overlie the south wall of the church and the north part of the cloister. The north barn follows the same alignment as the church. It has been partly built from reused medieval masonry and timbers and is thought to be mostly of 17th century date. However excavations at the site during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and field evidence indicate that this barn incorporates standing fragments of the south wall of the south aisle, the west wall of the south transept and the north end of the west wall of the east range of the cloister within its fabric. In particular, the medieval doorway which originally provided access from the nave of the church into the north east corner of the cloister survives within this farm building. Although the majority of the barn itself is not included in the scheduling, the in-situ sections of medieval standing masonry which are visible within the barn and identified on an excavation plan of 1906 are included. Of the south range of the cloister, the south wall of the frater and its undercroft remain standing. To the south west of the claustral buildings there is a post-medieval building incorporating masonry from the abbey. This building is not included in the scheduling. To the south east of the church is a two-storey rectangular stone building originally constructed during the second half of the 13th century, although a number of later alterations are visible within the fabric. This may have been the abbot's lodging. Notable features of the building are the original transomed two-light upper windows, a number of which are now blocked, and the corbelled fireplace in the south wall. This building is included in the scheduling. Cartographic evidence indicates that the fields to the north and west of the monastic church, within the moated enclosure, were known respectively as Lower and Upper Churchyard indicating that these areas were used as the monastic cemetery. The conventual buildings in the precinct were originally set within a larger system of water control features. In 1938 excavations related to the road widening of Manor Road recovered evidence of a length of walling and a cobbled surface thought to be associated with the outer gatehouse of Halesowen Abbey. These features were destroyed when the road was widened into a dual carriageway, but they indicate that the monastery was originally bounded along its north side by Manor Way. The area of land between Manor Way and the series of ponds immediately to the north of the precinct has been the site of modern mining activity and this area is not included in the scheduling. Immediately to the north and north east of the precinct are the earthwork remains of a series of large ponds, of which at least five have been identified. The westernmost pond was formed behind a retaining bank which formed a causeway for the entrance track into the monastery. The valley to the east of here was dammed four more times creating a flight of ponds extending eastwards for approximately 460m. The water control system for these ponds, which are now dry, appears to have been quite complex. A bypass leat, or overflow channel, is visible running parallel to the south side of the ponds and it forms the north boundary to the inner precinct. Earthwork evidence indicates that the ponds were connected to this channel and to each adjacent pond by sluices. A survey of the earthworks at Halesowen Abbey has indicated that there may have been a further pond to the west of the approach road to Manor Farm. It is unclear how far the pond, which is now dry, originally extended westwards and it is, therefore, not included in the scheduling. The valley to the south of the conventual buildings has been dammed in three places to create ponds. These are now dry but their retaining banks, built across the stream channel, remain visible as substantial earthworks. The retaining bank visible immediately to the south west of the conventual buildings would have originally created a large body of water along the south boundary to the precinct. The proximity of the central pond to the conventual buildings suggests that the pond had a domestic use and a sluice within its retaining bank is thought to have provided a water supply for the latrines, situated in the south range of the cloister. At the south end of this retaining bank and at the north end of the south pond's retaining bank are the remains of levelled platforms which are thought to be the remains of former watermill sites. There is no surface evidence of the mill buildings on either retaining bank but such evidence will survive in the form of buried features. The tail-races for these watermills remain visible as shallow depressions on the ground surface adjacent to the mill platforms. The retaining bank in the south east part of the site would have originally retained a supply pond of some considerable extent, but only a sample 12m wide area of the deposits found on the floor of the pond is included within the scheduling, adjacent to the retaining bank. A prominent earthwork, which forms the south boundary to the site, is visible running south west from the retaining bank in the south east part of the site. The topographical position of this ditch and its relationship with the south pond indicate that at one stage it carried water and clearly served as part of the monastery's water-control system. The west end of the ditch widens into a double-ditched feature with a linear, raised earthwork situated between the two ditches. This feature is considered to be the site of a number of mills associated with the monastery and a resistivity survey of the earthwork has indicated the presence of at least one structure and traces of several more surviving as buried features. The field to the north of the double-ditched earthwork is bounded along its west side by a bank and ditch and on its north and east sides by the former ponds. This enclosed field retains earthwork evidence of ridge and furrow cultivation, running north-south across the ground surface. In 1536 Halesowen Abbey and all its possessions were surrendered to the Crown and two years later the monastic buildings were partly demolished. The site of the abbey was granted by Henry VIII to Sir John Dudley who passed the site to his servant George Tuckey. The in-situ sections of medieval standing masonry within the barn, and the rectangular stone building south east of the church are included within the scheduling. The 19th century farmhouse and the agricultural buildings of Manor Farm, except where specified above as being included, are excluded from the scheduling. All fence posts, concrete and tarmac surfaces, and all service inspection chambers are also excluded but the ground beneath all these features is included.

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.

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Books and journals
Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit, , Halesowen Abbey, (1986), 27
Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit, , Halesowen Abbey, (1986), 8
Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit, , Halesowen Abbey, (1986), 1986
Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit, , Halesowen Abbey, (1986), 28
Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit, , Halesowen Abbey, (1986), 24
Light, H M, The Victoria History of the County of Worcestershire: Halfshire Hundred, (1913), 137
Locke, A A, The Victoria History of the County of Worcestershrie: The Abbey of Halesowen, (1906), 162
Brakspear, H, 'Archaeological Journal' in Plan of Halesowen Abbey, , Vol. lxiii, (1906), 252
National Archaeological Record, SO98SE1,
Title: Tithe Map of the township of Lapal Source Date: 1844 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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.

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