Halesowen Abbey and associated water control features
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1009770
Date first listed: 08-Feb-1915
Date of most recent amendment: 08-Feb-1995
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Dudley (Metropolitan Authority)
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
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
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
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.
Legacy System number: 21568
Legacy System: RSM
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.
End of official listing