The medieval college of St Gregory and St Martin at Wye


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of The medieval college of St Gregory and St Martin at Wye
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Ashford (District Authority)
Wye with Hinxhill
National Grid Reference:
TR 05489 46849

Reasons for Designation

The term college is used to describe a variety of different types of establishment whose communities of secular clergy shared a degree of common life less strictly controlled than that within a monastic order. Although some may date to as early as the tenth century, the majority of English colleges were founded in the 14th or 15th centuries. Most were subsequently closed down under the Chantries Act of 1547. Colleges of the prebendal or portional type were set up as secular chapters, both as an alternative to the structure of contemporary monastic houses and to provide positions for clerics whose services the monastic establishment wished to reward. Some barons followed suit by setting up colleges within their castles, while others were founded by the Crown for the canons who served royal free chapels. Foundations of this type were generally staffed by prebends or portioners (priests taking their income from the tithes, or other income deriving from a village or manor). After 1300, chantry colleges became more common. These were establishments of priests, financed from a common fund, whose prime concern was to offer masses for the souls of the patron and the patron's family. They may also have housed bedesmen (deserving poor and elderly) and provided an educational facility which in some cases eventually came to dominate their other activities. From historical sources it is known that approximately 300 separate colleges existed during the early medieval and medieval period; of these, 167 were in existence in 1509, made up of 71 prebendal or portional colleges, 64 chantry colleges and 32 whose function was primarily academic. In view of the importance of colleges in contributing to our understanding of ecclesiastical history, and given the rarity of known surviving examples, all identified colleges which retain surviving archaeological remains are considered to be nationally important.

The old college buildings, as established by Kempe in 1447, have survived almost unchanged from the 15th century, owing to the condition placed on their sale to Walter Bucler in 1545 that a free school for the poor children of Wye should continue as before. The buildings of the original college foundation - the Old Latin School, the cloister quadrangle and the Wheel Room - have remained in use as educational establishments almost continuously since their foundation. The 15th century buildings have been well maintained, and various rebuilding schemes have allowed the buildings to be adapted for modern use, as well as to maintain their structural integrity. Features existing beneath the buildings will have remained virtually undisturbed from the mid-15th century onwards. Similarly, the areas of garden to the south and east of the cloister quadrangle are likely to have suffered little large scale disturbance compared with other areas of the college which have been extensively redeveloped, and will also therefore contain much archaeological information relating to the college. Although there were an estimated 300 colleges founded by c.1509, only about a quarter of this number remain upstanding. Wye is therefore a rare survival, preserving aspects of medieval architecture along with archaeological information relating to the 15th century and earlier.


The monument includes the remains of the medieval College of St Gregory and St Martin at Wye, founded in 1447 and situated adjacent to what is now the High Street. The college survives in the form of standing buildings and buried remains. The standing buildings are Listed at Grades I, II and II*, and all are excluded from the scheduling. The buried remains survive beneath the college buildings and in areas of open space within the monument. These are included in the scheduling. The medieval college building is in the form of a cloister quadrangle where pupils and masters lived and studied and lies to the east of the churchyard. Outbuildings are known to have stood to the east and north of the quadrangle, although these are no longer visible at ground level. The free grammar school was held in the small building to the south of the main college. This was known as the Old Latin School, its purpose being to teach the children of the village Latin and grammar. The main entrance to the college was to the east of the Latin School, guarded by a porter's lodge. The Old Latin School and the porter's lodge have survived almost intact as part of the modern Wye Agricultural College. In February 1432, Cardinal John Kempe applied for, and obtained from Henry VI, licence to found a college for secular priests at Wye. The foundation of the college was, however, delayed by negotiations with the Abbot of Battle Abbey from whom he wished to purchase land at Wye on which to build the college. The foundation of the college, therefore, did not take place until 1447, with the college being given the same dedication as the parish church - to St Gregory and St Martin. The number of pupils appears to have varied, although the maximum is known to have been ten. It is recorded that in c.1535 the gross income of the college was 125 pounds, 15 shillings and fourpence halfpenny. After the Dissolution, the college and all its possessions, which included the manors of Perycourte and Surrenden as well as the rectory and advowson of the vicarage of Broomhill, were surrendered to the Crown Commissioners. This took place on January 19th 1545, and they were subsequently sold to Walter Bucler, the secretary to Queen Catherine Parr, for 200 pounds on condition that he should `at all times provide and maintain a sufficient school master to teach gratis any children of Wye who should present themselves to him'. However, by 1627 the original conditions were not being met and the estate became vested in the Crown once again, until Charles I granted the college and its possessions to Robert Maxwell Esq. In 1762, as part of Lady Joanna Thornhill's School, the college entered its most prosperous period, with 40 boarders and over 100 day pupils. In 1889 it was sold as a private school, and in 1892 Kent and Surrey Councils combined to establish the South Eastern Agricultural College on the site. The modern college buildings were constructed in 1893-5, 1901, 1903-6 and 1912-14, although this programme of work was not completed until 1928. Various architects were employed, including P B Chambers, T E Colcutt and S Hamp. The 15th century Wheel Room was restored and extended early this century and is now a college common room. The Latin School was partly refaced in red brick, the first floor of the cloister quadrangle was rebuilt in brick, and its timber pentice replaced in c.1740. The Old Latin School and the college cloister quadrangle are both Listed Grade I, while the Wheel Room is a Grade II* Listed Building, and the surrounding modern college buildings are all Listed Grade II. Since all these structures are in constant use for teaching and accommodation, they are all excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all the buildings is included in the scheduling, as are all areas maintained as gardens. The surfaces of all paths running through the gardens, the metal arches used in the pergola and for other climbing plants in the southern garden, plant labels used in the gardens, and any service trenches or their access points beneath ground surface in the gardens or beneath the buildings are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath and around all these features is included in the scheduling.

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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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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