Bradenstoke Priory and fishponds and an associated motte and earthworks at Clack Mount.


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


Ordnance survey map of Bradenstoke Priory and fishponds and an associated motte and earthworks at Clack Mount.
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Oct-2019 at 12:28:37.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
Lyneham and Bradenstoke
National Grid Reference:
ST 99661 79129

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.

Bradenstoke priory survives comparatively well in close proximity to the additional earthwork complex associated with Clack Mount. Clack Mount is believed to represent the site of a motte and bailey castle, a medieval fortification introduced by the Normans and which usually comprised a mound of earth or stone surmounted by a tower of stone or timber designed to command a strategic position. An embanked enclosure or bailey containing subsidiary buildings appears to have been linked to the motte. The close association between the medieval priory earthworks and those of the motte clearly demonstrate the complex relationship that existed between such elements of the medieval landscape. As such they are particularly important in any study of settlement, administration and ecclesiastical organisation during the medieval period. Apart from buried archaeological material, survival of environmental evidence, relating to the landscape in which the monument was constructed, is possible from the various sealed old land surfaces and from the silts of the fishponds.


The monument comprises an extensive complex of medieval earthworks including the remains of Bradenstoke Augustinian Priory, various earthworks including fishponds, together with the remains of an associated motte and bailey castle known as Clack Mount. Bradenstoke Priory, dedicated to St Mary and also known as Bradenstoke Abbey and Clack, was founded as a house of Augustinian canons in 1142 and remained in Augustinian hands until its dissolution in 1539. The remains of the priory, comprising a substantial part of the 14th century hall and undercroft of the guest house or Kings Lodgings, formerly the west range of the priory, were subsequently used as a farmhouse. Nearby was a tithe barn of 15th century date and a holy well. Investigation of the priory site in the 1920s resulted in the recovery of the plan of the monastic buildings and the 12th century church lying south of the cloisters. Finds from the site have included numerous medieval burials, some with stone coffins and several tiled pavements. Much of the fabric of the surviving monastic buildings was removed in 1929 by the then owner Randolph Hearst; he had most of the surviving west range and the tithe barn demolished, removing the fabric for re-use at St Donat's in Glamorgan and his estate in America. Today the surviving buildings are limited to the undercroft of the guest hall with a 14th century garderobe tower at its north-west corner; both are in a ruinous condition. The site of the holy well is today the position of a natural spring with no trace of any masonry. To the north-east of the priory, linking it to the site of Clack Mount, are a series of linear earthworks and fishponds. These include two fishponds, both orientated north-west to south-east, the most southerly having dimensions of 70m by 20m and that to the north-east 50m by 20m. A system of ditches and banks links these fishponds to the ditch of the enclosure surrounding Clack Mount, forming an extensive water management system. Between the two fishponds are a series of linear ditches 7m wide and 0.9m deep; these form a roughly square enclosure with sides of 70m. A low mound 7m in diameter and 0.4m high is situated in the south-west corner of this enclosure. A low bank 6m wide and 0.3m high can be traced from the south-east corner of Clack Mount enclosure running south-east for 70m before turning south-west for 140m and then turning north-west, it appears to pre-date the present field boundary and could represent an outer bailey associated with the motte and bailey of Clack Mount. Clack Mount motte and bailey lies immediately to the north of the ponds on a prominence with commanding views to the north and west. The mound itself is steep sided and circular in shape with a diameter of 20m; it stands to a height of 1.8m. It has been identified as Scufa's barrow, an Anglo Saxon boundary mark mentioned in AD 850. As such it would predate the other earthworks, but this association remains unproven. Evidence of collapsed masonry, incorporated into the fabric of the mound, suggests that it may have supported a stone tower. Enclosing the area of the motte is a trapezoidal enclosure with sides averaging 70m long defined by a ditch 10m wide and 1.5m deep with an outer bank 8m wide and 0.6m high. A second bank and ditch lay outside and parallel to the north-east side of this enclosure. This has been largely levelled by old plough erosion, though the bank remains recognisable. The trapezoidal enclosure is linked to and clearly contemporary with, the previously mentioned earthworks to the south-west. All modern buildings and structures, including the concrete tank at ST99777935, all boundary features, metalled surfaces and roads are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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
E P N S, , Place names Wilts, (1939), 271
Knowles, D , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1971), 129
Styles, D, The Victoria History of the County of Wiltshire , (1956), 275
Walters, R C S, Holy Wells of Gloucs, (1928), 160-1
Grundy, G B, 'The Archaeological Journal' in The Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 76, (1919), 166-7
Brakspear, H, WAM (43), (1925)
Brakspear, H, WAM (45), (1930)
Brakspear, H, WAM (47), (1935)
Conversation, Gomme, Mr ,
WAM (19), (1880)


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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