Ranton Priory: a moated Augustinian priory


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011053

Date first listed: 26-Nov-1969

Date of most recent amendment: 27-Apr-1998


Ordnance survey map of Ranton Priory: a moated Augustinian priory
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Staffordshire

District: Stafford (District Authority)

Parish: Ellenhall

National Grid Reference: SJ 83811 24267


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.

Ranton Priory survives well and is largely unencumbered by modern development. The monument includes standing masonry, earthwork and buried remains and represents a well documented example of a moated Augustinian monastery with historical records dating from its construction during the 12th century through to its dissolution in the 16th century.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


Ranton Priory is situated 800m south east of Lawnhead village, Ellenhall. The site is partly occupied by a ruined late Georgian mansion and a restored stable block. The monument includes the ruins of the priory, a foundation of the Augustinian order, and the earthwork and buried remains of buildings and other features within the monastic precinct. It also includes the remains of the Georgian mansion.

Ranton Priory was founded by Robert Fitznoel in the mid-12th century and the Fitznoel family interest in the priory continued through to the 15th century. The priory was dedicated to St Mary of the Clearings, an indication that the house was established on newly colonised land. Ranton Priory was originally a cell of the Abbey of Haughmond near Shrewsbury but became independent in 1246-7. The priory was dissolved by 1538. After the Dissolution, Ranton Priory and its estates were sold by the Crown to John Wiseman who exchanged the property with Sir Simon Harcourt.

The monastic buildings are set within the central part of a precinct which covered approximately 5.3ha. The extent of the monastic precinct was defined by a moat which is now mostly filled in. An estate map of 1822 provides good evidence for the layout of the precinct moat which will survive as a buried feature and is included in the scheduling. The north eastern corner of the precinct moat is visible on the ground surface. It averages 11m in width and 2.3m deep and is now dry. There are ex situ sandstone blocks within the northern arm of the moat. There is a linear earthwork feature, 6m wide, along the south western edge of the precinct which runs parallel to the south- western part of the moat ditch. The driveway immediately to the north of the priory is thought to follow the same line as the original entrance to the monastic site and the foundations of the gatehouse to the monastery will survive as a buried feature beneath the ground surface in the northern part of the monastic precinct. Above ground, the standing remains of the priory include the west tower of the monastic church and a section of walling extending east from the south eastern corner of the tower, these are Listed Grade II* and included in the scheduling. The tower is ashlar-faced with an embattled parapet below which is a band of ornament. The large west window and the doorway to the tower have an attractive hood mould. The tower is of early Perpendicular date (late 14th-early 15th century) and is a later addition to the original monastic church which was situated to the east of the tower. Footings of the eastern portion of the church have previously been uncovered but were not explored. The section of walling, east of the tower, is approximately 9m in length and 1m thick. It represents the south wall of the nave and it includes a round-headed Norman doorway with continuous roll moulding. The doorway is considered to be the original 12th century processional doorway into the cloister which was, therefore, to the south of the church, beneath the present mansion of which there are no traces above ground. The claustral buildings will survive as buried features below the later mansion and its outbuildings.

The monastic church stood until 1731; it is shown on a sketch of that date in the Gough Collection in the Bodleian Library. References in 1663 to the cloister at Ranton Abbey indicate that other parts of the priory were then still standing. A number of other components of the monastery will survive as buried features within the precinct. These will include outer court buildings, with guest houses and ancillary industrial and agricultural buildings. By 1266 a hospital dedicated to St Anne had been established within the monastic precinct, the exact site of which has not been located.

Immediately east and south east of the monastic church's west tower lie the now ruinous remains of an ostensibly late Georgian house called Ranton Abbey. It is possible that the fabric of these roofless remains includes the medieval monastic refectory of Ranton Priory and various parts of a Tudor house converted out of the priory, while the main ruins of the Georgian brick structure are the work of a series of building campaigns spanning a century or so since its original commission in 1748 by the then owner Sir Jonathan Cope. These remains are therefore included in the scheduling. Excluded from the scheduling are the ruined mansion's associated outbuildings and the converted stables, the walling which surrounds the mansion, electricity poles, all fence posts, the surfaces of the driveways and the drains at the south western and north western edges of the site 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: 21516

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dickinson, J C, The Victoria History of the County of Staffordshire, (1970), 252
Dickinson, J C, The Victoria History of the County of Staffordshire, (1970), 254
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire, (1974), 224-5
Hibbert, Rev F A, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in Ronton Priory, , Vol. 50, (1915), 92-112
Title: Estate Map Source Date: 1822 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing