Maxstoke Priory and moated site


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Maxstoke Priory and moated site
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Warwickshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 23452 86700

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.

Maxstoke Priory is a well-documented example of an Augustinian monastery founded late in the history of the order. The buried remains of the priory survive in good condition and, exceptionally, the whole layout within the precinct wall, along with the wall itself, is preserved. The quality of the surviving remains has been attested by excavation, though a great deal remains to be discovered. Maxstoke Priory also retains several important standing remains of major monastic buildings and also the standing and buried remains of secular and agricultural buildings and features, the survival of which, is more unusual. The moated island and its associated features to the east and south will retain considerable structural and artefactual evidence of the manor house complex known to have existed here since the late 13th century and, in particular, it will retain evidence for its conversion into agricultural use when it was given to the canons. Organic material will be preserved in many of the water control features on the site and this will be of value in the understanding of the economy and environment of the site's occupants.


The monument is situated within the village of Maxstoke and includes the standing and buried remains of Maxstoke Priory, two fishpond complexes and parts of the associated water management system. The standing remains of the priory are also Listed Grade II*. The monument also includes the moated manorial site to the south of the priory, its outer court, a small pond, a section of a lynchet and an area of ridge and furrow cultivation. The Augustinian house of Maxstoke Priory was founded in 1336-7 by Sir William de Clinton who was also responsible for the construction of Maxstoke Castle in 1345. The priory was dissolved in 1536. The site of Maxstoke Priory is defined by the surviving sandstone precinct wall. The precinct wall encloses a rectangular area of approximately 250m north-south and 240m east-west It averages 2.5m in height and retains its coping stones for most of its length and is included within the scheduling. It defines three principal courts which are also divided from each other by original sandstone walls. A central or inner court contains the conventual buildings and has the inner gatehouse on its northern side. A rectangular court to the north functioned as the entrance or outer court and has the outer gatehouse on its northern boundary, whilst a long narrow court to the west enclosed the priory mill and main fishpond complex. A range of later agricultural buildings, to the east of the outer gatehouse, have been built against the northern precinct wall which forms the north wall for these buildings. The agricultural buildings are excluded from the scheduling, but the precinct wall itself is included in the scheduling. The principal entrance to the priory was from the north and the two gatehouses have been built on the same alignment. The ruined outer gatehouse has two storeys and a polygonal turret at its south west corner and is now roofless. It is probably of 14th century date. A narrow rectangular range is attached to its north west corner and it is divided into three storeys. The outer gatehouse is included within the scheduling. The 14th century inner gatehouse and the northern wall of the central court divide the entrance court from the conventual buildings. The inner gatehouse is now incorporated within the farmhouse called Priory Farm and is excluded from the scheduling. The monastic church was sited in the centre of the western part of the inner court and little more than part of the crossing tower of the church remains visible. The remains of the church are of mid 14th century date and are included in the scheduling. Of the original four piers which supported the crossing tower, only two still stand, though a third collapsed as recently as 1986. The site of the church was excavated in 1874 and was found to include an elaborate chancel of four bays with an additional chapel on its north side, the crossing tower, transepts, and an aisleless nave with an additional building of uncertain function along its south side. The remains of the claustral buildings were situated to the north of the church and lay against the north wall of the north transept. The west wall of the inner court respects the plan of the claustral buildings, being diverted out of line to allow access to the west of the western range. The cloister and the adjacent monastic buildings are now only visible as earthworks. However, on the west side of the boundary wall to the north west of the church is a fragment of a small building. It has been identified as the reredorter. A linear bank, visible to the north east of the church, has been identified as the eastern extent of the claustral buildings. Approximately 40m north east of the monastic church are the remains of the west wall of an aisled building identified as the infirmary. The wall stands to a height of 8.5m and is 13m long. The masonry of the wall is 1m thick and the remains of the responds on the east side mark the position of the north and south arcades of the building. The central doorway, within the wall, has a pointed arched head with a deep chamfer and is considered to be similar in form, and contemporary in date, with features in the church and the gatehouses. There is a window above the central doorway and a second, smaller doorway immediately to the north. The north, east and south walls of the infirmary are not visible above ground, but excavations in the 1860s uncovered the plan of a building about 24m long. In the western part of the inner court are a series of regularly spaced banks and ditches which divide the area into four units. Documentary evidence suggests that the monks' cemetery occupied this area. To the east are two small ponds with well-defined dams. There are the remains of a large pond beyond the eastern precinct wall, near its south east corner. The pond, formed by damming a small stream which originally flowed east-west across the site, is now dry and its earthen dam is 1.3m high and 8.5m wide. The dam is revetted on its west side by the precinct wall itself, which is strengthened by buttresses at this point. The whole of the surviving dam and a 4m wide section of the pond area are included in the scheduling. The northern part of the dam has been destroyed by the construction of a stable building and is, therefore, not included in the scheduling. The pond originally provided the water supply reservoir for the monastic buildings within the inner court and the water is thought to have been channelled from the pond across the inner court for use in the various monastic buildings. A dry drainage channel is visible immediately to the south of the monastic church. The water was then channelled under the western wall of the inner court where the principal fishponds of the priory are situated. These ponds have been altered during the post-medieval period, but their original layout remains visible. The ponds originally included a large rectangular pond with a smaller one to the north. The rectangular pond is divided into two by an earthen dam which survives in a degraded condition. The ponds have been formed by the construction of a large retaining bank along their western edge. The retaining bank stands to a height of 1.6m and is partly revetted by the western precinct wall. During the Victorian period a raised garden walk was added to the top of the retaining bank. The remains of a broad dam are also visible at the northern end of the rectangular pond. The outlet channel for the ponds is situated at the north west corner. An oblong pond to the north of the others was mapped in 1767. It is now overlain by a concrete-lined pond which is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included. There is a ruined building at the north east corner of the rectangular pond which is considered to be on the site of one of the priory watermills. The architectural features of the standing remains indicate that the building had an industrial function at some stage and it probably incorporates the fabric of the monastic mill. The building is included in the scheduling. There is a small waterfilled pond immediately to the east of this building lying along at the western edge of the central court. The pond would have provided the head of water for the priory mill. The moated manor site is situated 110m south of the monastic church. It is documented in the 14th century as the ancestral manorial residence of the de Clinton family who possessed the manor and overlordship of Maxstoke from c.1290. In 1344 the manor house was given to the canons of Maxstoke Priory by John de Clinton. Dugdale states that the canons converted the house into barns and the moat was used to turn another watermill. The moated site is sub-circular in plan and has an external bank on three sides, the north, west and south. The bank measures 18m wide and 1.5m high. The moat ditch is approximately 2m deep and is up to 20m wide. The ditch has been infilled on the north east side. An early 19th century estate map provides evidence that the moat was originally a continuous sub-circular feature. The moated island is polygonal and measures 70m north-south and 60m east-west. The shape of the island has been altered by the construction of two 19th century barns that occupy much of its area. The barns are excluded from the scheduling. The original access onto the moated island is considered to have been from the east or north east. A small stream which forms the inlet channel for the moat enters at the south east corner and its outlet channel is visible at the north west corner of the site. There is a group of earthworks immediately to the east of the moated site, of which the best-defined features are a series of rectangular terraces. The terraces are considered to represent the sites of buildings, and foundations will survive as buried features. These earthworks are considered to be part of an outer court associated with the moated site. To the south west of the moated site is a well-defined lynchet running north east-south west. It is 1m in height and also forms, in part, a headland for the ridge and furrow visible to the east. A 5m wide sample section of the ridge and furrow is included in the scheduling. There is a pond at the north end of the lynchet which is marked on a late 18th century estate map. The pond may be a fishpond and is thought to have been redug at a later date. It provides evidence for the post- medieval development of the site and is, therefore, included in the scheduling. After the Dissolution in 1536, the priory and its estates were granted to the Duke of Suffolk, and in 1540 they were sold to a London goldsmith. The site passed by marriage to Giles Paulet, whose family owned the site until the end of the 17th century. The farmhouse of Priory Farm which is Listed Grade II* and its associated agricultural buildings, including those to the east of the outer gatehouse which have been constructed against the northern precinct wall, are excluded from the scheduling, although the precinct wall itself, is included; the Old Rectory which is Listed Grade II, associated outbuildings, greenhouse and the concrete-lined pond are also excluded from the scheduling; the barns which occupy the moated island, the agricultural building which has been built at the southern end of the eastern pond bay, the surfaces of all paths and driveways, the surface of the stable yard, the modern walling on the site, all fence posts and inspection chambers are also excluded; the ground beneath all these features, however 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
Cal. Patent Rolls, 1343-45, (1902), 368-9
Dugdale, W, The History of Warwickshire, (1656), 998
Holliday, J R, Maxstoke Priory, Site Plan, (1878)
RCHM, , Maxstoke Priory, Moated Manor Site, (1992), 5-6
Holliday, J R, 'Transactions of the Birmingham & Midland Institute' in Maxstoke Priory, (1878), 66
R.C.H.M., Maxstoke Priory - Archaeological Report, (1992)
R.C.H.M., Maxstoke Priory - Archaeological Report, (1992)
R.C.H.M., Maxstoke Priory - Archaeological Report, (1992)
R.C.H.M., Maxstoke Priory - Archaeological Report, (1992)
R.C.H.M., Maxstoke Priory - Archaeological Report, (1992)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1st Edition Source Date: 1887 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Warwickshire County Record Office, Z149,
Warwickshire County Record Office, Z149, (1767)


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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