Grace Dieu Priory with two ponds and a fishpond, Belton

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012001

Date first listed: 29-Jun-1934

Date of most recent amendment: 20-Jul-1992

Map

Ordnance survey map of Grace Dieu Priory with two ponds and a fishpond, Belton
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Location

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

County: Leicestershire

District: North West Leicestershire (District Authority)

Parish: Belton

National Grid Reference: SK 43496 18363

Summary

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

Reasons for Designation

A nunnery was a settlement built to sustain a community of religious women. Its main buildings were constructed to provide facilities for worship, accommodation and subsistence. The main elements are the church and domestic buildings arranged around a cloister. This central enclosure may be accompanied by an outer court and gatehouse, the whole bounded by a precinct wall, earthworks or moat. Outside the enclosure, fishponds, mills, field systems, stock enclosures and barns may occur. The earliest English nunneries were founded in the seventh century AD but most of these had fallen out of use by the ninth century. A small number of these were later refounded. The tenth century witnessed the foundation of some new houses but the majority of medieval nunneries were established from the late 11th century onwards. Nunneries were established by most of the major religious orders of the time, including the Benedictines, Cistercians, Augustinians, Franciscans and Dominicans. It is known from documentary sources that at least 153 nunneries existed in England, of which the precise locations of only around 100 sites are known. Few sites have been examined in detail and as a rare and poorly understood medieval monument type all examples exhibiting survival of archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

The Priory at Grace Dieu is one of only two nunneries in Leicestershire. Its buildings survive reasonably well and are accompanied by an extensive range of earthworks and buried deposits. The surviving remains illustrate how it was converted into a Tudor mansion after the Dissolution.

History

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

Details

Grace Dieu Priory was an Augustinian nunnery which later became a Tudor mansion. It includes extensive ruins of the priory buildings, which are a Grade II listed building, surrounded by a complex of earthworks. These include two ponds, a fishpond, and a substantial section of boundary ditch and wall situated alongside the Grace Dieu Brook running on the western side of the site.

The priory buildings occupy an area of 90m x 50m, the ruined walls of which stand to an average height of 8m-10m. The cloister measures roughly 25m square and has a large arch leading into the chapter house which measures 14m x 8m and is located to the east with a dorter (dormitory) adjoining it to the south. A kitchen and prominent 16th century chimney lie to the west of the cloister. The aisleless church measuring 60m x 10m lay to the north and fragments of the west porch, tower, nave and chancel remain upstanding. To the south-west of the buildings is a large, roughly square, embanked pond measuring about 75m across and 2m-3m deep, part of which still contains water. West of the pond, on the opposite bank of the Grace Dieu Brook, are the truncated earthworks of a further pond defining a roughly triangular area extending for approximately 50m from the brook. Some 50m to the north of the priory is a crescent-shaped fishpond measuring 55m x 20m and 1.5m deep containing three islands. Beyond this is a large boundary ditch 10m wide and over 2m deep containing an inner bank. Several sections of the boundary wall of the priory, about 1m wide, are situated on the eastern bank of the Grace Dieu Brook.

The Priory was founded between 1236 and 1242 by Roesia de Verdun. In 1377 there were 16 nuns and a hospital for 12 poor people, as yet unlocated. At the Dissolution it was converted into a Tudor mansion by John Beaumont at which time many hearths were added. Most of the buildings were pulled down by Sir Ambrose Phillipps in 1696. Extensive ruins are shown on an engraving by Buck of 1730. An archaeological survey, including some test pits, was carried out by the Loughborough and District Archaeological Society in 1967.

The site today occupies a piece of land that was truncated on the south side by the former Charnwood Forest Canal which was later itself partly overlaid by the now disused Coalville-Loughborough railway.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 17074

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Hartley, R F, The Medieval Earthworks of North-West Leicestershire, (1984), 8-10
Pevsner, N, Williamson, E, The Buildings of England: Leicestershire and Rutland, (1984), 165
Miller, EJ, 'Bulletin of the Loughborough & District Archaeological Society' in A Survey of the Ruins of Grace Dieu Priory, , Vol. 10, (1969), 30-35

End of official listing