St Martin's Benedictine Priory, Richmond
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- North Yorkshire
- Richmondshire (District Authority)
- St. Martin's
- National Grid Reference:
- NZ 17757 00735
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.
Benedictine monasticism had its roots in the rule written about AD 530 by St
Benedict of Nursia for his own abbey at Monte Cassino. Benedict had not
intended to establish an order of monasteries and wider adoption of his rule
came only gradually. The first real attempt to form a Benedictine order came
only in 1216. The Benedictine monks, who wore dark robes, came to be known as
`black monks'. These dark robes distinguished them from Cistercian monks who
became known as `white monks' on account of their light coloured robes. Over
150 Benedictine monasteries were founded in England. As members of a highly
successful order many Benedictine houses became extremely wealthy and
influential. Their wealth can frequently be seen in the scale and flamboyance
of their buildings. Benedictine monasteries made a major contribution to many
facets of medieval life and all examples exhibiting significant surviving
archaeological remains are worthy of protection.
The remains of St Martin's Priory survive well as standing remains and as buried deposits which have been undisturbed by excavation. The monument is at the edge of Richmond, a thriving town in the medieval period which also had several other monastic houses. Thus the monument is important for the study of both the development of minor monastic houses and their wider setting.
The monument is situated at the head of a river terrace, with a slope to the
east and north, south of the River Swale and to the east of Richmond. The
monument includes both standing masonry and buried remains of the priory.
Although the full extent of the monastic complex is not fully understood,
significant standing remains are preserved and indicate that the site followed
the traditional layout of monastic houses, with an east to west orientated
church forming the north range of a four-sided complex known as the cloister,
the remaining sides containing accommodation, as well as buildings for
domestic and administrative functions. The church is preserved as a small
rectangular building at the north east of the standing structures. The west
gable and west sections of the south and north walls stand to first story,
whilst the east wall has been destroyed. The west gable has a 12th century
segmental-arched doorway with a large late 15th century window inserted above.
There is the east end of a small building standing 20m to the south, on the
same aligment as the east end of the church and which formed the south east
corner of the claustral range. Fifty metres to the west is a small tower
gatehouse, standing to its full height, which still retains much original
fabric. The tower dates to the 15th century although the crenellations are a
19th century addition. Connecting these three structures are a number of
medieval walls, which reflect the medieval claustral layout. At the south east
of the site are two building platforms, which represent the remains of
ancillary structures. The remainder of the area retains further remains of the
priory buildings, although these survive only as buried features.
The priory was founded in 1100 when land and a small chapel, already dedicated to St Martin, was given to the great Benedictine house at York, St Mary's Abbey. A cell was established on the site under a prior, with a complement of nine or ten monks. The cell also held the manors of Kikby Stephen, Evesham and Kirkby Lonsdale in Westmorland and further manors in Cumberland. However, St Martin's gradually declined and, as numbers grew fewer in later years, the church was shortened. At the dissolution the priory was valued at 47 pounds 16 shillings, after which it passed through several hands and was quarried extensively. The remains of St Martin's Priory are Listed Grade I.
Modern fences crossing the site and the surface of the farmyard are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Hatcher, J, Richmondshire Architecture, (1990), P223
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