Augustinian nunnery known as Moxby Priory including mill and post Dissolution garden features


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Augustinian nunnery known as Moxby Priory including mill and post Dissolution garden features
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Hambleton (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 59712 66902

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.

Whilst the identified remains at Moxby do not include the core of the nunnery, they survive well and retain information on the wider economy and workings of the site. The monument is a rare example of a quasi-double house with the two parts of male and female orders housed in entirely separate establishments. Double houses are themselves rare, with less than 30 examples identified, most of which combined both houses at a single site. Moxby is unique in that it is the only known example of a double house of the Augustinian order. The site also retains significant evidence of post Dissolution use.


The monument includes earthwork remains of ancillary buildings of the Augustinian nunnery, and medieval and later garden features at Moxby. The monument lies on the west bank of the River Foss east of Saddington. The extant earthworks are confined to a roughly L-shaped area of pasture, to the south and east of Moxby Farm and comprise four major components; a series of irregular compounds, a moated enclosure, one side of an elongated mill dam and the site of the monastic mill. The area includes the southern and eastern areas of the outer precinct of the nunnery, the main claustral buildings being overlain by the present farm. The mill site in the south west corner of the monument is preserved as a level platform 10m by 15m in size. It was powered by the River Foss which lies directly to the east. The mill continued in use after the Dissolution of the nunnery. In the 18th century the mill was modified by the damming of the Foss and the creation of an elongated mill pond, enclosed within earthen banks 77m long and up to 18m wide, of which only the northern one still survives. The irregular compounds, each enclosed by a a low bank, extend over most of the site, often overlapping each other, thus indicating that earlier enclosures underwent later modification. Within the south west side of the site is a near rectangular moated enclosure, ditched on three sides with the fourth, the river side, obliterated by the later river embankment. The moat was fed by a leat which drew water from the Foss to the east of the monument and is interpreted as a post medieval garden feature associated with the house which succeeded the nunnery. Moxby Priory was half of a quasi double house of the Augustinian order supporting nuns, the other half being at Marton, 3km to the north. Unusually for this type of monument the two halves of the house were located at entirely separate sites. The usual arrangement was for monks and nuns to be housed in separate areas of the same complex, normally arranged around two self-contained cloisters, with divided or separate churches. Established in 1158, the Moxby nuns were recorded in 1310 as belonging to the order of St Benedict, but had become Augustinian by 1326. Moxby was always a small establishment with never more than ten nuns. Following the suppression in 1536 the nunnery was converted into a family mansion which was demolished in the mid 1850s. The area of the main conventual ranges lies beneath the existing farm, however the full extent of their preservation cannot yet be fully determined and they are therefore not included in the scheduling. Further remains which may relate to the nunnery were identified during the 1950s in the fields south west and west of the site, although these are now obscured by agricultural activity and are not included in the scheduling. All modern fences within the area 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.

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Books and journals
Mackay, D, Swan, V, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Earthworks At Marton And Moxby Priories, (1989), 79-84
Mackay, D, Swan, V, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Earthworks At Marton And Moxby Priories, (1989), 79-84


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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