St Leonard's Priory: a Benedictine nunnery, post Dissolution house and 19th century garden remains


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1013657

Date first listed: 17-Jul-1995


Ordnance survey map of St Leonard's Priory: a Benedictine nunnery, post Dissolution house and 19th century garden remains
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Warwickshire

District: Warwick (District Authority)

Parish: Beausale, Haseley, Honiley and Wroxall

National Grid Reference: SP 22189 70723


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 standing and buried remains of the central core of the priory of St Leonard, together with the buried remains of the post-Dissolution house survive well. Structural and artefactual remains associated with the occupation of St Leonard's Priory will survive beneath the ground surface, providing information about the dates and layout of the coventual buildings which existed here. The graveyard, to the north of the church, will provide important information to allow a demographic study of the sealed remains of a medieval and post-medieval population. It will retain not only skeletal remains, but also burial furniture and other structures. The buried remains of the 16th century house will be of particular interest in illustrating the conversion of the monastic buildings for secular purposes following the nunnery's Dissolution. The remains of the ornamental garden provide a fine example of the incorporation of medieval ruins into a 19th century Gothic garden. The importance of the site is enhanced by detailed cartographic, pictorial and written evidence for the historical development of the Wroxall estate from the 16th century through to the late 19th century.


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


The monument is situated within the grounds of Wroxall Abbey School and includes the standing and buried remains of the central core of St Leonard's Priory, the buried remains of a post-Dissolution house and part of a 19th century landscaped garden. St Leonard's Priory, a Benedictine nunnery, was founded in c.1141 on lands donated by Hugh Fitz Richard, Lord of Hatton. It was dissolved in 1536 and the site of the nunnery was granted to Robert Burgoyne and John Scudamore in 1544. The standing remains of the nunnery include the ruins of two of the conventual buildings and part of the early 14th century priory church. These remains have been incorporated within parkland laid out during the 17th century and the landscaped gardens associated with the 19th century house which now forms the main building of Wroxall Abbey School. The nunnery originally extended beyond the central core of church and cloisters in all directions but the surrounding land has been landscaped and partly built over. There is now no surface evidence to indicate the original extent of the priory precinct. St Leonard's Church is situated in the northern part of the monument and incorporates the north aisle and the Lady Chapel of the priory church. The nave of the priory church was demolished in the 16th century. St Leonard's Church is Listed Grade I and is used for church services. Although the church itself is not included in the scheduling, the ground beneath the church which is considered to contain important burials associated with the nunnery, is included. The churchyard, immediately to the north, is thought to have originally been the priory graveyard and will provide information for a demographic study of the sealed remains of the medieval and early post- medieval population. The churchyard is, therefore, included in the scheduling. The conventual buildings of the nunnery were situated to the south of the St Leonard's Church and include the standing remains of the chapter house and the frater and the buried remains of the other claustral buildings. The chapter house is situated approximately 11m to the south of the church and formed part of the eastern claustral range. It is built mostly of squared coursed stone with some 19th century brick visible in its fabric. The building measures approximately 5m square and is now roofless. The chamber was originally vaulted and both the north and south walls have moulded 14th century capitals. The east wall and parts of the north and south walls of a second building are situated south west of the chapter house and are considered to be the remains of the frater. It has an irregular plan and is also built of coursed ashlar. Segmental pointed doorways are visible at the eastern end of the north and south walls which are thought to be original features. A further archway is visible within the frater, which is thought to be associated with the 19th century ornamental phase of the site. The ruins of both the chapter house and the frater are Listed Grade II* and are included in the scheduling. During the late 16th century a secular brick-built mansion was constructed at the site by the Burgoyne family. The western range of the cloister and the nave of the priory church were demolished at this time and the mansion was built on the site of the western range. It had symmetrical wings projecting westwards and a porch set within the angle of the south wing and the central hall of the house. The entrance to the house was altered in the early 19th century and a spacious porch was added to the central part of the east range. The eastern elevation was of half-timber construction and is thought to have retained some monastic masonry within its fabric. The eastern and southern claustral ranges are thought to have been retained and adapted for domestic purposes during this period of the site's occupation. In 1861 the Wroxall estate, including the site of the nunnery, was sold to James Dugdale. The post-Dissolution house, along with most of the claustral buildings were demolished in c.1864 and a new house was built on an adjoining site to the north west of the cloister. Dugdale was responsible for much of the landscaping of the site and for incorporating the ruins of the chapter house and the frater within the landscaped gardens which were laid out around the new house. St Leonard's Church, the walling which encloses the graveyard, the wall immediately to the east of the 19th century house, the garden furniture, the surfaces of all paths and driveways and all fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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: 21585

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Bloe, J W, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire, (1947), 217
Bloe, J W, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire, (1947), 216
Bloe, J W, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire, (1947), 218
Pevsner, N, Wedgwood, A, The Buildings of England: Warwickshire, (1966), 483
Warwickshire Gardens Trust, , Wroxall Abbey Historical Landscape Survey, (1993), 7
Warwickshire Gardens Trust, , Wroxall Abbey Historical Landscape Survey, (1993), 3

End of official listing