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