Site of Marton Augustinian priory including mill, fishponds, and water meadows


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Site of Marton Augustinian priory including mill, fishponds, and water meadows
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1014796 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 17-Oct-2019 at 06:13:55.


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

North Yorkshire
Hambleton (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 58396 69526

Reasons for Designation

A post-Conquest double house is a settlement built after the Norman Conquest to house a community of religious men and women. Its main buildings were constructed to provide facilities for worship, accommodation and subsistence. The main elements included one or two churches and domestic buildings, normally arranged around two self-contained cloisters. One or two outer courts and gatehouses would accompany the central cloister compound, the whole complex being bounded by a precinct wall, earthworks or a moat. Outside the main enclosure fishponds, barns and mills may be found. The tradition of establishing double houses originated in the early Anglo-Saxon period. However, early double houses were often re-founded as the more popular single sex communities. During the 12th century a new order was founded which revived the concept of the double house. This order was founded by Gilbert of Sempringham. Within these new foundations the nuns were supposed to lead an enclosed contemplative life. The houses were under the supervision of the male founders of the order or their deputies. The male canons in each house were required to celebrate the mass for the nuns. The Gilbertines founded 12 double houses; in addition, a small number of such houses were established by other orders, such as the Fontevraults and the Bridgettines. In total only 25 sites are known to have existed. As a rare type of monastery all examples exhibiting significant survival of archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Marton Priory with nearby Moxby is the only known example of an Augustinian double house. The Augustinians were not monks in the strict sense but rather communities of canons - or priests - living under the rule of St Augustine. From the 12th century onwards, they undertook much valuable work in the parishes running almshouses, schools and hospitals as well as maintaining and preaching in parish churches.

Whilst there are sparse standing remains of the main claustral buildings the complex of water management features survives well. It is an important example of an integrated system incorporating mills, fishponds and water meadows and will retain important information about its function within the wider economy of the site. With a sequence of a large pond, then several smaller tanks, the fishponds also provide important information about the development of fish farming methods throughout the country in the medieval period.


The monument is situated on a flat-topped spur of land projecting south into the east side of the Foss valley and includes the site of the priory and substantial earthwork remains of fishponds, a mill, water meadows and associated water management works. These features were all part of a wider monastic complex. The main priory buildings, comprising the church, cloister and domestic and administrative accommodation lay on the south end of the spur, in the area now occupied by the present farm. Little remains of these structures above ground level but the modern farm buildings are partly built on foundations of large stone blocks standing up to 2m high which are monastic in origin.

The spur itself has been artificially steepened by cutting back the slopes along the west, south and east sides and to the north the spur is crossed by a broad moat-like ditch up to 10m wide and 4m deep. This was once water-filled, being fed from a stream to the east and acted as a reservoir for the water supply to the priory. Between this ditch and the present farm the spur top is occupied by numerous low banks and shallow ditches and at least two phases of ridge and furrow cultivation, one preceding the low banks. Some of the ditches carried water from the main northern ditch into the conventual buildings and other of the earthworks are interpreted as boundaries of garths known to have existed in this area in the 16th century.

The valley of the Foss to the west and north contains substantial earthworks forming an integrated water management system of tanks, reservoirs, channels and leats for mills, fishponds and water meadows. The course of the River Foss has been substantially altered and to the west of the priory was diverted some 100m to the west to allow the valley floor to be used for fish farming.

To the north the Foss has been altered to form two parallel water courses connected by a cross channel. The western stream is the rechanneled Foss and the eastern a leat extending south east to feed a reservoir for the abbey mill immediately to the south. The canal extended for 200m along a raised embankment up to 5m wide and 1.5m above the land to the west and into the reservoir which measures 50m by 20m with raised sides 1.5m high. The mill was the main mill for the abbey and after the Dissolution continued in use with alterations until the 1930s. It was demolished in the 1960s and stone footings from the original medieval structure are still visible. The land between the two water courses contains the shallow earthwork remains of a mill on the east bank of the Foss measuring 11m by 20m, which is thought to be one of the early mills granted to the abbey at its foundation. Other shallow earthworks lie throughout this field and further archaeological remains associated with milling and other economic activities will be preserved below the ground.

South of the abbey mill, and west of the priory is the complex of fishponds. These were fed by water from the mill complex, from higher land to the north east and directly from the Foss to the west. The fishponds have two distinct phases. The first dating to the 13th century comprised a large crescent-shaped pond with curving sides following the contour of the valley, finishing with the south end blocked by a large dam up to 3m high crossing the valley floor. A further water course following the western edge of the pond carried overflow, and also water from the Foss, further south into the water meadows. The interior of the main pond was later drained and occupied by five smaller ponds and a breeding tank. A further large pond lies to the east of the spur, which was fed from the north and dammed by an earthen causeway which may also have been an entrance to the priory.

To the south of the spur is a regular ditched enclosure containing a building platform with stone rubble foundations and a small sunken courtyard, the whole measuring 40m across. The function of this structure is unclear. To the south are three large enclosures bounded by low banks which form water meadows; areas of pasture which were flooded in early spring to promote early grass for stock and to protect from frost. The water meadows are overlain with the remains of ridge and furrow agriculture.

The Priory of St Mary was founded in the mid 12th century as a double monastery of Augustinian canons and nuns, but by 1167 the latter had been moved to Moxby. There is little recorded of the history of the site although it is known that the monastery was devastated following Scottish raids in c.1322. However documents of 1536 mention houses, dovecotes, orchards, gardens, meadows, a watermill and five fishponds which gives an indication of the features found adjacent to the abbey buildings. The priory was suppressed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 and the site granted to the Archbishop of York.

Marton Abbey Farmhouse and farm buildings, Half Moon Cottage, all yard, track and road surfaces, fences, gates, modern walls and signs 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
Mackay, D, Swan, V, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Earthworks At Marton And Moxby Priories, , Vol. VOL 61, (1989), 71-77
Mackay, D, Swan, V, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Earthworks At Marton And Moxby Priories, , Vol. VOL 61, (1989), 71-77
Mackay, D, Swan, V, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Earthworks At Marton And Moxby Priories, , Vol. VOL 61, (1989), 71-77
Mackay, D, Swan, V, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Earthworks At Marton And Moxby Priories, , Vol. VOL 61, (1989), 71-77
Swan V, , 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Marton Priory Fishponmds: A Postscript, , Vol. VOL 63, (1991), 219-220


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].