St Sepulchre's Priory

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016882

Date first listed: 06-Nov-1972

Date of most recent amendment: 07-Jul-1999

Map

Ordnance survey map of St Sepulchre's Priory
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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Location

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

County: Warwickshire

District: Warwick (District Authority)

Parish: Warwick

National Grid Reference: SP 28404 65327

Summary

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

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. Some 225 of these religious houses belonged to the order of St Augustine. The Augustinians were not monks in the strict sense, but rather communities of canons - or priests - living under the rule of St Augustine. In England they came to be known as `black canons' because of their dark coloured robes and to distinguish them from the Cistercians who wore light clothing. 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. It was from the churches that they derived much of their revenue. The Augustinians made a major contribution to many facets of medieval life and all of their monasteries which exhibit significant surviving archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Excavations at the site of St Sepulchre's Priory have demonstrated that the buried remains survive well. They will illustrate the different phases of growth and alteration of the monastic buildings and include information about changing fashions and technologies. The preservation of human remains around the monastic church will allow consideration of the lifestyles and living conditions of the occupants of the monastery as well as its patrons, who may have been buried in the church and cemetery. An understanding of the age range and life span of the canons, their diet and state of health and their burial practices and ritual activities may also be gained from the burials. The remains of the church and claustral buildings and artefactual evidence will illustrate the range of social and trade contacts of the house, providing evidence of its relative status and wealth, its main activities, and involvement with the town of Warwick. The survival of parts of the precinct and mills in a waterlogged condition may preserve environmental deposits which will include information about the natural environment surrounding the site during the medieval period. In addition, mill buildings survived from the medieval period until the early 20th century and will preserve remains which demonstrate the technological changes and advances in the industry including evidence of their changing use. The 1971 excavations also demonstrated a number of surviving remains pre- dating monastic use of the area. These earlier remains, including lime kilns, are believed to relate to the early Norman period and will provide information about the early origins of Warwick. It is also believed that the buried remains of an earlier church from the late Saxon period survive on the site and will include evidence about both the construction and use of the building as well as evidence for early religious development of the region, including insights into ritual practices before the coming of the Augustinian priory.

History

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

Details

The monument includes the known extent of earthwork, standing and buried remains of the claustral buildings and parts of the wider precinct of the Priory of St Sepulchre, as well as the ruined remains of the post-Dissolution mansion built on the site. The priory is sited on the knoll of a hill lying near the centre of Warwick and to the north of the Norman castle and its river crossing. Located on one of the dominant landscape features of the surrounding countryside, it would have had an imposing aspect, being more visible than either the castle or the town's collegiate church. The Priory of St Sepulchre was founded by Henry de Newburgh in about 1109 on the site of an earlier, possibly pre-Norman, church dedicated to St Helen. A record of 1123 referring to the Church of St Sepulchre and St Helen is the last known record of this early church. The main complex of conventual buildings was erected during the 12th century, with the priory church being consecrated between 1125 and 1151. The priory was suppressed in 1536, and the buildings rapidly fell into ruins. Following the Dissolution the remains were incorporated into a mansion with associated gardens, built by Thomas Hawkins in 1556. This house was largely dismantled and in 1925, moved to Virginia. The 1925 Ordnance Survey map shows the mansion and gardens before demolition. The land became used as public amenity and parkland with formal gardens in the 19th century and remains a public park. In 1971 excavations in advance of the construction of the Public Record Office, revealed part of the nave, the south aisle and the chancel of the church and parts of the claustral ranges including the square chapter house, located on the crest of the hill. Those foundations lying immediately to the west of the record office were left exposed and take the form of red sandstone foundations of one or two courses defining a two-celled structure and an adjacent wall. Additional remains such as the pillar and fragments of the arch of the monastic nave survive attached to the south east angle of Priory Bungalow. These exposed remains are included in the scheduling. A cist containing three inhumation burials was located at the east end of the nave of the monastic church. The excavations also discovered the remains of two large lime kilns, one circular and one square, located beneath and pre-dating the monastic remains which are believed to have been associated with the construction of the castle or the town walls. The precinct boundary, in the form of an interrupted substantial double earthen bank and ditch measuring 10m wide by 1m to 2m high, defined the inner court of the monastery encircling the crown of the hill, and survives to the south and south east of the priory buildings. Other fragments of the bank and evidence of terracing of the hill top survive to the north and west of the site of the church. The remains of a second outer bank terraced into the slopes of the hill to the east, and a third bank and ditch at the foot of the hill also to the east, are believed to indicate the course of the wider precinct boundary incorporated in places among traces of possible later plantings and landscaping of the parkland. Where it survives, the wider precinct can be expected to preserve evidence for ancillary buildings such as barns and storehouses, as well as gardens and industrial areas. To the north east of the priory was the priory mill which remained in use during the 17th century when there were two mills, Priory Mill and Frog Mill, under the same roof. It survived until the late 19th century when it acted as a saw mill. The 1925 Ordnance Survey map shows the mill buildings as a long single range lying across the stream with a courtyard of outbuildings to the south west. The mill was fed by a stream which also filled fishponds; it entered the precinct from the north west and flowed beneath the buildings of the mill acting as a leat for industrial purposes. Extant remains of the water management system of the monastery survive as a stream culverted under the railway line and the adjacent foundations of the mill lying to the north east of the inner court. The remains of a quarry which may have been used in the construction of the priory buildings lies to the north east of the priory. It measures approximately 80m long by 30m wide and is up to 7m deep. Excavations in the quarry in 1867 and later excavations in 1876 to the south side of Priory Hill discovered evidence of cremation burials placed in cavities in the rock face, including urns, which were dated as Romano-British. The County Record Office, Priory Bungalow, the Grade II* Listed Priory House which includes parts of the Tudor mansion, the Grade II Listed walls of 16th to 17th century date north east of Priory House, and the modern surfaces and furniture of a children's playground in the area of the quarry are all excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 30052

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire, (1908), 97-9
WJF, , 'WMANS' in Interim Report of Excavations at Warwick Priory, , Vol. 14, (1971), 31
Other
Warwickshire SMR, Various Notes,

End of official listing