Wykeham Cistercian priory, All Saints parish church and churchyard cross


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017225

Date first listed: 09-Oct-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 10-Jan-2000


Ordnance survey map of Wykeham Cistercian priory, All Saints parish church and churchyard cross
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Scarborough (District Authority)

Parish: Wykeham

National Grid Reference: SE 96249 81812


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.

A parish church is a building usually of roughly rectangular outline and containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west end, but central towers at the crossing of the nave and chancel are not uncommon and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little fabric of the first church still easily visible. Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of 1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later population levels and economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are identified to be nationally important. A standing cross is a free standing upright structure, usually of stone, mostly erected during the medieval period (mid-10th to mid-16th centuries AD). Standing crosses served a variety of functions. In churchyards they served as stations for outdoor processions, particularly in the observance of Palm Sunday. Elsewhere, standing crosses were used within settlements as places for preaching, public proclamation and penance, as well as defining rights of sanctuary. Standing crosses were also employed to mark boundaries between parishes, property, or settlements. A few crosses were erected to commemorate battles. Some crosses were linked to particular saints, whose support and protection their presence would have helped to invoke. Crosses in market places may have helped to validate transactions. After the Reformation, some crosses continued in use as foci for municipal or borough ceremonies, for example as places for official proclamations and announcements; some were the scenes of games or recreational activity. Standing crosses were distributed throughout England and are thought to have numbered in excess of 12,000. However, their survival since the Reformation has been variable, being much affected by local conditions, attitudes and religious sentiment. In particular, many cross-heads were destroyed by iconoclasts during the 16th and 17th centuries. Less than 2,000 medieval standing crosses, with or without cross-heads, are now thought to exist. The oldest and most basic form of standing cross is the monolith, a stone shaft often set directly in the ground without a base. The most common form is the stepped cross, in which the shaft is set in a socket stone and raised upon a flight of steps; this type of cross remained current from the 11th to 12th centuries until after the Reformation. Where the cross-head survives it may take a variety of forms, from a lantern-like structure to a crucifix; the more elaborate examples date from the 15th century. Much less common than stepped crosses are spired-shaped crosses, often composed of three or four receding stages with elaborate architectural decoration and/or sculptured figures; the most famous of these include the Eleanor Crosses, erected by Edward I at the stopping places of the funeral cortege of his wife, who died in 1290. Also uncommon are the preaching crosses which were built in public places from the 13th century, typically in the cemeteries of religious communities and cathedrals, market places and wide thoroughfares; they include a stepped base, buttresses supporting a vaulted canopy, in turn carrying either a shaft and head or a pinnacled spire. Standing crosses contribute significantly to our understanding of medieval customs, both secular and religious, and to our knowledge of medieval parishes and settlement patterns. All crosses which survive as standing monuments, especially those which stand in or near their original location, are considered worthy of protection. The upstanding remains of Wykeham Priory retain important information on the form and building phases of the priory church, and the upstanding churchyard cross is a relatively rare survival. The below ground remains and deposits of the priory buildings, parish church, parish and monastic graveyards will provide evidence on the relationship between these various elements.


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


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Wykeham Cistercian priory, the buried remains of All Saints parish church, a churchyard cross and associated earthworks, situated immediately to the east and south of the 18th century country house known as Wykeham Abbey. Although known as the Priory, the site was home to a community of nuns. The north wall of the priory church is the only upstanding fabric of Wykeham priory which survives. It is about 40m long and 2m wide. The original fabric of the wall is roughly coursed sandstone rubble with a chamfered string course 3m above present ground level on the south side. Sections of the wall have been repaired and all the original windows, transepts and doorways blocked with a mixture of fabrics, including material from the priory itself. The wall still has three single light windows directly above the chamfered string course. The wall also has a 14th century three-light window, a door with a semi-circular arch infilled with some fragments of decorative stonework, and two blocked arches which led to the north transept. The Dissolution survey of 1540 describes the priory church as 90 feet (28m) long by 22 feet (6.5m) wide. To the south of this was a cloister 60 feet (18m) square with 8 feet (2.5m) wide alleys on three sides, two covered with lead. The cloister would have been bordered by ranges on three sides. The east range housed the parlour, a warming-room, a 20 feet (6m) long chapter house at ground level and the nuns' dormitory in the upper level. The south end of the range communicated with a latrine block. The south range was a double-storeyed building with cellarage at ground level and a refectory in the upper storey. Adjacent to the refectory was the kitchen, which was positioned so that it could serve both the refectory and the west range. The west range served a combination of functions including guest house, prioress's lodging, rooms for officers of the house such as the cellarer (organiser of provisions), and store rooms. To the west of these buildings, which were known as the inner court (where only the nuns were allowed), was the outer court which contained the resident priest's lodgings, guest house, dairy, bakehouse, brewhouse, granary, and which provided contact with the outside world. At the entrance to the outer court was the gatehouse and in Cistercian houses noisy or offensive activities such as the smithy or tannery would be carried out to the west of the gatehouse. Apart from the north wall of the priory church none of these buildings survive as upstanding buildings, but significant information on their form, structure and use will be preserved beneath the present ground surface. The inner and outer court were contained within a precinct which was defined by a physical barrier such as a wall or moat. The east and south precinct boundaries can be recognised by a drop in ground level. This is about 10m east of the surviving wall of the priory church from which it turns south east and then east, crossing a fence 60m east of the end of the southern, stone wall, garden boundary. It extends south a further 45m before turning south west. At a distance of 25m from the west end of the southern garden boundary the precinct boundary lies 35m further east and is 35m south of the wall. Beyond this the boundary becomes indistinct. The west and north precinct boundaries have not been identified and, as their extent and preservation are not sufficiently understood, are not included in the scheduling. To the south of the precinct boundary is an enclosure about 160m by 170m, defined by a 0.5m high bank. A causewayed track 0.5m high and 8 to 10m wide leads south from the southern side of the enclosure to a small stream. This enclosure is interpreted as either part of the medieval priory or part of the grounds of the post-Dissolution house on the site. The parish church was demolished in 1853, although the original position of its walls are marked by a 20th century garden wall. The site of the altar is marked by a 19th century cross. The church had included a nave and choir without structural division, a north aisle, a chapel, west tower and south porch. The nave was of 12th century date. Significant information on its layout, structure and relationship to the priory will be preserved beneath the present ground surface. The churchyard cross is situated south of the parish church. It is a weathered limestone monolith cross, which is 1.8m tall and 0.3m wide at its base. The north arm of the cross is absent. The surviving arms are 0.25m wide, 0.15m long and have circle arm intersections. It is interpreted as being in its original setting and is shown in this position on the first edition six inch Ordnance Survey map of 1854. The priory was founded in about 1153 with a grant from Pain de Wykeham. His son, Theobald, granted 48 acres of land. King Henry III granted the priory a further 103 acres in Wykeham and a mill. There were probably about 20 nuns with a master and lay brothers in the 13th century. In 1540, the priory was dissolved and in 1544 the priory and a grange was granted to Francis Poole. At the Dissolution there were 13 nuns including the Prioress. Before 1559 Francis Poole had passed the priory onto Richard Hutchinson, whose descendents still own it. A later Richard Hutchinson (1706-1752) changed his name to Langley after the inheritance of North Grimston from his uncle Thomas Langley. In 1817, Richard Langley died childless and the estate passed to a cousin, the Honourable Marmaduke Dawnay, who changed his name to Langley by royal licence in 1824. He died in 1851 and the owners of the estate have subsequently been known by the title Viscount Downe. The upstanding remains of the priory, churchyard cross and 19th century cross are Listed Grade II. The stone wall forming the southern boundary of the garden, garden ornaments metal fence, post and wire fence, and surfaces of metalled paths are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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: 32076

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Yorkshire: North Riding, (1968), 498
Everson, P, 'The Archaeolgy of Rural Monasteries' in Rural monasteries within the secular landscape, , Vol. BAR 203, (1989)
Mackay, D, Swan, V, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Earthworks At Marton And Moxby Priories, , Vol. VOL 61, (1989)
Photo Ref. No. CUC AUH 56 and 59, North Yorkshire County Council, Wykeham, (1968)

End of official listing