Deerhurst monastic site and multi-period settlement


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Deerhurst monastic site and multi-period settlement
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Tewkesbury (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SO 87014 29995, SO 87049 29722

Reasons for Designation

From the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597 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. The main components of the earliest monasteries might include two or three small timber or stone churches, a cemetery and a number of associated domestic buildings, contained within an enclosure or vallum. Those sites which have been excavated indicate no standard layout of buildings was in use. Rather a great diversity of building form, construction, arrangement and function is evident. The earliest sites were not markedly dissimilar from contemporary secular settlements, although their ecclesiastical role may be indicated by the presence of objects indicating wealth and technological achievement, such as stone sculpture, coloured glass, inscriptions, high quality metalwork and pottery. Only the church and leading secular figures are thought to have had access to the skills and trade networks which produced such goods. Later foundations in the 10th and 11th centuries generally had one major stone church and a cemetery. By this time other domestic buildings were more regularly aligned, often ranged around a cloister. Documentary sources indicate the existence of 65 early monasteries. The original number of sites is likely to have been slightly higher and would have included sites for which no documentary reference survives. Of these, less than 15 can at present be linked to a specific site. As a rare monument type and one which made a major contribution to the development of Anglo-Saxon England, all pre-Conquest monasteries for men exhibiting survival of archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

The pre-Conquest monastery at Deerhurst is an early foundation which has been shown, by excavation, to contain evidence of its Saxon origins. The church of the monastery, St Mary's, is the most complete of Gloucester's Saxon churches and is the only one which can be said to have fabric surviving from the 8th century. Odda's Chapel, which is part of the Deerhurst complex, is one of the most complete Saxon churches surviving, and, unusually, is precisely dated. Documentary sources attest to the significance of Deerhurst during the medieval period, while evidence from excavations combined with earthwork survey demonstrate continuous occupation from the 2nd century to the present day.


The monument includes areas of Romano British occupation, a Saxon royal vill, a Saxon and medieval monastic site, and a medieval settlement in and around the village of Deerhurst, where the floodplain of the River Severn meets a low spur of higher ground. The monument can be divided into three areas; on the north side of the village is the Saxon and medieval ecclesiastical complex, defined on its west, east and south sides by earthwork banks and ditches; to the south of this complex, separated by the village street, is an oval area of land, again defined by banks and ditches, which contains Odda's Chapel and the area of the Saxon royal vill; and at the east end of the village street are the platforms and hollow ways of medieval settlement remains. In addition to these three defined and adjacent areas, Romano-British settlement evidence occurs in two concentrations: the earlier material from the vicinity of Odda's Chapel, where there is also evidence of a Roman villa in the field to the south of the Chapel; the second concentration is to the north and west of St Mary's Church. The medieval priory followed the Saxon monastery on the same site and two of its standing buildings, St Mary's Church and Priory Farm house, survive. Some elements of the church, specifically the nave, the lower part of the west porch and two pairs of porticus are associated with the earliest mention of the Saxon monastery in 804. Remaining elements of the Saxon monastery and earlier associations with Romano-British burials have been discovered by excavation beneath and around the church. The Priory Farm house, to the south east of the church, is a mainly 14th century building. On the west side of the house and on the south side of the adjoining church are the corbels which once sustained the pentice of the cloister. The existing farmhouse therefore stands on the east side of the Benedictine cloister. To the north east and south east of the farmhouse are four dried up, or almost dry, fishponds associated with the priory. These vary in size, two being about 40m long by 14m wide, a third about 40m by 30m, and the fourth forming a dog-leg with its longest side being about 60m long and the short side 30m. To the west of the church a ditch partly inside and partly outside the churchyard is considered to be part of a precinct boundary, represented to the east and south of the church by earthen banks. To the south west of this, the village street forms a hollow way between the banks of the ecclesiastical site and banks and ditches which demarcate on oval area of land which is considered to enclose the Saxon Royal vill. The Saxon chapel, known as `Odda's Chapel', lies in the northern quadrant of this area. This chapel, which was dedicated in 1056, consists of a nave and chancel, and has two double splayed round headed windows, one of which still retains part of a wooden window frame in situ. In the field to the south of the chapel, spreads of burnt material together with a considerable amount of Romano-British building debris, indicate the presence of a Roman settlement interpreted as a villa. The earthworks of the medieval settlement at the south east end of the village street show at least ten house platforms with a main street from which side streets emanate. These earthworks stand to 0.8m high, and beyond them to the south east are part of the medieval agricultural fields of the village showing as ridge and furrow, the remainder having been levelled by cultivation. Excavation has taken place in Deerhurst over a number of years; in 1971 Philip Rahtz undertook some limited work in the ruined apse of the church. Throughout the 1970s various small scale excavations and watching briefs were undertaken by Rahtz, Lorna Watts and Mark Horton both in the vicinity of the church and Odda's Chapel. In 1972 the Roman material to the south of the chapel was observed during earth moving operations. In the 1990s Gloucestershire County Council undertook a number of investigations and watching briefs in the area of Deerhurst Priory Farm, recovering medieval and Romano-British evidence. All this evidence suggests a sequence of occupation beginning in the Romano- British period with the villa dated to between the 2nd and 4th centuries. Evidence for past occupation continues through to the present day, where house plots represent later 20th century abandonments, the result of flooding in the Severn Valley. Deerhurst had a particular significance in the medieval period. Edmund Ironside met Cnut there in 1016 to decide on the partition of England; this importance is reinforced by the construction of a Royal Hall and the dedication of Odda's Chapel in 1056. The chapel was built by Odda in honour of his brother Aelfric; both were kinsmen of the king. Odda bequethed the manor of Deerhurst to Edward the Confessor, who subsequently granted it to Westminster Abbey in 1065. Odda's chapel continued in use until the 13th century. In the 16th century alterations were made to the upper storey of the chancel and the nave became a kitchen with an open hearth. The priory remained in existence until its dissolution in 1540, after which the buildings were used as a farm. The remaining monastic buildings were demolished in the 18th century. The manor of Deerhurst remained in the posession of Westminster until 1896, when it was transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Odda's Chapel is in the care of the Secretary of State. Odda's Chapel, the Church of St Mary, and Deerhurst Priory Farmhouse are Listed Grade I. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are St Mary's Church and the Priory Farmhouse, all telegraph poles, modern field boundaries, all gates and stiles, water troughs and the platforms on which they stand, outbuildings and garden features and all road and path surfaces; the ground beneath all these features is, however, included. The property known as the `Laurels' is completely excluded from the scheduling. The churchyard is not included in the scheduling, as it is still used for burials.

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.

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Books and journals
Heighway, C, Deerhurst St Mary and Gloucester St Oswald: two Saxon Minsters, (1994)
Heighway, C, Deerhurst St Mary and Gloucester St Oswald: two Saxon Minsters, (1994)
Rahtz, P, Watts, L, St Mary's Church Deerhurst Gloucestershire, (1997), 231
Rahtz, P, Watts, L, St Mary's Church Deerhurst Gloucestershire, (1997), 153-183
Rahtz, P, Watts, L, St Mary's Church Deerhurst Gloucestershire, (1997), 183
Rahtz, P, Watts, L, St Mary's Church Deerhurst Gloucestershire, (1997), 161-2
Rahtz, P, Watts, L, St Mary's Church Deerhurst Gloucestershire, (1997), 230-232
Rahtz, P, Watts, L, St Mary's Church Deerhurst Gloucestershire, (1997), 151-2
Rahtz, P, Watts, L, St Mary's Church Deerhurst Gloucestershire, (1997), 231
Rodwell, K, The Development of Odda's Chapel, Deerhust, Gloucestershire, (1993), 1-2


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.

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