Haltemprice Augustinian priory


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Haltemprice Augustinian priory
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TA 04302 31030

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.

Around 6000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches, often or seasonally water-filled, partly or completely enclosing one or more islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some cases moated islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites were built primarily as a status symbol rather than for defensive reasons, with improved land drainage being an important secondary factor in lower lying areas like the Humber basin. The peak period of moat building was between about 1250 and 1350 and by far the greatest concentration lies in central and eastern England. However, moated sites were built throughout the medieval period and are widely scattered throughout England, demonstrating a wide diversity of forms and sizes. They are a significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. Many examples provide conditions favourable to the survival of organic remains. The tradition of constructing and using fishponds started in the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century, their use declining after the Dissolution. They were typically built by the wealthier sectors of society with royal residences and monasteries often having large and complex fishponds. They were designed to retain slow-moving fresh water to allow the breeding, cultivating and storing of fish to provide a sustainable year round supply of fresh food. They typically had a complex water management system of leats and sluices to control water levels, sometimes incorporating moats which were also sometimes used as fishponds. Fishponds are found widely scattered across the country, the majority in central, eastern and southern parts and in areas with heavy clay soils. Fewer are found near the coast or where natural lakes and streams provided a natural source of fish. Although approximately 2000 examples are recorded nationally, this is thought to be only a small proportion of those originally in existence. Despite being relatively common, fishponds are important for their association with other classes of medieval monuments, and in providing evidence of site economy. Haltemprice Augustinian priory is a good example of one of the smaller and less successful religious communities. Its importance is heightened by its late foundation date and the survival of the Tudor farmhouse which incorporates building fragments from the priory. The monument will also retain important buried archaeological remains, both of the priory's inner and outer precincts, and of the earlier settlement of Newton. The infilled moat ditches are of special significance as they will include environmental evidence that will aid our understanding of the medieval life and economy of the area.


The monument includes buried, earthwork and standing remains of an Augustinian priory that was established on the site of the earlier settlement of Newton. It is located at the east end of Abbey Lane, extending around and including the ruins of Haltemprice Priory Farm, which is a Listed Building Grade II*. The Augustinian priory of St Mary the Virgin and the Holy Cross was originally founded in 1321 by Thomas de Wake close to Baynard's Castle, his fortified manor house in Cottingham. With the exception of the two Charterhouses at Mount Grace and Hull, it was the last monastic foundation in Yorkshire. However, it proved impossible to obtain secure title to the site to prevent de Wake's heirs reclaiming the land, so in c.1325 Thomas de Wake moved the community to the small settlement of Newton, 2.4km to the south. Newton, which was first documented in the late 12th century, was effectively replaced by the new priory and the area was renamed Haltemprice. The priory was granted the manors of Newton, Willerby and Wolfreton and the churches of Cottingham, Kirk Ella, Wharram Percy and Belton in Axholme. The first prior, a canon who had transferred from Bourne in Lincolnshire, was appointed in 1327, but died soon after. He was replaced by one of the only three other canons in the community at that time. In 1367 the Archbishop of York ordered an investigation into Haltemprice, which was found to be heavily in debt and badly run. A letter from Pope John XXIII dated 1411 noted that the priory was incomplete and had insufficient income to meet its needs. It went on to note that the bell tower of the church had recently blown down, ruining the church and other buildings, and that the priory's gatehouse and adjoining offices had been destroyed by fire. A number of the other buildings were also in ruins so that the priory was scarcely habitable. Despite this state of affairs, by 1424 there were 12 canons including the prior at Haltemprice, increased from the 9 recorded in 1380. In 1440 Kingston upon Hull was granted the status of a county with its boundary including Haltemprice, separating the priory from Cottingham. This led to disputes because the priory claimed several rights from its foundation and later charters which were now infringed by Hull. One such dispute, in 1515, is said to have led to a skirmish between the Sheriff of Hull with 200 townsmen and the canons supported by their farm tenants. The priory was suppressed in August 1536, at which time there were nine canons and a prior, together with 40 servants and boys. The net income of the priory in the previous year was recorded as being one hundred pounds. In September, after the speedy sale of goods from the priory, including roofing lead, realised nearly 250 pounds for the Crown, the priory was leased to Sir Ralph Ellerker of Risby. Later that year Sir Ralph was one of the local leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace, and he briefly returned some of the canons to Haltemprice. The Pilgrimage of Grace was a short-lived popular northern uprising partly in opposition to Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries. Sir Ralph was pardoned by the Crown at the end of 1536, and he retained the lease to the priory, and subsequently bought the property outright. Haltemprice Priory farmhouse is thought to have been rebuilt by the Ellerkers in the mid- to late 16th century, reusing medieval bricks and stone quoins and incorporating part of one of the priory's buildings built a few years before the Dissolution. The east end of the house was reconstructed in the late 17th century and the present west wing was added in the following century along with the complete re-roofing of the building. Haltemprice Priory is located in a low lying area of land. To improve the drainage of the site and to provide some measure of security during times of unrest, a system of moat ditches was constructed around the priory, some of which are now incorporated into modern drainage works. The core of the priory, the inner precinct, would have typically included the priory church, domestic accommodation for the prior and canons including a dormitory, refectory and chapter house, along with other buildings, possibly including an infirmary and guest house. The higher status buildings are thought to have been brick built with stone detailing, with other buildings being timber framed. Aerial photographs and map evidence show that there is a large, roughly rectangular enclosure defined by moat ditches which are now mainly infilled. This enclosure extends 120m east and 200m north of the eastern end of Abbey Lane, with the demolished remains of the later farm buildings roughly at the centre and the standing remains of the farmhouse approximately central on its western side. The line of the western ditch is followed by a modern footpath. This enclosure is considered to form the original inner precinct of the priory. In addition to the farmhouse, which includes part of a high status early 16th century building including a doorway and section of walling, buried fragments of architectural worked stone have also been uncovered in this area in the past. To the east of this enclosure there is an area known as Ash Hill. This is a second moated enclosure which is also roughly rectangular, but with an irregular eastern end. It measures up to 120m north-south and extends 190m eastwards from the eastern moat of the inner precinct. The moat ditches, which are still used for drainage, are still open. Towards the centre, orientated with the northern side of the enclosure, there is a slight linear depression. This is interpreted as the infilled remains of a set of three linked rectangular fishponds, each originally just over 30m by 12m. The buried remains of further features related to the priory are considered to survive in this area. The eastern moat of the inner precinct extended northwards, as a narrower ditch, for a further 200m to meet the drain which defines the northern side of the monument. Extending from the west side of the northern end of this ditch are the infilled remains of a double ditched enclosure 30m by 40m internally, 60m by 70m externally, with a single ditched annex extending 60m from its western side. Further features, including trackways and ditches between the inner precinct and these northern moated enclosures can be seen on aerial photographs as earthworks before 1960 and as crop marks thereafter. This whole area is considered to retain buried remains of the priory's outer court, which typically would have included the service buildings for the community, such as a brewery, bakehouse, granary and stores, along with accommodation for the lay people who served the priory. It may also have included the buildings of a home farm working the surrounding land. This area is thought to have developed out of the earlier settlement of Newton which the priory took over, and buried remains of this earlier settlement are also considered to survive within the area of the monument.

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:


Record Card, Sites and Monuments Record, 4520, (1998)
Record cards, Sites & Monuments Record, 810, (1998)


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

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