Augustinian priory, later abbey and associated pillow mound, at King's School


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020015

Date first listed: 28-Aug-2001


Ordnance survey map of Augustinian priory, later abbey and associated pillow mound, at King's School
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Somerset

District: South Somerset (District Authority)

Parish: Bruton

National Grid Reference: ST 68464 34709, ST 68495 34591, ST 68509 34429


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.

The Augustinian priory, later abbey and associated pillow mound at King's School survive as buried remains which will provide archaeological information about the layout of an Augustinian abbey and about the lives of its inhabitants. The flight of associated fishponds retain clear evidence of waterlogging below the ground surface indicating the presence of preserved deposits. The importance of the site is further enhanced by the numerous contemporary documentary references which relate to the monument from its time as the site of a Benedictine monastery, as an Augustinian priory and as an abbey, all of which reflect its long history as a site of religious importance.


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


The monument, which lies in three separate areas of protection, includes the site of an Augustinian priory later to become an abbey, an associated flight of medieval fishponds, and a post-medieval pillow mound. The site is divided by the London to Taunton main railway line and part of the abbey's inner precinct lies within the grounds of King's School on the north side of the railway line close to the boundary wall of St Mary's churchyard. The remaining part of the inner precinct, which also includes the flight of fishponds, is located on the north facing slope of Lusty Hill to the south of the railway line. An Augustinian priory was founded between 1127 and 1135 by William de Mohun, the Earl of Somerset and as part of its foundation charter it was granted the manor of Bruton. In addition, it was granted the right to hold the Hundred Court and the right to hold a market. The priory was relatively small, housing only 12 cannons and a prior at its foundation, increasing to 15 cannons with about five various auxiliary staff by 1377. Despite this, the priory was relatively wealthy, having been endowed with land and property to augment its income. This affluence was reflected in the evident prosperity of the town of Bruton which, according to a document of 1330, held a prosperous market which was patronised by people from Glastonbury. The status of the priory was raised to that of an abbey in 1510 when the then prior, Prior Gilbert, later to become Abbot, made a pilgrimage to Rome to seek permission for this elevation. The abbey was dissolved in 1539 at which time it housed about 14 cannons. The abbey and Manor of Bruton were bought by Sir Maurice Berkeley and the abbey buildings were subsequently converted and incorporated into a manor house. The main priory, and the succeeding abbey and manor house buildings, are shown on an early 18th century ground plan as being located to the south west of St Mary's Church, their north east corner lying approximately 10m from the churchyard boundary wall. They extend to the west towards the present King's School buildings south of the abbey wall which faces on to Silver Street. The main entrance into the abbey faced south towards Lusty Hill and a partial excavation carried out in antiquity revealed the foundations of a probable wall close to what is understood to be the south door. Drawings which are dated to about 1780 show the manor from all aspects and these correspond exactly with the earlier ground plan. It is believed that the priory was established on the site of an enclosed pre-Conquest monastery for Benedictine monks, founded in around 1005 by the Earl of Cornwall. The Berkeley manor, or Abbey House as it was known, was demolished in 1786 and the building stone was given freely to anyone who wanted it including the people of Bruton, some of whose houses are adorned with curious pieces of stonework which probably derive from the manor. The south and west boundary of the abbey precinct is located to the south of the railway line and is formed by a low earthen bank which extends southwards for approximately 130m before turning to the east towards Dropping Lane. The profile of the bank has become difficult to define at ground level but it is clearly visible on aerial photographs from which it is possible to plot the southern extent of the precinct. A flight of three fishponds which are associated with the abbey are also included in the monument. These ponds are located on the east side of the precinct and are aligned broadly from north to south following the line of Dropping Lane to the east. All three are connected by means of a shallow ditch which originates from the site of the old abbey mill to the north. The northernmost pond is approximately 22m by 20m, the southernmost is 46m north to south and about 17m across, whilst the dimensions of the centre pond are now known only from previous records. Fish would have supplemented the monk's diet. Also included in the monument is a ditched pillow mound or warren which is situated below the crest of Lusty Hill, about 325m south east of St Mary's Church in an area which once formed the outer precinct of the abbey. The mound, which is linear in form, is aligned from north east to south west. It is 70m long by 15m wide and is approximately 0.5m high. It would have been used for the husbandry of rabbits as an additional food source.

The following are excluded from the scheduling: all sports huts, pavilions and sheds, all ground fast sports apparatus including rugby posts, all fencing and fence posts, sign posts and gates, all post-medieval walling, all post- medieval structures in use, all areas of hard standing and prepared surfaces, however, the ground beneath all these features 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: 33724

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Aston, M, Leech, R, Historic Towns in Somerset, (1977), 20-25
Aston, M, Leech, R, Historic Towns in Somerset, (1977), 20-21
Couzens, P, Bruton in Selwood, (1968), 9-47
Aston, M, 'Proceedings Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society' in Gardens and Earthworks at Hardington and Low Ham, Somerset, , Vol. 122, (1978), 27
Savage, W, 'Proceedings Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society' in Somerset Towns, , Vol. 99, (1954), 53-4
1269, CPE/UK/1924 in Somerset Local Studies Library, (1947)

End of official listing