St Thomas' Priory


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020054

Date first listed: 14-Jul-1966

Date of most recent amendment: 09-May-2001


Ordnance survey map of St Thomas' Priory
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Staffordshire

District: Stafford (District Authority)

Parish: Tixall

National Grid Reference: SJ 95058 22896


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.

St Thomas' Priory survives well, with both standing masonry and earthwork and buried remains. The priory site is relatively complete and will retain both the core buildings and many typical features of the monastic outer court. St Thomas' Priory represents a well-documented example of an Augustinian monastery with historical records dating from its construction during the 12th century through to its dissolution in the 16th century.


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


St Thomas' Priory is situated in the fertile valley of the River Sow, approximately 2 miles east of Stafford. The monument includes the core of the priory, a foundation of the Augustinian order, including the ruins of the conventual buildings and the earthwork and buried remains of buildings and other features within the monastic precinct. The monastic buildings and other remains of St Thomas' Priory are set within an elongated rectangular precinct alongside the northern bank of the River Sow and covering approximately 2.25ha. St Thomas' Priory was founded by Gerard fitz Brian, a burgess of Stafford, in c.1174 and developed into one of the wealthier houses of the Augustinian order in Staffordshire. The priory continued to acquire property until its dissolution in 1538. After the Dissolution, St Thomas' Priory and all its landed possessions came into the hands of the Bishops of Lichfield and from them it passed to the Fowler family, who retained it until 1715. The remains of the conventual buildings occupy the central and eastern parts of the precinct and include a section of standing walling approximately 12m in length along the north side of the garden of St Thomas' Priory Farm. The work is early 13th century in date and is considered to be part of the north wall of the north transept and the north wall of an east chapel. The two main features of the wall are a respond, standing to full height with its original capital, and immediately to the east, a plain aumbry (or cupboard for the holy vessels). The conventual buildings are situated on the south side of the church and were laid out around a cloister. A large proportion of the southern claustral range survives above ground, its southern wall being best preserved. The greater part of this walling stands to a height of up to 3.5m. The standing remains of this range show evidence of many alterations, although the round-headed doorway at its east end is considered to be original. There are no visible surface remains of the eastern range, which is likely to have contained the chapter house and dorter. The record of a visit to the site in 1878 by the historian Charles Lynam provides evidence that the chapter house, day-room, cloister, kitchen and refectory were visible as slight surface remains at the end of the 19th century. St Thomas' Priory farmhouse, which is Listed Grade II, incorporates medieval masonry within its fabric and is considered to overlie parts of the church and the northern section of the western claustral range. The west wall of the farmhouse is thought to coincide with the west wall of the church. The farmhouse is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included. There are two ranges of buildings to the north west of St Thomas' Priory farmhouse which are Listed Buildings Grade II. The lower sections of these are stone-built and, although mostly post-Dissolution in date, they may incorporate some in situ medieval masonry. In the field to the east of Priory Farm a number of parch marks, indicating wall foundations surviving just beneath the ground surface, are visible during the dry summer months. These features are connected with the monastic site or with immediate post-Dissolution use of the area. The monastic precinct was bounded along its south western side by the Mill Stream, and by a steep natural scarp along its north eastern edge. There is no surface evidence of a precinct wall along the north western boundary of the site, but the line of Blackheath Lane indicates where the medieval precinct boundary probably lay. The present entrance to Priory Farm is probably on the site of the medieval entrance to the monastic precinct as it is in direct alignment with St Thomas' Lane. The foundations of a gatehouse to the monastery will survive as a buried feature beneath the ground surface at this point. The monastery possessed two mills in the vicinity of the precinct and documentary evidence suggests that the present Mill Farm, at the south western corner of the precinct, stands on the site of one of them and this site is included in the scheduling. The houses associated with St Thomas' Priory Farm and St Thomas' Mill Farm and their associated outbuildings and garages, the agricultural buildings of St Thomas' Priory Farm, which occupy the northern section of the monastic site, and the two agricultural building ranges which are post-Dissolution in date and incorporate medieval masonry are all excluded from the scheduling; all fence posts, modern walling, the surfaces of the driveways and paths, the areas of concrete flooring and the greenhouse are also excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all the above mentioned buildings and 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: 21532

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dickinson, J C, The Victoria History of the County of Staffordshire, (1970), 260
Dickinson, J C, The Victoria History of the County of Staffordshire, (1970), 263
Bemrose, G J V, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in St. Thomas' Priory and Tixall, , Vol. 80, (1946), 88
Lynam, C, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in A Visit of Discovery to St. Thomas' Priory, Stafford, (1878), 58
Staffs. Sites and Monuments Record,

End of official listing