Alvecote priory and dovecote


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Warwickshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 25083 04236

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. Benedictine monasticism had its roots in the rule written about AD 530 by St Benedict of Nursia for his own abbey at Monte Cassino. Benedict had not intended to establish an order of monasteries and wider adoption of his rule came only gradually. The first real attempt to form a Benedictine order came only in 1216. The Benedictine monks, who wore dark robes, came to be known as `black monks'. These dark robes distinguished them from Cistercian monks who became known as `white monks' on account of their light coloured robes. Over 150 Benedictine monasteries were founded in England. As members of a highly successful order many Benedictine houses became extremely wealthy and influential. Their wealth can frequently be seen in the scale and flamboyance of their buildings. Benedictine monasteries made a major contribution to many facets of medieval life and all examples exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Alvecote priory was a minor cell of Malvern priory and the survival of buildings as well as earthworks and buried remains is relatively rare at such a small monastic settlement. In addition the history of the priory is well documented and includes details of its estates and buildings. Together these remains and information will provide a rich source of evidence about the lifestyle of the inhabitants during the five hundred year history of the priory. In addition, the evidence for the reuse of the buildings and site as a grand residence with gardens will illustrate its later use. The evidence for the buildings will demonstrate both the changing technical abilities of masons and architects from 1100 until 1700 as well as the changing fashions and innovations in building techniques in response to the different requirements of the monastic and the secular lifestyles. Buried artefacts will provide a range of information about occupations and activities of the inhabitants.

This damp low lying site is expected to preserve environmental evidence in monastic drains and buried ditches which will inform us about the changing natural environment throughout the occupation of the site, whilst remains such as the dovecote, fishpond and ridge and furrow cultivation provide evidence about food production and the changing agricultural regimes carried out by the monks and their successors.


The monument includes the known extent of the buried, earthwork and standing remains of Alvecote Priory and a dovecote, located on the southern edge of the valley of the River Anker. A small Benedictine priory founded in 1159 by William Burdet, it later became a cell of Great Malvern Priory. Alvecote Priory appears to have regularly housed only four monks and their servants. In 1291 it was valued at 2 pounds, 9 shillings and 2 pence, and in the 14th century its buildings were refurbished. It was dissolved in 1536 when it was valued at 28 pounds, 5 shillings and 2 pence. The buildings were converted into a private house which was rebuilt in 1700. This later house fell into disuse and decayed until it was demolished in the 20th century. The standing remains of the priory are Listed Grade II.

The surviving building remains date from the 14th century and are believed to be the undercroft of a domestic building forming part of the priory. Partial excavations carried out in 1956 uncovered further medieval remains. The undercroft survives to a height of approximately 2.5m and is located at the centre of the priory. It includes a roofless, stone building, divided into two cells by shallow buttresses, with an arched doorway in the southern wall and a lancet window in the eastern bay; there are further blocked openings of other windows visible. To the north west of the building are the earthwork remains of a curving rubble wall approximately 30m long.

On the eastern edge of the priory, next to the Coventry Canal, are the remains of a medieval dovecote, also believed to be monastic in origin. It is a Listed Building Grade II. The earliest record of a dovecote in Warwickshire is that documented at Alvecote in 1291. The dovecote is square, with internal measurements of 3m by 3m, and is of massive stone construction with a modern concrete roof and a small square headed doorway in the western face. It survives to a height of approximately 2m and includes over 300 L-shaped nest holes with stone alighting ledges. The position of the original potence (revolving central ladder supported by a timber post) is clearly visible in the floor.

In the southern area of the monument are the earthwork remains relating to the priory estate and the later house and gardens, including a pond in the south western angle of the field and a square terraced area bounded by earthwork banks to the east of the pond. The pond measures approximately 10m across and is up to 2m deep. The terrace measures over 30m north to south and 20m east to west, bounded by banks 0.75m high. Medieval ridge and furrow cultivation remains oriented in two directions survive in the south eastern area.

The modern car park, picnic tables and post and wire fences and all modern paths and surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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:
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Books and journals
Cox, J C, The Victoria History of the County of Alvecote Priory, (1908), 61-2


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.

End of official listing

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