Burscough Augustinian Priory


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


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

West Lancashire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SD 43381 09926

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.

Despite the absence of much above-ground remains, limited investigation in the past has shown that substantial below-ground remains of Burscough Augustinian Priory survive well in the areas to the east and south of Abbey Farm and Abbey Cottage. These remains include the church, almonry, cloister, chapter house, refectory, monks' locutory, guests' locutory, guests' hall, the prior's garden and the guests' garden. It is considered that further remains of buildings associated with the medieval priory will survive in those adjoining areas not investigated in the 19th century.


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of that part of Burscough Augustinian Priory located immediately east and south of Abbey Farm and Abbey Cottage.

Burscough Priory was founded by Robert Fitz Henry, Lord of Lathom and Knowsley, in about 1190 and dedicated to St Nicholas. In about 1280 the church was enlarged by extending it eastwards. Burscough Priory was dissolved in 1536 and the buildings were condemned to destruction but apparently stood for a few more years. Documentary sources indicate that the church had been demolished by 1572.

Limited investigation undertaken in the 1880s located substantial buried structural remains of the church and numerous associated buildings, and this enabled a plan of the buried remains located to the east and south of Abbey Farm and Abbey Cottage to be produced. The church is aligned east-west with the nave at the west end and a chancel at the east. There is a south transept and a north transept either side of the crossing. Remains of a north aisle were found on the north side of the nave with a mortuary between the aisle and the north transept and an almonry to the north of the north transept. To the west of the almonry and north of the north aisle is the prior's garden, while to the east of the almonry and north of the chancel is the beggars' yard where those waiting for alms would congregate. On the south side of the nave lie the buried remains of the cloister with a mortuary between it and the south transept. To the south of the south transept there is a slype and beyond this faint traces of what has been interpreted as the chapter house. South of the cloister buried remains of the corner of the monks' refectory were found, while west of the cloister there are buried remains of the monks' locutory, guests' locutory and the guests' hall, with the guests' garden lying to the west of these buildings.

The above ground remains now consist of two late 13th century sandstone piers at the junction of the north transept and the crossing, together with the respond of the north arcade and the stump of the north wall of the chancel. Both piers are cruciform in plan, with broach bases and the remains of chamfered shafts. The east pier has a small cusped niche or piscina at its base. On the monument's east and south sides substantial fragments of walling can be seen; that on the east being premdominantly of sandstone construction, that on the south a mix of sandstone and brick. The upstanding two piers at the junction of the north transept and the crossing, with the respond of the north arcade and the stump of the north wall of the chancel, is a Listed Building Grade I.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: all timber huts, all fences, fenceposts, gates and gateposts, all manhole covers and the concrete bases in which they are set, the timber base for a water trough, all flowerbeds, steps and railings, a water fountain, all decorative chimney pots in the garden of Abbey Cottage, all caravans and their hardstandings, all electricity hook up points, all water tanks and their standings, a gas tank and its standing, all lamposts, all signposts, an electricity sub station, a timber building and a toilet block associated with the caravan site, and all made up 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.

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Books and journals
Farrer, J, Brownbill, W (eds), The Victoria History of the County of Lancashire: Volume II, (1908), 148-52
Bromley, J, 'Trans Hist Soc Lancs & Cheshire' in Notes on Some Recent Excavations at Burscough Priory, , Vol. 5, (1889), 127-146
DOE, Buildings of Special Hist & Arch Interest,


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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