Tortington Augustinian priory and ponds, including part of priory precinct
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1021459
Date first listed: 01-May-1951
Date of most recent amendment: 15-Mar-2011
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This copy shows the entry on 19-Jan-2019 at 00:04:04.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: West Sussex
District: Arun (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TQ 00643 05879
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.
Despite the removal of much of the above ground remains of the priory, it survives well as buried archaeological remains with great potential. The church, including a chapel to its north and also the claustral buildings to the south of the church have been located through small scale excavation, watching briefs and air photographs. The precinct beyond the immediate remains of the church and cloister will contain archaeological features relating to the construction and occupation of the site and will also yield information about the way in which the priory was organised and life in the priory. The ponds, although modified in the 20th century will contain archaeological information and environmental evidence in the form of organic remains such as leather, wood, seeds and pollen, which will relate both to the priory and the landscape within which it was constructed. Documentary evidence including the 1606 map by John Norden and ecclesiastical documents relating to the priory will also add to our understanding of the site. The fishponds at Tortington, despite landscaping and modification, are recognisable of their type. Their close grouping and association within the precinct of the priory site will produce evidence for the economy of the site and the management of fish stocks. Environmental evidence will be present which will relate to the priory, the fishponds and the landscape in which they were constructed.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes an Augustinian priory comprising the church, claustral
buildings, ponds and part of the priory precinct lying just above the flood
plain in the valley of the River Arun.
There are few standing remains of the priory church; some fragments have
become part of the 17th century or 18th century barn (listed Grade II), and
there are free standing rubble cores belonging to the east wall of the north
transept lying to the east of the barn. The remainder of the church has been
traced by air photography, archaeological evaluation and watching briefs. The
south wall of the barn incorporates the north wall or north aisle of the nave
of the church with two 13th century vaulting shafts extant. The east wall of
the barn is considered to be the west wall of the north transept and in
lean-to sheds to the south of the barn was found the remains of the west wall
of the nave.
A 1909 excavation by PM Johnson, but not published, is said to have uncovered
foundations of the priory church and buildings to the south of it including a
gatehouse (partly of timber), halls and chambers. A 1997 evaluation found the
south and west sides of the nave. In 1999 further test pits and monitoring
found the west wall of the church including a step for the west door and the
north and south aisle pier bases; a threshold step for a door in the west
wall leading from the north aisle; tiles south of the south wall of the
church indicative of cloisters; a door step and jamb leading out of the
cloister; evidence of the south transept; evidence of the south aisle, and
four burials: two burials in the nave, one south of the chancel and one
outside the church south east of the chancel wall. The interpretation of the
church was aided by air photographs taken in September 1997 by Sir Arthur
Watts. These showed as parch marks, a chapel to the north of the chancel, an
offset at the east end of the north aisle and the possibility of a screen a
third of the way along the chancel. In 2001, an archaeological watching brief
on work to Priory Farm found foundations of the south wall of the cloister
and a drain and the edge of a wall belonging to an east range of buildings
within the precinct. In 2002 evaluation at Priory Farm found an east-west
wall with a brick and ceramic tile fireplace on the west side of the
The lozenge shaped pond about 50m to the east of the barn measures about 58m
north-south by about 12m east-west and the three ponds about 100m to the SSW
of the barn are circular in shape with diameters of about 20m, 15m and 30m.
These are considered to be the locations of the original priory fishponds
which subsequently silted up. They are shown on earlier maps, such as the
Ordnance Survey map of 1876, as being of different shapes; but 20th century
modification has changed their shape and further water features have been
added to the north east and south east of the barn.
The extent of the original priory precinct is shown on a map of 1606 by John
Norden. It is defined by a water-filled ditch on the south side, a minor road
to the north and property boundary to the west. On its east side it extended
to a canalised water feature which can still be seen on modern maps. However
the Ford Road now bisects the eastern part of the precinct and will have
destroyed the archaeological features which were present. Similarly, building
work in the north west quadrant of the precinct will have removed the
archaeological potential there.
Roger of Montgomery, who had been a chief adviser to William I during the
invasion of England and who owned the manor at Tortington, founded two
monasteries at Sees in Normandy to which he granted land at Tortington.
Tortington Priory was founded before 1200, probably about 1180 and probably
by Hadwissa Corbet (Alicia de Corbet), a mistress of Henry I and a daughter
of the d'Aubigny family who held the manor of Arundel. The priory was a cell
of the Cathedral of Sees (Normandy) and dedicated to Mary Magdalene. It was a
small Augustinian community consisting of a prior and four or five canons
together with a cellarer and bailiff, novices and servants. Philip Mainwaring
Johnston in an article in 1904 indicated that for most of its history the
record of the priory was one of decay, neglect and disorder. The
establishment was never large and its revenues were small, but as its
benefactors increased the canons were able to enjoy an enviable lifestyle.
Tortington had a number of manors from which it collected rents. As one of
its duties the priory was expected to involve itself in drainage and checking
the regular overflow of the River Arun, and for this work Commissions of
Sewers had been awarded at an early period in the priory's existence. The
priory fell into a state of neglect and decay by the end of the 15th century
and the Bishop of Chichester reprimanded the canons on their maintenance of
the buildings, their dress, the way the accounts were kept and their
pursuance of games and hunting. By 1518 a general tightening up of monastic
life was called for, but the decline continued until the Dissolution. In a
visitation in 1527 it was reported that the priory church and brewhouse were
in a ruinous condition.
The Act of Suppression of 1536, which gave the sovereign the discretion to
dissolve the smaller religious communities (i.e. those with an income of less
than £200 per annum), proved the end of the priory. At that time Tortington's
income was £75 12s 3 ½ d and came automatically within the scope of the Act
and Thomas Cromwell's local commissioner John Morris. At the time of the
Dissolution the priory's agricultural land was divided into two separate
holdings; the area immediately adjacent to the priory (called Priory Farm),
and Priory Manor. The priory was bought by Lord Maltravers, a member of the
family who held Arundel Castle at that time, and was subsequently sold on to
various other owners. The primary interest for the owners of the priory was
the agricultural land and so the priory buildings were allowed to fall into
ruin. By 1707 the farmhouse was described as consisting of a parlour, kitchen
and offices with chambers above. Even the farmhouse itself was demolished in
1782, and, in a survey of 1909, other properties in the area were reported as
incorporating worked stone from the ruins.
All above ground structures such as Tortington Priory Barn, Priory Farm, the
hangar building and hard landscaping such as ornamental steps, bridges,
pergolas, fence post, gates and sheds are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath all of them is included. There is a grave and
mausoleum to Mr Bridges within the scheduled area, a previous owner of the
site, which is excluded from the scheduling, although again the ground
beneath is included.
Other water features lie to the west and east of the site; but they are not
included in the scheduling. These features remain to be archaeologically
evaluated, but may relate to further water management at Tortington.
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: 28897
Legacy System: RSM
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