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St Martin's Priory (remains of)

A Scheduled Monument in Dover, Kent

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Latitude: 51.1268 / 51°7'36"N

Longitude: 1.3069 / 1°18'24"E

OS Eastings: 631485.291127

OS Northings: 141592.41283

OS Grid: TR314415

Mapcode National: GBR X2Z.786

Mapcode Global: VHLHB.LYR2

Entry Name: St Martin's Priory (remains of)

Scheduled Date: 14 April 1975

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002943

English Heritage Legacy ID: KE 286

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Dover

Built-Up Area: Dover

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent


St Martin’s Priory 157m north-west of the Alma Public House.

Source: Historic England


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 17 March 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

The monument includes a medieval Augustinian, and later Benedictine, priory surviving as upstanding and below-ground remains. It is situated on low-lying ground below Priory Hill in Dover. The upstanding remains of the priory include the medieval gatehouse, the refectory, remains of the cloister and fragments of other monastic buildings.

The priory gatehouse, now Dover College library, is located at the south-west extremity of the site. It was built in the 14th century and restored in the 19th century. The building is constructed of flint with stone dressings and a renewed hipped tiled roof. It is of two storeys with a lower part to the west. There are three windows including two pointed windows with surviving tracery and hood moulding. However that in the lower floor of the west part of the gatehouse is a 19th century round-headed window. The entrance through the gatehouse is by a central pointed archway.

The priory cloister is to the east of the gatehouse. The upstanding remains include the walls of the west range and the priory kitchens to the north-west. These were built in the mid 12th century and are constructed of flint with round-headed openings. The main surviving building is the refectory on the north side of the cloister, now in use as Dover College school hall. It was built in the mid 12th century but restored in 1868. The refectory is constructed of flint with horizontal bands of Caen stone and a gabled tiled roof. It is two storeys high and about 30m long. On the south side there are a series of eight round-headed windows at first floor level divided by pilaster buttresses. There are renewed corbels in the eaves of the roof, although at the east end the gable springs from stones carved with worn symbols of the evangelists. On the east wall there are also springings of a tunnel-vaulted passage. Internally there is 12th century arcading and the first floor windows alternate with blind arches. There are four east arch capitals decorated with foliage and heads. Running the full length of the east wall is a now worn medieval wall painting of the last supper, thought to overlie an even earlier fresco.

On the north side of the site is the former priory guesthouse, now the chapel of Dover College, which is completely excluded from the scheduling. Nearby, north of Dover College boarding school building, are the flint walls of another monastic building of rectangular plan.

A religious house was originally founded in the Saxon burgh at Dover Castle by King Eadbald of Kent (616-640) for 22 secular canons. In 696, King Wihtred transferred the canons to a new church dedicated to St Martin in part of the area of Dover now occupied by Market Square. They remained there for the following centuries and the names and possessions of the canons are recorded in the Domesday Book. In 1130, Henry I gave a Charter to Archbishop Corbeil of Canterbury to allow him to build a priory in the town and appropriate the assets of the existing church of St Martin. The new priory was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Martin and was called ‘St Martin's of the New Work’, or ‘Newark’, to distinguish it from the old church. Augustinian canons were initially introduced but in about 1143 Archbishop Theobald established Benedictine rule. The priory was closed in 1535 as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The land was granted to Archbishop Cranmer in 1538 who leased it to Henry Bingham of Wingham.

Some of the buildings were dismantled but others were adapted to agricultural use. In the late 19th century, Dover College was established on the site and the remaining priory buildings were ‘restored’ by the architect George Edmund Street. A small excavation was carried out on the site in 1979 but no priory buildings were located. The priory gatehouse, the refectory and the remains of the cloisters to the west of the refectory are Grade II* listed.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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.

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. Some 225 religious houses belonged to the order of St Augustine.

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. Over 150 Benedictine monasteries were eventually 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.

Augustinian and Benedictine monasteries made a major contribution to many facets of medieval life and all examples exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Despite some alterations and development on the site in the past, St Martin’s Priory survives well. The refectory and gatehouse, though altered, are still extant and upstanding remains of other priory buildings also survive. Together with below-ground archaeological remains, these will provide valuable evidence for the original ground plan and layout of the priory. The site will contain below-ground archaeological and environmental information relating to the construction, history and use of the priory.

Source: Historic England


Dover District Council, Dover Museum website, ‘Dover Priory’, accessed 14 April 2010 from
Page, W, 'Houses of Benedictine monks: The priory of Dover', A History of the County of Kent: Vol 2 (1926), 133-137, accessed 14 April 2010 from dover
Kent HER TR34SW22. NMR TR34SW22. PastScape 467831. LBS 177759, 177760, 177761, 177762, 177764, 177765.

Source: Historic England

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