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Kirby Bellars Priory

A Scheduled Monument in Kirby Bellars, Leicestershire

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Latitude: 52.7584 / 52°45'30"N

Longitude: -0.9382 / 0°56'17"W

OS Eastings: 471750.746403

OS Northings: 318389.581239

OS Grid: SK717183

Mapcode National: GBR BP0.3LZ

Mapcode Global: WHFJZ.KXFR

Entry Name: Kirby Bellars Priory

Scheduled Date: 10 December 1951

Last Amended: 3 February 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009285

English Heritage Legacy ID: 17094

County: Leicestershire

Civil Parish: Kirby Bellars

Traditional County: Leicestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Leicestershire

Church of England Parish: Upper Wreake Parish

Church of England Diocese: Leicester


The site at Kirby Bellars is situated on low lying ground on the west bank of
the River Wreake, 3km west of Melton Mowbray, and includes the earthworks of
an Augustinian priory comprising a moated site and boundary banks and ditches.

The earthworks cover an area measuring almost 200m square to the north of St
Peter's church. The centre of the monument is occupied by a square moated
site, currently dry, measuring approximately 100 x 100m in overall dimensions.
The east and western arms of the moat measure between 16-18m wide and are up
to 3m deep. The southern arm of the moat has been infilled and the northern
arm partly infilled. Connecting channels indicating the water management
system run from the north-east and south-east corners of the moat. The surface
of the moat island has an uneven appearance and will contain the remains of
buildings. Two small mounds less than 0.5m high connected by a low bank are
situated on the eastern side of the island. Surrounding the moat is a ditch of
about 3m wide, an inner bank of up to 1m high, an outer of less than 0.5m high
on three sides and a low bank on the western side. This is extended northwards
from the north-east corner, surviving for 25m as a bank 6m wide and 0.5m tall.
To the south of this enclosure are two banks flanking two ditches of similar
dimensions which extend for some 60m towards the churchyard wall and
continuing for a further 50m around the churchyard to the west. A further
enclosure is created on the south eastern side of the site by a ditch with an
outer bank measuring 0.5m and an inner measuring up to 2m.

The priory of Kirby Bellars was founded as a chantry in 1316, becoming an
Augustinian priory in 1359. The priory church was a separate chapel having the
same dedication as the church to the south. By 1440 the priory possessed a
chapter house. The religious house was dissolved in 1534.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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. 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.

The site of Kirby Bellars priory is an unusual example of a moated religious
house. The moat island will retain evidence of the priory buildings.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Thompson, A H, 'Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Hist Soc' in The Chapel of St Peter at Kirby upon Wreak, , Vol. 16, (1931), 130-212

Source: Historic England

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