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Marrick Priory: a Benedictine nunnery and later parish church with fishponds, mill mound, ironworks, longhouse, trackways and an Iron-Age house platform

A Scheduled Monument in Marrick, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.3755 / 54°22'31"N

Longitude: -1.8982 / 1°53'53"W

OS Eastings: 406709.162225

OS Northings: 497777.228416

OS Grid: SE067977

Mapcode National: GBR HK5V.V9

Mapcode Global: WHB5C.T981

Entry Name: Marrick Priory: a Benedictine nunnery and later parish church with fishponds, mill mound, ironworks, longhouse, trackways and an Iron-Age house platform

Scheduled Date: 8 February 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012182

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20523

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Marrick

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire


The monument includes the precinct of the Benedictine nunnery, which became a
parish church after the Dissolution, with additional features including two
sets of fishponds, the foundations of a windmill, iron smelting works, a
medieval longhouse and associated trackways. The monument also contains an
Iron-Age house platform, providing evidence of earlier occupation of the site.
Marrick Priory is situated at the foot of the northern slopes of Swaledale,
adjacent to a northward meander of the River Swale on an old road between
Marrick village and Fremlington.

The priory precinct occupies a raised platform, measuring 140m north-south by
120m east-west, which rises above the floodplain of the river. The precinct
was bounded by a mortared stone wall which ran along the edge of the platform
and which survives in places incorporated into the existing field boundary
wall (which is therefore included in the scheduling). According to a 16th
century plan of the priory, most of the conventual buildings lay on the
southern part of the platform and their foundations are now visible as slight
earthworks in fields to the east and to the south-west of Marrick Priory Farm.
The churchyard lay to the north of St Andrew's church and continued in use as
a cemetery after the Dissolution, while the north-eastern part of the platform
is thought to have been the priory orchard. The wall which runs north from the
ruined chancel and forms the eastern boundary of the cemetery incorporates
mortared medieval masonry and is included in the scheduling. The west range of
the priory, depicted on the 16th century plan, lies beneath the 19th century
farm buildings to the north-west of the church but the modern barns and
slurry-pit to the west of the farmyard entrance have been terraced into the
hillside and are thought to have destroyed any remains. Elements of the priory
buildings survive as standing structures incorporated into the Grade II*
Listed Marrick Priory Farmhouse and the Grade II Listed church. For the most
part these are occupied dwellings and thus excluded from the scheduling but
three structures are considered suitable for inclusion. The first structure is
the Grade II Listed `Prioress' Chamber', a farm building to the north of the
church tower, which is a medieval stone building with mullioned windows that
is a part of the west range of the priory surviving to its full height. The
second is the ruined chancel, including the adjacent hearse house and footings
on the north side; this part of the medieval church was partially demolished
when the church was reduced in size in 1811 but, despite their exposure to the
elements, the internal faces of the chancel ruins retain much of their render
coat. The third upstanding element included in the scheduling is a medieval
stone wall (part of one of the domestic buildings of the nunnery) incorporated
into the outhouses east of Marrick Priory Farm; this wall continues the line
of the post-medieval garden wall, at first forming the west-facing elevation
of the outhouse, then serving as an internal wall.

At Dissolution the priory was one of the wealthiest nunneries in Yorkshire.
This wealth was derived from a number of activities and there are a range of
features in the vicinity of the priory which pertain to medieval economic
activities. Two sets of dried-up fishponds are visible at Marrick, one large
rectangular pond, 70m by 40m across and fed by a system of leats, lies beside
the river while an integrated pair of ponds is located at the foot of the hill
north of the priory; the latter were originally fed by a stream whose flow is
now diverted. Also north of the priory and adjacent to the pair of ponds is a
mound of iron slag 25m across which is the result of iron smelting at the
site. A rectangular stone base 5m by 3m across lies just north of the slag
heap; this has been identified as a type of foundation for a windmill which
may have powered ore-crushing gear and as such is further evidence for iron
working. In the north-west of the area of the scheduling, uphill from the
modern shack, the grassed-over foundations of a medieval longhouse are
visible. This building measured 65m east-west by 25m north-south and is
thought to be a farm house outlying the main precinct. Other irregular
earthworks at the foot of the hill demonstrate that the area was quite heavily
occupied, although the exact nature of this activity is not understood.

Four old trackways cross the site. One is the old road to Marrick village
which runs from the modern access road up the hillside along the bridleway
path where it is visible as a terraced way. A second track forms a 12m wide
hollow way with an 8m wide bank on its eastern border which follows the foot
of the scarp at the eastern edge of the priory precinct leading to the river.
The priory lies close to a fording point on the River Swale and a third
trackway, on the line of the modern farm track, leads down from the precinct
heading towards the river; it crosses a series of earthworks close to the bank
which relate to extinct river courses which may be medieval. The fourth
trackway follows the field boundary on the western edge of the monument and
runs along a 20m wide terrace which falls gently towards the floodplain.

Late Prehistoric or early Romano-British occupation of the area is attested by
a clearly defined house-platform of Iron-Age type which is located on the
hillside to the north of the bridleway to Marrick. The platform comprises an
oval terrace, having a level area 20m by 8m across with a slight bank on its
downslope edge, which would have held an Iron-Age hut.

With the exception of those elements whose inclusion is specifically stated
above, all buildings are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath them is included. Field walls corresponding to the priory precinct
wall and the wall bounding the east of the churchyard, which incorporate
mortar bonded stonework, are included in the scheduling but the above-ground
elements of all other free-standing walls are excluded. Similarly, any fences,
metalled or paved surfaces, the cess pit and its inlet pipe and the aviaries
to the west of Priory Farm are excluded from the scheduling while the ground
beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A nunnery was a settlement built to sustain a community of religious women.
Its main buildings were constructed to provide facilities for worship,
accommodation and subsistence. The main elements are the church and domestic
buildings arranged around a cloister. This central enclosure may be
accompanied by an outer court and gatehouse, the whole bounded by a precinct
wall, earthworks or moat. Outside the enclosure, fishponds, mills, field
systems, stock enclosures and barns may occur.

The earliest English nunneries were founded in the seventh century AD but most
of these had fallen out of use by the ninth century. A small number of these
were later refounded. The tenth century witnessed the foundation of some new
houses but the majority of medieval nunneries were established from the late
eleventh century onwards. Nunneries were established by most of the major
religious orders of the time, including the Benedictines, Cistercians,
Augustinians, Franciscans and Dominicans. It is known from documentary
sources that at least 153 nunneries existed in England, of which the precise
locations of only around 100 sites are known. Few sites have been examined
in detail and as a rare and poorly understood medieval monument type all
examples exhibiting survival of archaeological remains are worthy of

With its upstanding remains of medieval buildings and clearly visible
earthworks, Marrick Priory is one of the best-preserved nunnery sites in the
country. The priory is well documented, both historically and by detailed
archaeological survey and, as well as the remains of the priory precinct, the
monument includes well-preserved features such as fishponds, ironworks, a mill
mound and trackways which provide important evidence for the economy of the
medieval religious community.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Tweddle, D , Marrick Priory research project; YAT report for Dales Nat Park
Tweddle, D , Marrick Priory research project; YAT report for Dales Nat ParkFig 2
Burton, J E, 'Botherwick Papers' in The Yorkshire Nunneries of the 12th and 13th Centuries, , Vol. 56, (1979), 45
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500
Source Date:
Re: Marrick Priory

Source: Historic England

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