Ancient Monuments

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Thelsford priory

A Scheduled Monument in Charlecote, Warwickshire

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Latitude: 52.2222 / 52°13'20"N

Longitude: -1.6036 / 1°36'12"W

OS Eastings: 427176.188

OS Northings: 258299.6862

OS Grid: SP271582

Mapcode National: GBR 5MW.PDG

Mapcode Global: VHBXW.5D3S

Entry Name: Thelsford priory

Scheduled Date: 24 November 1967

Last Amended: 18 June 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013162

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21587

County: Warwickshire

Civil Parish: Charlecote

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Warwickshire

Church of England Parish: Charlecote St Leonard

Church of England Diocese: Coventry


The monument is situated on a gravel terrace on the south side of the
Thelsford Brook and includes the buried remains of Thelsford priory and part
of its water management system. It is protected in two areas.
The site was first colonised by the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre from their
house in Warwick. Between 1200 and 1212 they received a grant for the
construction of a church and a hospital at Thelsford. During the early to mid
13th century, due to financial difficulties within the order, the canons
abandoned Thelsford priory and were succeeded by canons of the Trinitarian
order. During their occupation of the site, many of the monastic buildings
were rebuilt; a new church was constructed and consecrated in 1285. The
priory was dissolved in October 1538.
The conventual precinct originally occupied a roughly rectangular area of
approximately 1.6ha. The precinct boundary is represented on the north by the
Thelsford Brook and on the west side by a linear pond which is indicated on
older Ordnance Survey maps but is no longer visible on the ground surface. The
central part of this feature projected south westwards to create an extension
to the pond which remains partly waterfilled. The eastern extent of the site
is defined by the former course of the Warwick Road (A429). This road was
realigned during the 1970s, and its new route bisects the site. The
construction of the road is believed to have modified any surviving
archaeological deposits beneath and this area is not included in the
scheduling. The southern perimeter of the priory is defined by
a 2m wide ditch. It has been infilled but it has been located through
excavation and it survives as a buried feature.
Until World War II the earthwork remains of Thelsford priory remained
visible, but they have since been levelled. Excavations at the site during the
1960s and in 1972 have provided information about the layout of the monastic
buildings and other features of the priory and many of these still survive as
buried features.
The church and other conventual buildings are situated in the eastern part of
the site. The 13th century church is thought to have been cruciform in plan
and was originally a single-celled rectangular building which was extended
eastwards, probably during the early 14th century. The buried foundations of
the church, which are of green sandstone with limestone infilling, survive
beneath the ground surface. The cloister is situated to the south of the
church and is thought to have been built largely of timber. The western
claustral range, located through excavation, was constructed of timber
with stone footings which survive as buried features. The areas to the north
and west of the claustral buildings are thought to have originally served as
gardens and were bounded by walls.
Within the precinct several areas of structures and activity apart from the
claustral complex itself have been located. In the western part of the site a
group of buildings, constructed of timber, survive as buried features. Both
the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre and the Trinitarian order had, as their main
concern, the provision of a hospital for the poor and sick; and a pilgrim
hostel and buildings within the precinct have been used for these functions
and their foundations will survive as buried features.
Excavations prior to the construction of the new road through the central part
of the priory recovered evidence for a watermill site and an associated water
management system adjacent to the Thelsford Brook. The buried remains of the
watermill site have been modified by the road and are, therefore, not included
in the scheduling. The associated water channels extend westwards from the
watermill site and, beyond the course of the road, they survive as buried
features. One of the channels connects with the linear pond which defines the
western extent of the site. It would have originally provided the pond's water
supply and all of the channels west of the new road are included in the
Following the dissolution of Thelsford priory in 1538, the church was
destroyed and much of its stone was removed and reused, mostly at Wasperton
Manor and Thelsford Farm. The ponds and low-lying areas of the site were
backfilled with roof tiles and other debris and the whole of the site is
thought to have been turned over to grazing.
All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath these
features is included.

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

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 a centre 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 Trinitarian order was founded by John of Matha and Felix of Valois, who
established an abbey at Cerfroy in France at the end of the 12th century.
Trinitarians were sometimes known as Red Friars. The order established ten
houses in England during the 13th and 14th centuries. The houses aimed to
raise funds to pay ransoms of Christian captives, for the support of the poor
and poor travellers, and for the maintenance of the brethren. Six of the ten
houses were hospital priories, at first to house the rescued captives, and
later for more general purposes. As a rare type of monastery, all Trinitarian
houses are identified as nationally important and those with significant
surviving remains will merit protection.

Partial excavation at Thelsford priory has indicated that the earthworks and,
despite ploughing, the buried features of the site survive well. Buried
structural remains, including stone packed post holes and foundations, will
provide evidence for the plan of the conventual buildings, their dates of
construction and occupation and their inter-relationships. The buried remains
of the priory buildings will illustrate the way in which the canons' buildings
reflected their developing responsibilities, for example, to the poor and
sick, and to travellers.
Artefactual evidence will survive in those large areas not previously
excavated, providing information on the conventual economy and the environment
in which the canons and monks lived.
Historical documentation recording the abandonment of Thelsford priory by the
Canons of the Holy Sepulchre and its subsequent occupation by the Trinitarians
suggests that this site is of particular value for the rare insight it allows
into the changing fortunes of the different monastic orders and that it will
point up distinctions between the circumstances in which they lived and

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cox, J C, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire , (1908), 107
Cox, J C, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire , (1908), 106
Knowles, D , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1971), 207
Gray, M, 'British Archaeological Reports' in The Trinitarian Order in England, , Vol. 226, (1993), 17
Gray, M, 'British Archaeological Reports' in The Trinitarian Order in England, , Vol. 226, (1993), 92
Gray, M, 'British Archaeological Reports' in The Trinitarian Order in England, , Vol. 226, (1993), 48

Source: Historic England

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