Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Up Holland Benedictine priory

A Scheduled Monument in Up Holland, Lancashire

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 53.5403 / 53°32'25"N

Longitude: -2.7213 / 2°43'16"W

OS Eastings: 352298.349884

OS Northings: 405092.400284

OS Grid: SD522050

Mapcode National: GBR 9WFH.NM

Mapcode Global: WH86S.58FS

Entry Name: Up Holland Benedictine priory

Scheduled Date: 18 March 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013649

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27661

County: Lancashire

Civil Parish: Up Holland

Built-Up Area: Wigan

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lancashire

Church of England Parish: Up Holland St Thomas

Church of England Diocese: Liverpool


The monument includes the identified upstanding ruins and remains of Up
Holland Benedictine priory which is located close to the centre of Up Holland
village. The priory was a late foundation and took over the site and
buildings of an earlier religious college. The present Church of St Thomas the
Martyr originated in the Middle Ages and functioned as the priory church. The
main upstanding ruins lie to the south of the church and include parts of the
dorter range or monks' dormitory. The priory is thought to have occupied a
large block of land in this area and its extent is likely to have been defined
by a permanent wall. Within this area a range of buildings providing domestic
accommodation and space for religious activities would have existed. The
monument includes only those remains which have been confirmed to survive;
this represents only a small area of the medieval priory and further remains
are likely to survive outside the area of the proposed scheduling.
A small chapelry was founded at Up Holland by Sir Robert de Holand in 1307
and dedicated to St Thomas. Three years later Sir Robert began work extending
the chapel into a collegiate chapel for 13 canons regular. These secular
clergy lived as a community and devoted their lives to worship, prayer,
teaching and scholarship. The head of this college was William le Gode, the
Dean of Up Holland. However, by 1318 the college had been deserted and in the
following year Sir Robert, on the advice of Bishop Walter de Langdon of
Lichfield, changed the foundation of the church to a priory of Benedictine
monks, the last foundation of this Order in the country. The first prior,
Thomas of Doncaster, arrived from the Priory of St John at Pontefract to take
charge of the community, and work on the new and more extensive buildings
began, eventually ceasing about 1450. In 1530 complaints were made to the
Bishop of Lichfield that the monks no longer kept to their Rule of life and
that the monastic buildings had been allowed to fall into disrepair. It
emerged that five monks were being looked after by no less than eight servants
and 13 hands. Thus when Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of smaller
monasteries including Up Holland in 1536 there was little local protest. The
priory and its lands were sold to John Holcroft and then to Sir Robert
Worsley. The priory became a chapel of ease connected with the parish church
in Wigan and the chancel of the priory church became the nave of the present
church. At an unrecorded date the south and west ranges of the cloister were
demolished. In 1882-6 the present chancel was added to the east end of the
nave and a crypt built below. As the church remains in ecclesiastical use it
is not included in the scheduling although the ground beneath it, which will
retain buried remains associated with the medieval priory church, are
included. The church is Listed Grade I.
The dorter was a two-storey construction of rough sandstone of which only the
west wall survives to anything like its original height. It formed the east
range of the cloister, i.e. an arrangement of domestic buildings around a
central courtyard or garden which was the innermost enclosure of the priory
precinct, and is the only claustral building yet to have been identified. It
measures c.21m long, and has a row of seven windows in the upper storey. There
is a doorway towards the northern end of the building but, due to deliberate
build up of the ground level to the west which has covered much of the
cloister area, only the upper part of this doorway is visible from the
outside. The dorter is now entered from a doorway in the south wall.
Internally the building measures c.19m by 8m. Part of the dorter's east wall
now forms the outer wall of the adjacent Priory House, a building which has
been said to lie on the site of and contain remains of the medieval prior's
house. At present the remains of the dorter walling are the only medieval
remains to be confirmed in the present building. Where the dorter fabric forms
part of the walling of the occupied house it is not included in the scheduling
but is protected by the Grade II Listing of Priory House. Within the northern
end of the dorter a 17th/18th century bakehouse and privy were constructed.
The dorter was connected to the south west bay of the nave of St Thomas's
Church by a covered walkway, since demolished, but the Monk's Door
which gave access to this walkway still exists in the nave of the church.
Above this door there was a first floor access from the church to the dorter
and the location of the original doorway still exists in the fabric of the
church, although it has since been converted into a window.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These include St
Thomas's Church and its associated structures to the south of the church; the
walls and roof of the 17th/18th century former bakehouse and privy; the outer
wall of Priory House where it forms part of the dorter walling, all modern
walls and railings; all post-medieval graves and gravestones; all paths,
flagged and tarmacked areas; and the posts for a metal barrier at the entrance
to a car park; the ground beneath all these features, however, 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 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.
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. The first real attempt to form a Benedictine order came
only in 1216. The Benedictine monks, who wore dark robes, came to be known as
`black monks'. These dark robes distinguished them from Cistercian monks who
became known as `white monks' on account of their light coloured robes. Over
150 Benedictine monasteries were 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. Benedictine monasteries made a major contribution to many
facets of medieval life and all examples exhibiting significant surviving
archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

The term college is used to describe a variety of different types of
establishments whose communities of secular clergy shared a degree of common
life less strictly controlled than within a monastic order. Although some
colleges date to as early as the tenth century, the majority were founded in
the 14th or 15th centuries. Colleges of the prebendal or portional type were
set up as secular chapters, both as an alternative to the structure of
contemporary monastic houses and to provide positions for clerics whose
services the monastic establishment wished to reward. Some barons followed
suit by setting up colleges within their castles, while others were founded by
the Crown for the canons who served royal free chapels. After 1300 chantry
colleges became more common. These were establishments of priests, financed
from a common fund, whose prime concern was to offer masses for the soul of
the patron and the patron's family. They may also have housed bedesmen
(deserving poor and elderly) and provided an educational facility which in
some cases eventually came to dominate their other activities. It is known
that approximately 300 separate colleges existed during the medieval period.
In view of the importance of colleges in contributing to our understanding of
ecclesiastical history, and given the rarity of known surviving examples, all
identified colleges which retain surviving archaeological remains are
considered to be nationally important.
Despite demolition of the south and west ranges of the cloister, the remains
of Up Holland Benedictine priory include upstanding medieval fabric and
architectural features associated with the dorter which formed the eastern
range of the cloister. Further buried remains of the original medieval
buildings will exist to the west of both the church and the upstanding
medieval dorter. The priory was a very late foundation and probably took over
at least some of the buildings of the earlier college. As such the layout of
the priory and form of buildings probably reflects that of the earlier
foundation to some degree. This is unusual, as the majority of earlier
priories were entirely new creations with purpose-built buildings. Detailed
examination of the site would provide information on the earlier foundation
and how it was transformed into the priory.

Source: Historic England


DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
Letter to Robinson,K. MPPA, Coney, A, (1995)
SMR No. 785, Lancs SMR, Up Holland Priory, (1994)
To Robinson,K. MPPA, Woods,J. (Site surveyor), (1995)
Up Holland Church, 1994,
Up Holland Church, 1994,

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.